Monday, February 25, 2013

Private prisons, the gun lobby and the Obama Administration

Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks talks about one of the most scandalous and destructive aspects of what we still call our "justice" system in the United States in For-Profit Prison Gets Name on Football Stadium 02/20/2013 02/20/2013.

They start talking at around 2:35 about the large amounts being spent by the federal government to detain suspected undocumented immigrants in private prisons.

One major factor with private prisons is that they can use various financial contributions to lobby (or just buy) politicians to pass tougher laws so that more people will go to prison so that they can make more money from the public till while they are cutting every cost they can get away with cutting to improve profits.

Tim Murphy reported earlier this month about how the radical-right National Rifle Association (NRA) and the for-profit prison industry share an interest in putting more and more people in jail in The Big House That Wayne LaPierre Built Mother Jones 02/08/2013. Fr the NRA, making more and more acts criminal allows them to use fear of crime to sell guns and ammunition. For the for-profit prison industry, it lets them make money from the taxpayers by housing the prisoners resulting from tougher and tougher laws.

The campaign the NRA promoted in the 1990s, called CrimeStrike, for more laws to put more people in prison and for longer terms led to badly overcrowded prisons even with massive prison construction. And to more opportunity for the for-profit prison industry. Murphy writes:

The number of people serving time in state or federal prisons increased 100 percent between 1990 and 2005. But California and Texas, the two states where the NRA had expended the most capital, were the most striking examples. The Golden State's three-strikes law differed from most of the other 29 in that it applied to an exceedingly broad definition of what amounted to a "strike." Under its guidelines, nonviolent crimes — including, in one famous case, the filching of a slice of pizza — were enough to put someone behind bars for life. ...

The prisons became simultaneously more crowded and more expensive to maintain. Writing for the majority in 2011, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that inmates in California were forced to live in "telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets," and often went more than a year without receiving medical attention. The state's corrections system, Kennedy argued, was "incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society."

The consequence of California's reforms is that Texas now leads the nation in incarceration, with 154,000 people behind bars—more prisoners per capita than all but three countries. The construction boom addressed what criminal-justice watchdogs considered to be a serious problem: Violent felons were being released before they were even eligible for parole because there simply wasn't any room. But CrimeStrike and its allies did nothing to curb the underlying problem — a sentencing system that locked people up for the smallest of crimes, kept them there for a while, and openly mocked efforts to keep them from coming back.

All that's left of the NRA's prison-building arm 20 years later is a television show by the same name. Hosted by LaPierre, Crime Strike features weekly reenactments of gun owners defending their turf, with the mantra: "Take aim and fight back." But the program's legacy lives on in concrete ways.
Digby cites Murphy's article and observes (Authoritarian Freedom Fighters (yes, I'm talking about the NRA) Hullabaloo 02/24/2013):

This shows exactly what kind of people NRA followers really are. For all their talk of watering the tree of liberty with blood of tyrants, they are actually the worst kind of authoritarians. They're fine with government power when it comes to any police agency (not charged with gun regulation) and they cheer it enthusiastically when it imprisons large numbers of people they consider to be undesirable. The only powers they don't wish the government to have is the power to tax them for the cost of these authoritarian institutions or to regulate their personal firepower. And they downright love a man in uniform, whether a cop or a soldier. ...

Read the whole story at Mojo about the NRA's prison plan. And then contemplate the fact that the Democrats decided after the 2000 election that they couldn't possibly go against them ever again. (And people wonder why so many of us find the Democratic Party's "strategies" so contemptible.)
As Ana and Cenk note in their report, Obama was eager to facilitate the agenda of the xenophobes and the for-profit prison lobby, considerably exceeding the number of deportations that the Cheney-Bush Administration made in any comparable period. In the Grand Compromiser pose, this was justified by Obama's loyalists on the issue by saying it would convince Republicans that he was serious about border enforcement, and that would make them more open to compromise on immigration reform. They got the deportations, we'll see how many Republicans vote for any decent immigration reform bill.

The NRA and their supporting background chorus of gun fetishists would be an excellent target for Obama to discredit and thereby discredit much of the "culture war" rhetoric of which their positions are an integral part.

Brian Tashman reports in Gun Activists Warn Obama is Raising a Private Black Army to Massacre White Americans Right Wing Watch 02/22/2013 that the rhetoric from Gun Owners of America and its President Larry Pratt encourage even wilder rhetoric in the service of unlimited gun proliferation. Obama and the Democrats should be forcing the Republicans to either own or repudiate such characters. Obama seems to have little intention of doing so. But at least the focus on gun violence and the proliferation of guns and ammo is highlighting the crackpot extremism of groups like the NRA, the Gun Owners of America and their close Republican allies.

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