Good News for Private Prisons

BALDWIN —Tuesday, March 3, 1998 was an historic day for prison privatization in Michigan. On that date, ground was broken for construction of Governor Engler’s long-awaited 480-bed maximum security youth correctional facility or "punk prison"—the first privately managed prison in the state. Wackenhut Corrections of Florida will manage the 163,00 square foot facility, expected to cost about $32 million.

Meanwhile, the black eye that prison privatization earned from a Texas story last September dissolved with subsequent court action. Initially, it was reported that a video tape showed guards abusing inmates in a privately operated prison. As a result of widespread media coverage and a national outcry, at least one state—Missouri—withdrew its inmates from the facility and many editorials and columns were written warning of the dangers of private prison management.

But as the prestigious Reason Foundation’s Privatization Watch reported more recently, "The not very widely covered sequel to the story is that, after viewing the entire video tape, the court threw out the case of brutality against CCRI (the private firm) for lack of evidence. The video clearly showed that all (emphasis added) the instances that appeared abusive involved Brazoria County sheriff’s deputies, not CCRI guards."