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Last month a "Research Brief" was published by Randall G. Shelden, M.A, Ph.D, Senior Research Fellow, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. The Brief is simply titled: "Prison Industry" and was funded by the Fund for Nonviolence and published on the website of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

The research put into this brief is in depth and more importantly, contemporary. Dr. Shelden speaks to the problems, statistics, corporate interests and involvement of those profiting from prisons and prisoners NOW - not years ago as many available and outdated government studies currently in use are.

Though I am going to include many of the findings of Dr. Shelden below, this research brief is a must read for all who have followed my writings on the issues involving prison labor, prison privatization and corporate partnerships that result in huge tax expenditures with concurrent profits.

It's not often that one can put many hours into research, discussions and the forming of opinions that often times go without reward, acknowledgement or recognition then be rewarded by other independent studies concurring with your work - referenced or not in the completed study.

In this case everything I have been saying over the past 5+ years about: the Prison Industrial Complex, telephone charges for inmates, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), American Correctional Association (ACA), Correction Corporation of America (CCA), Geo Group and privatization of prisons and prison industry was addressed by Dr. Shelden. He also found connections between organizations such as the ACA, ALEC and private prison corporations such as Geo Group and CCA and notes the connections I previously pointed out between CCA and SB 1070 in Arizona.

He describes the Prison Industrial Complex as:

"The data provided above, along with the quotes at the start of this paper, indicate that incarceration is a huge industry in the United States.  About $69 billion is being spent each year on the correctional system (more about this below). What many have called the prison industrial complex represents an interconnection among the prison system, the political system and the economic system - just like the military represents a connection with the political and economic system, what has been called the “iron triangle,” originally mentioned by President Eisenhower when he brought attention to the Military Industrial Complex in 1960.

"This is similar to what Lilly and Knepper (1993) called the "correctional-commercial complex,” which they describe as a sort of “sub-governmental policy-making” (p. 152) system consisting of an alliance between government and private enterprise.  Lilly and Knepper noted that this system is quite similar to the “military industrial complex,” since it consists of patterns of interrelationships known variously as “policy networks,” “subgovernment” or the “iron triangle.” They argued that such a system may not be legally a form of government, but nevertheless may exert greater influence than more formal structures of the government.  In comparing this system to the military equivalent they note that within the military subgovernment there is an “iron triangle” of the Pentagon, private defense contractors, and various members of Congressional Committees (e.g., armed services committees, defense appropriations committees). They noted further that the decision-making within any given policy arena “rests within a closed circle or elite of government bureaucrats, agency heads, interest groups, and private interests that gain from the allocation of public resources” (Lilly and Knepper, 1993, p.  152). Politics and economics go hand in hand, which is how politicians get elected.  Think also of the large number of lobbyists in the nation’s capital (Parenti, 2007; Frank, 2008). Also, consider for a moment about the costs involved in the construction of prisons, jails, courthouses, police departments and furnishing them with everything they need to keep going (construction costs, electrical, furniture, toilet paper, etc.), all of which involve many different private enterprises (Christie, 2000; Shelden and Brown, 2000; Herivel and Wright, 2007).

"A perfect example was the influence of Tom Beasley (head of the Republican Party of Tennessee) in 1983, Doctor Crants (with ties to Sodexho-Marriott) and Don Hutto, who was at the time the president of the American Correctional Association (ACA).  In 1983 all of the individuals unified to help Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) enter the market by attempting to take over the entire prison system of Tennessee (Selman and Leighton, 2010, p. 55-56).  More about CCA in a later section of this paper."

As I've written over and over the influence of CCA and Geo Group upon incarceration through ALEC is costing us billions of tax dollars and providing less services and recidivism reductions than state run prisons.

ALEC's impact upon both the state statutes enacted that increase the harshness of new and existing laws, and encouraged privatization of government programs, prisons and industries is immeasurable. About ALEC's involvement in all of this he writes:

"A little know[n] fact about the prison industrial complex is an organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  The mere existence of this organization demonstrates the classic connections between politics, economics and the criminal justice system.  The membership consists of state legislators, private corporation executives and criminal justice officials. More than one-third of state lawmakers in the country (2,400) belong and they are mostly Republicans and conservative Democrats. They also get involved in school vouchers (Boston, 2007).  It was started in 1973 by Paul Weyrich (who also co-founded the conservative Heritage Foundation and recently was the head of a group called the Free Congress Foundation, a far right conservative group). Their mission is to promote “free markets,” along with small governments, “states’ rights” and, of course, privatization. Corporate membership dues range from $5,000 to $50,000 annually.  Corrections Corporation of America is a member of this group, which is not surprising.  However, members also include a veritable “who’s who” of the Fortune 500, such as Ameritech, AT&T, Bayer, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Sprint, Pfizer, to name just a few. Among the companies that have supported ALEC through various grants include Ameritech, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and several corporate foundations, including the Proctor and Gamble Fund, Exxon Educational Foundation, Bell Atlantic Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, among many others (Capital Research, 2010).

"The web site of ALEC is an educational experience in itself.  It proudly lists some of the bills it has been involved in getting passed, plus indicates some very important keynote speakers during the past three annual meetings.  Among the notables giving speeches include Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez, President and CEO of American Home Products Robert Essner, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Hank McKinnell, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of Labor Elane Chao and ultra conservative  syndicated columnist Cal Thomas (ALEC, 2010).
"In addition to a Board of Directors (consisting of several members of various state legislatures, mostly Republicans), they have a Private Enterprise Board.   The latter group includes representatives of some of the largest corporations in America, such as Coors, AT&T, UPS, WalMart, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer and State Farm, among others.  It is interesting to note that the current chairman is Jerry Watson of the American Bail Coalition which, according to their web site, is: “Dedicated to the long term growth and continuation of the surety bail bond industry” (ALEC, 2010).

"This organization also puts together papers and policy statements on a wide variety of issues reflecting conservative ideas, including one about the “myth of global warming.”  Bill Berkowitz, who carefully follows conservative trends, has noted that ALEC sponsored more than 3,100 pieces of legislation between 1999 and 2000, with more than 400 of these bills passing (Berkowitz, 2002). Within ALEC there is a “Criminal Justice Task Force.”  Among the duties of this group is to write “model bills” on crime and punishment.  Among such “model bills” they helped draft include “mandatory minimum sentences,” “Three Strikes” laws, “truth in sentencing” and the like.  One member boasted that in 1995 alone they  introduced 199 bills, including “truth in sentencing” bills, which passed in 25 states.  Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin Governor and previous head of Health and Human Services in the Bush Administration, was once a member of ALEC.  He was recently quoted as saying that “I always loved going to these meetings because I always found new ideas.  Then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that ‘It’s mine’” (Berkowtiz, 2002).  Edwin Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, says that: “Bayer Corporation or Bell South or GTE or Merck pharmaceutical company sitting at a table with elected representatives, actually hammering out a piece of legislation – behind closed doors, I mean, this isn’t open to the public. And that then becomes the basis on which representatives are going to their state legislatures and debating issues” (Biewen, 2002).  As everyone knows by now, these kinds of laws were a big reason for the swelling of the prison population, which in turn added new “markets” for capitalist profits.  As of the fall of 2008 they are sponsoring several dozen pieces of legislation (ALEC, 2010a)."

I've described the PIC as a large market used by corporations to realize more profits off privatization and inmate labor. I've written that I believe the search for more and more profits from our tax dollars contributed to the economic collapses we experienced from 2007 through the present and the continuing huge expenditures for building more and more prisons. Arguments have been made that we need to completely overhaul criminal justice in our country, diverting incarceration funding to diversion and alternative sentencing efforts. Dr. Shelden's research now corroborates those arguments:

"As Robert Heilbroner (1985) notes, within a capitalist society there tends to be an insatiable desire to continue “converting money into commodities and commodities into money” (p. 60). Everything, it seems, is turned into a “commodity” - from the simplest products (e.g., paper and pencil) to human beings (e.g., women's bodies, slaves).  Indeed, within a capitalist society “daily life is scanned for possibilities that can be brought within the circuit of accumulation,” since any aspect of society that can produce a profit will be exploited. Life itself has been “commodified” (Heilbroner, 1985, p. 60).

"Part of this drive for profits stems from the ideology of the “free market,” a system of beliefs that under girds the entire capitalist economic system.  According to this ideology every individual pursues his or her own personal interests and the result is a collective good for the entire society. It is Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” at work.  Corporations are “free” to do whatever they want. The failure of this philosophy became evident in late 2008 and continues to the present date. The current recession illustrates this perfectly.  These “free markets” faltered miserably and taxpayers were called upon to “rescue” them.  This is nothing less than socialism for the rich and free enterprise for everyone else.  A good assessment of the present economic crisis is found in Paul Krugman’s book The Return of Depression Economics (2009) and several of his columns in the New York Times (such as Krugman, 2010).

"This “free market” includes the prison system.  The amount of money that flows into the financial resources of the prison system from tax dollars alone is quite substantial. As shown in Figure 1, expenditures for prisons came to about $69 billion in fiscal 2006, an increase of more than 650 percent over 1982 when the figure was about $9 billion.  In California, between 1998 and 2009, the prison budget grew from $3.5 billion to $10.3 billion (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2009).

"Similarly, the budgets for probation and parole have also been increasing.  The most recent data available for probation and parole are from the year 2000.  While in fiscal year 1992 the average budgets for both probation and parole came to $23 million, in the year 2000 the average was $71 million, an increase of 209 percent.  What is most interesting about the budgets for probation and parole is that the largest increases went to the parole system, with their average budgets going from $25.5 million in 1992 to $43.1 million in 2000, compared to a very modest increase for probation budgets from $55.7 million to $56.3 million.  The total budgets for both probation and parole came to just over $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2000 (Camp and Camp, 2000)."

Who profits most from the boom in incarceration? There are many, but few as large or as profitable to investors as CCA and Geo Group. They represent the top two (2) private prison corporations in the U.S., and are now working on overseas markets in many other countries.

Not only are they large and raking in our tax dollars, they are using profits out of those dollars to fund lobbying for more convictions, inmates and government contracts to increase their influence and wealth. Other peripheral industries, companies and corporations also benefit from these privatization efforts. Companies like Aramark, Keefe Commissary Network, AT&T, Prison Health Services, and construction companies and sub-contractors - all are making huge incomes from incarceration as a whole, and private prisons especially.

"Prison construction quickly became a booming business.  In 1980 there were only 44 prisons; in 2002 there were 102, with 11 more under construction (Johnson, 2003).  During the 1990s a total of 371 new prisons opened. (Approximately 92,000 new beds were added each year.)  In 1999 alone, 24 new prisons were opened, at a total cost of just over $1 billion.  The average cost of building a new prison came to $105 million (about $57,000 per bed).  Also,  in 1999 a total of 146 prisons were adding or renovating beds at a cost of $470 million (about $30,000 per bed).  The total estimated costs of these new building projects come to more than $2.2 billion (Camp and Camp, 2000). These figures may be a bit misleading.  A review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons web site finds that as of October, 2008, there were a total of 180 “facilities” plus 14
private “facilities.”  These “facilities” include not only prisons but also “camps” and “correctional complexes” (which include more than one “facility”).  Regardless of which source is most accurate, the federal prison system is huge and covers both rural and urban areas all over the country.

"The construction of new prisons has become such a big business that there are several web sites devoted to the topic. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (Government Accountability Office, 2008) issues reports on various prison construction projects.  Also, many states publish reports on recent or upcoming construction projects (Oregon, State of, 2010; Firestone and Hansen, 2001). One interesting report comes from web  site called Reed Construction Data (2008) which shows ten planned prison construction projects around the country. A Google search also turns up dozens of companies advertising for prison construction. One example, among many, is Kitchell.  According to their web site they have built “more than 110,000 detention and corrections beds in place,” and they boast that “Kitchell stands among the most experienced program, project and construction management firms for criminal justice facilities in the country. Those years of experience include more than 130 projects in 17 states, among them are 42 state prisons, 30 adult jails, 30 juvenile facilities, four return-to-custody centers, two California Youth Authority institutions, as well as police stations, courts facilities, camps and other justice-related projects” (Kitchell, 2010).

"Interested readers may want to pick out a few states at random and see how many prisons presently exist and how many have been built in recent years or will be built in the coming years. Take the state of North Carolina for example. On the web  site for the North Carolina Department of Corrections (2010) there is a chart showing the prisons recently opened or about to open in that state.  Between 1989 and May, 2008 a total of 26 correctional facilities (including two for young offenders, two work farms and a women’s prison) were opened.  Currently eight correctional facilities are under construction.  As of October 5, 2010 North Carolina had a total of 70 prisons and 40,371 prisoners and an incarceration rate of 368 as of  June, 2008 (up from 28,772 and a rate of 345 in 2002), a rate considerably below the national rate of 504.  Has there been a significant increase in crime lately? Not at all. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010) in 2009 the rate of violent crime was 404 and for property crime it was 3,668; in 2005 the rate for violent crime was 468 and for property crime it was 4075."

Most people have become aware of the exorbitant phone rates are for the families of prisoners. Reach out and touch someone has been taken literally by the corporations involve...they are reaching out and not only touching your wallets, they're taking what they want from within. This is an important issue regarding maintaining contact with family and friends. Such ability to communicate with family is critical to successful reentry and thus impact upon recidivism rates - nationwide. Phone companies have negotiated to give a huge percentage of their profits to the prison and jail authorities in exchange for exclusive contracts.

"The old telephone company ad that advised customers to “reach out and  touch someone” has new meaning, since long-distance phone companies entered into the prison system in the 1970s.  Such industry giants as AT&T, Bell South, Sprint, GTE (formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation and MCI have found prisons to be an excellent market for long distance business.  Indeed, this makes sense because inmates all over the country spend countless hours on the telephone talking with relatives. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 resulted in greater competition among telephone companies and prices began to decline –  except for the prison system, which began to see a big rise in revenue.  Prisons all over the country began to get a percentage of the revenues ranging from 10 to 55 percent.  A survey by the American Correctional Association in 1995 showed, for instance, that New York was making $15 million per year and California brought in $9 million, with a total of $100 million nationwide.  By the year 2000 commission revenues went as high as 60 percent in New York. “At least ten states were taking in $10 million or more from prisoner calling, with California, New York, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons leading the pack with more than $20 million in phone revenues each” (Jackson, 2007, p. 236-240).  All of these profits have come as a result of  the fact that for a prisoner to call home requires a collect call.

"Part of the revenue comes from the charging of various connection fees, surcharges and perminute charges ranging from as high as 90 cents for local calls and $2.25 for long-distance calls, with in some cases a 15-minute phone call costing $20 or more (Jackson, 2007). At one point MCI installed, for free, pay phones throughout the California prison system.  They levied a $3 surcharge for each phone call made, the cost of which is paid for by the prisoner’s relatives. MCI offered the California department of Corrections 32 percent of the profits. AT&T had a cleaver ad that read (in upper case letters):  “HOW HE GOT IN IS YOUR BUSINESS. HOW HE GETS OUT IS OURS” (Schlosser, 1998, p. 63).  The bulk of the costs to “reach out and touch” a loved one in prison has been borne mostly by low-income and minority people.  One writer succinctly summarized the effect of this business:
'(T)he ultimate effect of profit-sharing and what amount to price-gouging arrangements in the prison phone sector has been a long-term trend toward excommunication, making contact between prisoners and family members on the outside more costly and therefore more difficult to maintain.  But  this goes directly against the findings of several decades of recidivism and community impact studies, some of which were used to justify the introduction of prison calling in the first place.  Such studies have found a powerful predictor for reoffense is the failure to maintain family and community contact while under incarceration (Jackson, 2007, p. 241)'."

"It is almost as if those in charge of this system actually want high recidivism rates, as this writer further suggests that “a reliable way of increasing the likelihood that prisoners will reoffend is to break all ties with the outside world and then place them back on the street years later, with little reentry support, in a community to which they have become a stranger” (Jackson, 2007, p. 241).

"This led to a great deal of controversy in California and elsewhere.  An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that phone charges benefited the state of California by about $35 million a year as a result of an agreement with long-distance phone companies.  Phone charges to relatives of those locked up in the California Youth Authority resulted in about $85 million in revenue for the state in 2001.  After several years of pressure, an agreement reached in January, 2001 that lowered the charges by 25 percent.  A three-year contract was signed with WorldCom and Verizon that cut rates for adult prisoners by 25% and for juveniles by 78%.  As a result of this agreement, the average 11 minute phone call to a family member outside the immediate area was to be just over $5 dollars.

"Despite a nation-wide movement by such groups as Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the Center for Constitutional Rights and others who have filed law suits against this practice, fierce opposition from prison officials and telephone companies, it remains to be seen whether and to what extent these practices will continue.  The “prison telephone monopolies remain firmly in place and ineffectively regulated throughout large parts of the country” (Jackson, 2007, p. 248)."

The Brief gave great detail about the privatization of prisons, prison healthcare, food service operations and gives an accurate accounting of the costs to society through tax dollars and expansion of privatization or prisons overseas (with the help of ALEC):

"A recent development in the criminal justice field, related specifically to the prison system, is the trend toward what is known as privatization.  This is where a private corporation either takes over the operation of a jail or prison or builds one itself and operates it usually contracting directly with the state).  Several years ago researchers warned about the tremendous growth in privatization in general, especially within the private police industry.  They quoted one source that called this phenomenon "creeping capitalism" or the transfer of "services and responsibilities that were once monopolized by the state" to "profit-making agencies and organizations" (Spitzer and Scull, 1977).  It should be noted that "privatization" is a trend that includes more than the criminal justice system.  This “contracting out,” as it is often termed, involves a number of services formerly provided by state and local governments, such as public education, health care, waste collection and many more. There are "at least 18 categories of government services" that saw an increase in private-sector involvement between 1987 and 1995 (Laursen, 1996).

"Private profit is the driving force in the privatization of the  correctional system.  A report by Equitable Securities in March, 1996 called "Crime Can Pay" included a "strong buy" advice to investors.  The report concluded:  "We consider the industry very attractive.  There is substantial room for continued private-prison growth."  The potential for profits did not escaped Wall Street.  Back in the early 1990s Ted Goins, of Branch, Cabell and Co., Richmond, Virginia, compiled a list of "theme stocks" for the 1990s.  His highest recommendation was for Corrections Corporation of America (Brayson, 1996).  A Prudential Securities vice president, who is part of a "prison-financing team," was quoted as saying that "We try to keep a close eye on all the crime bills." Wall Street was indeed eager to back the growth in "crime control stocks" with such companies as Merrill Lynch, Prudential Securities, Smith Barney Shearson and Goldman Sachs among the leaders in support of privatization (Brayson, 1996).  One writer noted: "Between 1982 and 1990 California voters approved bonds for prison construction totaling $2.4 billion.  After interest is paid to lenders, the total cost will be $4.1 billion.  Now the big investors are bullish on private prisons."  The firm of Raucher, Pierce and Refsnes of Dallas, Texas were the underwriters and investment bankers for Wackenhut Corrections.  In the  early 1990s, this company was reportedly doing about $5-7 million worth of business each year, mostly "buying bonds and securities from the private prison companies or the state entities which issue them and reselling them to investors.  That securities market is now a 2-3-billion dollar industry, up from nothing eight years ago..." So enthralled about the profits, these securities firms were ready to launch the "next phase" of such development, which was to finance their own construction, with help from securities firms (Thomas, 1994, p. A6).

"Private prison companies have even expanded to foreign countries.  As Leighton and Selman note: “As private prison companies expanded, they found partners in the United Kingdom (UK), France, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and South Africa.  At times, like in the UK, companies would spend two to three years lobbying and plying politicians with donations to convince government to privatize” (Leighton and Selman, 2011).  Newsweek recently reported that “GEO increased its revenue by $20.2 million in the last year  by opening up prisons in Australia and the United Kingdom, while also eyeing contracts  in South Africa and New Zealand” (Cook, 2010).

"The largest, and perhaps the most controversial private prison corporation, is  Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  Founded in 1983, the company is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and employs more than 15,000 professionals nationwide. I once obtained a copy of their 1995 annual report, at which time they claimed to be the “leading private sector provider of detention and corrections services to federal, state and local governments."  There was also a subsidiary, CCA International, which provided similar "services" in foreign countries.  Still another subsidiary was TransCor America, which was touted to be "the nation's largest and most experienced prisoner extradition company."  At that time, CCA’s stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  It operated 46 correctional facilities, including  one in England, two in Australia and two in Puerto Rico.  This report bragged about its revenues, going from $13 million in 1986 to $207 million in 1995 (an increase of 1492%), while assets increased from $8 million to almost $47 million (an increase of 488%) and stockholders equity had gone from $24 million to $96 million (up 300%).

"One of the most recent examples concerns the connection between Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, the notorious Sheriff of Maricopa County Joe Arpaio and CCA.   Over the summer reports started to emerge that revealed that two key advisors for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had close ties to Corrections Corporation of America.  Local CBS affiliate KPOH reported that "two of Brewer’s top advisers have connections" to private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Lawrence Lewis, writing for the Daily Kos, reported that “Paul Senseman, Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, is a former lobbyist for CCA. His wife continues to lobby for the company. Meanwhile Chuck Coughlin, who leads her re-election campaign, chaired her transition into the governorship, and is one of the governor’s policy advisors, is president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which lobbies for CCA” (Lewis, 2010).  Lewis also noted that it just so happens that CCA has a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement "to lock up illegal immigrants picked up in Arizona” and obviously sending
millions of dollars into the coffers of this company (Lewis, 2010)."

All of this means profits for CCA and all of the other corporations involved. How profitable is demonstrated by comparing the salaries of the top private prison executives against their state counterparts. When you and I realize the money mentioned is from our tax dollars spent on incarceration, the facts are staggering:

"Donna Selman and Paul Leighton, in their insightful analysis of private prisons, document numerous issues surrounding private prisons (Selman and Leighton, 2010).  One of their insights is the amount of money extracted from the states that pay these companies to build and/or operate these prisons.  Among other things, they compare the top salary and wage earners in public departments of corrections with those of three major private corporations (CCA, GEO and Cornell).  Each of the CEO’s earned in excess of $1 million, while the salaries of the directors of state prisons earned from about $128,000 to $225,000.  In most of the prisons run by private corporations there were fewer prisoners and a lower budget than for state prisons.  This was for the year 2007 (Selman and Leighton, 2010, p. 136).

"According to Paul Leighton (2010), the Security and Exchange Commission filings that provides, among other things, the annual compensation for key executives with GEO and CCA for 2009.  To give just one example, a total of $8.3 million was given to six executives of the GEO group, plus five additional people who received $200,000 or more.  The compensation included stock options and other benefits.  In short, it has become a rather cozy relationship during which these executives smile all the way to the bank. The  average compensation per inmate for the 2007 data they supplied.  The Chairman of the Board and CEO of GEO, for instance, earned about $55 per inmate, while his counterpart at CCA earned about $26.  The Cornell CEO did even better, earning about $58 per inmate.  It should be noted that these were just their salaries and did not include stock options and other benefits.  In contrast, the Secretary for the California Department of Corrections earned a mere $1.30 per inmate while the Executive Director for the Texas Department of Corrections earned a mere $1.07 per inmate (California, State of, 2010).

"One of the most detailed analyses of the impact of the privatization of prisons comes from a report by a group known as “Good Jobs First.”  In a detailed study of 60 private prisons (constituting half the total privatized prisons in the country), they found that the promised benefits to state and local governments have failed to materialize.  More importantly, however, they found that at least 73% of the prison had received a development subsidy from local, state or federal government sources, while over one-third (37%) received low-cost construction via tax-free bonds or other government-issued debt securities, 38% received property tax abatements and another 23% received subsidies for things like water, sewer or utility hook-ups, access roads, etc.  The two largest private companies involved in prison building, Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut (now GEO Group), were heavily subsidized (78% of CCA prisons and 69% of Wackenhut’s prisons were subsidized).  The study could find no evidence of whether or not the privatization of prisons had the desired effects on local communities (Mattera and Khan, 2001).  Selman and Leighton provide further documentation of the excessive subsidizing of private prisons. They note that it is important to take into consideration the “overhead costs of participating in the corporate world and relying on Wall Street,” which include the “many fees that go to those who already well-off.  Taxpayer money goes to government, which then pays a private prison firm, which then pays fees to an array of large  banks, law firms, consultants, lobbyists, and marketing firms” (Selman and Leighton, 2010, p. 158)."

All in all this Report identified all involved with the exception of two of the primary causes of the prison industry problems; PIECP and the NCIA. It does identify the largest corporations involved in manufacturing of products or providing services - but did not address the program allowing the use of inmate labor in the manufacture of those products. Though ACA was talked about by Dr. Shelden, their sitting upon the NCIA Board was not caught or if it was, wasn't included.

I'm hopeful you folks will take the time to fully read the Prison Industry Brief cited from above. It has much more contained within it that I have not included here. Plus all the endnotes are linked to the sources used.

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:03 PM PST.


Do you believe privatization of state and federal facilities, programs or interests saves us money?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Private prisons (11+ / 0-)

    are despicable. They are a total reversal of the concept from English Common Law (very quaint I know) of Rex (or Regina) v "the accused". The US has I believe The People vs accused.

    Only the Queen in the name of her subjects may punish, or the People in the US.

    Privatising criminal justice, which includes the power to punish, is an egregious violation of State or national power.

    It is a clear violation of Common Law and could well be unconstitutional in your country.

    Exspectamus et vigilamus: quod nolite somnamus.

    by tapu dali on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:22:48 PM PST

    •  It should be unconstitutional, (9+ / 0-)

      but corporations have been able to lobby lawmakers for changes in the law allowing for privatization and their power increases annually from new contract profits.

      This is why I argue that the laws must be addressed and amended, repealed or changed by decrees or Executive order - all of which can only be done by those who are accepting the most "contributions" from the corporations. It truly is the people who are responsible for meting out punishment and bearing the costs for it.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:38:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The last sentence of your comment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is very true and says it all.

        Exspectamus et vigilamus: quod nolite somnamus.

        by tapu dali on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:46:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Which is exactly where, in my misguided (6+ / 0-)

        optimism of not seeing privatized prisons coming, I always thought the remedy for the "get tough on crime" rhetoric would come from.
        That corporations make profit from keeping people in cages is beyond even Potter Stewart's definition of obscene; that citizens have lost their motive for limiting the dehumanization of their fellows is beyond that.

        Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt.

        by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:54:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is beyond frightening (5+ / 0-)

          that America and Canada are building new, "tough" prisons at a cost of billions despite a falling crime rate.

          It is only pandering to the uninformed for votes.

          Exspectamus et vigilamus: quod nolite somnamus.

          by tapu dali on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:12:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Such is the power of lobbyists funded (5+ / 0-)

            by an unlimited financial resource - and the weakness of our lawmakers to cave to those buckets of money.

            Everyone - including the government and the corporations involved - know the crime rates have been dropping since 1990 (that's a fact). But there are so many who depend upon building and operating new prison facilities, that to stop would create a void in their businesses and cause the loss of more jobs. So the government looks the other way and shrugs. Waste of all of our tax dollars.

            Cure has to come from the civilian forum through putting the right politicians in office and get rid of those suckling on the corporate teats that literally are as numerical as water fountains in DC.

            "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

            by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:56:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I distinctly recall, in the now seemingly long (4+ / 0-)

              ago 1980s, DOJ bulletins which regularly announced that, since the bulk of "crime" was committed by males 18-34, and since the Baby Boom ended in 1960, we could expect declining incarceration rates after 1994.
              Isn't privatization a wonderful thing? It can drive numbers up in spite of demographics.

              Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt.

              by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 07:03:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Which Is Why the Sole Sane Period In Our History (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              was when we PREVENTED THE EXISTENCE of unlimited financial resources.

              I'm not at all sure this can be fixed. I'm 100% sure, unless some talent that does occasionally appear shows up in time.

              We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

              by Gooserock on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 07:55:27 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  We have help wanted signs out now (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                seeking applicants with that talent.

                "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

                by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 08:02:52 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I know you'll understand I'm not trying to step (0+ / 0-)

                  on your message, Bob, but there's kind of a recruiting office at Criminal Injustice Kos, every Wednesday at 6:00 pm Central, not as laser like focused on prison slave labor but devoted to educating about the reality of today's prison industrial complex and its roots in the old fashioned kind of slavery.

                  Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt.

                  by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 08:12:11 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I am aware of them, DaNang65. They (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    have used my research and documents from my website and have invited me to participate. I've discussed it with them and had to decide whether posting once every two weeks or so on these issues was what I really wanted to do to get the word out, and; I have had disagreements with them over their objecting to my using anything with the word "slave" in it unless I use it to define or describe the disproportionate number of African-Americans in prison.

                    In fact I was told I had more or less "expropriated" the term and had no right to it. Some believed since I had no ancestors who were oppressed, tortured and worked as slaves I basically had no right to use it to describe prison labor and the issue of PIECP and prisoner labor and my pursuit of it was facile.

                    Sadly that's where it's stood since the other night. Here's the diarywhere the discussion took place.

                    The last thing I am is their own argument African-Americans make up the majority inside prison and my fight to reduce incarceration, reform criminal justice and fair wages for those working for the corporations, are efforts that help that particular population more than any other. They appear to not want my assistance on the issues unless it involves discussing the disparity in races in prison any time I use the term "slave labor."

                    I didn't provide them with the fact that since I'm Jewish by birth, my ancestral heritage is filled with slave labor, oppression and much worse and for much longer than any other people in history.  I don't wear that on my sleeve and have never had occasion to even discuss such abuses with anyone but family.

                    Frankly, I was somewhat offended and just let it go, figuring we're all fighting for the same thing and regardless of our differences or beliefs, the end result is what matters. I sent them a link to the report I discussed tonight, hoping it helps them in their pursuit of criminal injustice.

                    I'm too old to be distracted, diverted or let criticism stand in the way of addressing this crap that's going on. It's very important to me and as I'm sure you're aware, passionate in pursuing the issues as well. It just made me realize how splintered and fractured we all have become instead of working together for a common solution to critical problems we face as a society - even among allies...

                    "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

                    by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 08:50:48 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Bob, two things, (0+ / 0-)

                      First, I was not so much trying to reccomend CIK to you as to your wider audience; and second,
                      I was otherwise occupied during the discussion session of CIK the other night. If I had been aware it would have been the last thing I'd have brought up in your diary.
                      Many, most, nearly all of the folks who frequent there I consider friends. I'm embarrassed for how you were treated. Please allow me to apologize on behalf of those of us in the CIK community who don't need to toe the party line. In some ways I have experienced those same difficulties myself, just not so publicly. My ideas do not necessarily mesh with all of your interlocutors, in fact, in many (most?) ways they are closer to your own.
                      If, at your pleasure, you choose to continue this conversation privately, my email addy is on my page.
                      I have no desire to squabble with any in the CIK community, nor do I feel any need to be in lock step with their thinking. There is much of value there, but the folks are, in the end human, and just as I we have our frailties.

                      Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt.

                      by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 09:24:30 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I agree. I'll make a point of getting an (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        email off to you tomorrow. It's after 12:30 here and I was up to 4:00 this morning getting this diary ready, so I'm off to bed.

                        Thanks for joining the conversation - I always enjoy contributions from you and a few others and discussions is what it's all about, isn't it?

                        Talk to you tomorrow..

                        "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

                        by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 09:32:42 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

        •  We've slowly become immune to (4+ / 0-)

          anything prison related. Our President and his administration over the previous two terms of Bushism made the argument that Abu Ghraib and waterboarding and similar torture were okay as long as the one being tortured was a bad guy. Too many accepted that argument and have been disinformed that inmates in the U.S. lay around all day, watch cable T.V., have rec and work-out equipment and still whine for more.

          Society has become confused and has difficulty now separating reality from propaganda where inmates and prison issues are concerned, so many stay out of the argument, fearing they'll wind up on the "losing" side of the arguments.

          With more and more families now having a loved one, friend, co-worker or associate in jail or prison, one would think they would realize they are becoming more and more at said, "Who will be there to speak for you when they come...if there was no one to speak for others when they were here with you?"

          "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:48:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  ALEC is institutionalized corruption (8+ / 0-)

         and privatization is always wrong. Thanks for this diary.

    When a President goin' through the White House door does what he says he'll do, we'll all be drinkin' that free Bubble-Up and eatin' that Rainbow Stew - Merle

    by Azazello on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:23:59 PM PST

  •  That explains the "War on Drugs". (6+ / 0-)
    •  Precisely and the corporations owned by (6+ / 0-)

      Conservatives and others with deep pockets, contemplated and predicted the impact from the drug laws upon incarceration, bonding and related criminal justice programs.

      They put everything in motion and in place prior to the passing of the legislation, got in on the ground floor and through lobbying were able to expand to privatized prisons through Tennessee's top Republican. The rest is history.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:42:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Picot verde

        And that's not even touching on the oil industry. I wonder if their aggressiveness toward hemp overlaps with their friends (?) who run the private prison industry.

        •  In any cause - especially the pursuit of (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DaNang65, SlackwareGrrl

          profits - there can be many overlaps. BP, Chevron, Exon Mobil are all players as are many others who rely upon oil to mfg. textiles (from synthetics) and hemp presents a threat to their markets. Probably one reason why anyone caught growing it is subject to arrest and imprisonment. Works like a well oiled consortium that represents the interests of a cabal whose interests cover the full spectrum - from protection of market and resources to prosecution of those who they perceive as posing a financial threat to the operations of any one member.

          "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:11:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I guess the ability to remain outraged is subject (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan

    to simple exhaustion, for most of us. The pisser is being aware of this stuff and knowing that like with the MIC there is not hardly a dam' thing the rest of us can try to do about it. Except stay out of the way, out of view, below the trench line... "Exposes" don't even ring the first bell any more.

    Sweet Jesus, what kind of people are we? In the aggregate, that is -- I'm sure progressives are morally much better. Except for our contingent of gun people, maybe.

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:30:32 PM PST

    •  We have to put the right people in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      office to initiate any changes to the laws that have been put in place allowing all of this. That is the only thing that makes sense...boycotting those involved would be a drop in the bucket 'cause there's so damn many of them spread out in all categories: phone, internet, grocers, agriculture, toys, home furnishings, fast food and of late call centers to take your travel or vacation reservations.

      We have to include these issues in the battle over criminal justice reform that was on the horizon and is moving toward us, picking up speed. The Conservatives - without admitting their part in the increase in incarceration - are moving to make reforms and it is important that we get our representative onboard to take part. Failure to do so will result in the R's simply picking up the same deck and re-dealing without a shuffle or cut.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:02:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You've heard of Pastor Niemuller, right? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Bob Sloan

      They came for the junkies, but I was not a junkie, so I said nothing.
      They came for the pot heads, but I was not a pot head, so I said nothing.
      It's time to recognize that staying out of the way, out of view, below the trench line, isn't going to save you.
      They'll be coming for you soon (speeding ticket?, running a stop sign?), I hope there's nobody left too "exhausted" to say something for you.
      Or you can get up off your butt, recognize that this is what used to be our America has become, and be part of the Resistance.

      Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty, too. Townes van Zandt.

      by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:10:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well said and as appropriate now as it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        was many years ago when I heard it in it's original form.

        Anyone who sits back and doesn't protest what is happening to us all, is either doing so from disbelief or are put off from conservatives putting a "prisoner" label on everything associated with making profits from incarceration. They have possibly become addicted to the continual doses of fear that is thrown at society to keep us in place and needing them to "keep us safe".

        "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

        by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:15:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I would have answered the poll choice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaNang65, Bob Sloan

    "it depends" if it had been offered.  

    Unlike at least one commentator, I don't think privatization is always wrong.  I think there are services or traditional government functions that can be privatized and that privatization does not inevitably lead to increased cost.

    But I don't think either law enforcement or corrections should be privatized.  There's too much power contained in those functions and too much potential for abuse of that power.

    •  The government is a non-profit institution, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Picot verde, DaNang65, peachcreek

      the CEO of the United States government makes only $400k.
      Privatization always costs more, count on it.

      When a President goin' through the White House door does what he says he'll do, we'll all be drinkin' that free Bubble-Up and eatin' that Rainbow Stew - Merle

      by Azazello on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 05:52:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes and they're allowing that fact (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to be exploited by those who who have convinced that government that they can do it better, for a profit of course. Without proper oversight how do we or the government determine if that's a true statement or not?

        "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

        by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:31:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  So - your view of government (0+ / 0-)

        Is that all the overhead cost is a CEO that makes $400K?

        I'm sorry, but that's laughable.  

        Government has a huge overhead cost.  Larger than some efficiently run business.

        Not all business are bloated and inefficient.  Some are, no doubt.  I've seen terrible examples.  But not all.

        And it's not that difficult to craft a selection process that can deliver comparable services to the public, in certain functions, at less cost than government can do.

        •  It is common sense (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bob Sloan

          that privatizing will always cost substantially more than a government program because there is a profit added to the cost of the program.  One more item on the spread sheet and a large one at that.   If a government program is costing to much then look for graft and waste but do not turn it over to privaization.  Quality will be reduced so that profit can be made.  It is not a tough equation to figure out

          Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in...

          by tobendaro on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 06:30:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  You're right in one respect and that is (0+ / 0-)

          that in some instances privatization can be cost effective when compared to government expenditures for the same service but not where prison and community safety and security are involved. I believe that to profit off of incarceration in this manner provides too much incentive to lock up more men and women to increase profits.

          The problem comes in when the financial expectations of the contractor eats away at the proposed savings to the state or community. If the purpose is to save taxpayers money through private operations, that should be a priority and come first. Profits should then be had out of any savings. In the cause under discussion, the prison contractors went in with the intent of seeking a reward first and looking to efficient operating costs second. It is tax dollars monitored by governments - who have a history of not looking closely enough at the expenditures and costs of those spent tax dollars that allows such huge salaries to be paid in exchange for a reduction of the expected and contracted services.

          The fact that the corporate CEO's and top officials of the company earn far in excess of those who perform the same services on a government payroll is not the determinant factor. What is important is that the services provided have so far been lacking when compared to the state provided services and costs prior to privatization. When huge profits are earned from providing less security, reduced food costs, less well trained staffing, less medical treatment,then there's a trade off: reduced services in exchange for profits.

          The goal should be to provide the same quality services as the state is required to do and do it more efficiently. Profits should come out of the "efficiency" promised to get the contract.

          By using guards with less training and fewer of them per shift the contractor is putting the community at risk. In essence, the taxpayers are paying these corporations lots of money to do a worse job than the state did, at a higher cost per inmate or bed.

          "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 07:34:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I have to agree on both counts. Some (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, peachcreek

      privatization has shown it can work but most successes have come from relatively small efforts, well contained and overseen for adherence to the agreement or contract.

      With law enforcement and prison operations - and anything connected to it; food service, health services, banking, transportation, canteen or phone services - the amount of money passing through multiple hands offers great incentive to those who are not watched closely. Florida is a perfect, if imperfect example of that. They have had two heads of the Private Prisons Commission dismissed for corruption (one now in prison for embezzlement) their former Secretary of the FDOC and one of his regional directors were indicted and sent to federal prison, the head of the Private prison industry corporation, PRIDE, was forced to resign (as were two other executives involved)over the formation of 9 spin-off corporations used to launder money made from prison labor.

      Similarly, I would not want to see a privatization of Medicaid, worker's comp, unemployment compensation or like programs.

      Privatizing agencies such as the state BMV would not present near the risk of corruption.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:28:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is a fundamental issue. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Sloan

        Consider: Two kids have lemonade stands, both pay the same for ingredients, lemons, sugar and water. One wants to make a profit, one wants only to serve lemonade.
        Who has the lower price ? Why is this not obvious ?

        When a President goin' through the White House door does what he says he'll do, we'll all be drinkin' that free Bubble-Up and eatin' that Rainbow Stew - Merle

        by Azazello on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:59:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is the constant use of and reliance (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          upon disinformation that makes one believe the kid wanting to make a profit is the answer.

          The privatization enthusiast and proponents made great promises of saving all of us millions in tax dollars if we would only allow "them" to run programs, prisons, highways, turnpikes, schools, healthcare, etc. Guaranteed it, by God! I don't know if you recall or not but in many states after 18 to 24 months when that "savings" did not materialize, excuses were made to the governments contracted with; "this is all new and we had many unanticipated stumbling blocks, but we're getting it all straightened out - promise." During that initial frame of the privatization trials, the corporations involved made great profits and paid themselves large bonuses that weren't figured into the process. Take out the over-salaried executives and unearned bonuses, and it may have worked.

          The lawmakers who were being handsomely rewarded by lobbyists, nodded and grinned, telling taxpayers that; "though we didn't save as much as anticipated, it was a good decision to privatize and over the course of the next ten or 12 years we'll realize a profit."

          This charade became habitual, with the corporations making more and more and giving more back as a way of salving politicians consciences, turning their frowns into smiles. They kept telling us it was working and yada, yada...until the next time rolled around and the next...

          What they should have done as stewards of taxpayer's hard earned money was to cancel contracts and get past consideration of privatization, by finding it was not worth it.

          When special interests with unlimited funding go to work on weak and greedy politicians - there is no one representing the public to take his/her other ear and put equal money in the other pocket. By this there is no equality left in our society. Those with money and influence get what they want. They've used our government to enrich themselves and are willing to pay a portion of their gains to willing politicians to keep their status quo - and to pass new laws that further enrich them.

          "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 08:23:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's not that simple (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          And if you've thought it through, you would know that.

          Government doesn't only want to serve lemonade.

          It wants to regulate society and build and maintain infrastructure and maintain a work force and is slow to respond to changes and has a multitude of other responsibilities.

          As it should have.

          As it needs to have.

          And that's the problem.

          Private business does not in all cases have higher overhead than government.  That is a fact.

          Let me give you an example:

          If you sign up to the state of Oregon's voluntary cleanup (environmental contamination remediation) program you will sign a document committing you to paying for the hourly rate of an environmental regulator, and associated indirect costs, required to oversee your project.  

          The rate you pay is similar to that you would pay for private consultants who actually perform the work.

          Yet the professionals involved from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are, on average, less experienced, less knowledgeable, and less capable than their private consultant counterparts. Sometimes it's a small difference.  Sometimes there's a gulf between the two.

          But they cost a similar amount.

          That's just an example: one with which I'm personally familiar.

          But it's not unique.  

          My opinion is that there are government functions that can be privatized at lower cost than government can deliver them.  Functions such as waste collection and disposal.  Road maintenance.  Bridge design.  Sewage treatment plants.

          Not in all cities in all cases.  But in some, absolutely.

          •  IF and a big IF at that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bob Sloan

            If there are solid laws about minimum wage, non-employer based health insurance (i.e. public option, etc), college tuition assistance, work place speech rights, whistle blower protections, % of gross receipts that must be paid back out in services (i.e. 80% rule for health insurance corps), overtime, gender equity in pay, age discrimination protection, and so on and so on; I’d be more likely to view privatization of government functions as valid. Typically privatization = mess with labor. This nation needs a better set of worker protections before anything else currently managed by the government should be privatized.

            •  Well said and completely agreed to. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              So far privatization has only shown that it can provide profits for the corporations involved - by providing less in the services contracted for. A profit is the goal of corporations and does not fit well with either incarceration or health care issues.

              "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

              by Bob Sloan on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 09:10:55 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Great series (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you for researching and posting.

    I find private prisons inherently an obscenity, and the nuts and bolts of the system that you expose further validate my viewpoint.

    The criminal justice system needs a top to bottom overhaul, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

    History doesn't repeat itself -- at best it sometimes rhymes- Samuel Clemens

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:25:16 PM PST

    •  Believe it or not I have to (4+ / 0-)

      disagree. That would not have been my position 12 months ago, but over the past year (and believe me I hate to admit it) the conservatives have decided that our criminal justice system needs an overhaul. They cite too tough laws (that they created and passed), increased prison costs (ditto) and the current economy as all good reason for reform. Led by prominent Conservative R's. Many states are now pushing for the same reforms - chief among them, Republican states such as Florida, Indiana, Ohio and of course, California.

      This is why I keep harping on Dems to step up and get involved in the discussions NOW instead of allowing the R's to take the initiative and us having to play catch-up or accept now and change later what the enact now.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 06:40:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I sure hope that you are right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Sloan

        Taking cannabis off of schedule one status should be a no--brainer even for a member of the Know-Nothing party.

        History doesn't repeat itself -- at best it sometimes rhymes- Samuel Clemens

        by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 01:01:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're right. I have never understood (1+ / 0-)

          the passion society throws behind marijuana laws. I mean it is costing us millions to put someone in prison for possessing or using something natural to our environment.

          Believe it or not, the big Pharma companies are the ones lobbying hardest against it, as they perceive it as a threat to their monopoly on medicating us. Self medication using MJ is not allowed.

          Take a look at the ALEC website's Private Enterprises Board or better yet check out's site. SCroll down to the Pharmaceuticals listing and see the number and names of the corporations involved with ALEC. ALEC is the leading Conservative group lobbying for keeping cannabis on schedule one status and trying to increase sentence requirements for use and possession.

          "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

          by Bob Sloan on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 01:16:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  the Quaker Meeting in Athens (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan

    works in concert with a local project working with jails/prisons and the inmates called the Athens Justice Project.  Quakers have a long history of being persecuted themselves (more so in England, which is why many came to the colonies as they were at the time) and of work for the downtrodden.  They were instrumental in the "Underground Railroad" prior to and during the Civil War.  The Quaker principle that everyone possesses the Light of the deity within them leads many Quakers to work for the rights of all, including prisoners and inmates.

  •  I believe this is apt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan

    "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." ~ Mahatma Ghandi

    People living in povery ridden neighborhoods need a more clear path to better ecomonic times. This would not include:

    1. Wars on drugs
    1. Abstinence only sex education
    1. Disenfranchisement at the polls
    1. Priviatization of their schools
  •  The same ills are getting into schools (0+ / 0-)

    The right's, and sadly some members of the left's, attack on the public school system is walking down the same road. I expect this nonsense from the right, but when Obama is cheerleading the effort I don't care for it.

    •  I don't either. Schools are one of the most (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      important social programs to our society. Already teachers are being way underpaid, given huge classes to teach and expectations of performance are over the top for what they're paid.

      If we scrimp on education, society will pay the price for that in the upcoming generation. This is what has happened over the past 40 years and led us to this particular place in history - with lower education expectations and costs. Part of the problem is the amount of funding diverted from education to criminal justice. Thus our politicians truly believe society is better served through imprisonment rather than quality education. To privatize an already failing and underfunded program is to risk even more inadequate education in order to extract profits from the meager funds available.

      "Inmates should be reformed...not recycled"

      by Bob Sloan on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 09:17:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What's funny (0+ / 0-)

        Is that in a lot of school systems (i.e. affulent suburbs) the teacher salary scale is not underpaying teachers. Sadly my school is not one that pays a ton, but I love my job and my salary is not horrible. Where I think teachers are getting screwed are in the following areas:

        1. Attacks on our rights to organize and strike (we still can strike in PA)
        1. Increase in number of students per teacher and/or increase in numer of periods instructed vs. planning time.
        1. Increase in school year/day length
        1. Descrease in the pension system that makes up for front end salaries being lower
        1. Descrease in job protections based on false understandings of contracts and proper ways to evaluate teachers

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