Matt Stoller is a current fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His Twitter feed is @matthewstoller.
More than a third of all states allow debtors “who can’t or won’t pay their debts” to be jailed. In 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, judges have issued 5,000 such warrants. What is behind the increased pressure to incarcerate people with debts? Is it a desire to force debt payment? Or is it part of a new structure where incarceration is becoming increasingly the default tool to address any and all social problems?
Consider a different example that has nothing to do with debts. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania judge was convicted of racketeering, of taking bribes from parties of interest in his cases. It was a fairly routine case of bribery, with one significant exception. The party making the payoffs was a builder and operator of youth prisons, and the judge was rewarding him by sending lots of kids to his prisons.
Welcome to the for-profit prison industry. It’s an industry that wants people in jail, because jail is their product. And they have shareholder expectations to meet.
Privatized prisons are marketed to international investors as “social infrastructure”, and they are part of a wave of privatization washing over the globe. Multi-billion dollar prison companies are upgraded by analysts with antiseptic words like “prospects for global prison growth”, and these companies have built a revolving door and patronage machine characteristic of any government contractor. Only, in this case, the business they are in is putting people into steel cages (or “filling beds” as they put it), and they don’t care how, why, or whether the people in those beds should be there. They don’t care if you’re in prison for smoking pot, stealing cars, or being in debt. They just want people in jail.
Here’s the 2010 10k of the Corrections Corporation of America (PDF), the largest operator of private prisons in the country. It’s a pretty simple business model – more prisoners, more money. Or, as the company writes, “Historically, we have been successful in substantially filling our inventory of available beds and the beds that we have constructed. Filling these available beds would provide substantial growth in revenues, cash flow, and earnings per share.”
CCA offers an assessment of risks to the company, which include ending the war on drugs or curbing the incarceration of undocumented immigrants.
The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.
Many people wonder why the Obama administration is so harsh with undocumented immigrants – these words supply an explanation for why such harshness can be profitable.
But there are more risks.
Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.
Reduced sentences, good behavior, and fewer arrests are business risks, where a high recidivism rate is a bonus in this schema. And the lobbying and campaign donations flow from the business logic, as this report lays out. These companies want to keep the war on drugs going, want caging of undocumented workers, and want to make sure that good behavior is rewarded with more jail time. And the more like a police state America becomes, the better.
And in this business, state and local budgetary problems aren’t a bug, they are a feature.
Our competitive cost structure offers prospective customers a compelling option for incarceration. The unique budgetary challenges states are facing may cause states to further rely on us to help reduce their costs, and also cause those states that have not previously utilized the private sector to turn to the private sector to help reduce their overall costs of incarceration.
There’s bizarre stuff in the 10k, like worries about “negative publicity about an escape, riot or other disturbance or perceived poor conditions at a privately managed facility may result in adverse publicity to us and the private corrections industry in general.” Or worries about being audited and subjected to criminal charges for billing clients for expenses that aren’t legitimate, if the company has incurred and billed for such expenses. And then there’s this nugget, which gives a hint of the cruelty that is in all likelihood underlying the business model.
Moreover, the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, has published for comment a petition for rulemaking, filed on behalf of an inmate family, which would prevent private prison managers from collecting commissions from the operations of inmate telephone systems.
It’s unclear what the specifics are, but it sounds like a business that profits by extracting money from the families of prisoners by operating as a monopolist when it comes to the use of the phone system. This is not a penal system, it’s a rentier culture applied to the freedom of human beings.
Turning denial of freedom into a for-profit industry is obviously quite dangerous, though in some senses that’s what the War on Drugs has always been about. Ryan Grim’s This Is Your Country on Drugs” shows how drug restrictions were pushed at first by the pharmaceutical industry, and then used by the CIA as an off-balance sheet financing vehicle for America’s seedier allies. Now the War on Drugs is a substantial part of the prison-industrial complex.
The War on Drugs and this new prison industry is a template for where we seem to be heading as a culture. In the last ten years or so, a disturbing part of the system has metastasized into the system itself. As our financial system has increasingly and more overtly dominated the very structure of the country, freedom itself is being commoditized.
Debtor’s prison are making a comeback because of the debt collection industry. Elites like former Comptroller David Walker are waxing nostalgically for more punitive measures in the face of a population that simply cannot pay its debts. The for-profit prison industry fits right in to this trend, both in terms of the financialization of the industry itself and the increased market for “beds” sought by for-profit prison lobbyists in terms of harsher prison sentences.
Trying to end the war on drugs and stopping the incarceration of undocumented workers should move up the priority list. Once it becomes profitable to put people into steel cages, then it becomes profitable for judges to sell children in some creepy bizarro 21st century version of Oliver Twist. And if you think the housing bubble was bad because it misallocated resources, or foreclosure fraud is bad because it allows powerful actors to seize property based on raw power, then imagine what could happen if the logic of the for-profit prison system met the same type of leveraged financial hurricane.
A couple of other fascist features like that and it’ll be mandatory to yell “Sig Heil” in the good ol’ US of A.
I rather think it will be “Heil yea”
That is if you’re from good patriotic, Christian, gun toting stock.
Actually, the Bible forbids usury between fellow countrymen in Deuteronomy 23:19-20 and commands periodic debt-forgiveness toward fellow countrymen in Deuteronomy 15.
Question? Do the bankers consider the rest of us to be non-countrymen?
We are all *one species*. Once you accept that irrefutable fact, the learning can begin.
Skippy…But it might upset the smiting thingy, good times, raising up of your self stuff.
sarve kutumbeh vasudevan. The entire humanity is God’s family.
Looks like the bankers et al view the public as ‘things’ to be used and exploited. A similar thing happened to the “Natives” during the Colonial period, and that turned out badly, didn’t it?
Maybe they believe this?
Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Matthew 3:8-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
@andy…shoot the messenger thingy. Try venting your Nazi reference to the origin of the link and its author, seems an in house problem.
Skippy…please post back on how you go..ok.
Yes, it is essential to the survival or the WHOLE society to not have or interrupt this cycle, or the never-ending cycle will just destroy the whole: finally no one is left. This shows the shortsightedness of greedy-non-democratic principles. What was recognize a few centuries ago, at the time of the creation of the Unites States, was that we do need to care for each other, or we destroy ourselves. Yes, an elephant may be ultimately greatly powerful, but it is only in a herd that he can withstand an attack or he will die.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Pick a side, the national security state or the social welfare state. The mechanism of the nation state can be harnessed for either. If you want to know what the national security state produces, look at Libya, Syria, Tunisia, the Intifada, Tehran, Cairo, Wisconsin. Brutality will produce violent revolt. Here, it will be a multi class event of cyber revolt, street riots, criminal activity, militia actions, as ugly as a civil blood bath gets. The NRA has 4 million members, twice the standing army. Of course, our military is scattered all over the world. Cops are getting screwed out of pensions in New Jersey for 30 years. Passive aggressive is almost a given with fire men and cops. The last LA riot was a police blue flu event as much as a Rodney King reaction. Total prison pop is approx 2.5 and another 5 million or so under law enforcement administration, parole etc. It will not end well. The social welfare faction may concede even more brutal measures, such as debtors prisons to suppress any thought of speaking up, registering to vote, or organizing on line via social media. It may reach new levels of un American ugliness to ensure revolts do not happen here. Pick a side. Democracy and power doesn’t just fall from the sky like rain.
So what kind of dividents has our national security state paid?
As it turns out, damned little. This report from Defending Justice explains:
The United States recently became the country with the most people incarcerated and the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world. This high level of incarceration does not stem from abnormally high crime rates, but is instead linked more strongly to our nation’s sentencing practices and drug policies, both of which have been developed to be “tough on crime.” This “tougher” and harsher stance is not as effective as approaches other nations use, which focus more on crime prevention and rehabilitation.
Crime rates in the U.S. are about the same as in other Western countries, as revealed in this report. So the “tough on crime” policies, and the massive costs involved, pay few dividends.
Homicide rates in the US, however, are far greater than they are in other Western countries, on the same order of magnitude as they are in MEXICO. Up until 2007, the homicide rate in Mexico was about twice what it was in the United States. Now Mexico has a homicide rate over three times that of the US.
But even with a near doubling of the homicide rate in Mexico over the past four years, there are still 24 states in the United States that have higher homicide rates than the state where I live in Mexico—-the state of Queretaro.
So while things are certainly not good in Mexico, and are deteriorating rapidly, only a person who sees the United States through the lens of American exceptionalism could see things as being a whole lot better in the United States.
Homicides per 100,000 residents:
Washington DC 29
Baja California 24
Mexico: Crime Rate Traffic Light 2010
Crime Rate by State, 2006
And I’d like to take one more opportunity to plug this video on the situation in Ciudad Juarez that Doug Terpstra linked the other day:
Fault Lines – Mexico: Impunity and profits
Trickle down, even though it doesn’t work when it comes to economics, does work when it comes to crime. In Mexico, the crime begins at the top, and eventually trickles down to the streets.
Here’s another in AlJazeera’s Fault-Line series on Mexico. It’s another dire report on escalating violence, but it includes some inspiring interviews about local salt-of-the-earth communities’ finding solidarity in desperation and ensuring their own security —despite government complicity in narcotrafficking. Against the background of grisly violence, Mexico’s most beautiful people really shine.
“Fault Lines – Mexico’s Hidden War”
Thanks for the link, Doug.
For the people who live in the US, all I can say is: A movie coming soon to a theater near you.
“These are the times that try mens’ souls.” Thomas Paine.
He was considered a dangerous radical in his own day. He’d probably be considered a terrorist enabler and security risk today.
Robert Morris was the first Gov of Pennsylvania. He was a founding father. He personally financed the American Revolution in part by signing for loans with European lenders who did not recognize the colonies as a confederation adding up to anything more than a contractually bound group of on non nation states. He started the first bank in N America and was the mentor to A Hamilton. After the war, his investments in land speculation, owning much of NY state and other land made him the richest man in America. His home in Philadelphia, was used as the first White House by Washington and Adams. The oval window at the front of the house became the signature oval office of the president, where Washington sat and conducted executive business of the day. You can now, visit the archeological site of this building. His name can be viewed on the Declaration of Independence. He was in charge of the committee to draft the final version of the US Constitution. What George Washington was to battle, Robert Morris was to banking, without which, there would have been no money to pay, equip and pursue a war for independence. Robert Morris spent 3 years in jail for debts when his real estate investments collapsed. He died soon after being freed, in poverty. So much for being the indispensable patriot. Blood may be thicker than water, but debts are thicker than what your fellow founding fathers are willing to tolerate.
I am hoping Yves can look into the incentives created by banks underwriting “Longevity Insurance”. That would give the Bankers an incentive to kill us. Literally.
Any insight into that would be appreciated.
I completely agree. America is going to make a huge choice either in 2012 or 2016. About half the country wants to “shrug” the bottom tiers off the social assistance bus, we’ll see how many actually turn out at the polls to do the deed.
Paul, so you are suggesting that people choose a side like in Nazi Germany? So pick a side, the Fascists vs. the Communists? Yeah, that ended well for the Communists in Germany didn’t it? How about the Russian people themselves?
Maybe Adolph wasn’t too happy with his supposed truce with Stalin for attempting to project his politics into Germany. What did Adolph do, outside of Night of the Long Knives?
Your suggestion will get many, many more people killed. Here is my suggestion: An individual should just let the Fascists kill each other off and offer passive resistance like Ghandi. They will starve you either way but one method mitigates losses while the other exacerbates them.
The reason why Fascists kill each other in the end is because the desire to compete and win overwhelms all other human emotions for these types of people. It is the path of least resistance as well until the end cycle, meaning Fascism is a lazy way to win vs. sustainability. Killing each other requires little vision, just lever up for R&D and deployment of massive forces.
Consider the pre-war history of WWII and U.S. government/banking system direct funding for the Nazi war machine, to unify Europe. Evil intent to start with (ends justify means). But the Fascists began killing each other off. Fascism has momentum that reaches a point where it cannot be contained by the power of the pen or the ballot box. We are far past that point measured in years now.
I am here not to participate in killing one side or the other Paul. Please be aware of what you are advocating people to do. I do believe you mean well.
My mission consists of loss mitigation in the next decade and framework for the aftermath in how we build a better world. The suffering is growing and the work never ending. When I made these decisions in 2007, I considered it a bitter-sweet adventure. I have not been dissapointed.
Very good points, and worth consideration. It strengthens my resolve to move to a mountaintop and wait this thing out.
Besides, like you say, they are much better at killing than we would be, or ever want to be.
By 2022 things might start looking up.
The mountain top thing until 2022 would bore me. However, back up plans will probably come in handy. I consider mountain retreats as a vacation spot and back up plan. After all, every dark night has a new dawn.
There are those working on group back-up/vacation spots, to package them into self-sustaining communities, a different sort of life insurance policy.
My belief is that I am willing to give all to save one life. He who saves one, saves the world. Plenty of other misguided souls to create losses to mitigate. And as mentioned, the adventure has not dissapointed. A little over a decade ago I practiced this approach. I have found contentment whether I sleep on a mat or dine with a bigwig.
I am going to try be polite to you, so please be patient. Do not put words in my mouth or my blog reply. Today Jason, there are two sides in the American political arena. It is the year 2011 and Obama is the president. There is no there is no fascist party roaming around. Most people are on one side or the other, whether they choose or not. I am advocating choice. That is why I say, PICK a side. Silence or moderate centrist smugness is consent to what is going on. It is as bad or worse than Tea Party hysteria OR open animosity against Americans who not American enough for some Americans, like birthers, anti aliens deporters, and voter suppression union bashers. I would say that they are mostly in the newly reconstituted militant right wing national security state republican party. That would be one of the sides. The other side would be the dems who are advocating a newly empowered National Labor Relations Board that is systematically turning back rulings and inaction allowing union elections and organizing to operate more freely than in the past 30 or so years. They have set up a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Federal Reserve. They have sent almost 100,000 troops home from Iraq, and the rest in about 6 months will be gone. They are taking 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan. They are recognizing Gays in the military. I could go on, but you and others who are too clever for me to understand will no doubt rebut me by pointing out that Anthony Weiner just resigned, proving that NAZIs rule America. I know, I know, I am writing from a laundromat in my thread bare jeans. So please, go easy on me when you reply, my meds are all gone and if I cry anymore in front of my wife, she will leave me.
Great. The return of debtors’ prisons. Next, we’ll put stocks in shopping malls to shame miscreants. After that the rack, thumbscrew and auto de fe. Moats, drawbridges, and Justice Scalia rolling back the Magna Carta as too liberal and wooly minded.
The time before the magna carta was a halcyon time indeed. It’s a time that all us conservative folk long for.
The best thing about prison is that slavery is legal in prisons. The second best thing is that torture is also legal. And the third best thing is that you get to milk all the friends and relatives for every last cent they have. Once they’re broke, it’s off to prison for them too!
It’s win, win, win. I see a very bright future for the prison industry. I’d like to see 50% of Americans in prison by the year 2020. The other 49% can earn a good living guarding them and working them as slaves.
I want to see all the financial wiz kids here put their heads together and think about ways to use creative financial derivatives to bring this about.
Who needs financial whiz to do that?
All you need is good wholesome health capitalism.
Utah Texas: “I want to see all the financial wiz kids here put their heads together and think about ways to use creative financial derivatives to bring this about.”
I already have a team working on that, they call them Prison CDOs Squared (also CDO^2 or CDO2). ha ha ha
All these young people loading up on student debt, dreaming of a job on Wall Street, etc. It’s pathetic.
If they want a true glimpse of what the future has in store for them, they might want to forget about Liar’s Poker.
Have look at the Abu Ghraib files instead. Pay special attention to the photos.
The House Judiciary Committee is holding hearings Friday on the “See Something, Say Something Act of 2011.” If enacted, it would provide legal immunity to both citizens denouncing their neighbors to law enforcement as suspected terrorists (unless the report is knowingly false) and, regardless of the accuracy of the report, to all local, state, and federal employees and law enforcement officials who investigate the denunciation.
Encouraging people to report acquaintances to law enforcement undermines social cohesion and gives the government an excuse to investigate more people. As the book Three Felonies a Day points out, an average American unknowingly commits three federal felonies each day. All the government needs to do is determine which ones.
A strategy that worked so well in the good old USSR, lest we forget.
Hyperlink won’t work. Ya gotta copy & paste that text into your browser.
Here’s where the Irish lead the way ahead again. During the “Troubles” the various para-military gangs used all sorts of ingenious methods to discourage ‘collaberation.’
The Latin American drug gangs are just the latest in a long line of counter-societal forces to embrace indiscriminate violence as a ‘business model.’ This process isn’t all one sided. By blurring the lines between out and out anti-social violent actors and ‘slightly deviant’ citizens, the State is sealing its’ own doom. Guess which way the dynamic trends?
All so the privaleged can show off yacht number three that they MIGHT someday water-ski behind. King Solomon said it best: “All is vanity.”
That prospectus is just another typical example, another literal declaration of war upon America and humanity by a handful of terrorists. But unlike the Muslim terrorists, these corporate terrorists, from the Wall Street banksters on down to vermin thugs like these private jailers, clearly do represent an existential threat to the American people.
It’s clear that there’s no way to stake out a “middle ground” here, the way certain criminal apologists around here try to argue in their passive-aggressive concern troll way. Either the criminals must perish, or humanity must perish. No reasonable person would read that, or read anything coming out of Wall Street, or anything coming out of any big corporation, and think there was any possibility of compromise, coexistence, or any other vain notion. These are the words of totalitarian criminals. And all their actions prove that they’re dead serious about these totalitarian words. Humanity must get equally serious in response.
And to repeat what I’ve said before, every last bit of this is nothing but Big Government in action. Corporations are simply today’s elite-preferred form of government. Any conservative who still wants to differentiate between the two is way behind the times.
1. A “corporation” is an artificial creation of government in the first place. Obviously, in a “free market” there would be no such thing as corporations.
2. Government runs up the public debt to pay out all this corporate welfare (none of these corporations are economically viable according to any “free market” measure, and none could exist without massive infusions of corporate welfare).
3. All the debt is backstopped by the government.
4. All corporate acts of force are backed by the police power of the government.
Corporations are government, and by now government is corporations. The two are one inextricable unit.
Corporate exactions are taxes, every bit as much as direct government taxes.
Corporate policies are regulations, every bit as much as direct government regulations.
Yes…a clear threat to Humanity and *all* Living Things.
Skippy…when it all blows up they will say…at least we had a good run, not everyone has had that!
Ya Skippy: Don’t bring around the cloud to rain on my parade! It is in my head now.
Jason Rines Alternate Ego: Jason said it’s all good.
Here we go again. (I never thought I’d end up being an apologist for the status quo, but oh well, I am merely human.)
You are positing a false dichotomy in segregating Criminals and Humanity. I hope this is for rhetorical purposes. Criminals are a subset of Humanity. Criminals come in all sorts of flavours, spins, charms, and weights. They cannot be separated out from the rest of humanity and whatever.
I appreciate the anger and frustration about how the present system is heading down the road to chaos. We’re not “eyeless in Gaza, among slaves” either. Revolutions are not plannable events. Those are ‘coups’ and ‘golpes.’ Different creatures entirely. The BBC show from a few years back, “A Very English Coup” said it very well. That was envisioned as a planned change of government by illicit means, a mechanical thing. True revolutions start when ‘the People’ reach the limits of their tolerance and act. Smart revolutionaries go along for the ride and try to influence events, and seldom controll them. This is where planning and preparation have their place. It will be a crap shoot, because if anyone can accurately predict the future, he or she would be the Lord of All Things.
Well, hope I stirred the pot a little.
Your humble and obedient servant.
Criminals…cannot be separated out from the rest of humanity and whatever.
These criminals can be, because they’ve declared a war of extermination on everything that makes us human, on civilization itself.
They want to completely dissolve civil society and plunge us all into something far worse than the state of nature (they want to add totalitarian debt indenture to the hardships of the state of nature) while they use brute force to maintain whatever level of luxury and power they can post-oil. Their post-civilizational barbarism is the most vicious, ugly, subhuman manifestation this earth has ever seen. They have literally zero human traits, while they act ruthlessly to destroy all such humanity in others. They’re demons.
And you choose to argue on their side.
► ambrit said: “Smart revolutionaries go along for the ride and try to influence events, and seldom control them.”
I suppose much depends on what you mean by “smart,” but if what you mean by “smart” are those that rise to power, I would challenge the veracity of that statement. I suggest a reading of Jonathan Schell’s chapter “The Mass Minority in Action: France and Russia” from his book The Unconquerable World. The key quote is:
[T]he distinguished historian (and first president of Czechoslovakia) Tomas Masaryk wrote in his work on the revolution…,”The October revolution was anything but a popular mass movement. That revolution was the act of leaders working from above and behind the scenes.” And many historians have since followed Masaryk in his judgment.
Schell also briefly alludes to how the Nazis rose to power in the same fashion that the Bolsheviks and the Jacobins did.
ambrit said: “You are positing a false dichotomy in segregating Criminals and Humanity.”
In any society in this world, psychopathic individuals and some of the other deviant types create a ponerogenically active network of common collusions, partially estranged from the community of normal people… Their world is forever divided into “us and them”; their little world with its own laws and customs and that other foreign world of normal people that they see as full of presumptuous ideas and customs by which they are condemned morally. Their sense of honor bids them to cheat and revile that other human world and its values at every opportunity In contradiction to the customs of normal people, they feel that breaking their promises is appropriate behavior.
…This dichotomy of worlds is permanent and does not disappear even if they succeed in realizing their youthful dream of gaining power over the society of normal people. This strongly suggests that the separation is biologically conditioned.
In the psychopath, a dream emerges like some Utopia of a “happy” world and a social system which does not reject them or force them to submit to laws and customs whose meaning is incomprehensible to them. They dream of a world in which their simple and radical way of experiencing and perceiving reality would dominate; where they would of course, be assured safety and prosperity. In this Utopian dream, they imagine that those “others”, different, but also more technically skillful than they are, should be put to work to achieve this goal for the psychopaths and others of their kin. “We”, they say, “after all, will create a new government, one of justice.”
▬Andrew M Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology
@Attempter – Your comments on this blog are among the most lucid statements of the problem (and possible solutions) I’ve ever seen.
“Either the criminals must perish, or humanity must perish.”
It’s really that stark and simple. And more people need to wake up and realize this.
It seems obvious that we’re putting the wrong people in jail.
Or in the insane asylums.
Thanks. You should visit my blog.
For someone so brilliant in intelligence Attempter, consider wisdom: To everything there is a season.
If you think your ready to go to battle then go ahead and sign up for a military. Pick East or West to fight over the reserve peg-prize. Or alternatively, become an independent operator and try to kill them anybody with a usery policy like Islam.
You act as if some people here are cowards. If you’re so brave posting all this stuff every day but ready to accuse others of cowardice for not marching forward then you’re a hypocrite.
Walk on the field yourself and you’ll some followers I am sure. You best make sure to be like the real George Washington who was part of the aristocracy to find a way to get funding. Otherwise what you will have is a tiny gang that gets roasted by the ATF, like Waco or Ruby Ridge.
Ever hear of “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of there eyes.” Speaking of that time period, the Founders wanted us to attempt to reform government before abolishing it. Read the Declaration of Indepence again Attempter. The reason they advocated that is not because the chance of reform is likely, doing so mitigates losses on BOTH sides when the shooting starts.
Grow up on calling others cowards or head out into the field and fight. You could be Bin Laden 2.0, a Foot Soldier, Predator Pilot. Lots of options to choose from now march!
For idiots who haven’t been paying attention, the preponderance of capacity for violence is overwhelmingly on the side of the criminals, so obviously a dissident in America has no such option. But of course you know that and are just making armpit noises.
If the day comes that there’s a February-style uprising in America, I’ll certainly be part of it. Until then, all I can do is try to contribute to the ideas that can help bring it about. Learn some history, why don’t you.
Several items not mentioned in the article are as follows…
1. By creating more poverty (off shoring jobs, rising taxes, reduction of the dollars value against goods and services) all serve to raise the general over all crime rate. See crime rates during times of prosperity.
2. By increasing the crime rate due to poverty, law makes have a built in excuse to pass more laws that in turn make more citizens into criminals and or force otherwise honest citizens into a criminal mentality.
3. People sucked into poverty that become criminal just to survive then become fodder for the for profit prison system. Of course it goes without saying that once incarcerated you also become a debtor and as such suffer double jeopardy as your now a criminal and a debtor if that SOB gets his way.
4. The banks finance the prisons, pay the law makers to change or add “so called laws” to the books. Jack up the interest rates to unbearable rates for those who lost their jobs and then their homes. These unfortunates caught in this illegal bear trap, none of which was their doing as the banks, big government and big business have conspired to eliminate life and liberty from the citizen.
5. The real reason (cutting though all the bull shit!) for the wars in the Middle East, is very straight forward. That being banks in the middle east make interest free loans as Muslim religion forbids “on pain of death” usury or the loaning of money for interest or gain. Plus the banks held by Muslims hold thousands of tons of gold reserves, just ask Kaddaffy. His Libyan bank holds 148 tons of gold bullion and Europe and US of A banks want it!
That’s what’s missing in the article… once you see the whole story… the smell becomes unmistakable!
And of course the final solution once most of the population is in slave prisons, on trumped up illegal laws (for Matt Stoller) is the ultimate reward… captive slave labor, for years and years and years! Interesting last name STOLLER! Isn’t it?
My prediction… a law will be passed (making it a prison offense to be POOR!) just watch!
I do know history Attempter, some say I know about human nature. All I am suggesting to you is that there is a time and season for particular actions. Downsouth posts wonderful details of history and human nature. I tend to net it out as a form of shock therapy, so intelligent and caring idealogues think a bit now about some really tough decisions they make later.
I was overly harsh on you Attempter in the last portion of my commentary. Please accept my apologies. Peace my brother.
Thanks, no problem.
If the day comes that there’s a February
I don’t recall attempter’s charges of cowardice, though I suppose many of us might be as guilty as WW2 Germans, knowing what is being done in our names to people of MENA, Asia, Latin America and here in the Homeland. In fact I’ve found his and DownSouth’s analysis of our current sorry state most compelling. Their forceful indictments of the tyranny we suffer today are every bit as vital and incisive as pre-revolutionary Thomas Paine.
On a post about true Progressives today, http://my.firedoglake.com/newprogressivealliance/2011/06/23/what-progressives-do-part-one-of-two/ , my Uncle, Jake Terpstra wrote:
“Thomas Paine saw this more clearly than [other] early leaders… Perhaps visions of what now is possible, are causing some of us to see more clearly. Intelligence may be less of a guide than visions of what is possible. That may be coming into view now better than anything since 1776.”
Seeking progressive passionate writers
Details at: http://grandrapids.craigslist.org/wri/2457872425.html
Yes, I castigate the cowardice of those who are being liquidated but continue to submit, and in particular those like “progressives” who claim to care about things like economic oppression, war, civil liberties, transparency, etc. (just a few of the realms where Obama has escalated Bush’s crimes) but who meekly follow the criminal path laid out by their betters in the Democratic party and liberal NGOs.
Does FDL now allow comments like that? Edgy, for them. I once saw a Gandhi reference censored on the grounds that “Firedoglake allows only advocacy of legal change through the electoral system.” (That’s almost a verbatim quote from the moderator.)
Actually, I gather that FDL has a very high level of moderator capriciousness.
My Dear attempter;
“Firedoglake moderators have a very high degree of capriciousness..” Well, what did you expect? Caprice is a prime indicator for ‘being human.’ Otherwise we’d all be Vulcans. “Live long and prosper.”
Great article. I am familiar with the prison industry because I worked as a shrink in one a long time ago. Another aspect of this prison industry that need to be mentioned is that inmates are also required to work while in prison, and their pay runs about 20 cents per hour.
Additionally, since American prisons (private or government-owned) are such absolute hellholes, many inmates break down psychologically (at least 30 percent of them), and thus are forcefully placed on expensive psychiatric medication, thus they represent a true bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry.
In fact, today, prisons are the largest provider of mental health services in the country. Larger than hospitals, larger than the armed forces, larger than the community mental health clinics. Of course, these so-called “mental health services” are worse than in the most backward third world country, but they push a lot of expensive medication on the inmates.
The article is correct in that the vast majority of people in prisons are there on non-violent drug or immigration offenses.
To show you how insane our laws are: the sentence for illegal reentry if 5 years in federal prison, costing taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars (legal fees, trial, investigations, and then incarceration). Once the illegal immigrant served his sentence, he is deported to his country of origin, and is usually never seen again. And, illegal immigrants represent at least 25 percent of all inmates in federal prisons, although the federal government now contracts out private prisons to house illegal immigrants as well.
This country incarcerates 3 million people (1 percent of its population), with 10 more million on probation or parole. We build 2 new private prisons every month in this country.
How is that for a nation that has completely lost its way? Or, how is that for an empire that is self-cannibalizing itself right into hyper-collapse. (“Hyper-collapse” – you heard it here first… but feel free to use the term in your own posts as well :)
But wait! Just when you thought the insanity was fully explained… there’s more: The Death Penalty.
Here is a recent Huffington Post article on this topic:
As such, next time you hear a republican proclaiming that he (or she) is “tough on crime”, just ask if $308 million dollars per execution sounds like a good deal.
And, by the way, all studies conducted indicate that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, as neither are long sentences (as is commonly fashionable in good ole’ U.S. of A.), as neither are dumb laws like “three strikes”, which are bankrupting states like California.
As such, as the empire continues along it trajectory of hyper-collapse (darn, there’s that term again… :), expect the “circuses” to enter hyper-drive as well. Thus, expect televised executions to soon come to a corporate news station near you… sponsored by ______________ (fill in the name of your most despised corporation here).
A good way to boost pay-per-view earnings on executions would be to kill people in creative ways. For example, on the evening when Monsanto sponsors the killing, they can make the executed person drink roundup until he’s dead. Then there can be a little commercial “Roundup. Effective on all pests.”
Another “entertaining” thing we can have on the Monsanto evening, is to get a bunch of Iraq-war vets to drink a small glass of Monsanto-made Agent Orange, and then wait a few years to see if they too (just like their Vietnam brethren did before) develop all sorts of deadly cancers and debilitating neurological diseases.
Then, once all vets die painful deaths, we just air the US government’s and Monsanto’s reps deny that Agent Orange has any negative health-related effects.
The govt types are indeed trying something similar out with the Iraq War Vets. It’s all to do with ‘depleted uranium core’ 20mm cannon rounds pumped out by the thousands in the desert to ‘knock down’ ‘hard targets,’ like tanks and APCs. Someone do the math on concentration factors and isotope half lives and get back to us, hopefully before the cancers and immune defficiency diseases wipe this generation of vets out.
Justice for all. Ha!
When I read about China using its financial power over Europe and America I wonder if it might be a good thing after all. At least you would know where you stand!
There is none of this pretending to care about human rights while taking bribes to put people in jail. In China you go to jail because you speak out against the government. In America you go to jail because you’re black.
Also I am wondering whether all these new debtors jails will be filled with graduates in a few years time?
In the US you have to get deep into debt to get an education and when you graduate you find all the jobs you could have done have been exported to India, China or Mexico anyway.
Given educational loans from pretend universities backed by financed by Goldman Sachs and the like are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, it looks like the next stop for the average graduate in a few years time could well be debtors prison.
Great points. Indeed, the US prison system is extremely racist. Most inmates are black or Hispanic. Many studies show that blacks get much harsher sentences for the same crime than whites do.
And, as I mentioned above, while in prison inmates are forced to work for around 20 cents per hour. Therefore, one can say that the old slave plantations and farms have been replaced by prisons, and both “enterprises” exploited non-whites. Nothing really changed.
You forgot to mention they have to spend their 20 cents an hour to pay off their costs of incarceration, court costs from their trial (if they asked for one), and $20/minute telephone charges for using the prison phones to call family or friends. There’s also money to be made selling them $10 1oz bags of chips. Not to mention prison guards and inmate gangs who use violence and threats of violence to steal whatever is left.
Good points as well. The Russian Gulag under Stalin was a way to have cheap prison labor keep the USSR going. The Russians used to allow “real” criminals prey on the political prisoners to keep them in order.
You can easily see the US heading this way – build thousands of for profit prisons, fill them with debtors and have gangs control them.
Why not make them pay for the costs of their upkeep in prison as well? That way you could turn a 3 month sentence into 30 years charging the inmate for board and lodgings.
I can only imagine the prison builders are already thinking of this.
Alex look into Jesus main beef with the temple and its priests, hierarchical structure, for profit enterprise, gate keepers to gods ear, genealogically assured, class distinction by birth. Romans were just the icing on the cake, other than that he was a devout Jew. Also look into the disciples churches…cough…house gatherings after his death and their evolutions.
Sigh…some things never change in this world, what became Christianity was after he died, not what he preached, quickly co-opted by the Romans. The hole thing is more twisted than economics yet how much of the world is lead by it…argghhh!
Skippy…Mark 7:24-30 “But He answered and said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
I have a friend who claims to be this holier than thou super-saved Christian passing judgment left and right. He has been working for a credit card company. So, around Christmas, I sent him an article by Chris Hedges where Hedges equates today’s banksters with the money changers whom Jesus chased out of the temple. I challenged my friend to find another job.
Needless to say, I haven’t heard from him since… not even at Easter, as he used to always send me one of those stupid “Happy Easter” email greeting cards filled with rabbits and colored eggs…lol
You know by questioning such things, whom your lord is now…eh…his dark shadow…cough Bankinfiend[?], see:
I worship his shadow:
Regardless, the Catholics outlawed all interest between Christians, and enforced Jubilee (total debt forgiveness, across the board) every 50 years, until around the time the new money changers – the bankers – took over western Europe. One of the most Christ-like things the Catholic Church ever did.
uh, that was supposed to be a response to alex’s post above, but that post seems to have vanished for the moment…
The real criminal here is our criminal justice system. Could we call it our “criminal” criminal justice system?
Putting a human face on it
This distraught mother, whose son committed suicide after being sentenced to prison by this corrupt system, confronts the attorney for the “criminal” criminal Judge Mark Ciavarella as the attorney exits the courtroom with his client. The mother confronts the attorney as he is crowing over his victory in getting the court to allow Ciavarella to walk free:
Distraught Mother Lashed Out At Former Convected Judge Mark Ciavarella
The mother’s (Sandy Fonzo) son, Edward Kenzakoski,
was an energetic high school wrestler who had never been in trouble with the law before he was arrested on minor charges and hauled into Ciavarella’s court in Luzerne County, Pa., at age 17. Though jail time for such offenses is rare, Ciavarella, along with his colleague Michael Conahan, had a reputation for giving draconian sentences for omparatively minor offenses, and authorities later determined that between them they collected nearly $3 million in kickbacks to send some 4,000 young offenders to a private juvenile facility run by associates of theirs.”
Free on bail
For the moment, both Ciavarella and Conahan remain free on bail awaiting sentencing. Conahan pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, but Ciavarella continues to maintain his innocence. And that enrages Fonzo.
Oops! Forgot to mention that this is the same Pennsylvania judge who was convicted of racketeering, of taking bribes from parties of interest in his cases, that Stoller mentions.
A core tenet of contemporary American ideology is the fact that poverty is a crime. This belief is embraced not only by the financial elites, but by a very large portion of those living on the financial margins of society!
In order to establish a feudal society in America, it is absolutely essential not only to concentrate the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few, but it is also essential to insure that the average citizen is always on the brink of complete economic devastation replete with all of its criminal consequences.
Every action that serves to further criminalize poverty and increase the corresponding level of the population which is incarcerated furthers these vital goals.
A core tenet of contemporary American ideology is the fact that poverty is a crime. This belief is embraced not only by the financial elites, but by a very large portion of those living on the financial margins of society!
As unbelievable as it seems, that’s what Elijah Anderson concluded in his groundbreaking study of the inner city. In Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City he gives examples of the types of persons who embrace the working-class ethic. Here’s one example, what he dubs the “grandmother” type:
Racism, the changing economy, unemployment, and changing social values all affect the people in the community. But the grandmother, particularly if middle-aged or elderly, often takes an ideologically conservative view and tends to have little tolerance for structural explanations. Given her prior experience in the local community in the days of the manufacturing economy, in matters of idleness and unemployment she is ready to blame the victim, because she feels that there is work to be had for those who are willing to do it and that people can abstain from doing wrong if they want to. It is her belief that the various social problems plaguing the community stem more from personal irresponsibility than from any flaw in the wider system.
And here’s another example, what Anderson calls the “Decent Daddy” type:
Such a man tends to have little patience with men who fail to meet their responsibilities as fathers or husbands. Intolerant of excuses that blame discrimination or the lack of jobs, he holds individuals responsible, not the system, and sees resorting to “aid,” or welfare, as showing a lack of gumption. He admits that racism is a problem, but he also knows that it can be a lame excuse for not applying oneself to the task at hand. He believes that in this world you make your own bed and that you can succeed if you try. With such presuppositions he approaches the young men he finds unemployed on the streets today. He truly finds it difficult to sympathize with those who cannot find work, let alone with those who do not want to work, and who through their stance insult those who do.
In many respects Mr. Moses is the epitome of the decent daddy, playing the role not only in his own household but also in the neighborhood, providing especially strong support to the local children and, in doing so, playing the part of old head. In Mr. Moses’s day role models were available, people who set powerful examples of the work ethic and personal responsibility.
When you sign that warrent, It is taking on the care and feeding of the person you put behind bars and some do not have a job or insurace thanks to your wall street buddys.
Note: I wonder if Ezra is aware that the United States is waging a “War on Drugs,” and using it to develop a national (centrally planned), for-profit criminal justice system?
Ezra in 2021: “Could anyone have predicted 10 years ago that 42% of our population would now be in jail?”
“The truth is — it is all, so complex! — no one individual could have foreseen this prison bubble forming.”
I recall reading in 2004 a report concerning private prisons which stated (correct me if my memory is faulty) that 42 percent of state legislators were invested in private prisons, it also stated that private prisons have deals with states to get paid for their bed space wheather its full or not.
Bernard Harcourt has a lecture, available at Backdoor Broadcasting, discussing, “The Punitive Order: Free Markets, Neoliberalism, and Mass Incarceration in the United States.”
He discusses Foucault’s well nuanced critique of human capital wrt the creation of free market spaces & neo-liberalism, as they relate to the issue of the creation of social space under the guise of nature order.
If this trend takes off and the population is incarcerated, then who will pay for their keep? Slaves, perhaps, but face it, there are so many already behind bars, and the percentage that do get out to do slave labor, is still quite small. This trend may seem likely to have legs, but I’d bet it wont go far. This country may be full of coach potatoes, sycophants, me-to’s etc., but there’s also an awful lot of guns in their hands too. I wouldn’t bet the farm on this on, as it’s proven to be a bust every time they try to implement it.
While I think that arresting people and threatening them with jail for being deadbeats is a pretty stark example of the increasing use of state power to enforce corporate privilege, the articles Stoller links to don’t seem to justify the connection to his main point–the increasing privatization of the jail system. The article mentions that few are actually receiving real jail sentences; the main intent seems to be using harsh threats to shakedown debtors for more cash. These aren’t unrelated problems, but not connected in the way Stoller suggests.
CCPR Article 11: No one shall be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.
Supreme law of the land, breached. Fundamental human right, gone. One more reason why this is a state that has forfeited its sovereignty under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. The state has lost the capacity to fulfil its obligations because of pervasive corruption. This is not a legitimate state.
Many states in the American West have or had laws prohibiting usury, usurious interest rates, and/or debtors prisons. During the mid-20th century, banks, aided by civil rights and liberal groups, had them overturned or made into dead letters on a variety of grounds. When needed, astroturf* organizations were created to help support repealing or overturning state usury laws.
The California Constitution, for example, contains the following:
* “Astroturf refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms.”
Over time, the usury provisions have been riddled with exceptions, exemptions, court injunctions, etc., making their enforcement the exception, not the rule.
In 1978, for example, the US Supreme Court ruled that the National Bank Act of 1864 preempted state usury laws, allowing banks and credit card companies to charge whatever the market would bear. A famous left-liberal jurist, William Brennan, Jr., wrote the decision for a unanimous court. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=439&page=299
Back in 2008 it was revealed that Dick Cheney had $85,000,000 invested in a Vanguard fund, an investment management company that reportedly has interests in the prison companies in charge of the detention centres. It said this was a ‘direct conflict of interest’ because Mr Cheney had influence over the federal contracts awarded to the prison companies.
Perhaps investors in 401k’s, IRA’s, Roths, and mutual funds should review the funds prospectuses for prison companies and other companies that invest in human misery. Due diligence may reveal our complicitness in what we abhor.
“The rugged face of society, checkered with the extremes of affluence and want, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed upon it, and calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in all countries are become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible for them to get out of that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed that this mass increases in all countries that are called civilized. More persons fall annually into it than get out of it…..
Despotic government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasement of the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the chief criterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them; and they politically depend more upon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they fear enraging it by desperation.” Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice Essay
There has been a whole big stinking scandal with jacked up phone rates for outgoing calls made by prisoners, I’m surprised you were unaware. It’s been at least a decade.
I’m in the mail-order biz & from time to time get letters from prisoners. They are invariably in pencil and in a most exquisitely beautiful hand, as, in fact, the writer has a great deal of time and wants to make a good impression.
I hate replying, as any reply makes for an instant pen pal. There is such desperate loneliness in those cells.
I’ve nearly given up shipping books to prisons. Each has their own set of rules, most of them punitive. Most packages (books!) sent to prisons are seized and destroyed upon arrival.
It won’t change, it can’t change (and it will get worse still), unless the friends & spouses & released prisoners themselves band together to force change. No one else can do it.
“Congratulations to the United States and Obama for winning the power to abduct people anywhere in the world [including the US] and then imprison them for as long as they want with no judicial review of any kind. ”
“Why Do Americans Take It in the Face?”
Angela Davis on the prison industrial complex:
Pass this law: If robots can’t buy it robots can’t make it. Then confiscate all the robots and throw them in the prisons. They can be kept there at a relatively low maintenance cost to the prisons and eventually disassembled and recycled.
Those who dare criticize their TBTF ruling class masters will serve time in a McGalug as pennance for their sins and heresies.
Obey, obey your ruling class overlords small people…
Three words: Broken Windows Economy
I dare anyone living in the US to go a week thinking about nothing but the broken windows model of economic vitality. Apply it to every transaction you participate in or witness, and to every piece of news on war/politics/finance/economy.
Maybe it’s just my imagination but broken windows seems to account for one hell of a lot more than it did when I was a kid in Pittsburgh in the ’60s.
But so long as there is money to be looted from the federal government and private savings accounts, there is a reason to break windows. It’s a nice story, but it misses the point that it’s profitable for the companies fixing the windows even while it’s not sustainable. They simply don’t care.
I’ve published a comprehensive rebuttal of your article on my blog. Here it is:
Institutionalized slavery of imported black Africans and their offspring was an enormously profitable enterprise, for the slave traders and the large plantation owners who “owned” the slaves as property, expensive and valuable property in fact. To the Southerners however, the wealthy plantation owners in particular, abolishing slavery was unthinkable because it was part of their culture, or it was a burden they inherited from the damn British, whatever, they had numerous justifications for it, none of which were so crass as to recognize that they were being made enormously rich from a system that was clearly immoral, inhumane, even un-Christian. I think the mentality of the people who profit, financially and politically, from the current American apartheid system embodied in the prison-industrial/criminal justice complex is similar to the slave traders and plantation owners of the antebellum South. They will find all sorts of justifications for it, none of which will be that our investors depend on this immoral and counter productive American invented institution to increase their wealth and income.
This is one of the many and most galling examples of American stupidity that proves the often quoted Sinclair Lewis observation “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Hopefully it will merely take national bankruptcy instead of a devastating civil war to end this insanity.
wants people in jail, because jail is their product. And they have shareholder expectations to meet.
Privatized prisons are marketed
When Judge-on-the-take suddenly decides that he wants out, here is what he can do :
Keep sending innocence to Crime University, buy stock in prison construction, but suddenly sell stock, buy put options on same CUSIP, change sentence on hapless victims to simply *community service under the direction of a youth friendly father figure role model with good track record of setting good example without molesting anybody.*
Judge now has profit on his puts as prison stocks tank. Does this exit apply to lot of scams? Lot of evil business mechanisms? Do you now see the socially redeeming value of derivatives? Support your local free market system. Boot up your new box with an open-source Adam-Smith-Operating-System.
I’ve recently been connected with folks who have several members of a very extended family in both county jails and prisons, and even where facilities are government operated, the phone system is viciously exploitative. Poor families are charged outrageous per-minute fees and run through exhausting procedures by for-profit phone services providers. Most of the system is utterly unnecessary for any legitimate jail or prison purposes, and phone services could certainly be inexpensive and turn-key. The system is clearly immensely profitable. Want to make any bets that the providers are politically connected?
Its too bad that we have to turn EVERYTHING into a business. Not all things should be “for profit”.
We need more constitutional sheriffs in this country to prevent criminal justice from becoming a for-profit corporation.