Jails Have A Profit Motive That May Be Surprising To Some

A county jail yard
William Anderson
September 1, 2020

Jails don’t just lock people up because they have committed a crime. Many make money off of it like private prisons do. Seeing how it works might make you think of slavery. That’s because this system was born out of slavery and what’s going on should come to an end.

Jails often provide contractual prison services. This means they lock people up when prisons don’t have enough space and get paid for it. By doing so, it creates a profit motive where jails want more people to fill their beds. That’s not the only way they profit.

Some jails trade people inside back and forth with other jails like property when they’re under-capacity. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, “Local jails with profit motives are incentivized to house increasing numbers of people.” The money isn’t even safe either.

While profiting jails get paid per head to profit off mass incarceration, some sheriffs rake in money by taking jail funds for their own private expenses. Even worse, by taking money out of the jail fund, the services that are supposed to go to people inside suffer as a result.

This is the true nature of the prison industrial complex. It’s how the government profits off of locking up Black people. It’s an extension of slavery because it’s meant to make money from confining us in chains. This isn’t justice and it’s not about safety, it’s about profit!

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