Daily Archives: February 22nd, 2012

Prisons, an ALEC forte

If you build it, they will come. ~Justice Policy Institute on prisons

What’s happening to the prison system at the state and federal level is completely over the top and being questioned on both sides of the aisle as seen in the Florida senate last week.

Is it possible that members of the Republican Party are rethinking their extreme neoliberal aims, or are they concerned about re-election as the public becomes more aware of their preference for all things “profit” over the needs and concerns of the American people? Maybe it’s a little of both. But the Florida Senate President sent a clear message to their dissenters when he removed Mike Fasano from the budget panel, took him off the main budget committee, and stripped him of his Senate Budget Committee Chairmanship. All that for opposing the party plans to privatize 27 Florida prisons.

It’s not about housing violent criminals anymore, or saving or creating jobs either. It’s about corporate money and the influence it has in Washington and elsewhere. While the state prison population is in decline, there’s been a 1,700 percent increase in the federal prison budget since 1980.

President Obama’s 2013 budget request cuts Medicare and Medicaid but it adds an additional 4.2 percent increase to the already ridiculous federal prison budget. At this time, that is a gross misuse of scarce federal dollars, especially as they know they’re cutting back on every program and service known to ease the problem. This is another example of the neoliberal mantra: First break it, then get paid to rebuild it in your own image, and funnel the money up to the top.

It’s a clear indication that something is haywire when 6 out of 10 federal prisoners are non-violent drug offenders. Cutting diversion programs that keep kids from entering the corrections system, along with community-based substance abuse and mental health services is a sure-fire way to increase the population prisons are concerned with, and that’s what they’re doing. Evidence-based programs for youth violence prevention, employment, job skills, and education resources for underserved communities have all been on the chopping block. What they’re doing is building more places to put more problems – after they create them. So … why are they doing that? Well, a lot of it has to do with ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Pragmatic men of power have no time or inclination to deal with . . . social morality. ~ Kenneth B. Clark

At the state level, privatization of prisons has spread across the country as ALEC’s secret corporate writers promote “templets” as model legislation for our now seemingly inept legislators. Of course, that process funnels money into political and corporate coffers with no regard for the people at all. To the contrary, the aim appears to be to fill all the prison cells they can build, since many of the laws involve new and innovative ways to do just that.

NCR did a good two-part expose’ last year on the effects of the GEO Group in Texas and Mississippi – the same company that was voted down in the Florida Senate last week. It’s a great account of where we’re headed with ALEC at the helm:

Part one: Town Relies On Troubled Youth Prison For Profits
Part two: Private Prison Promises Leave Texas Towns In Trouble

ALEC Exposed is an August 2011 series by The Nation, something I’m sure everybody will eventually get around to reading as ALEC continues to gain strength and influence. It’s an excellent series of articles – I think it’s in 5 parts. The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor is one part of it and explains, I think, why we have all this conservative focus on prison building and privatization and the subsequent need to fill those prison cells with able bodies. See what you think.

Also, on February 29, Occupy Portland has a call to action targeting corporations that are known leaders and funders of ALEC.

#F29 Shut Down the Corporations

Here’s the official page, and Common Dreams did a good piece on it yesterday: