Thursday, January 26, 2017


What does it say about America's that our prison population of 2.3 million people is larger than the population of 15 of the states that make up our union? Who benefits from so many of us being imprisoned and who stands in the way of reform? A new report Following the Money of Mass Incarceration finds some disturbing answers.

The report found some basic beneficiaries of prisons who fight reform that include the following:
  • Bail bond companies that collect $1.4 billion in nonrefundable fees from defendants and their families. The industry also actively works to block reforms that threaten its profits, even if reforms could prevent people from being detained in jail because of their poverty. 
  • Specialized phone companies that win monopoly contracts and charge families up to $24.95 for a 15-minute phone call.
  • Commissary vendors that sell goods to incarcerated people — who rely largely on money sent by loved ones — is an even larger industry that brings in $1.6 billion a year.
Other beneficiaries are the builders of prisons and their bond holders, public and private employees of prisons, utilities, health care workers (an insignificant factor in places such as Pinellas where the jail is routinely unsafe for state and federal prisoners), as well as those who put people in prison by holding jobs such as judges, lawyers, bailiffs and police.

It's disturbing to see how many industries, companies and folks living happily in your neighborhood benefit from mass incarceration in America. No wonder so much inertia spins toward ever greater incarceration. For repeat violent offenders who commit battery, aggravated assault or manslaughter incarceration may be an inevitable means of punishment and a reasonable solution to protect society. But for nonviolent crimes such as drugs, marijuana possession, cocaine possession, grand theft or scheme to defraud a term of prison only ruins the lives of those convicted. 

Yet people are still being sentenced by our spineless judges to long terms of needless imprisonment for nonviolent offenses. Many of these nonviolent crimes should not even result in an arrest in Florida. Perhaps this reports stark exposure of those who benefit the most from mass incarceration will help end this American crisis.

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