Prisoners For Profit

Prisoners For Profit
Posted by CN Staff on November 14, 2004 at 09:21:49 PT
By Ronald Fraser, Ph.D.
Source: The Day
Here is how prison policies made in Hartford and Washington take on a life of their own. Once prison operators, prison employees and community tax collectors learned they could profit from harsh, lock ‘em up drug control laws, a powerful political force was born to keep prisons full.Inmate Overload 
During the 1980s and 1990s tough-on-crime policies, especially drug control laws, overfilled America's prisons. State and federal prisons held only 315,974 inmates in 1980. By 2000 that number had skyrocketed to 1,321,137. When inmates in city and county jails are added, America's total prison population topped two million in 2002. Prisons, however, are not reserved for violent offenders. In 2002, for example, 1,235,700 simple drug possession arrests were made in the U.S. – about one-half of them for possession of marijuana. While not all of those arrested end up behind bars, the rush to lock up non-violent offenders was, in large part, responsible for setting off America's prison building boom.Prison Boom A new study by Sarah Lawrence and Jeremy Travis at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center in Washington tracks how prisons became a growth industry in America. In, The New Landscape of Imprisonment: Mapping America's Prison Expansion, they found nationally that “During the last quarter of the 20th century, state prison systems grew from 592 prisons to 1,023 prisons – an increase of 73 percent.” In 1979, nine state correctional facilities, including prisons, operated in Connecticut. By 2000, that number grew to 20, with six facilities operating in Hartford County, home of the state capital, four each in New Haven and New London Counties, three in Tolland County and two in Fairfield County.Aboard The Gravy Train The U.S. Census counts prisoners where they are incarcerated, and both federal and state agencies distribute funds based on this census data. The more prisoners counted in a town or county, the bigger will be its share of tax-funded goodies from Washington and Hartford. This gravy train includes a slice of $200 billion a year in formula grants from Washington to all state and local governments for Medicaid, foster care, adoption assistance and 169 other programs. In addition, the same data is used to allocate state funds for community health services, road construction, law enforcement and public libraries.Regular paychecks roll in for 7,032 prison employees in Connecticut. And don't forget the incomes of employees of private firms that directly sell food, fuel, clothing and furniture to prisons. No wonder Connecticut towns become addicted to this prison economy.Prison Politics Spreading prisons across Connecticut can actually perpetuate a large prison population. As more towns become economically dependent on state prisons holding more than 19,862 inmates in 2002, the greater is the likelihood grassroots support will grow for politicians who favor putting non-violent people behind bars. After all, it's in the self-interest of these towns to keep their prisons full and their local economies booming. When prisons boom, everyone wins except the non-violent inmates and the taxpayers. Politicians in Hartford can show how tough they are on crime. Private prison operators and their investors make money. Prison guards pay off their mortgage and support local businesses. Even the local tax collector gets his cut.Now that the jailhouse economy is going strong, the political reforms needed to abandon this old drug war mentality will be much harder, if not impossible, to get through the legislatures in Hartford and Washington.Chances are taxpayers are stuck with the cost of keeping 2 million men and women behind bars well into the future — not because justice demands it, but because the economic benefits of the prison business are working to keep it that way.Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy isues for the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization. Complete Title: Prisoners For Profit: The Growth Industry Of Jailing People Makes Legal Reform UnlikelySource: Day, The (CT)Author: Ronald Fraser, Ph.D.Published: November 14, 2004Copyright: 2004 The Day Publishing Co.Contact: editor theday.comWebsite: Articles:One of Every 75 U.S. Men in Prison, Report Finds American Gulag in The Making
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on November 15, 2004 at 08:13:07 PT
I did a search on Google and didn't find anything but I remember seeing that name before. I'll check Yahoo later and see if they have a web site listed. I haven't found any news to post so far but I'll keep looking.
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Comment #6 posted by ekim on November 15, 2004 at 07:31:03 PT
FoM do you have a site for DKT--thanks
Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy isues for the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on November 14, 2004 at 19:03:14 PT
My personal web page is on CNews's front page. On the left side you will see Breaking News from Cannabis News. Every article I post appears on that link. Say I post one on the front page and then one in the archives. They will be there in the order I posted them.Thank you too.
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Comment #4 posted by Dankhank on November 14, 2004 at 18:33:51 PT
I hate to hear about prison, too, but stories of it are perfect for Harm Reduction points.If you archive do you let us know of it's existence?I'd appreciate knowing ...Thanks ... and Kudus here re: the other thread. This truly is a priceless website.
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Comment #3 posted by dr slider on November 14, 2004 at 15:07:21 PT:
end in sight
While this article was well done in its effort to show that the drug war screed of "for the children" is subterfuge, what bothered me most was the "bend over and take it" attitude that this is just a part of who we are and therefore irreversible.While it will acompany a complete rebirth of a paradigm, the end of this war is both visible and impending.
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Comment #2 posted by global_warming on November 14, 2004 at 12:54:36 PT
It's Sad
To see what we have become, as a nation, as a people. Is this the future that we are now allowing to form?Whether through apathy, ignorance, laziness or fear, we all have directly and indirectly contributed to this world.The American Revolution was the first round in the battle against oppression, against the forces of darkness that covet their material possessions and power, the American Revolution was never won, it was the first step in this world that summoned and had the courage to stand against this oppression.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on November 14, 2004 at 12:15:17 PT
Just a Note
I meant to archive this article but I made a mistake. I am looking for a better article about Cannabis to post but so far I can't find anything. I don't like prison articles. It's such a hopeless situation particularly now at least for the next 4 years. 
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