How corporate interests have revived slavery in America
The absolutely dismal state of our prison system is a significant cause for alarm. The number of prisoners grows every year, seemingly out of proportion to the overall increase in population. As corporate activity within the private prison industry has infected the process of incarceration it is clear that the market dictates that the supply of prisoners be constant and ever-increasing.
The ever-prevalent corporatism of the private prison industry serves to disgust any true progressive. The question that arises is: Why aren’t more people up in arms about this perversion of the criminal justice system? The answer should be obvious. Money talks.
The private prison industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy. The modern private prison system began in the mid-1980s when the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) assumed the first contract ever awarded to a private corporation in the United States. Other companies which propagate the awful practice are the GEO Group and Community Education Centers of America.
These corporations more often than not send their prisoners to work for near-slave wages. They make everything from paintbrushes to helmets for the US military, all for cents per hour. If this doesn’t scream “Military Industrial Complex” I don’t know what does.
The very existence of private prisons is an insult to the guiding principles of progressive society. Allowing the corporate sector to stick its filthy hands into any part of the government, let alone the criminal justice and penal systems should be the cause of mass outrage. The only problem is that regular people have absolutely no say in the process.
Sure we’re told that our votes count but let’s get real, the corporations have the wallets. They have armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and PR agents to spin public perception. This is power that exists on a level far beyond that of the average American citizen, even any significant group of citizens. This is a systemic problem that must be solved through systemic means.
The corporate masters of the United States have their wretched tentacles in every single part of Americans’ lives, from the moment they’re born to the moment they die. Americans live in an artificial, plastic world of labels, advertisements, and mass-marketing; is it unfitting that their penal experience should come with a corporate stamp as well?
It is evident that this trend will only persist owing to the unending profit-motive of any corporate entity. The market dictates that where there is profit to be made, the demand for that profit will spring up. The financial sector has already gotten in the door and invested millions. Even companies like General Electric are intertwined with this perverted system.
The ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) represents the (metaphorical) fattened, golden, screaming piglet of the right wing establishment. The group consists of Republican lawmakers as well as “representatives” of the corporate sector. They work together in order to “advance” the interests of free market capitalism as well as to promote Federal idealism on the state level.
In other words, they figure out how much it will cost to buy votes and pick which bills pass. The ALEC assured that private prison legislation entered the common law. It has also consistently worked against the interests of the American worker by trying to replace many unionized positions with the slave labor of prisoners. In the past the ALEC has also supported the implementation of minimum mandatory sentencing.
The War on Drugs has vastly increased the prison system’s reach. It is likely that the for-profit sector of this industry benefits itself whenever possible. This is why many state governments as well as the federal government have an incentive to keep drugs illegal. The ridiculous drug laws in this country, while they are improving at a painfully slow rate, necessarily draw an ever-widening stream of prisoners (mostly African American and Hispanic) into their jaws.
These types of laws have served to destroy the stability of many African American and Hispanic communities in the United States. This has only acted to drive them further away from the law and towards occupations which tend to land them in prison. It truly is a brilliant piece of business ingenuity.
Prison guard unions try to insure that those who are District Attorneys are disproportionately appointed as judges. These judges can then further the cause of the drug war. The system that has been created is self-perpetuating in the sense that it is able to lobby to change the laws that have an effect on its bottom line (The ALEC is proof enough of this). The rise of private prisons in connection to this has certainly done no favors to efforts at reform.
As of 2013, the prison system contains some 2.3 million individuals. This process costs the US Federal government $55 Billion per year. 10% of these prisons are controlled fully by corporate entities. Between 1990 and 2010 the number of privately operated prisons in the U.S. increased 1600%. Private prisons have increased both in numbers and individuals incarcerated within them.
The massive behemoth that is the American prison system must be dismantled. By this I mean that the arbitrarily-enforced and for-corporate-and-government-benefit monster must be deprived of its life-blood: prisoners. The drug war must end and those currently in prison serving for non-violent drug offenses must be released nation-wide.
The current state of our penal system is no less than embarrassing. Its very structure has lent itself to the destruction of the lives of innocent individuals who did no more than possess a substance that has been (for obvious reasons) banned by the establishment. Of course it is important to note that these laws extend far beyond just the Drug War. The system is inherently interested in self propagation and, by extension, gluttonous abuse of American citizens. It is a “survival of the fittest” supply and demand situation where incentive dictates that revenue be generated through the unwarranted application of the law.