[BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE IDAHO ARTICLE WRITTEN ABOUT YESTERDAY! The U.S. Justice Department and F.B.I. have announced they have launched a full investigation of Idaho Correctional Center (run by CCA)].
The way forward to stop the loss of jobs and more corporate influence in our life and government is to de-elect corporate enablers now in office. Those who vote against the will of their constituents to side with corporate interests have to be voted out of office. In selecting those who would replace the enablers, we must start asking important questions and firmly inform candidates that we are willing to risk one term of office on them and if they also fall under the spell of powerful corporations and special interest organizations such as ALEC, one term is all they’ll get. We all have to ignore the disinformation and mudslinging that accompanies every election cycle now. We must push for truth in campaigns run on the issues important to us and not fall into the trap of arguing about inconsequential issues devised to distract us from genuine positions held by potential candidates. Nothing will change unless we initiate change ourselves.
Before presenting a discussion on methods of eliminating corporate interests from criminal legislation and subsequent incarceration, it's necessary to understand why elimination is needed.
Here is a link to an article by "American Tribune" about one incident that took place within a federal prison industry. Inmate workers forced to submit to strip and body cavity searches for a hammer that was purportedly missing. "Gulag America - Prison Nation" From AmericanTribune.org. Sounds to me like they found the damn hammer in his drawers instead of the industry supervisors desk drawer.
As I wrote yesterday in "INSOURCING - This is the corporation behind SB 1070" inmates are subjected to abuses, violence and a lack of personal safety by prison staffers whose duty is to provide protection from such acts. However the "I have power over you at all times...so call me Sir or God when you address me," syndrome is absolute and always prevalent in every prison atmosphere - state or federal.
The same power and corruption directed upward through legislation and influence upon state and federal agencies - by CCA, ALEC and other private prison corporations and industry operators - also flows downward to the institutions, industries and staff at both. Because political, administrative or other actions have seldom been allowed to challenge absolute control over prisoners, guards believe the power of the parent corporation is attached to them through their uniforms.
CCA, Geo Group and others enjoy a perceived "immunity" from oversight due to their providing services to state and federal governments through operation of their private prison facilities, industries and detention centers. They have adopted an attitude of "too big to fail" that works much the same as that surrounding our financial institutions. We heard plenty about that over the past two years, so I'm sure you get the picture.
They believe they are simply too critical to our increasing incarceration needs - that they created in the first place - and thus, it would be too cumbersome and difficult for either state or federal contracts to be cancelled and operations taken back by government. So far their perceptions have proved to be correct - time and time again violations have occurred, many serious enough that it resulted in irreparable harm or deaths of inmates in their care. Many publicized escapes, riots and disturbances have taken place at private run prisons.
In 2008 a female corrections officer was killed in the prison industry run by PRIDE at Tomoka prison in Florida. Her killer was an inmate serving double life sentences and participating in the PIECP training program run by PRIDE. As a "lifer" he should never have been in the industry program to begin with.
In another instance earlier this year, inmates escaped from a privately run prison in Arizona. Before they could be apprehended two of the escapees killed a couple in New Mexico.
The foregoing clearly shows us that none of us - prisoners or citizens - are protected from harm or death by corporations involved in operating or running private prisons or industries. Private run prisons and industries have both been shown to cause death - within a facility or outside of one.
There are many offenders who belong in prison for the rest of their lives. The issues I raise do not include those men and women in the analysis and discussion on corporate prison operations. Though they deserve to live the rest of their lives behind bars, that does not entitle private prison staffers to abuse them. Their sentence serves as punishment for their criminal action and continuing to add "personal punishment" on a daily basis by prison staff serves no purpose except to create animosity and heighten the violent atmosphere already permeating throughout every prison.
No, those individuals who committed lesser crimes - especially those involving drug use or crimes caused by mental illness - are the ones who need our attention. They will all be returned to communities to live among us. The treatment , training and rehabilitation (or lack thereof) provided in prison will determine their behavior upon release. Sentences served in private run facilities and industries dedicated to profits are not conducive to changing a prisoner's behavior in a positive way. If they return from prison with the concept that the dollar and pursuit of it are how they should behave...they'll be more likely to create more victims and return to prison.
As I've stated on numerous occasions: "There is no place in incarceration for profits." Incarceration entails punishment for violating the laws of our society. Arrests, court appearances and sentences served as a result are the responsibility of the courts that impose a sentence. The system is in place to serve civic needs through enforcement and not profits. No state has ever installed a judicial system to run at a profit - they were created because it was necessary to maintain an orderly community
The evolution bringing corporate interests and profits into our judicial and penal systems was a concept we should never have accepted or agreed to. In the beginning it was a small thing - mostly an experiment to see if tax dollars could be saved by allowing private sector involvement in jail and prison facility operations. There were glorious reports provided by proponents of this new concept that informed that huge savings were being realized by taxpayers through privatization of prisons (these reports and the data released were later found to have been compromised by researchers who were directly connected to the private prison corporations and thus had a financial interest in the outcome of the reports). We listened and shrugged, believing our lawmakers and correctional authorities knew best, and again didn't research or object as these privatization efforts increased. In time everything associated with incarceration had been outsourced, from pretrial bonding through release programs and everything in-between: medical, housing, food service, canteens, phone services, mental health, work-release, industries, vending machines and banking. Many reports by non-corporate influenced researchers show that prison privatization has no appreciable impact upon recidivism percentages or save tax dollars, including a 1996 GAO Report that found no real savings from use of private prisons.
Articles making us fear have worked well for CCA, Geo and ALEC. How about our fears instilled by escapes, murders, contract violations, lack of security by their private prison personnel? Why don't we hear about these problems and why aren't we told we should fear privatized prisons due to their inability to protect us? Why isn't our playing field level? It's because our interests are protecting ourselves and theirs is profit in providing a minimum of that protection. We should demand better for what these corporations are receiving from us.
What if the situation were reversed - no stay with me just a moment longer - What if each of us made money off of enforcing these corporate contracts to incarcerate, would we all be more watchful and involved? What if they were paying each of us a penny ($.01) a day, 7 days a week, for 78,000 inmates? Would we simply accept our daily money and be satisfied, or would we like the extra money and look for more ways to increase that income? The answer for most of us is pretty easy, we'd look for ways to make more.
Now that's pretty simplistic and hypothetical...but I think it reveals that we as a society are always looking for an "edge" to make just a few more bucks a week. Live a little better and make our lives easier at the same time. Some of us ask for a raise in salary and some work a second or even third job. Others use deception - maybe in advertising - to increase sales and income. Others yet, commit criminal acts of theft, forgery, larceny and other crimes to increase what they have. Human nature.
Sad part of this exercise is that it's more real than fictional. We pay taxes and some of those tax dollars go to pay for all forms of incarceration. Our state taxes go to the state prison operations and federal taxes pay for federal facilities. In addition more of those dollars pay for prosecutions, investigations and appeals in criminal cases. So there is a huge outlay of our money that is dedicated to the costs of incarceration, prosecution and reentry assistance. If the need for incarceration goes down more money stays in our pockets. If there's more diversion and less prosecution, more money stays with us.
With privatized prisons owned by individuals - through corporations - we see their desire for increased income. We've seen the manipulations and deception they use to reach their goal. More warm bodies means more income. More income?...build more prisons...Empty beds and lost income?...make new laws to increase need for more beds. Human nature applied to corporate interests. What we need to realize is that the money they're fighting for is ours. We've cut everything we can possibly cut to meet their demands for more funding - and every year they want more; more inmates and more money. Our education is suffering, elderly care, jobs are disappearing to their prison industries and we've been forced to cut social and welfare programs. Social security has been robbed to keep up with these and other costs that always increase. Our cost of government increases with each privatization, each new prison built and every new law that requires prosecution and ultimate incarceration.
If government ran all prisons and related services, and the cost of doing that increased we'd have to pay those costs. Because of civic needs, prisons and jails are necessary and funding for them represents the actual cost to the community for a need. Private corporations performing those same services are doing it at a huge profit. The Prison Industrial Complex realizes profits in the billions every year. Not gross income...net Profits that obviously exceed actual costs!
Either our government has no idea how to properly run our prison systems in a fiscally responsible manner - or those corporations providing the same services through public means and making such profits, are charging us way too much for those services. In return we have no more safety from escapes, there is no drop in the recidivism rate and no savings by using private corporations over state run operations. Inmates are abused, mistreated and denied proper medical treatment and medications and fed on poor diets that contribute to health issues. Prisoners are being used in factories to bring in more profits - for the corporations, not to reduce our costs for their care.
There is something very wrong with all of this. Wrong and costly and mostly unnoticed by most. We're scrambling looking for funding for programs, education and jobless right now, and doing away with these privatizations will put money back where it belongs. Let our state authorities run our prisons at actual costs and cut out the middlemen.
Today we sit here trying to determine just how this mess has grown to what it is today. It was planned and that plan was followed to the letter by the corporate planners. The goal? Corporate control of government programs, needs and responsibilities to earn profits. Corporations know as profits increase so does power and influence. Once they gained a toe-hold through privatization of the first prison, the end result was a foregone conclusion. Maybe they used the Bass Diffusion Model (a formula provided in the comments to my last article by ej25-thanks) to determine the path to success.
Regardless of how we got here - we're here now. What we do from this point will determine our future as a society. We should all recognize that though I concentrate mainly on prison industries and privatization used to generate profits for corporations, their manipulations and desire for increased power and wealth is not limited to that aspect or issue. They are pursuing their agenda in such a way that nearly every thing we do or touch results in a corporate cha-ching somewhere in America.
As I stated in the intro, the way forward has to begin at the ballot box. Corporate interests have spread throughout our society like an insidious disease that is slowly but deliberately infecting every segment of our lives, from our businesses and government to our personal lives. Just as a real disease needs a way of infecting healthy cells, corporations need a vehicle to enable it to spread. Their preferred vehicle is our elected lawmakers.
Through our elected officials corporate interests have advanced through legislation that has been developed, written and proposed by the likes of ALEC. ALEC's members serve as the vehicle to carry new laws beneficial to corporations back to their home states where they present those proposals as necessary new laws. Other lawmakers are then lobbied by them as corporate interests dump campaign "donations" into the funds of those potential Bill "co-sponsors". Once enough support is garnered, a Bill moves forward and when passed becomes law.
As demonstrated this year in Arizona and now exposed in the media, this is precisely what happened with SB 1070. This one bill also showed us that corporate funding did not stop at the legislative branch...it was also spent at the executive branch to encourage signing of the bill by Governor Brewer. SB 1070 was well coordinated by those who already held state and federal contracts to house those individuals SB 1070 was designed to cull from our society and place in their facilities. Their efforts were assisted by a cooperative media blitz spreading fear among the populace, describing horrendous crimes being committed by these "illegal aliens". Crimes ranged from introduction of vast amounts of drugs, to be-headings and other violent crimes. As I said, it was a well coordinated campaign such as had been accomplished dozens of times over the past two decades on any number of issues. Each of these campaigns resulted in newer and harsher laws designed to benefit one corporate interest or another - in the case of incarceration the receiver was CCA and Geo Group...the benefactor was us, as taxpayers. Your federal tax dollars are paying for the detention of every individual intended to be picked up and held in detention facilities owned and operated by them.
This is their methodology to suck more and more tax dollars out of us and our state and federal treasuries. Corporations have become addicted to the dollars held in both.
This is not really a partisan problem - though ALEC is a "conservative" organization with only a couple of dems as members. Both of our political parties have lawmakers in their caucuses that have fallen under the spells of corporate and special interests. Republicans and Democrats alike have taken money from lobbyists representing special interests. Many have attended "conferences" and "annual meetings" held by ALEC. They travel there with their families on taxpayer funds and once there are lavishly entertained, wined and dined by special interests and treated as near royalty. When they return home from one of these affairs, they are more likely to vote favorably on legislation that benefits those special interests - if for no other reason than to return the favor for a wonderful time.
This foregoing depicts a bleak forecast for us as a diverse nation. Too many have fallen under their spell to believe a reversal and return to non-corporate influenced legislation will be easy. It won't.
But we desperately need to make a start somewhere and as said above, the ballot box is the first stop on our journey.
Political party or affiliations doesn’t matter; if your elected representatives demonstrate support for corporate interests over the community’s with his/her voting, replace them until you elect one who votes for your community. In the last election just a month ago, voters voiced their displeasure over hot topic issues such as single-payer healthcare, immigration reform, the economy and jobs. Many long time politicians now find themselves without a job - as a result of public reaction to their position and vote on important issues. Only by continuing to vote smart and informed are we going to bring about change and replace corporate control with public interests and put our country back in order.
Another action we can take is to force a change in existing prison industry legislation at the state and federal levels that will bring jobs back to our communities and neighbors. PIECP is the current controlling federal law but is being so mismanaged by the Department of Justice that all regulation has disappeared, transferred to the private sector through the NCIA. Letters have to be written to the DOJ demanding that PIECP Guidelines be enforced (these guidelines cannot be found at the BJA or through the OJP or even the DOJ. To find the actual guidelines one must follow the links provided at those sites to the NCIA site. There you will find them in a terrible format and deliberately hard to read and understand. I have reformatted the entire 1999 Guidelines and you can preview or download them from my website. Click on the yellow PRIDE folder then select "PIECP Final Guideline.doc". It is properly formatted and intact - word for word).
Legislative intent of creating a level playing field for private sector and prison industry competition has been circumvented through deregulation and outsourcing of the program to corporate interests. The majority of citizens have been totally unaware of PIECP until recently. They had no idea the program existed and was contributing to their job losses over the past several years. We all have to make others aware of the program and how it is contributing to our lost jobs and income. In this way more pressure can be exerted by the public to reform this program so it no longer represents a cash cow to corporations and ALEC members and lawmakers who profit from it.
If PIECP is run as intended, the advantages now available to corporations would cease. They would have to pay prevailing wages to inmate workers; pay workers comp insurance premiums and would be unable to sell their products on the open markets in the state of manufacture without paying inmate workers even minimum wages. Additionally state prison facilities are funded with your dollars – even if privately operated. The prison industries operated from those prisons are offering their corporate partners cheap leases of as little as a dollar a year for entire manufacturing facilities. These are your facilities, bought and paid for with tax dollars. Every dollar saved by a corporation on these leases are a dollar paid for in subsidy by you and I.
If these modifications to the program are removed, there will be much less incentive for corporations to partner with prison industries and private sector job losses will diminish and some that have been taken will return.
Couple these changes in PIECP with a cessation of our dependence upon privatization of everything prison and prison related and electing those not beholden to corporate interests and we have a beginning.
This won’t affect outsourcing, but stopping insourcing and unlimited cheap prison labor is a good first step...