Ralph Mackey knows what he would do to make money in politics.

"If I were a politician," he said, "I'd be pushing private prisons."

Despite this statement, Mackey is no advocate for prison privatization. He knows far too much about what happened when Lake Erie Correctional Institute (LaECI) was sold to Corrections Corporation of America. You see, his son is incarcerated there.

Not Getting Better

“There is no rehabilitation in this prison, I will tell you this,” Mackey said.  He described how heroin, crack, and marijuana are readily available in the facility as well as how the educational offerings are far from adequate.

Read parts I and II in our series on Making “Prisons for Profit.”

Mackey’s son once took a computer repair class at LaECI. “CCA brought in an instructor who took attendance, but there was never any instruction on building computers,” he said.

Prison officials would not allow access to the tools needed to actually disassemble and rebuild the computers.

Mackey explained, “They didn’t want to pay for the staff to monitor the tools and security, so everyone in the class just played solitaire and minesweeper on the computers. Then at the end they gave my son a sham certificate and cut a cake for the inmates.”

Lining Their Pockets

If the conditions inside the prison were not bad enough, it’s what’s happening in the state’s capital that seems most upsetting to Mackey. When asked what he hopes people take away after seeing “Prisons for Profit,” he spoke frankly.

Come to a free screening of “Prisons for Profit” April 23rd at the Gateway Film Center.

“I hope people are shocked and horrified at the greed and avarice of public officials,” he said. “They have created a situation where it’s legal to profit off inmates. CCA lobbyists and political action committee groups will support every official and person in the judiciary willing to ensure their profits. The privatization of government services is rife with corruption.

“This creates a whole set of problems for the rest of us,” Mackey said. “You incentivize sending and keeping people in prison, instead of allowing them to be economically productive.”

Private prisons can have great benefits for those who stand to collect taxpayer money for their bank accounts and campaign budgets. But for the rest of us, they are a pretty raw deal.