Private Prisons: Everyone Is Guilty Of Something And You May Be Next

Mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group – the private prison industry – even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole. While the nation’s unprecedented rate of imprisonment deprives individuals of freedom, wrests loved ones from their families, and drains the resources of governments, communities, and tax-payers, the private prison industry reaps lucrative rewards. As the public good suffers from mass incarceration, private prison companies obtain more and more government dollars, and private prison executives at the leading companies rake in enormous compensation packages, in some cases totaling millions of dollars.
The United States imprisons more people – both per capita and in absolute terms – than any other nation in the world, including Russia, China, and Iran. Over the past four decades, imprisonment in the United States has skyrocketed, spurred by criminal laws, passed by our legislators who received huge campaign contributions for their votes. These laws impose steep sentences and curtail the opportunity to earn probation and parole. The current incarceration rate deprives record numbers of individuals of their liberty, disproportionately affects people of color, and has at best a minimal effect on public safety. Meanwhile, the crippling cost of imprisoning increasing numbers of Americans saddles government budgets with rising debt and exacerbates the current fiscal crises confronting states across the nation.
Private prison companies essentially admit that their business model depends on high rates of incarceration. There was talk of decriminalizing drug use, taking away mandatory sentencing. The PPS petitioned Congress and our compassionate, incorruptible politicians. The PPS said, “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices.”
Private prisons for adults were virtually non-existent until the early 1980s, but the number of prisoners in private prisons increased by approximately sixteen hundred percent between 1990 and 2009. Today, for-profit companies are responsible for approximately six percent of state prisoners, sixteen percent of federal prisoners, and, according to one report, nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government.
You think that[s a crime? Oh, no. That’s not a crime. A crime is paying prisoners one-dollar day to work, then charging them five dollars a minute to make a call. A crime is creating dozens more rules for prisoners to abide by, then keeping them in prison seventy-six percent longer for the same crime than those in state or federal facilities.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, an agency that locks up roughly four hundred thousand immigrants each year and spends over two billion annually on custody operations now intends to create a new network of massive immigration detention centers, managed largely by private companies.”
How can they (the PPS in cahoots with our politicians) keep incarcerating people? Workers are a drain on the economy. They cost more to care for than the benefit they produce by manufacturing or from services they provide. Health care, pensions, educations, and welfare make up sixty-four percent of government spending. Four trillion dollars. The U.S. doesn’t manufacture anything anymore due to labor costs, and financial services make up seventy percent of the GDP. The rest comes from the industrial / military complex and a few transnational corporations like Exxon / Mobil, Monsanto, and a few others.”
If it looks like slavery, smells like slavery then it is slavery. It’s new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where up to two million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of twenty-five cents an hour and refuse to work, they’re locked up in isolation cells.
The United States holds twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population, but only five percent of the world’s people. Simply, it imitates Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps. The prison industry produces one hundred percent of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bulletproof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply ninety-eight percent of the entire market for equipment assembly services; ninety-three percent of paints and paintbrushes; ninety-two percent of stove assembly; forty-six percent of body armor; thirty-six percent of home appliances; thirty percent of headphones / microphones / speakers, and twenty-one percent of office furniture. Also, airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
Three strikes laws made it necessary to build twenty new federal prisons. At least thirty-seven states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list includes the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T and lots more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from four hundred million to one and a half billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as seventeen cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of twenty dollars per month. Those rates equate to Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora on the border closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. Some study found that CCA inmates lost ‘good behavior time’ at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons did.
Ninety-seven percent of one hundred twenty-five thousand federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. More than half of the six hundred thousand inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s two million prisoners suffer from mental illness.
All the government agencies are involved in the game. INS, ICE, FBI, DEA, ATF…and they all either make money or get their budgets increased each year. Their jobs depend on the number of arrests they make and as long as that incentive plan is in place, we will have indentured slaves in our country.

My political commentary is meant to bring a heightened consciousness and real discussion to people intent on changing social, political, and economic conditions. Politics as usual is destroying our Democracy. Government corruption demands real political change, not just a new candidate in the old system. Political leadership only leads to self-serving agendas and self aggrandizement. Politicians eschew social causes for personal enrichment. Political power corrupt morality and rationality. The result is criminal behavior and Constitutional crimes.

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