Sheriffs And Politicians Have Financial Incentives To Keep People Locked Up

Sheriffs And Politicians Have Financial Incentives To Keep People Locked Up – Montana Is Going Full Speed Down This Road

When a prison-building boom swept north Louisiana in the 1990s, Billy McConnell got in on the financing and construction ends. Then he thought, why not run the prisons, too? He already ran nursing homes, and the bottom line was the same. His experience feeding and housing old folks could be applied to keeping drug pushers and petty thieves behind bars.

“We realized that prisons are like nursing homes. You need occupancy to be high. You have to treat people fairly and run a good ship, but run it like a business, watch food costs, employee costs,” said Clay McConnell, 37.

Today, the McConnells are a major force in Louisiana’s vast prison industry, playing a role in the incarceration of one in seven prisoners. The family’s fortunes have risen hand in hand with those of rural sheriffs who are the best-known face of Louisiana Incarceration-for-Profit Inc. More than half of the state’s 40,000 inmates are housed in local prisons run by sheriffs or private companies like LaSalle for the express purpose of making a buck.

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Whether a sheriff uses the revenue to buy shotguns or whether LaSalle uses it to build a gleaming new headquarters, the result is the same. If you are sentenced to state time in Louisiana, odds are you will be placed in a local prison — a low-budget, for-profit enterprise where you are likely to languish in your bunk, day after day, year after year, bored out of your skull with little chance to learn a trade or otherwise improve yourself. A coveted spot at a state prison like Angola, Hunt or Dixon is a long shot for anyone not convicted of a violent crime such as murder, rape or armed robbery.

More than a decade since a prison-building boom swept the state, Louisiana’s corrections system is a sprawling, for-profit enterprise. Private companies got in on the spoils, but the primary beneficiaries have been local sheriffs, who use the per-diem payments from the state to finance their departments and to pump jobs into moribund rural economies.

With little oversight from the Department of Corrections, sheriffs wheel and deal among themselves for inmates. Cupp and other rural north Louisiana wardens drum up business with daily rounds of phone calls to their suppliers — urban areas such as New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport that produce more criminals than their own jails can hold. The mad scramble to build prisons has become a mad scramble for inmates.

Like hotels, prisons operating on per-diem payments must stay near 100 percent occupancy to survive. The political pressure to keep beds full is a contributing factor to the state’s world-leading incarceration rate. No other state comes close to Louisiana’s 53 percent rate of state inmates in local prisons, and few lobbies in Louisiana are as powerful as the sheriffs association.

What is good for the sheriff can be bad, even tragic, for the inmate. Local prisons, which generally keep those with sentences of fewer than 10 years, are bare-bones operations without the array of educational and vocational programs that are standard at state prisons. Inmates caught up in the wardens’ daily bartering can be transferred arbitrarily, sometimes losing chances at a GED certificate or a work-release job when they land at another facility. Plumbers and auto mechanics are valuable commodities, given up by one warden as a favor to another. (What about when a warden leaves a state prison and goes to work as a warden at a private prison?)

“It makes it hard to do reforms that lower the prison population, because you’re affecting the local economic engines that they provide,” said James Austin, a national prison expert who has studied Orleans Parish Prison extensively. “It would be different if everyone were in state facilities. It’s a lot easier for the state to close a state facility than for a state to close several small local facilities that really provide economic fuel at the local level.”

Lately, inmates have been hard to come by. The statewide prison-building frenzy may have resulted in too many beds. Last year, the Richland Parish Detention Center lost more than $500,000. But no employees were laid off, and the count has been healthy after a recent infusion of pretrial inmates from Livingston Parish.

In good years, the prison has generated as much as $700,000 in profits.

“There’s no downside. They keep them contained out there,” said Mike Shoemaker, whose printing business in Rayville, the parish seat, has many prison employees as customers. Shoemaker’s wife draws several hundred dollars in retirement each month from her years as a guard at the prison.

The United States of Incarceration

by Ryan Sanders|May 15, 2012
The United States locks up too many people. Globally, the average incarceration rate is 125 prisoners per 100,000 people. The United States arrest rate is 743 per 100,000. This gives the U.S. the highest incarceration rate on Earth.

A recent article in The Christian Century says America seems to enjoy locking people in prison. As the piece reveals, the U.S. has only six percent of the world’s population, but it has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

Senator James Webb (D., Va.) has remarked:

“Either we have the most evil people on earth living in the U.S. or we are doing something dramatically wrong in how we approach criminal justice.”

In the 1980’s, the War on Drugs allowed congress to pass laws imposing mandatory minimum sentences for minor offenses. In the years following, many states became “tough-on-crime” with similar sentencing for minor and non-violent offenses.

This “tough-on-crime” mentality has led to a spike in incarcerations. In recent years, many people have been locked behind bars—people without violent pasts have been imprisoned and sentenced to longer terms.

Locking up too many people for too long ultimately costs the state too much. Some states are starting to realize we are not only wasting taxpayer money—we are not making our cities safer.

States simply cannot afford to continue building and staffing prisons. We must change the way we do criminal justice. This country simply cannot afford to spend $200 billion a year to lock up over 2 million people.

The Christian Century points out, “The current criminal justice system is certainly an absolute scandal—and a catastrophe for millions of Americans, their families and their communities.”

This report shows how the system can profit but it costs the taxpayers more money.  It really comes down that we are paying more taxes for the benefit of someone else staying wealthy.  Money that we don’t have.  This report was finally released by the state of Arizona.  It shows the real scam to taxpayers. 

Americans and Montanans are sick and tired of incarcerating for profit.  We are tired of the burden on us the taxpayers and on the families of those incarcerated unjustly. Do you need more proof that what we are saying is true?  Well, here is another survey that shows Americans want prison populations decreased. 

Montana look at the Analysis Resource Links on the home page on the left side.  We come in 27th in the nation of those incarcerated.  We are way higher than New York.  Montana is not that heavily populated.  What the Montana DOJ and other state departments are planning on is increasing that number. They have brought it up at the Law and Justice. You see the advertising for it. You see the advertising about the prisons, all the articles on so much crime related issues for a state that is again not heavily populated.  They are feeding your fear while they are sneaking your money out of your pocket.  It is time to put a stop to this injustice. This is your fellow Montanans, this could be in the future of your friends or loved ones. Don’t think that it can’t or won’t happen because it can and it will!

There are now 5,500 people on the state sexual and violent offender registries, with 7,000 joining it each year and hardly anyone leaving it. 7,000 a year?

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All the while those in the Judicial system or in any state departments seem to get a “get out of jail free card” that does not apply to the rest of us Montanans.  We don’t belong to that club. Aren’t you tired of the double standards?  Let it be known and take action! You have a voice!  We need justice reform. 

Categories: MDOC/Abuse, Montana BOPP, Montana Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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