Privatization won’t solve the jail problem

[Update: I didn’t even know! But this letter was published in The Oregonian, Sunday 9/9/07, as Private jails no answer. Thanks for mentioning it, Jean!]

I was dismayed to read your editorial suggesting privatization as a solution to Portland’s jail woes (“Pastel elephant on a rampage,” Aug. 26).

Abundant research now makes clear that privatizing incarceration is good for no one except those who stand to profit.

For a time, some argued that private prisons would maximize efficiency, but this proved untrue. Instead, private facilities find ways to shift costs disproportionately to remaining public facilities, and they cut corners in ways that are unsafe, unhealthy and unjust for prisoners, employees and communities.

The true elephant in this conversation is our unwieldy, ever-growing system of mass incarceration. The fact that we cannot sustain funding for that system as it stands is only the least of several good reasons to devise alternatives rooted less in retribution and more in reconciliation, reparation and prevention.

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About Al Bradbury

Labor journalist by day, singer-songwriter by night, Odonian at all hours.

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