Archive for the ‘Private Prisons’ Category

“A fact that needs to be spoken”

Monday, July 21st, 2014

His limitlessly enthusiastic facial expressions just kill me_HBOJohn Oliver joins the national dialogue on prison reform – vividly.

I’m sure it will surprise no readers of this blog to know I’m a radicalized John Oliver fan.

From Net Neutrality to the World Cup, I’m thrilled at the breath of fresh air HBO has allowed Oliver to blow our way on the topics of the day. As I watched this piece last night, I was pleased to see that just about every prison reform and private prison-related topic I’ve covered here – he nails. But, of course, the best part of the segment is the musical number. By singing about prison reform with Sesame Street muppets he sends it all over the top, simplifying the issue, making us laugh, educating and surprising us.

It’s a fact that needs to be spoken

America’s prisons are broken

It’s a hard truth about incarceration

prisons are needed for our civilization

But mandatory minimums for heroin and crack

stack the system against Hispanics and Blacks

Our prison population is bigger than Slovenia

‘Cause we put people in jail instead of treating schizophrenia!

Oliver and his writing team are hilarious. For me, they created a valuable tool I can use to snow plow through an otherwise complex issue. Helping to widen people’s understanding of incarceration in America and those behind bars just became a little easier. Thank you John Oliver.

 

Sentencing Reform in a Nutshell

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons.

That’s a heckuva statement isn’t it?

Twenty-one prisons versus one college campus. It gives us a little insight into why sentencing and prison reform is becoming an ever more crucial national dialogue. And California is hardly the only state dealing with the consequences of America’s push to incarcerate its way out of crime.

Sentencing Reform in a Nutshell – When someone commits a crime and goes to prison only to emerge a worse criminal, taxpayers are not getting what they paid for.

The proverbial nutshell rarely gets easier to understand.

.

 

EVIL INCARNATE: Lock-up Quotas

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Taxpayer penalties for unfilled corporate prison cells are a thing.

In hopes of extending this infographic’s reach (Huffington Post’s smart use of BJS data) I now present the biggest argument for the growing national dialogue on prison reform in America: Lock-up Quotas.

For years,  Morgan Stanley, Ameriprize, Barclays, Invesco, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, among others, have invested heavily in for-profit detention. So, if you’re someone who still dismisses incarceration as being for “those people,” perhaps you should follow the money. You see, the same idiots who mistakenly foreclose on people’s homes, may wind up deciding just how long your brother, sister, son or daughter are detained for public drunkenness. Operating at such a competency level, and with occupancy the highest priority for private prisons, all bets will soon be off with regards to who fills those beds.

Sound crazy? Sure it does, but at the rate we’re going it’s not hard to imagine a day when banking institutions and financial investment companies open pop-up prisons like so many Wal-Marts.

Without a complicit criminal justice system, ever more influenced by these financial entities, today’s lock-up quotas wouldn’t be so easily and enthusiastically enforced across the country. Have a look:

HuffPo_Private Prisons Infographic

Touchdown, or Lockdown?

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

GEO Group Inc. StadiumHey, what the heck is prison doing in your living room? 

Florida Atlantic University recently accepted $5-6 million from the “charitable” arm of GEO Group, a controversial private prison administrator operating in several states. Despite the long-sought windfall, things don’t bode well for FAU: just minutes after news of the deal reached the NY Times, a company spokesperson was caught altering the firm’s Wikipedia entry, attempting to hide the history of human rights abuses that took place in several GEO-run facilities.

Let’s be honest: the buying and selling of naming rights for buildings and sports stadiums has become a ho-hum fact of life. But a university selling those rights to the private prison industry feels like an exasperating defeat. Given the country’s incarceration trends, some of the same young men competing under that banner will likely live under it someday as prison inmates (and cheap labor).

The GEO Group Presents ROLLERBALLThis is a savvy, if scary, move on the part of GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison administrator and a company that cites crime reduction and marijuana decriminalization as threats. Becoming the largest and most profitable firm of its ilk will require deeper and more diversified investment, and what better place to start than by linking your name to a beloved American pastime? The general public may not yet comprehend how much of a prison nation we’ve become, but this sure is a smart, preemptive way to get ‘em comfy with the GEO brand, isn’t it? Welcome to Rollerball.

But let’s dig a little deeper into our benevolent new sports fans. Under GEO Group guard towers, the unhealthy are weeded out (in some cases, through death-by-denial-of-medication), while the rest are divided up into groups based on age, mental acuity, obedience and yes, ethnicity to serve as worker bees. For whom? Why, for companies to whom GEO Group has contracted this labor (for a profit) and for sister firms owned by the same group of investors – who of course are looking, above all, to make a profit.

GEO logoThis characteristic of the private prison world is already very much a reality in America, though for many it’s a fact that has stayed buried in the social subconscious. Until now, we had yet to see the industry take a step so boldly into our living rooms, our televisions, our sports. Talk about supporting the contention that prison is no longer for “those” (read: other) people! Think about how often, during televised football games, the name of the company that owns the rights to the stadium is mentioned – such positive advertising! Even better, law-abiding, tuition-paying parents, FAU athletes, and students will bear the name of their corporate sponsor with pride, now that it’s been conflated with allegiance to the school itself.

FOLLOW THE MONEYLet’s reverse this trend of money first, justice maybe. Send a message to GEO Group that they can’t use schools and athletes to get you more comfortable with the idea of labor camps replacing successful re-entry programs, and tycoons replacing wardens. Sign the petition, keep up with the latest developments, and for God’s sake, stay out of the sort of trouble that might get you locked up – especially in a corporate prison.

Uh, Kids for Cash anyone?

 

Summed up in 60 Seconds

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Eugene Jarecki’s deconstruction of the War on Drugs in his documentary, The House I Live In, initially pissed off the white, dreadlocked pothead sitting in front of me at the theater. I think he and his friends expected to pump their fists with other persecuted weed smokers (a.k.a. privileged Caucasian stoners who got suspended from school once), so he was less than stoked to be hit with a message of personal responsibility instead.

It wasn’t long, though, before The House I Live In turned his grumbling to rapt attention: the movie was thoroughly compelling. And I DON’T LIKE PRISON GUARDS, ‘ya feel me? Yet I fell in love with the turnkey at the center of this story.

Racial hierarchies and the economics of incarceration are the two strongest arguments for seeing the film – and for recommending it to others. From fantastical sentencing to deplorable healthcare and the prison-for-proft lobby, we can no longer rely on local or state governments to know what to do with us if we break the law. At the same time, we live in an age where our laws are like tuna nets. Decisions about our criminal courts are driven by the needs of our jails, and our jails are being built to accommodate increasing desperation in our economy. Recidivism, it turns out, is highly profitable, and thus essential to the incarceration industry.  (more…)

Of Prisoners and Payouts

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

When I was doing time here in California, inmates used to joke about prisoners in other states unlucky enough to be plucked from their general populations to serve as private prison guinea pigs. Though we heard some volunteered, it was said most were too doped up to argue or had requested an out-of-state transfer without knowing where they’d be going or how their receiving facilities were being run. Suckers.

They were doomed and we were fortunate that California hosted no privately operated prisons at the time: some southern states had several up and running. But with Bank of America investing hugely in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), followed by Wells Fargo and others, for-profit prisons were about to explode.  (more…)