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Private Prisons Steer Money to Influence Sentencing Laws

The Institute on Money in State Politics, a tireless group of people who compile campaign finance data for all fifty states and regularly report national trends, have a new report "Policy Lock-Down: Prison Interests Court Political Players" looking at the $3.3 million private prison companies have donated to state-level actors in the last two election cycles.

The report specifically notes:

Analysis of campaign contributions made to state-level candidates and political parties also reveals that private-prison interests: [...] Concentrated their giving on legislative candidates who, if elected, act on state budgets and sentencing laws. These candidates received almost half of the money given to candidates � slightly more than $1 million.

So the priority is budgets and people who determine sentencing? This will come as no shock to anyone who has studied the origin of strict sentencing laws in America. As Nathan Newman noted in "Governing the Nation From the Statehouses: ":

For two decades, ALEC has been a driving force in lobbying for legislation to hand over prisons to corporate management, with 95,000 inmates in at least 31 states or 6.5% of all prisoners in private prisons, two-thirds of them in prisons run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), one of ALEC's leading corporate sponsors. Seven states place more than one-fifth of their prison population in corporate-run prisons.

ALEC also pushed heavily for "tough on crime" legislation. Amazingly, ALEC's task force responsible for this legislation was chaired for a time by CCA. In other words, this private prison company steers big contributions to legislators responsible for budgetary and sentencing decisions and also lobbies hard for private prison legislation and harsher sentencing laws.

Ironically, after costs skyrocketed due to harsher sentencing laws (prisoners being held for longer=higher costs), companies like CCA take advantage of the situation by pushing privatization as the way to respond to the increased costs. When it comes to picking the pockets of the public for the purpose of private plunder, few had it down to as smooth of a science as CCA and their competitors in the private prison industry.

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