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Private Prisons: The More Americans They Put Behind Bars The More Money They Make

Private Prisons: The More Americans They Put Behind Bars The More Money They Make - Photo by Tony HisgettHow would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money?  In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.  Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have.  Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people?  Or are there some other factors at work?  Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?  The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.  Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up.  It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it.

One of the keys to success in the private prison business it to get politicians to vote your way.  That is why the big private prison companies spend so much money on lobbying and campaign contributions.  The following is an excerpt from a report put out by the Justice Policy Institute entitled “Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies“…

For-profit private prison companies primarily use three strategies to influence policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships, networks, and associations.

Over the years, these political strategies have allowed private prison companies to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration and thus greater profit margins for their company. In particular, private prison companies have had either influence over or helped to draft model legislation such as “three-strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws, both of which have driven up incarceration rates and ultimately created more opportunities for private prison companies to bid on contracts to increase revenues.

If you can believe it, three of the largest private prison companies have spent approximately $45,000,000 combined on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.

Would they be spending so much money if those companies did not believe that it was getting results?

Just look at what has happened to the U.S. prison population over the past several decades.  Prior to 1980, there were virtually no private prisons in the United States.  But since that time, we have seen the overall prison population and the private prison population absolutely explode.

For example, between 1990 and 2009 the number of Americans in private prisons grew by about 1600 percent.

Overall, the U.S. prison population more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2007.

So something has definitely changed.

Not that it is wrong to put people in prison when they commit crimes.  Of course not.  And right now violent crime is rapidly rising in many of our largest cities.  When people commit violent crimes they need to be removed from the streets.

But when you put those criminals into the hands of private companies that are just in it to make a buck, the potential for abuse is enormous.

For example, when auditors visited one private prison in Texas, they “got so much fecal matter on their shoes they had to wipe their feet on the grass outside.

The prisoners were literally living in their own manure.

How would you feel if a member of your own family was locked up in such a facility?

And the truth is that there seem to be endless stories of abuse in private prisons.  One private prison company reportedly charges inmates $5.00 a minute to make phone calls but only pays them $1.00 a day to work…

Last year the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison company, received $74 million of taxpayers’ money to run immigration detention centers. Their largest facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, receives $200 a night for each of the 2,000 detainees it holds, and rakes in yearly profits between $35 million and $50 million.

Prisoners held in this remote facility depend on the prison’s phones to communicate with their lawyers and loved ones. Exploiting inmates’ need, CCA charges detainees here $5 per minute to make phone calls. Yet the prison only pays inmates who work at the facility $1 a day. At that rate, it would take five days to pay for just one minute.

Speaking of work, private prisons have found that exploiting their inmates as a source of slave labor can be extraordinarily profitable.  Today, private prisons are stealing jobs from ordinary American workers in a whole host of industries.  The following is from an article by Vicky Pelaez

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

And many of the largest corporations in America have rushed in to take advantage of this pool of very cheap slave labor.  Just check out some of the big names that have been exploiting prison labor…

At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

But of course some of the biggest profits for private prisons come from detaining young people.  Today, private prison companies operate more than 50 percent of all “youth correctional facilities” in the United States.

And sometimes judges have even been bribed by these companies to sentence kids to very harsh sentences and to send them to their facilities.  The following is from a report about two judges in Pennsylvania that were recently convicted for taking money to send kids to private prisons…

Michael Conahan, a former jurist in Luzerne County, was sentenced on Friday to 210 months in custody by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik II. Conahan was also ordered to pay $874,000 in restitution. […] As Main Justice reported in August, Ciavarella, former president judge of the Court of Common Pleas and former judge of the Juvenile Court for Luzerne County, was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to make restitution of $965,930. […]

Conahan’s role in the “cash for kids” scheme was to order the closing of a county-run detention center, clearing the way for Ciavarella, once known as a strict “law and order” judge, to send young offenders to private facilities. This arrangement worked out well for Ciavarella and Conahan, as well as the builder of the facilities and a developer, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The arrangement didn’t work out so well for the young offenders, some of them sent away for offenses that were little more than pranks and would have merited probation, or perhaps just scoldings, if the judges had tried to live up to their oaths.

Are you starting to see why private prisons are such a problem?

Hundreds of kids had their lives permanently altered by those corrupt judges.

When you allow people to make money by locking other people up in cages, you are just asking for trouble.

The more Americans they put behind bars, the more money these private prisons make.  It is a system that needs to be brought to an end.

So what do you think?

Do you believe that private prisons are a good idea or a bad idea?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

They Will Lock You Up Too If They Get The Chance - Photo by Barnellbe

19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Blow Your Mind

The United States is rapidly becoming the very first “post-industrial” nation on the globe.  All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing.  It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution.  It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes.  It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II.  But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America.  Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone.  Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period.  The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little.  Do you know what our biggest export is today?  Waste paper.  Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us.  The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now  just a shadow of what it once was.  Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined.  Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world.  If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children?

Any great nation throughout history has been great at making things.  So if the United States continues to allow its manufacturing base to erode at a staggering pace how in the world can the U.S. continue to consider itself to be a great nation?  We have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world in an effort to maintain a very high standard of living, but the current state of affairs is not anywhere close to sustainable.  Every single month America does into more debt and every single month America gets poorer.

So what happens when the debt bubble pops?

The deindustrialization of the United States should be a top concern for every man, woman and child in the country.  But sadly, most Americans do not have any idea what is going on around them.

For people like that, take this article and print it out and hand it to them.  Perhaps what they will read below will shock them badly enough to awaken them from their slumber.    

The following are 19 facts about the deindustrialization of America that will blow your mind….

#1 The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001. 

#2 Dell Inc., one of America’s largest manufacturers of computers, has announced plans to dramatically expand its operations in China with an investment of over $100 billion over the next decade.

#3 Dell has announced that it will be closing its last large U.S. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in November.  Approximately 900 jobs will be lost.

#4 In 2008, 1.2 billion cellphones were sold worldwide.  So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States?  Zero.

#5 According to a new study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, if the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to increase at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.

#6 As of the end of July, the U.S. trade deficit with China had risen 18 percent compared to the same time period a year ago.

#7 The United States has lost a total of about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since October 2000.

#8 According to Tax Notes, between 1999 and 2008 employment at the foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million. During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8 percent to 21.1 million.

#9 In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of U.S. economic output.  In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.

#10 Ford Motor Company recently announced the closure of a factory that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota. Approximately 750 good paying middle class jobs are going to be lost because making Ford Rangers in Minnesota does not fit in with Ford’s new “global” manufacturing strategy.

#11 As of the end of 2009, less than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing.  The last time less than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.

#12 In the United States today, consumption accounts for 70 percent of GDP. Of this 70 percent, over half is spent on services.

#13 The United States has lost a whopping 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#14 In 2001, the United States ranked fourth in the world in per capita broadband Internet use.  Today it ranks 15th.

#15 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

#16 Printed circuit boards are used in tens of thousands of different products.  Asia now produces 84 percent of them worldwide.

#17 The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States.

#18 One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.

#19 The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.

So how many tens of thousands more factories do we need to lose before we do something about it?

How many millions more Americans are going to become unemployed before we all admit that we have a very, very serious problem on our hands?

How many more trillions of dollars are going to leave the country before we realize that we are losing wealth at a pace that is killing our economy?

How many once great manufacturing cities are going to become rotting war zones like Detroit before we understand that we are committing national economic suicide?

The deindustrialization of America is a national crisis.  It needs to be treated like one.

If you disagree with this article, I have a direct challenge for you.  If anyone can explain how a deindustrialized America has any kind of viable economic future, please do so below in the comments section.

America is in deep, deep trouble folks.  It is time to wake up.

Finca Bayano

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