Opposing Privatization of Prisons: Talking Points

For more than 40 years, the United Church of Christ has affirmed our commitment to improving the criminal justice systems of state and federal governments, citing our belief that prisons should be primarily institutions for the training and rehabilitation of the inmates.  We base this affirmation on our call to service, justice, and restoration through faith.  To sell facilities to private companies for the purpose of profit is a violation of these fundamental beliefs. 

The primary source of income for private prisons is based on the number of people incarcerated. This contradicts our belief that we are all first and foremost children of God, and our bodies are not first and foremost the mechanism for corporate profit-making. 

Income for private prisons depends entirely on maintaining a large and stable inmate population.  Privatized prison management often demands guaranteed occupancy rates.  These guarantees run counter to declining prison population trends, and they violate efforts toward early release, alternative sentencing and other forms of restitution, especially in cases of non-violent crimes. 

When corporate profit is the primary purpose of prison ownership, the purpose of prisons to train and rehabilitate inmates is subverted.  Rehabilitation is an expensive undertaking, and yields benefits to society as a whole, but is not profitable for shareholders.  We believe that rehabilitation is an essential function of prison administration that completely contradicts the purpose of private ownership.

Private prisons have been exempted from public reporting of crimes and escapes and the Freedom of Information Act, among other fundamental legal reporting mechanisms.  To privatize prison facilities or their management contradicts all initiatives for public information that can lead to necessary prison reform, and greatly reduces public accountability for the equitable and just safekeeping of convicted persons.

Private prisons have been known to maintain profit by cutting costs in the areas of training and staff remuneration, with the consequence that these prisons raise serious concerns about management, staff competence and supervision, with potential to endanger the populace as a whole. 

Private prisons are most active in the incarceration of immigrants, who are often held in detention for indefinite and lengthy periods of time without public accountability or reporting. 

We publicly urge that private ownership and operation of state-owned prison facilities be abolished throughout the country.