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October 16, 2013

As corrections budgets soar both nationally and at the state level, lawmakers and bureaucrats are looking for ways to cut costs - and unfortunately, privatization of our prisons, jails and corrections services are a tempting solution. There is a fundamental tension between the stated goals of our prisons and jails and the priorities of for-profit companies. While our prisons and jails should be focused on rehabilitation and supporting successful re-entry back into our communities, for-profit industries have one responsibility: to cut costs and increase revenue. This has created a perverse set of incentives, whereby companies' profits are implicitly tied to increasing demand for prisons and jails - and actively lobbying to ensure they remain full. Mass incarceration has deprived a record number of Americans of their liberty, has disproportionately impacted minorities and people of color and has come at a huge cost to individuals, families and our communities. No one should be profiting from locking people up. In order to address over-incarceration, it is important that we tell our lawmakers that profiteering off the warehousing of our citizens is unacceptable. To read more about the ACLU’s work on private prisons click here.

Maine is lucky to be one of the states that has successfully fought the building of private prisons. However, we have far from won the fight. Under the guise of cost-saving we are increasingly seeing the privatization of our prison and jail services. Privatization of our prison health care services is a prime example. Until 2012 Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) was contracted with a private health care management company called Corizon. Corizon's business model was simple: cut costs - or quality - and availability of health care services in our prisons, and increase profits. In the last five years alone, Corizon was sued 660 times for medical malpractice, meanwhile the company raked in an impressive 1.4 billion dollars annually in profits. To join the fight against Corizon and prison profiteering click here. MDOC terminated their contract with Corizon following the release of a report by the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Governmental Accountability (OPEGA) that revealed significant deficiencies in the health care services they provided. They are now contracted with Corrective Care Solutions  – another for-profit health care company - who are also predictably motivated by their bottom line. In addition to privatized health services, there is increasing pressure to privatize the prison food services in Maine. In the Report of the Director of the Office of Policy and Managament, MDOC is currently proposing contracting out food services, enabling them to eliminate 15.5 staff positions.

Privatizing our prisons, jails and corrections services becomes an inevitable race to the bottom, whereby pursuit of profit supersedes all other correctional priorities - jeopardizing the health, safety and well-being of our prisoners, corrections employees and our communities.

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