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How Bad is the Prison Lobby in the US?

View of a a prison gallery in US

The prison lobby of the United States involves in paying hefty funds to the politicians but still escapes from being one among the most scrutinized issues unlike gun, healthcare and oil. The for-profit prison owners cleverly contrive a ploy with the lawmakers and have been successful in keeping the prisons occupied so that the cash flow doesn’t stop.

The business is ludicrous as long as there are prisoners, convictions, and crimes in the society and accordingly the population in private prisons has doubled between 2000 and 2010, says a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Against the norms of restoring peace and harmony in the society, this business model requires criminals to line up in queues at their prison gates, even if there are no crimes happening. This is not impossible as long as there are lawmakers who give more importance to dollars in millions than the lives that rot in the prison, at times for committing no or a minor non-violent crime. What costs to them is their family, their life.  

Corrections Corporation of America along with GEO Group Inc., the two largest prison companies in the US, have spent nearly $31 million in its federal government lobbying efforts and $13 million in campaign contributions since 2000 to draft laws that increase the detention rates, time period served for crimes etc. ensuring there remains enough people in their prison beds to churn out filthy profits.

These companies warn the shareholders about the business loss they would incur if inmates are punished with a shorter terms even for non-violent crimes. They lobby against any leniency in law enforcement, punishment for minor crimes, decriminalization of marijuana, illegal immigration, early release on good behavior that would affect the inmate count and hence the business profit. By contract agreements, these prisons require the governments to maintain an occupancy rate around 90% in their prisons or let the taxpayers compensate for the empty beds.

These obligations of the governments can explain the rise of crime rates on paper even if it is actually falling. What fall as a prey to this hawkish business idea are the minority communities including the Latinos and African Americans, both together representing a quarter of the total population, but constituting 58% of the prison population back in 2008. This trend of jailing the minority community explains the hatred of cops, not all, which have become a heated topic of discussion after the unfortunate events that unfolded in Dallas and Baton Rouge in a span of seven days. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People statistics, the incarceration rate of colored people has gone up alarmingly. One in six African American men and one in 100 of those women are jailed according to the reports.

Republican politicians have had the largest chunk of the profit pie. Marco Rubio, who ended his campaign for Presidency in 2016 during this March, has received $133,450 from private prison companies, especially from GEO Group Inc., with which he has stronger ties.

Currently there are about 137 private prisons in the US with a capacity holding 157,000 beds and the mandate of the business is they can never go empty or the crime rate low.

In US, privatization of prisons has been in practice since the American Revolution. What hurt the society are the cunning business practices that aim at bringing more money to the personal bank accounts at the cost of thousands of lives, and their peace. The argument against the private prisons is not blindfolded to the cruel crimes happening in the society. Crimes should be punished. The argument against the private prisons equates the fact that criminals need prisons and not the other way that prisons need criminals.

The prison economy and its business interest run against the mandate of the US Constitution or in fact any constitution in the world in giving a safe and secure living condition to its people and by denying them the opportunity to accept their mistakes and live a law-abiding life thereafter.

One view can blame the greed of the private prison companies for most of the crimes including the hatred against the minorities, cops etc. which spoils the harmonies of today’s lives. For all the evils it beholds to the society of the US, it just cannot be treated as a least significant issue that demands no immediate action. But change to a system is difficult and costly when it involves a lot of money.


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