Private prisons are not safe. The escape from the GEO prison in Kingman brought to light a multitude of problems at the prison, but when ADOC ordered them to fix it, they sued the state and taxpayers paid another $3 million – for subpar performance. Inmate on inmate violence is 66% higher and violence to staff is 49% higher in private prisons.
Private prisons do not bring jobs or economic development. The corporations that run the prisons are not local and buy in bulk from a central out of state purchaser. They often bring in their own construction from planning to finish because they just repeat the process. The institutions in Arizona have already been fined e.g. those in Kingman, Marana, Phoenix West and Florence West because they failed to fill vacancies. But the Kingman prison is busy taking jobs from local city staff by hiring out inmates at less.
Bills have been introduced to require private prisons to meet the same standard as state prisons e.g. to notify the state of threats to public health and safety (like the Kingman escape), prohibit transfer of serious or violent offenders from other states,
make their records public since the public is paying the bills, and have state monitoring and oversight. (HB 2002-2006, 2299) But the committee chair, Rep Weiers won’t even let the bills be heard. Who is he representing? Private corporations or the taxpayers?
Decades of research have shown that prisons do not bring economic development. In fact since 1990, a prison in a town reduces jobs overall and drives down wages. Up to two-thirds of the potential tax revenue and economic benefit leaves the host community. Prisons do not bring in other kinds of development such as tourism or housing.
At least half of all prisoners are non-violent drug offenders. They need treatment not prison. The Innocence Project has proven repeatedly that many incarcerated Blacks were falsely convicted. Prison should be for violent criminals who need rehabilitation or who can never be rehabilitated. It should not be a profit-making venture for large corporations.
Some sensible bills have been introduced this year if the committee chair (David Gowan) would only hear them. HB 2521 would allow nonviolent offenders to earn increased release credit and thus give them an incentive to get out early, saving taxpayers and helping families and communities. One policy driving our high incarceration rate is mandatory sentencing. One size does not fit all but the current procedure leads to lengthy sentences that cost the taxpayers and wreck families and communities. HB 2522 would resolve that. Another harm to families is the $25 charge for visits. While at first blush, it seems a good idea to help fund the prisons, in the long term it is harmful. Inmates who do not keep in touch with families are more likely to return to prison thus costing the community and taxpayers more in the long run. HB 2523 would remedy this. HB2531 allows the director of the DOC to parole inmates whose physical disabilities have incapacitated them, so that they are no longer a threat to the safety of the public.
Arizona must re-think its criminal justice system and institute reforms in the best interest of the entire state, not just a few corporate shareholders or office holders. Mass incarceration of citizens, especially for profit, is a betrayal of our democratic ideals. Let’s get back on track.
|By Evie Litwok||July 26, 2012|
Twenty-year-old Quartavious Davis is a first-time offender who had the bad misfortune to have a gun during a robbery where no one was hurt. For his crime in the state of Florida, he was sentenced to 162 years. Imagine, 162 years for a first-time offender involved in a robbery.
Former Congressional aide Fraser Verrusio was convicted of 3 felonies and spent 4-and-a-half hours in jail. He took a corporate sponsor and a lobbyist to the World Series and failed to report it on a House financial disclosure form. He was the policy director of the House Transportation Committee under Rep. Don Young of Alaska. This trip was paid for by a construction company, United Rentals, that wanted his help in getting an amendment for a highway bill.
The government officials who should be held to higher standards rarely get charged for any of the daily offenses average people call “felonies.” And even when they do get charged, it’s often little more than an afternoon in jail.
If you are black, hispanic, American Indian or a pregnant women, better watch out, because the government has reserved lifetime housing for you in their most profitable business — prison.
In the last 40 years, the GOVERNMENT has ‘GROWN” the incarcerated population from 200,000 in 1971 to 2.3 million today. Looking at it from the government’s point of view, it’s damn profitable. AND while the government officials are unlikely to be in the prison, they will benefit by sending you there!
- Almost no government official is ever prosecuted unless it is “unavoidable.” And when they do commit a crime, they can usually return to a normal and even profitable life.
- Take the case of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. He illegally paid for call girls. Spitzer lost the Governorship of New York, never faced arrest or charges and returned as a CNN anchor. He committed a crime but his “government position” kept him protected and out of prison.
- The Call girls who service the likes of Spitzer can’t get bail and usually go to prison. The “call girl” is the “average person” subject to the laws which the “Government folk” need not be.
- And the reason for this lies in the notion of ACCOUNTABILITY. There is none. Each government agency is self-regulated and accountable to itself. The U.S. Attorney’s office oversees the U.S. Attorney’s office. Can you imagine what an easy job that is, and perhaps it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that accountability wont happen when the government has no independent authority policing it.
- It works out pretty well for them. Having and enjoying such built-in protection is one hell of a perk. It is the difference between 4-and-a-half hours in jail or 162 years of incarceration.
The main reason why the average American gets prison, but not government officials, is money. They need their jobs, they protect their jobs and they send other people to prison so they can safeguard their own interests. It works out well for them. Whole urban and rural towns are supported by the prison economy, and there is no incentive to give up a job where you get paid for incarcerating other people.
State treasuries are filled from proceeds from our criminal justice system. Assets seized from individuals who are arrested disappear. Fines and fees paid by defendants and prisoners go back into the system to keep it running. This leaves inmates and their families in poverty, and unable to fight the so-called justice system.
To make matters worse, privatization of prisons creates a market incentive to keep our prisons full, at the cost of viewing, and treating, prisoners as profit-generating commodities. Toilet paper for the month is parceled out in certain facilities and if you run out, you are told by correctional officers to “use your hands.”
Of course, toilet paper is far less of a problem than the abysmal medical care available in prisons and the placing of thousands of human beings in solitary confinement, which by any country’s definition is torture. And yes, solitary confinement should and would be outlawed if the public knew it, saw it and understand the extent to which it is used and abused.
Our government wants to milk this job-creating, profit-rich, anti-human prison system by seeing if they can squeeze a little more profit out of it. States have privatized not only prisons, but also their parole, probation and halfway house systems, as well as prison medical care and food service.
Further, the community supervision aspect of a criminal sentence has vastly changed. Judges have few limits in terms of the amount of time an offender can be placed on probation. For a first-time non-violent offender, probation can run as high as ten years. Some people get 25 years on probation.
Guess why? The answer is 1) money and 2) because they can. Being accountable to no one allows the government to literally write the rules. And the new business of probation, with its fees, rules and monitoring that is designed to send people on probation to prison for minor violations, has further enslaved and made average Americans the new “underclass.”
Expanding community supervision provides jobs for more government officials and allows more profit to be made through monthly supervision fees. Recidivism is thought to be high because so-called “criminals” leave the system and commit another crime. That is false. People do go back to prison but often not for committing a crime. They go back because they violate the terms of their probation; the rules of probation are generally petty and unreasonable, and such violations are usually technical violations, not new criminal offenses.
The government creates rules which no average person could live under. And these rules and the violation of them are not determined by an independent body — they are determined by one parole or probation officer. Using a cell phone outside instead of inside a halfway house can get you sent back to prison. Pregnant women, who may have missed a phone call to their parole officer because there was a complication with a doctor’s visit concerning their pregnancy, can be ordered returned to prison. Imagine sending a pregnant women back to prison because she missed a phone call! The crime is not in missing the phone call but the rule that allows the government to send a pregnant woman back to prison for such a minor infraction.
There are some who believe life in the womb to be sacrosanct; the majority of pregnant women who are incarcerated are located in the very states that claim a higher moral ground because they care about the baby in the womb. Or perhaps not! It seems that in balancing the position of pregnancy versus profit, profit wins. Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and other “red” states are the home of the free and the “womb.” Yet it is these same states that are sending pregnant women to prison, where their pregnancies are at greater risk due to poor prison medical care.
The new and vastly growing business of privatizing parole, probation and halfway houses gives more money to the government, government officials and their friends and families, who all benefit from the existing system.
Lengthier sentences have become commonplace. NO ONE BLINKS when 100 years is handed out to a first-time or juvenile offender. In addition to lengthier sentencing, there has also been an increase in probation terms.
With no one questioning the judge, nothing is done about judges who hand out 10 years probation for a sentence that carries only one or two years in jail. No one is questioning it because the judge is accountable to no one. It is remarkable that in America, one person — a prosecutor — and a second person — a judge — can single-handedly take away the life of a person, their loved ones and their families through an unaccountable justice system that results in mass incarceration in our country.
Lengthier probation sentences gives the government a second, third and fourth opportunity to send people to prison. If your probation officer feels you have done something worthy of putting you in prison, you are forced to go. No independent source questions the merits of this decision. Again, it is up to the prosecutor and the judge, both whom have a financial stake in keeping the system running smoothly.
It’s not fair and it’s not just, but it is our justice system at work providing the government with new ways of making money while locking up record numbers of people. Just not themselves. Let’s not forget the Congressional aide with 3 felonies who spent an afternoon in jail.
ARE YOU MAD YET? I AM … AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!
The president of change.org, Ben Rattry, was on MSNBC talking about the power of his organization. His company creates petitions that provides people with the ability to make “change.” He spoke about the power of facilitating and sparking a movement. And he added that “Internet only” movements will not be effective. The petitions have to be followed up by visible actions and, as they say, “boots on the ground.”
Individual responses to issues online are not going to change any of the issues that we, in the “anti-mass incarceration movement,” are hoping to see changed. A case in point is excellent legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, which was introduced in Congress in January 2011 and has languished for a year-and-a-half with no action. In part, we failed to put “boots on the ground” and pressure Congress to enact this legislation.
In January 2011, Rep. Jackson Lee introduced H.R. 223, entitled The Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Act of 2011. This bill would have allowed for the immediate release of tens of thousands of inmates.
H.R. 223 provides early release for certain nonviolent offenders. The bill states that if a person has served half of her/his prison term and:
- is at least age 45
- has never been convicted of a violent crime and
- has not engaged in any violation, involving violent conduct, of institutional disciplinary rules … then they would be eligible for immediate release.
This bill would benefit prisoners who are at least 45 years old and first-time offenders. Immediate release is not offered very often and for so many. YET THE BILL IS STILL SITTING IN COMMITTEE because the online petition in support of the bill failed to attract people willing to sign on, and because there were no boots on the ground to pressure members of Congress to enact this legislation. It was and still is a missed opportunity. We, as a community, had an opportunity to support this bill and it amassed no more than a few hundred signatures on change.org
There are thousands of individuals and groups working to achieve FREEDOM for those who are incarcerated and for those we believe were wrongfully convicted. Our collective passion and strength for the issue of CRIMINAL INJUSTICE is apparent. And because most of us are working, we are often limited in what we can do, or focus on getting one person out of prison at a time – a loved one or family member — while 2.3 million are incarcerated. The solution is to get organized. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee did something extraordinary by introducing her bill. We must be able to respond more rapidly whenFreedom may be available to thousands.
While remaining committed to our individual efforts, we must follow in the footsteps of movements that have succeeded in the past. And make no mistake, we are a movement. We are the movement to end criminal injustice and mass incarceration in America.
If you are one of those who say “it will never happen, the system is too entrenched and there is too much money and influence that keeps the system going,” or one who says, “we cannot succeed because the government is too big to overcome, “ then I say to you, these defeatist statements were also said during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement and the GLBT Movement. We now have laws in this country that would have been considered unthinkable 50 years ago.
We need to be the movement we are destined to become. We need to be a movement that draws attention. Individually we can accomplish certain things, but together we can get thousands out of prison. OUR SUCCESS WILL COME FROM OUR COMMITMENT TO THIS CAUSE.
We must start by building our community as a national movement. This is my “call to arms” to you. We need to keep doing our individual work but support a national effort to insure that we can do more on a larger scale.
- There is nothing for me to add to this… both articles are excellent and of course we are definitely behind an “Anti – Mass Movement Against Incarceration” Over 7 million within the Department of Corrections is way too many.