Politics of Prison

Why are so many of our citizens incarcerated?  In the words of Brian Charles Ebejer “Sick of politicans and politics and prisons lyin and runnin my life.”

Here in the land of the free prison is big business.  As reported in my article Arrested Development  In 2006, our government spent $68,747,203,000 locking up about 2 million people.

The cost to the state is enormous so who’s running off with all the money?

Our pals at Wells Fucko I mean Wells Fargo have invested a large amount of capitol in GEO Group.  GEO group is the worlds second largest private prison group and is contracted here in the states.  In other words they make money locking people up, and Wells Fargo reaps the financial benefits while the taxpayers foot the bill.

I can’t calculate how much money is being made off of these shares, however I have discovered that Wells Fargo owns 3,591,910 valued at $66,665,849.  A full breakdown of major GEO stock holders can be found here.

Some of you may be wondering why this is such a big deal.  First off Wells Fargo is making money off of something subsidized by American tax payers.  The Bank already received $25 billion in bail out funds but that wasn’t enough.

The bank was one of the last institutions to repay their bailout funds.  Making matters worse the US treasury holds warrants to buy 110 million shares of the ailing bank.  Shares peaked at $37 in 2008 but now they are worth about $30 so once again Wells Fargo is leaving the taxpayers holding the bag.

If you take money out of the picture things are still bad.  GEO group makes money locking people up and they spend millions lobbying for stricter immigration enforcement.  Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if people weren’t suffering and dying in the name of greed.

According to recent Alternet.org article

The GEO detention facilities have also racked up many reports and complaints of abusive treatment of immigrant detainees and corrupt staff practices that violate the basic human rights of prisoners. Last month we spoke with the sibling of a detainee in a GEO-run facility who was denied basic medical attention for lack of funds to pay. The detainee’s family had to raise funds to get their relative medical attention in the facility from GEO. Other GEOdetainees have died from a lack of medical attention.

Another relative of a GEO detainee told us that prisoners who avoid getting on the wrong side of GEO guards could aspire, at most, to a job in the prison that pays 17 cents an hour for doing office work.

GEO recently agreed to pay restitution for its employees’ physical abuse of prisoners who were strip searched in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico. In another case, GEO was ordered to pay $40 million in the wrongful death of a prisoner in its custody in Raymondville, Texas. GEO has also been sued by seven children who were sexually assaulted by a guard while being held in a GEO facility.

RT covered an OWS protest of the prison industrial complex which can be viewed in the video below.

Occupy Wall Street is not alone in their crusade against the prison industrial complex.  The ACLU and Anonymous have come out against GEO Group.  Predictably Anonymous hacked and defaced the GEO Group website.

The ACLU did what it does best.  They released a report Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration detailing the egregious abuses of the prison industrial complex.  Posted below is an excerpt from the report.

Leading private prison companies essentially admit that their business model depends on high rates of incarceration. For example, in a 2010 Annual Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company, stated: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . . .”

Basically while the people and the government are going broke companies like CCA and GEO group are making money hand over fist, meanwhile millions of prisoners and their families have had their lives torn apart.

It’s even worse if you care about prisoners in Arizona.  According the the New York Times “For the Arizona Department of Corrections, crime has finally started to pay.”  If you want to visit a prisoner held in an Arizona state correctional facility be prepared to shell out $25 for a one time background check fee.

David C. Fathi of the ACLU thinks that this fee is ridiculous.  “We know that one of the best things you can do if you want people to go straight and lead a law-abiding life when they get out of prison is to continue family contact while they’re in prison. Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Calling this a one time background check fee is a farce.  According to the NY Times Ms. Baldo (chief of staff for the Arizona Senate) said the money would not actually pay for background checks but would go into a fund for maintenance and repairs to the prisons.

Department of Corrections spokesman, Barrett Marson went on record stating “Maintenance funds for our buildings are scarce in this difficult economic time. A $25 visitation fee helps to ensure our prisons remain safe environments for staff, inmates and visitors.”

I recommend that Mr. Marson reads my article The War on Drugs has failed specifically he should peruse the passage posted below.

The enormous financial burden of the War on Drugs is staggering.  Far more worrisome is the human cost of this war.  Countless nonviolent drug offenders have been imprisoned for inordinate lengths of time.  According to the International Centre for Prison Studies The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.  The report America’s One Million Nonviolent Prisoners states that the level of nonviolent offenders exceeds the combined populations of Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Instead of punishing the families and loved ones of Arizona’s inmate population the government may want to abolish private prisons and re examine sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders.  This would be more effective than inventing a background check fee.

It is clear to this blogger that lining the pockets of Wells Fargo is not an effective policy.  As long as prisons are privatized there will be an enormous conflict of interest.  The public cannot be served when people are incarcerated in the name of the holy dollar.  The justice system is supposed to be about protecting the people not share holders.

We no longer have a justice system.  Instead we have a justice business, and a businesses’ only interest is to make money not to dispense justice.

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