Private prisons racket a sin

Privatization of prisons is what happens when right-wing politicians collude with corporations to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,” to borrow Grover Norquist’s vivid phrase. A major church has belatedly taken a stand against such ventures:

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, “after six months of study, discussion and prayerful consideration,” announced on January 3 that it had withdrawn nearly $1 million in stocks from two private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

A spokesperson for the board said the decision was not based on finance, but morality. “Our board simply felt that it did not want to profit from the business of incarcerating others,” Colette Nies, managing director of communications for the board, told The Crime Report.

She added: “We believe that profiting from incarceration is contrary to Church values.”

The decision comes after a year of lobbying by the National Prison Divestment Campaign, a coalition of immigrant rights, criminal justice and other organizations targeting CCA and GEO. The effort seeks to convince private and public institutions that for-profit prisons are a bad idea.

One of the major objections to private prisons is that, unlike normal prisons, they have no incentive to rehabilitate prisoners because private prisons profit from keeping people incarcerated. Last week CCA was the subject of controversy when it was revealed that it was offering to buy state-owned prisons and operate them for 20 years on the condition that the states keep the prisons at least 90% full.

It’s a pleasure, and a bit of a surprise, to learn that some Christian groups ultimately can’t stomach investing in businesses that are clearly un-Christian.