Are Private Prisons OK with Libertarians?

A few weeks ago Carlos Miller of Photography Is Not A Crime posted the following:

carlosmiller-georgedonnelly-prison-libertarian-copblockThe next day George Donnelly, of Arm Your Mind for Liberty, responded:

My friend Carlos Miller asked a great question on Facebook last week. Are libertarians OK with moving prisons to private, non-governmental control? Won’t that lead to greater abuse? Or perhaps the same abuse but with less control? Watch the video to hear my answer to this difficult question.




  • steve

    making criminal money from criminals. making noncriminals into criminals. its a racket.

  • tz

    If it ought to be done by government, government should do it and not sub-contract it.

    It was the Stanford prison experiment (Milgram was different)

    I think it would pay to do some ordinary editing – is it just me or did he ramble a lot?. Complex issues are hard enough for those who are well read to do off-the-cuff. For those who just have a veneer of philosophy and only a small bag of talking points it is sometimes counterproductive.

    Exile? To where? Would not sending murders, robbers, and rapists across a border be considered an act of war? House arrest? How? Someone who intentionally does violence would penetrate any cage-around-the-house, disable security devices, and kill the guards, and become a fugitive (and find somewhere they aren’t known and get on with their business). You would need a surveillance state beyond the NSA’s dreams to do this.

    A proper take:

    C. S. Lewis gets to the proper root. When an ACTUAL ACT is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or the guilt is otherwise established, there need to be a redress. Then is it Eye for an eye? Life for a Life, or do we show mercy if there is repentance? If we merely have a penalty to be paid in money, the rich can easily just break the laws they can pay for. Should billionaires be allowed to maim and murder just because they can afford to?

    The proper role of justice is to dispense the just deserts for the criminal act, no more and no less, and certainly not try to do something else. The desert is more than just the damage to the party – since there is damage to the trust. If I can commit 10 burglaries and am only caught twice, I can easily afford to pay back 100% or even 200% restitution where I am caught out of the very proceeds of the crimes. But the destruction of the feeling of security – the violation of one’s home – is intangible.

    I will add another example. Is rape merely a simple “theft of service”, so the magnitude of the crime is simply the going rate for an equivalent prostitute? Or is it something which is so profound it ought to have a penalty similar to willful murder?

    I have some answers, but I believe it is better to provoke people to think about this. Even in libertarian societies, there will be evil people who will manipulate the system and misuse their liberty. So something needs to be done about them while preserving the liberty (including privacy) of those who don’t commit crimes.

  • George Donnelly

    Glad you liked my vid! I think the issue bears a lot greater and deeper discussion. I actually wasn’t satisfied with my video and plan to write a more detailed article about in the future. If anyone has any feedback on the issue here in the comments, that would be greatly appreciated.

  • Buspass

    This libertarian (small L) is perfectly fine with private prisons. Any problems related to this process fall within the integrity of the justice system, not the incarceration system.

    I live in an area where the prisons are privatized, my geography is covered by private for-profit fire departments and EMS, and the only thing which is poorly-handled and corrupt is the local law enforcement…which is still run by municipal gov’t.

    I would, however, be deeply concerned about a private law-enforcement agency that was run by the same people who owned the prisons.

  • Jason Free

    I seem to think having privately owned prisons will help decrease the amount of money that the governmnet must pay for all of the governmnetal employees.

  • t.

    tz: An excellent response

  • burntheconstitution

    Prisons are obsolete at this point

  • Keith

    No need to even watch the video. All you need to know is 1 thing. When the government runs a prison, they grant parole, a practice that saves the taxpayer money. When a private prison does this, they have no incentive to let you out, as if they do, they no longer get money from the government. It’s not a whole lot different than police forces who police themselves. This is worse though, this is all about money, and if the private prisons keep you in, they continue to make it, versus losing it by granting parole. Simple as that.

  • P.

    Please sign and share my petition on trying to bring attention to the dangerous private prisons operating here in Mississippi?

  • Keith

    “Jason Free says:
    July 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm
    I seem to think having privately owned prisons will help decrease the amount of money that the governmnet must pay for all of the governmnetal employees.”

    Yeah, nice try, but again, dumb as stump. The gov still pays, appx 50 grand a year per inmate. Where the slight of hand trick is, they don’t grant parole when the state probably would have, thus gaurenteing them another payment of the 50 grand.