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By the Numbers: The U.S.’s Growing For-Profit Detention Industry

From private prisons to immigration detention, we break down the numbers and companies in the industry.

Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images file photo

The growth of the private detention industry has long been a subject of scrutiny. A recent eight-part series in the New Orleans Times-Picayune chronicled how more than half of Louisiana’s 40,000 inmates are housed in prisons run by sheriffs or private companies as part of a broader financial incentive scheme. The detention business goes beyond just criminal prisoners.

As a Huffington Post investigation pointed out last month, nearly half of all immigrant detainees are now held in privately run detention facilities. Just this week, the New York Times delved into lax oversight at industrial-sized but privately run halfway houses in New Jersey.

We’ve taken a look at some of the numbers associated with the billion-dollar and wide-ranging for-profit detention industry—and the two companies that dominate the market:

General Statistics:

1.6 million: Total number of state and federal prisoners in the United States as of December 2010, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics

128,195: Number of state and federal prisoners housed in private facilities as of December 2010

37: percent by which number of prisoners in private facilities increased between 2002 and 2009

217,690: Total federal inmate population as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Prisons

27,970: Number of federal inmates in privately managed facilities within the Bureau of Prisons

33,330: Estimated size of detained immigrant population as of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Corrections Corporation of America

66: number of facilities owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison company based on number of facilities

91,000: number of beds available in CCA facilities across 20 states and the District of Columbia

$1.7 billion: total revenue recorded by CCA in 2011

$17.4 million: lobbying expenditures in the last 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

$1.9 million: total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

$3.7 million: executive compensation for CEO Damon T. Hininger in 2011

132: recorded number of inmate-on-inmate assaults at CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center between Sept. 2007 and Sept. 2008

42: recorded number of inmate-on-inmate assaults at the state-run Idaho State Correctional Institution in the same time frame (both prisons at the time held about 1,500 inmates)

The Geo Group, Inc., the U.S.’s second largest private detention company

$1.6 billion: total revenue in year 2011, according to its annual report

65: number of domestic correctional facilities owned and operated by Geo Group, Inc.

65,716: number of beds available in Geo Group, Inc.’s domestic correctional facilities

$2.5 million: lobbying expenditures in the last 8 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

$2.9 million: total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

$5.7 million: executive compensation for CEO George C. Zoley in 2011

$6.5 million: damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit against the company last June for the beating death of an inmate by his cellmate at a GEO Group-run Oklahoma prison. An appeal has been filed and is pending.

$1.1 million: fine levied against the company in November 2011 by the New Mexico Department of Corrections for inadequate staffing at one of its prisons

Robert Kenter

June 20, 2012, 3:21 p.m.

Look for a 3 volume book being released Sept 30, 2012 by Byron Price and John Morris on this subject,

http://www.amazon.com/Prison-Privatization-volumes-Controversial-Industry/dp/0313395713/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340223538&sr=1-2

Sounds like the true criminals are those operating the prison industrial complex (not those at the prisons).  No wonder the “war on drugs” and the imigration issue has been successful for the prison industrial complex, but the flow of drugs has not been deministed in any appreciable way.  People cannot legally get pot, so they make meth or purchase K2 or Bath Salts.  Lets just call it “The Second Great Experiment” after prohibition.  Except this has gone on for over three decades.  Even the immigration issue has decreased as the job are fewer and probably don’t have the pay differential, since the many of our manufacturing plants are in Mexico.

The only winners: Drug Cartels &  . . . . . yes you guessed it “ding” -  The Prison Industrial Complex. ALL ON OUR DOLLAR!

The moral hazards are so serious as to dwarf the crimes of many offenders. It is a cancer in the heart of the nation. Reverse this trend, now.

Catharine J Lofroos

June 20, 2012, 4:07 p.m.

Please also know that these companies (NYSE: CSW & GEO respectively)  are traded on Wall Street.
Their incentives to deter crime are a conflict of interest in re: to shareholders, share price, and their Profit & Loss Statements.

The bodies of people of color, mostly males, women, and those of us in the ‘under-classes’, (i.e. living in poverty) are fodder for the Incarceration Industry and for profiteering.

It’s amazing, also, how many companies profit in other ways from incarceration. For example, who knows how much it costs a person in prison to talk on the phone with their family members? More than those of us on the outside pay.
Oftentimes, hotel furniture is made by inmates, although they may make $0.10/hour to ‘pay society back’ while they are incarcerated to ‘pay back society.’

Complete overhauling of our judicial system is a must now.
http://www.shahislam.com.

Stephanie Palmer

June 20, 2012, 6:08 p.m.

Running a prison is a job to benefit the public. It’s not a job at which anyone should make a profit. Private prisons are not only far too expensive, they are immoral.

The “Crime of Punishment”: The US has twice as many of its citizens in prison than “Communist China” which has 5 times our population.  America has 5% of the world’s population yet 25% of the world’s prisoners –most of whom are “guilty” of non-violent “crimes” (e.g. a citizen gets a speeding ticket, doesn’t appear in court because he can’t afford to pay the fine, the judge issues a bench warrant, the man is arrested and routinely “overcharged” (falsely accused of resisting arrest, possessing planted contraband, etc.) and placed on the criminal justice treadmill for the rest of his life.  Yet America routinely lectures other countries on their civil rights.  I’ve heard European citizens refer to us as The United Gulags of America.  Police and prison guard unions are among the largest contributors to political campaigns, so we keep hiring cops while firing teachers, dramatically reducing our ability to compete in the global economy.  This has been going on for decades now,,,

Valerie Davis

June 20, 2012, 9:40 p.m.

I tell you, we have trains go by our home many times daily and anymore I think of how soon it may be that we will be rounded up to go on them and be sent to these places…

Fiona Mackenzie

June 20, 2012, 10:52 p.m.

We hold the developed world record for prisoners, by a mile.  Remember, states selling their prisons to private owners are required by the contract they sign to keep those prisons 90% full at all times.  It is expected that all prisons will be privatized; therefore, the incredible, outrageous number of Americans in prison CANNOT, by contract, be reduced.

The ALEC section of Model Bills on prisons, including privatization, also contains the model bill called, in Arizona, SB-1070, a bill requiring police to pick up anyone they think MIGHT be foreign, therefore undocumented; the people thus picked up are imprisoned, often without the opportunity to contact anyone, for two or three weeks before they have an opportunity to obtain and show their documents proving their immigration status.

I am so glad you have featured this subject!! They use the inmates to work for them for nearly nothing, so they can make a huge profit - while they complain about China not paying their workers very much!
also, they used to use inmates to work on the roads, etc. and save the government money; now they let someone else make money while they pay out millions to fix the roads.
Back in the 1950’s when I lived in Montgomery, AL, The Kilby prison system was a self-sustaining, non-profit prison (now known as Folsom prison). They had a dry cleaners, a dairy farm, a vegetable truck farm, a laundry, etc. that made profit only to run the prison.
They also did not put the non-violent prisoners in with the violent ones!!! The prison for non-violent crimes was Draper Prison. My dad used to do Bible studies there with some of them.
I do not believe in continuing to punish inmates by treating them badly, serving inadequate food, denying them a few amenities, etc. Instead of building and funding more prisons, they need to spend that money on effective programs that deter people from going to prison. One of the worst things they overlook is preparing inmates to go back into the community and make it illegal to ask someone if they have ever been in prison. Recidivism is rampant only because of the obstacles in trying to live a normal life and have a job and housing.
I have never been so shocked in my life as I was when we began visiting an inmate in a federal prison, and looked around in the visiting room at WHO was there! One of them was a young dentist doing three months for some federal tax problem, one an old man from Alaska that had a pot plant in his yard for medicinal purposes, and on and on.
The security officers are taught to continue to punish the inmates any way they can; teach them that they are bad people and deserve to be treated like scum. 
We are the only country in the world that incarcerates any and all offenders, have many times the inmates of anyone else. Most other countries have political prisoners and the truly bad criminals only.
Very shocking in the land of the free!!

Fiona Mackenzie

June 21, 2012, 1:21 a.m.

The situation, which is just beginning to get really bad, already results in imprisonment of youngsters in previously unimaginable amounts—both girls and boys.  This plan, we now know, was behind some states’ passing new laws requiring that all inmates serve 90% of their sentences before they are eligible for parole. And there has already been one conviction of a judge for receiving payoff from a private prison for sentencing juveniles to prison who would ordinarily have been put on probation. Brutality in the private prisons is reported to be hideously greater than in public prisons—which are no vacation already.

This is becoming a hideously inhumane nation, overall.  The cause, in case anyone doesn’t know, is the rapid, constant flow of American wealth to the top 1% under, primarily, the tax cuts for the rich—which has put them and us in such disparate economic positions that they were able to put enough of their servants in Congress to virtually (by plan) paralyze the government.  Kochs have guaranteed to raise a billion dollars to defeat President Obama this year (that’s how they put it—not to elect their sorry candidate, but to defeat O).  Four of the S.C. justices have ties to ALEC, and two of them are members who regularly attend the meetings at which ALEC members receive their marching orders.  When they have the White House, the situation with the prisons will pervade every governmental function and every freedom we have enjoyed.

Edmund Singleton

June 21, 2012, 2:29 a.m.

In who’s interest is it to keep overkill laws on the books?

People - so ready with that mob mentality and put down the people who work and run the private sector. No one wants prisoners of any kind to get sub standard care - especially if perhaps they are a loved one or awaiting trial and not convicted of a crime.  Do you think it is cheap and easy to maintain security and health care for growing numbers of inmates? 
As a nurse in corrections I saw some of the most neglected and sick populations, including Mental Health, HIV-AIDS and Drug Alcohol Addictions.  They are a complex population, in the past when not handled by private industry often considered a “disposable” population. 

It is good to have the government for oversight and monitor abuses. Perhaps folks should be happy that when the criminals of all ilks- are caught - either lining their own coffers, violent offenders, white collar, some in law enforcement or otherwise high profile, that there is a place for hard working professionals to provide services safely and humanely for all parties involved.

We jail more people per capita than China or Apartheid-era South Africa, or the USSR in its heyday for that matter. This has to stop, the private prison lobby keeps pushing for more laws and harsher punishment, longer sentences, and less paroles. They also try to block any attempt to use DNA to find and exonerate innocent people who may have been jailed either by accident or maliciously. The private prison lobby also pours money into making sure eyewitness accounts are still being used in court in order to jail people, even though it’s been proven by neuroscientists that it’s incredibly fallible and misleading. Check out the Innocence Project, and send them money. They’ve used DNA to help exonerate innocent people that had been languishing in prison for decades. When innocent people end up in jail, the guilty walk free to commit more crimes. We need a justice system, what we have now is a private factory that satisfy our greed for revenge.

mike tikkanen

June 21, 2012, 9:35 a.m.

As negative as this article paints the for profit prison industry, it misses the same policies being implemented in Juvenile Justice.  Pennsylvania recently sent a judge to prison for many years when it was discovered he had been receiving commissions for each youth he sentenced into the private detention center (many were completely innocent of any crime).

http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2012/06/15/making-big-money-with-abused-mississippi-has-the-plan/

This is an area being abused at many levels, and not suited for the vagaries of private enterprise.

invisiblechildren.org

Everyone should read Michelle Alexander’s book, “Mass Incarceration: the New Jim Crow” to really understand this subject.  Private prisons are just the tip of the iceberg.

George Sr. and friends started the for profit inside prison ihdustry; Unicore Ind. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25376

Natalie, right now, a third of adults are either in prison or similarly monitored (probation, for example).  Do you really think a third of the population is legitimately a threat to society?  That doesn’t sound remotely plausible to me.

Even if so, do you think the prison owners have the right to force the prisoners to work for pennies?  We used to call working for room, board, and “pin money” slavery, remember.

And let’s not forget the conditions that these “hard working professionals” provide, where prison rape (and the resultant spreading of STDs) is so common that it’s trumpeted at potential offenders as a formal deterrent.  Classy, right?

Oh, and the half-million kids in detention, in a country where nearly everyone who ends up on death row was in juvenile detention.  That suggests that we’re either failing to help them or we’re harming them.

All of that assumes, by the way, that every conviction is legitimate.  There’s increasing evidence that this is not the case, as Marcos suggests.  And if you don’t believe him, there’s “Kids for Cash” in Pennsylvania.

It sounds to me like you’re considering the prisons to be disposable population.  Calling the people running this show “professionals” or “safe and humane”...well, let’s just say that I hope I never have them offering you or me help.

(If anybody’s looking for references, start with “Incarceration in the United States” at Wikipedia.  There was also a recent TED talk that discussed death row inmates; I’d provide more information, but the site’s blocked from my office.)

Arlene La Hera

June 21, 2012, 10:15 a.m.

All prisons should be graded and get marks on reformation and rehabilitation and recidivism - just like a school.

They should be rewarded for low recidivism rates and penalized for high.

There should be separate facilities for those criminals who are never getting out of jail and others who have a chance to live a “normal” life on the outside.

One thing to remember is right now, in this economic climate, prisoners are among the few groups with medical care, a roof over their head and 3 meals a day.
People are not guaranteed that in life. There is no promise of any of those in our money based and merciless society.
Why reform? For love?
They have few skills and all but the very worst employers reject them. They are stuck in poverty stricken areas with unprincipled people.
For many of them people there is NO incentive NOT to wind up back in jail.

We have to fix this system or it will be back to bite us in the buttocks.

Arlene La Hera

June 21, 2012, 10:19 a.m.

Sooo….Guantanamo Bay is a business model???

anybody ever seen “Escape from New York”
use one of the many islands off the California coast to
house ‘true’ criminals….....

In 1986 I worked for a innovative trading company on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Unknowing to me it was owned by a major Evangelical family.  During my tenure there I noted that there were a few side businesses such as building and running prisons.  By the way they were also funding young men to go to China to scout things out.  All in the name of God of course…...............

Natalie, the medical expense problem still falls on the states’ budgets, the private for profit prisons only accept healthy inmates capable of slave labor. This causes state budgets to further spiral downward.

The Government should take over these privatized prison corporations.  The abuses in terms of executive pay, mistreatment of prisoners, over-crowding is worthy of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticism to put the US on the list of nations that emphasize profits over human rights.  This is disgusting and unacceptable.  Privatizing government functions including mercenary organizations that help DOD, along with private prisons needs to be banned NOW!!!!

Michael Butler

June 21, 2012, 1:02 p.m.

Who says crime doesn’t pay? It pays lots of people really well… So why would they even want to stop crime or drugs? would it pay the same dividends? NO. Better to “crop” the criminals, three strike the laws, double bunk em, make more laws and make a profit…. I see…

It is very important to point out that the owners and monied interests behind the private prisons in America ALSO bankroll the election campaigns for both democrat and republican elected officials.  So guess what happens:  the “war on drugs” hysteria and “three strikes your out” laws are in truth being written by the private prison corporate lobbyists!  They bankroll corrupt politicians election campaigns and then return the favor by passing legislation that helps build more prisons—-and most disgustingly—-fill those prisons with non-violent offenders who shouldn’t be there in the first place!  This is capitalism OUT OF CONTROL, preying on humanity.  How fucked up is that!?  This corrupt shit has to stop NOW.

This has been going on since emancipation when former Masters lost their free labor and were angry.  The good ole boys began rounding up men and women for minor “transgressions” (if any at all).  Hence, chain gangs, license plates, highway clearing, etc…  The prison system is a big money maker for corporations, and, let’s face it, the investors are more than likely white, and we know the predominance of people of color who are incarcerated.  We are delusional to think our court system has any type of true, unbiased justice occurring.  The veil is falling and we are waking up to the realities of the lies, pain, violence, and travesty a capitalistic society creates when greed dominates so many people’s lives.

Rachel Ethier Rosenbaunm

June 21, 2012, 2:48 p.m.

I am reminded as I read this that Governor Ann Brewer when she signed the “tough immigration” law in Arizona coincidentally was sending these immigrants to privatized prisons in which her husband was a major shareholder.

Fiona Mackenzie

June 21, 2012, 4:37 p.m.

Mike, I don’t see how the private sector is not a problem in the case where private facilities bribed a judge to sentence kids to prison instead of putting them on probation (which I mentioned above, I believe).  At least public prisons have no gain from bribing judges to send them more prisoners.

Natalie, it is hardly “mob mentality” when the structure and treatment of prisoners and sentencing and the whole justice system—a public function if ever there was one—has another and another and another terribly corrupt, brutal, vicious, unwarranted report coming out every few days.  The result of privatizing prisons has already been beyond scandalous, and it’s just getting under way.  People who dismiss these facts as unimportant or irrelevant without study are the people with biases or “mob mentality.”

Zam—Everything happening is this sector is created by ALEC through its Model Bills for prisons.  ALEC is also buying the presidency, not for Romney of course who won’t have any responsibilities, but for themselves—to complete the virtual enslavement of the American working class that they are accomplishing so quickly in so many states.  As you said.

Fiona Mackenzie

June 21, 2012, 4:40 p.m.

I don’t see how the private sector is not a problem in the case where private facilities bribed a judge to sentence kids to prison instead of putting them on probation (which I mentioned above, I believe).  At least public prisons have no gain from bribing judges to send them more prisoners.

Natalie, it is hardly “mob mentality” when the structure and treatment of prisoners and sentencing and the whole justice system—a public function if ever there was one—has another and another and another terribly corrupt, brutal, vicious, unwarranted report coming out every few days.  The result of privatizing prisons has already been beyond scandalous, and it’s just getting under way.  People who dismiss these facts as unimportant or irrelevant without study are the people with biases or “mob mentality.”

Zam—Everything happening is this sector is created by ALEC through its Model Bills for prisons.  ALEC is also buying the presidency, not for Romney of course who won’t have any responsibilities, but for themselves—to complete the virtual enslavement of the American working class that they are accomplishing so quickly in so many states.  As you said.

Harrison Wills

June 21, 2012, 5:39 p.m.

Putting people in prison should not be a for profit scheme. For profit prison corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America are criminals themselves.

For profit prisons were once outlawed as far back as the beginning of the 20th century.

In addition, several elected officials who own stock in private prisons, such as former Tennessee Governor and now Senior Senator Lamar, along with his wife Honey Alexander, who owned stock in the early Corrections Corporation of America. There are also those officials who are on the actual payroll of these corporations, such as Manny Aragon, the New Mexico legislator who Wackenhut hired as a lobbyist for New Mexico when they were trying to begin privatization in that state.

These are the same crooked elected officials and crony corporate executives who want you to believe in the war on drugs lie. One day we will look back on this and say I cannot believe people let this happen. Privatizing the public sector is not the solution. This injustice must stop!

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want to crop without plowing the ground; they want the rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

“Are Prisons Obsolete” ~ Angela Davis. It’s an alternative view of ‘justice’ as it relates to American justice and penology.

It’s been over a month since Officer Carithers died in a riot the CCA owned Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Mississippi (an ICE facility). Nothing from Bennie Thompson (who received some of the 17.4 million CCA has used in campaign contributions to keep their agenda going) or CCA concerning the “investigation”. Looks like his death will be in vain :-(

People PLEASE read this story on what’s been going on here in Mississippi concerning the POOR history of private prisons here: http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2012/jun/06/private-prisons-public-problems/

Sign my petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-more-deaths-at-private-prisons-in-mississippi

Fiona Mackenzie

June 21, 2012, 9:50 p.m.

The conflict of interest that comes into being when a governor, a legislator, law enforcement personnel, etc. puts himself in a position to benefit in ANY WAY from imprisonment of defendants is, imho, entirely and drastically intolerable in any country that pretends to have government by the people.

We were too secure for too long.  It took more than 30 years before we pulled ourselves up and admitted that we were going to have to make some effort if we wanted to keep the life we enjoyed after WWII—and even then we did nothing about it, and pretty much still don’t.  Now we have more than one foot into tyranny, and American voters just elected Scott Walker back to the governorship of Wisconsin!  I worry that we are simply too lazy and too incompetent and too passive to save ourselves while we (maybe) still can.

Actually, Fiona, the conflict of interest goes further back.  If you run a private prison, it’s in your best long-term interests to do a lousy job.

After all, if you’re stupid enough to actually rehabilitate criminals, then you’ll release them and they won’t come back.  That decreases your head count and eventually the need for the facility.

If you can make the prisoners worse while they’re with you, though, you’ve guaranteed future business.

China has fewer prisoners becuase the excecute most offenders. Good policy, less cost to the taxpayer. If O gets relected then we can save money also.

Fiona Mackenzie

June 22, 2012, 5:58 p.m.

So Loren, do you know how executions in China work?  Prisoners are kept incarcerated until a rich family somewhere calls for an organ transplant—at a huge price.  Prisoners are tested to find ones who are possible donors (they KNOW why they are being tested!), and one is selected to be “executed” for his organs.  Too sick to be true?  Look it up.

In New york State, we house teens in detention at a cost of $750 a day. Most are there for truancy—they could not cope with the fast paced, uncaring public school system. So we take them out of school for weeks, they fall further behind, and either truant for a longer period, or drop out.. For that money we could get them tutoring and emotional support, and help for their families. In my area, the detention facilities are privately operated.

Fiona Mackenzie

June 23, 2012, 8:59 a.m.

$750 a day?  OBVIOUSLY privately operated.  The costs charged for public jails runs around $114 a day.

A story from the news, I can’t remember where:  A homeless woman was jailed because she didn’t have the money to pay the per diem for her son’s time in jail.  After she had been there for some time, she received a check she had been waiting for from some indigent program.  The jailers took the money, but refused to release her because now she owed the per diem from her own jail term…presumably increasing every day.

Remember, the states contracting with private prisons are guaranteeing 90% occupancy at all times.  Is this one way they achieve that goal?  Naturally, the woman will never be able to pay, so in the end we will owe the prison company some exorbitant amount, which we will pay to meet the 90% requirement.

it is all a racket:
“privatization” does not do it better - it merely makes whatever is being “privatized” a for-profit enterprise and automatically alter priorities away from housing criminals and suspects to squeezing more dollars out of the taxpayers - and it is facilitated by the corrupt middle-men (politicians cozy with the industry and lobbyists)

Holly Wiseman

June 24, 2012, 9:22 p.m.

This is an impressive job of pulling the numbers together, but I’m afraid they don’t have as much impact as they could because there are no visual aids such as charts.  I don’t know how you would organize the information into charts, but when I see a long list of numbers like this, they swim before my eyes.  Sorry.

Holly, I was avoiding saying anything about it, but with the ice broken, yeah, it is just meaningless noise.  I’d rather see this in context rather than fancy graphics, but it’s still a good point.

I’d much rather see the dollar values put together (for example) in some narrative than read through “percent by which” tags.

Radii, the thing is, privatization isn’t necessarily bad.  If there were multiple organizations with facilities that could compete on merit (value versus price of incarceration, rehabilitation numbers, or whatever), states could select based on what criteria are best for their people.

But that’s not how this works.  This is basically a state-sponsored monopoly, so there’s no incentive to compete or even do well.  I mean, it’s not like you or I happen to have a supermax prison in our back yards to use in a bid.

Fiona Mackenzie

June 25, 2012, 11:27 a.m.

John, don’t be misled.  Privatization does NOT rest on state-sponsored monopoly,although many public officials are complicit in what is happening. 

Privatization is a top agenda item for the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of zillionaires who seize control of state governments and implement their programs to convert the U.S.. into a two-class society, with the rest of us effectively in economic servitude to them.  Their goal, moving ahead very successfully in 26 states is NO government capable of protecting or caring for the rest of us, that is, no government they don’t control.

This is why they spent over $65 million preventing the recall of Wisconsin’s governor—they were determined that the other states on which they have a strangle hold wouldn’t get the idea that they could regain their independence. 

What they seek, by the way, is an oligarchy, which is fascism lite—a country where a small cadre of mega-rich people own government and the nation.  It is going well for them.  We are already one of the worst “banana republics,” countries where more than 17-18% of money goes to 1% of the population.  We are at about 24%, putting us ‘way ahead of, say, Central American dictatorships.

This conversation is straying off an extremely important topic: the fact that America has the largest prison population in the world.  Twice as many of our citizens are rotting in prisons than citizens of “Communist China”, which has five times our population.  The lack of public outrage over these facts is disturbing and transcends the issue of privatization.  Being imprisoned is a form of living death.  The filth, the stench, the violence, and the brutality are beyond description.  The average person, if given an opportunity, would commit suicide rather than live in a prison environment –however brief the sentence.  The crime of punishment against non-violent American citizens by those who make their living in the “punishment business” –judges, prosecutors, police, prison guards, et al– is a form of genocide.  The fact that these people are portrayed as heroes on TV crime shows and movies is sickening.  It is the inability of the average American to imagine himself imprisoned that makes our current huge prison population possible.  Perhaps America’s god-fearing Christians have forgotten that it was a government prosecutor, Pontius Pilate –not a “criminal”– who sentenced their God to be crucified.  Today Pilate would likely have his own TV series.  For decades US spending on punishment –euphemized under the label of “public safety”– has seriously eroded our budgets for education, health care, science, and the environment, and placed us at a serious disadvantage in the global economy.  For America to preach to other countries about their civil rights under our present medieval criminal justice system is the height of hypocrisy.

I think James Gala has the very best blog!  You are SO right on with everything you said!! This country has become an economy based on the gambling on Wallstreet, greed and entertainment.  The God of the universe is left in the dust; complacency is the order of the day, and we stand for nothing but our own miserable lives. Respect is out the door, don’t even have a clue what it is!  Principles are relative and selective at best.
Jesus Christ had no tolerance for abuse, but had huge compassion for people in need of true love attention; He taught respect, big time. There is a statement my husband and I have adopted for ourselves, “Truth always wins in the end”.  We have found that to always be true.  Americans are experts at hiding their heads in the sand and just going their merry way while the whole world goes to Hell.  That goodness there are still people out there who care about truth, care about our quality of life and care deeply that we are still hanging on to the greatest country that has ever existed!  It is time for its non-violent prisoners to be counseled, guided and believed in, and helped to allow the honor of being a community citizen in good standing!!!!!!

Fiona Mackenzie

June 25, 2012, 5:29 p.m.

Privatization is surely NOT straying off topic, James.  However hideous the prison system, however inappropriate the sentences, one of the most important points is that IT CANNOT BE REFORMED.  Because we have failed to keep this country from becoming an oligarchy, failed to stop fascism at our borders, we will from now on lack the ability to reform anything—and particularly anything that represents a substantial flow of money from the workers to the ruling class. 

Having allowed the takeover of our government by ALEC and its cohort, we have willingly voted to give up our capability of changing anything at all we don’t like about our country.  When Romney is elected (as he no doubt will be, since over a billion dollars has been committed to his campaign), the American Republic can no longer recover.  And prisons will get bigger, more Americans will be incarcerated, and our hands will be tied from doing anything about it.

I’d say that’s on point.

Fiona Mackenzie

June 25, 2012, 5:31 p.m.

How did you think our prison situation got the way it is?  Well, so long as we allow those same people to make our decisions for us, it isn’t going to change.

I understand all of the previous comments.  Texas is one of the worst.  I am retired and plan to use as much time as I can spare to write to senators, legislators, congressman, governors, judges, Board of Directors of Texas Prisons, support groups for the families of inmates, the news media, this must be exposed to the general public.  People get fined and put in jail for being cruel to animals.  Do you see the picture?  don’t humans deserve some rights?  Don’t they deserve better than dog food?  Why can’t they raise their own food? Wake up Americans, clean house at these prisons and start at the top.

Carolyn McCollum

July 5, 2012, 5:16 a.m.

There will, unfortunately, always be corruption within any judicial system, but the American justice system is the most fair in the world. Look around and read ! The fact that our jails are filled with such a high percentage of immigrants (are we not allowed to say how many are illegal aliens and not even supposed to be here anyway?) and ” people of color” (whatever that is) is a reflection on THOSE PEOPLE and their bad choices rather than an indication of intentional discrimination and oppression, as many comments claim. Truth hurts ! There are of course innocents who need to be freed (a tragedy) and those who shouldn’t be there for what they did (change the law) but the U.S. system is unparalleled, and the one under which fairness is most likely served.

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