Happy Birthday CCA! You’re the New Parchman Farm!

By BitcoDavid

This past Sunday marked Correction Corporation of America’s 30th birthday, making this article about as timely as a CCA guard feeding a diabetic inmate.

Let me tell you a little story.

English: Convict workers at Parchman
Convict workers at Parchman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1905, the state of Mississippi launched an experiment in crime prevention. The program was referred to as the convict lease system. Private companies could lease prison labor at a huge discount over paying traditional workers. That year, the state added 185,000 dollars to their coffers. The lessees were responsible for any and all manner of care for the inmates they rented. So, it can be plainly seen that the inmates received inadequate food, clothing and medical care. And those were the lucky ones.

English: A typical Parchman prison camp "...
A typical Parchman prison camp “Prison camps, such as the one above, could be seen at the Mississippi State Penitentiary prior to the modernization of the of the (sic) state’s correctional system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The facility that this system was implemented in was called Parchman Farm. Inmates that weren’t working at outside locations were bade to work the prison farm. The farm supplied food for these inmates, but what wasn’t used by them could be sold on the free market. Since production costs were significantly lower than the competition, profits were high. Another boon to Mississippi. Of course, in order to enjoy those high profits, it would be necessary to curtail how much of the product was consumed by the men who actually grew it.

English: The first official warden's residence...
The first official warden’s residence at Parchman. “The original official residence at Parchman.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The prison for profit idea paved the way for  entrapment and a high rate of convictions for minor offenses, starvation, abuse of prisoners and violence amongst inmates, as rivals competed for basics like food and medical attention. And since the farm was built in the Jim Crow South, the inmates of the segregated system were Black.

Now here’s where things got interesting. Paying guards really cut into this wonderful bottom line. So it was decided that White inmates from other institutions could be exploited by making them the guards. The term applied to these inmate guards was “Trustee.” Now these White trustees were hard men. They were all serving life sentences for violent crimes, themselves. It was thought that Lifers would make the best trustees, because they had the most to gain and were therefore likely not to object to the work. What happened in fact, was that these inmates considered the work offensive and took out their resentment on their charges.

English: Female prisoners in a Mississippi sta...
Female prisoners in a Mississippi state prison producing textiles “Date Unknown – Female inmates work producing textile products” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So you take a bunch of White men – violent criminals themselves – and you put them in charge of Black men in the segregated South Add to that volatile mix, a profit motive, as well as bitter resentment, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.


Until its closing and reorganization in the 1980s, Parchman was a notorious pit of abuse, torture, violence, starvation and death. The mortality rate was so high that inmates were actually buried in mass graves. Investigators to this day are still digging up corpses of Parchman Farm inmates.

It is for this reason, that I will never sanction the concept of private prison corporations. Whenever a profit is created by the suffering of our burgeoning criminal class there is no incentive to alleviate that suffering or shrink the size of that social group. In short, prison for profit not only feeds a system of abuse, but it does nothing to prevent crime. On the contrary, it gives birth to it.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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