Tag Archive: prison industrial complex

McCrory brokered meeting on contract for friend and campaign donor

From News & Observer/ By Joseph Neff

Last fall, Gov. Pat McCrory personally intervened on behalf of a friend and major political donor who wanted to renew $3 million in private prison contracts over the objections of McCrory’s top prison officials, records and interviews show.

Graeme Keith Sr., a Charlotte developer and retired banker once known as “Billy Graham’s banker,” has aggressively pursued private maintenance contracts in state prisons since 1999. Keith’s contracts at two prisons were set to expire Dec. 31, 2014; a third would have ended four months later.

The governor convened an October 2014 meeting in Charlotte, where, according to a Department of Public Safety memo, Keith told prison officials and McCrory that “he had been working on this project ‘private prison maintenance’ for over ten (10) years and during that time had given a lot of money to candidates running for public office and it was now time for him to get something in return.”

After prison officials said they were uncomfortable with the tenor of the meeting, McCrory ended the meeting and referred the matter to his state budget director. Lee Roberts then worked out an 11th-hour extension that culminated in an exchange of testy text messages among the governor’s top appointees the night of Dec. 30, one day before the contract was to expire.


Mass Incarceration and Bipartisan Unity: An Anarchist Perspective


From The Agency/ By Kristina Khan

As momentum builds behind the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, I begin to wonder how much time and energy will be pulled away from the revolutionary anti-racist work of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and funnel instead into the fervent campaigning of Democratic candidates. Within the horrific, seemingly endless loss of Black lives, there has erupted a new era of racial justice work, much of it surprisingly and wonderfully radical in nature. Entire communities are calling for localized conflict resolution, the dismantling of institutional white supremacy, and even the abolition of police and prisons.

Democratic presidential nominees are very clearly aware of the power of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and are taking advantage of this momentum to build their platforms and gain votes. And as I correctly predict every election season, I dread that many people around me will fall for the illusion of a better future through the election of so-and-so only to be disappointed just months after inauguration day. In my current work as an anarchist in the small town of Champaign, Illinois, I organize with several other committed people against jail expansion – a local manifestation of institutional racism. As election season nears I am beginning to grow anxious about what direction our group will take.

Just two days after Freddie Gray’s funeral, Hilary Clinton gave a speech in New York where she called for an end to mass incarceration. Clinton, a Democrat who once called for more prisons in the 1990s now joins the growing list of politicians and corporate thugs who are suddenly concerned with the U.S. prison population. Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, Mark Holden (senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress, President Obama and many others are all apparently very concerned with the prison industrial complex or at least that’s what they have been saying; and they’re all willing to come together in unity to fix the problem. If you look more closely, however, you will find that many of these “advocates” have supported, both politically and financially, policies and people who are directly responsible for the United States achieving the highest incarceration rate in the world. (more…)

Prisons, Ecology and the Birth of an Empire


From Earth First! Newswire/ By Panagioti

Strange sometimes how worlds collide. Nine years ago I found myself in the swamps of the northeastern Everglades listening to an independent, traditional Seminole activist asking for support in challenging the state and federal government’s plans to fund a celebration of 500 years of Florida—a history that began, in many ways, with the founding of one of the best known tourist traps in this country’s history.

If Christopher Columbus is a symbol marking the origin of Manifest Destiny’s rampage across the western hemisphere, then conquistador Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who established the colony of St. Augustine, built the first literal foundation under that genocidal, ecocidal mindset.

Today, as I occupy my time developing the Prison Ecology Project, aimed at mapping the intersections of incarceration, ecology and environmental racism, it’s hard not to also view St. Augustine as the first prison town of what would become the U.S. Empire—a nation that has distinguished itself in the modern world by simultaneously pushing global policies that have facilitated an unprecedented pillaging of the planet for resources and for locking people up at a never-before-seen scale or pace in human history. (more…)

Review: Maya Schenwar’s ‘Locked Down, Locked Out’


By Ani M.

Truthout editor-in-chief, Maya Schenwar was kind enough to send the Prison Books Collective a copy of her new book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. The book is half journalism and half her memoir of the years her sister was alternately incarcerated and struggling with addiction. Since personal narrative is my favorite framework for gleaning new information, I claimed the book first with the promise to read quickly and beg her for more copies to send into prisons if it was any good.

At the Prison Books Collective we read a copious amount about prisons every week and very little makes it on to our social media and even less on to our website. As abolitionists, we find too many informative articles take a tone about just punishments that we reject. Or the reforms proposed in articles are ones that create new improved prisons instead of moving to abolish them. Much is written about the difficulties of transitioning people from incarceration to life on the outside; too little is written about the necessity of transforming life on the outside to eliminate incarceration.

Maya Schenwar’s Locked Down, Locked Out is a steady seduction. As she states early on, because she is white, from an intact nuclear family, well educated and prestigiously employed, people can hear the story of her sister and perceive it as a subject of inquiry, something to question: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? Schenwar is a likeable first person narrator with whom it’s easy for a similarly situated audience to identify as she searches for the answer to her own questions. How did her sister end up in prison more than once? Why did her family decide it was the safest places for her to be? What would be the real alternatives to that choice? (more…)

Bipartisan Unity on Mass Incarceration: Opportunity or Sidetrack for Movement Building?


From Truth Out / By James Kilgore

Mass incarceration continues to trend. As Heather Thompson, professor of history at the University of Michigan and leading scholar on the Attica prison rebellion, told Truthout, “Three years ago to talk about incarceration was like you were talking Latin.” No more.

The past year has offered us a cavalcade of conferences, webinars, nonprofit startups, media events, potential and actual legislation along with feel-good moments where everyone from Rand Paul to Eric Holder jumped on the bandwagon of criminal “justice” reform. While this has been a process, two events do stand out.

The first was the extravagant Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform in Washington, DC, in March. The unlikely collection of sponsors included the Koch brothers, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Van Jones’ nonprofit #cut50 (as in reduce the incarcerated population by 50 percent in 10 years). Additional support came from partnering organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance, the Sentencing Project and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The summit, emceed by Jones, brought together an array of superstar speakers from various parts of the political spectrum: Newt Gingrich; conservative Georgia governor Nathan Deal; former prisoner turned writer, entrepreneur and activist Shaka Senghor;Orange Is the New Black author Piper Kerman and singer John Forté, who played his guitar and spoke about his own incarceration. In the audience dozens of state and federal elected officials joined well-known researchers and activists who were fighting mass incarceration long before Charles Koch knew what a mandatory minimum was. Since this summit, the Koch brothers have built the event out into a roadshow, holding smaller versions in Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Illinois. (more…)

The Uncomfortable, Taboo Reality Facing Many Female Prisoners

Female inmates interact in their cell at the Timpanogos Women's Correctional Unit during a media tour Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Draper, Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he's opposed to the idea of allowing a state commission to pick a location to build a new prison instead of leaving the decision with the Legislature. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

From ATTN/ By Laura Donovan

Earlier this year, ATTN: reported on an overlooked issue for homeless women: lack of accessibility to feminine products on the streets. Some of the women interviewed said they had stopped menstruating, which can be caused by extreme stress and poor nutrition, among other things. Female inmates also have trouble accessing these personal hygiene products, and the prison guards are often not much help.

Chandra Bozelko, who spent more than six years at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, writes that she experienced this problem firsthand while serving time, and the experience posed sanitary risks to her and the other prisoners. According to Bozelko, she and her fellow inmates were given about 10 menstrual pads each per week. This might seem sufficient for a four to seven day cycle, but it is important to remember that many women outside prison go through several pads a day, especially on heavier menstruation days, so the limited number of pads distributed to prisoners can result in female inmates using one pad far longer than they should.

“[The situation allowed] for only one change a day in an average five-day monthly cycle,” she writes. “The lack of sanitary supplies is so bad in women’s prisons that I have seen pads fly right out of an inmate’s pants: prison maxi pads don’t have wings and they have only average adhesive so, when a woman wears the same pad for several days because she can’t find a fresh one, that pad often fails to stick to her underwear and the pad falls out. It’s disgusting but it’s true.” (more…)

Understanding the Human Cost of Imprisonment


The problem is not just that “prison conditions” are abusive, but that the cumulative effects of imprisonment itself constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

From Truth Out/ By Lacino Hamilton

No one who spends time in prison leaves unscathed. I have been incarcerated for more than 20 years in Michigan state prisons, where I remain today. I know from experience that prison is so much more than confinement to a cell.

Prison disposes of and makes invisible a growing underclass, prison’s majority clientele. It also incapacitates those who have shown – through their imagination, audacity and defiance – that they possess what it takes to push and pull something bigger than themselves, such as a social justice movement. Prison functions to expel self-determination, exacerbate weaknesses, exhaust strength and suppress expressions of intelligence, in an aim to produce a robot-like mass that will follow the rules of prison.

It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have been subordinated to the will of others; reduced to dependence on these authorities for the most basic services; isolated from the rest of the world’s population; confined to a fixed habitat; coerced to work for little or no compensation; and subjected to a prison culture that breeds a profound sense of psychological depression, personal worthlessness and social despair – all in the name of justice, law and order, or whatever justification is fashionable at the time. (more…)

The Death Penalty Is Cruel. But So Is Life Without Parole.


From The New Republic / By Stephen Lurie

Prison cells don’t attract many spectators, but executions have always drawn crowds. Paradoxically, the names and identities of death row inmates only come to matter when their execution had been scheduled: from impending death we take a sudden interest in life.

Despite the incongruity, this isn’t all that surprising. Twenty-first century America is still susceptible to the time-honored spectacle of state-sanctioned death, even if much of the attention now scrutinizes, rather than cheers, the practice. Recently, there have been many stories typical of the current fascination with American capital punishment, most notably Ben Crair’s piece in this magazine and Jeffrey Stern’s in The Atlantic. Like other recent examinations of the death penalty, both accounts focus specifically on the act of execution by lethal injection; each covers botched executions and the question of cruel and unusual punishment in the death chamber itself. Stern’s story centers on the act and ramifications of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s execution: A paramedic—and later, a physician—fail to find a vein in a dozen stabs into Lockett’s flesh so the execution can proceed. (Which it does, equally gruesomely.) Crair’s investigation deals with the national execution drug shortage—including Lockett’s experience along with many others—and highlights Ohio prisoner Joseph Wood’s story; his execution was so mishandled that he “gasped and snorted for one hour and 57 minutes… the longest execution in modern history.”

For Stern and Crair, as well as many human rights-minded activists and advocates, the death chamber is a potent and useful example of inhumanity. Other, newer abolitionists—like the legislators in Nebraska that voted to abolish the death penalty there last month—focus on the act of execution as well. While the death chamber is itself horrific, abolitionists would be remiss to ignore the more common punishment: the immense cruelty of a prisoner’s long wait for execution. The “death row phenomenon” and associated prison conditions cause significant psychological and physical harm; a so-called “death before dying” is both internationally condemned and domestically pervasive. If the end to capital punishment in the U.S. is based on concern for human beings—whether in a religious or moral sense—the reform movement must be concerned with the prison conditions left when death is not on the table. (more…)

Stop Poisoning Millions in Prison


From Nation Inside

Summary of pending HRDC comment to the EPA on the inclusion of prisoner populations in environmental justice demographic statistics and regulatory input for permitting

Later this week, the Human Rights Defense Center’s (HRDC) Prison Ecology Project will be providing input on the EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda Framework. While it is encouraging to see the EPA attempting to increase the effectiveness of protecting vulnerable communities that have been overburdened by industrial pollution, we also find that there is a significant component to in the dialogue thus far: recognition of impacts on the vast number of prisoners and their families.

The need for something like EJ 2020 comes from the unfortunate reality that many of the environmental permit approvals that have taken place in recent decades, and continue today, fall into a category of Jim Crow-era policy. Few industrial sectors exemplify this more clearly than the prison industry.

If we can recognize the problem with forcing people to live in close proximity to toxic and hazardous operations, then why are we missing the people who are forced to live on the inside of such facilities? (more…)

Will Hillary Clinton Abolish the Prison State Her Husband Created? Don’t Count on It.


From Truth Out / By Robert Saleem Holbrook

As the front-runner for the democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has been saying all the right things and making all the right moves. At an April 28 Columbia University forum on Criminal Justice, Hillary Clinton gave a passionate speech calling for the reform of the criminal justice system, intoning that, “We don’t want to create another incarceration generation,” in reference to the present generation of youth impacted by mass incarceration.

Clinton called for the reform of mandatory minimums and ending the marginalization of formerly incarcerated citizens. It was a very “politically correct” speech; Clinton hit all the talking points on mass incarceration. The question is: Can Hillary Clinton be trusted to dismantle the prison state her husband built? Don’t count on it; and, if history is our guide, we can expect more of the same under Clinton if she is elected president.

Former President Bill Clinton is best remembered for presiding over one of the longest periods of economic prosperity in US history. However, the gem in Clinton’s presidential legacy is an unprecedented era of prison expansion and the mass incarceration of the nation’s citizens, with the overwhelming majority of those incarcerated under Clinton being Black and Brown. (more…)