I’m not sure if this is a picture of Ron Rodriguez being congratulated for being named Trial Lawyer of the Year or of the horrible state of downtown sidewalks. As you may recall in a previous post, directly across the street is the Sheriff’s department where I could not access the doors when I was in my wheelchair – this sidewalk is in the same sad state. I recall the Sheriff’s Department saying in March at a D.V. coalition meeting they were going to make it ADA compliant but when I drove by this morning – it isn’t. Sigh.
Back to the topic – Ron Rodriguez, lawyer in Laredo, was given this honor by the Public Justice Foundation in July 2010 (but the decorations are new – maybe he was out of town or celebrating or something, ha!). The following quote is from the San Antonio Express-News online site:
A Laredo lawyer who won a $47.5 million verdict against one of the country’s largest private prison companies over the beating death of an inmate has been named the 2010 Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Public Justice Foundation.
Ron Rodriguez received the award, which is bestowed annually in recognition of noteworthy legal victories in socially significant cases, last week in Canada.
Don’t know the man but congratulations to him and his case that made changes in the private prison system and prisoner treatment. Although we haven’t heard the controversies of the Geo Group (or the other private prison) recently, I thought it interesting to have found an ideological pros and cons list of private prisons. It is a pdf file if you want to see the original but I cannot tell the actual source. It is hosted on the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin’s site.
The General Argument:
Certain functions of government that are a nation’s primary responsibility toward its citizens should be carried out by the state, and not be contracted out to private individuals or groups. Such, for example, is national defense. U.S. citizens would not consider allowing the government to contract out our military forces to privately run, for profit, armies, navies or air forces. The same could be said for our local defenses, our police forces and corrections facilities. One of the primary functions of our system of corrections is to ensure public safety. The state should run and control every aspect of its corrections system
A) CON: The most extreme sentence against an individual that the state can exact, besides the death penalty, is depriving him/her of personal freedom. Responsibility for carrying out the terms of imprisonment should rest with the state…This responsibility should not be turned over to private individuals or corporations.
PRO: The government should not have a monopoly of services to its citizens, in prisons as well as in other community services. Private companies have successfully run a number of government services, such as water utilities, health, sanitation, and education.
B) CON: The state has a larger concern with the successful rehabilitation of the prisoner, so that when he/she returns to the community the former prisoner will not be a danger to society, but rather have become a better citizen, less likely to end up in prison again. A corporation has little stake in rehabilitation, or in the health of society as a whole.
PRO: Private institutions have more flexibility in treatment, including faith-based alternatives, than public institutions, which are bound by numerous laws, rules and regulations.
C) CON: In carrying out its contract with the state regarding treatment of prisoners in its facility, a private prison company is primarily interested in making a profit for the company, not in the treatment of the prisoners. The temptation to cut corners is greater.
PRO: Private prisons do not have to carry the weight of excessive state bureaucracy, union contracts, and state employee fringe benefits. They can maintain quality with less expense.
D) CON: Taxpayers pay the costs of both public and private prisons. Adding a layer of profit-to the other costs of prisons does not make them less expensive for the taxpayer, other things being equal, such as the cost of safety, personnel, supplies, programs, maintenance, etc.
PRO: Even if they do not cost less, private prisons provide jobs where they are located and market opportunities for those selling products to them, thus benefiting the general economy of the locality and the state.
E) CON: Public prisons, like all public institutions, are open to public scrutiny. Privately run prisons are less open to public oversight, less transparent. Infringements of contracts are difficult to correct.
PRO: States contracting out the operation of prisons to private companies inspect to be sure the contracted services are being implemented. A good contract ensures the desired services.
F) CON: The state has an incentive to decrease the prison population, thus saving expense and taxes. The private prison company has an incentive to increase the prison population, thus increasing their profits. They develop powerful lobbies to influence public policy.
PRO: The prison company does not determine the laws under which criminals are sentenced – the legislature does. Laws placing more law-breakers behind bars for more time and less serious offenses reflect a reaction to the public outcry against crime, not the wishes of private companies.