The Politics of Privatization in 311: “We Can Be Heroes”

After Pennsatucky’s horrific rape by a correctional officer, whose job it is to protect inmates rather than inflict harm, we are compelled to question how jobs with so much responsibility entailed end up in the hands of ruthless individuals — and, more shockingly, how individuals such as Charlie Coates largely go unpunished. The answer is the privatization of prisons, which leads to the disbanding of unions, low wages, ineffective guards, and the overall apathy toward inmates’ well-being on the part of the reigning corporations.

Since the privatization of Litchfield, the correctional officers have undergone their share of administrative changes that resulted in the loss of benefits and the employment of dozens of rookie underpaid and inadequately trained prison guards. Joe Caputo informs them that the NFFE, that is the National Federation of Federal Employees, no longer protects their rights, since they only represent government employees. The NFFE states that their mission is to

“advance the social and economic welfare and education of federal workers through our continued work in organizing units of federal employees, representing their interests through collective bargaining, lobbying for legislative action, fighting for better working conditions, and promoting labor-management partnerships in agency decision-making.”

Danny Pearson tells Caputo in confidence that if the MCC has to pay for benefits, they will bow out of the prison altogether. As we have witnessed through the cost-saving measures such as the gruelish meals and the importing of new prisoners and the money-making ventures, such as allowing the Whispers corporation to exploit prison labor, it is clear that these private corporations are solely in the business to make money, which ultimately leads to fewer and/or untrained eyes around prisons (leading to inmate injury and death) and transgressions such as Pornstache and Coates’ against inmates.

Unfortunately for the prison guards that do their jobs correctly, they are forced to take on other jobs, both part- and full-time in order to supplement their income. While Joe Caputo started from the bottom of the correctional officer later likely in the mid-’80s at the embarrassingly low salary of $20,000 (that is embarrassing on the part of the Department of Corrections), prison guards hardly make more than this today to start. Even if guards have the best intentions, their need to work extra hours increases the likelihood of guard inattentiveness, which renders similar results to that of poorly-trained and/or apathetic prison guards.

“If you want employees to show up and do a good job, you gotta take care of them.” – Joe Caputo

The low wages attract people who are either a poor fit for the gig or should not be in such a position, such as fresh-out-of-high school young men and those who are attracted to the profession for all the wrong reasons (total control over helpless human beings). Everyone needs a job, and nobody should be discriminated against; however, a 19-year-old is not likely to demand adequate respect from a band of rapists, murderers, and convicts, leading to greater inmate-inmate and inmate-prison guard conflicts as well as a generally unsafe environment for the incarcerated.

Because this job is not the most ideal nor the easiest for the amount of money offered, Pam Belluck reports that the employee turnover rate continues to increase, thus compelling prisons to lower the minimum age required for these positions in order to fill the slots. As a result, the number of prison breaks and attacks have been proven to increase sharply (Belluck).

For prisons to actually function as rehabilitation centers, prisons need to provide adequate salaries and benefits, which drive up the demand for high-quality personnel. Only then can these prisons serve their inmates. Furthermore, prisons must be de-privatized so that the primary goal of prisons is the rehabilitation, rather than the exploitation, of inmates. As we see time and time again in education and even in the series, when any institution is run by higher-ups who live far away in office buildings and who have no field experience whatsoever, the policies put in place and the executive decisions carried out are almost never in the institution’s best interest.

Works Cited

Belluck, Pam. “Desperate for Prison Guards, Some States Even Rob Cradles.” New York Times [New York] 21 Apr. 2001: A1+. Digital file.

National Federation of Federal Employees. “Who We Are.” National Federation of Federal Employees. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.