The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy. ~Woodrow Wilson
Anyone who knows me understands I am not a fan of the prison reform bills circulating in Congress. I’m probably a bit tainted from decades of watching organizations and politicians benefit from bills which are not only poorly, written, but have no chance of even being voted out of committee. The flavor of the week (and for the past several weeks) is the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. Yesterday Dick Durbin said lawmakers are “negotiating” changes to this bill to win more support. Interpretation: This bill is being further watered down to appease conservative special interests. What ever happened to the chatter about the Smarter Sentencing Act and The Reauthorization of the Second Chance Act? maybe that will be next week!
I’m distrustful of the belt-way NGO Mafia and the inquisitive side of me would love to know how much soft money is pouring in to candidates and organizations from the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) to simply maintain the status quo.
Think about this. If the PIC would pour tens of millions of dollars into candidates and lobbying efforts when prisons were extremely crowded, they must be in panic mode as that trend seems to be reversing? I would think the 10K Reports of The GEO Group and CCA would be a bit telling. Question: What happens to a company’s share price when future earnings estimates are adjusted downward?
As disturbing as it is to think about resources being expended to stifle reform, it’s equally disturbing to see the PIC pivoting to deliver correctional treatment and re-entry services. Something flying under the radar is the seeds are also being planted in federal legislation to open up program funding to other than state and local government entities. I’m no big fan of government but the responsibility of correctional treatment and re-entry should remain a government responsibility within the infrastructure. After all, we are spending over 6 Billion Dollars annually on our prison system.
Not enough focus is being placed on the true impediments of criminal justice reform and the farming out of law enforcement and treatment functions to the private sector. As this presidential cycle evolves, there is a good chance the reform issue will be punted to the next administration. Ted Cruz is allegedly against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and Marko Rubio is said to have ties to The GEO Group who have a considerable amount of privatized facilities in the state of Florida. To be honest, punting reform may be the best course of action given the shortfalls of what is circulating in congress.
The second issue is the recent focus on Solitary Confinement. I had to scratch my head when I heard the president banned solitary confinement for juveniles. Having retired from the Federal Prison system I am aware the Federal government does not house juveniles. It’s also a head scratcher when the term “solitary confinement” is thrown about. First, I am totally opposed to Solitary Confinement and feel it is only necessary in the most extreme cases. The other side of that coin is the Federal government doesn’t practice widespread “solitary confinement” aside from the Florence ADX which is actually a smaller number than one may think from the population statistics on the website. In an attempt to clear up the Federal use of what the government now coins as “Restrictive Housing”, I wrote a brief White paper in 2014, which can be accessed at the below link: