An Unholy Alliance: Private Prisons and the Christian Right

This is an article by Lawrence T. Jablecki. It appears in the March/April 2013 issue of The Humanist. You can read other articles from this issue and subscribe to the magazine by going to their website.

Note: All URLs below are my own additions, because I thought they’d be helpful. All emphases (bold and italic) are my own as well.

Imagine, if you will, a meeting of the CEOs, board members, and stockholders of all the for-profit prison corporations in the United States.

The CEOs unanimously agree to sign a contract with Soldiers for Jesus, a consortium of Christian evangelicals founded and led by the Rev. Moses Abraham, to provide services for all of the state and federal inmates in their facilities. The CEOs inform their audience that Soldiers for Jesus has a highly successful track record of leading sinful inmates to the transforming power of God’s grace and that this is the only route to accomplish genuine and permanent change in their thinking and conduct. The very likely fiscal implications are that the occupancy level in their facilities will decline from 90 percent to 50 percent, each company’s stock value will plummet to about half of the current market price, many employees will be given pink slips, and all the top executives will be obliged to accept a 50 percent decrease in annual salary. These draconian consequences are overshadowed by the CEOs’ commitment to reduce recidivism and do their part to terminate the era of mass incarceration. A spontaneous applause erupts, voices call for a vote by acclamation, and that is what they do.

Now, if any reader is tempted to believe that this imaginary event is a realistic possibility, I own 500 majestic acres of beachfront property in Texas located midway between San Antonio and Austin that I can sell to you real cheap.

Moving from fantasy to reality, the truth about for-profit prisons (also known as private prisons or detention centers) and numerous Christian evangelical groups known for their biblical fundamentalism is that they have forged an “unholy alliance.” It is an unsavory and immoral relationship given that none of the folks who operate private prisons give a hoot about saving souls or changing lives on a massive scale. Why? Because it’s totally inconsistent with their ultimate goal of earning money for their company and its investors.

The best illustration of this is the Corrections Corporation of America’s February 2012 letter to forty-eight states offering to purchase their prisons if and only if a state would sign a twenty-year contract with the guarantee that they’d send enough inmates to maintain a 90 percent occupancy rate. The unambiguous but unspoken suggestion is that states should cease any meaningful review of their sentencing policies and abandon efforts to improve the effectiveness of their probation and parole agencies. I am very pleased to mention that Democratic state Senator John Whitmire of Houston, Texas, Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, has gone on record as having no interest in this offer by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

It would be unfair to use a wide brush to paint the owners and stockholders of the CCA and the multinational GEO Group, which provide the lion’s share of outsourced correctional services in North America, Australia, South Africa, and the UK, as evil and immoral villains. In fact, I’m confident that many of these folks believe their facilities are enhancing public safety and saving millions of state and federal tax dollars. If any of them, however, also claim to believe that our criminal justice system can and should be more effective in accomplishing a major reduction in the number of persons we incarcerate in our state and federal prisons, they are unrepentant hypocrites.

As documented by numerous writers, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, which is the direct result of our inequitable war on drugs (which incarcerates legions of mostly minority offenders for nonviolent offenses), excessively long prison sentences, mandatory minimums, three-strikes legislation, and the absence of a national and effective indigent defense system. All of this is totally consistent with the agenda of the purveyors of private prisons and is an egregious blemish on their enterprise.

Of the numerous scholarly works that discuss the origin and nature of the punitive policies of mass incarceration, four of the best are: Michael Tonry’s Thinking About Crime (2004), Bruce Western’s Punishment and Inequality in America (2006), Todd Clear’s Imprisoning Communities (2007), and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010). Collectively, these works contain a devastating critique of the politics and policies that have fueled the drive to mass incarceration, and document the devastating consequences in the lives of multitudes of mostly young African American males, their families, and their communities. Finally, the most outrageous statement expressing the naked truth of the private prison industry’s real agenda is found in the CCA’s [2010] Annual Report:

The demand for our facilities could be adversely affected by the relaxations of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.

There is no room for doubt here — this industry is unconditionally against any reform of our penal statutes that could significantly reduce the constant flow of inmates to their facilities. How, then, should we explain its lengthy and successful courtship of a variety of groups flying the flag of evangelical Christianity, preaching forgiveness, love, reconciliation, and redemption? This question isn’t hospitable to easy, non-controversial answers.

From this writer’s perspective, it makes no difference if the terms “religious right” and “Christian right” are synonyms or if they represent some significant doctrinal distinctions. The critically important point is that the vast majority of groups under these rubrics are evangelical Christians whose shared beliefs make them fundamentalists, or biblical literalists, for whom the Christian Bible is the inerrant word of God, Jesus Christ is the mediator who forgives our sins as salvation, and genuine change comes from the undeserving grace of God.

The moral, social, and political views of these groups are grounded in the above theological commitments. These also include a strong consensus on banning or at least applying major restrictions to abortion, abolishing restrictions on government funding of religious charities and schools, allowing officially sanctioned Christian prayer in public schools, and opposing all court decisions that uphold the separation of church and state. This adamant opposition to the establishment clause explains why Christian right groups boldly claim that they should be allowed to use tax dollars to convert prison inmates to their version of Christianity. They have no doubt that God is on their side — meaning they have received a divine command to teach and preach that any Christian theological perspective in conflict with theirs is erroneous and that non-Christian religions worship false gods. This is fertile ground for breeding the kind of intolerance responsible for centuries of incalculable human suffering. (Immense gratitude should be extended to the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State for being the vigilant watchdogs of the activities of all groups that attempt to destroy the wall of separation between church and state.)

Many thousands of state and federal inmates in private prisons are receiving religious instruction from the employees and volunteers associated with a number of organizations, including the Prison Fellowship Ministries founded by Charles Colson in 1976; Corrections Concepts, founded by Bill Robinson in 1985; the Institute [in] Basic Life Principles, founded by Bill Gothard in 1961; and Champions of Life, founded by Bill Glass in 1972. I have no doubt that many inmates have and will receive guidance that will set their lives in a positive direction, and it’s my sincere hope that they won’t become statistics in the recidivism rate.

The most far-reaching issue, however, is that the worldview of evangelical Christians commits them to embrace and practice what John Stuart Mill called “the assumption of infallibility.” In his classic work, On Liberty, Mill cites many examples in Western history when the intolerance of conflicting opinions and the attainment of political power resulted in injustices and atrocities. The silencing of dissent is grounded in the illusion of absolute certainty and a failure to grasp the truth of the facts, in that:

The world to each individual means the part of it with which he comes in contact: his party, his sect, his church, his class of society; the man may be called, by comparison, almost liberal and large-minded to whom it means anything so comprehensive as his own country of his own age. Nor is his faith in this collective authority at all shaken by his being aware that other ages, countries, sects, churches, classes and parties have thought and even now think, the exact reverse. He devolves upon his own world the responsibility of being in the right against the dissentient worlds of other people; and it never troubles him that mere accident has decided which of these numerous worlds is the object of his reliance, and that the same causes which make him a churchman in London would have made him a Buddhist or a Confucian in Peking.

All of the well-meaning and sincere evangelical Christians whose worldview I have identified are easy targets of Mill’s comments, which further expose their potential threat to our free society. This is a very serious accusation but it is substantiated by one of the most urgent concerns of the founders who crafted and ratified the U.S. Constitution. More specifically, they were steadfastly determined to create a system of government in which there would be no fusion of religious and political power, that is to say, there must be no possibility of the emergence of a theocratic state in which religious leaders of one persuasion rule with an iron fist. Mill, likewise, was cognizant of the many historical epochs during which this had occurred and helps to articulate a very uncomfortable truth about all of us. In the introduction to On Liberty he writes:

This disposition of mankind, whether as rulers or as fellow citizens, to impose their own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others is so energetically supported by some of the best and some of the worst feelings incident to human nature that it is hardly ever kept under restraint by anything but want of power.

I am quite certain that some leaders and many members of the evangelical Christian groups who provide religious indoctrination to inmates in private prisons would gladly participate in the creation of a theocratic state in which they could compel their fellow citizens to become “born again” and legally prosecute dissenters and heretics.

A major decision by the United Methodist Church (UMC) provides something of a counterpoint to what I’ve termed the unholy alliance between private prisons and evangelical Christians. This is in large part due to the fact that the United Methodist Church is decidedly more mainline Protestant than it is evangelical.

In 2011 UMC’s Board of Pensions made two ill-advised investments, purchasing $736,000 in stock of the CCA and $215,500 in GEO Group stock. Shortly thereafter the UMC membership, which hadn’t previously been informed about this possible use of their pension fund, crafted and circulated a petition demanding the immediate divestment of this money. The petition claimed that the investment was incompatible with biblical teaching and inconsistent with their record of opposition to mass incarceration, particularly of racial and ethnic minorities. Bill Mefford, the director of civil and human rights for UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, noted that “the response was quick and intense. United Methodists were outraged because they knew that private prison corporations represent values that are antithetical to the values of compassion and justice that Jesus lived and taught… Profiting from stock in CCA and GEO Group is a betrayal of all that we stand for and believe in as United Methodists and followers of Jesus.” The UMC no longer owns stock in private prisons and has taken steps to ensure that it won’t in the future. On April 28, 2012, during the United Methodist General Conference held in Tampa, Florida, more than 500 people attended a protest rally against private prisons. The rally concluded with an announcement that their Council of Bishops would send letters opposing private prisons to all fifty states and Puerto Rico.

The noble actions of the UMC aside, the cozy alliance of private prisons and evangelical Christians endures, perpetuating tough penal policies that continue the massive flow of mostly racial and ethnic minorities to private, state, and federal prisons. The for-profit criminal detention industry and the Christian right are joined at the hip by a draconian moral and political perspective that impedes the realization of a genuine system of criminal justice that protects the dignity and rights of every person. In the spirit of the UMC membership’s actions, private prisons should be seen as “bad faith” investments and evangelical Christians who help fill their pockets with riches (the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas) should be vigorously chastised by the larger community of Christian and non-Christian religions. Moreover, for-profit prisons should be abolished legislatively.

Five or six years ago, a prison inmate confronted me with a question to which I had no satisfactory answer and to date still have no adequate response. During one of the classes that I teach in the prison program for the University of Houston at Clear Lake, I was expressing my objections to faith-based prison programs, particularly those that are given tax dollars and goods and services to support sectarian indoctrination. One of my students replied, well, Dr. Jablecki, at least they’re providing valuable help to prepare inmates for re-entry into the free world, and those who complete their program and are released, in addition to spiritual mentoring, receive assistance in finding a place to live and work. What have the humanists done to help us? My momentary response was that several thousand inmates have taken my classes and in all of them I have expressed my humanistic conviction that knowledge and willpower can free them from a life of crime. If I didn’t believe that, I told him, I wouldn’t be here. This was not, however, a satisfactory answer to a number of critically important issues.

The increasing presence of evangelical Christians in our prisons should be a clarion call to the American Humanist Association, during an annual meeting, to create a blue-ribbon committee charged with the mission of making recommendations for how the philosophy of humanism, along with the presence and activities of humanist communities, can be introduced and propagated in some of our nation’s prisons.

Lawrence T. Jablecki, PhD is a lecturer in the Masters of Liberal Studies Program at Rice University and a research associate in the Department of Sociology. He continues to teach for the University of Houston at Clear Lake’s prison program. He was the director of the Adult Probation Department in Brazoria County, Texas, for eighteen years.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • baal

    I’ll read more later. In case the article doesn’t mention it, some judges (example Judge Mark Ciavarella) have gotten kickbacks for sending folks to jail.

  • WallofSleep

    We shouldn’t even have private, for-profit prisons in this country. What a horrible disgrace.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      this.

      the state of most of our prisons is… beyond horror. i have read several human rights organization reports about some of the worst of them. as a society we are very much “looking the other way” when it comes to what happens, to whom, and for how much taxpayer money, in our prisons.

      the war on (some) drugs needs to end. pot should be legalized and other drugs should at least be decriminalized. the answer to drug addiction isn’t prison, it’s treatment. we can have just as many jobs thru state run treatment centers as with private prisons pushing religion and allowing AIDS to run rampant.

      i once read the most heartbreaking account. a short, white pot dealer sentenced to a long term b/c of one of those stupid “three strikes” laws was sent to a maximum security facility. he has been raped 000s of times, and now has AIDS, because as a small man he’s “everybody’s bitch.” the guards look the other way. no judge will help him. the prison health care facilities are primitive. all for dealing a little weed. it’s horrifying.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Or the woman who got life behind bars because her boyfriend stashed cocaine in her attic. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/science/mandatory-prison-sentences-face-growing-skepticism.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        “Even though you have been involved in drugs and drug dealing,” Judge Vinson told Ms. George, “your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder but not actively involved in the drug dealing, so certainly in my judgment it does not warrant a life sentence.”

        but due to mandatory sentencing, it means she’s behind bars. For life. Without parole.

        • phatkhat

          That is horrible! Why is it judges have the discretion to make sentences harsher, but never lighter?

          • WallofSleep

            Mandatory sentencing. It limits the discretion of the judge when determining sentences for certain crimes. Another thing that needs to go.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          And people tell me “that never happens” when I point out that yep, women have been incarcerated and families destroyed because the presence of a single joint means EVERYBODY is guilty.

          It happens. And it needs to stop.

      • Miss_Beara

        A pot dealer next to murders and rapists. One of these things is not like the other.

        • Baby_Raptor

          A pot dealer gets his life ruined while rapists, and those who protect them, go free in the name of God.

    • Stev84

      Another huge problem is that the top law enforcement officer, the top prosecutor and often even judges(!) are all elected. This is pure insanity. They get elected by promising to be “tough on crime” and are then beholden to the most rabid and extreme elements of the mob. Even without restrictive laws, it’s no wonder they send so many people to prison.

  • 3lemenope

    Distrust all those in whom the urge to punish is powerful.

    • attacusatlas

      Nothing scares me more than an authoritarian.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Wiser words have yet to be written. I also agree with attacusatlas: authoritarians are dangerous, harmful people who should be avoided or somehow defanged.

    • Blacksheep

      “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

  • http://twitter.com/Ro542124 Gideon

    How does this qualify as an alliance? Are these proselytizing organizations promoting private prisons?

    • Haha USA

      Evangelicals are, in fact, extremely interested in locking people up for victimless crimes. Sam Harris explains the concept brilliantly.

      Once they’re jailed, they become easy targets for proselytising. A match made in heaven.

      Both prison companies and evangelicals love the arrangement.

  • Puzzled

    As horrible as these private prisons are, it’s not as if the public prisons were exemplars of righteousness. The problem is only exemplified by private prisons – it’s that we have created a Prison-Military-Industrial complex – having in common the making of profits off the backs of those who do not willingly participate.

  • gg

    Two words come to mind: ‘Legalized Slavery’.

  • Haha USA

    Haha USA loves to treat their citizens as badly as they possibly can. While at the same time claiming to be the greatest country in the world.

    How can you expect them to treat any citizens of any other country well

    • baal

      Again Haha, you’re assuming that you can fairly lump every American together. You might want to change your default to assume at least some of us want the US to be a better global citizen and are more than a little bothered by the current US justice system and are trying to change it.

      • Haha USA

        Frankly, that sour claim of being “leaders of the free world” is believed by all of you mercans. Not only the far right cranks but the liberals among you trumpet that too. You need to be reminded at every single opportunity that your country is rotten. Rotten to the core. And that you are not doing enough about it.

        Cue complete morons that will say that other countries have issues too. Well, that’s totally obvious but none of them have the clout that you do. A phenomenal waste of energy and resources you make while Europe and others are trying to be more responsible. This and soooo many other issues – moral and political and economic et al.

        The Haha USA is so totally far gone and so lethargic at making meaningful change that you are the joke of the planet.

        Less berating my disdain for you and more getting off your couch to do something about it. Lets face it, you ain’t done jack shit lately except pump your face full of ice cream and wish that it were different.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          leaders of the free world” is believed by all of you mercans

          Riiiight. That’s why I get after non-Americans who trot out that bullshit.

          Whatever you want to say about us not doing anything- you’re doing less.

          • Haha USA

            I’m on this forum egging you on by pointing and laughing at hypocrites that think they are making a change by being offended at my comment which, if you re-read it is not so incindiary at all. It’s that I call you Haha USA that gets your goat, isn’t it? But your country is a joke so the title is well earned

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Your greatest offense is that you have nothing to offer any discussion. It’s like the guy who wants to make loud fart jokes at the party. Every party. Please, continue. But don’t mind if we pay less and less attention.

              (If your title were all that goat getting, it would have gotten my goat long ago. At it is, my goat has simply rolled over and died out of boredom)

              • Haha USA

                And you have offered exactly what to this discussion? Zero. Instead of showing your displeasure at my loud fart jokes you could have made yourself useful by answering Gideon’s question that he asked 3 hours ago.

                Too late now. I did that for you.

                You prove my point gallantly though. You’re not really interested in doing anything except deflecting attention away from your paralytic effort of making “meaningful change”

                Good luck with that tub of ice cream though.

                • coyotenose

                  Good luck with getting suspended for trolling, crybaby.

            • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

              sorry H, but mocking people on an internet forum for saying things you don’t like is not “action” or “impressive” or any other meaningful activity.

              your language makes you sound like an arrogant teenager with a bad attitude. try to engage in actual debate, mature and fact based.

              like any other country, the US is complex and dealing with our politicians is complicated and difficult. assuming or claiming that none of us are trying to do so is foolish, and not factually true.

        • coyotenose

          And now you’re just trolling and nothing else. Welcome to Routinely Reported Land.

          Claiming to be psychic and know what all of us “really” believe? That lumps you in with the worst American conservatives. Enjoy, Dimwit.

          • Baby_Raptor

            I wouldn’t be surprised if he *is* an American Conservative…He’s just smart enough to not scream “Liberal” every time an issue comes up.

            Other than missing the rants about evil Liberalism, he’s projecting amazingly like a Con.

        • Blacksheep

          You know nothing about reality.

    • coyotenose

      Repeatedly making a pissy ass of yourself to people who agree with you doesn’t accomplish much beyond convincing everyone that you should be disregarded.

      • Haha USA

        Actually. That comment only sound pissy to you because it offends you. And it only offends you because you are citizen of the Haha USA.

        You forget that the other six billion people on the planet probably agree with it.

        Which would make my statement pretty spot then, wouldn’t it.

        To learn how much respect your country doesn’t have for the rest of the world read “Legacy of Ashes” by Tim Weiner and you will see what I mean. You will simultaneously learn that your beloved country is run by bungling fools. And there’s only one type of populace that put bungling fools in power.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          It sounds pissy not because it offends anyone but because it’s moronic. Targeted intelligent criticism is one thing. And you will find it of the US by most Americans on here, and by many elsewhere in America. That you don’t know that just goes to show that while you consider yourself an expert on what the ~6.5b non-US citizens think of the US, you really don’t know fuck all what the ~350m US citizens think of the USA.

          You’re more interested in trying to piss people off than affect meaningful change.

          • Haha USA

            And you think that nodding in agreement on this blog is enough to make meaningful change? At the very least you should be petitioning your politicians to stop imprisoning you population at the world’s highest rate.

            But politics in Haha USA is so screwed that anyone taking a stance against this problem is considered “soft on crime” and will never get elected because the majority believes that being hard on crime is the way to go.

            Because crime is caused by minorities and being hard on minorities is what Jesus would have been. It’s such a morally fucked situation you are in that you should turn your attention away from me and toward the reality I am alerting you to.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              “reality I am alerting you to”

              And you call Americans arrogant…

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                It’s a troll. It’s a fucking troll. I don’t know why Hemant doesn’t do something about these fuckers.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

                  Been out of town/busy with work. Trolls will be dealt with now.

            • coyotenose

              More logical fallacies. You really are terrible at this. Thanks for demonstrating why you should be dismissed without even much of a shrug.

        • coyotenose

          Your attempt at psychology is noted. It is also ignorant and misdirected. Apparently you aren’t competent enough to read an entire sentence before speaking, dimwit. Try again.

          Claiming to have a majority and that be an actual talking point is a stupendously ignorant logical fallacy. Feel free to try again there.

          The only thing offensive here is that you’re a pissy, asinine troll who thinks that acting smug is itself an argument.

          • Haha USA

            Four posts in 5 minutes to tell me what a naughty boy I am and still nothing to contribute except ad homs.

            You really must hate yourself for letting me yank your chain so easily.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    How about we just abolish for-profit prisons? There is no reason for an industry to exist that makes a profit out of human suffering.

    Am I correct that the US is the only country with for-profit prisons? These places are run dirt cheap in order to maximize profit. They will feed inmates old food past the expiration date if they can. Not only that, but it leads to kickbacks from the companies to judges for tougher sentencing.

    One judge sent kids to private juvie center because they gave him almost two million. Of course he doesn’t care that the kids were first time offenders and some of the stuff were things like fighting on a bus.

    Fuck corporate prisons.

    The get away with basically treating those convicted horribly because many Americans have the attitude that if you make prison bad enough people won’t want to return. Of course the rest of the world would disagree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Wow, is it troll-feeding time already?
    No, seriously, please don’t feed the trolls.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.stough Tom Stough

    I’m feeling that your final Humanist take on prisioners is a failure of your own. Believing that knowledge and will power, can transform lives. Mankind is unable to save itself, from utter destruction. Our moral fiber, is a God given quality, but does not keep us from doing wrong. The World today has reached a point where, right is wrong and wrong is right. The scriptures actually address this.

    • smrnda

      You might want to look up Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature” about how violence has actually declined.

      Also, nations with low levels of religious belief often have very low crime rates – compare Scandinavia, Western Europe or Japan with the US – these largely secular nations do better solving social problems and have less crime than the US. Got anything to say about that? In the US, the place full of people who say ‘only god can save us’ has more people in jail and more social problems than nations which believe human beings can and must solve their own problems do better.

      As for ‘wrong is right’ check out this book called ‘The Bible’ – violence, genocide and murder and even rape are bad, unless god says it’s good, then it’s alright.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Can your bible teach you basic English? You might want to start there. Once you master that, you can try living in reality.

  • Randay

    Ha Ha USA is not trolling, it’s just that some unread, right, and blew(intentional)Americans can’t give a coherent answer. As an American, I don’t understand how private prisons can be Constitutional in the first place. Imprisonment is a sovereign prerogative of the state. Where in the Constitution does it say that private persons or corporations can hold people prisoners, even if there is an appropriate judicial decision? As far as I can tell, all private prisons are illegal and all the people who run them and their employees are guilty of slavery.l.

  • kaydenpat

    “What have the humanists done to help us?”

    Fair question. I would think prisoners would be glad to have some outreach from atheists just like they get a lot of outreach from Christian prison ministries.

  • Tom

    Turning government services into businesses is an idiotic thing to do. Public services are not and never were supposed to make a profit; they’re what you spend your profits on after you’ve made them, so that, you know, you don’t end up living in an uncivilised hellhole of rich but terrified recluses living in fortified, opulent gated communities surrounded by a sea of desperation, deprivation and misery.

    Trying to turn something that is socially necessary but inherently unprofitable even when run correctly and meeting its goals into a profit-making business is an all but guaranteed source of what I believe are called “perverse incentives.” The mere thought of this process being applied to prisons, which have perverse incentives enough even when state-run, is horrifying. Then if you throw a mile-wide cultural streak of authoritarianism, just-world fallacy and fundamentalist Christian bullshit into the mix…

  • Sulphurdunn

    Evangelicals have money, representation and lobbies. Humanists don’t. About 70 members of Congress attend hard right evangelical churches. The only professed Humanists in Congress was Pete Stark, who is a Unitarian and was defeated in the last election. Maybe the country needs a Humanist Party, something with both intellect and muscle.

  • cipher

    This country is irredeemable. If the few people I care about weren’t here, I’d head to Western Europe and never look back.

    I am quite certain that some leaders and many members of the evangelical Christian groups who provide religious indoctrination to inmates in private prisons would gladly participate in the creation of a theocratic state in which they could compel their fellow citizens to become “born again” and legally prosecute dissenters and heretics.

    Never doubt it for an instant.

  • Bob

    How about a blue-ribbon committee to reduce incarceration (private or public) in the USA? Maybe we need more alternative sentencing programs? Like the one Jablecki pioneered down in Texas? Changing Lives Through Literature. Jablecki is right here, of course–and he finally got Texas to do something right when he introduced CLTL. I applaud his vision and courage. We all should.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Kempton/100001461703058 David Kempton

    Here we have a perfect slice-of-life about the unavoidable consequences of legal demands for profit meeting pseudo-Christian demands for Dominion law taking precedence over the Constitution.

    This truly unholy alliance demands draconian laws in order to CREATE a criminal class that can be incarcerated for profit. I have to define this as lower, meaner, more contemptuous and far more dangerous than simply slavery. A slave gets to exist in the world while being tortured, a prisoner is merely a profit center.

    This is a precedent that MUST be eliminated before the nation becomes purely bipolar – where each of us is either a prisoner or a member of the corrupt system that made us one – for profit.

  • http://gplus.to/novenator novenator

    Superb read, and a severely frightening trend in America


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