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I have to take a moment away from writing about prison industry to share with you my thoughts on the dominant player involved in supporting and "modeling" Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law and many of our "tough on crime" state laws.

It is necessary for all of us to realize the corporate personae of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). We should all understand who this company is and how they operate in both privatized prisons and prison industry operations.

Recently there was a video released along with a written account of that video. It was a surveillance video recorded in an open bay dormitory at a private prison run by CCA in Idaho.

Reading the article was difficult enough, but watching the video and knowing that CCA staff were watching the events unfold - and doing absolutely nothing to intervene and possibly save a life, is more than troubling. Please take a moment and watch the video, then come back and join in this discussion...

This represent the true face of the prison industrial complex. This company takes the money and accepts the responsibilities associated with running state prison facilities. Once they have the contract and a steady income, they reduce their responsibilities to merely "watching" inmates in their prison habitat. Staff are underpaid, less educated and usually not required to complete state provided (and required for state prison staff) correctional training programs.

Staff members are corporate employees and not state actors. Because of that they sometimes feel no need to perform as state prison staff would in violent and dangerous situations. Their lack of intervention is usually not a "one time" event, it is a habitual reaction that occurs in every instance for some. It's as if the guards in this video refuse to understand that a human life is at stake and their actions in response will determine whether the person attacked will live, die or be left with injuries that will accompany him for the rest of his life.

I received many emails from family members of prisoners about this very facility beginning in 2009. They were pleading for help for loved ones that were being brutally beaten and subjected to a total lack of medical treatment for their injuries. Prison Legal News has written articles on this facility and the behavior of CCA personnel over the past decade. But CCA is immune to such publicity. They simply offer up statements like:

"Public release of the video poses an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public," the prison company said in a statement.

in response to criticism. All criticism simply rolls of their collective backs. They are entrenched in prison operations and the difficulties encountered by states to void contracts with CCA and take the prisoners back under state care, custody and control is thought to be too large a hurdle. Instead, they claim better oversight will be provided in the future and quickly sign new contracts with CCA - and life goes on as before...for inmate and private prison staffers alike.

I can't help but compare this beating with a similar event I witnessed in the Florida prison while I was there. A Cuban National serving a life sentence in a Florida prison for a contract killing, was "hired" by one group to take out another inmate associated with an opposing gang. The "Hit-man" taped two long butcher knives stolen from the kitchen to his hands, running the tape up his forearms so they could not be taken away from him. He went out on the compound and into another dorm and found his victim. The inmate saw him coming and knew what was up: he fled for his life to the guard station, but they were not allowed to take him in, and instead called yard security to the dorm.

The victim's flight continued from the dormitory onto the yard outside. He ran from his attacker and after less than 50 yards, he stumbled and fell into a small ditch alongside the access road to the housing units. Unable to get up quick enough, he was pounced upon by the hit-man and stabbed in the back, the thrust penetrating one kidney.

Before further harm could be inflicted, a prison guard arrived and pushed the attacker off, getting himself cut in the process. Instead of leaving the victim and fleeing for his own safety, the guard stood his ground, picked up a trash barrel and stood between the victim and attacker, fending off advance after advance and receiving more injuries to himself as he did so. Help finally arrived in the form of several more guards. The attacker was subdued and disarmed while the victim was rushed to an outside hospital by an ambulance that was called by the control personnel as soon as the call had gone out about the nature of the attack.

This comparison exemplifies the clear differences between the dedication shown by some state prison employees versus private prison staff - responsibility to their duties of "care, custody and control". While state prison personnel are usually "occupations", in that individuals working in prisons have chosen that as their field of work until retirement. Private prison staffers who work in prison industries and housing, interacting directly with inmates, see their jobs as temporary - employment while they look for a "career" elsewhere. Of course the "Brass" of these private prisons are company personnel and intend to stay around for years until retirement, this is not the case for those who actually have to perform guard duties "in the trenches".

In order to completely understand the prison privatization phenomena that rose from the ashes in the '80's one needs to look at the cause of such resurrection. In 2000 a comprehensive study was done into politics, prison privatization and profits. The article was written by Edwin Bender and provided an in-depth look into the politics, organizations and profits derived by prison privatization. He tracked campaign contributions by CCA, laws enacted by ALEC's model legislation and provided a clear picture of CCA's involvement in legislation, enactment and the purposes behind much of the federal Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which took effect in 1987. This article is a must read for anyone researching CCA and their involvement and manipulations of, laws pertaining to prison privatization. It is well researched and contains sources for all points raised.

Sadly a read of this article and all the data and statistics contained therein, could have be written yesterday. The same political, corporate and PAC players remain in the "game". Business practices and lobbying, campaign contributions have not changed. Merely the amount of investment, lobbying an contributions have changed - all increasing over the past decade.

Here it is necessary to quote directly from this decade old description of activities involving CCA and private prisons:

But prisons are nothing without inmates, and to protect the millions invested in bricks and mortar, prison corporations worked to minimize their business risks. In their annual reports to stockholders, both Corrections Corporation of America and Cornell Corrections, which together account for more than 60 percent of the market share, recognized their reliance on the states and the threat that a reduced crime rate or cut corrections budget would mean to their bottom line. CCA puts it succinctly in its March 31, 1997, SEC filings under "Risk Factors": "Short-Term Nature of Government Contracts," "Dependence on Government Appropriations," and "Dependence on Government Agencies for Inmates." [10]

In short, state governments are clients to the corrections corporations, but the bosses are the legislators and governors -- the policy setters who pass corrections department appropriations and criminal-sentencing legislation, as noted in a congressional study: [11]

"(Most) contracting for imprisonment services was not taken at the initiative of the correctional agency, but was instead mandated by either the legislature or the chief executive of the jurisdiction, typically the governor." [12]

           Much of the correction corporations' early profits can be linked to the federal Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which took effect in 1987. This law, as well as efforts to privatize major elements of the federal government, were policy hallmarks of the Reagan presidency. The act mandated prison terms for many offenses that previously had received probation; no parole and/or longer sentences for certain offenses; and a reduction in the amount of good-conduct time federal offenders could earn.

           The law was as good as money in the bank for Corrections Corporation of America, which was founded just a year earlier. Its first contract was with the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service. For the next decade, crime rates soared. The number of drug-related offenses alone accounted for 72 percent of the increase in inmate populations from 1986 to 1997. [13]

           Department of Justice statistics show the number of state and federal prisoners increasing from 140,000 in 1980 to more than 410,000 in 1996. By 1997, 64,000 state and federal prisoners were housed in private correctional facilities. Revenues approached $1 billion for the industry as a whole. [14] Both numbers are markedly higher now.

Playing no small role in the development and dissemination of tough criminal-justice and prisons legislation has been the conservative public-policy organization ALEC, which since 1973 has provided legislators around the country with model legislation drafted under the watchful eye of corporate funders. (In 1992, 70 percent of ALEC's $3.7 million budget came from corporations. By 1998, the budget had grown to more than $6 million, with 68 percent coming from corporate donations, including money from Corrections Corporation of America, Wackenhut Corrections and Sodexho Marriott Services, a stockholder in CCA.)

For example, in 1994, ALEC made prison privatization and tough-on-crime legislation a major policy initiative. It issued its "Report Card on Crime and Punishment" in October 1994. [15] As early as January 1994, ALEC was pressing its policies in Pennsylvania with the assistance of William Barr, former Attorney General in the Bush administration. An ALEC press release issued Jan. 28, 1994, was titled, "Every Ten Minutes, A Pennsylvanian Falls Victim to a Violent Crime; "Report Card on Crime" Provides Ten Legislative Actions to Fighting Crime in Pennsylvania." [16] Speakers at the press event included Barr, Sen. Steward Greenleaf, minority chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jeff Piccola, Republican chairman of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee. ALEC's 10 proposals were:

       Keep dangerous defendants off the streets by allowing judges to deny bail to dangerous offenders, end pre-trial release and require secured bail for violent and repeat offenders;

       Require minimum sentences for repeat felons and other serious offenders;

       Sentence for "actual conduct" in serious cases where plea bargains resulted in a person being convicted of a lesser crime;

       Require life in prison for those convicted a third time for violent or serious offenses, so-called "three-strikes" legislation;

       Require prisoners to serve at lease 85 percent of their sentences, or "truth-in-sentencing" legislation;

       Treat juveniles as adults for serious crimes;

       Allow juveniles' crime histories to be considered by the courts;

       Guarantee the rights of victims to seek and have full redress and restitution;

       Require government to inform the public about the criminal-justice system, its practices and performances;

       Use prison privatization, electronic home detention, boot camps and similar methods to see that the system works efficiently.

The foregoing gets to the heart of the issue - money made off incarceration and prison industry operations and the actors behind the efforts. Here's more on how it works, how we have been manipulated to believe we should be in fear and how participants in this scheme are rewarded:

In February 1995, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an ALEC member, called a special session of the Legislature to address crime in the state. Piccola introduced eight pieces of legislation in that session, all based on ALEC's 10-point agenda, and Greenleaf introduced 12. Overall, the nine-month session saw 30 crime bills approved, many based on ALEC's agenda, and Gov. Ridge released more than $87 million in state funding for construction of new public-prison facilities. [17] In 15 years, Pennsylvania's corrections budget grew from $90 million to more than $600 million in 1995. The 2000 Legislature faced a Corrections Department budget request of $1.2 billion. [18]

           Gov. Ridge was a featured speaker at ALEC's 26th Annual Meeting in Nashville.

ALEC's current Criminal Justice Task Force, which oversees the drafting of criminal-justice legislation, is co-chaired by Brad Wiggins, director of business development for CCA, and Brian Nairin of the National Association of Bail Insurance Companies. The task force lists "prison privatization" as one of its major issues. [19] Until April 2000, the task force had been co-chaired by John Rees, a vice president at Corrections Corporation of America.

ALEC boasts that it provides model bills for 2,500 to 3,000 members. Many are sitting legislators and statewide officials. In 1995, ALEC promoted its successes in its "ALEC 1995 Model Legislation Scorecard:"

"The busiest Task Force was Criminal Justice, which had 199 bills introduced. The anti-crime legislation with the most enactments was the Truth in Sentencing Act (inmates serve at least 85 percent of their sentence), which became law in 25 states." Those states were Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

ALEC's "Habitual Offender/Three Strikes" bills (life imprisonment for a third violent felony) passed in 11 states: Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. ALEC's "Prison Industries" bill, which requires prisoners to work for private companies, passed in Mississippi, and its "Private Correction Facilities" bills passed in Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi and Virginia.

In its introduction, the Criminal Justice Task Force boasts: "The Criminal Justice Task Force is dedicated to developing model policies that reduce both violent and property crimes in our cities and neighborhoods in an efficient, fiscally conservative manner. ALEC's Truth in Sentencing Act and Three Strikes You're Out Act have been the most effective bills supported by the Task Force. At least one of these model bills has been enacted in half of the states in the country. The Task Force continues to explore cost-effective methods for states to manage their criminal justice systems." [20]

Also not surprising is the fact that Corrections Corporation of America is a major sponsor of ALEC, making the vice chairman's sponsor list for contributions to ALEC's 1999 States & Nation Policy Summit. Other private corrections companies that also sponsored portions of the conference were Sodexho Marriott Services and Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. [21]

In 1999, ALEC says its members introduced more than 2,208 bills modeled after its legislation, and 15 percent, or 322, were enacted into law. [22]

A prominent example of ALEC's ability to promote corporate-backed legislation came in the 1999 Arizona Legislature. Senate President Brenda Burns, who was ALEC's 1999 national chairwoman and a fixture at its 26th annual meeting in Nashville, sponsored two bills aimed at privatizing the state's prisons system. House Bill 2017 would have required the Department of Corrections to develop, by Nov. 1, 1999, a plan to contract for up to 4,200 privately operated prison beds and to begin phasing in use of those beds by June 2002. And House Bill 2191 would have set a deadline for the Department of Juvenile Corrections to establish a privatization plan, detailed the process DJC was to use to identify needs and options, and required "Joint Legislative input into the request for proposals process for privatization of specific beds."

Both measures passed the House, but failed to make it through the Senate before adjournment.

All of this is assisted by devious means. Many of us read and study graphs, charts and reports compiled by credible members of our collegiate staff and other prominent and well respected members of our society. However, the following from Bender's article shows just how this dependency upon "respect" and prominence can be turned against us - and falsify findings in government ordered studies:

Questions about Privatization Abound
In the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, Congress told the Attorney General to study the privatization of prisons and its feasibility. The resulting 200-page report by Abt Associates is an exhaustive look at the history of privatization, legal issues, cost-benefit analyses, and conclusions.

Prominent in the foreword is a thanks to Richard Crane, former chief legal counsel for the Louisiana Department of Corrections. In addition, the report frequently cites prisons and privatization expert University of Florida Professor Charles Thomas.

Crane also was general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America from 1984 to 1987 and since 1989 has worked for $200 an hour as a private consultant for states negotiating private-prisons contracts. [29] The citation in the report says, "Mr. Crane provided his reactions and suggestions at several stages in the work, including reviewing drafts of this document." [30]

Professor Thomas resigned his tenured position with the university after he faced conflict-of-interest charges and was fined $20,000 in October 1999. The Florida Correctional Privatization Commission, for whom Thomas also worked, had found that the professor had a "financial interest" in private-corrections corporations at a time he also worked for the commission. That interest included $3 million in consulting fees, $660,000 in stock and a seat on the board of directors of the CCA real estate investment trust, which holds title to CCA's prisons. [31] So Thomas was on the CCA trust's board at the same time Abt Associates was conducting its research.

Just as they had with campaign contributions to politicians and sponsorship checks to ALEC and other public-policy organizations, private-prison corporations had managed to insinuate themselves into an official governmental study that would be used to direct corrections policy for years to come.

Cumulative totals of tax dollars that have been directed to these privatization and extended incarceration efforts are staggering and over the past two decades approach a figure similar to our current national deficit. The fact that all this money has been funneled into private coffers by the actions or our legislators and governors is mind boggling. I mean, yeah corporations are profit driven and we expect them to pursue increased profits as a normal course of action...yet we don't expect our lawmakers and highest elected state officials to participate in turning our tax dollars into that profit!

CCA and their partners in "crime" have a stranglehold on our tax dollars and will not let go of their own volition. To avoid any change in the prison privatization landscape, they are willing to dump more and more funding into campaigns of ALEC's lawmaker member's pockets. The corporation and lawmakers involved all get richer...at our expense...from a dwindling source of tax dollars every year. Now that incarceration and the costs of prison operations have increased to the point where prisons are bursting at the seams and we hover on the brink of another depression, there is still no let-up in CCA's pursuit of profits. Lawmakers and conservative politicians now want to "fix" social security and Medicare by defunding both to some extent - and of course, those freed up funds will be directed at funding the building and operational expenses of more prison facilities - for CCA and other privatization efforts.

CCA is the company that would be the world's incarcerator - for real. They are already operating in several countries now and expanding at every opportunity. Yet for all their flowery statements about caring for inmates in their care...and filling a necessary societal need...and reducing prison costs to the public...it is all hyperbole. More "make us warm and fuzzy" rhetoric designed to placate us as they take more money from our pockets and provide below standard prison operations. They attempt to hide their negligence of control by covering up assaults, deaths, murders and other heinous crimes committed by their "inmate customers".

In the future we must all look at media articles and reports with a new clarity and unfortunately, suspicion. The business plan of CCA, combined with ALEC's influence has been well practiced for two decades now and have been shown to be effective in deflecting criticism and efforts of reform and changing the way we look at crime and prisons. We have been made to fear for our safety and well being on several issues. We have been misled to approve and support more and more laws and longer and longer sentences in the face of statistics showing a marked decline in property and violent crime in the U.S. Somehow the statistics compiled by the BJS that inform us that we have less to fear attract no national media attention - taking a back seat to reality programming that keeps us blissfully ignorant of important events happening within our society. We need to pay more attention to our surroundings and less to whether or not Bristol Palin wins "Dancing with the Stars"...

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 03:33 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Bob (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills, ej25, raincrow, Bob Sloan

      When we get a real Democratic leader in the White House, we might begin to change many ugly things that are ongoing in America.  

    •  This is the true tragedy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow, jnhobbs, Bob Sloan

      of what has happened to America since the late 80s.

      Bob - seems I can't get away from the lockups, with my involvement with the Medea Project (Theater for Incarcerated Women), and my previous work as a consultant to architects and engineers who worked on building new prisons while there was a boon to prison expansion funding here in CA in the 90s and early 2000s.

      Your writing puts me right back in it, and makes me want to do as much as I can to help those who fall too easily into the holes from the cracks in the social safety net.

      Republicans are slumlording America!!

      by Fe Bongolan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 03:52:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The weakest and poorest among us are (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        walkshills, ej25, raincrow, john07801, jnhobbs

        the first targets: those who can't pay for good legal representation, those that use drugs and those without a good job or roof over their heads are the fodder for this agenda of theirs.

        They had no voice or support on the street and where they're sent they live in an envelope of silence. Complaints are useless and no way out of working where they want for what they want to pay...and oh, by the way when you get out, hurry back!

        Our "social safety net" is frayed and torn in so many places it' more and more difficult to keep more of us from falling through. With the "new" economy the situation is rife for an increase in crime that will be proudly and loudly announced in mainstream media with secondary announcements that such and such corporation just got a state contract to build two more prisons down the road.

        If we ever had a real safety net, it didn't protect individuals such as those behind bars, or those with real mental issues - who are now secured in prisons nationwide. All the states phased out public mental facilities/hospitals because they could not get funding to keep them open and treat patients. Prison isn't working out to well for them about now with the annual cost of incarceration versus treatment.

        "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

        by Bob Sloan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 04:38:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  More like since 1981, when Reagan took office. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, Bob Sloan

        They made greed popular and championed privatization wholeheartedly. Why shouldn't government money enrich for-profit corporations and their CEOs?

        Nearly every single major problem of today can be traced back to Reagan's lawless administration.

        Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. -- Harry S Truman

        by YucatanMan on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 08:32:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes and though ALEC was formed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          YucatanMan

          in the mid-70's, they didn't take off - or even receive any recognition until Reagan took office. Under his administration corporate greed and ALEC wielded influence and power exploded.

          "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 06:12:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  And less we forget, a key lobbyist for (6+ / 0-)

    CCA, as well as another top official, led Governor Jan Brewer's successful campaign (Brewer Linked to Private Prisons). Now why would anyone think they want to not only keep the limited scope of SB 1070 in place, but actually broaden its powers? Could it be that the private prisons will be used as holding stations for the increased immigrant traffic? Nah, they wouldn't be that obvious, would they?

    The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them. NPR

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 03:49:12 PM PST

    •  I wrote about this involvement by (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills, Mother Mags, ej25, jnhobbs

      Coughlin, Sensemann and CCA in Brewer's decision in my Corporatocracy series earlier this month.

      They can afford to be so bold because they truly believe they have advanced the agenda so far, we're incapable of changing things back. Who cares if we all of a sudden know?! The old adage, "Whadda' ya' gonna' do about it?" is their attitude and the challenge we face, all wrapped into one.

      CCA and Brewer's office both tried to downplay CCA's involvement in the proposed law and passage of the Bill by claiming that aliens picked up by state law enforcement would not be held in detention facilities, they would be held in local jails. Later on ICE announced just the opposite, stating that if a suspected illegal alien was picked up and the locals could not clearly determine their U.S. citizenship, they would be turned over to INS and ICE for detainment in a federal detention center. And it has already been established that CCA holds a substantial amount of those INS and ICE contracts for housing. As they say..."Ooops, there it is!"

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 04:51:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  These are important posts, Bob, and I thank you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walkshills, ej25, raincrow

    for them. The young man being beaten in the video had apparently been talking to somebody ( I'm not clear who) about the drug deals between inmates and staffers.
     One wonders if they were the same staffers who watched him being beaten.

     We're a long way here from the notion of rehabilitation. The warehousing of people for profit. It's a disgrace.

    •  This happens again and again in (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills, ej25, jnhobbs

      these private facilities. It's bad enough to become a ward of the state and lose most of your rights, but to then be turned over to someone you know is watching over you for corporate profit, goes beyond scary. No one is safe in these private run "Hells" on earth...

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 06:21:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Breaking news about CA. Overcrowding... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walkshills, ej25, jnhobbs

    "Keeping America's Prisons OvercrowdedIn a case before the Supreme Court, California Gov. Schwarzenegger is arguing that judges have no right to tell states to reduce their prison populations."

    "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

    by Bob Sloan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 05:37:57 PM PST

  •  Bob, this series is amazing. Please don't stop (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan

    posting. Take a look at the Bass diffusion model and just keep going.

    Thank you for sharing your compassion, judgment, and wealth of knowledge.

  •  Can some of us buy share of stock and protest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan

    at the annual shareholders' meeting?  CCA stock closed at $24.15 today. I wasn't able to locate the place and date of their next (or even their last) annual meeting on their nvestor relations website. Perhaps others can help.

    •  Wife suggested the same idea last (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ej25

      night. I don't know if protesting at the stockholder's meeting would help any efforts to stop the company's increasing impact on everything involving prison privatization, etc. I imagine th other stockholders would only smile...all the way to the bank. That's why they own that stock in the first place, isn't it...to make money?

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 09:49:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  BREAKING NEWS! Idaho Prison (4+ / 0-)

    investigation initiated by the DOJ and F.B.I. yesterday. Investigation revolves around guards at the CCA facility of allowing beatings of inmates.

    Focusing attention on CCA and their prison operations and reporting their numerous violations is starting to get attention from the Feds. About time?

    "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

    by Bob Sloan on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:18:50 AM PST

  •  excuse if a repeat to you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, peachcreek, Bob Sloan

    http://www.arps.org/...

    The Prison-Industrial Complex

    By Eric Schlosser

    The Atlantic magazine

    http://www.theatlantic.com/...

    Over the past twenty years the State of California has built twenty-one new prisons, added thousands of cells to existing facilities, and increased its inmate population eightfold. Nonviolent offenders have been responsible for most of that increase. The number of drug offenders imprisoned in the state today is more than twice the number of inmates who were imprisoned for all crimes in 1978.

    California now has the biggest prison system in the Western industrialized world, a system 40 percent bigger than the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The California Department of Corrections predicts that at the current rate of expansion, barring a court order that forces a release of prisoners, it will run out of room eighteen months from now.

    The economist and legal scholar Michael K. Block, who believes that American sentencing policies are still not harsh enough, offers a straightforward explanation for why the United States has lately incarcerated so many people: "There are too many prisoners because there are too many criminals committing too many crimes." Indeed, the nation's prisons now hold about 150,000 armed robbers, 125,000 murderers, and 100,000 sex offenders—enough violent criminals to populate a medium-sized city such as Cincinnati. Few would dispute the need to remove these people from society. The level of violent crime in the United States, despite recent declines, still dwarfs that in Western Europe.

    But the proportion of offenders being sent to prison each year for violent crimes has actually fallen during the prison boom. In 1980 about half the people entering state prison were violent offenders; in 1995 less than a third had been convicted of a violent crime.

    The enormous increase in America's inmate population can be explained in large part by the sentences given to people who have committed nonviolent offenses. Crimes that in other countries would usually lead to community service, fines, or drug treatment—or would not be considered crimes at all—in the United States now lead to a prison term, by far the most expensive form of punishment. "No matter what the question has been in American criminal justice over the last generation," says Franklin E. Zimring, the director of the Earl Warren Legal Institute, "prison has been the answer."

    You're not going to placate conservatives they're out to get you; they've placed that as their highest interest. - Former Gov. Howard Dean MD.

    by anyname on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:49:09 PM PST

    •  Eric Schlosser (0+ / 0-)

      You're not going to placate conservatives they're out to get you; they've placed that as their highest interest. - Former Gov. Howard Dean MD.

      by anyname on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 12:09:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Though written several years ago (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt

      this article by Schlosser remains current as do the issues raised by him.

      There is no doubt that the PIC is the cause of today's prison overcrowding and budget crisis in California.

      The rest of the states have only to look westward to see the result of unchecked incarceration in it's most virulent form. Their future can be seen in California - if they continue to fall for the rhetoric of ALEC, CCA and Geo Group, believing locking citizens away for every crime committed is somehow the answer.

      Incarceration has a necessary place and purpose in society...it is on our list of things we must do to remain a "free society. But it should not be at the top of that list - put there as a tool used by those among us who would profit from the misery of others.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 06:37:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The management of humans is not very (12+ / 0-)

    different from traditional herding which has been moved inside structures where the critters are more easily kept.  There's really little difference between being paid to watch people and milking cows on an industrial scale for pay.  All that's required is an ability to see humans as no different from other organisms put on this earth for man to exploit.

    From hunters to herders to the keeping of stock in a barn or prison is a direct line.

    That said, the political basis for shifting responsibilities from the public sector (corporations) to private corporations is actually a bit more complicated.  There's actually a specific piece of legislation that can be identified as the initial prompt for the privatization surge.  It's called the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1947, passed in response, I think, to corrupt contracting during the Second World War, which effectively terminated the principle of "sovereign immunity" all public officials had enjoyed and rendered them liable to being held personally to account for injuries people sustained because of self-serving official acts or negligence.  Until the passage of the FTCA, public officials were considered to be immune to being challenged as to the appropriateness of any act they carried out in the performance of their duties.
    Although it took a while for this legislative change to register and impress public officials with the significance of being held personally accountable for their acts, eventually it scared them half to death.  Not only were their acts as public officials going to be questioned, they could be hauled into court and held personally liable.  Doing favors for kith and kin suddenly became risky and then they hit on contracting as a way to demonstrate that there was nothing "personal" in how the favors and perks of public office were being doled out.

    So, yes, while we have a long tradition of private enterprise relying on government support and subsidies and protection from competition, the mania for privatization in the last decades of the 20th Century was instigated by public officials who, like Pontius Pilate, were keen to wash their hands of unpopular decisions.  Basically, they were/are motivated by a desire to arrogate power and, at the same time, abrogate their responsibilities for the conduct of their office.  Private corporations are to do their dirty work.  We see that in KBR, Halliburton and Blackwater, as surely as in CCA and, for that matter, HCA.  The privatization of medical care is not very different from corrections.  Of course, the privatization of medical care facilities was driven by the additional desire to evade the requirements of the equal protection clause and maintain the segregation of populations that had been tradition for other reasons.

    The management of humans in confined spaces, in addition to mimicking traditional herding behaviors, also serves to maintain a stratified society in which some humans enjoy a high status and others a low.  Social stratification seems a particular desideratum among humans who have little skill in wresting a living from the earth and need to expropriate the labor of others in order to sustain themselves.  It's a rather primitive way of being, but don't tell them that.  Denial is a major component of the authoritarian mentality.

    The conservative mind relies mainly on what is plain to see.

    by hannah on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 02:24:09 AM PST

    •  Most excellent comment and (10+ / 0-)

      said with knowledge and feeling on - and about - the subject.

      Unfortunately as PRIDE - which operates the prison industries in Florida - has demonstrated quite clearly, the 11th Amendment that shields state actors and agencies from prosecution for tortuous acts can be used to similarly shield corporations acting on behalf of states. They hide behind that Amendment at every turn to avoid prosecution for their illegal acts.

      Today corporations have been "adopted" by many states and sup at the same table, no longer having to scramble for scraps that fall from the lavish meals provided. In this their gluttony leaves less for the citizens of the state, and the state itself. They have become an all consuming "step-child" with an appetite that can no longer be controlled or contained by state nor citizen.

      You're right in that corporations and their owners now wear the cloak of authority previously worn only by state actors. They wear it and use it to sustain the power associated with that garb over others. Their actual pursuits though are not simply power, but power and wealth together that allows them to garner even more influence over society and the laws that control that society. Under this new symbiotic relationship corporations have grown into an entity that: proposes and enacts laws, determines the punishments to be meted out for violations, determine the length of punishment for such violations and serves as a state enforcer and jailer to keep the violators imprisoned, and also how to deal with the violators when released...and all for a profit off our tax dollars. Their appetites are tremendous and unchecked they are determined to take over the role of state government completely - also in search of more profits.

      Our lawmakers who belong to such groups as ALEC and enable this continued meddling and asset acquisitions, serve their purpose and goals - not those of our nation or individual states. First they should be voted from office and then prosecuted for what they've done to us as a society.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 07:08:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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