Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Wrong Jailers

Last Thursday, the Department of Justice announced it would cease using private prisons, an advance for those of us who think private incentives to imprison people have no place in a free society. Of course, this doesn't end them everywhere; the ACLU has a petition to terminate private prisons for captured illegal immigrants, a contract let by the Department of Homeland Security. And then of course there are the various states using them (the ACLU cites Texas and Louisiana as two that do), though such prisoners are a minority of the overall population.

But private prisons are by no means the only entities pushing to imprison people, as this 2015 Reason essay makes clear. In a review of a Washington Post story reporting that private prison companies CCA and GEO "have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts", Ed Krayewski writes "there's a far larger lobbies [sic] invested in large prison populations—corrections officers and their associated unions":
The California prison guards union, for example, poured millions of dollars to influence policy in California alone—it spent $22 million on campaign donations since 1989, more than CCA and GEO have combined, and continues to push for prison expansions. The National Fraternal Order of Police, meanwhile, spent $5 million on lobbying efforts since 1989, more than GEO did. That's not to mention the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which includes a "Corrections Union" and lobbies on behalf of all kinds of policies that seek to turn citizens into revenue sources for public employees. They've spent $187 million on campaign donations since 1989, making a far stronger case to be labeled the biggest lobby nobody's talking about than private prisons.
The AFSCME corrections union represents Federal prison guards, and a quick visit to their page makes clear their opposition to private prisons.  If, per the AFSCME, private prisoners represent 22,600 individuals, 12% of the overall population, we can assert a similar sized increase in the ranks of unionized jailers. Which is to say, the union itself has an interest in keeping people imprisoned, and has spent large sums doing so. The jobs it represents involve keeping people in cages, yet we hear nothing from the ACLU about ending public employee unions and their pernicious effects. Just as police unions remain the most strident foe of policing reform, prison guard unions make an awkward bedfellow when ending the War On Drugs is on the table. The modern left cannot see past its historical romanticizing of unions, and so this will not happen.

But let us return to the recent DOJ announcement. All those prisoners will be transferred to Federal jails, with union jailers. If convicts are serving time in whole or in part because of unnecessarily harsh laws and practices advocated by CCA et al. lobbying efforts, in what world is it just that the AFSCME should benefit from that? Isn't that so much tainted fruit? This vital question remains unexplored by the ACLU, who appear mainly concerned the Feds not employ the wrong jailers.

Update: A prescient blog post from Mimesis Law about the ACLU:
How different things are now, when the ACLU is at the head of the movement to restrict our rights. When a public university expels college students for saying something racist, the ACLU applauds. And when the federal government proposes a law to criminalize revenge porn, it’s down to party.

According to the civil rights advocates of today, one little tweak – a mens rea component – is all that’s needed to make the law constitutionally kosher. Never mind that revenge porn is speech. Never mind that it doesn’t fall into a category of exempt speech and is therefore constitutionally protected. Revenge porn is bad, and the ACLU opposes bad things, especially trendy bad things that intersect with feminism.
A lot more there, but the ACLU's complicity with rights suppression is of a piece with their increasingly liberal — not in the older sense — political outlook. I stopped giving to them years ago for this very reason.

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