All that’s wrong with America in one news story


Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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68 Responses

  1. Avatar notme says:

    So you would prefer that these folks are held in lock ups run by the fed gov/ICE? Why does it matter if they are in an fed gov/ICE run lock up or a for profit lock up?Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      Ideally, they would have been classified as refugees and not in lock-ups by now. And yes, I would prefer that a federal government accountable to taxpayers and international human rights and refugee agreements be put in charge of managing a refugee problem than shady corporations accountable to profit-seeking shareholders with well-documented histories of abuses.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Of course you prefer calling them refugees instead of illegals, they seem so much more sympathetic that way. If the fed goc doesn’t like the way they CCA is acting then the fed gov can sue them for breach of contract. Out of all the hyperbole in the article I sense the biggest upsets are 1) the US should be letting these folks go free and 2) someone is making money from housing them. Oh, the horror of it all!Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I find people much more sympathetic once they’ve had at least one limb coated with melted glass.

          But hell, you don’t care what happens to the kids, so long as they don’t come to America, do you?

          Put your money where your fucking mouth is, and pay to keep kids in the glass-shop. The sweatshop. The orphanage.

          Need links? Because I have them.
          Thing about desperate kids is they make decidedly cheap labor.

          So go ahead and pay to keep the kids out of the country.
          Or stop fucking bitching like a pussy.

          [Apologies to anyone who’s actually been to a trauma unit and who I may have accidentally triggered with the above talk of a serious solution to the refugee problem.]Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            Gee, if we just sped up the return of these people back where they came from, a lot of this would go away..

            Shockingly straightforward, so not possible I guess.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          I’ve heard plenty about how fed gov programs create constituencies which make them impossible to get rid of. So is hard to imagine how making money off of refuges/immigrants/people in shitty situations creates an incentive to make more of those people. It incentivises policies that will make more money for the corp. They will lobby for more “customers” and for longer stays.Report

          • Avatar aarondavid says:

            Wait, are you talking about the CCPOA? Yeah, that describes them… To a T.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Yup…the cali prison union is a problem. So it should be clear why a profit making corp is also a problem. They are almost the exact same situation. Private prison corps want more prisoners.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                Sorry @greginak that seems a bit of a post hoc argument. Prisons in general are a problem, private or public. Full stop. I have seen nothing wrong with private that isn’t equally wrong with public, as they are all going to have lobbying efforts, and the oversight on both needs to be improved. To put that as ” Private prison corps want more prisoners.” ignores the problems with public institutions .

                Unless someone can point me to actually data that shows, definitively the private prisons are worse, then it is bunkum, just a talking point.

                Rather, I would suggest that the problems with private prisons stem from inspections and oversight that the states needs to be providing, indeed has a moral imperative to provide, as they have assumed responsibility for these people.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Do you prefer torturing the stupid?

                because that is an alternative on the table, as of this moment.

                Art of the possible, but please bear in mind where we stand.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                What in the name of all that is intelligent are you even saying?

                SONY TANKS!!11!!!Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                You’ve got one alternative that says “Give me your tired, your poor, your weak and huddled masses”

                Your other alternative is to hire the children while they’re still in Mexico. (and, as with any activity involving the young and stupid, there are inevitable injuries).

                … I thought people around here liked sweatshops? Or is that just for adults?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I’m fine with saying prisons are a problem in general. Someone is going to have to house the prisoners we do have but it will always be an unhappy place. Making money off of human misery ( and any prison is going to be crappy to some degree) is a bad incentive.

                Here is AK to “save money” we have private prisons. Well we rent beds in private prisons in arizona so many inmates get sent thousands of miles away from family for their terms. This does not help the prisoners since they have few if any visits from the people who might support them. Private prisons are designed to make money for the prison corp not do good for the prisoners and keep them out of society for whatever length of time. Does that mean regular prisons are great, no of course not.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Icelandic prisons are to be preferred over sleeping out on the street. In fact, in most of Scandinavia, they manage to make prison quite cushy.

                “In my country, I spent 4 years in prison. This is nothing.” — quoting Sergei from The Wire.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                Everything you are saying is not the issue with private prisons (PP) but with either AKs legal system or legislature. PP’s don’t determine how long a prisoner is in, that is determined by the courts. If they are doing that, not saying that they are or not, then that is a failure of whomever in in charge of oversight. And that would be the justice system, also known as Government.

                I don’t care who is actually running the prison, and cheaper is better if it falls within the law. But if the law isn’t being followed, than it is the gov’ts job to either correct it to make sure it is followed, or prosecute.

                To lay that failure on a private party is to abdicate responsibility.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                PP’s don’t determine how long a prisoner is in, that is determined by the courts.

                O Rly?

                If they are doing that, not saying that they are or not, then that is a failure of whomever in in charge of oversight.

                So private prisons cannot fail, they can only be failed?

                cheaper is better if it falls within the law.

                I’m sure that isn’t actually your only metric for success, is it? Also, there’s no particular reason to believe private is cheaper than public.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                The simple answer is for AK to build and run its own prisons, right? That was too easy.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Ohhh i wish someone had thought of that. Oh they did, but some private prison salespeople sold them a bill of goods; Cheaper, Better, Profits!!Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Have the private prisons delivered on their promises? If not, then don’t renew the contact. Once again it is too easy, even for liberals.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Why are children traveling to this country to escape violence in their own lands prisoners that need to be deprived of society?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Because people like you can’t be bothered to pay for them to do any different.
                It’s cheap, you know? Not that expensive to give someone a place to work…Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Depending on the situation they actually might need to be housed. Prisons no, but everybody isn’t a refuge. I don’t have a problem with people immigrating for jobs, that is just fine and dandy. But that doesn’t suggest everybody gets asylum.Report

              • Avatar krogerfoot says:

                Here is AK to “save money” we have private prisons. Well we rent beds in private prisons in arizona so many inmates get sent thousands of miles away from family for their terms.

                This separates the men from the boys, so to speak, with regard to the intersection of the American carceral state and the outsourcing of government to for-profit institutions.

                If you have ever been to prison, or had a family member there, the idea of sending an inmate a thousand miles away from anyone who gives a shit about him/her will fill you with horror. If not, you can shrug and tell yourself that, even in a society where we are all criminals, it’s not your problem.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                So, to clarify, your argument is that private prisons are bad, but so are some public prisons, so we should do nothing.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                No @christopher-carr my argument is that government oversight of all prisons is bad, and that needs to be fixed. Beyond that it matters not if it is public or private. And that the concept of private prisons being so awful is a red herring to deflect from the real issue of government oversight.

                Unless someone can point me to solid data that shows exactly how they are worse than government prisons solely by the fact that they are private, or I should say a reason other than “Making money off of human misery.” as there are more professions that do that than just private prisons.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                My problem with them is less about day to day operations and more that it creates a particularly creepy private lobbying industry with plenty of money to throw around and whose interests don’t really align with anything good. The more people who go to prison and the longer their sentences, the more revenue goes up. Policies that reduce crime and or incarceration rates are directly against their interests.

                Given how easy it is to be “tough on crime” without any political consequences, we already have enough dangerous stuff on that side of the scale. Powerful lobbyists pushing their thumbs down even harder on the side of perpetual war on crime and ever increasing incarceration rates is unlikely to yield anything good. Say what you will about teachers unions and waste management contractors, their interests are nowhere near as naturally opposed to the common good as prison contractors.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                I am not going to disagree that it creates lobbying opportunists (I am not against lobbying, my great aunt was a lobbyist for the Sierra Club) but I am curious how they are different than the CCPOA? Or for that matter, the SEIU or teamsters? My point is that there are all sorts of vested interests in how the gov’t spends its money. Private or public matters not in the end.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I’m not against lobbying either, but I do think that there are different levels of scary when it comes to influence. The Teamsters or SEIU lobbying for some sort of suboptimal labor regulation doesn’t worry me nearly as much as CCPOA lobbying for the latest “keep everybody in prison forever over nothing” law.

                There isn’t much of a way to get around lobbying from the “boots on the ground” employees of prisons like CCPOA. Private and public prisons both have lots of guards, and their interests align enough that they’ll always have a political voice. But not all of the money that flows into a prison goes into the pockets of the guards. In the case of a private, for-profit prison, a goodly chunk of that money goes to shareholders who turn it directly back into lobbying energy. It adds yet another constituency with the financial clout and sophistication to make things even worse than they already are.

                This type of thing is another reason to be worried about police militarization. The makers of all of the hardware who used to profit by selling to the military have found a new way to profit by selling hardware to police. That’s a huge new market, and once they get their teeth in it, it’s going to be very hard to roll back the trend toward turning our cops into storm troopers from a dystopian scifi movie. I think we’re at a critical point where on one hand, people are becoming skeptical of police militarization and on the other hand, companies that profit from it are growing rapidly and becoming increasingly entrenched. It could go either way, but I’m pretty sure if it goes the wrong way, it’s going to stay that way.

                We should all be worried about special interests, but some should be more worrying than others, and we should consider taking any chance we get to avoid creating a new one or feeding a rapidly growing juvenile one. Keeping them from becoming entrenched is a lot easier than stopping them once they’ve grown up.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                So I assume you support this bill, then (reintroduced in 2015)?

                Given that the reason we don’t know is that we aren’t allowed to know, and the people who do know are VERY invested in preventing that knowledge from getting out, at what point does the burden shift from “don’t criticize private facilities without proof” to “what are private facilities hiding”?Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                No, it shifts the burden to the legislature for, again, abdicating its responsibility.

                I have zero problem with a bill such as that, but again, the problems stem from Gov’t lack of oversight and design to hide its problems.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Ok. So we have an intransigent GOP and a rich lobby capable of preventing oversight.

                Do you think it’s easier to make that problem go away or to get private corporations out of the prison system? Also curious why you’re so comfortable blaming “the legislature” as a whole.

                What agency, if any, do you assign to the actual prison corporations?Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                Well, you and I both live in CA, no real power for the GOP here, but we do have the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation. unless they have gone rouge, with no legislative oversight.

                On the federal level, we have the Bureau of Prisons, overseen by the executive branch. The GOP would whine and moan, but at the end of the day they have zero control over that branch at this time. To say that we have rich lobbies controlling an industry is to say that we have no government oversight. I can’t think of any way other to describe it than that.

                So, yeah, I am totally comfortable blaming the legislature at this levelReport

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Oh I know all about CDCR. I spent five years of my life engaged in a lawsuit against them. I’d be happy to discuss the politics and undue influence of the prison guard union (long story short, CA democrats are afraid of seeming soft on crime so they did/do whatever the union says far too often) but what that union wants is more guards, not more profits to a CEO. So you don’t see the same manipulation and no one gets rich.

                On the federal level, we have private contractors that currently are not required to allow oversight the same way public prisons do. So they get none. The solution to the problem is either to force that oversight (which the GOP can and is blocking) or get private prisons out of the business (which is what you’re objecting to). Not sure what else to say about that.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                “currently are not required to allow oversight the same way public prisons do”
                Do you have some info for this? A link or something?
                And I am indifferent to private prisons. My bone of contention is that they often get blamed for things that are the fault of the gov’t.

                And that doesn’t fix things.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                You mean the link to the law trying to change the disparity THAT WE ALREADY DISCUSSED ON THIS THREAD?

                Keep sticking your head in the sand and protesting that there is no evidence down there.

                And that doesn’t fix things.

                So oversight isn’t a cure to your stated objection that failures of oversight are the legislatures fault? How about this: you state your true rejection for the premise that private prisons are worse than public ones. I’ll try to address that.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                (apologize for the tone on this; carryover from below that wasn’t deserved)Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                No sweat, we both actually care, which is nice.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                “So oversight isn’t a cure to your stated objection that failures of oversight are the legislatures fault? How about this: you state your true rejection for the premise that private prisons are worse than public ones. I’ll try to address that.”

                No, I definately think oversight is the cure and as I said below, you are doing a good job of changing my minds on whether or not they are better or worse than public prisons. But, what I worry about is, given that, and the problems you state with reguards the CCPOA and CA Dems wanting to look good on crime issues (since we are both here, might as well keep it in the house) I think the issue of Private being worse is the wrong direction to look at as far as reform (we can both agree that is needed, right?) is concerned. And by that I mean that there are problems on both sides of that (public and privite prisons) and to at least start fixing those problems we need to look at holding those accountables feet to the fire. If there are both prisons operating as extra-legal zones AND guards operating gladiator fighting rings, well, we need to have both fixed.

                So I guess I don’t have a true objection to saying that they are worse, but that I don’t think that will get us where we (I) want to go, which is prison reform.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                First off, we definitely both want prison reform.

                Second, we are both (rightly) horrified by stories like those about dehumanized guards doing awful things. I’ll freely concede that that particular problem applies to both kinds of facilities.

                But let’s take the position of an outside reformer. In my case, it was as an attorney enforcing court orders regarding due process for California parolees. I would MUCH prefer to be in that position against a civil servant who may or may not dehumanize inmates but, at the end of the day, just wants clear instructions and a steady paycheck than a private guy who is being asked to implement a costly new policy that is going to kill profits (and, by extension, his own bonus). Hell, most of the on-site folks were thrilled to see me since their jobs were created/secured by the personnel needs related to my case.

                Overcrowding (which I didn’t work on) is a bit of a closer question, as you’re reducing the need for guards in public jails (therefore opposed by prison unions) but also talking about money walking out the door in private jails.

                End of the day, though, I think you need to consider the reforms you want and think about where, if any, a private system is going to be more amenable to that change. I’m having trouble coming up with any as most things that would improve prisoners’ lives also would increase operating costs.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                “End of the day, though, I think you need to consider the reforms you want and think about where, if any, a private system is going to be more amenable to that change.”

                Exactly. And a large part of this for me, isn’t so much the prison system (one aspect of gov’t) as all aspects of gov’t. It sounds like your personal experiences have brought you much knowledge, and that shows and is appreciated in discussions like this. I come from a world that more often than not uses private contractors for all sorts of things, so I am always looking at managing them.

                Now, aligning our interests…Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          So, for the record, you’re in favor of locking up pregnant women and toddlers who haven’t filed the correct paperwork?

          What’s illegal, by the way? Their existence? Their presence isn’t illegal per US law, btw – little-known fact it seems. Are you anti-law?Report

  2. Avatar aarondavid says:

    So, are the private prisons sending private border patrol agents out, picking up people, taking them to private judges, with private prosecutors doing the railroading of justice?Report

    • Avatar davidly says:

      That is a very good question. It might lead one to the conclusion that no such private offices exist within the judiciary. But if we consider the prosecutors’ private interest, advancing prosecution, even hiding exculpatory evidence that would get any case dismissed, and judges who receive kickbacks for sending teens to private prisons (and we only know about the ones who were busted), then the precedent is set: The line between public and private may have been broadened and gray already, but by officially industrializing corrections, the state further incentivizes the general criminalization of the public, even if it’s not equally applied.Report

      • Avatar aarondavid says:

        All of this is true, but please show me how it is separate from pubic prisons. And at this point I mean specifics. Again, if there are problems like this, than that is the job of the gov’t to ensure fair treatment of prisoners. There are countless horror stories from public prisons out there, but here we are talking about privatized as if it was some separate beast. Its not.

        I am not some big fan of PP’s, but these issues all stem from the fact that the gov’t isn’t doing its job, that it is indeed doing everything it can to not do its job. Private prisons are just a red herring at this point.Report

        • Avatar davidly says:

          You’re right. The government is not doing its job when it allows the privatization of incarceration. That’s a pretty solid step away from oversight.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            I lean towards thinking that privatizing prisons is probably a bad idea, but this list of the ten worst prisons in the US seems to indicate that only two of the ten (Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, for youth, and Reeves County Detention Complex, for immigrants) are private, and the rest appear to be either City, County, State, or Federally run (though it’s possible I missed one or two – sometimes Wikipedia uses the word “managed” by the govt. entity, which is possibly ambiguous enough to throw into question who actually “runs” it.)

            But even if I missed some and the list is 5/5 public/private, that might put some weight toward @aarondavid ‘s POV, that lack of oversight is the primary issue.Report

            • Avatar davidly says:

              That’s an issue, one I raised by pointing out that abdication of public responsibitly already proves a lack of will vis a vis oversight.

              The bigger issue here as it relates to private prisons is not whether or not they are worse than public ones, but whether or not profit incentivizes incarceration. It clearly does. The last thing the US needs is more incentive to send people to prison. The US has not only the largest prison population per capita, but the largest total. More than China, whose population makes the US’ like Texas.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                The last thing the US needs is more incentive to send people to prison.

                On this we agree in full. I guess my only question would be, are we sure the profit incentives are greater now, than they were way back when? Even back then, I assume Concrete Contractor got his kickbacks, and Food Contractor, etc. etc (that is, even then there were incentives; the incentives were largely just hidden from the public).

                I was under the impression that the prison population increase has been caused much more by changes to the law (largely, but not completely, driven by the Drug War and the more general fear during the ’70s-’80s of the coming SuperCrimeWave).Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                If you cannot see that being able to give millions to a judge already inclined to not give a shit about defendants of a certain ilk is like gasoline to the fire, then I don’t know what to say, except to remind you that Bill Jeff “bubba” Clinton put the pedal to the metal on the privatizing of prisons — theretofore to be referred to correspondingly more often by proponents under the euphemism “correctional facility” — as well as ratcheted up the incarceration for non-violent drug related penalties.

                At some point, you should be willing to look at the incentives and see them for what they are, instead of wonkily waiting for the right data to stream in that proves you should or should not be able to sleep at night.Report

            • Avatar nevermoor says:

              Private prisons often contract for the least-bad offenders, so they won’t appear on lists like that (and won’t have to provide expensive medical care, making themselves appear “cheaper”).

              Also, of course, 19 states are still 100% public and there are way more public than private locations.

              Lists like that don’t go all that far.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Yeah, I started poking around for more numbers and then realized I don’t have time to wade too deep today.

                As general propositions, I agree that A.) We imprison far too many people B.) Anything that looks likely to exacerbate that (like financial incentives) needs to be looked at with a gimlet eye and C.) If we are going to imprison people at all, We The People should probably do that and not outsource it, just as a matter of principle.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Agreed. C also motivates me, but I suspect it’s unlikely to persuade those who aren’t already converted.Report

    • Avatar nevermoor says:

      That would NEVER happen! The profit motive is pure as the the driven snow and no one would ever be corrupted by perverse profit incentives!Report

      • Avatar aarondavid says:

        Good, that is how gov’t should work. The profit motive is neither pure nor impure, it just is. How much bribery was around before private prisons?Report

        • Avatar nevermoor says:

          Show me proof of public prisons bribing judges and we can go from there.

          The profit motive is neither pure nor impure, it just is.

          Right, which is the problem in this context.Report

            • Avatar nevermoor says:

              I’m sorry, your evidence that public prisons bribe judges is… a link to the same story about private prisons doing so?Report

            • Avatar davidly says:

              Those were private prisons.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                @nevermoor @davidly
                I have read the article twice now, can you point me to where it say private prisons? Either I am missing a line or…

                There is mention of private prisons in the comments, but as that doesn’t show up in the article it isn’t relevant.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                Given the wealth of the information on the Internet, it is easy to find that they were in fact private detention centers who had “funded” the judge’s decision-making process. That is, it is easy to find if one wants to look. Stop reading that article and do a little research. Good thing you’re not in charge of oversight.

                To reiterate something I said in my last response to you, and as summary response to several of your other comments: Citizenry, whether they consider themselves public or private, simply cannot expect oversight form public officials who so willingly allow the privatization of a public responsibility. The privatization of public corrections is, indeed, the abdication of public oversight.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                1. Interesting about the article not mentioning that. Do you have a link, as now I am curious?

                2. I don’t care if something gets privatized and to get me to care, you would need to show me that something is definitely worse than public management in ways that are specific to private enterprise. And yes bribery is such an issue. To say that the profit motive it the problem is irrelevant to me, as that exists in every field known to man.

                3. All of that said, if the public oversight is allowing such awful things to happen, than I think we are in agreement on the main points.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Did you not read my link? From it:

                His sentence brings to closure a dark time in the history of the city of Wilkes-Barre, PA, which is in Luzerne County. He was found guilty in February of racketeering for taking a $1 million kickback from the builder of for-profit prisons for juveniles. Ciavarella who left the bench over two years ago after he and another judge, Michael Conahan, were accused of sentencing youngsters to prisons they had a hand in building. Prosecutors alleged that Conahan, who pleaded guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing, and Ciavarella received kick-backs from the private company that built and maintained the new youth detention facility that replaced the older county-run center.

                Or do you just think there must be two judges named Ciavarella who both got big sentences, but one got public-jail kickbacks and the other was private?

                Also, who at a public jail do you see paying seven-figure kickbacks to a judge?

                Or, most significantly, is there anything anyone can say to back you off of this claim?Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                OK, I feel like a bit of an ass. Sorry, I sped though your link and missed that @nevermoor

                As far as getting me to back of this claim, well you are doing a good job right now!Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Ah, fair enough. Happens.Report

              • Avatar davidly says:

                You didn’t have to tell me you don’t give a shit. That’s abundantly clear. As is your argument fundamentally dishonest. Every outsource of public responsibility is the abdication of the oversight you say is at the core of the issue. That doesn’t mean I agree with your circular argument, which, anticipating your response, I’ll humor myself and spell out:
                1. oversight from public officials is the issue
                2. private prisons are not the issue
                3. oh, you say allowing such privatization amounts to relinquishing oversight.
                4. relinquishing oversight is a problem.
                5. since I think lack of oversight is the problem, we agree.

                As to your request for the links, didn’t you even read my previous response to you? If you really wanted them, you’d find them. But like you said, you don’t care, which belies abundantly your claim that you are somehow neutral on private prisons. Classic concern trolling. Well done!Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:


  3. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    The national leader of the (liberals-libertarians), says to the peeps of the world, come on in here.
    Then the (liberal-libertarian) legals says we a nation of written laws of valid government.
    Then the cops say welcome to booking.
    Then the corporations say cell block six, third door on the left, that’ll be a grand-a-day.
    Then the give a shit (liberals-libertarians) say, hey that ain’t right. (x)
    Then the jailed peeps say, we was lied to.
    Then most americans say, welcome to (liberal-libertarian) democracy, hope this shit don’t spill over on your country.
    Then the banks say, you need money, right this way.
    Corporations say, we got new prison guard positions opening up everywhere, fill out this form.

    Welcome to the damage machine.Report