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Thu Sep 13, 2012, 05:01 PM

Thom Hartmann: Attention Cash-Strapped States - the Largest For-Profit Prison a Deal for You!

Attention cash-strapped states - the largest for-profit prison corporation in America has one hell of a deal for you! The only hitch is...you have to begin imprisoning your own citizens at an alarmingly high rate - and keep them in jail for 20 years! That's the offer coming from the Corrections Corporation of America in a $250 million proposal sent to prison officials in 48 states across the nation. The deal works like this: States sell their prisons off to the Corrections Corporation of America - also known as CCA - a multi-billion dollar for-profit corporation that's already operating 66 prison facilities across the nation.

CCA pays the state a lump-sum off the bat for the prison. For example - in Ohio - CCA paid the state $72 million to run the Lake Erie Correctional Institution. From that point on - the state will then pay CCA a couple million dollars a year to manage the facility...which the state paid to build and CCA just bought for a song. That sorta sounds like a crummy deal - but CCA and proponents of prison privatization argue that this deal will actually save states a bunch money. But that's not true.

As a recent study out of Arizona by the Tucson Citizen shows, selling off public prisons to for-profit corporations actually costs taxpayers in Arizona an extra $3.5 million a year. Although with the initial privatization sale of the prison, Republican governor Jan Brewer did get a few million she could use to make it seem like her budget was balanced...and then future generations will have to pay it back.

So...this is a crummy deal. Not only that - for-profit prison corporations like CCA haven't proven themselves to be any better at running prisons than state governments. For example in Idaho - CCA's prison facility saw far more violence than the nearby state-run prison. Between 2007 and 2008 - there 42 recorded assaults at the state-run Idaho State Correctional Institution. During that same period - at CCA's Idaho Correctional Center - there were a whopping 132 recorded assaults.

So not only is CCA overcharging taxpayers for their services - which is one reason why CCA's CEO Damon Hininger made more than three million bucks last year - but CCA prisons are far more violent, too. Which makes you wonder why mostly Republican state lawmakers and Governors would fall for it? The answer? Money...a lot of money. In the last ten years - CCA has spent more than $17 million dollars lobbying for lucrative prison contracts and tougher laws to throw more people in prison. Also in the last ten years - CCA has given nearly $2 million to various political candidates. So that explains that.

But there's a much a darker side to this prison privatization plan than just crony capitalism and wasting taxpayer dollars. It's predatory capitalism, also. As part of CCA's deal to buy public prisons - the state has to promise to keep those prisons at least 90% filled. Our States have to promise to lock up as many people as the corporation demands. Even if crime is down - even if there are fewer robberies, drug crimes, assaults, the prison population still has to remain high. Since CCA turns a profit off each inmate - then they need to make sure there are a lot of citizens locked up.

So let's think about what's happening here...by handing off our prisons to the private market - we've suddenly injected the profit-motive into our criminal justice system. It's no longer about keeping Americans safe from crime - and it's no longer about giving Americans who do mess up a second chance - and saving them from undue punishment - it's now strictly about making a buck. That's why CCA has lobbied for stricter drug laws and stricter anti-immigration laws. Those laws don't make us any safer - but they do lead to more people being thrown in prison - and thus more profits for corporations like CCA.

We have state and local police forces preying on the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect - just because a contract with a for-profit prison corporation forces them to do so. Again - this is predatory capitalism. And it's the reason why the commons are so important. Historically - prisons have belonged to "we the people" - they've belonged to the commons - administered by our democratic government. Not corporations like CCA that are unaccountable to "we the people" and only focused on profit.

Plain and simple - when it comes to things that deal with human beings - that deal with human lives - the profit motive shouldn't be number one like the free market dictates at all. In fact - the profit motive shouldn't be a motive at all. Motive number one should be the good of the society - and the good of the people. It's time to reclaim the commons!

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT TV & FSTV "live" 9pm and 11pm check www.thomhartmann.com/tv for local listings

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Reply Thom Hartmann: Attention Cash-Strapped States - the Largest For-Profit Prison a Deal for You! (Original post)
thomhartmann Sep 2012 OP
LuckyLib Sep 2012 #1
proverbialwisdom Sep 2012 #2
proverbialwisdom Sep 2012 #3
suede1 Sep 2012 #4
limpyhobbler Sep 2012 #5

Response to thomhartmann (Original post)

Thu Sep 13, 2012, 05:20 PM

1. Talk about a criminal enterprise -- CCA is right up there at the top:

"by handing off our prisons to the private market - we've suddenly injected the profit-motive into our criminal justice system."

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Response to thomhartmann (Original post)

Thu Sep 13, 2012, 06:47 PM

2. COUNTERPUNCH: 'Should Kids be Jailed for Skipping School? Criminalizing Truancy' by Annette Fuentes


September 11, 2012

Should Kids be Jailed for Skipping School?
Criminalizing Truancy


The judge peered down at Ashley Derrick from the bench and scolded her for being late to a 9 a.m. hearing in his Garland, Texas, courtroom. Derrick, 26, explained that she’d hit traffic coming from one of her two jobs as a phlebotomist. Her alleged crime: contributing to her child’s non-attendance at school, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and community service for each unexcused absence.

“Your son has six lates to school and two leaving early,” Judge John Sholden declared. “How do you plead?

“Not guilty,” answered Derrick. The judge set a pretrial hearing for June 27.

Outside the courtroom, Derrick, who was dressed in brightly printed scrubs, looked weary but resigned. Her son Marcus, 7, had indeed missed class time but it was for medical appointments. “My son has chronic asthma and also ADHD,” she said, “and he panics a little when he has breathing problems. So we have him seeing a counselor.” Marcus’ doctor had been tardy herself in providing mandatory excuse notes to his school, prompting the principal to file a truancy case in the Texas court. “There’s no flexibility,” Derrick said. “But I know I will have the doctor’s notes, so I pled not guilty.”

The harried African American single mom was among the hundreds of parents and students who attended truancy court on that single May day in Dallas County. Unlike Derrick, most pled guilty or no contest and were given a fine of at least $195, due in 30 days. Students risked losing their drivers licenses, too, and those who failed to appear in court for one reason or another risked arrest warrants.

Dallas-area school districts are not uniquely harsh on suspected truants. Around the country, school administrators, elected officials, and prosecutors are tackling the truancy problem through the criminal justice system, ratcheting up enforcement, slapping students and parents with big-dollar fines, and threatening jail time. Atlanta, Georgia, and Lynchburg, Virginia sharpened their truancy policies this year with the aim of increasing prosecutions. In Detroit, Los Angeles, and Compton, the police sweep the streets for truants and enforce daytime curfew laws.


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Response to thomhartmann (Original post)

Thu Sep 13, 2012, 08:56 PM

4. When politicians do something this horrendous, they should be eligible for residency in the

prisons they just sold.

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Response to thomhartmann (Original post)

Thu Sep 13, 2012, 10:29 PM

5. I wonder if private prisons will come up as an issue in the presidential debates?

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