Private Prison with a Divine Twist

Posted on February 17, 2011

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Author, Stan Moody:

Prison Reform in Action:

The web site’s Home Page begins by asking two rhetorical questions: “What is your passion?” “What will be your legacy?” It calls on individuals to live up to their beliefs.

At a time when the passionless, bloated public corrections bureaucracy presides over the 2nd fastest- growing budget in the nation – behind Medicare – a formerly-convicted white collar criminal completes his 26th year fighting to build a private prison with no profit motive.

The financing is in place; the concept is sound, according to a parade of politicians from former President George W. Bush on down, and the welcome mat has been laid out by all but those with the most to gain – economically-distressed towns, cities and counties.

What’s the problem, then? The problem, say some, is that the corrections industry in the United States does not really want to reduce recidivism. A plan that would save the average public corrections system $60 a day per prisoner is overlooked, they say, because it is designed to restore dignity and citizenship to a population we have virtually thrown away. Here’s how the plan works:

Corrections Concepts, Inc., a 501 (C3) Texas corporation, would be the builder and manager of the prison. Upon agreement with a county or municipality, a public trust would be formed to issue tax-free municipal bonds secured by revenues and the real estate. Corrections Concepts (CCI) would build the facility under agreement with the trust; the trust would lease the facility back to the county or municipality; the county or municipality would then contract with CCI to manage the facility.

One of the conditions of CCI’s management agreement is that recidivism be reduced by 20%, a lowball figure in view of CCI’s commitment to following the prisoner out into the community.

Underwriter approval of the bonds hinges on the county or municipality corrections agency agreeing to maintain a minimum level of 287 prisoners at $42.80 a day each with a modest inflation index. This would include on-site and off-site medical care, as well as employee child care.

In Maine, where the current administration is toying with the notion of a private prison, 287 prisoners would save the State or counties $9 Million a year, while 2,000 prisoners would represent a savings of about $65 Million a year.

Jesus as Recovery Agent:

Here’s the catch: Jesus will be evident as a restorative option not just in the lobby but into the prison, into the cells and back into the community upon release!

If that sounds so unusual, Bill Robinson, the force behind the concept, reminds us that the nation’s hospital network evolved from much the same plan:

“In 1947, at the conclusion of World War II, this country faced a huge health care crisis. There was almost no provision for indigent health care…The national leadership observed the Christian community building hospitals as a biblical mandate…Congress passed the Hill-Burton Act that created Hospital Districts with taxing authority to offer funds to motivated religious groups and municipalities to build hospitals upon proof of need.

“From 1947-1951, the Christian community built and opened 180,000 hospital beds…If ‘visiting the prisoner’ is as biblical as ‘visiting the patient,’ why aren’t there just as many Church-managed prisons as there are Church-managed hospitals?”
Robinson deftly deflects the religion/church/state issue by welcoming prisoners of all religions and putting in place safeguards against sectarianism while retaining the Christian distinctive.

The ACLU and the coveted American Correctional Association (ACA) have waded in supporting Robinson’s concept as meeting their standards.

How does CCI’s concept differ from that of private for-profit prisons? It is in its emphasis on reformation and rejection of the profit motive.

Basic literacy, GED, vocational and technical training and college courses would be mandatory. Moral and social values would be taught not by indoctrination but through the example of staff and volunteers.

Mentoring would enjoy a high priority from the time of entry through release, with a 4-year tracking program and a post-release plan that involves the family.

With mentoring, job training, real life skill training, substance abuse counseling and post-release monitoring, there is ample data to suggest that recidivism rates could be reduced by up to 75%.

The current economic downturn has improved prospects for Robinson’s vision to pass the hurdle of municipal approval. The pool of customers – those with 12-30 months left on their prison bid – is bursting the seams of our prison system, often sleeping on mattresses strung out on the floor and wiling away their days in boredom.

Would this not be worth the test? To all, perhaps, except to those unwilling to release a bit of territory in the interest of true public service!

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