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Prisoners of the prison industry

American writer reflects on prisons as profit centers.

A private prison in Tennessee, 1985 - archives.cbc.caby Lawrence Brown, Cape Cod Times

August 1, 2008 — America has become the most imprisoned nation on Earth. Per capita, more Americans are in jail than are Cubans, Iranians, or Chinese. We have more young black men in prison than in college. Prisons are the most rapidly-growing segment of American government.

In 1970, our entire system held under 200,000 inmates. Include local jails and we now incarcerate 2.3 million Americans. Almost one-quarter of the world's prisoners are Americans.

Some weeks ago in this space, we looked at the dangers of substituting contractors for enlisted military personnel. We have a similar problem with our prisons. In the name of public safety and efficiency, we've been persuaded to turn many of our prisons over to private contractors who build, staff and operate prisons and collect a fee per prisoner, per day. In the process, we've financed a powerful corporate lobby whose primary interest is profits, not public service.

It is not an attack on private enterprise to point out that the purpose of democratic government is to promote the general welfare, and to use taxpayer's money for all the people's sake. . .

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  Prisoners of the prison industry, by Lawrence Brown, Cape Cod Times, August 1, 2008

Posted: August 14, 2008

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