by Peter Rothberg, The Nation, May 12, 2011
Today, our friends at Brave New Foundation launched the ‘Immigrants for Sale’ campaign with a powerful animated video exposing the way private prisons profit off the passage of anti-immigrant legislation, and what that means for the democratic process.
The video is the first in an on-going series documenting the abuse, corruption and corporate influence that drives both the rush to privatize incarceration and the draconian sentencing and immigration laws that make the rush profitable.
The three largest corporate players in the industry — CCA (the Corrections Corporation of America), The Geo Group and Management and Training corporations — reap annual profits of more than $5 billion a year at the same time as they dole out more than $20 million annually in lobbying to (mostly rightwing) state legislators to ensure the approval of the regional anti-immigrant laws that fill their coffers.
An NPR report outlined how CCA and co. aim to translate the anti-immigrant rhetoric and political void into a long-lasting cash drive — believing that illegal immigrants will continue to provide a fresh and highly profitable influx of new inmates to their cells if harsh anti-immigration legislation Arizona-style stays popular.
As Brave New Films’ Alex Cabbellero writes at Huffington Post, “CCA founder Tomas Beasly once called his scheme ‘more profitable’ than selling burgers or cars — a clear indication that any sense of justice in the prison industry will be forever trumped by cash flows and profit margins.”
We have a huge, multi-layered problem with incarceration in this country. The US prison population has exploded from about 300,000 to more than 2 million in a few short decades. Moreover, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than two-thirds of released prisoners are re-arrested within three years, and returned to the system much more quickly than in the past. This unusually high recidivism rate, a travesty, is directly linked to a decrease in programs aimed at rehabilitation.
Prison privatization just makes this problem much, much worse because recidivism is actually a good thing from the financial perspective of a corporation operating private prisons. The “Immigrants For Sale” campaign is one attempt to stem the tide. Sign the pledge and become part of the nationwide network of Prison Watchers that is following and exposing the players, the money and the victims in this corrupt, anti-democratic rush to mass privatized incarceration.