By Alan Bean
It was refreshing to hear AG Eric Holder (and a swelling chorus of conservative critics) denouncing the folly of the war on drugs and the bloated prison population that followed in its wake. Hopefully, the president’s use of the pardon will reflect this perspective. But while the ranks of narcotics defendants have begun a slow but steady decline, America’s war on immigrants is quickly filling the void.
In uncluttered and accessible prose, Chris Kirkham reveals a disturbing world that is unfamiliar to most Americans. It is just as foolhardy and counterproductive as the war on drugs, but the military-industrial complex (desperate for new sources of revenue) and the private prison industry (which would be ruined by a full-scale retreat from the war on drugs) are thrilled by recent federal policy decisions. If the Senate immigration bill is adopted without major alteration, these folks will experience a windfall beyond their wildest imaginings.
Now, just as the federal government has pulled back the throttle on the drug war, it is embarking on an unprecedented campaign to criminally prosecute undocumented immigrants crossing the border. The result: A new wave of non-violent offenders are flooding the nation’s prisons.
“This is the crime du jour,” said Judith Greene, director of the nonprofit Justice Strategies, which has focused on the private prison industry’s growing reliance on incarcerating undocumented immigrants. “It’s the drug war all over again. It’s what’s driving the market in federal prisons.”
Immigration offenders represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal prison population, providing a lucrative market for private prison corporations that largely control these inmates in the system. Over the last decade, revenue from the federal prison system has more than tripled for the GEO Group and nearly doubled for Corrections Corp. of America — the two companies that dominate the private prison industry. (more…)