American Justice System: Part 4
Prison Industrial Complex and the Private Prison Industry
Nefarious means beget nefarious ends; and in a capital and profit-driven society, where many own little and few own most, there exists a two-tiered system of justice and organization of politics that punishes, condemns and exploits the poor and the minorities for the private profit, growth, and overall wealth of those few that possess the sociopolitical and economic power to change laws, to bribe politicians, to block regulations that benefit the public; with old industries (i.e. fossil fuel companies) intervening in the political process to prevent new technologies and start-up companies (i.e. renewable energy companies) from competing and interrupting the profits of established corporations.
Systemic corruption consumes the entirety of the United States government. The current system as such cannot run without corruption; it feeds off of corruption; it sustains the government’s growth and breeds new industries and organizations that protect the government from the rebellions and revolutions of those that lack the power of wealth, but possess the power of the people.
Ruthless, rugged self-interest corrupts the minds and clouds the rational judgment of any short-sighted individual whose life depends on profit, power, and prestige. For the private prison industry, where human beings represent the currency, and the incarceration of larger numbers of them means higher profits and greater opportunities for growth, the primary operating system becomes the protection of the laws which encourage mass incarceration. For these individuals and corporations that benefit from this type of legalized human trafficking, the concept of human dignity and morals are far removed from the material realization of profit at the expense of human suffering and misery. Sure, many violent criminals deserve their long prison sentences; but hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer in incarceration from breaking one of the many arbitrary and, oftentimes, partisan and ideological political policies that attack and infringe on the basic rights bestowed on every American citizen.
When an unjust government perpetuates unjust laws- laws which do not apply to the wealthy and the powerful that possess the means to escape from the system of corruption that views and treats poor and racial minority Americans as second class citizens that require government oversight, and possess fewer rights and freedoms for the basic fact that they own less material wealth- then negation of these unjust laws by American citizens becomes necessary to protect the integrity of a, supposed, free and democratic society.
Prison Industrial Complex
The prison industrial complex is a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.Critical Resistance
The prison industrial complex is a set of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage increased government and private spending on incarceration, regardless of the actual need. The prison industrial complex is made up of: Both private and public prisons; probation, parole, and corrections officers and services; the sheriff’s and police department; the American military; military contractors and missile systems; the court system; bail bonds system; prisoner transportation services; telecommunications offering phone services in prisons and jails; prison food and construction services; banks that loan money to prisons; insurance companies; the legislative system that writes policies which encourage mass incarceration; corporations that provide services to incarcerated people; prisoner medical care; prison labor.
The prison industrial complex, like all industries, is driven by a profit motive. But unlike other industries, that trade, sell and deal in gold and government-sanctioned fiat monetary currency, those that operate and profit off of the prison industrial complex trade, sell, and make deals where human beings represent the primary form of currency; but a different type of human being; a human being which our culture, our society, disregards and degrades as wholly responsible for their law-breaking actions, rather than for the social environment perpetuated under a corrupt government that they were born into; people looked upon by the public with disdain and labeled under the convenient moniker of prisoner, criminal, lawbreaker, which allows the American population to justify our treatment and actions towards incarcerated human beings as a ‘lesser than’ species, as people that deserve their punishment, as people that should be denied a second chance while living in a country founded upon second chances.
Violent prisoners deserve their state and government-sanctioned punishment for their crimes against other human beings; but when we allow the government to use its sociopolitical and economic power to dominate, dictate, and manipulate the laws of the country with guidance from private corporations and industries like the prison industry complex, laws created by white-collar criminals to encumber, stifle, demean, and suffocate the poor, minority, and middle-class populations of the country that commit the blue-collar crimes associated with high levels of poverty and low levels of education, then the responsibility to protect our communities and our way of life from this parasitic government falls on the greater American population.
Human beings, Americans especially so, look for simple answers to complex problems. Like the classification of all mind-altering substances such as alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, sugar, cannabis, LSD, cocaine, heroin, and opioids under a singular and broad term, drugs, the classification of all incarcerated human beings under the singular and broad term, criminal, provides a simple solution to a problem that requires a higher level of thought and understanding about ourselves, our fellow human beings, our society, our laws, and our government.
Morals, ethics, integrity and profit are mutually exclusive for many individuals and corporations in the United States, even more so for those operating and profiting off of the prison industrial complex. This interweaving web of profit and human incarceration creates a vast network of powerful individuals and corporations that are capable of abandoning objective and reasonable judgment for the sake of profit at any and all costs. Corporations increase profits by cutting internal and external costs; by expanding and obtaining a greater market share by outperforming the competition; by bribing politicians, changing laws, and integrating with the government’s corrupt system.
In the United States, the wealthiest, freest, and most technologically advanced country that the Earth has ever known, corporations expounded on this American capitalist and business ethic of total profit domination with protection from the government at the expense and suffering of the majority of the American population; and for the corporations that profit off of the mass incarceration of human beings, the laws that encourage the mass roundup of poor and minority Americans are written by the very corporations which benefit the most, with the assistance from corporate lobbyists that purchase influence from self-loathing, greedy sociopaths that find their way into America’s highest levels of government and power. Too much power- whether in the hands of a benevolent individual, a parasitic and tumorous government, or a socially blind corporation that seeks only profit at any cost- corrupts and disintegrates the entity that holds it for too long, as it becomes too concentrated and identified with the human ego in its self-interested quest for total dominance and control over people and finite resources.
The expansion of the wealth and power of the corporate state since the 1970s directly coincides with the expansion of the corporate sanctioned American government into the lives of poor and minority Americans. The greater the number of crimes committed by white-collar criminals on Wall Street and in Congress, the more aggressive these organizations go after blue-collar crimes in poor and minority communities. With the propaganda spewing out of the corporate and government-approved mainstream media, the dominator classes that possess the power within the United States execute a unique form of misdirection that distracts, confuses, and manipulates half of the population into attacking the other half under the guise of ideologically based, partisan politics, i.e. republican vs. democrats.
American political parties are an illusion, a lie, a convenient form of sociopolitical division adopted by the American government and corporate state whenever the veil of their false power is pulled back for the masses to see. The dominator classes require ideologically based sociopolitical division to survive. A united base of poor republicans joined together with a united base of poor democrats represent the greatest threat to the power, dominance, and profits of the American government and the corporate state.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.Amendment VIII. December 15, 1791.
Prison Industrial Complex Statistics
- As of 2015, there were 91,300 inmates in private state prison; 26,000 prisoners in federal private prison according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
- Bail Bonds are a $2 billion a year business.
- Bureau of Justice Statistics: 128,063 inmates held in private prisons in 2016- 8.5 percent of the total state and federal prison population. Peak private prison incarceration rate occurred in 2012 with 137,220, which was several years before the Obama administration agreed to discontinue using private prisons at the federal level due to the growing complaints of poor guard training, inhumane facilities with mold on the walls and bugs in food, excessive number of suicides, fights that end in stabbings and deaths of inmates. The Trump administration immediately reimplemented the private prison program in 2017, potentially expanding the private prison population past the record 2012 levels.
- Unicor, formerly known as Federal Prison Industries, is a government-owned corporation created in 1934, after the Great Depression, that now employs 20,000 inmates that produce goods and services for the United States and global citizens. One of the goods produced by inmates are parts to the Patriot Missile (a surface to air missile) which are used by the U.S. military and sold to other global governments, like Saudi Arabia.
- Through Unicor, prisoners produce equipment for law enforcement, including uniforms, handcuffs, belts, gun holsters, and human silhouettes for target practice. Prisoners also produce jackets, helmets, boots, flak vests and body armor for the American military. In prison labor, the irony runs deep in that the soldiers that are fighting for American freedom and democracy are supported by Americans who have had their freedom taken away.
- Work Opportunity Tax credit (WOTC) gives corporations a $2,400 tax credit for every employee-inmate that they hire, giving corporations incentives to take advantage of the prison labor system.
- Companies that use prison labor: Wal-Mart, IBM, Target, McDonald’s, Boeing, Intel, Nordstrom, Victorias Secret, AT&T, BP, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nike, Honda, Macy’s, Sprint.
- Financial institutions like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Fidelity Investments (401Ks), invest and loan money to the private prison industry, which goes towards building new prisons and expanding on old ones.
- The Vanguard Group and Fidelity investments-Americas top two 401K providers- own 20 percent of both CCA and GEO- Americas top two private prison corporations. Many government employees own retirement plans through Vanguard and Fidelity, which means they profit off of private prisons and mass incarceration.
- The prison system is the third-largest employer in the world.
Private Prison Industry
The purpose of incarceration is punishment and rehabilitation in order to return inmates back into society as citizens able to function properly with a low rate of recidivism. If this is the actual goal of mass incarceration, rather than for profit, then recidivism should be low; but criminal recidivism for released inmates in the United States is 68 percent within three years upon release from prison, and 77 percent within five years. This means that we as a nation fail to provide the educational and vocational opportunities to released prisoners who have served their debt to society.
The high rate of recidivism shows that the actual purpose of incarceration is for profit, rather than for rehabilitation and reintegration back into American society. The very nature of the for-profit private prison industry stands in direct contradiction to the purpose of incarceration. A publicly traded, private prison requires inmates serving long prison sentences in order to make a profit and remain a viable, financially stable business that increases profits for its shareholders. Rehabilitation and low recidivism rates threaten the fundamental business model of these profit-driven institutions.
The private prison industry encourages the growth of the free market and allows for smaller federal government, which lowers the cost to American taxpayers and prevents wasteful and inefficient government monopolies from forming in areas that might be best served by the private sector. Private prisons act as a pressure release valve for the federal government, who may continue perpetuating tough on crime policies that encourage mass incarceration without the fear of public, taxpayer-funded prisons from overcrowding, nor face the bureaucratic red tape associated with federal corrections facilities. Government-funded prisons require higher health and safety standards for prisoners; extensive training for prison guards, which means higher pay for better-qualified applicants; prison guard unions; medical treatment for prisoners.
Private prisons, on the other hand- many being publicly traded corporations- must cut costs to increase shareholder profits, rather than provide cost savings to the federal government. They do so by paying their guards less; hiring less guards and replacing them with cheaper security cameras used to monitor inmates with little-to-no human contact; by accepting only low-to-medium security threat level inmates and rejecting high threat level inmates; by eliminating prison guard benefits and unions; by cutting corners on building construction and maintenance; by hiring lobbyists to bribe government officials to change the laws in order to encourage mass incarceration- also by expanding into the for-profit immigration detention business, which profits off of detaining immigrants in private facilities; cuts to prisoner food quality; lower health and safety standards that do not face intervention from government officials; significant cuts to medical services and other prisoner benefits (taxpayers end up paying for the medical treatment that private prisons do not provide to the inmates).
Numerous studies on the cost of public and private prison facilities show that the savings to American taxpayers are inconclusive and negligible at best. Jobs in private prisons have a higher turnover rate, which means less time on the job to learn the process and a greater likelihood of inmate-on-inmate, or inmate-on-guard violence. Private facilities face threats and expenses that public facilities, with higher health, safety, and security standards, do not face. So while the private prison industry may cut costs for the federal government and American taxpayers in some areas, the very nature of the for-profit private prison industrial complex encourages an increase in cost in other areas, such as the requirement that states and federal government (taxpayers) pay a specified price per every inmate incarcerated in a private facility; and with the market concentration of private prison facilities consumed by just two private corporations, the incentive to lower the cost of the ’price per bed’ for the federal government remains low, while the incentive to increase the cost per incarcerated inmate to increase shareholder profits remains high.
Private Prison Statistics
- Less than nine percent of prisoners are held in private prisons (128,063 private prisoners as of 2016).
- Private prisons generate $3 billion in profits each year.
- Private prison industry profits jumped from $392 million to $1.31 billion between 1980-1994.
- The largest private prison corporation, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, now called, CoreCivic) was founded in 1983.
- CoreCivic boasts of profits of $1.7 billion operating 65 correctional facilities (from the year 2012).
- GEO Group (Formerly Wackenhut Correction Corporation), the second-largest private prison corporation, operates 70 facilities; with $1.24 billion in profits in 2010, and $1.84 billion in profits in 2015.
- CoreCivic and GEO reported $3 billion in profits in 2011, with $1.3 billion coming directly from the government/taxpayers.
- Report from the Sentencing Project: The number of people incarcerated in private prisons increased 47 percent from 2000-2016, five times faster than the total prison population.
- CoreCivic and GEO are publicly traded companies, which means that you may buy shares in a corporation whose sole profit motive is locking up human beings in cages.
Private Prison Lobbying
The most blatant and egregious of examples that the federal government controls our social and economic system through systemic corruption, is the private influence of corporate lobbyists over Congress and within our public elections. Private corporations hire special interest lobbyists in order to bribe politicians with cash, checks, extravagant vacations, or potential jobs in the lobbying industry after politicians leave Congress; this is known as the ‘revolving door’ between the public government and the private corporate government, which allows elected government representatives to join the very industries that they previously regulated- or were supposed to regulate if not for the corruption that allows self-interested, egomaniacs in Congress to ignore their voters so that they may line their pockets with corporate cash. Corporate lobbyists from every American industry infiltrate Congress daily to bribe and manipulate government officials and elected representatives to write policies and pass laws that benefit private corporations, often at the expense of the American public.
After the infamous Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), in 2010, where the court ruled that political donations are a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment, corporations can now bribe politicians with unlimited amounts of unregulated, unsourced, slush-funds of dark corporate bribes with the intention of influencing elections and pre-selecting politicians to pass favorable laws for corporations before regular American citizens ever participate in elections. Politicians require these corporate bribes in order to remain in Congress, as the primary purpose of a politician in the modern era of American politics boils down to corporate fund-raising, rather than writing and passing laws.
American politicians spend over half their time as elected representatives ‘dialing for dollars,’ or rather, cozying up to the corporate sector for campaign donations. This represents the real election, the money primary, that occurs before American citizens even have a chance to vote. Without this endless stream of corporate money flowing into both the Democratic and Republican parties, American politicians would actually be forced to formulate concrete, well thought out solutions about how to improve our country, a tall task for many government officials who struggle to conjure up unique ideas without corporations dangling cash carrots throughout the entire legislative process.
The prison industrial complex benefits under this system of American political corruption with lobbyists that infiltrate the government in order to bribe politicians to pass laws that encourage mass incarceration, stricter drug and immigration laws, laws that punish crimes of poverty and inequality, among others. Since 1989, the two largest private prison corporations, CoreCivic and GEO Group, spent over $10 million on direct political bribes to politicians from both parties and $25 million on direct federal lobbying.
Trump’s rhetoric as the ‘law and order’ president- a political strategy created by Richard Nixon and expanded upon by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton- combined with the ‘Southern Strategy,’ a political maneuver that uses prejudicial and racist language against African Americans to attract poor, uneducated, white, Southern voters and manipulate them into believing that their poverty and lack of an education are due to their poor, uneducated African American neighbors, rather than as a result of the corrupt federal government corporate laws that destroy the American middle class.
By creating the illusion of danger and crime, the Southern Strategy effectively strikes fear into large portions of the white American population and convinces them that the candidate with the strongest law and order policies and harshest punishments against poor minorities represents the greatest opportunity for poor white Southerners to get back at the minorities and take away their higher social and economic standing. Trump- the epitome of the con man, businessman- read the American social market using an old racist Republican political tactic and nationalist rhetoric in order to give the appearance of a Unites States loving politician. By rebranding from an American con-man businessman, to an American con-man politician, Trump could attract poor white voters from across the country without providing any substantive policy other than those already established within the racist Southern Strategy and tough on crime tactics.
The greatest beneficiaries of tough on crime policies are the police and sheriffs departments, the court system, the private prison industry, and the corporations within the prison industrial complex that profits off of mass incarceration. For the private prison industry in particular, both CoreCivic and GEO Group donated $250,000 to the Trump inaugural committee after his election as president in 2017. The two largest private prisons, being publicly traded corporations, saw their shares increase by 100 percent after Trump’s election.
The return on investment for the private prison industry for their relatively small political bribes and lobbying efforts is vast. In April of 2017, two months after Trumps inauguration, GEO Group received a $110 million government contract to build an immigrant detention center in Texas (GEO received $774 million in government contracts in all of 2017).
Immigration Detention Centers
With the continued drop in crime over the past several decades, many that operate within the private prison industry and the larger prison industrial complex understand that the advancement of society, the improvement of education, and the decrease in the number of individuals in poverty are having significant effects on the crime rate, especially in poor and minority communities. As society progresses so, too, do its citizens, as they move away from violence, aggressive behavior and crime, and into a safer, more inclusive, connected, economically stable and a demographically diverse American culture that encourages individual self-expression and unique ideas. But the regressive actions and rhetoric of the current presidential administration, which encourages division as a means of stifling dissent, represents a blip in the ever-volatile American social experiment in our quest for unity, equality, and connection among ethnic diversity.
With the drop in the rate of crime, the market for mass incarceration of criminals continues to shrink. Being a profit-driven corporation, the private prison industry continues to pursue new areas for growth. The private prison industry recognizes that the largest opportunity for profit under the Trump administration lies within the expansion of private immigration detention centers, which hold men, women, and children that have been captured by the United States Border Patrol or on the streets by immigration services.
Detaining immigrants while they wait for trial in an American courtroom represents a costly, burdensome and, oftentimes, inhuman business; and with Trump’s clever misdirection of increased border security and expanding on a border wall, it appears as if the President is directly encouraging Central and South American immigrants to cross the Southern United States border before it becomes too difficult a task, so that they may be captured by the U.S. government and taken to private immigration detention facilities, further increasing the profit of private prisons and capitalizing off of their large investment into federal lobbying and political bribes to Trump and other hardline immigration politicians.
Private immigration detention centers house 73 percent of captured immigrants, including mothers and their children, many fleeing beheadings, drugs, violence, death in Central and South American countries that are fighting a war against drug cartels, which profit off of Americans desire for consciousness-altering substances, and the United States governments perpetuation of the War on Drugs that allows these dangerous cartels to grow and the black market for drugs to thrive.
Studies show that immigration arrests are down 57 percent but the number of immigrants held in private detention centers increased by 91 percent (data from 2002-2017). The most recent estimates show that up to 300,000 immigrants are captured and put into immigration detention centers annually; three-fourths of whom are held in private detention facilities.
The current government and presidential administration do not truly care about a strong border wall, as this would reduce the number of immigrants crossing the Southern United States border, which may interrupt the profits generated at immigration detention centers and discourage the private prison industry from giving political bribes to Trump and other politicians. Any type of immigration reform would cut into the private prisons’ potential growth, so they lobby against reform and bribe politicians to reject any laws dealing with immigration. In 2013, both CoreCivic and GEO lobbied to stop immigration reform in order to keep undocumented immigrants in their facilities before their trial.
The process of criminal prosecution of illegal immigrants changed under the Bush administration in 2005 with Operation Streamline, a Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice initiative that adopted a zero-tolerance approach to unauthorized border crossings. In the early 2000s, before the initiative took effect, criminal prosecutions of illegal immigrants remained fairly low at around 4,000 per year. After the initiative took effect in 2005, the number of prosecutions increased to 16,000 per year; 39,000 in 2007; 87,000 in 2010; 97,000 in 2013; down to 59,000 in 2017. Some estimates show that detaining and punishing immigrants cost taxpayers over $7 billion dollars from 2005-2015.
The United States of America is a nation of immigrants; founded by immigrants; built by immigrants (also built by slaves and by prison labor). Immigration allows for the creation of a diverse population that lies at the foundation of the United States. But the history of immigration under presidential administrations that seek power through division and base their ideology around law and order, on tough on crime, on racist Southern Strategies that promote nationalism and demonize minority and immigrant communities, prevent our culture and society from uniting, thriving, and progressing towards a healthier, safer, and more inclusive future.
The powerful individuals and corporations that exploit the suffering of the people, of immigrants, of poor and minority communities, possess the financial power to stifle public dissent and the economic resources to bribe corrupt, self-interested politicians; but the power of numbers lies in the people, in our diverse American society and unique mix of cultures, which encourage a wide range of beliefs, ideas, attitudes and opinions of the world as a means of self-knowledge and a method for societal cohesion and growth, towards greater global unity and progress.