According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in January 2012, “by age 23, nearly one in three Americans will have been arrested.” To put that into perspective, one in three Americans have a 4-year college degree, as stated by a 2014 study by the National Center for Education Statistics. For so many people affected by the U.S. prison system, the truth behind the prison industry tends to be shrouded in mystery. It’s easy to look to media portrayal to try to get a sense of how our justice system really works, but the reality for private prisons is a complex web of federal money, state officials, and detailed contracts dating as far back as the 1850s. Today, private prisons can be used by the government to save money, but questions of proper treatment and social issues have come to light. Now let’s unravel the underlying concepts of for-profit prisons, including their context and the benefits of employing them as well as their pitfalls. America’s modern private prison system evolved partially from Great Britain in the post-Revolution era. When the British could not ship convicts to the United States, they began to keep prisoners on ships docked in English ports. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Americans began using this concept in 1851, when the Criminal Practices Act was passed and prisons consisted of groups of ships. The first prison ship to arrive in California, the Waban, was taken in by the San Francisco County and contracted as a state prison to private entities, who were given the responsibility of overseeing the prisoners and the facility itself. Over the years, ownership bounced from person to person, eventually becoming a land-based prison in 1854 and becoming the more popularly known San Quentin. In 1857, ownership passed over to a man named John McCauley. He was reported to dismiss inspectors, leaving prisoners barefoot and using cruel methods of punishment. Due to his mistreatment of the prisoners, the state of California seized San Quentin from McCauley in 1858.