Just in case you thought Virginia completely slipped into a tragic trajectory of privatizing everything under the sun, the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHS) turned down “unsolicited bids” by GEO Group and Liberty Healthcare Corp. to operate the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville, a facility that holds violent sex offenders for treatment after their sentences have ended.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, officials with the DBHS concluded that “GEO Group, a private prisons operator based in Boca Raton, Fla., focused too much on incarceration and not enough on treatment. Liberty Healthcare Corp. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., scored better on treatment but would have charged the state $2.4 million a year more than it is spending to run the facility itself.”
Imagine that, a private business focusing too much on incarceration (i.e., continuing to turn a profit) instead of treatment (i.e., losing revenue), what a revelation!
According to DBHS spokeswoman, Meghan McGuire, “Following the thorough evaluation that was conducted of the unsolicited bids, DBHS found the existing operation is comparable to or better than the proposals and there was not a long-term financial advantage to the Commonwealth.”
Of course, Ms. McGuire didn’t close the door permanently on a public-private partnership like the ones offered by GEO Group and Liberty Healthcare Corp., but right now “is not the best direction for Virginia.” And unless private businesses change their business models away from being fundamentally profit-oriented, such a partnership will never be a good idea.
The reason why prisons of any kind should never be privatized is simple: private businesses aren’t interested in rehabilitation, they’re interested in turning a profit and the larger the better. And if private businesses have an incentive (maybe millions of them!) to keep inmates stuck in prison, what is the incentive to let ‘rehabilitated’ prisoners out? Indeed, where is the incentive to rehabilitate prisoners in the first place?
Just like any sane person wouldn’t let Charles Manson babysit their children, no sane government would allow prisons to fall into private hands if the government in question actually cares about the people it serves.