Today I read a story about privatized prisons around the world in the Economist. It reminded me about a conversation I had with a colleague yesterday about parking tickets in Copenhagen. My colleague mentioned some instances of parking tickets that he had been given, but that he did not find fair.
One example was a ticket for parking slightly outside the demarcation and thereby intruding upon a path made to serve Copenhagen tour-boats. However at the time of parking (winter) no tour boats are active.
Another was given for parking closer than the requisite 10m away from intersections (maybe 8 or 9) meters away.
My colleague wondered that rigid mechanical enforcement of the rules was applied instead of a more balance and sensibility based approach (no need for the boat-path in winter, 9 m is sufficient for traffic safety).
The reason for this is, to me, clear. The enforcement of parking rules has been sold to a private company, and as private companies maximize profits, they have no interest in ever doing sensible interpretations of rules if this interpretation is not in their economic favor.
How does this relate to prisons. Well, are we able to formulate contracts that can protect prisoners against always being underprioritized relative to economic gain of prison-companies? Is it ethical for parking ticket-companies to lobby for more restrictive parking regulations, that will lead to more parking tickets? Is it ethical for prison-companies to lobby for longer prison sentences?