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_______________________________________________Incarceration Nation: The Rise of a Prison-Industrial Complex
27, 2007 by Andrew Bosworth
Consider this disturbing fact: the United States now has the world's highest incarceration rate outside of North Korea. Out of 1,000 people, more Americans are behind bars than anywhere in the world except in Kim Jong-Il's Neo-Stalinist state. The US has a higher incarceration rate than China , Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Burma - countries American politicians often berate for their human rights violations.
Well over two million Americans are behind bars. Let us agree that violent criminals and sex offenders should be in jail, but most Americans are not aware that over one million people spend year after year in prison for non-violent and petty offenses: small-time drug dealing, street hustling, prostitution, bouncing checks and even writing graffiti.
....The Founding Fathers would be rolling in their graves even faster than they already are if they knew that prisons are now lucrative corporations. These "McJails" receive money from government on a per-prisoner, per-day basis. No doubt, had the framers of the Constitution imagined that future Americans could descend to such depths they would have banned the commercialization of prisons outright.
Not surprisingly, the executives of these for-profit prisons sponsor "tough-on-crime" legislation and even line the pockets of politicians who back "mandatory sentencing" laws. For-profit prisons even get to write new mandatory sentencing laws to guarantee the raw material (the rabble of society) for an emerging prison-industrial complex.
In a Great Leap Backward, American politicians have also repealed two federal laws (the Hawes Cooper Act and the Ashurst-Sumner Act) that virtually outlawed prison labor, making it a felony to move prison-made goods across state boundaries. Stamping state license plates for cars was generally acceptable, but these Acts tried to end the leasing out of prisoners to private companies - they tried to eliminate prison-plantations and "factories with fences."
In the 1970s, a Supreme Court Justice, Warren Burger, proselytized for more leeway as to what kinds of "projects" prisoners could work on. Before too long, Congress amended the laws, and by 1990 it was permissible for prisoners to produce products entering the stream of interstate commerce. Many of the largest corporations in America have taken advantage of prison labor in what might be called "Operation Sweatshop."
Amazingly, on http://www.correctionscorp.com/ there is a separate section for "investors." "Corrections Corporation of America is the nation's largest owner and operator of privatized correctional and detention facilities and one of the largest prison operators in the United States behind only the federal government and three states" (Corrections Corporation of America).
Thus, the "tough on crime" propaganda masks a profit motive. Naturally, no politician can say that "my campaign was paid for by corporate lock-downs" or "I help run prison sweatshops." [Though Tom Delay would not be above such a boast, having applauded the practice of government-santioned sweat shops and prostitution on the Marianas Islands!] Representatives in Congress - mostly the "Big Government" Republicans but also many "Nanny-State" Democrats - are becoming the new goons in an emerging for-profit police state.
Call your broker.
Dan's 2-cents: The statistics are staggering, when one considers how far the percentage of incarcerated people vs. general population has risen since the rowdy early days of this Republic. It seems that the forces of Punishment and Greed are always beating back the forces of Equality and putting them in stocks (and bonds!)
Equality is part of the democratic bargain and it can't be traded away on Wall Street.
On a lighter note: On my salary, I think I'll refrain from investing in prison-based STOCKS! We trade in books, exclusively! I'm happy to fork over funds for the purchase of books for inmates. Feel free to join the process.