02-19-2017  3:26 pm      •     

Researchers at Washington State University are challenging the widespread belief that private prisons can help job growth in rural counties.

In a new paper, "Prisons, Jobs and Privatization: The Impact of Prisons on Employment Growth in Rural U.S. Counties, 1997-2004," they say that privatization of prisons, in fact, often has a negative impact on their host counties.

"What we found is that when a new prison opens in a rural county, they tend to have fewer jobs instead of more," says Gregory Hooks, a WSU sociology professor. "There is no evidence of private prisons being statistically significant in terms of job growth but we did find that states embracing privatization went the other way."

Hooks, along with co-authors Shaun Genter and Clayton Mosher, used Bureau of Justice data to compare rural counties in states pursuing privatization to those that aren't. Over the last 20-30 years, there has been a disproportionate number of prisons built in rural counties, he says.

According to Hooks, proponents of private prisons often tout efficiency and potential job growth as reasons to embrace these institutions.

"When a state government rapidly chooses to build new prisons and has them run privately or turns over the management of current public prisons to private prisons, that sets in the motion the race to the bottom in terms of employment patterns, salaries, total staffing ratios, corrections personnel vs. prisoners and so forth," he says. "Remaining publically managed prisons have to look like private ones or else they're at risk to become privatized. That's very much one of the selling points of private prisons. That's very much a selling point of politicians that endorse privatization. They think that it will discipline and make efficient the public bureaucracy."

Hooks says that there are sharp differences between private and public prisons in terms of salary, benefits and the turnover rate.

The study says that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual wage for correctional officers employed by the federal government was $50,830. Officers employed by state governments  earned $38,850 and those employed by local governments earned $37,510. In comparison, officers employed in private prisons earned a median salary of $28,790.

The number of jobs per 100 prisoners is also lower for private prisons and states that pursue privatization.

Gregory Hooks
 

Nationally, the annual employee turnover rate for private prisons is 52 percent, compared to 12 to 25 percent for public prisons, according to Hooks.

Although the private prison industry has grown rapidly over the last couple of decades, the violent crime rate has actually gone down, says Hooks. Specifically, he notes that the murder rate has declined significantly.

"While that number has been declining, the number of people being locked up is through the roof," says Hooks. "I'm be in favor of less violent crime but it's not clear that's what's going on with incarceration. The United States is the most incarcerated place on earth. There are more people locked up in the United States than all of China."

Hooks points to the War on Drugs as a major contributing factor. Between 1980 and 2000, the incarceration rate nearly tripled, despite the homicide rate declining by nearly 50 percent. There are around two million people currently incarcerated and around five million on probation or parole. Most are serving time for nonviolent offenses, many of which are drug related.

Ironically, Hooks says resources used to fund prison growth were diverted from education. In a previous study, he and another WSU doctoral student found that community colleges helped local employment growth in host counties most years between 1976 and 1997.

Besides educating students for future careers, a community college also has the "spillover effect" of creating jobs for staff and faculty and increasing consumption of goods from local vendors, says Hooks.

He notes that community college can be a rite of passage for many and without it, institutions like prisons can fill that role.

"Most people commit most their crimes between the ages of 16-24," says Hooks. "That's also when you might go to college. Community college is one way for people to transition to adulthood and so is the prison."

According to his research, the number of 18-24 year olds grew steadily between 1967 and 1980. However, the U.S. still made investments in education to meet this demand.

The war on drugs, he says, reversed this course. During this period, the number of 18-24 year olds declined. In addition, the cost of education has gone up because of lack of public funding, making it even harder for young people to receive an education. According to Hooks, it can cost a state from five to ten times as much money to lock someone up as it would to support him/her through community college.

"The imagery is so vivid of a country that is making it easier for your transition to adulthood to come with a felony conviction and the stigma that goes with it and a bit harder for you to transition to adulthood with an education credential."

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all
Oregon Lottery
Carpentry Professionals
Calendar

PHOTO GALLERY

Reed College Jobs
His Eye is on the Sparrow