Prison Industries: “Don’t Let Society Improve or We Lose Business”
Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:20
One out of every 100 people in the United States is imprisoned. Even though we are 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the prisoners in the world. We are number one in the world in the number of people we imprison – we even beat China. A normal reaction to this situation would be to try to reform our laws, our judicial system – including sentencing – our prison system and our society so that we would not have the disconcerting distinction of being the number-one jailer in the world.
Instead, in the past decade, there has been a movement to privatize more and more of our state and federal prisons to save money (which has not materialized) and ease overcrowding under the pressure of the courts. This has led to a wide world of influence peddling, self-dealing and lobbying while preying on a captured group of people to fill prison beds. Just as I have feared that privatizing the logistics of war will encourage private war-service industries to lobby for a hot war or long occupation to keep their industries viable, there has emerged a group of prison industries, state and federal legislators, and other players who will continue to benefit from our disgraceful ranking as the world’s largest warden.
There are two very large and influential prison companies in the United States who are manipulating the system to make sure they have plenty of business: The GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In the first part of this two-part series, I will explore The GEO Group’s influence peddling; next week, I will look at CCA.
If you have any doubt in your mind that improving society and lowering the number of prisoners in our country (normally considered a worthy social goal) is a threat to the prison industry business, all you need to do is to read about that concern in The GEO Group’s 2011 annual report:
In particular, the demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services and BI’s [a prison industry company Geo acquired in 2011] services could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws. For example, any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us.
This is an industry that needs misery, long sentences, rounded-up undocumented immigrants and increasing crime to flourish. In order to keep the prison beds filled, The GEO Group and others have paid out millions of dollars to lobbyists, federal and state legislators, and governors to allow our immigration problem to go unsolved, to make sure that no drugs are decriminalized and that an ineffective War on Drugs continues, and to make certain that long term prison sentences, like California’s three-strikes-and-you’re-imprisoned-for-life laws, keep a steady flow of revenue and profits flowing to their shareholders. They are also hoping that our national drop in crime is just a temporary trend.
According to California-drug-treatment.com: “Justice statistics also show that 47.5 percent of drug arrests in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Also, almost 60 percent of state prison inmates who are serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity.” One can imagine that The GEO Group and others in the industry would be very concerned about the myriad of legislative bills and ballot initiatives floating around the country that threaten to legalize marijuana and reduce their number of paying “beds.”
America’s Top Prison Corporation: A Study in Predatory Capitalism and Cronyism. Dina Rasor, Truthout: “This week, I will tackle the largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and its unprecedented proposal to buy prisons from money-strapped states, as well as how CCA has gamed the system with trips through the revolving door, self-dealing and influence peddling. Just to set the stage as to how large the prison population is in the United States: our prison population is the highest in the world; one out of 100 US residents are in prison”: here.
Isn’t It Criminal to Put People in Prison so Corporations and Individuals Can Make a Profit? Here.
The Unbelievable Brutality Unleashed on Kids in For-Profit Prisons: here.
How America’s Largest Private Prison Operator Plans to Beat Corporate Income Tax. Christopher Francis Petrella, Truthout: “Although many on the left have rightly repudiated the myriad manifestations of prison privatization characterized, in part, by involuntary prison labor, ongoing health and safety violations, corporate financing and even ‘the New Jim Crow,’ few, if any, have called attention to the relatively obscure relationship between private prison companies and their IRS corporate classification filing status. Surprisingly, IRS filing designations might offer the public its clearest glimpse into the intentions of private prison companies behind closed doors”: here.
Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: “Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has ample reasons to pat itself on the back: … several of its facilities got over 98 percent ratings for ‘safety and security’ and it rounded off 2011 with a net income of $40.5 million in earnings. But below the spin is a different reality for the company and the prisoners that it oversees – food riots and abuse scandals”: here.
Louisiana is the world’s prison capital: here.
Christine Cegelis, Truthout: “There is probably no greater waste of our taxpayer money than the increased incarceration of our population. The state of Illinois had a prison population of 7,326 inmates in 1970; in 2012, the number has risen to over 48,000. Over that period of time, the state’s population has grown only by 12 percent. The average cost of incarceration is approximately $30,000 a year, and our Department of Corrections (DOC) has a budget of over $1.5 billion”: here.
Private Prisons Spend $45 Million on Lobbying, Rake in $5.1 Billion for Immigrant Detention Alone. Aviva Shen, ThinkProgress: “Nearly half of all immigrants detained by federal officials are held in facilities run by private prison companies, at an average cost for each detained immigrant is $166 a night. That’s added up to massive profits for Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group and other private prison companies”: here.
Mark Karlin, Truthout: “Michelle Alexander: The mass incarceration of poor people of color, particularly black men, has emerged as a new caste system, one specifically designed to address the social, economic, and political challenges of our time. It is, in my view, the moral equivalent of Jim Crow”: