News Release

Behind Prison Riots


AP reports that in Indiana “inmates at the New Castle Correctional Facility took over part of the prison [Wednesday] afternoon, injuring two employees and setting several fires.”

Executive director of The Sentencing Project, Mauer is author of the book Race to Incarcerate.
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Mead is publisher of Prison Focus magazine, the director of the Prison Art Project and a former prisoner. He said today: “In the early ’50s there was a wave of prison riots across the U.S. This resulted in a modest shift toward rehabilitation. It was largely rhetorical — prisons became ‘correctional facilities’ and guards became ‘correctional officers,’ and wardens became ‘superintendents.’ There was also some effort made to introduce more vocational programs. Since the late ’80s, however, more and more people are being jammed into prisons, under worse and worse conditions, while the rights and privileges of the confined are stripped away. At the same time Congress has limited prisoners’ access to the courts — eliminating a needed pressure relief valve.

“Another problem is that many prisons are being privatized, so when a company is working for a profit, that frequently means a worse situation for the inmates. The New Castle facility is managed by the GEO Group which describes itself on its web page as ‘a world leader in privatized correctional and detention management.'”
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The Indianapolis Star reports: “In 2005, [Indiana Gov. Mitch] Daniels signed a $53 million contract with Florida-based GEO Group to take over management of the prison.

“‘First and foremost, this is a tragedy, but it’s also an absolute disgrace,’ said Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker, in a prepared statement. ‘Mitch Daniels has sold off everything he can, and this is a real-life example of the risks and consequences of privatization.’ …

“Parker said Daniels and the Indiana Republican Party have each taken $5,000 donations from GEO Group. Several Republican candidates also have accepted political contributions from the private company.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167