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  • Local jails have been “jail leasing” space for overflowing prison populations and making a profit.

    Local jails have been “jail leasing” space for overflowing prison populations and making a profit. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 9 June 2016

“It is time to accept the counterintuitive truth: sometimes the government profits off of mass incarceration,” the study wrote.

A study from the Prison Policy Initiative, PPI, released Thursday has detailed the extent of “jail leasing” in the U.S., whereby state-contracted local jails make profits by incarcerating people and taking surplus prisoners from other prisons.

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“In Louisiana, sheriffs and wardens trade incarcerated people from parish to parish in an attempt to keep their jail beds full and the state money rolling in … Housing more prisoners in local jails as opposed to state prisons is without regard for services or educational programs for those incarcerated,” the PPI said.

It cautioned that “jail leasing,” creates a number of profit motives for the local jails as they rely on state money for their law enforcement budgets, which is counterproductive to reducing incarceration rates.

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“It is time to accept the counterintuitive truth: sometimes the government profits off of mass incarceration,” the PPI said.

As rates of incarceration have increased, more local jails have begun to house extra prisoners. The PPI estimated that in 15 states more than 10 percent of the local prison population came from those serving state or federal sentences.

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In Louisiana, 75.5 percent of local jail beds were rented to state and federal prisons, in Mississippi the rate was 55.1 percent.

The U.S. has the world's highest rate of incarceration and around 25 percent of the total world prison population.

Many argue that incarceration rates skyrocketed after Bill Clinton introduced mandatory minimum sentences for crimes such as drug possession and three-strike rules for offenders. At the time, these reforms were also supported by Hillary Clinton.

Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," wrote that mass incarceration in the U.S. is “a system of racial and social control” because many laws disproportionately target, and in turn incarcerate Blacks and Latinos.

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