Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prison Economics

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.


We have long feared the impact of the prison-industrial complex. Perpetuation of the war on drugs and mass incarceration is a partial result of the marriage of money and politics. But this is the first case I am aware of where the private sector played a leading role in creating the criminals who would then fill the facilities that, would, in turn, fill the coffers of the for-profit. prison industry.

Politics has corrupted the criminal justice system. The pace of corruption has accelerated with this latest sordid meménage à trois between money, politics, and the criminal justice system.

BTW- investigative journalism like this report is the real reason that conservatives are once again targeting NPR's funding. They don't like it when truth speaks to power.

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