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:
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:
From our inception, APV has argued against the privatization of the criminal justice system. Imprisoning people for profit can only lead to corruption and a cynical twisting of the law for perverse ends. The article below relates to an ACLU report just released that examines the history and future of the private prison industry, “Banking on Bondage: Mass Incarceration and Private Prisons”. Undocumented labor, non-violent criminals and the failed drug war all come together at the nexus of the private, for profit jail. Can the re-institution of the debtors’ prison, once favored by unlikely leading Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich be far behind?
“For private prisons whose profits are dependent on a constant and growing pool of prisoners, that means supporting policies that maintain and even increase the incarceration rate. For inmates, that translates to longer sentences, unsanitary conditions, and as Shapiro documents in the ACLU report, brutal violence, corruption, and abuse with little to no oversight.”
And this, the experts tell us, is only the beginning. The price of our loaf of bread is forecast to increase by up to 90% over the next 20 years. That will mean yet more upheavals, more protest, greater desperation, heightened conflicts over water, increased migration, roiling ethnic and religious violence, banditry, civil war, and (if past history is any judge) possibly a raft of new interventions by imperial and possibly regional powers.
And how are we responding to this gathering crisis?
Well, there’s room for improvement. In fact, our contribution of military aggression seems to be counter-productive. Realizing the nature and causes of regional hunger is critical to predicting violent conflict and government failure at home and elsewhere. Our humanitarian fabric is weakened by state policy. Fleeing hunger, a move to survive, is an unraveling condition forced on our neighbors in the world today, and unheeded, unattended will certainly be part of our undoing.
“Already the poorest on this planet spend 80% of what incomes they have on food staples and those prices are expected to double in the next two decades.”
This is a good article that includes Breaking Bread – a TOMCAST EPISODE with Christian Parenti discussing critical issues that cause hunger, and his well received new book. Climate change, crop shortages, drug cash, state policy and violent conflict are merged into a recipe for disaster – a warning that should not be ignored.
A recent case in point, the mass exodus of starving Somalis is here.
In David Zlutnick’s interview, the always candid Charles Bowden calls it as he sees it describing a critical picture of days to come. “…the extreme violence seen in Mexico is a sign of a deeper societal disintegration resulting from governmental corruption, failed economic policies, and the War on Drugs.” We can’t fix Mexico, he says, but we could stop making it worse.
“We cannot run a country with a secret underclass. We cannot run a country where there’s two types of human beings. We did it once; it caused a civil war, killed 600,000 people, and set back an entire region of our country—the South—for a century. Finally end the War on Drugs. There’s no solution, for Mexico or the United States, by giving tens of billions of dollars a year to a criminal class.” ~Charles Bowden
Bowden alludes to Wachovia in the interview as well as the “drug cash” bank rescue, so this is a good back up piece by Observer from guardian.co.uk.
How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico’s murderous drug gangs:
The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the “legal” banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.
At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to banks on the brink of collapse. “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade,” he said. “There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.”