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Wards of the Prison State: Pawns of the Corporate Elite

By       Message Timothy Cavanaugh       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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I recently had a discussion with a co-worker of mine about a growing problem in America.  The problem is the privatization of America's prisons and it is the latest step in a long series of events by the corporate elite to exploit inner-city and more specifically Black America.  This latest effort is especially insidious in that it is virtually invisible to mainstream America.  Invisible, that is until the inevitable effects it causes in society present themselves and even then the connection is not apparent to those unwilling to look closely.

To make this point more clear here are some statistics I pulled doing follow-up research from a Human Rights Watch article titled Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs – "Blacks comprise 13 percent of the national population, but 30 percent of people arrested, 41 percent of people in jail, and 49 percent of those in prison."

This is nothing short of a national tragedy.  The very population of people whose ancestors were brutally brought to this country to toil as slaves more then three hundred years ago and who after the supposed "Emancipation Proclamation" and the end of the Civil War were further used as unjust labor in various ways and subjected to ruthless persecution are now the pawns of a growing private prison system that profits from their misery and inequitable treatment.

All Americans should be embarrassed that this could and is happening in a country that presents itself to the world as the "land of the free..." and pretends to stand for human rights.

A side note; the party that traditionally promotes privatization of public sector functions and also hangs it's hat on the position of representing business and industry is the Republican party.  I don't think it's a coincidence that a byproduct of being a felon is that you lose the right to vote and that Blacks who represent a disproportionately high number of prisoners and subsequently felons in America tend to vote Democratic.

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At the heart of the problem is that by creating a private, for-profit prison system we make the incarceration of people, and all steps that lead to their incarceration, a profitable venture.  Corporations and the people behind them that benefit from having their prisons full have no motivation what-so-ever to deter crime.  On the other hand they are highly motivated to encourage; mass arrests, quick convictions, and long sentences (also called automatic sentencing in the high stakes world of for-profit corrections).

In addition, while holding these people they have absolutely no desire to rehabilitate them or teach them any marketable skills.  As you can imagine prison owners and administrators hold the point of view; the quicker ex-convicts commit another crime after their release the quicker they will be back in to fill another cell and generate more profit.

A secondary issue but equally important is that by targeting a population (Blacks) this system/policy is helping to create a permanent underclass which once established, or in America's case, reinforced can be easily manipulated by the elite to do their social bidding.

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Any sociologist can tell you that a common tactic used by dictatorial leaders throughout history is to pit one underprivileged group or segment of a population against another.  One relatively simple way to do this is to keep both groups down (economically, socially, politically, etc.) and then blame their plight on the other.  With that said I'm sure it will not surprise any of you to learn that the two fastest growing segments of our quickly rising prison population are Blacks and Latinos.

With the constant discussion of immigration in the recent news and Latinos emerging to be a dominant force in American politics (even if by sheer numbers as the wealth distribution of that population is still well below that of Whites per capita) this issue is quickly coming to a head.

As Latino-America's prominence rises it will continue to frustrate the Black American population with their long history of oppression and under-privilege in this country.  Disenfranchised young Black males will continue to turn to their various groups and sub-cultures for support which inevitably will lead to violence and criminal behavior exacted on their Latino rivals who are equally frustrated.   

Issues like this one are at the core of the social ills that plague America and we will not see true social justice and equality until we as a nation, as a people, address them. 

I encourage all my readers to do additional research on this shameful system/condition we have inherited/created and then to share your thoughts with others most importantly the editors of your local, regional and national newspapers.  As well, I encourage you to contact your political representatives (city, county, state and federal - as this issue potentially exists anywhere there is a detention facility) and voice your opinion.

Isn't it about time that America started living up to its claim as the "land of the free?"

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Timothy Cavanaugh is an independent writer specializing in political, environmental and social justice issues (e-mail:


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My name is Timothy Cavanaugh and I am an independent writer specializing in political, environmental and social justice issues. I regularly submit op-eds to various newspapers and blogs and I enjoy debating my positions with others when I get the (more...)

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