Letters to the Editor

From the week of January 13, 2005

In one four-month period this year, Corrections Corporation of America had riots in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky and Colorado. They lost three inmates in an escape, three of their guards were placed under investigation for the murder of a 37-year-old female inmate in Tennessee, and several staff members were charged with trafficking in drugs in a correctional environment. CCA also knowingly hires convicted felons. In one instance, they hired a convicted murderer, Eugene Pendleton, who had done seventeen years in the Alabama prison system; he is now doing time for sexually assaulting two inmates that CCA put in his care.

Assaults on staff at private prisons are 49 percent higher than at public facilities and inmate-on-inmate assaults are 66 percent higher. It won't be the shareholders, company CEOs or their family members being attacked behind their walls; it'll be the citizens from your community who work there. Staff turnover rates are 53 percent annually in private pens, compared to 16 percent in public ones. Private guards receive 35 percent fewer pre-service training hours than their public counterparts. A California study found that from 1995 to 2002, there were eleven escapes from secure California facilities -- one escape for every 14,601 inmates. The privateers' ratio was one escape for every 489 inmates, and 251 inmates escaped from "secure" private prisons during this same period. Todd Craig, chief spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, stated that the privately run facilities BOP contracts with have a 25 percent greater escape rate than similar BOP minimum facilities.

Get the facts: Public safety should never be for sale to the lowest bidder. The price your community and society as a whole will ultimately pay will be substantially higher.

Brian Dawe, executive director
Corrections USA

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