More on the Prison-Industrial Complex

Opprobrium was heaped upon me by various commenters for my post Arbeit Macht Frei  because I dared invoke the dreaded Nazi reference when talking about our Prison-Industrial Complex.

Phil, I’ve read the very same rants ad nauseam. It’s not like you had any news to report.

I usually enjoy your blog, I’m a Goldwater GOP and am upset with the hijacking of small government issues by a crackpot bunch of lunatics. But your use of a genocidial phase is offensive! Please don’t!!!

Dude, seriously, way to far and offensive. You make it easy for people to discount you.

Perhaps I was over-the-top in my analogy. Perhaps we can never use the Nazis as an example of what might be happening in the world today.  But I remain shocked that people responded to that analogy and not to the statistics I cited about the incarceration rates for African-American men.

Perhaps this will sway some people to my way of thinking about this problem.

Meet the GEO Group, Inc., formerly WCC (Wackenhut Correctional Corporation).  According to their website,

GEO is one of the worlds largest correctional and detention organizations with approximately 80,000 beds and 116 facilities located in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. GEO is a leader in the delivery of private correctional and detention management, community re-entry services as well as behavioral and mental health services to government agencies around the globe. Our goal is to help our clients serve those assigned to their care through a wide range of diversified services including the design, construction and financing of state and federal prisons, immigration and detention centers, community re-entry facilities, mental health and residential treatment centers and other special needs institutions.

The GEO Group‘s 2011 annual report is quite revealing.  It identifies risks to the core corrections business from the decriminalization of drugs and a reduced demand for correctional facilities.

In particular, the demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services and BI’s services could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws. For example, any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us.

The GEO group operates correctional facilities for Federal, State and City agencies.  They even operate one in Cuba at GITMO (for migrants interdicted at sea, not the one for terrorists).  Like CCA, GEO has a strong financial interest in keeping criminals flowing into the systems.  They will resist any attempt at reforming the law or the correctional system if it inhibits profit.  And they lobby hard in Washington and at the state level to ensure that de-criminalization of non-violent drug offenses does not occur.

By privatizing correctional facilities we create a growth market for criminality.  Is that really what we want to do?  At what point do we realize that there are just some things that should not be privatized.  Police, fire, corrections…. These are just a few of the things that are best done by the public sector.

29 comments to More on the Prison-Industrial Complex

  • Reference to Nazi could inappropriate to the prison system mess if only because the concentration camps then served political ends, rather than in the present case, purely as a means of profit.
    I stumbled across the whole private prison system nightmare while researching a Rick Perry and the Texas Youth Commission (a prison for kids, basically.) Actually I had never heard of GEO Group and I confess that had no idea that prisons were being privatized in the first place. I was under the impression that all prisons were owned and operated by the states.
    Here is a link to the final part of the series I wrote. In this post, I looked into the problems with GEO Group and how it has attempted to use the legislative and judicial system to further its profits.
    http://nomadicpolitics.blogspot.com/2012/03/33-scandal-in-lock-down-mode-rick-perry.html

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    • Reference to Nazi could inappropriate to the prison system mess if only because the concentration camps then served political ends, rather than in the present case, purely as a means of profit.

      So profit’s aren’t political… Interesting. Care to explain why these companies spend millions on lobbying congress, then? Just curious…

      :-)

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  • Gareth

    Here is a short history of privatized prison labor in the U.S., which has been used intermittently as a weapon against labor by the ownership class for almost 200 years. I expect it won’t be long before the labor of American prisoners is owned by Chinese companies. Won’t that be interesting?

    http://mondediplo.com/openpage/locking-down-an-american-workforce

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  • Cat Kin

    International prisons: what a chilling concept! That’s asking an alien institution to take care of you child.

    Our criminals are our family gone wrong. Sure it’s easy to pay someone else to take them off out hands and out of our responsibility. So what if we have little or nothing to say what becomes of them? What do we do when they come back?

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  • Our criminals are our family gone wrong.

    Many of our “criminals” are victims of a criminalization system that is out of control. They’re not people who’ve “gone wrong.” No more wrong than people who visited speakeasys in the 1930s. People convicted for minor drug offenses (which shouldn’t even be criminal offenses!) are what these companies thrive on. That’s kind of the point of the whole post…

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  • Phil, you say privatization is the problem because the companies will lobby to keep the prisons full and the money flowing, essentially. True enough, but any time government spends money you will have some who benefit and will lobby to keep the system in place despite its flaws. As an example, our public school system certainly generates a whole lot of people lobbying for their interests. So the problem isn’t privatization. It is namby pamby politicians willing to cater/succumb to their handlers. And of course, the more money governments spend, the more intense will be the lobbying. You are inadvertently making a case for smaller government. Welcome!

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    • Are you arguing that prisons serve the same social purpose as schools? REALLY?

      Phil, you say privatization is the problem because the companies will lobby to keep the prisons full and the money flowing, essentially. True enough, but any time government spends money you will have some who benefit and will lobby to keep the system in place despite its flaws.

      Except this is not the case in states like Wisconsin who have not privatized their prisons. The only time lobbying happens is when the private sector seeks to drive public policy in pursuit of private profit (a lot of alliteration!). That’s what industry-based lobbying is for. The same goes for the privatization efforts in schools. The desire is to lobby for (and elect politicians who will support) the creation of a “crisis” in education to facilitate the privatization scam.

      You are inadvertently making a case for smaller government.

      No, I’m making the case for and appropriately sized government which includes a commitment to public services that belong in the public sphere. Prisons are part of that important public sphere…

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  • Are you arguing that prisons serve the same social purpose as schools? REALLY?

    No, that would be a straw man argument on your part.

    The only time lobbying happens is when the private sector seeks to drive public policy in pursuit of private profit (a lot of alliteration!).

    Try a lot of BS. The public sector doesn’t lobby? Ha, that’s a good one Phil. If so, what would you need collective bargaining for? Oh I suppose that isn’t lobbying in your world.

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    • I wrote,

      Are you arguing that prisons serve the same social purpose as schools? REALLY?

      To which you responded,

      No, that would be a straw man argument on your part.

      No, it’s not a straw man for two reasons. First, it was an interrogatory, not a statement (hence the question mark) I was asking if you were making such a statement, not asserting that you had.

      Let’s go to the tape to see what you actually wrote,

      As an example, our public school system certainly generates a whole lot of people lobbying for their interests. So the problem isn’t privatization.

      which, in fact, did conflate public school lobbying with prison lobbying to assert that the problem “isn’t privatization.” You’re making an equivalence argument to dismiss privatization of the prisons as being the equivalent to privatizing the schools. Therefore, had I not included a question mark and made the question into a statement, it would have still been correct and not a straw man argument. QED.

      Now we have this:

      Try a lot of BS. The public sector doesn’t lobby? Ha, that’s a good one Phil. If so, what would you need collective bargaining for? Oh I suppose that isn’t lobbying in your world.

      Collective bargaining is not lobbying in the real world either. Let’s go to the definitions, shall we?

      Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and a group of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions. The interests of the employees are commonly presented by representatives of a trade union to which the employees belong. The collective agreements reached by these negotiations usually set out wage scales, working hours, training, health and safety, overtime, grievance mechanisms and rights to participate in workplace or company affairs.

      Lobbying (also lobby) is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by many different types of people and organized groups, including individuals in the private sector, corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups (interest groups).

      See the difference? Collective bargaining is the mediation of a relationship between employer and employed. Lobbying is a relationship between organizations and legislators. I can see how, in the public sector, you might be confused, but they are quite distinct relationships.

      However, unions do lobby on behalf of their members to improve safety regulations and laws for workers, not to increase the number of prisoners in the system (in this case).

      For instance, the union representing Wisconsin prison guards may lobby for laws and regulations that keep guards safe in their jobs, but it does not lobby to load up the prisons through hypercriminalization. GEO on the other hand, lobbies to load up the prisons to increase their profits (since they get paid by the prisoner). They have a vested financial interest in the hypercriminalization of our society.

      …any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.

      See how that works?

      It’s always a pleasure shedding light on your darkness, Denis!

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  • I guess you can get away with anything as long as you end with a question mark. So Phil, how often do you beat your wife? No ad hominem here, I’m simply asking a question.

    Then you “go to the tape” with a bit of editing, conveniently forgetting that the comparison with public schools was that both the privatized prisons and public schools seek government money. Nowhere did I suggest that the two institutions served the same purpose. We all know that prisons exist to lock up criminals while public schools exist to lock up lifetime fringe benefits for public school employees.

    Your attempts to parse the difference between collective bargaining and lobbying are just plain silly but I give you credit Phil, you are a bull dog. And that is meant as a compliment.

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    • Denis, you’re persistence is admirable… Foolhardy, but admirable. Here we go…

      I guess you can get away with anything as long as you end with a question mark. So Phil, how often do you beat your wife? No ad hominem here, I’m simply asking a question.

      No, you can ask a question by asking a question. I simply asked you a question. It bore no resemblance to the old “have you stopped beating your wife” question. That question is what is known as Begging the Question:

      You presented a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise.

      This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people have an assumption that is very ingrained, and therefore taken in their minds as a given. Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it’s not very good.

      The question I asked you could be negated by a simple “No.” The question you asked contained within it the presumption of an action which I was not permitted to deny in my answer.

      See how that works?

      Now, on to point 2.

      Then you “go to the tape” with a bit of editing, conveniently forgetting that the comparison with public schools was that both the privatized prisons and public schools seek government money. Nowhere did I suggest that the two institutions served the same purpose.

      I think if you look back at what I’ve written (and quoted and re-quted and re-re-quoted), what you find me generating interrogatories about is the question of whether or not schools and prisons serve the same social function and therefore lobby to the same ends. I agree, I was not always clear in my interrogatories, but my intent was to question your conflation of the lobbying activities of groups involved in public schools and the lobbying of groups involved with private prisons.

      Let me reiterate that question: Do you believe that, because unions lobby on behalf of public school teachers and companies lobby on behalf of private prisons that there is a social or moral equivalency there?

      And now my favorite bit,

      We all know that prisons exist to lock up criminals while public schools exist to lock up lifetime fringe benefits for public school employees.

      There’s so much wrong in 23 words it’s hard to know where to begin. First, private prisons exist to return value to their shareholders first. Safely locking up offenders, as we saw in the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility investigation, was secondary. Second, I know this may come as a shock to you, but there is nothing illegitimate or greedy about being paid professional wages and benefits for a professional job. You may not like unions and you may hate teachers, but that does not mean that they are not entitled to earn a good living. Your straw man (yes, son, that is a straw man) is burning up in front of you. But do you know what is uprofessional and greedy? A CEO who’s bank’s stock tanked 70% during the crisis getting paid 8 figures for growing the stock 30% from the low point… The stock is still down 40% from the peak, mind you, but hell, we grew 30%!

      Finally,

      Your attempts to parse the difference between collective bargaining and lobbying are just plain silly but I give you credit Phil, you are a bull dog. And that is meant as a compliment.

      I’m sorry if I insist on precision in the language. It’s not a matter of parsing so much as it is accuracy. Words have actual meanings, they are not infinitely maleable to suit an argument’s context. Lobbying and collective bargaining are not, on their face, the same thing nor are they intended to achieve the same ends. I’m sorry if that upsets you (he said begging the question), but that’s the way it is.

      To conflate collective bargaining and lobbying is to obfuscate the perils of the private prison industry lobbying for longer sentences. That lobbying serves only to facilitate their bottom line. It serves no real social purpose except to raise the overall cost of incarceration to the citizens of the community served by the prison. But that obfuscation is, I suspect, your intended goal… I just won’t let you get away with it.

      Conflation and linguistic misdirection are two common tools in the conservate debate toolkit and perhaps you’re not used to having someone challenge you on them. Once your opponent shines a light on them, they become ineffective. They only work when your opponent lets you get away with them. I will not.

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  • Jan Tessier

    Denis is not being truthful. There is absolutely no evidence that public schools or public employees have a lobby in Congress. When someone lies to make an argument, it negates their argument. End of story.

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    • Not so fast Jan. For starters, I did not claim that public schools or public employees lobby in Congress, though now that you mention it, I suspect that they do. You do realize I hope that there are other government entities one can lobby besides Congress. I look forward to your retraction of your accusation of lying and perhaps an apology, as false accusations tend to undermine ones argument.

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  • So profit’s aren’t political… Interesting. Care to explain why these companies spend millions on lobbying congress, then? Just curious…

    As far as I can see, the lobbying by private prisons is merely a means to a profit-making end. The lobbyists are comfortable with either party (but they do tend to make more progress with the GOP, it seems.) The concentration camp served a political purpose. But then, I am sure you understood what I meant.

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  • You asked a question and I explained what I thought. Seems like you demand people agree with every point you make. In fact, I started out by agreeing with most of what you wrote (just not the degree) but it seems that wasn’t satisfactory for you. I think I’ll be avoiding your posts.

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  • Jan Tessier

    Denis:

    “Are you arguing that prisons serve the same social purpose as schools? REALLY?

    No, that would be a straw man argument on your part.

    The only time lobbying happens is when the private sector seeks to drive public policy in pursuit of private profit (a lot of alliteration!).

    Try a lot of BS. The public sector doesn’t lobby? Ha, that’s a good one Phil. If so, what would you need collective bargaining for? Oh I suppose that isn’t lobbying in your world.”

    You lied, Denis. I’m not retracting anything. Your failure to recognize your own error isn’t my problem. Deal with it yourself.

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    • Point of order here: If you’re going to quote people, either use the blockquote HTML code or at least put quotes around the bits you’re quoting. It’s very hard to follow your train of thought. It’s a dark tunnel… :-)

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  • Jan Tessier

    p.s.

    I used Congress because that is where lobbyists go to present their agendas most of the time. There might be other governmental bodies where lobbyists go to lobby, but there are so many extensive rules regarding lobbying and so many shady exceptions to the rules that it is difficult for anyone, let alone a private citizen such as myself, to differentiate between all of them.

    You lied when you said “The only time lobbying happens is when the private sector seeks to drive public policy in pursuit of private profit.” That is a lie, no matter how much alliteration you used. My using Congress as the place where lobbying is most proliferate is not a lie.

    You can try to sue me for slander or defamation, but I’m absolutely certain you would lose.

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  • Jan Tessier

    Phil, I didn’t quote you. I quoted Denis. Read again, please. I also didn’t say “Ooops, I forgot” either.

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  • Zuma Bound

    Enough, guys. Try to remember that you’re on the same side.

    That wingnut idiot, “Wingnut”, [yes, he CALLS himself, "Wingnut"] is back in these he-uh [pahts]. Go eff with him, not with each other.

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  • Zuma Bound

    Just to refresh your memories, this is a clip of Wingnut “debating” King Arthur back in the day:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4

    Enjoy, and THEN turn your fire on people who actually deserve it. . .like the wingnutty Wingnut.

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  • Jan Tessier

    Zuma, I appreciate your opinion, but Phil needs to re-read what I posted and quit giving me grief for something I didn’t do. I was quoting Denis, and I have no idea why Phil has decided to focus on me for no good reason.

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    • Zuma Bound

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear ya. But, STILL, regardless of who’s right or wrong about that, the back-and-forth is counterproductive.

      Anyway, Jan, how are you?

      P.S. My girlfriend and I will be up on Facebook sometime soon. Over privacy concerns, we’ve resisted the “temptation” to join up to this point, but I think that we’re to going to have to give in. Susan is battling brain cancer, and Facebook seems like the best way to keep everybody updated on things.

      You’re on Faceback as “Jan Tessier”, right? We’d like to “friend” you once we get things set up, if that’s cool.

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      • Jan Tessier

        Absolutely! Please friend me. My name is just as you have it here. I am very, very sorry about Susan’s illness. My mother battled cancer for fourteen years. I would very much like to be your friend and very much would like to be in the loop about her condition. Thank you very much, dear!

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