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Today's Wall Street Journal  had a disturbing article.

Larger Inmate Population Is Boon to Private Prisons

Prison companies are preparing for a wave of new business as the economic downturn makes it increasingly difficult for federal and state government officials to build and operate their own jails.

Disturbing to me, because at a time when our left of center community is focused on Gitmo, we tend to forget the inmates who are warehoused in our nations prisons, whose numbers are growing at alarming rates.

The United States already has this dubious distinction:

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 737 persons imprisoned per 100,000 (as of 2005).[15] A report released Feb. 28, 2008 indicates that in the United States more than 1 in 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison.[8] The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated population

Ever mindful of the market, here's more of what WSJ had to say:

The Federal Bureau of Prisons and several state governments have sent thousands of inmates in recent months to prisons and detention centers run by Corrections Corp. of America, Geo Group Inc. and other private operators, as a crackdown on illegal immigration, a lengthening of mandatory sentences for certain crimes and other factors have overcrowded many government facilities.

Prison-policy experts expect inmate populations in 10 states to have increased by 25% or more between 2006 and 2011, according to a report by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts.

Private prisons housed 7.4% of the country's 1.59 million incarcerated adults in federal and state prisons as of the middle of 2007, up from 1.57 million in 2006, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a crime-data-gathering arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

So just who is CCA?

Corrections Corp., the largest private-prison operator in the U.S., with 64 facilities, has built two prisons this year and expanded nine facilities, and it plans to finish two more in 2009. The Nashville, Tenn., company put 1,680 new prison beds into service in its third quarter, helping boost net income 14% to $37.9 million. "There is going to be a larger opportunity for us in the future," said Damon Hininger, Corrections Corp.'s president and chief operations officer, in a recent interview.

Here's a link to Corrections Corp.

Danny Glover narrarates a documentary for Grassroots Leadership,

a multi-racial team of organizers who help Southern community, labor, faith, and campus organizations think critically, work strategically and take direct action to end social and economic oppression, gain power, and achieve justice and equity.

Grassroots Leadership's goal is to put an end to abuses of justice and the public trust by working to abolish for-profit private prisons. As the statement of principles for the campaign reads:

"For-profit private prisons, jails and detention centers have no place in a democratic society. Profiteering from the imprisonment of human beings compromises public safety and corrupts justice. In the spirit of democracy and accountability, we call for an end to all incarceration for profit."

Recently in California,Firm bids to run Calif. inmate medical system

SACRAMENTO—A private prison company that has been lobbying the Schwarzenegger administration and is a campaign contributor to the governor's causes has made a bid to operate an overhauled inmate medical system, a move that could conflict with court-ordered reforms, according to a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press. The offer by The GEO Group Inc. of Florida caught the court-appointed receiver overseeing reform of California's inmate health care system by surprise.

In the five-page internal memo obtained by the AP, the receiver's chief of staff repeatedly makes it clear that he believes the bid was solicited by the Schwarzenegger administration and questions the administration's motives. Chief of staff John Hagar writes that The GEO Group has spent more than $300,000 lobbying the governor's office and Legislature since January. Campaign records on file with the secretary of state's office show the company also made a $50,000 contribution last month to the campaign for Proposition 11, the redistricting initiative on the November ballot backed by Schwarzenegger.

"The solicitation is all the more troublesome because the Federal Court has taken responsibility away from the Secretary of Corrections concerning the delivery of medical services," Hagar wrote in the memo to court receiver Clark Kelso.

Related news in CA:Trial begins over California prison crowding

SAN FRANCISCO—Attorneys for the state and inmates' rights groups clashed Tuesday at the opening of a high-stakes trial over whether California's jam-packed prisons have led to unconstitutionally poor medical and mental health care.
If the special panel of three federal judges rules against the state, another trial will be held next year to determine remedies. Possible solutions include an order to release inmates before they have completed their full sentences, a move opposed by the Schwarzenegger administration. Attorneys for the inmates want the prison population reduced from about 156,300 inmates to 110,000.

Further delay in solving California's prison crowding will mean only "additional pain, suffering and death for our clients," Michael Bien, one of the attorneys representing inmates, said during Tuesday's hearing. "The California prison system is dangerous and broken," he said.

At issue is whether overcrowding is the leading cause of medical and mental health care that the federal courts already have found to be substandard—and in some cases so negligent that it has directly contributed to inmates' deaths. The Schwarzenegger administration says steps already are being taken to reduce the population. The governor and Republican lawmakers say an early release plan would endanger the public.

The WSJ piece does mention the opposition:

Some groups accuse the private prisons of neglecting inmates or of putting them in bad conditions. "Profit is still a motive and it's structured into the way these prisons are operated," says Judy Greene, a justice-policy analyst for Justice Strategies, a nonprofit studying prison-sentencing issues and problems. "Just because the system has expanded doesn't mean there is evidence that conditions have improved."

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits involving several prison companies over the past decade alleging poor treatment of inmates. Last year, the organization and other parties filed a lawsuit against Corrections Corp. and the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm in federal court in San Diego, alleging that the company was operating an overcrowded, unsafe immigrant-detention center in that city. Detainees were routinely assigned in groups of three to sleep in two-room cells -- meaning one had to sleep on the floor near the toilet -- or to temporary beds in recreation rooms and other common spaces, according to the complaint. The suit also alleged that detainees had little access to mental-health care.

"We have serious concerns about for-profit prison companies because they are notorious for cutting essential costs that need to be provided to maintain a safe and constitutional environment for prisoners," says Jody Kent, a public-policy coordinator for the ACLU's National Prison Project.

The ACLU National Prison Project

Prisoners' Rights:
The ACLU's National Prison Project is the only national litigation program on behalf of prisoners. Since 1972, the NPP has represented more than 100,000 men, women and children. The NPP continues to fight unconstitutional conditions and the "lock 'em up" mentality that prevails in the legislatures. Learn more about our project and take action to protect the rights guaranteed to all Americans.

The WSJ closes with this sanctimonious quote:

Louise Grant, a Corrections Corp. spokeswoman, says the company's prison practices complied with federal standards and that it regularly discloses capacity levels and other information in federal filings.

"Our government partners monitor us daily," Ms. Grant says. "There is no cutting corners."

Cutting corners, is exactly the problem that prison privatization calls into question.

PBS did a documentary called Prisons for Profit. A transcript is available

In his book Merchandizing Prisoners Byron Eugene Price discusses the history and and his conclusions about privatization:

Eugene Price illustrates that fiscal issues are often trumped by political factors when it comes to the decision to privatize. He examines the potential reasons why a state might choose to privatize its prisons, and considers financial and political aspects in depth. Ultimately he concludes that the desire to save costs is not the primary reason for state prison privatization. Rather, the more plausible explanations revolve around political and ideological factors such as the party of the governor and the overall political and ideological culture of the state. This work sets the record straight about the decision to privatize state prisons, revealing the political bias that often drives these policy choices.

As far back as 1999 Alex Freidmann reported an "insiders" inmates view of private lockups:

I have an insider's view of what it's like to do time at a for-profit prison, having been incarcerated at the Corrections Corporation of America-operated South Central Correctional Center in Clifton, Tennessee from 1992 until February 1998, when I was transferred to another facility after I openly criticized CCA. First and foremost, when it comes to private prisons the bottom line is financial. CCA facilities have signs prominently posted in the administration buildings that proclaim "Yesterday's Stock Closing," followed by a dollar amount. Some people say that crime doesn't pay, but CCA stock is presently trading at about $12 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

CCA and other private prison operators say they can do the job cheaper. However, what private jailers call "cost effectiveness" is known less euphemistically as "cutting corners." The impact of fiscal considerations at CCA/South Central was evident on a daily basis, from rationed distribution of blankets and toilet paper to the poor quality of food. But those aren't the biggest corners being cut.

Approximately 70% of all prison-related expenses come from staffing costs -- and this is where CCA really saves, beginning with sub-par starting salaries. Consequently, the employee turnover rate is unusually high, and vacant positions are left unfilled for long periods of time to save on wages and benefits. After I was transferred to a state prison I immediately noticed the increased number of guards present -- more than I'd ever seen at CCA/South Central.

The issue isn't privatizing prisons, but rather privatizing prisoners. Inmates, traditionally the responsibility of state and federal governments, increasingly are being contracted out to the lowest bidder. Convicts have become commodities. Certainly offenders should be punished for committing crimes, but should private companies and their stockholders profit from such punishment?

For more background on this issue see Private Prisons: Profits of Crime by By Phil Smith

he concludes:

Private prisons are a symptom, a response by private capital to the "opportunities" created by society's temper tantrum approach to the problem of criminality in the context of free-market supremacy. Dostoevsky once remarked that he measured the quality of a society by the quality of its prisons. In the present case it may be as appropriate to judge us by their quantity, too. In either case, the judgment would be harsh indeed.

I have not discussed just who the majority of inmates are demographically, nor have I addressed the role of the War on Drugs in all of this, and the inequities of sentencing for minorities. There have been numerous diaries here in the past on these issues.

I do hope, that as we move into a new Obama administration, that they, along with our community will not forget to address this, and that we will be a voice for a huge segment of our population that remains voiceless here.  

Originally posted to Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:43 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Relatedly, (12+ / 0-)

    this diary sheds light into why there are so many people in prison in the USA (e.g., insane prison sentences for non-violent drug possession).

    And not encouraging going forward, the role of the AG nominee in this mess . ..

    •  No, I don't think the new administration... (8+ / 0-)

      ...is going to help with this.  They'll be lucky to roll back a few excesses in the corners.

      But we could help with this.  This country used to have an active prisoner's rights movement.

      ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

      by jessical on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:54:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was part of it for many years. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        One Pissed Off Liberal, jessical

        Helped found the women's bail fund in NY, worked with the Lawyers Guild, but it seems that when many movements died, the left dropped the ball on prisons and jails.

        Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

        by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:17:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think... (5+ / 0-)

          ...it is one of the few places where the left and right have a potential common ground, though it has been limited by the sheer prosecutorial excesses of the last 25 years or so.  I'm not a Christian, but I know more than a few who take all that stuff about prisoners seriously.  Unfortunately the right has been fed the idea that destroying people is the way to go...it makes it extra-hard to find common ground, and the task that much more thankless.

          But really...I'd think the idea that there are people a few miles from one, who have nothing at all...that people who care about human suffering would feel called to help.  I think people are terrified of every aspect of their own society though, from the hospital they will die in to the prison they might go to if their lives were put up for examination too closely.  So they shy from all of it, and hope to barely hang on...

          ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

          by jessical on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:26:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I know quite a few folks who went to college (6+ / 0-)

            in prison, came out and are living productive lives.  That was before those programs were cut in many places - when the whole issue of "coddling prisoners" became the meme.  

            Eliminating drug rehab, schools and training in prison, increases inmate violence.

            Many folks who are currently locked up- should be in treatment, not prison,  but that's a whole other issue, though related.

            Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

            by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:33:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  maybe... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GANJA, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

              ...college and HS completion programs in prison are what we should be pushing for...adding it as a metric to how the private prisons are evaluated.

              It would seem like so much less of an evil if the medical care were simply adequate and there was some sort of opprotunity for people.  It isn't that I want it all to be fair or right...but being part of a society which types people as bad and then trys hard to destroy at every turn...for me at least, it strips commonality and hope from a great number of other endeavors.

              ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

              by jessical on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:47:23 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  One of the most complex issues. (4+ / 0-)

              This is one of the most complex issues in our present mess, Dee, and most of those "whole other issues, though related" are indeed part of the tangled skein of spaghetti that is "for-profit prisons."  The mess includes, but is not limited to:

              Labor rights and respect for labor generally in our society.

              Drug laws and their enforcement as a prison labor recruiting mechanism.

              "Othering" and creating an Other-class that working class Americans are encouraged to hate and blame for their problems.

              Profit as the highest social goal, one of the first principles of modern conservatism.

              Racism and ensuring the preservation of white male political and cultural hegemony.

              There are doubtless others you could add to the list, as a trained anthropologist.  Mine is an amateur historian's (and former criminal defense attorney's) perspective.  But most generally, the criminal justice system as it presently exists is, more than anything, a massive sieve to glean cheap labor at maximum profit, and with hardships imposed as much for public sport as out of any financial or correctional necessity.

              Watching that sieve work is why I burned out on law and started writing novels.

        •  Many people in the civil and human rights (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jessical, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

          movements assumed that with the passage of laws and supportive court rulings, rights would be honored and people would be protected.  It never occurred to many, I'm sure, that the restrictions and prohibitions on abusive behaviors only applied to the agents of government and that they could be evaded by a simple transfer of functions to the private sector.  
          While it could be argued that a private entity (individual or corporation) doing the bidding of a governmental body should be bound by the same restrictions as the governmental body itself, that provision has to be made explicit in the contractual documents and, indeed, such provisions make it unlikely that the function will be assumed.

          We see somewhat the same pattern in the negotiations of so-called "free trade" agreements.  When provisions are inserted which insist that the same labor and environmental standards that rule at home have to be met abroad, the negotiations fail.  Because, after all, the whole idea for American corporations going out of country is to evade those requirements.

          In any event, the main impetus for privatization and, more recently, globalization has been to avoid and evade the application of the principle of equality and the obligation to honor human rights.  Even though our Constitution insists there should be no ruling elite, not everyone in our nation is convinced that's how it should be.  And, to a certain extent, the fundamentalist religious sects support that contention by asserting that man is superior to all other creatures, including the female of his own species, and that some men are naturally superior to others.  They perceive a natural hierarchy and work hard to insure it persists.  In a sense, every individual in prison is testimony to their belief that some men are better than others.

          You can't convince people that some people are wrongly imprisoned when having lots of people in prison supports their belief that most men are evil and only a few have been saved.  Increasing incarceration rates are evidence that their prejudice is supported by 'fact.'  Ditto for the incarceration rate of blacks.

          How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

          by hannah on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:18:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I remember approaching a local church (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jessical, NCrissieB

            (fundamentalist) in Spanish Harlem about a free breakfast for children program. They had a huge empty space and a large gym (unused during the week) The "pastor" sneered, and spouted from the pulpit that all the community people were "Satana" (spawn of Satan) and hijos de diablos (Children of the Devil) and should go to jail and then to hell.

            Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

            by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:27:48 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I don't agree with Ben's attack on Holder (5+ / 0-)

      I argued with him about it in yesterday's diary
      So who is Eric Holder?
      in the comments section.

      DC at that time was hit with a massive wave of gun violence - of massive heavy weight marijuana sales, combined with folks smoking blunts laced with crack and heroin.

      My family lives in SE DC in Anacostia, and my aunt was afraid to go out of the house to the store, in the daytime.

      I support medical marijuana, but  Holder's action at that time has to be placed in context.  We're not talking about nice kids who go to Normal rallies in this case.  

      Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:56:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In that case, shouldn't the enforcement (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jessical

        have been targeted at the gun violence, not the marijuana?

        Seems like we didn't learn all that much from the alcohol prohibition era - where, if the History channel is any guide, gun violence was rife but due to the prohibition, not the alcohol per se.

        •  I really don't want to argue (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roadbed Guy

          this here. It was back in '99  

          It is a complex issue.  DC had made weed a misdemeanor.  Crack crews shifted product, and some heavy players from NY moved into the scene.  It is a long and complex situation.  

          IMHO - an ounce of pot is all anyone needs for recreation.  But again - this is way off topic.

          Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

          by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:11:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm curious why you think that drug issues (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Deoliver47, Dexter

            are way off topic when they largely fuel the prison industrial complex that you decry in your diary?

            To me it would seem that their reform is an absolutely critical first step to reversing the large scale imprisonment now rampant in the USA

            •  Not the drug issues (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roadbed Guy, NCrissieB

              I've already discussed them elsewhere.  The War on Drugs is a failure. I support decriminalization.  But, it is very complex, and not something that can be just as simple as "legalize it".  Where street money is involved - guns/violence are the m.o.

              Now - if the government wants to take over sale and distribution, it wuold get it off the streets.

              But Ben's diary was an attack on Holder, and I am not going there.  

              That's what I meant.  

              You added a link to a diary I disagree with, like I said - it started in my diary from yesterday.

              Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

              by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:25:30 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Unfortunately, it's not going to be easy (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Roadbed Guy, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

                there are lot's of people with a vested interest in keeping the status quo.  The people who make the drug testing kits,anybody who contracts with prisons for food service, etc.  People who are profiting big-time from the status quo aren't going to give a shit what's fair or sane.  The almighty buck rules!!!

                Knowledge is a deadly friend, if no one sets the rules, The fate of all mankind, I see, is in the hands of fools....

                by minerva1157 on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:32:34 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I guess where I was going (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Deoliver47, NCrissieB

                was to build on your ending comments that you hoped that something would be done about the problems you outlined.  In my view, that "something" would be to end the absolutely ludricrous drug sentences that have ensnare at least 1/3 of current incarcerees.

                But, that's obviously not the direction you hoped to go with this diary (you were a bit vague in that respect) - are you now pointing to the solution simply being to get rid of the "privatization" aspect of the prison system, is that what you are primarily objecting to?  So basically, you'd keep the same number of people in prison, just do it more humanely, have the facilities run by the government, or something along those lines?

            •  I think it's important not to confuse (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Deoliver47, NCrissieB

              consequence with cause.

              Since increasing profit is dependent on increasing use of a good or service, any good or service whose success is measured by a decrease in the need for it, is not an appropriate object for profit-driven enterprise.  So, it's logical to see a correlation between an increase in profit-orientated prisons and an increase in incarcerations.  Half-empty prisons are not profitable.  However, that doesn't mean the increase in incarcerations is caused by making prisons a profit-driven enterprise.

              The cause of all "privatization"--i.e. the shifting of functions from being the responsibility of public officials to being run by private corporations--is primarily a desire on the part of public officials to evade responsibility for how this functions are carried out and, even more important, having to account to the public for how they do the job.  That the privatized enterprise almost invariably costs more seems a small price to pay (from the perspective of public officials) for the privilege of continuing to give orders and doling out benefits to supporters without having to be personally liable for the results.  They'd much rather be accused of having spent too much money on a contract than having to deal with a prison riot, especially now that even prisoners have rights that the agents of government are bound to honor.

              Avoiding blame is the name of the game.

              How do we hold the owners of a private corporation accountable?  The notion that the fear of business failure is adequate to insure good service has been totally debunked.

              How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

              by hannah on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:46:56 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Causes? (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                hannah, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

                Prison privatizers also jigger the actual laws to increase the number of crimes, the severity grading (misdem or felony, 1,2,3) and sentencing and penalty provisions.

                And in that nice market analysis and how it intersects with politics, maybe privatization is in small part due to the desire of pols to avoid consequnces, but it also has to do with campaign contributions, the weirdness of neocon thought structures and some other very external effects.

                A basic problem is that immortal corporations with lots of money have more power than is right in our system.

                "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

                by jm214 on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:54:21 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I agree, but there's a bit more.... (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                hannah, Roadbed Guy, jessical, Deoliver47

                Yes, I agree that one reason for privatization is to evade public responsibility.  This was never quite as clear as during a series of hearings in 2007 about the oversight (or complete lack thereof) of PMCs in Iraq.  When the Assistant Secretary of the Army for contracting tells a House committee that she is forbidden by law to examine "proprietary secrets" within a fixed-price contract ... you have a very big mess.

                That "proprietary secrets" law applies for any fixed-price government contract.  Including the fixed-per-capita-price contracts for the prison industry.  It has become the mode du jour for hiding abuses from the public view.  So yes, I agree.

                But the privatization of prisons goes beyond that.  They truly are 21st century slave plantations.  Most of their profitability comes from extorting (there's really no other word for it) the labor of prisoners, for the corporate underwriters of the prison.  There is no profit in rehabilitation, or in teaching prisoners to be productive members of society upon their release.  The profit center lies in keeping them in prison, working for sub-minimum wages, with no labor protections and thus minimal cost to the corporation that funds the for-profit prison.

                But doing that spreads beyond the prison.  That practice devalues labor throughout the market, in the same way as the exploitation of undocumented immigrants.  Why pay Steve on the Street a living wage when you can get the work done by Paul in the Prison?  So Steve on the Street ends up flipping burgers and living on credit cards, until he gets behind on his bills and looks for a way to cheat - or just a way to forget how crappy life feels for an hour or two - and ends up joining Paul in the Prison....

                The for-profit prison industry is a microcosm of so much that has gone so wrong in our nation.  And for that reason, it's an unbelievably complex issue with no easy solutions.

  •  I hope this gets rec'd up... (7+ / 0-)

    ...though I'm not terribly hopeful.  

    You'd think the world's highest incarceration rate would be a concern to folks who care about liberty, no?  That how we divide society into good and bad people (much less carpetbagging the ruin of the "bad") would be symptomatic of something truly awful?

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:51:41 AM PST

  •  That PBS doc was really eye opening (8+ / 0-)

    It reminds me of for profit health insurance companies. To me it's immoral to profit from this. The fact that the industry influences sentencing legislation is outrageous.

    Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld, a miracle made possible by John McCain.

    by DJShay on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:53:45 AM PST

  •  Your northern neighbor, looking over the fence (6+ / 0-)

    from Canada here, has never understood the US on this issue.

    Excellent diary!

    •  Morning Paul. I'm not familiar (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port, jessical, NCrissieB

      with the Criminal Justice system in Canada - and how it differs from here.  You might wan to diary that :)

      Hint, hint.  

      Or if you have already - provide a link.

      Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:28:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the suggestion (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jessical

        Your opening quote just needs a bit more fleshing out.

        For comparative purposes, the U.S. now locks up its citizens at a rate 5-8 times
        that of the industrialized nations to which we are most similar, Canada and western
        Europe. Thus, as seen in the accompanying chart, the rate per 100,000 population is 139
        in England/Wales, 116 in Canada, 91 in Germany, and 85 in France.

        USA:702
        Russia: 628
        South Africa: 400

        Not the company you want to keep in this regard.
        See: The Sentencing Project for more.

  •  Notice they never locate a facility near the (11+ / 0-)

    country club?  They put them in the poorest, highest unemployment part of the state...where last months welfare mother or burger flipper is this months guard.

    Approximately 70% of all prison-related expenses come from staffing costs -- and this is where CCA really saves, beginning with sub-par starting salaries. Consequently, the employee turnover rate is unusually high, and vacant positions are left unfilled for long periods of time to save on wages and benefits. After I was transferred to a state prison I immediately noticed the increased number of guards present -- more than I'd ever seen at CCA/South Central.

    By locating them in the poorer out of sight, out of mind parts of of a state, they are looked on as revenue enhancers, ergo the prisoners ARE in fact a commodity.

    Hope you check out bamabikeguy's MB diaries early on Tuesdays.

    by Theghostofkarlafayetucker on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:56:23 AM PST

    •  Prisons in New York State (4+ / 0-)

      are an industry:

      This is a list of state prisons in New York. It does not include federal prisons or county jails located in the state of New York.

         * Adirondack Correctional Facility
         * Albion Correctional Facility
         * Altona Correctional Facility
         * Arthur Kill Correctional Facility
         * Attica Correctional Facility
         * Auburn Correctional Facility
         * Bare Hill Correctional Facility
         * Bayview Correctional Facility
         * Beacon Correctional Facility
         * Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
         * Buffalo Correctional Facility
         * Butler Correctional Facility
         * Butler ASACTC
         * Camp Gabriels
         * Camp Georgetown
         * Camp Pharsalia
         * Cape Vincent Correctional Facility
         * Cayuga Correctional Facility
         * Chateaugay Correctional Facility
         * Clinton Correctional Facility
         * Collins Correctional Facility
         * Coxsackie Correctional Facility
         * Downstate Correctional Facility
         * Eastern Correctional Facility
         * Edgecombe Correctional Facility
         * Elmira Correctional Facility
         * Fishkill Correctional Facility
         * Five Points Correctional Facility
         * Franklin Correctional Facility
         * Fulton Correctional Facility
         * Gouverneur Correctional Facility
         * Gowanda Correctional Facility
         * Great Meadow Correctional Facility
         * Green Haven Correctional Facility
         * Greene Correctional Facility
         * Groveland Correctional Facility
         * Hale Creek ASACTC
         * Hudson Correctional Facility
         * Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility
         * Lincoln Correctional Facility
         * Livingston Correctional Facility
         * Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility
         * Marcy Correctional Facility
         * Mid-Orange Correctional Facility
         * Mid-State Correctional Facility
         * Mohawk Correctional Facility
         * Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility
         * Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility
         * Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility
         * Ogdensburg Correctional Facility
         * Oneida Correctional Facility
         * Orleans Correctional Facility
         * Otisville Correctional Facility
         * Queensboro Correctional Facility
         * Rochester Correctional Facility
         * Shawangunk Correctional Facility
         * Sing Sing Correctional Facility
         * Southport Correctional Facility
         * Sullivan Correctional Facility
         * Summit Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility
         * Taconic Correctional Facility
         * Ulster Correctional Facility
         * Upstate Correctional Facility
         * Wallkill Correctional Facility
         * Washington Correctional Facility
         * Watertown Correctional Facility
         * Wende Correctional Facility
         * Willard Drug Treatment Center
         * Woodbourne Correctional Facility
         * Wyoming Correctional Facility

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:00:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  when I say revenue enhancers (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, jessical, Deoliver47

        the payroll makes the merchants glad.

        the phone calling card companies, the commodity suppliers, or as they call them, Values Voters, are happy.

        The "graft" on the timesheets and under the table kickbacks, the same old "labor camp" abuses from the 1900's is still there.

        AND, the professional lifer type criminal can make a comfortable day to day existence on the fears of the lower timid first timers, i.e. protection money paid weekly by the family of the DUI or petty thefter.  

        Hope you check out bamabikeguy's MB diaries early on Tuesdays.

        by Theghostofkarlafayetucker on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:15:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  And an ELECTORAL commodity (4+ / 0-)

      You missed one other trick.  Prisoners are counted in the census in the counties where they are imprisoned, rather than at their residences.  They cannot vote, but they are used to artificially inflate the population statistics of rural counties, and so transfer a number of Congressional and legislative seats from urban areas to rural ones.  

  •  slavery? (5+ / 0-)

    42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot. A Wrightism

    by publicv on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 05:56:53 AM PST

  •  What about rehabilitation? (12+ / 0-)

    Remember back in the old days, this was the objective.  It flew out the window when they realized that as a private business, this prison thing was a cash cow.

  •  here is what private prisons are used for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Rogneid, jessical

    I wrote a diary about it earlier.  Here is a link to their plan called ENDGAME.

  •  Cheap labor (7+ / 0-)

    For-profit prisons are all about providing cheap labor to corporations that turn prisons into profit centers.  Prisoners can't unionize.  They don't have to be paid even minimum wage.  They get no pensions, and their health care - such as it is - is provided by the prison.  Oh, and your workers can't just quit and find a job elsewhere....

    If you're trying to cut labor costs in the U.S., putting your factory or call center in a prison is the way to go.  They're the new company towns at best, and more often than not just the 21st century version of the old Southern plantation.

    Until we fix that, the for-profit prison system isn't going anywhere.

  •  this is why Cheney and Gonzalez have been indicte (6+ / 0-)

    d. maybe there's something more to this....

  •  Cheney's recent indightment for private (9+ / 0-)

    prison abuse my tip the balance on this whole mess and force this dirty secret out in the open. I had no idea we had privatized our prison system. This is an outrage.

    •  There may be a murder charge (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

      of an inmate death in one of the involved detention camps; and it's looking like a possible RICO direction. However, the DA seems unpopular and has been voted out of office, his term ending soon. We'll see where this goes, if anywhere. Maybe Bugliosi can jump in!
      http://rawstory.com/...

      A Texas grand jury has indicted outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on charges related to alleged abuse of prisoners....

      Cheney's stake in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies that run the detention centers, was cited in the indictment. Cheney is accused of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees through his ownership interest.

  •  One of the most disgusting developments (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weasel, marina, JohnB47, jessical, NCrissieB

    in our country over the past generation. The idea that private companies are profiting from the incarceration of tens of millions of people is absolutely sickening.

    We should be ashamed and angry. Ashamed for the way our fellow Americans are treated, angry that the system is driven not by promoting the general welfare but for pumping up the bottom line of people who could care less that offenders are denied the right to vote, denied the right to live with their kids, denied the right to pursue their life as they see fit.

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been under intense assault in our poor and minority communities for some time. Things are so bad that most inner city black youths expect not to go to college and have a career. They expect to go to jail. Right now, 6 million people are under supervision (prison/probation/parole). About 1 in 4 black men will be convicted of a crime and sent to prison at some point in their lives. Ballpark estimates of arrests of nonviolent offenders who have committed no harmful act against another human being over the past generation run about 20 million.

    But hey, no time to worry about the evils of the drug war or prison overcrowding or inhumane conditions or profiteering or anything else wrong with our system. We've got a midterm election to win! We can't expect our third druggie president in a row to stop criminalizing behaviors they themselves engaged in.

    •  No need for the sarcastic endnote. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, jessical, winterbanyan, Deoliver47

      The for-profit prison industry is a serious human and labor rights issue, one that concerns many of us, and enough to actually do something about it.

      Or try to.

      When I tried to do volunteer work in my local jail, apparently I failed their background check.  I've no idea why - that's apparently sensitive information that we commoners aren't allowed to ask about - but I was told I could no longer volunteer there.

      Please don't assume all Kossacks spend all of their time sitting in their pajamas blogging away about whatever insider-politics narrative happens to catch our addled eyes.  A lot of us do care enough to try to work on real problems, for real people, in the real world.

      •  It's the truth (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jessical, GANJA, Deoliver47

        We've had three baby boomer presidents in a row who used controlled substances. Their policies call a hundred million Americans criminals for behavior that they themselves have engaged in. It's absolutely unbelievable except that it's for real.

        And time and time again, when we talk about these issues, the response we get from folks on places like this is this isn't an important issue, our leaders need to focus on other things, let's just win the next election, etc.

        Please don't assume all Kossacks spend all of their time sitting in their pajamas blogging away about whatever insider-politics narrative happens to catch our addled eyes.

        I don't. What I assume is that the people on here who aren't worried about our prison system are those from socioeconomic groups who are comfortable enough that the threat of ending up in our criminal justice system is pretty remote. They have the leisure of worrying about other things.

        •  That's a good point. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jessical, NCrissieB, washunate

          What I assume is that the people on here who aren't worried about our prison system are those from socioeconomic groups who are comfortable enough that the threat of ending up in our criminal justice system is pretty remote. They have the leisure of worrying about other things.

          We've had how many Gitmo diaries - compared to fix the criminal justice system diaries?

          I have to go back and take a look.  Will be interesting.

          Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

          by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:15:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  that is a spot on point! (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jessical, Deoliver47, NCrissieB, washunate

            'people on here who aren't worried about our prison system are those from socioeconomic groups who are comfortable enough that the threat of ending up in our criminal justice system is pretty remote. They have the leisure of worrying about other things.'

            the uncomfortable truth.

            ...where will it tickle you?

            by GANJA on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:41:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  But it's all LEGAL! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, jessical, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

    Maybe I missed it in the comments, but one really sweet aspect of privatizing is that Wackenhut and CCA and those guys now have money and access to state and federal legislators to affect the criminal codes and sentencing guidelines. Here's a dated but poignant link from The Sentencing Project.

    The prison companies, displaying the same heartless "efficiency" as other "market-driven" businesses, lobby effectively to both increase the number and grading of "offenses" like simple drug possession and DWI, and the sentencing "guidelines" that go along with, as in "zero tolerance" and multiple offender jumps and longer and longer sentences. And of course with things like DWI, they have emotional partners in MADD and other organizations.

    How the world works. Maybe you KOS people can work on your state and federal legislators to stop the entire practice. Florida had a problem with outright criminal fraud by our private jailers, and let 'em off the hook for a pittance fine. But that's just our Republican-DOMINATED Tallahassee-disconnected legislature.

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:49:03 AM PST

    •  Thanks. I should have added a link (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, jessical, NCrissieB, jm214

      To the Sentencing Project report.  

      Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 06:51:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ever since the guidelines were created.... (5+ / 0-)

      I was a criminal appellate attorney for years, and watched the progression in severity of Florida and Federal sentencing guidelines.  In every new state legislative session, someone wanted to make a name as "tough on crime" by cranking the numbers higher.  And as most voters think "tough on crime" is always good, and don't really understand how the system works, it always got rave reviews.

      What it did was bog our criminal courts.  When you crank up the guideline sentence on a comparatively minor offense, you give defendants more incentive to go to trial rather than plead out for even a minimum guideline sentence.  But when you don't add more judges, prosecutors, and public defenders to the budget, what you get are faster and sloppier trials.  The pressure to move the docket means the prosecutors call fewer witnesses, public defenders make fewer inquiries, judges make more snap rulings on motions, and the quality of the trial - as a means of finding facts - drops off dramatically.

      That of course yields more wrongful convictions, but also more wrongful acquittals: more dangerous defendants who get off at trial and go back into the community to commit more crimes, until finally they do something outrageous enough to get a "real" trial.

      It also leads to charge-stacking, where prosecutors add more serious charges - knowing they don't have enough evidence to prove them - hoping to crank up the threatened sentence if the defendant goes to trial, to force the defendant to plead out to the lesser (though still often absurd) guideline sentence for the actual crime.

      And when a defendant still doesn't plead out, well, then it gets really ugly.  You end up with a case like the one I handled on appeal, where a defendant is sentenced to 70 years for a crime that did not happen but was stacked onto the original charge.  The victim said it didn't happen.  The ER staff said it didn't happen.  The forensics said it didn't happen.  There was, literally, no corpus delicti: no independent evidence to show that the crime occurred.

      But it was stacked on anyway, to create a greater sentencing threat, and the jury convicted because the defendant had said something that could be read as an admission, and the court-appointed attorney had never tried a felony before, and, and, and....

      So now my former client gets to work for the state of Florida, for next to nothing, and likely for the rest of his life.

      That's the sieve in action, in the real world.

      •  This should be a diary. And get posted (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jessical, winterbanyan, NCrissieB, jm214

        often.  

        I've done training for legal aid attorneys over the years.  The burnout rate is phenomenal. Their case loads are huge, they mostly don't even see the defendant till in the court bullpen.  

        I had to live through Guiliani here in NY - Mr. Tough on Crime. (sweep up the homeless and put them in jail Rudy)

        Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing racism, sexism,homophobism,ageism and ethnocentrism.

        by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:20:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Prosecutorial misconduct (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, Deoliver47, NCrissieB

      My criminal practice experience is limited to "environmental crimes," as a former EPA lawyer and in private practice. The sentencing guidelines are Draconian in the extreme.

      But what gets me is how "the process" works in Gigantic White Collar Fraud Cases. Federal and some state prosecutors seem cowed by the Dream Teams the really big thieves can afford, buried by motion practice and such, and so they "do a deal" which gives the Bad Guy a year or two in a federal fat farm to improve his forehand and a "fine" and/or "restitution" of a fraction of what the dude actually stole.

      It seems to me that this has almost become a "business model," starting with "executive compensation," captive boards, "compensation committees," option packages, golden handshakes and parachutes, complete disdain for "governance," shoot, don't get me started.

      So the prosecutors get to start with a sexy public arrest with the CEO in cuffs, and have a press conference announcing the bargained "conviction" and a very quiet reference to 'the sentence' without mentioning how good time and other scams will let the dude out well before his time. See Michael Milken, where Judge Kimba Wood, apparently sua sponte, reduced his sentence for "good behavior."

      Steal big, the Government has a problem. Steal small or not at all, and Screw You! Chump.

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 08:14:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dee really opened a can of worms with this one. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jessical, Deoliver47, jm214

        As I wrote above, the for-profit prison industry is a microcosm of so much that has gone so wrong with our nation.  And that's why it's such a hugely complex problem with no easy solutions.

        What we need are new attitudes.  We need to respect and esteem people who make stuff.  We need to really behave as if the ordinary working man or woman is as important as the financier, and that the financier who steals is no better - and should be treated no better - than the ordinary working man or woman who steals.

        Basically, we Americans need to respect and esteem the people we see in our bathroom mirrors, or beside us on the street or subway, more than the celebrities who show up on the news.  When we stop thinking of ourselves - and each other - as disposable parts in a GNP-maximizing machine, we'll start on the road to being a better, healthier nation.

  •  American governmental policy and its hyp- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deoliver47

    ocrasy are in full view.  We Americans have been so gullible.

    42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot. A Wrightism

    by publicv on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 08:02:13 AM PST

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