An articulate editorial from Pennsylvania about why prisoners should not be shipped out of state or sold to the lowest private bidders...(thanks to Ken Kopczynski from PCI for this)
Our opinion: They're prisoners, not produce
from The Leader-Vindicator (New Bethlehem, PA)
Pennsylvania is thinking of doing something very, very unAmerican.
The state is considering sending some of its prison inmates to vacant prisons in Michigan, and is thinking about sending others to county prisons in Armstrong, Bedford, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Indiana, and Wayne counties.
Pennsylvania has 50,000 people imprisoned, which is over capacity, according to Susan Bensinger, so something must be done.
We have no problem with the state using county prisons to house state-level prisoners in some circumstances, provided the details can be worked out.
Those details are not inconsequential. Some services that are available at state-level prisons are not available at county-level prisons. We aren't talking coddling inmates here, but we do see value to educational programs, drug/alcohol abuse programs and other services that make it less likely that prisoners - who will be released one day - will do further violence to the rest of us or to our property.
So we're cautious about using county prisons as more than stopgap, short-term fill-in facilities. If Pennsylvania needs more prison space, it should build new prisons or expand existing ones. That is a fundamental duty of government.
We are totally opposed to sending Pennsylvania prisoners out-of-state.
That's almost as bad, in our view, as having "private" prisons, which are another term for slave encampments. What else does one call it when people are held against their will by private firms or individuals?
Imprisoning people is one of the most solemn, serious functions of government, only slightly less so than executing people or forcing people into military service.
Government has no business delegating this responsibility.
Government must manage its prisons directly, to ensure that the people running the government are directly responsible, both for abuses of prisoners and for lapses in security that threaten guards, other inmates or the rest of us outside prison walls.
Pennsylvania's Legislature and governor need to tell the Department of Corrections that prisoners are not produce. Nor are prisoners commodities.
These are people - dangerous people, sometimes brutish people, but people nonetheless. We have taken away their freedom, for justifiable reasons. We owe it, not to them, but to those of us who might one day be imprisoned, perhaps unjustly, to ensure that the state prison system is run effectively, efficiently and responsibly, and that means doing it ourselves, not delegating the task to another state or to modern-day slavemasters.
- Denny Bonavita
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