Wednesday, May 16, 2012

World's Prison Capital is Also #1 in For-Profit Prisons

Joe Wright
Activist Post

The world's prison capital is not the United States, per capita, although it leads the world for its overall prison population. One state far outdoes America itself and incarcerates nearly double the national average.
First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's. (Source)
The U.S. prison business has become the essence of predatory corporatism: it privatizes profits and socializes losses. This combination has led to a situation where correctional facilities have very little incentive to correct the behavior of those who reside within their walls, but every incentive to ensure that new bodies arrive as fast as possible, and keep them in a state of indentured servitude.

Naturally, this is exactly what is happening in Louisiana, as the vast majority of inmates are not housed in state-run prisons, but in those owned by private corporations. The social fallout has been profound.

Corrections Corporation of America has led the charge toward creating a sound business model for those who would profit from crime and punishment since it won the first private prison contract from Tennessee in 1984. CCA has expanded nicely, recently submitting letters to 48 states with an offer to buy their prisons: "In exchange ... for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full." (Source)

America already holds 25% of the world's prison population, with the number of these prisoners held in private prisons rising dramatically over the past 10 years from 2,000 housed in 5 private prisons, to more than 60,000 housed in 100. It is a number expected to rise to 360,000 prisoners over the next decade. (Source) Moreover, as the economy declines, there has even been a revival in debtors prisons, formally abolished in the early 1800s. Perhaps more troubling is the heightened criminalization of children for behavior which previously was considered merely a nuisance, not something worthy of handcuffs and the big house.

A human product clearly has been created and fostered by a system which values the worth of potential inmates as greater than their worth as free human beings.  This has led to a captive population that can be put to work creating goods for a multitude of industries for as little as 25 cents per hour, effectively creating a growing resurgence in open slavery; all while a misinformed majority believe that more people under lock and key translates to safer neighborhoods, towns and cities.

The above trends all have converged in Louisiana, and yet have dispelled the myth that more prisoners leads to more safety for the wider society at large. In a comprehensive article for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Cindy Chang writes:
In the past two decades, Louisiana's prison population has doubled, costing taxpayers billions while New Orleans continues to lead the nation in homicides.
This is the exact type of incongruent outcome that has been noted across the board even economically, where the supposed cost-saving measures of a streamlined private enterprise should theoretically trump bloated state government bureaucracy. However, this is only to assume that we are looking at a real free-market system.  What we see instead is collusion between state governments that respond to the lobbying efforts of a prison industry dominated by select mega corporations.

The states write the legislation that paves the way for more criminals to be guaranteed lengthier stays within prison walls where corporate profits can be reaped for shareholders. It is the worst of both worlds.

And for those who care about the treatment and rehabilitation of the inmates who are set for release back into society, the belief that private industry can do a better job is a belief that also falls flat. Despite state-run prisons being generally short-staffed, overcrowded, and underfunded, Louisiana's per-day value on its human commodity within the private prison model is $24.39 - far lower than its state-run counterpart.  A focus on maximizing profits has led to a bare-bones, near concentration-camp existence where cost cutting is paramount. This has tremendous social implications, as private prison inmates are mostly serving non-life terms for mostly non-violent offenses, whereas state prison inmates are the most violent, often serving life terms:
In a cruel irony, those who could benefit most are unable to better themselves, while men who will die in prison proudly show off fistfuls of educational certificates.
Their facilities are cramped and airless compared with the spacious grounds of state prisons, where inmates walk along outdoor breezeways and stay busy with jobs or classes.
In addition to the above, the history that Chang documents of how Louisiana became the world's prison capital through the expansion of the for-profit prison network perfectly illustrates the corporatist mindset:
In the early 1990s, when the incarceration rate was half what it is now, Louisiana was at a crossroads. Under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, the state had two choices: Lock up fewer people or build more prisons. 
It achieved the latter, not with new state prisons -- there was no money for that -- but by encouraging sheriffs to foot the construction bills in return for future profits. The financial incentives were so sweet, and the corrections jobs so sought after, that new prisons sprouted up all over rural Louisiana. 
The national prison population was expanding at a rapid clip. Louisiana's grew even faster. There was no need to rein in the growth by keeping sentencing laws in line with those of other states or by putting minor offenders in alternative programs. The new sheriffs' beds were ready and waiting. Overcrowding became a thing of the past, even as the inmate population multiplied rapidly.
As we see the nation's prison populations swell, and observe the concurrent swelling of corporate prison bottom lines, we must look at the ramifications to judge if this is a model worth supporting.

With the highest percentage of its citizens locked up in a for-profit system, Louisiana should be a safe, economically prosperous state if this model is effective in aggressively removing all of the bad elements that threaten society. What we see, however, is the exact opposite: Louisiana is one of the most poverty stricken, uneducated, and dangerous states in the union. The next generation is effectively punished as well by having one or both parents locked away, while the funding needed to potentially break the cycle is diverted toward building more lockups:
Louisiana spends about $663 million a year to feed, house, secure and provide medical care to 40,000 inmates. Nearly a third of that money -- $182 million -- goes to for-profit prisons, whether run by sheriffs or private companies. 
'Clearly, the more that Louisiana invests in large-scale incarceration, the less money is available for everything from preschools to community policing that could help to reduce the prison population,' said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a national criminal justice reform group.
A nation that still purports to be the Land of the Free simply cannot continue to say that slogan with a straight face when it has literally invested in slavery. A predatory system -- even if some believe it only preys on other predators -- can only lead to a ruined social landscape like that of Louisiana; a state which should be more properly viewed as a canary in the coal mine for what lies in wait for the rest of America should it fully embrace the monetary value of a prison society.

You can find Cindy Chang's must-read article with additional graphics here:

Read other articles by Joe Wright HERE.


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citizen ron says you need to f*cking wake up said...

here's a great one for you:

ex-girlfriend jeanne capaz- then of key west, florida- was incarcerated into Broward (Florida) Women's "Correctional Facility-- PRISON-- in 2004 (for 4 yers) after having been found guilty of stealing/defrauding the local YMCA of roughly $25K. the then-president of the YMCA- also a Bank Of America manager- Mike deRoche- along with a number of other 'well-to-do', high-profile citizens who served on the Y board- had his ass in a sling because of what jeanne did. jeanne's guilt-- confessed guilt, i might add, not exposed & forced-- highlighted the ineptitude of the Y board... in other words, her thefts showed the weaknesses in the Y board (no one was watching the money come or go). so the entire board was facing some kind of trouble because of jeanne's actions. instead of those people getting their asses in a sling, the fix was in and jeanne got the maximum sentence, while the board of the key west YMCA got not even a smack on the wrist. nothing. these criminal scumbags to this day roam about committing their own crimes within the upper echelons of city government and civic endeavors (cutting everything up a little finer amongst themselves-- privatizing profits, socializing losses. elliot baron, linda shield, tommy taylor, peter rysman and a handful of other people arranged for jeanne's maximum sentence in order to bury her and THEIR screw-ups.

while in broward, jeanne had sex on at least one occasion with a black female prison guard who brought jeanne cranberry juice for her bladder infection. cranberry juice is contraband, so the only way to get it smuggled in is to screw one of the guards. this is just ONE instance of the sordid, scummy depravity that goes on in america's prisons.

prison has NOTHING to do with corrections. NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

Horrible story, but thanks for posting that. It's all a big scam like just about everything else in the good ol USA. And people still wave their flags. Pathetic.

citizen ron said...

tip of the iceberg.

this is just one person, one incident. there were many, many other instances of abuse ranging from mental to sexual to physical. i won't even go into what i personally saw there on my one visit to the broward "correctional facility", but i can guarantee you prisons have absolutely nothing to do with 'correcting' anyone. if prison did anything to jeanne capaz, it made her more of a dirtbag than she was when she went in. on the low-brow end of the spectrum, this could actually be seen as a 'correction'.

the broward correctional facility is LOADED from the top to the bottom with filth and depravity. the people in charge know this stuff goes on and many of those people engage in it, condone it and perpetuate it. EVERYONE-- the warden, the guards, the 'people' who examine the inmates' mail, prepare the 'food' (which is garbage), do the laundry, answer the phones, sweep the floors. prisons are pits of shit and slime, run by some of the worst among us, slime themselves.

here's their "mission", from their website:

(quote): "To protect the public safety, to ensure the safety of Department personnel, and to provide proper care and supervision of all offenders under our jurisdiction while assisting, as appropriate, their re-entry into society. See also our Vision, Code of Conduct and Oath of Allegiance."

i'm sure jeanne capaz' "proper care" included having sexual predator guards at the prison smuggle contraband for sex instead of sending her to the infirmary. the scumbag warden at that time was Marta Villacorta. they have a new warden now, but she's a scumbag, too.

it IS all a big scam. just about everything associated with this federal government is a scam. and the people do still wave their flags... flags are just symbols and are best left, after all, to the symbol-minded.

i would encourage other people who have lurid stories of the US prison system to post them. the one i offered up is probably pretty mild compared to most. jeanne herself could spill a lot of shit about broward.

American Freeholder said...

Anyone currently wishing to stop being a slave and wanting to step out of our fraudulent, corrupt system should head over to notice-recipient(dot)com and get their paper work submitted. When you get our Estate out of the 14th amendment you stop funding this system. Isn't it about time to claim your birthright, get back under God in Original Jurisdiction (pre-14th amendment), get out of debt, and be free from the system of slavery? What else has to happen to get you to wake up and free yourself? The keys to freedom are waiting to be used, you just need to pick them up!

Anonymous said...

when the big hurricane hit broward county they said (noaa) it was only 85mph when it came ashore (they lied) it was 350mph and the government taped the whole area off.every building was torn to pieces(remember the news videos)the broward sheriffs office had plenty to hide,instead of saving the injuried they shot every suvivor they found in the head,to save the county money I quest.they said only 56 people died! that was a lie to,the real death toll was around 6,000!!the military came in and picked up the bodys and buried them in a mass grave on the military base where they could keep it a secert they really died from a gun shot to the head,anyone waving the flag is soon to find out the truth the hard way,they'er planing to kill everyone in florida and give the state to the if you live in florida you better git the hell out of have been warned about whats coming!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am glad we live in the freest country on earth just think what it might be like in a country like Russia.

Anonymous said...

Long live the Big Easy! Home of the payola, land of the thieves.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous on May 16, 2012 9:37 PM

LOL! Yeah, good thing indeed. A country like Russia only has the #2 prison population in the world. Lucky for you, you live in the one that has the #1 prison population in the world. See, who says that the US isn't #1 anymore?

Anonymous said...

hopefully, all inmates will be working hard in prison factories. no more food and room for free. all these criminals have broken the social contract, so they have no rights. if they get banged for juice, thats it. they dont hesitate screwing productive peoples lives outside.

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