Archive for May, 2012

For-Profit Prisons: When You Need A Buyer for Your Expired Squirrel Meat

Posted by Matt on Thursday, May 17th, 2012

“Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”

(And yet the New Orleans’ cab driver who strikes pedestrians with impunity continues to terrify hungover tourists.)

So why is Louisiana the prison capitol of the world? As the Times Picayune reports, it’s fairly simple: $

Like many states, Louisiana has moved towards a for-profit prison system.  America continues to excel at imprisoning its citizens – especially non-violent drug offenders and The Blacks – fearmongering our way to a spectacular growth industry.  Steering tax dollars to private enterprises who provide shitty services is once again an American Pastime and perfectly exemplified by our prison system.

Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.

Oh yeah, these “reforms” have cost billions of dollars and Louisiana still has the highest murder rate in the country.  suck it, tide. #1

How did we get here?

In the early 1990s, when the incarceration rate was half what it is now, Louisiana was at a crossroads. Under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, the state had two choices: Lock up fewer people or build more prisons.

It achieved the latter, not with new state prisons — there was no money for that — but by encouraging sheriffs to foot the construction bills in return for future profits. The financial incentives were so sweet, and the corrections jobs so sought after, that new prisons sprouted up all over rural Louisiana.

Bam. Thus, tons of beds for these sherriffs to fill with petty criminals were created out of insufferably humid air  - packed in at $24/day.  With limited access to education, cramped conditions, and few support programs, at least it’s clear the police officers, prosecutors, politicians and their private-sector counterparts don’t need to pay lipservice to “deterrence” and “rehabilitation.”

Don’t let anyone tell you America isn’t exceptional.



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