Reprinted from January 2016


This is an introduction  to an issue which has been brewing within the criminal justice system, but only now is reaching the general public: What do GPS bracelets accomplish and should they be a mainstay of “alternatives to incarceration programs”.

One of the two biggest suppliers of GPS bracelets is the Private Prison Goliath, the GEO Group, which is positioning itself to survive any significant reduction in nationwide imprisonment (through its recentky acquired subsidiary, Behavioral Interventions).

For many politicians, GPS bracelets that provide the location of “supervised” individuals are the future of “alternatives to incarceration”. But many observers feel that an alternative to incarceration should have a substantial rehabilitation component, which GPS bracelets themselves do not provide. Civil libertarians argue that before GPS bracelets were available, an individual’s right to privacy was less likely to be compromised (making the point that the government is engaging in classic “net widening”;  ultimately interfering  in the lives of more individuals, and at a  more intense level).

Many argue that leaving individuals in there own homes is no guarantee that criminal activity will not continue or that the individual may remove the device and walk away. My concern has been more limited, that in regards to drug use or sales, leaving an individual at home to use their drugs or supply others, is foolhardy (and certainly provided no incentive in itself to reduce or eliminate drug abuse).

[For a fuller description of the controversy surrounding the use of GPS bracelet devices, see the Daily Beast article, “Here’s what the World Will Look Like After Mass Incarceration”, by Sarah Shourd”.] 


There has been a recent outcry from politicians who have only recently joined the “Alternatives To Prison” Movement to close down existing private prisons. The call for closure is based on well-documented cases of abuse and neglect at the two major Private Prison Corporations, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group.

While the call to close private prisons appears to be succeeding, private prison corporations are hardly closing up shop. They are merely moving on to greener pastures in the “Alternatives to Prison’ Reform Movement”.

In an article from Bloomberg Business, Matt Stroud describes What Private Prisons Companies Have Done to Diversify in the Face of Sentencing Reform” Mr. Stroud’s answer is that they are investing in offender rehabilitation services or Alterenatices to Prison Programs. It seems ludicrous for these predator corporations to be making such a move, but it has already begun.

According to the Bloomberg article, “GEO Group in 2011, acquired Behavioral Interventions, the world’s largest producer of monitoring equipment for people awaiting trial or serving out probation or parole sentences. It followed GEO’s purchase in 2009 of Just Care, a medical and mental health service provider which bolstered its GEO Care business that provides services to government agencies.  “Our commitment is to be the world’s leader in the delivery of offender rehabilitation and community reentry programs, which is in line with the increased emphasis on rehabilitation around the world,” said GEO chairman and founder George Zoley during a recent earnings call. Brian W. Ruttenbur, a managing director at CRT Capital Group’s research division, says that neither GEO or CCA will be significantly hurt by sentencing reform in the near future.”

One has to wonder what beneifits will befall our communities if these giant corporations are allowed to do business in what has traditionally been a relatively small scale community-run endeavor. As to whether state or local government will buy into the “Mass Alternative to Prison Industry, is yet to be determined.



Cal satisfied with reform, though 8900 in Private Prisons

Jan. 14, 2013

Governor Brown has made his position clear. He will take the issue of whether additional prisoners should be released, back to the Federal Courts. The question to be answered is whether California has he done enough to satisfy the courts, by reducing the number of prisoners by 43,000 inmates over the last 15 months.

Governor Brown claims that medical concerns, the basis of the federal court order, have been satisfied both by medical facility improvements and  by substantial reductions in the number of prisoners.  Brown has attacked the courts as meddling with the internal affairs of California. Reform advocates on the other hand, argue that California hasn’t done enough to reduce the number of inmates, and that even a reduction by an additional 13,000 inmates as the court order demands, is only a first step in enacting necessary prison reform in California.

A related issue is the number of California prisoners in private prisons. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, “State prison reports show that since November, California has been increasing the number of inmates shipped out of state. Brown last year said he intended to end the state’s contracts with private prison operator Corrections Corp. of America as a way to save money. A July research brief for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, reports that the state currently spends more than $426 million a year to buy space at prisons operated by the Tennessee-based company. (The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation contends the spending is much lower: $316 million.) The number of out-of-state inmates has run from a high of 10,000 in 2010 to a low of 8,500 last October. State prison population reports show it rose to more than 8,900 in late December”


This is a “hot button” issue for many prisoner advocates, as private prisons, located outside the state, make contact with family and community difficult at best.It remains to be seen whether the courts will lift their demand that California reduce its prison population further or whether Brown will succeed in staving off further prison reductions. But the issue of whether California has gone far enough to reduce its prison population, will continue to be a highly charged issue.

Corporation Makes a Pitch for Guaranteed Prison Occupancy

Nov. 4, 2012

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s biggest private prison corporation, has ofered to buy prisons in 48 states on condition that the states maintain a 90% occupancy rate for twenty years (described in a comprehensive article by Chris Kirkham in the Huffington Express}


Ohio became the first (and only) state to sell a state-owned penitentiary to a private prison company earlier this year.  The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), directed by Gary Mohr, has since decided that it would not sell any other penitentiary to a private company. The Ohio Correctional facility, formerly a state prison, bought by the Corrections Corporation of America, (COC) was recently cited for 47 violations. The nature of the violations included quality of food, hygiene and sanitation among many others.

A more central concern is the idea of guaranteeing occupancy in a private prison. It’s hard to imagine local officials, including law enforcement, judges, and other state and county officials pressured into filling  prison beds. Instead of a bounty on imprisonment, we need incentives that do the opposite; reduce the number of prisoners behind bars. No doubt that given discretion, private corporations could reduce the costs of imprisonment, But at what cost. Ohio is in the process of finding that out.

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