New Year's Resolutions... so many options, so little time. And as we all know, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Nevertheless, rectifying the injustice of America's prison-industrial complex is something to think about even if you're not on the campaign.
Readers can do homework on their own. There is a mountain of evidence that what many people imagine is justice is exactly the opposite. And the bizarre fact is that privatized prisons are behind the trend. When government outsources its responsibilities in the interest of economy or efficiency the result is often exactly the opposite. Window-cleaning, landscaping or fleet maintenance of police cars by one dealer makes sense. But privatizing whole missions is an invitation to political corruption.
In the case of prisons, two interest groups typically in conflict over wages find common political ground as they lobby for ever longer mandatory sentences for convicted criminals, which provides greater job security for labor (guards and other staff) and extended profits for management. There may be real competition in the form of bidding at the outset. But once the facility is operational, mandatory sentences have more to do with spending tax money than correcting criminal behavior. And that is a dynamic not correctable by any future bidding for the service.
Matthew Holt, host at The Health Care Blog, includes this in his annual end-of-year list of worthy causes.
Drug prohibition– A chink in the armor this year. Two US states voted for outright Marijuana legalization and much of Latin America (with Uruguay leading the way) appears to be talking serious legalization too. But there are still terrible stories of people sitting in jail for decades for non-violent crimes in which they were barely involved. I support DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle. You can subscribe for free as well as support their work. The Marijuana Policy Project supports medical marijuana patients. The Drug Policy Alliance is the big lobbying organization promoting “harm reduction”
Take a few minutes to read the story linked above which puts a human face and circumstance on an issue no longer linked to humanity.
Ms. George said she could understand the justice of sending her to prison for five years, if only to punish her for her earlier crack-selling offenses.That highlighted portion above, incidentally, is what many have called the New Chain Gang, outsourcing prisoners as "labor" to the private sector, creating yet another revenue stream for the local or state authority in which the prison is located. I'm not an expert but my guess is that there is little or no oversight over the accounting of this part of private prison operations. My instinct is that no call center or data processing outfit is using prisoners at those rates as a public service. That doesn't pass the smell test at all.
“I’m a real firm believer in karma — what goes around comes around,” she said. “I see now how wrong it was to sell drugs to people hooked on something they couldn’t control. I think, what if they took money away from their kids to buy drugs from me? I deserve to pay a price for that. But my whole life? To take me away from my kids forever?”
When she was sentenced 15 years ago, her children were 5, 6 and 9. They have been raised by her sister, Wendy Evil, who says it was agonizing to take the children to see their mother in prison.
“They would fight to sit on her knee the whole time,” she recalled recently during a family dinner at their home in Pensacola. “It’s been so hard for them. Some of the troubles they’ve had are because of their anger at her being gone.”
The youngest child, William, now 20, dropped out of middle school. The older two, Kendra and Courtney, finished high school but so far have not followed their mother’s advice to go to college.
“I don’t want to blame things on my situation, but I think my life would have been a whole lot different if she’d been here,” said Courtney, now 25, who has been unemployed for several years. “When I fell off track, she would have pushed me back. She’s way stronger than any of us.”
Ms. George, who has gotten a college degree in prison, calls the children every Sunday. She pays for the calls, which cost 23 cents a minute, with wages from two jobs: a regular eight-hour shift of data processing that pays 92 cents an hour, supplemented by four hours of overtime work at a call center in the prison that provides 411 directory assistance to phone companies.
“I like to stay busy,” she said during the interview. “I don’t like to give myself time to think about home. I know how much it hurts my daughter to see her friends doing things with their mothers. My boys are still so angry. I thought after a while it would stop, that they’d move on as they got older and had girlfriends. But it just seems like it gets worse every Mother’s Day and Christmas.”
She seemed undaunted, even cheerful, during most of the interview at the prison, where she sleeps on a bunk bed in an 11-by-7-foot cell she shares with another inmate. Dressed in the regulation uniform, khaki pants and work boots, she was calm and articulate as she explained her case and the failed efforts to appeal the ruling. At this point lawyers say her only hope seems to be presidential clemency — rarely granted in recent years — yet she said she remained hopeful.
She lost her composure only once, while describing the evening in 1996 when the police found the lockbox in her apartment. She had been working in the kitchen, braiding someone’s hair for a little money, while Courtney, then 8, played in the home. He watched the police take her away in handcuffs.
“Courtney called out, ‘Mom, you promised you weren’t going to leave us no more,’ ” Ms. George recalled, her eyes glistening. “I still hear that voice to this day, and he’s a grown man.”