The power of private prisons - who really funds the Sensible Sentencing Trust?
Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law
Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.
Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.
"The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."
What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.
"They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."
But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?
"They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.
That's because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona's immigration law.
Once private prisons with their profit motive are allowed to warp social policy it is almost impossible to force them out.
Who funds the Sensible Sentencing Trust? We know that The GEO Group who are pitching here in NZ are major finders of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C. think tank that lobbies for tough-on-crime legislation and free-market principles such as privatization. These think tanks whip up the public debate to scream pitch and the kneejerk politicians do the rest. In NZ, the Sensible Sentencing Trust refuses to disclose who funds them, GEO fund these groups overseas, do they do it here? Has the Sensible Sentencing Trust been funded by GEO to push for longer sentences because the only people who really benefit from the 3 strikes locked up forever raw meat law and order policy that was hypocritically rammed through by the Sensible Sentencing Trusts David Garrett is the private prisons about to pick up the contracts to our ever increasing incarceration rate.
The joke is that at the Select Committee Meeting on private prisons last year, the head of GEO told the country that private prisons would not be cheaper at all.
American company Wackenhut (whose subsidiary ran the Auckland Central Remand prison until 2000) was stripped of contracts to run prisons in Texas and Louisiana in 1999, after accusations it had mistreated prisoners and tried to maximise profits at the expense of drug rehabilitation, counselling and literacy programmes.
In Australia, where about 17 per cent of the prison population is held in private facilities, the Victorian Government took back public control of the Metro Women's Correctional Centre in 2000 after an inquiry found widespread drug use, deaths in custody, poor training and cover-ups. But most studies paint a more mixed picture of private prisons.
A 2001 report by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the US National Council of Crime and Delinquency found that "there are no data to support the contention that privately operated facilities offer cost savings over publicly managed facilities". There was no evidence, it said, that services to prisons and conditions of imprisonment were "significantly improved in privately operated facilities".
Staffing in private prisons was 15 per cent lower than in public prisons, management information systems were less well organised and the number of major incidents higher. Private prisons also had a higher rate of assaults both on prisoners by other prisoners and prisoners against prison staff.
Is privatising jails really worth the risk?
We got played like chumps over the manufactured crises of the Hobbit, have we been manipulated again into accepting private prisons?
If the mainstream media weren't so focused on reporting the death of a psychic octopus, they might ask these questions.