Privatized prisons in Arizona helped draft laws to send people to prison

news-releases.jpg The story of industries paying lobbyists to influence legislation that benefits their business is nothing new—but what about when that industry is a privately-owned and operated prison system?

NPR reports that Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (PDF), the immigration bill that requires anyone who can't produce papers proving they are in the country legally to be arrested, was drafted with the help and influence of Arizona's private prison companies.

"According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants."
Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law - NPR


  1. When private prison in the USA were initially proposed years ago, critics suggested, no, predicted that this would happen.

    The usual non-thinking officials and pundits assured us all that this would be impossible…


    They should send THOSE people to prison for being idiots. And then assign the people who were right all along to run the government.

  2. Nice to see NPR and Boing Boing taking note of this a few months after Rachel Maddow started flogging it. NPR is starting sound like TRMS with the profanity delay set for six weeks.

  3. Corrections Corporation of America looks at imprisoning people as an expandable market. Politicians are bought to frame and create a new set of criminals that the public eats up believing this new group is causing all their problems. Rinse repeat.

    It disgusting and sad I live in a world where this is legal but nobody seems to even care anymore. You can have a completely fucked up reason for creating a new class of criminal and people still band together demanding punishment.

  4. why the fuck are for profit prisons allowed? There are certain industries which should not be for profit, name health-care and the corrections industry. The profit motivator allows too much room for greed to corrupt that sector.

  5. It’s nice that once they get you in prison they also get to enslave you to work for pennies on the dollar as well.

    I think you pretty much have to be corrupt and/or a blithering idiot to not see that privatizing the prison system would create such a market-driven situation (here’s lookin’ at you, libertarians).

    Everyone I know with intelligence and some basic ethics saw this coming a very long time ago.

    And, on top of this our private health care system creates a class of slaves who must work at jobs they are overqualified for and stay at them for fear of losing their under-insurance for healthcare.

    What? The land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy.

    1. The original libertarians were anarchists, and they opposed prisons, just as they opposed capitalism, the state, patriarchy, and other institutions of domination.

      Anyone who supports borders, supports prohibition, or supports these institutions is an authoritarian. If one of them calls himself or herself a libertarian, he or she is a fraud.

      1. The original libertarians were anarchists, and they opposed prisons, just as they opposed capitalism, the state, patriarchy, and other institutions of domination. Anyone who supports borders, supports prohibition, or supports these institutions is an authoritarian. If one of them calls himself or herself a libertarian, he or she is a fraud.

        Semantics… schmantics… I haven’t humored any trite semantics from a Libertarian lately, so I guess I’ll bite (for now) to keep my skillz sharp…

        Times change. Neoconservatives act almost nothing like traditional conservatives. The modern Republican party looks nothing like Abraham Lincoln’s anti-slavery party.

        So to clarify, I’m talking about current Libertarians here; not the original ones from the past you schmantic of. [end the boring, non-productive, trite, semantic argument now, thanks]

        Current libertarians are nothing more than the spawn of elite corporatist intentions. Corporatists love nothing more than garnering profit from a weak general public that can’t organize nor regulate them worth a shit. To believe otherwise is all naïve, childish and foolhardy in equal doses.

        There’s a reason the Koch brothers consider themselves (accurately) as Libertarians. They are the top of the only class who truly benefits from a Libertarian society. Anyone else who isn’t making large money and considers themselves a modern day Libertarian is just a corporatist pawn who fell for all their rampant propaganda that’s been spewing in all the mainstream media since the 1980’s.

        1. I’m glad you’ve taken the time to open a dictionary and learn some new words. However, if you’re not willing to defend the weak points you make, then please refrain from posting in the first place.

          Calling a well thought out, reasoned counterargument “trite semantics” is hardly a way to win a debate.

          You are much like a fundamentalist Christian – hearing anything that questions your deeply held dogma, you denounce them as agents of the devil, repeat what you read in your good book over and over, and if that fails, you stick your fingers in your ears and start frantically mouthing “The Lord’s Prayer.”

          For what it’s worth, please consider what it means that the Koch brothers, and their Reason and Cato outfits, all consistently and agressively worked against the Ron Paul campaign two years ago.

          1. Calling a well thought out, reasoned counterargument “trite semantics” is hardly a way to win a debate.

            Calling trite semantics a well though out, reasoned counter-argument is hardly a way to progress the conversation.

          2. I’m glad you’ve taken the time to open a dictionary and learn some new words. … You are much like a fundamentalist Christian

            You mad?

    2. I think you pretty much have to be corrupt and/or a blithering idiot to not see that privatizing the prison system would create such a market-driven situation (here’s lookin’ at you, libertarians).

      There is absolutely nothing libertarian about government laws on morality, prohibitions on drugs, and closed borders. There is also absolutely nothing libertarian about governments handing out monopoly contracts to corporations. Corporations being given ownership of humans and having the right to lock them up and beat them… also not libertarian. Prison corporations are the absolute antithesis of libertarianism.

      Please don’t confuse libertarianism the fucked up blend of corporate stateism the Republicans are hawking these days. The US has spent this new century running full speed away from anything even remotely resembling libertarianism. At best, Obama might have slowed the pace down to a brisk jog.

      I don’t want a libertarian utopia, but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind it if we all learned to get along a little better without using the sledge hammer of law on every single perceived social ill.

  6. Side note: I dragged this NPR mp3 to my iTunes playlist for my iPod and it came up under the Genre of “Blues”.

    Good one, NPR.

  7. I’m all for this–if we can lock up the politicians who supported this, and only that group of scum. Oh, hell, maybe a few CIA torturers too.

  8. As a libertarian, I fully support the full privatization of most or all government services.

    But this means taking the service away entirely from government control, and releasing it to a fully free market.

    The most important part of this is that the people who “buy” the service are free to stop paying entirely, or free to buy the service from any other provider in the free market.

    Letting the government keep the monopoly on the service, but farming that monopoly out to a private for profit corporation, is absolutely the worst of all worlds. It is, indeed, almost always worse than simply having the service provided by the government.

    I think of Chicago recently selling their traffic meters to Goldman Sachs, and what an absurdly corrupt and obviously awful clusterfuck that was, just inviting abuse.

    The point is that the efficiencies don’t come because a service is provided by companies – companies in a closed market, not subject to competition, are not any more inherently efficient or moral than government – but rather that it is provided by a multitude of competing firms in an open market.

    Calling these policies “libertarian” is simply misunderstanding libertarianism, except to the extent that the Kochtopus and the right wing have cynically manipulated the word.

    It’s Republicanism/Thatcherism, plain and simple. Any self described “libertarians” (and there sadly are some, in the Koch funded Cato and Reason foundations) who support policies like these need to get their heads examined.

    1. zyodei,

      Have you considered moving to Lothlorien or Rivendell? They might be more reality-based options for you.

      1. Ah, I would if I could! I love flowing water, and trees; they sound like wonderful places. If you know of an air carrier or a train that runs there, please let me know.

        On a more serious note…

        My reply to that a couple hundred years ago, ending slavery would have seemed like a completely unrealistic option.

        Wait, wait! You might find that grossly offensive. You might be reaching for the zap button right now. Let me explain a bit further.

        If you consider all of the evils that the state engages in today – the wars, the prisons, the miserable impoverishment caused by either clumsy or intentionally harmful economic policies, the mis-education of generations of youth, the reduction in public health from a cartelized medical system, the vast diminishment of variety, honest delivery, and innovation in all types of social institutions the government monopolizes (police, courts, consumer product regulation and oversight, etc.), the regressive and deceptive tax hidden in currency devaluation, the wasting away of community engagement and relevance, the trillions pilfered away in various corruptions, the facilitation and protection of corporate power, etc.

        If you consider all these things, and even credit the states with the few useful things it does…

        Then, there is no institution other than slavery that can compare to the profound harm to human progress and dignity that statism has inflicted on our species – the basic idea that it is necessary or right to use coercion, force, and violence to provide basic social services and structures.

        So, it might seem like an unrealistic dream today. But as more and more people start to wake up to the inherent immorality of statism, as states start to crumble under their own economic destructiveness. I frankly feel it is very much a reality, in our lifetimes, to start to see scattered, small geographic areas, towns and cities, that declare themselves “state-free zones” and continue to go about their business.

        And if they do, Rivendell and Lothlorien would be fine names to take :)

        1. Meh.

          I prefer to accentuate the positives, rather than the negatives, of our constitutional liberty.

          Like this song advises:

          …and if that’s a good attitude for wartime, IMHO it’s an even better attitude to adopt in peacetime.

          As a constitutional monarchist, I view “libertarianism” as uniting the worst aspects of an unprincipled and immoderate democracy with those of the most despotic and backwards aristocracy, while having none of the (admittedly slight) benefits of either.

          1. Hohoho, thank you for that song. I love Louis Armstrong.

            I will have to remember to play it next time I’m on trial for murder ;)

      2. I’ve never been to Lothlorien or Rivendell, but I live in the Shire. Within the Shire, Free Grafton is the place to live free, so zyodei, come join the peaceful libertarian revolution. Free Grafton has seceded from the Town of Unfree Grafton, The State of New Hampshire, The United States Empire, The United Nations, and any intergalactic/interplanetary unions or federations of any sort.

        Sincerely, The Emperor (of himself)

  9. The Unions for Prison workers (including the state-run ones) also lobbied hard for the 3-strikes laws. Didn’t hear a lot of outcry about that. Funny.

    1. Then you weren’t listening. Three strikes, mandatory minimums, private prisons, these are all things that people have known to be bad ideas coming down the pike for years. But thank goodness, your willful ignorance about horrible goverment policy at least gave you a chance to fart in the general direction of a union. What a remarkable observer of the human scene you are.

  10. When everyone has been hauled into prison, they’ll have to build prisons within the prisons. (Initiated by entrepreneurial prisoners, of course.)

  11. I know a lot of posters here are North American but…

    If all government services are privatised, what is the function of government and the state?

    Monopoly of violence?

    If the utopian free market is to perform all social services, then property rights need to be protected. By the state. Through forms of violence.

    In such a world there would be no real need for public policy. This is because the wonderful, yet invisible, but magically just free-market provides social services, thus policy is created by what makes money.

    Once again the role of government is simply to protect property rights, so no need for policy, no need for community consultation or processes of legitimisation such as elections.

    So we have a society that has forms of authority that protect money and money only, with all other forms of social experience and social policy being performed by the free-market.

    This is libertarian?

    Let me guess, elected governments providing essential services through natural monopolies (such as utilities, health etc) is socialism.

    1. A couple points.

      First, the much maligned “free market” is PEOPLE. People doing whatever it is that people do. Some are bad, some are tremendously good. Some only want profit, some want to help the world as much as possible. It seems reasonable to assume that, seeing how people organize to petition the government for various things, that in the absence of this entity, they would find other ways to meet unmet social needs.

      Most people strike a balance between good and bad, and find ways to help the world while supporting their livelihoods. This is the beauty of free markets, because it allows everyone to help society and themselves at the same time.

      I recommend reading “The Wealth of Nations”, or at least some cliff notes of it. This single book is the basis for our whole modern world. It is through following the practices laid out in this book that the tremendous material advances of the Western world have been achieved in the last couple hundred years, so that now poor people in western countries in many ways (of course not all) are materially better off than the nobility at the time the book was written.

      In short, this book laid out the case for how everyone making individual decisions that help themselves advance in small ways creates a bountiful, rich society that is able to provide for all. Abandoning these principles creates a society where the scarcity is equally divided among all.

      What the hell is “policy,” anyway? Is it anything more than a collection of human decisions? Are people then not capable of self-organizing except at the barrel of a gun?

      The point is, why do we need to employ force, violence, and constant threats of force and violence to provide basic social functions? How backwards is that?

      The “free market” is simply, through business and charity, providing the needs of society with minimal or no force.

      As for property rights, there are various schools of thought on the issue, of course..some (Ayn Randians, minarchists, etc) supporting a small state for that reason, others (anarcho-capitalists) who have worked to find ways to provide basic protection without any monopoly on violence; basically, through people paying competing insurance companies to protect their property, and compensate them if it is taken.

      And a last can you possible call “health” a natural monopoly? That’s implying there is just one type of health care that is scarce. There are dozens if not hundreds, and they are abundant. There are very, very few natural monopolies in the world; most monopolies that exist exist because government has created them as such.

      1. “First, the much maligned “free market” is PEOPLE.”

        The much-maligned state is people. You and I and all citizens *are* the government.

        Democracy — democracy as such — does not have a magic connection to market transactions specifically, with everything else being a corruption of it.

        Making shock analogies like “the state is almost as bad as slavery!” convinces no one of the realism of the view you espouse.

        And hoooooooooogging the mic the way you do pretty strongly suggests what libertarian philosophy means to you personally, emotionally — NOT rationally.

        1. The much-maligned state is people. You and I and all citizens *are* the government.

          Aw, hate to break it to you bud..but that just ain’t true.

          Are you in the government? Can you make any decisions? Does your voice affect the actions of the government in any measurable way?

          I remember standing with tens of thousands of people in Chicago on the first day of the Iraq war, and being arrested with many of them..and all of our voices, and the voices of millions around the world, mattered exactly zero.

          On the other hand, I can choose – this very day, this very hour – to stop buying coca-cola, and to instead spend my money buying a pumpkin from the farmer’s market. It might be a small thing, but it’s measurable, it has a direct effect that cannot be ignored, especially if others make the same decision.

          The state, on the other hand, is not “the people” – it is a relatively very small subset of people, mostly chosen by political parties rather than broad groups of citizens, and many of whom have lied or manipulated their way there. Take the story of the early days of Obama’s political career in Chicago, for instance – “winning” his first election by stabbing his political mentor Alice Palmer in the back, rather than connecting with the voters.

          Democracy has this fatal problem, that the character traits one needs to gain power, are the exact traits we don’t want in leaders.

          But let’s ignore all of that. Let us suppose the “state” is indeed “the people.”

          How in the hell does it have a right to use aggressive force or violence for anything? Do you have that right? Do I? Do any of these other people who ARE the state, have a right to?

          What sense does that make?

          1. But what are markets, but collections of people doing people things? How can you draw a distinction?

            I’d say the difference between a person and a market is the same as the crucial distinction between a person and a corporation: people feel things, corporations and markets don’t. People (and people in markets and corporations) are capable of compassion, understanding, reason, insight, passion, despair, a sense of betrayal, a sense of fairness … corporations and markets aren’t. We tend to refer to corporations and markets as anthropormorphized entities with human desires and feelings, as a convenient shorthand when talking and thinking about them, but that’s not really the right mental model.

            Democracy has this fatal problem, that the character traits one needs to gain power, are the exact traits we don’t want in leaders.

            Bingo! We have a winner.

            We, the people, get better results because we’re in a system where our leadership gets changed out regularly, but our choice of Flawed Candidate A or Flawed Candidate B still leaves a lot to be desired.

  12. “Enough is enough,” Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading “Let Freedom Reign.”

    This was a bit rich coming from the state senator who decided to incarcerate a whole new class of people. Guess illegal immigrants now “Hate us for our freedoms” in this brave new Orwellian world.

    1. @Anon –
      Yeah, I guess they do.

      @Cowicide –
      I’m not sure what credentials you are claiming with your “intelligence and ethics” remark, and I just hope you didn’t really mean that “blithering idiot” bit either. I would hate to see offensive name calling spoil an interesting topic, and I am certain you agree.
      Moving beyond the useless bit of your post, what exactly *is* your definition of a market-driven situation for prisons, and what about it is bad? Also, how does private healthcare create “slaves” any more than any other system where there is a dependency? I don’t follow your reasoning.

      Also, it seems to me that the outrage about “private” and “for profit” vs “government” is a waste of breath. Someone explain to me the moral difference between the government contracting a executive/manager/corporation (that then hires and pays the employees) to complete a task, and the government directly employing a secretary/official/department (that then hires and pays the “government” employees) to do the same task. Do you think they don’t have to obey the same laws? Which scenario will be more likely to permit the entity to make up it’s own rules? Which party would you rather have to go head to head against if they were to wrong you – the US government or a corporation? Who would you rather foot the bill for something like the recent oil fiasco? To me, the reasons to de-privatize that have been presented here don’t pan out to anything more than anger against someone else’s success.

      The feigned shock and outrage at an “industry player” being involved in lawmaking also amuses me. Special interest groups are both touted and bashed here almost daily. Most exist for the sole purpose of influencing public policy and legislation. Think of one that you happen to like or support. I imagine you expect them to promote your cause and encourage appropriate policies and laws? Or it could be that they happen to be pretty familiar with the workings of the industry… maybe they held some studies and can provide reports or important data.

      1. So are you just a part-time corporatist apologist specializing in red herrings and trite semantic arguments or is this a full-time job for you?

        1. @Cowicide –
          Do you expect anyone to take a response like that seriously? You might as well just write out in all caps:

          “My name is Cowicide, and I have no valid answers for Red Robot’s questions. Instead, I will attempt to insult and discredit him and thus imply that his questions must be invalid because I want you to think that he is a bad person. And now I dance.”

          I anxiously await your well thought out response.

          @ Anon #34 –

          This is in no way like creating cancer. The prison company isn’t hiring people to go out and commit crimes. A more apt comparison might be that Your Elected Government changed the definition of what qualifies as cancer, with the advice of the AMA. The members of the AMA clearly profit from treating more patients, perhaps we should abolish it or prevent them from influencing legislation?

          @ Anon #38 –

          Succinct but woefully inadequate.

          @ Anon #42 –

          That story is truly disturbing. Why is your anger aimed only at the prison company and not also at the judges? Our judicial system isn’t privatized… what went wrong there?

          @ Tetsubo –
          Perhaps the politicians involved in passing anti-hate crimes should be tried for treason also? Or what about anyone that was involved in the recent health care bill? All involved were advised and lobbied. Perhaps you should be responding to WHAT you don’t like that changed, and not HOW it got changed.

          1. ….aaaand having dismissed Cowicide, you go on to make a string of trite semantic quibbles.

            Specifically, the old “moving the goal posts” maneuver, in which, responding to others’ criticisms of the for-profit prison system, you say repeatedly: “But what about the government? But what about the judges? What about the politicians?”

            Thus strategically missing the larger point, which is that whether a strong state were in place, or a weak one, or none, a private prison system is inevitably, due to the laws of the market, going to plow some of its profits into investing in “creating more prisoners.”

            This is the *structural* truth of a private prison system.

            Railing against the state has no bearing on this truth.

          2. Eh, I don’t see why a prison system in inevitable. What if society simply declared that criminals were economically ostracized, until and if they made or started making reparations to the person they wronged?

            I think working, in theory and in practice, towards a society without an prisons whatsoever is a very worthwhile goal.

            Even if this is impossible, making the people of a community directly pay to keep each person locked up – and have a real choice as to whether to pay the cost or free them – is an interesting idea.

          3. I think the point was that a private prison system will inevitablY seek to expand the prison population.
            If a system is run privately, its core principle has to be profit, this is its primary survival strategy. The second is growth, and in order to grow it has to expand its profit base. In this case we’re talking about human beings. These institutions lobby government, donate to campaigns and bribe judges (a quick Google search). Government responds by shifting the goalposts as to what is legal and what the jail time’s worth.
            If human beings decree as a people that prison is a necessary system for offenders, then that system must be paid for by the people. In taxes, not by an organisation with the above credentials.

          4. @lorq –
            My intent was not to move any goal posts. I am trying to find out what causes a private system to equal bad and a government system to equal good. I am not really interested in arguing a for/against case, so I apologize if that is what I have conveyed.

            My “But what about the government? But what about the judges? What about the politicians?” questions were intended to prod people to consider what they are thinking about, and that I think they might be barking up the wrong tree. It is not an effort to shift focus with a “but but but”, it is an attempt to clarify what appears to me as faulty logic. I think it isn’t necessarily the actual behavior that people don’t like (influencing lawmakers/lobbying/advising), but it is that they don’t like what the results of that behavior are (laws enacted that differ from personal opinions/views). So, my criticism is not of the government, but of the reasoning for it. Which, I think is relevant to my original question.

            Beyond that, I may in fact be missing the larger point. You are correct, railing against one side only works with easily swayed opinions and not so well on things like math tests. Please correct me if I wander from the issue and begin to rant. I do disagree with your presumption about the inevitable results of a private system, and that laws of the market ensure that result. If I follow that reasoning and apply it to other free market entities, then even non-profits and charities will devour themselves with greed. My guess is that you just might find that private prisons provide superior conditions for inmates, better rehabilitation programs and possibly even stronger and better relationships with their community. And I would also bet that they do all of that for less than what it would cost the government to do it directly. You might even find that a portion of those private employees actually care about the people they work with.

            My point is thus:
            Does the nature of a person change based upon their title or employer? I don’t think it does. So the way I see things, it is irrelevant whether the government hires a contractor to do something, or hires its own employees to do that same thing. What I think we all REALLY care about is that whomever is doing *that thing* shares OUR world view and does it how we would like to see it done. The rest of it is just noise, posturing and attempts to discredit those who don’t agree with us.

  13. Every time for-profit prisons have come up in conversation, I’ve stated that I’m against them for fear that this sort of thing would happen. My concerns have always been pooh-poohed. So, hooray, I’m right! Somehow, I think I’d rather have been wrong.

  14. how much disdain does the U.S.A. government hold for it’s citizens??
    maybe americans can get asylum in the middle east or venezuela.

  15. Jeez, I’m beginning to think I moved to Canada just in time. NPR recently reported that most of the negative advertising done against Democratic incumbents came from unidentifiable sources with large sums of money. Because the of the Supreme Court ruling one can only guess that corporations are involved, the only faction with deep enough pockets.

    America land of the corporations. Need a law? It’s open to the highest bidder, uh, contributor.

    Unfortunately, Canada is not too far behind.

  16. This is positively terrifying. What will be their ‘next big market’? Which dystopic storyline or film comes closest? 1984, Soilent Green?

  17. Private prisons aren’t the biggest problem here. That prize goes to the pay-to-play political system and its venal elected ‘representatives’, who represent no-one other than themselves and whoever will fill their pockets. Second prize goes to the general population for putting up with that kind of behavior.

  18. The prison system can, and often is, resisted and reformed by people within and without it through direct action. People risking more prison time (or worse) make the change, not free-market apologists advocating for the state to simply disappear.

    Eugene Debs, before his sentencing for sedition in 1918, famously expressed his opposition to the state thusly:

    “While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

    Libertarians stole the term “libertarian” from the anarchist movement. Let them have it. But lets remember that the distinctions between the groups is a practical one. The way Debs begins his statement to the court highlights that important difference:

    “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth.”

    A libertarian would never say this, I’m afraid, because what libertarians lack is the compassion and common sense to realize that living in societies is a function of being human. They seek only to free markets, rather than freeing people.

    1. A moving bit of writing, but you shouldn’t suppose to know what’s in the mind of any person you haven’t met.

      “It seeks to free markets, not people.”

      But what are markets, but collections of people doing people things? How can you draw a distinction?

      The problem is that, if people are living in freedom, without any constraints, some of them will make markets. They will make some form of money. They will trade, and specialize, because doing so increases total human prosperity.

      All this demonization of “free markets” is just silly. Sure, there shouldn’t be a “free market” for corporate crime, but there must be mechanisms to prevent crime, and many libertarians think that corporations shouldn’t exist anyhow, being creatures of law rather than nature.

      More to the point, it is absolutely impossible to organize a modern, industrialized society without markets and money. And it is impossible to keep money from tainting politics. Ergo, anarcho-capitalism.

      Your post makes me think of a line I heard in a song recently, poking fun at socialist anarchism: “and all our punk music went acoustic, when we shut down the electric company.”

        1. While your vocabulary is impressive (I have never heard that word before), simply denying the existence of a political philosophy should not be confused with refuting it.

  19. Gee, privatizing prisons created a financial incentive to incarcerate people. And then they decide to go after the people least able to push back (ie. immigrants).

    Who could have predicted that?

    (Confession: Actually, I was gobsmacked by this article. Should have seen it coming, but I guess I somehow didn’t believe people could sink this low.)

  20. You Californians (and hopefully the rest of the states to follow) have a chance to decimate these institutions’ ‘workforce’ (ie prisoners) and take a large chunk out of their capital by voting YES to prop’19.
    The amount of people incarcerated for cannabis possession in the US is staggering.

  21. All you need to know about privatizing prisons is in this Reuters article: U.S. judges admit to jailing children for money in which PA juvenile judges took money for jailing kids who should have never gone to jail. Give people a profit motive and hey, you never know, you might find yourself fighting a war in Iraq.

  22. Why the politicians involved in this haven’t been arrested for treason is beyond me… It is the very definition of anti-democracy and anti-American.

  23. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason the fact that there is a “prison industry lobby” is kind of scary.

  24. Someone needs to pass a law that forces all prison companies in AZ to be non-profit. Good luck with that one! Take out profit motive and see what happens.

    1. Take out profit motive and see what happens.

      Are all your “intimate” sexual relationships with hookers?

      [serious question]

  25. @zyodei: “The problem is that, if people are living in freedom, without any constraints, some of them will make markets. They will make some form of money. They will trade, and specialize, because doing so increases total human prosperity.”

    How does this system deal with theft and fraud? If there are no constraints, are others free to steal from me? What sort of redress can I expect if I cannot appeal to any outside authority? You object to the threat of violence; if the threat of violence is my only way to obtain redress, should I not use it?

  26. She’s definitely rolling her fingers at the end.
    My guess is she’s playing with her hair. She could also be singing to herself.

  27. imo the privatization of incarceration, while probably more economically efficient – given how low the bar is set – has an inherent conflict of interest between the company and the government it serves. I like gov’t contracts. They’re good for business. But if I know my fellow humans, running a prison where a lack of customers hurts the margins is an endeavor that invites base behavior from those in charge of the bottom line.

  28. SB 1070 appears not to be working out for either side:

    “Immigrant-rights groups and major Arizona law-enforcement agencies say they’ve heard of no arrests made or citations issued using the statutes created under Senate Bill 1070, and no Arizona resident has taken advantage of the portion of the law that allows them to sue an official or agency that is not enforcing federal immigration law to the fullest extent.”

  29. ya all can quibble forever.creating a prison industry has resulted in the USA having the largest per capita prison population in the whole world.
    there can only be 2 reasons;
    legal/penal system flaws
    american character flaws
    pick one

  30. Libertarianism works – if everyone involved in that system is equal. That is, they have the same *abilities* to create a market, benefit from a market, and police that market to the benefit of everyone through the almighty dollar. But people are not equal. Some are alphas, some are omegas. The weak will always be preyed upon by the strong, and allowing people to vote with their money as a way to regulate the strong isn’t going to work.

    Eventually we will end up with the same system we have today: Corporatism. In fact, I truly think it would be worse, because today we at least have a system to (tepidly) reign in these juggernauts. Without a central, statist body to act as a brake, I believe that a system akin to slavery or feudalism would ultimately prevail.

    Perhaps we should start looking at government as a check and balance against unfettered free markets. It works within the government, so why not without it as well?

    1. Some people are strong, some are weak, true – and this is nature.

      I think it is important to remember that just because someone is strong or resourceful, they are not necesarilly exploitative – in fact, many strong people make efforts to defend the weak.

      The real question, then, is how to defend the weak from the predators. Seeing how government today (much more so than markets) is the chief vehicle for the predators to prey on the weak, basing a society on non-agression seems like a fine place to start.

      The state does not reign in the corporate-mega juggernauts very much at all; quite to the contrary, it empowers them and, in effect, arms them.

      government as a check and balance against unfettered free markets. It works within the government, so why not without it as well?

      I hate to burst your bubble, but “checks and balances” is a myth, especially given enough time. Seeing how the parties choose the presidents, and the parties choose the congressmen who then choose the judges, it is simply a fairytale, as has been seen by the propensity of the judicial branch to give more and more lenient defintions of the constitution over time.

      The only thing that can really act as an effective “check” on the market is an informed, empowered, and free-to-choose body of consumers.

      1. Why don’t you start by giving “the predators” easy access to handguns and weapons of all kinds?

        Oh wait the “libertarians” already have that one “covered”.

        1. What is really dangerous is an imbalance of power. The Libertarians, you might say, want everyone armed. The statists want only the predators armed.

      2. The state does not reign in the corporate-mega juggernauts very much at all; quite to the contrary, it empowers them and, in effect, arms them.

        One question, which planet is this you are referring to? This doesn’t sound very much like Earth.

        Libertarians childlike understandings of corporatists must be very endearing… for corporatists.

        1. In short, virtually all of the corporate crimes and abuses that liberals (rightly) condemn are aided and abetted in some way, usually in significant ways, by government force and coercion.

          If you have any well thought and reasoned rebuttals to the points I make, I welcome them. Name calling adds nothing to the conversation.

  31. zyodei

    Hi there. You’re the first libertarian labelled person I have interacted with. You write well and with thought.

    So I thought I might add a few points. I’m working today, so I’ll be offline. Just adding these into the conversation:
    • from what I understand, most countries in the world have little government protection for property or, more importantly, contracts. One of the hallmarks of a functioning society is that if you are done over in a contract, you can sue and the decision is upheld. Governments provide this.
    • if my house is deliberately set on fire/ I am robbed-home invasion/ I am kidnapped, how can I immediately deal with the situation – like …. now, and then how do they enforce justice? Do I have to have a list of groups to call? If so, what template do they base their decision on? Without a force to enforce, a piece of paper called a Law means nothing…..When I see a simple idea that is spread across society as an answer to our woes, I see massive coq-ups. Massive.

    I no longer read up on ideologies. Having lived beyond the age of 30, and having responsibilities, being ripped off by people working with me, having a kid, seeing a lot of arseholes and pricks operating quite swimmingly in a world they believe enriches them more than nice people, hanging with our kid in playgrounds and seeing parents run their kids lives or ignore them…I see ideologies do not deal with these.

    Nor do I think we will get a liberatarian society in full, unless you enforce it.

    If Russia is anything to go by, a majority of people in surveys prefer authoritarian leaders telling them what to do. I mean, really, look at what really goes on there. In a libertarian society, people will still get their fill from a Murdoch rag or TV station. They will still run dysfunctional households where the kids are abused in someway or another. They will still only care about their friends. Most wont care.
    But they will want the police to be around. The government to lead the way. People want another bunch of people to take care of the non-personal stuff.

    You take that away, and people are going to be scared. The mafia will be laughing so hard. And when they come after you, you have no protection. In libertarian societies, corruption will go skyhigh. As high here as in Mali or Albania. With no constraints, those who earn the most, wins.

    Unless you can show me how a libertarian society avoids this, I don’t know if I’m interested in it.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. I spend a lot of time thinking about what a world without states would look like, not because I want to avoid taxes or smoke pot or some petty issue like that, but because I see coercive states as simply being a terribly destructive and bizarre way of organizing society; i see moving beyond this system of organization as holding great promise for the development of the human species.

      On a broader point, I am not necessarily advocating any “ism.” I am simply trying to make people consider what life without a state might look like, to consider that it might just be possible.

      I am not advocating, for instance, violent overthrow of any country. History shows that only leads to trouble, as some other group grabs the guns.

      And, in fact, any idea I have might fail. What I want to see is an era of social experimentation – where some small geographic regions are able to shake of the yolk of the state and try some radically different ways of organizing society. Some might succeed, some might fail; but the whole exercise, this being free to experiment, is vitally important to moving humanity forward. I feel our current social structures are so ossified, and the more power become centralized the more creative change is suffocated.

      To answer your questions directly, anarcho-capitalist theorists has spent a great deal of time on this issue, and have produced an answer that I find compelling. The answer, in short, is that individuals, property owners, and/or community associations would pay for a network of freely competitive police, arbitrators, and insurance companies to make compensation for crimes or contract violations that did occur.

      These could work in a variety of different ways. I don’t think anyone really knows what might be best. People just need to be free to try different things.

      Maybe the whole idea is stupid, and we do indeed need a state of some kind for a functioning society. But I simply can’t see any compelling reason against small to medium scale experiments.

      The police/court/prison system in most of the world today is so awful, so corrupt, so inaccesible for the lower class, so inept, so vicious – it would be hard to imagine a worse system!

      And yet, virtually every geographic area – from large cities to small hamlets to sparsely inhabited rural areas – is compelled to adopt much the same system.

      What we need are some fresh ideas.

    2. To give a bit more detail about your question about contracts, how contracts might be enforced without a state, a possible system is this: Each person in a contract pays an insurance-like organization to guarantee their compliance. If a contract is broken, one individual goes to the others’ insurance company to be made whole, and that organization in turn tries to collect from the belligerent party.

      If one shirks responsibilities, and habitually breaks contracts, one would be a poor insurance risk, it would be hard to buy this guarantee, and thus it would be hard to enter contracts and engage in economic activity.

      Just one possible solution of a way to solve this problem without any initiation or presumption of force or violence.

  32. Lordy!

    Insurance companies ensuring property rights?

    Zyodei, you seem to be inferring that anyone who is critical of the ability of the free-market to be the only or primary means by which to organise society also thinks the market should be destroyed.

    The choice isn’t between no market and an absolutely free-market. Being critical of something doesn’t mean you believe it has to be destroyed. This is a view you may want to consider regarding states.

    The problem is the state! Let’s smash the state!
    No, the problem is the market! let’s smash the market!
    No you’re both wrong it’s religion, that’s the problem! Let’s smash religion!

    But what about all the people who peacefully go about their lives and rely on these institutions to do so? Won’t they be upset you want to smash these things? Won’t they fight back?

    No no, they’re being inherently exploited and oppressed by these institutions. Smashing the state/market/religion is really in their interest, whether they agree with it or not. Sure, there may be bloodshed, but once we smash the source of systemic oppression and exploitation we can forge a new free and equal society.

    yeah, then the greedy, the powerful and the amoral won’t be able to exploit or oppress anyone because the old system is gone.

    And the new system will be immune to such orchestrations because…

    1. There’s one basic problem with this line of reasoning: it assumes that the state and the market are in any way similar things.

      The fact that they aren’t can be demonstrated by one simple logical test.

      Imagine what would happen if, suddenly, all guns and weapons evaporated from the world, all ability to use violence.

      What would happen to the state? It would quickly dissolve. People wouldn’t pay their taxes, wouldn’t follow the laws, the whole thing would disintegrate. The state is an institution based on force.

      What would happen to markets? Well, frankly, not a lot. People would continue to produce and trade. There wouldn’t be much, if any change. Markets are fundamentally peaceful things, based on parties coming together because they feel they will be better off if they make exchanges.

      There is a fundamental difference in the morality of the two things.

      How can you equate calling for the end of an institution based on force and an end of a system based on mutual agreement?

  33. Why do you people allow the lobbying? Is this bribery? I don’t understand the mental gymnastics required to separate the two..

  34. the problem with the notion of privatized prisons is that their ceo,s will most likely buy out politicians to make laws that it much easier to incarcerate more and more people to create and expand a profit motive.there should NEVER be a profit motive in incarcerating people because corporate greed will demand higher and higher rates of could that ever be a good thing for a society?

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