America no longer is the “land of the free.” With five percent of the World’s population we have nearly twenty-five percent of the World’s correctional institution (prison) inmate population. We have more people in prison than such progressive nations as North Korea and China.
Since Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs, we have seen billions of dollars invested in a large-scale effort to scuttle parts of the Constitution and a failure in cessation of people from seeking the elusive buzz. Forfeiture actions—in which people’s property is seized without a prosecution for a crime, with the burden of proof and the expense of litigation borne by the citizen, and law enforcement agencies and officers enjoying the spoils—blossomed like the flowers on nightshade. People who were not rich—and those were ignored as they enjoyed a joint here or a line there—were made felons with arrests and convictions. The United States inmate population increased 700% from 1970—the year President Nixon declared the War—and 2009; the pace of growth was far greater than either population growth of the crime rate. ACLU, “The Sentencing Project,” Mar. 2011.
A part of the problem has been the privatization craze. A “craze” is “a mania; a popular fashion, etc., usually short-lived; a rage.” The American College Dictionary, 1962 ed., p. 283. In the 1980s “privatization” of activities generally undertaken by public entities grew after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. One of the areas that has festered from this “rage” has been correctional facilities.
CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), GEO and other corporations have lobbied and scored contracts to provide States and the Federal government with facilities and/or services.
The notion that a private contractor could have incentive to drive down the costs of prison operation is a nifty thought, but only for a fleeting moment. For example, CCA’s 2012 Annual Report notes:
“Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” (2012 CCA Annual Report, p. 28.)
CCA does not want to decriminalize, much less legalize, anything. The more things are illegal, the better the bottom line for the corporation. CCA, GEO, and the other correctional corporations spend millions in lobbying efforts to secure more contracts for more prisons. Worse, the contracts contain provisions that require the State to provide inmates in numbers sufficient to occupy 90 percent of a facilities beds. If the State fails to provide those numbers, the State pays a penalty.
Services, amongst them medical care for inmates, are cut so the corporation and its shareholders enjoy a better and fatter bottom line. Even if a facility is run by the Indiana Department of Correction (“DOC”), medical services might be provided by a private contractor.
Some might say: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” That sounds morally righteous. Of course, the line, or a variation of it, was made popular by Robert Blake’s character, “Beretta.” Blake later was acquitted of the murder of his wife, but found liable in damages, in a civil action in which the burden of proof was less (“preponderance of the evidence”) than had the burden been in his criminal prosecution (“beyond a reasonable doubt”). Under this notion, inmates should not complain about the conditions of their incarceration.
Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution sets forth our State’s Bill of Rights. Article 1, section 18, provides that the penal code will be based upon principles of reformation, not vindictive justice. The inmates one might demean today could be one’s neighbors tomorrow—either because of release of the inmates from the facilities, or because oneself is arrested and convicted. Those inmates once were children—brothers and sisters of people in the general population, or “gen pop.”
On Today’s Show we shall discuss aspects of treatment of inmates. One of our guests will be the father of a woman who died while in custody. Also joining us will be Chris Spangle of “We Are Libertarians.”
As always we look forward to Kimann Schultz and her “Fashion News and Muse.” Tyler Rayl were provide us with his take on sports. Please join us from 11 am to 1 pm.