Now that I look back even I am sitting here shaking my head at the names, companies, legislators and laws involved in this huge profitable enterprise. I take little satisfaction in saying I tried to bring this subject to the attention of America’s workers, unions and lawmakers years before the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their activities regarding American workers and exploiting taxpayers were exposed in 2012. However, when you read this keep in mind the corporations and individuals who have by now become infamous for their membership in – or support for ALEC – and compare that list to what I provided in this Daily Kos post on December 6, 2010…and since then I discovered how the Dept. of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance have teamed up to help transition our jobs from neighborhoods to prisons.
The interest and rapid-fire comments lending to the discussion on my last Diary about Bill Robinson and his company, CCI's attempts to install Christian only prisons in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and California leads me to believe a follow-up is necessary. Many questioned how inmates can be paid minimum wage - or more - while in prison...others wanted to know how these efforts to establish Christian only private prisons tied into other private prison operations. These are but a couple of the same questions that came to my mind at the time and led to my research.
While I have never professed to be more than typically involved in religious matters I do have a sense of right from wrong - and an ability to recognize patterns when doing research. I discovered that issues related to private prison corporations, their supporters and agenda at a point merged with other lines involving this Christian private prison proposal.
In developing my research on our rising prison populations, prison industry operations and the desire to connect both through a faith-based program, I had to form a basis for the research. There had to be a reason for:
1. an increase in individuals being sent to prisons,
2. a way to rehabilitate those sent to prison and,
3. if rehabilitation involves work in prison industries, who profits? and,
4. some way to reduce the rate of return by ex-offenders once released.
The first was easily determined: our "War on Drugs" began with the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. To date this has had the greatest impact upon our rising incarceration rate in the U.S. Almost 1 million are arrested every year for drug related crimes. Here is the current rates from Wikipedia:
"The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. A very large portion of people who are incarcerated are imprisoned for drug-related crimes. In 1994, it was reported that the "War on Drugs" results in the incarceration of one million Americans each year. Of the related drug arrests, about 225,000 are for possession of cannabis, the fourth most common cause of arrest in the United States.As the above statistics reveal, the rise in prisoners in the U.S. is directly related to the pursuit of this war on drugs. This explained the high number of prisoners, but in incarcerating there should be a way of rehabilitating those imprisoned so further violations would not result in continued arrests after release. Enter the prison industry.
In 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses. 500,000 were imprisoned.
In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes was rising 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. The United States has a higher proportion of its population incarcerated than any other country in the world for which reliable statistics are available, reaching a total of 2.2 million inmates in the U.S. in 2005. Among the prisoners, drug offenders made up the same percentage of State prisoners in both 1997 and 2004 (21%). The percentage of Federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses declined from 63% in 1997 to 55% in 2004. The US Department of Justice, reporting on the effects of state initiatives, has stated that, from 1990 through 2000. "the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates." In addition to prison or jail, the United States provides for the deportation of many non-citizens convicted of drug offenses.
Federal and state policies also impose collateral consequences on those convicted of drug offenses, such as denial of public benefits or licenses, that are not applicable to those convicted of other types of crime.
Marijuana constitutes almost half of all drug arrests, and between 1990–2002, out of the overall drug arrests, 82% of the increase was for marijuana.
Nine years after our entering into drug wars, Congressional lawmakers enacted the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) that I've written about previously. This law (18 USC 1761, et. seq.) allowed for training of state prisoners within prison industries. It also allowed the participation of private manufacturers, businesses and corporations in the program through partnerships with prison industries. It allowed prison industries and their partners to begin to sell their products to the U.S. government in orders exceeding $10,000 and relaxed the restrictions of sales and transportation of those products via interstate commerce.
So I then knew why so many were in prison, what was being done to "rehabilitate" those incarcerated. I also learned that these training programs run by the prison industries were designed to reduce recidivism through training and job placement of prisoners once released.
However statistics show that it wasn't working. More and more prisoners who worked in the program and were released, were being returned to prison after more arrests and convictions. So if it wasn't working, prison populations were rising to the point of bursting, why wasn't something being done to restructure the program so it actually reduced repeat offenses?
At first I thought that might have been the purpose of interjecting faith into rehabilitation on a level that involved day to day ministering in the faith of those serving prison sentences. Nothing else seemed to be diminishing the rising prison populations, maybe it should be given a shot.
Further checking into this eliminated that thought, when I learned the operation would provide Evangelical theology as a basis for their ministring. The Prison would be run by Evangelical "Christians" who have their own beliefs and aren't considered really "mainstream" by most other Christians. This led to the third question: who profits from a high rate of incarceration? Are prison industries profitable? If so would this be the reason for such interest in prison and prison industry operations by a Christian group?
Following the links between all of the factors: profit from prison labor, high rate of incarceration, and faith-based rehabilitation of prisoners, I found a common denominator: ALEC and their Public Safety and Elections "task force". I know that is hard to understand, but the link is solid and connected by Charles Colson and his Prison Fellowship Ministries. Once the lines merged and led to ALEC, they turned into what appears to be the erratic scribbling of some 2 year old child.
The beginning of the Robinson CCI line led to his presentation to Governor Bush in Texas in 1995. I provided a link to a series of documents(apparently compiled by Robinson) on the internet. Among the documents were Senate Concurrent Resolution #44 that ordered all Texas agencies, departments, sheriffs and others to assist faith-based efforts involved in rehabilitating prisoners.
Mr. Robinson appreciated the praise from Governor Bush - as did so many others- upon his CCI site. If you take a moment to read those who "praised" the concept of a Christian only prison, (Colson's name is there) merely scroll down at this link and see the names, titles and positions of those involved. To me this was a warning and a reason for concern. The involvement of a Christian run prison with an on-site prison industry operation, raised the hair on the back of my neck and made it necessary to dig deeper into the use of prison labor by groups, corporations and others.
Following the money, as I have learned to do, brought me to a little known corporation, U.S. Technologies, Inc. In a 1999 overview to the Securites Exchange Commission, I found:
"U.S. Technologies Inc. (the "Company"), is engaged directly and indirectly through its wholly owned subsidiary, Labor-to-Industry Inc. ("LTI"), in the operation of industrial facilities located within both private and state prisons, which are staffed principally with inmate labor. These prison-based operations are conducted under the guidelines of the 1979 Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program. On February 22, 2000, the Company announced that it reached a definitive agreement to acquire E2Enet, Inc. ("E2E"), a privately held Internet incubator company, and on April 5, 2000, this agreement was amended so the acquisition could qualify as a tax-free transaction. E2E has made early stage investments in several development stage business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce businesses. The Company's acquisition of E2E is expected to close in April once all closing conditions have been satisfied.This set off all kinds of alarms in my head. Chief among the questions raised from the warning klaxons were: Who would be behind involving prisoner labor in such a complex issue? Further research into UST I had the answer when I came across a listing of their "new" Board of Directors on page 4 of the same document (that were proposed in 99 and elected in 2000), and actually spilled my coffee all over the keyboard:
The Company believes that its acquisition of E2E will provide the Company with a platform to establish a position in the growing e-commerce industry. The Company believes that the completion of the E2E Acquisition will enhance the Company's opportunities for both investment in and creative development of promising early stage B2B and B2C e-commerce ventures. Further investments in this industry are intended primarily to comprise controlled subsidiaries engaged in the development or operation of B2B business. The Company also is in the process of expanding its management team to include technology and e-commerce expertise."
"The Company also announced that it will expand its Board of Directors in connection with the completion of the E2E Acquisition. The new directors will also stand for election at the Company's next annual meeting, which also is when the Company expects to present the Charter Amendment for Stockholder approval. These new directors will be:I learned that US Technologies had arranged a contract with Geo Group (another corporation involved in private prisons and a member of ALEC) allowing UST to operate any prison industries located at a Geo owned or operated prison. This contract began in 1995. US Technologies founded a wholly owned subsidiary, UST that had responsibility for all prison industry operations under PIECP. UST closed an entire electronics manufacturing operation they had in Austin, Texas under this contract with Geo and moved the entire operation to the Geo prison in Lockhart, Texas. The move put 150 Texans on unemployment assistance (illegal and prohibited, but allowed by BJA, NCIA and DOJ).
- General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., former Secretary of State and
White House Chief of Staff;
- The Honorable George J. Mitchell, former Senator from Maine
and Senate Majority Leader;
- The Honorable William H. Webster, former Director of both the
FBI and CIA;
- Rick Rickersten, partner at Thayer Capital, a leading investment management firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.;
- Hal Wilson and Peter Schiff, Managing Directors of Northwood Ventures LLC and Northwood Capital Partners LLC, venture capital investment firms headquartered in New York; and
- Arthur Maxwell, President of Affordable Interior Systems, Inc., one of the 25 largest commercial furniture manufacturers in the United States."
This was big...I mean this was a list of who's-who including top officials who served in our government either by appointment or by election. The names of those upon UST's Board when added to those supporting CCI's proposed private Christian prison and prison industry provided me with the feeling that something really big was initiated in the late 1980's through 2000. A lot of time and effort had gone into developing a way to imprison the most individuals possible - and not just any warm body. Workers from all job descriptions would be needed: engineers, machinists, CADD operators, production experts and those with other important technical knowledge and skills.
(In 2003 a scandal erupted over U.S. Technologies, Inc. The Chairman of the Board, C. Gregory Earls was involved in scamming investors to the tune of $20 million. When his scheme was uncovered, the SEC delisted UST stock and prosecuted Earls. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. The scandal caused all of the board to scramble as quickly as possible away from UST. At the time the s--t hit the fan, William Webster was upon the SEC Board and had to resign his position. This just shows their greed and the way they have insinuated themselves throughout the corporate, government and public sectors of our society in their quest of pursuing more power, wealth and influence. UST was closed and ceased operations. Before the news broke, they had opened corporate offices in Georgia, Florida and of course, Texas).
But how could people with those skills and knowledge needed by prison industries be rounded up and placed where their labor would earn profits? The answer was as simple as it was deliberate - drug laws. This war on drugs had resulted in arrests for drug violations that cross all social, political, work skills, race and eduction lines. Men and women from every social and occupational groups within our society had been arrested/"recruited" to fill necessary prison industry jobs across America. I looked into the proposed "Model" legislation being pedaled by ALEC to the states. In the Public Safety task force alone, dozens of laws that would benefit a wide range of corporate sponsors and members of the "Council" are listed.
It was relatively easy to see how their involvement in the scheme had been necessary from the beginning. They were instrumental in proposing: 3 strike laws, truth in sentencing, minimum mandatory drug and gun laws, sentencing guidelines and other laws that make arrests more prevalent and punishments longer in terms of sentence. Take this excerpt from "Ghostwriting the Law" by MotherJones:
"In another instance of profitable policymaking, ALEC drafted a model "truth in sentencing" bill that restricts parole eligibility for prisoners, keeping inmates locked up longer. One of the members of the task force that drafted the bill was Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, which stands to cash in on longer sentences. By the late 1990s, similar sentencing measures had passed in 40 states. "There was never any mention that ALEC or anybody else had any involvement in this," Walter Dickey, the former head of Wisconsin's prison system, told reporters after his state passed a version of the measure."Taking a look at Geo Group and CCA widened research and allowed identification of other corporations, associations and groups who belong to ALEC - and profit in some manner from incarceration and prison industries. Beside CCA these include: Geo Group, Prison Fellowship Ministries (Charles Colson), American Bail Coalition, AT&T, Wal-Mart, many energy corporations, big pharm corporations such as Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. Others such as Coca-Cola, Johnson and Johnson, Reynolds America, State Farm and Centrpoint 360 belong to ALEC's Private Enterprises Board - and many more are listed as supporters, funders and donors.
The War on Drugs began in 1970 followed closely by PIECP in 1979. What was then needed were harsher drug laws that would result in more arrests of an increasingly diverse number of our population who may/did have the skills necessary for prison industry operations, mandatory sentencing guidelines were put into place. This disallowed a judge from "going outside the guidelines" to sentence an offender to less than the proscribed term called for by the guideline. The scheme now had a workforce for an ever-increasing length of time via sentence and they had a federal law allowing the use of those inmates as a labor pool, all that was needed was to limit or eliminate altogether private sector competition.
In 1995 they were successful in transferring control and oversight of PIECP (prison industry operations) over to the National Correctional Industries Association NCIA (the NCIA was founded in 1941 as the Penal Industries Association and changed to the Correctional Industries Association in 1954. The then current Board changed the name to their current one in 2002). 1995 was the same year Robinson approached George Bush in Texas with his CCI proposal involving prison industry and PIECP.
More digging into the PIE Program and corporations involved in turning a profit through the program. PRIDE was at the top of the list of abusers of PIECP. Now we had major U.S. corporate interests also participating in not only industry operations, but in housing of inmates as well. Research also led to Cornell Corrections, Inc. that also housed prisoners at privately held or built prisons. An article involving Cornell exposed close ties between KBR Construction, Haliburton and Haliburton's CEO and Chairman, Dick Cheney.It also mentioned the name of Richard Crane (he was later associated with providing biased information in a Prison Privatization study conducted by the government by abt Associates). I would urge all readers to take a moment and read the important Cornell/Haliburton article linked to above. It will go a long way to your understanding the depth of the connections and corruption going on in the private prison and prison industry operations.
With the Cornell situation, KBR was building prison and jail facilities for them. Cornell was getting the money from the U.S. Government for the building, and was turning those funds over to Haliburton to actually build the facilities...then accepting payment of tax dollars to hold the prisoners sent there! Talk about close ties and corrupted links.
In 2007 CCI and Robinson popped up again trying to get Texas to approve the building of his Habilitation House prison complex. From 07 through the present, Mr. Robinson has continued to work on California, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Now he has expanded his project to include building facilities to house youthful offenders with the same ministering and industry work program projections.
It has come full circle in my research now. It began with CCI's proposal to George Bush in 1995 and ends with CCI's continued efforts in 2010. During those years, Bush brought us WHOFBCI offices to further the activities of Evangelical groups he supports, NCIA has taken over the federal prison industries program oversight, CCA, Geo and others have used ALEC to ensure a continued source of prisoners, and PIECP mandatory guidelines are being violated by all involved.
Those that asked about inmates receiving minimum wage for their work, that is a true statement. However, they are supposed to be paid prevailing wages. To increase profits the industries involved pay only minimum wage and through the "oversight" efforts of the NCIA get away with it. Under the program inmates earn prevailing wages but 80% of those wages are taken back to offset costs of incarceration, taxes and victim restitution payments and court ordered fines and fees. The inmate gets to keep a whopping 20%.
By moving industry operations into prisons corporations lower their wage and labor expenses sharply. It also serves to reduce the wage for the job descriptions done from whatever they paid in the private sector, to the federal minimum wage rate. Additional benefits are: no paid vacations, paid time off, health or medical insurance benefits and workers don't call in sick. Prison industries often run overtime and/or three shifts per day to avoid overtime.
In conclusion we must take a moment an understand how our politics, jobs and prison issues of today are affected by the research I've provided about past performances, manipulations and what has been exposed. Currently we have the argument over the appointment of Stacia Hylton to the Director's post with the U.S. Marshal's office. A critical argument given the role that office plays in placing of federal detention inmates in private prison facilities. The fact that she was a "consultant" for CCA over the past year, was enough for me to object.
In addition there is the issue of SB 1070 in Arizona (and now proposed nationwide) that was written by and proposed as Model Legislation through ALEC, CCA and implemented by Governor Brewer. We have to look at the financial costs that will be associated with the current federal litigation attempting to outlaw SB 1070 - in real tax dollars.
The same corporate members and supporters of ALEC - including CCA, Geo and Koch Industries are openly aligned against the citizen's demands for healthcare reform, tax cuts for the richest 2% and focusing efforts to malign any attempts by the Obama administration to address serious social issues and programs.
The same cabal are involved in eliminating private sector jobs through moving those operations into prisons. They are openly competing in public and private markets with their products, further eroding our work force. They are also aligned against labor efforts and extending unemployment benefits for the millions they've already helped take jobs from.
With the likes of Dick Armey (ties to ALEC) making speeches at ALEC functions alongside George Bush and Neil Cavuto (of Fox News) in 2006and again in 2007 it has become obvious that ALEC is at the core of most of this take over of prison industries and the elimination of jobs and benefits for those who have been displaced.
AT the end we have to realize that all the names mentioned throughout this diary - from Gingrich and Armey to ALEC's lawmakers and corporate members, they have been involved in establishing, funding and supporting the newest threat to our sovereignty - the Tea Party.
I've laid it out as succinctly as possible, providing many links to the information I obtained and rely upon. The conservatives and evangelical right are deeply involved in changing our country into what we have today. It has been a conscious and concerted effort. Our choice of electing Obama as President in 2008 provided them with a stumbling block, but as I've just pointed out, they are taking several steps to overcome that hurdle.
It will be up to us to continue to expose these folks, corporations, religious groups, lawmakers and former politicians for what they are and what they're doing to us as a society and country. Rodney King once asked, "Can't we all just get along?" We saw that wasn't possible then and the same suggestion won't work now either. Some factions in this country simply see the majority of us as pawns to be used to accomplish their profitable goals - either as consumers or as prisoners. More of the first are being turned into the latter. We must put a stop to it...