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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/6/13

Privatization Part I

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  The result, which came to light spectacularly in a juvenile prison in Texas, is shameful, even squalid living conditions.

  The buying and selling of prison labor is the modern equivalent of 18th century slave auctions. Then, slaves were sold one by one on the auction block. Now, they are sold in gross lots.

  The buyers are agents of the private prison companies, New York Stock (and livestock) Exchange listed. They show up in their $2,000 suits with 29-page power point presentations, telling the sellers -- the elected officers of our governments -- about all the money they can save taxpayers. ("And maybe there'll be some stock in it for you. Know what I mean? " Wink, wink.)

  And the sellers, no fools they, bargain for the livestock. Because all sales are final.

"Look pal, we can guarantee you 3,000 prisoners a day, forever. And you want that for $50 million? Get real."

  What a thing for a proud parent to tell his children.

  "What did you do today, Daddy?"

  "Well honey, I sold our prisoners to a really fine company. Got a good price, too. Now you don't have to think about them anymore."

  "Oh, thank you, Daddy."

  There is of course an alternative to this modern and immoral trafficking in human beings, as a means to reduce the cost of prisons borne by taxpayers: put fewer people in jail.

  More than 2 million people are imprisoned in the U.S. today, more than the total for China and India combined -- the populations of which are more than eight times that of the U.S. Two thirds of those in U.S. prisons have been sentenced for drug related and non-violent offenses. Many are non-whites who are far more likely than whites to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms.

  In a hopeful sign, some states have begun to seek alternatives to packing the prisons, and to examine the draconian and mandatory prison terms enacted in the "law and order" mania that followed the social upheavals of the 1960s.

  With the help of organizations like the Center for State Innovation and the Pew Center on the States, states such as Minnesota, Indiana and others are embracing new ideas and policies to insure public safety while at the same time reducing the prison population.

  But there is a long way to go. The private prison pitch men are on the prowl, looking for elected officials who won't mind trafficking in prisoners if they can wrap themselves in a balanced budget.


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Author of the forthcoming novel "Pursuits of Happiness," a director of the Public Banking Institute and chairman of the Pennsylvania Project. Mike is an international transportation and logisics executive with broad experience in U.S. government (more...)

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