Originally published September 22 2015
Socialist Bernie Sanders' great idea: Abolish private prison-industrial complex destroying America
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, has a plan to reduce what can only be described as incarceration abuse. Sanders, in seeking to "end the private prison racket in America," joined a group of left-wing lawmakers recently to introduce legislation that seeks to do battle with what they describe as the nation's "pro-incarceration agenda," starting with the banning of private prisons, bolstering the federal parole system and getting rid of quotas for immigrants held in detention.
"It is morally repugnant and a national tragedy that we have privatized prisons all over America," said Sanders, one of the legislation's lead sponsors along with Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Arizona; Rep. Keith Ellison D-Minnesota; and Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Illinois.
"We cannot fix our criminal justice system if corporations are allowed to profit from mass incarceration," Sanders continued. "Keeping human beings in jail for long periods of time must no longer be an acceptable business model in America."
Main goalsThe ultimate goal of the bill, titled "Justice is Not for Sale Act," is to reduce the inmate population in federal, state and local jails and prisons. A summary of the legislation states that it will have five primary objectives:
- Ban federal, state and local governments from using private prison facilities beginning two years after the bill is passed;
- Reinstate the federal parole system to provide "individualized, risk-based determinations regarding each prisoner and restore fairness in the system;"
- Boost oversight to prevent prison companies from overcharging inmates and their families for many services like banking, telephone calls and goods bought in prison stores;
- Get rid of a requirement that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has to maintain a minimum level of 34,000 detention beds;
- End the practice of immigrant family detention.
"In a society dedicated to liberty and justice, for-profit prisons offend our bedrock principles," Ellison said in a statement. "Private prison corporations spend millions of dollars lobbying government for harsher sentencing laws and immigration policy that serves their bottom line, while taxpayers foot the $80 billion dollar a year bill to incarcerate 2.3 million people.
"Incarceration should be about rehabilitation, not profit," he continued. "Now, more than ever, we need to restore confidence in our criminal justice system. Step one is taking the profit out of the punishment."
Incarceration reform groups are hailing the measure as breakthrough legislation.
Greed of corporate interests"As long as there are corporate financial incentives for locking people up and keeping them behind bars, reforming drug laws and other sentencing policies will produce limited results for meaningfully decreasing the astronomical rate of incarceration in this country," said Kymberlie Quong Charles, criminal justice programs director for Grassroots Leadership, as quoted by Common Dreams.
Earlier reports have noted that private prison corporations spend a great deal of time and money lobbying tough-on-crime lawmakers who back so-called "three strikes" and "truth in sentencing" policies, which often lead to longer prison sentences.
"Our corrections system exists to uphold justice—not to house innocent refugees or feed the greed of corporate interests," Grijalva said in a statement. "By treating prisoners and detainees as a means to a profit margin, we're incentivizing jailors to lobby for ever more inmates, and for inmates to be denied even the basic staples they're entitled to.
"The result is a corrections system collapsing under its own weight as the prison industry gets rich and countless innocent men, women and children are ensnared in their trap," he said.
Others noted that reinstating federal parole, which was eliminated in 1984, is another way to get inmates out of prison sooner, especially well-behaved prisoners who have no history of misbehavior or violence in custody.
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