The penal-industrial complex

This is the phrase that the economist, Paul Krugman, uses to describe the links between private prison corporations in the US and politicians. Right wing politicians pushing a law and order agenda create more “customers” for the corporations; they profit and in turn back those politicians. Now these corporations rarely work in the open; they usually work through front organisations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Paul Krugman’s article found at: describes how ALEC drafts legislation for politicians which increases work for its clients.

He writes:

“Yet that’s not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population”.

In this country we have the beginnings of welfare-industrial complex where work is increasing given to companies such as A4e. We have no doubt that they in turn “inform” the debate within the government as to future “reforms”; these reforms of course will directly benefit the complex.

The US is a model of where we could be heading to. Paul Krugman writes:

“What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians”.

When the Tories (and New Labour) talk of choice, rolling back the state etc what they really mean is handing the state to private sector companies and increasing the bank rolls of the private companies. The union has done some work around this but we think it must do more.

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