Bernie Sanders is striking back at corporate America’s prison industrial complex with a new bill that abolishes for profit prisons.
In a statement, Sanders discussed his new legislation:
It is clear to most Americans that we need major reforms in our broken criminal justice system. We need to end the tragic reality that the United States has more people in jail than any other country on earth, and that the people being incarcerated are disproportionately black and Hispanic. We need to take a hard look at why the rate of recidivism in this country is so high and why we are not developing successful paths back to civil society for those who serve prison time. Further we need to end, once and for all, the disgraceful practice of corporations profiting from the incarceration of Americans.
As a nation, our goal must be to do everything we can to create the conditions that prevent mass incarceration. At a time when we are spending $50 billion a year on our correctional system, it makes a lot more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our young people than in more and more jails. Not only can we prevent thousands of lives from being destroyed, we can save billions of taxpayer dollars. Locking people up is a lot more expensive than schools.
Overall, we need bold change in our criminal justice system. A good first step forward is to start treating prisoners as human beings, not profiting from their incarceration. Our emphasis must be on rehabilitation, not incarceration and longer prison sentences. The basic decisions regarding criminal justice and public safety are, without a doubt, the responsibility of the citizens of our country and not the investors in private corporations.
My legislation will eliminate federal, state and local contracts for privately run prisons within 2 years. It will reinstate the federal parole system. It will increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services. It will end the mandatory quota of immigrants detained. It will require ICE to improve the monitoring of detention facilities and eliminate private detention centers within 2 years.
The private prison industry makes money by keeping individuals incarcerated. The motivation in a for-profit prison system has nothing to do with the common good or the benefit of society. Private prisons make money for their corporate owners by keeping as many people locked up as cheaply as possible.
A study from the University of Wisconsin found that private prisons keep inmates locked up longer to boost profits. The extra time that inmates are locked up costs taxpayers an average of $3,000 more per prisoner.
The for-profit prison industry is one of the main reasons why the nation’s criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform. Sen. Sanders is correct. Republicans have been lining corporate pockets for decades by privatizing prisons, but it needs to stop now.
The nation needs real criminal justice reform, and the first step in fixing the broken system is abolishing private prisons.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association