Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Prison-Industrial Complex

The link goes to a fantastic article by Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie from 2008 that exposes some of the motives of law enforcement personnel in promoting stricter sentencing (basically, the more people they can get arrested and locked up, the more money they and their buddies in the criminal justice system stand to make).  The authors did some great in-depth research on the lobbying activities of CCA, who spent millions of dollars directly lobbying for stricter sentencing laws.  This is one of the perverse incentives of the private prison industry; they literally spend money trying to promote laws that will lead to greater numbers of Americans being incarcerated, despite the fact that we lead the world in locking up our own citizens by exponential amounts (for example, we have twice as many prisoners as China, a country with nearly 4 times our population), and despite the fact that increased levels of incarceration have never been shown to actually deter crime and promote public safety. 

It's all part of a grand scheme being played on the American people, parallel to Eisenhower's nightmarish prophecy of a military-industrial complex, that has resulted in "the land of the free" being the most incarceration-happy country in the world, with a total price tag of nearly $70 billion.  That's right, we spend $70 billion per year just to incarcerate people in this country, almost 2.5 million people to be exact, more than 1% of our adult population.  The Center for Disease Control says a virus or illness becomes an epidemic when it affects that many people; I'd argue this is an epidemic as well.  One that needs to be cured, not by a bunch of industry lobbyists, but by practical politicians who understand that we can't just incarcerate our way out of a crime problem, and that you can't legislate morality.  But I have little faith in that.  Instead, I hope some folks who'd rather be smart on crime than tough on it find their way into this debate, because for too long special interests like the private prison industry have dominated all our discussion on criminal justice reform.

1 comment:

  1. Nice effort, very informative, this will help me to complete my task.
    florist australia