Pubdate: Thu, 21 Nov 2002
Source: Midland Mirror (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Midland Mirror
Author: Janis Leering
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Penetanguishene has been given a warning to keep an eye on the privatized 
jail, to watch it doesn't turn out like the American system.

Harvey Briggs, a professor at Laurentian University through Georgian 
College in Barrie, talked about private, for-profit prisons in the United 
States at a lecture on Nov. 15.

The professor listed the risks of having a similar situation here in Canada.

Briggs is working on a research paper about the private prison system. He 
told Penetanguishene Deputy Mayor Randy Robbins and Sharon Dion, 
chairperson of Citizens Against Private Prisons, who attended the lecture 
held at the Barrie campus of the college, to keep an eye on the situation.

Briggs said private prisons became popular in the 1980s, after the drug war 

"The United States government started its war against drugs, sending 
several prisoners to jail in the 1970s," said Briggs.

Eventually the state prisons ran out of room to hold all of the prisoners, 
and private companies learned they could make a profit in the situation.

 From 1986 to 1994, the Corrections Corporation of the United States, the 
biggest U.S. company, went from making $14 million a year to $120 million.

"There was money to be made from incarcerating people in the drug war," 
Briggs said.

So private prisons started popping up all over the place, until the end of 
the 1990s.

"By the end of the '90s, the boom had ended for private prisons. Until 
Sept. 11 came along. Then the government started incarcerating foreign 
immigrant detainees."

In 1994, Briggs said the U.S. incarcerated only 5,532 immigrants for 
crimes. In 2001, the daily population had grown to more than 20,000.

"The war on drugs has failed because it hasn't stopped the drug use, but it 
has also been successful, because of the economic spinoff. There are jobs 
at private prisons, more cops on the street, and the weapons they need," 
said Briggs, quoting a warden of an Oklahoma private prison.

In 2001, private prisons in the U.S. held 91,828 prisoners, and that number 
has grown after Sept. 11, he said.

"Back in 1996, there was a review done in the U.S. on the private system, 
and the government found there was less than a one-per-cent savings on 
private prisons."

Yet prisoners are made to work to earn money for health care and food, and 
make tough decisions about their well-being throughout their prison stay in 
a private facility.

"It sometimes means going without food, just so they have money saved in 
case they become sick. They end up making the same types of decisions as 
the homeless."

Although Canada's inmate population is smaller than the U.S., Briggs warns 
that the same paths could be followed.

"There were seven companies who tendered for the Penetanguishene facility, 
although Corrections Corporation of America, the biggest company, didn't 
submit a tender. They didn't think the rules in Ontario would allow for a 
fair level of return."

Briggs was told there is a superintendent watching over the operation of 
the private facility here, and he has the power to take control of the 
prison if Management and Training Corporation Canada, the company operating 
the jail, is not following provincial guidelines.

"The problems in the U.S. are known to the provincial ministry, and slave 
labour is not allowed in this facility."

The jail is measured by seven performance guidelines, which are efficient 
management, safety, disturbances, health and well-being, unlawful death and 
suicide, recidivism, and escapes or improper release.

"I was told the superintendent is there as much as possible, but I was 
never told the jail would be accountable for any improper actions."

Briggs said the difference in Ontario is the government has greater control 
over the private prison, but said if they aren't vigilant, the same thing 
will happen here as in the U.S.

"There is definitely an agenda the provincial government has, otherwise why 
would they build a second facility in Lindsay before the notion of if it 
would work in Penetanguishene?"

Dion said Briggs presentation reinforced the research she has already 
compiled about private prison systems in the United States.

"I agreed with what he had to say, and he will be in contact with me in the 
future. We hope to work together to pass information on," said Dion.

"It sometimes means [prisoners] going without food, just so they have money 
saved in case they become sick. They end up making the same types of 
decisions as the homeless."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom