Mass Incarceration in America
America’s gulag prison system is the shame of the nation. The Sentencing Project’s director Marc Mauer is a leading expert on US criminal injustice, harming Blacks and Latinos most of all.
In his groundbreaking “Race to Incarcerate” book, Mauer focused on America’s obsession with imprisonment, punishment, and the commodification of prisoners to fill beds for profit.
Society’s most vulnerable are oppressed, targeted for supporting ethnic justice, racial emancipation, along with political, economic and social equality across gender and color lines.
Countless others are victimized by America’s racist drug laws, unrelated to public safety. People of color and ethnic minorities comprise 75% of individuals imprisoned on illicit drug related charges.
Mandatory minimum sentences exacerbate the problem. So do other racist policies, including judicial unfairness, three strikes and you’re out, get tough on crime policies, and a guilty unless proved innocent mentality.
It’s what the Innocence Project earlier called “McJustice, the McDonaldization of criminal justice, the crisis of indigent defense.”
Sociologist George Ritzer described what he called the “irrationality of rationality,” the “homogenization” of America and other societies.
What’s true about US criminal injustice is true as well about its secondary and higher education, the nation’s major media, and its militarized and commodified way of life – prioritizing power and profits over public health and welfare.
Mauer’s Sentencing Project published a new report, titled “Capitalizing on Mass Incarceration: US Growth in Private Prisons,” explaining:
“The War on Drugs and harsher sentencing policies, including mandatory minimum sentences, fueled a rapid expansion in the nation’s prison population beginning in the 1980s.”
“The resulting burden on the public sector led to the modern emergence of for-profit private prisons in many states and at the federal level.”
The report’s key findings include the following:
America’s state and federal prison population exceeds 1.5 million, 128,000 in private prisons, 34,000 in federal private facilities, 94,000 in privatized state prisons, another 26,000 unwanted aliens in privatized prisons.
According to US Bureau of Justice data, 2.2 million individuals are imprisoned in America, including 630,000 in local jails.
One in 12 inmates are in privately run prisons for profit, wanting increasing numbers of beds filled for greater revenues and profitability.
Core Civic and GEO Group run over half of America’s private prisons.
“Companies often trim prison budgets by employing mostly non-union and low- skilled workers at lower salaries and offer limited benefits compared to staff at publicly run institutions,” the report explained, adding:
“Cost savings claims associated with prison privatization are unfounded according to decades of research.”
Former Bureau of Prisons’ research director Gerry Gaes explained “(y)ou can squeeze a half a percent out (of private prisons in cost savings at the expense of proper administration), who knows?”
“But it’s not as if these systems are overfunded to begin with. And at some point, you start to lose quality. And because quality is very difficult to measure in prisons, I’m just worried that you’re getting in a race to the bottom.”
Filling prison beds for profit turned incarceration in America into a growth industry because of its rage to incarcerate.
Research shows corporate facilities cost more, undermine reforms, and compromise public safety by increasing recidivism rates.
Brutal conditions, dangers, and abuses are commonplace in all prisons. Privately run ones are especially scandalous and extreme because of prioritizing cost-cutting over proper administration and other abuses.
Widespread human rights violations occur, compromising the right to life, treatment with humanity and dignity, proper food and medical care, and right to family unity.
Abuses by guards include denial of proper medical care, beating prisoners, attacking them with dogs, shocking them with stun guns, and other abuses – in public and private prisons, women and juveniles especially vulnerable.
Despite responsibility for grievous human rights violations, private prison operators are largely insulated from liability. Rehabilitation is disincentivized as repeat offenders fill beds for increased profits.
Inmates are treated as commodities, not people, countless thousands unjustly imprisoned – either falsely or for issues too minor to matter, including illicit drug use.
Private prisons profit from racial injustice, broken families, and affected communities at greater cost than public facilities, while failing to improve public safety.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”