The medical treatment scandal at a Texas contract prison facility filled with Idaho prisoners is just the tip of the iceberg.
Most private-contract prisons suck. State prisons suck less. Yes, well-run prisons are more expensive — think of a clean, well-lighted place for crooks, but the damage done by repeat offenders is much more costly. Why do states tend to ignore these external costs — the damage done by released re-offenders? Because costs are borne by private citizens, by the crime victims, not the government agencies.
What would real prison reform look like? A good prison system reforms the inmates who can be reformed and retains the rest until release is mandatory, followed by aggressive monitoring and quick reincarceration as needed.
Prisoners need to be separated in order to protect the more civilized ones from the confirmed predators. But most prisons tend to mix sociopaths and redeemable inmates. The former inevitably contaminate the latter. Hobbled by secular political correctness, the reform of individual inmates is stillborn. But I have seen incarcerated criminals flourish in a morally sound, rule-based setting. In my opinion, a religious foundation for prison moral education is essential — non-sectarian, but not watered down.
Yes, real prison reform is possible. It just takes intelligence, will and common sense. These are (or were) Idaho virtues.
Jay B. Gaskill