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Sunday, March 21, 2010

On Conspiracy Theories and the Prison Industrial Complex

Business Insider is not one of the usual places where I go for news, but I got there this morning via the Prison Law Blog. The newssite suggests that hedge funders like Bill Ackman might be displeased with the recently dropping prison rates. The reason? Counting on growing imprisonment rates, Ackman has invested heavily in Corrections Corporations of America. Here is his presentation on the company. One of the slides bears the title, "Tenants Unlikely to Default". Bill Ackman's Presentation on Corrections Corp of America (CXW) @ the Value Investing Congress Much has been written about the business aspect of prisons, and especially on privatization. The broader context is discussed in Nils Christie's Crime Control as Industry, which defines the prison system as a mechanism of "depersonalized pain delivery". A more personal-political statement, highlighting racial differences as well as the economic angle, can be found in Angela Davis' The Prison Industrial Complex. For our purposes, this is an important discussion to have when policymakers are contemplating contracts with CCA for out-of-state institutions as overcrowding relief. The question is whether it is accurate to see Bill Ackman's cost-benefit calculation as proof of an intentional conspiracy to keep the prison industry alive and well. And if so, who's in on the conspiracy? My sense is that a more subtle and nuanced description will do better. While CDCR employment depends on prisons, not all CDCR employees cynically hope for overcrowded prisons. If anything, CCPOA decry prison overcrowding, if only because it makes the correctional staff's job more difficult. Yes, there are those who make profit off the size of our correctional apparatus. But it's important to distinguish actors with financial interests from actors within large bureaucracies who operate out of inertia, and some of whom probably rejoice in the news of population decline.
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Posted by Hadar Aviram on March 21, 2010 at 11:24 AM | Permalink

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By the way, your insert is seriously messing with multi-touch scrolling on the front page. Whenever I try to scroll up and down with a multi-touch trackpad, it only moves the text in the insert up and down, even when I don't have the pointer over the insert.

Posted by: Scott Boone | Mar 22, 2010 9:25:26 AM

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