5 W's 

Private Entrance?

Who: The recently formed anti-prison-privatization coalition is made up of corrections officers, ministers, peace activists, and national anti-privatization group Grassroots Leadership.


What: Corrections Division director George Little says private security at the Penal Farm's entrance would slash overtime costs. After 20 entrance-level jobs -- literally -- were lost last year, the county pays aboout $900 in overtime for these posts each day.

In a similar effort, Commissioner Bruce Thompson is exploring privatization in the County Commission's law-enforcement and corrections committee.

The still-unnamed coalition opposing privatization sees Little's entrance proposal as a gateway to privatizating all of the county's correction facilities. The group plans to hold a rally before the next County Commission meeting to oppose the proposals.

When: February 14th, noon.

Where: The Shelby County administration building on Main.

Why: "One of the reasons we're concerned about privatization is we're talking about 1,200 jobs that hang in the balance," says coalition partner Tonyia Rawls. "These private prisons come in and offer cost savings or jobs or a better-run situation, and we've seen situation after situation where those have been false promises."

Thompson admits that privatization would probably result in pay cuts, but argues that it would save taxpayers money.

The coalition claims privatization saves money by cutting training programs for guards as well as inmate programs, which can result in a threat to public safety.

Accountability is also an issue. Unlike public prisons, for-profit prisons are private entities and are not required to disclose information to the public. In other words, what happens inside can stay inside.

"Beyond that, the very nature of the business is a moral disconnect," says Rawls. "It's not public safety in its purest sense. The end goal is profit, not people, so the stockholders end up being the ones the company is beholden to." n

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