exploitation and manipulation

Question from the UK: Why is the American right closing prisons?

Question from the UK: Why is the American right closing prisons?

In response to an article by RICK MUIR PUBLISHED 18 APRIL 2013 11:58 in the “New Statesman”

As conservative parties in nations across the pond attempt to emulate America’s Right Wing policies and initiatives, Rick Muir questions if replicating the “NEW” U.S. stance on imprisonment and criminal justice is warranted.

Mr. Muir accurately depicts many of the changes U.S. states are making to reduce the number of Americans imprisoned.  He reports on efforts of diverting drug offenders from prison through community rehab and court programs, stopping new construction of prisons and understanding that locking up non-violent offenders is costly and does nothing more than create a revolving door for first offenders to return time and again throughout their lives.

However in reporting that it is the GOP or Right Wing pursuing proposals that have long been advocated by liberals and progressives, he failed to fully connect the dots on where and how this mass incarceration began – and who stands to profit from these proposed changes to America’s criminal justice system.

It began with the ultra right think tank, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the late 1970’s. They got together with corporate interests and wrote legislation that began a trend that turned 1970’s 338,000 incarcerated into today’s 2.3 million. They crafted minimum mandatory sentencing laws, truth in sentencing, three strike and habitual offender laws.  They helped abolish parole and wrote more legislation to require convicted offenders serve 85% of imposed sentences.

Once the laws were written by ALEC and wholeheartedly backed by President Reagan in pursuing his “war on drugs”, ALEC wrote more legislation to allow private companies to begin to profit off imprisonment.  They wrote the Private Correctional Facilities ActPrison Industries Act and the Uniform Bail Act.  

The first was to authorize states to allow ALEC’s corporate members, Corrections Corporation of America, and Wackenhut (now Geo Group) to begin operating private prisons to house the huge numbers of new prisoners that arose due to the harsh laws written to imprison.  

The second written to create a low wage workforce accessible by private companies for manufacturing – and to allow these companies to lease publicly owned prison industrial facilities for as little as a dollar a year.

The third was written to require all bonding of those charged with criminal acts to be accomplished by commercial bonding companies at substantial fees.  This was to enrich ALEC’s long time member, the American Bail Coalition.

What all this did was to industrialize imprisonment and create a large conglomerate of companies realizing huge profits off imprisoning, working, feeding, providing healthcare, canteens and phone services to America’s incarcerated.  This defines and represents ALEC’s form of “Free-market”, “federalism” and “limited government” principles.  By turning humans into commodities with pre-determined shelf lives, ALEC was able to create a criminal justice industrial complex where private companies could capitalize and reap billions in profits off incarcerating the most individuals possible.

This new prison industrial revolution begun by ALEC and the ultra right drove up the costs of criminal justice from mere millions in 1970 to nearly $75 billion in 2011 (Geo and CCA raked in $2.9 billion of this in corporate income).  These billions in dollars are taken directly out of taxes paid by Americans.  Over the years state by state had to begin cutting education, healthcare programs, social welfare and similar programs to continue to increase spending on imprisonment.  In 2000 many states finding nothing left to cut to continue paying for housing and caring for more and more prisoners, began to look for ways to reduce the costs of incarceration itself.  They turned away from rehabilitation and began cutting education programs for prisoners.  Then vocational training went, then counseling and drug and alcohol programs and finally, recreation.  None of these reductions sufficed, prison continued to overflow and for every dollar saved through cutting important programs, that dollar and one more were needed to pay for more privatization.

Finally in 2010 many state authorities – even those considered solidly and forever conservative Republican – realized changes in criminal justice systems had to be made.  States verged on bankruptcy due to the continued increase in prison population and the costs associated with imprisonment.  Only then did the Right Wing fully understand that their “tough on crime” agenda advanced over the past 30 years was responsible for the dire financial position of state governments.  ALEC members and alumni such as Newt Gingrich formed a new “Right On Crime” organization (a joint project with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and prison fellowship). now stating that they had been wrong for years and that it is time to “right the ship” and begin thinking smart about crime.  Of course the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Prison Fellowship are ALEC members or supporters.

The first thought went to creating a new “product line.”  They turned to immigrants as a means of continuing to capitalize off prison beds that were beginning to sit vacant.  Americans out – “illegal immigrants” in…and at a higher per diem cost per inmate.  Because the federal government paid higher daily per diems for holding immigrants than paid for incarcerating prisoners the profits would increase.  So ALEC with the help of CCA crafted SB 1070 and introduced it in Arizona.  Once it became law, it has been redirected to dozens of other U.S. states and CCA and Geo Group (though no longer members of ALEC) secured more and more contracts to house immigrants and increase their profits exponentially.

In essence those who created mass imprisonment to enrich investors and company owners through corporatism were now going to step forward and provide a “solution” to the problems they created.  This has always been the ALEC and ultra-right meme; create a faux problem and then provide the perfect solution.  Once again ALEC member companies would profit off the new “Right on Crime” initiative…ALEC member, Prison Fellowship Ministry would reap huge grants and donations to offer reentry programs for offenders released from prison…the American Bail Coalition who had profited for years off bonding of criminals would also begin to see increased profits through a new ALEC initiative: the Conditional Early Release Bond   This legislation would allow prisoners to seek parole through posting a bond to the state to ensure they would not reoffend.  Of course this bond is provided to the state by a surety company represented by the ABC and for a commercial fee.

So in essence the new “Right on Crime” project represents another ALEC initiative. Being right on crime does not mean being “Smart on Crime.”  We need to get ALEC and their members completely out of our criminal justice system.  They have incarcerated enough and profited way too much off incarceration.  Today the UK is where America was in the 1990’s, pushing for longer sentences, more incarceration and to use inmate labor for manufacturing and labor for private companies.  America has already begun to realize those concepts are taking American worker’s jobs and the cost of incarcerating someone for 5 years for possessing a joint of marijuana is completely insane and too costly.

Hopefully those non-conservatives in the UK can convince politicians over there that following in America’s path is not always the best course to chart.

Read Rick Muir’s article <- HERE ->

Important New Petition Drive in Michigan

A petition drive has been launched by Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum, aka Voters for FUBR (pronounced foo’-bar). Bill Lucas, of Ferndale Michigan, founded the organization in late 2012. Its purpose is to prevent the legislative abuse of attaching appropriations to new laws to render them referendum-proof.

Voters for FUBR are circulating a petition with a proposal to amend the portion of Michigan’s Constitution regarding appropriations to laws, and to additionally provide for the power of referendum to amend/repeal a portion of a law.

The group hopes to gather 323,000 valid signatures to earn a spot on the 2014 ballot. The Associated Press reports that Voters for FUBR has approached larger organizations, but have yet to gain their support.

This is familiar ground for me personally, as I was one of the founding members of the coalition that successfully petitioned to repeal the Emergency Manager law. The process was difficult and it consumed a year and a half of the lives of many dedicated volunteers and activists. The coalition was key to our success. Without the support of AFSCME, Michigan Forward, Reject Emergency Managers, Rainbow PUSH, NAACP, and a number of other faith-based groups, unions and individuals across the state, we would never have earned a spot on the ballot.

As most are aware, the Michigan legislature enacted a new Emergency Manger law in their shameful lame-duck session, and attached an appropriation to it, as they did to the Right-to-Work law.  The RTW appropriation was straight-up abuse of the democratic process. Re-enacting the EM law was just plain criminal, however its appropriation was legally required because the law would have been an unfunded mandate — BUT, they could have written that into a separate tie-barred bill.

Another point lost on many was the fact that even if there had not been appropriations in either bill, they could not have been put to a referendum. They were both passed at the tail end of the legislative session, and petitioners would have had only 90 days into the next session to complete a process that takes well over a year. There are many hoops to jump through for a ballot proposal:

  1. File a Ballot Question Committee with the Secretary of State.
  2. Develop and have petition language approved by the state.
  3. Coalition build.
  4. Fundraise for legal costs and printing of the petition (a lot of money!).
  5. Recruit and train volunteer petitioners.
  6. Gather signatures.
  7. Compile and verify petitions.
  8.  Submit petitions.
  9. Campaign for the proposal itself.

In the case of the Emergency Manager law we repealed, it had been enacted at the open of the legislative session of 2011, therefore we had till 90 days after the close of the 2012  session to complete the process, about 13 months — and that was still a tight timeline!

Voters for FUBR will face other familiar challenges. Their initiative is similarly “un-sexy”, and will require more public education than a straight-up recall. People will erroneously think that the leaders of the drive are a well-funded sophisticated organization with banks of computers and trained staff — the public will get angry with the slightest little burp in the process. The mainstream media will be wishy-washy in their coverage, at times with a derisive under-current to their reporting. Right-wing organizations will put a lot of money into challenging the validity of the petitions and the ballot proposal itself.

This new ballot proposal is very important. It won’t be an easy task for Voters for FUBR to achieve, in fact, it will be monumental — but it’s worth the effort and I support them, and hope the voting public does too.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script

Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script

By Brendan Fischer at PRWatch

This article precisely describes how the ALEC cabal’s corporate members fund the initiatives they have brought to ALEC and sent out to all states through the ALEC legislative members.  After the bills or initiatives are proposed these corporations then pursue getting the legislation passed.  In this case in Philadelphia, they pursued defeating a bill passed by the city council allowing paid sick days – which then was vetoed by Democratic Mayor, Michael Nutter…not once but twice.

Anything to oppose worker’s rights or wages is pursued by ALEC and their corporate (employer) membership.

“Major opponents of Philadelphia’s paid sick days effort included the National Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which presents itself as “the voice of small business” but lobbies primarily for big corporate interests. Each group is tied to ALEC and has consistently opposed similar legislation in other cities and states.

“Nationally, an estimated 40 million workers, or forty percent of the workforce, cannot take sick days without losing wages or possibly their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seventy-nine percent of food industry workers — who are especially likely to spread illness if they go to work sick — don’t get paid sick days, according to a Food Chain Workers Alliance study.”

Read the full PRWatch article <- HERE ->

Bush Administration Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes

Bush Administration Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes

From By  at NY Times.

This new report identified by the NY Times, lays blame for deliberate torture following 9/11 at the foot of former George W. Bush and key members of his administration.

Many readers and those who follow our work at VLTP may question how this kind of activity involving torture could in any way be related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) or their activities.  In response we would remind everyone that many who served in the George W. Bush administration had close ties to or was a supporter of ALEC.  President George Bush was a frequent speaker at ALEC events and received ALEC’s highest “award” the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award:

Bush receiving Jefferson award at ALECbush_alec_rect-460x307

 

Vice President Cheney likewise received the same Jefferson Freedom Award:

Cheney Jefferson Award at alec

 

And Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld served as ALEC’s Chairman of Business Policy Board (Private Enterprise Board) while President of Searle Pharmaceuticals:

Rumsfeld ALEC Chairman of Bus. Policy Board

 

Though it would appear ALEC has no direct link to rendition, waterboarding or other forms of torture…those who advocate ALEC’s brand of ideology are susceptible to perform acts most other Americans would consider vile.  They are then rewarded with ALEC’s top honors demonstrating ALEC’s public appreciation of those acts.  In the case of the Bush regime, ALEC obviously had no qualms about awarding Bush and Cheney for their acts of torture.  How ironic the awards given to President Bush and VP Cheney contain the term “Freedom”.

______________________________________

 

“The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning…

“…The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews…”

“…It describes in detail the ethical compromise of government lawyers who offered “acrobatic” advice to justify brutal interrogations and medical professionals who helped direct and monitor them. And it reveals an internal debate at the International Committee of the Red Cross over whether the organization should speak publicly about American abuses; advocates of going public lost the fight, delaying public exposure for months, the report finds.”

Read the substantial NY Times article <- HERE->

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

From Brendan Fischer at Capital Times

Analysis by Bob Sloan

The Center for Media and Democracy has had great successes in exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Through their efforts ALEC has recently been attempting to change their image by dropping “American Legislative” from their vocabulary, asking members and the media to now refer to them simply as the “Exchange Council”.

While the constant pressure upon ALEC has caused dozens of corporate members to drop or not renew membership…and more than seventy legislative members to do likewise…there in Wisconsin the Ethics Board appears to not be swayed by allegations of improper lobbying by ALEC.  This is sad and a feather in ALEC’s cap, so to speak as Wisconsin is the home of CMD and the base from which it has launched many anti-ALEC projects since mid 2011.

In a state where it is illegal to even buy a cup of coffee for an elected official…the Ethics Board has decided it’s okay to use corporate funding to send dozens of Wisconsin’s lawmakers to posh resorts to be educated in pro-corporate initiatives and ultimately adopt such as model bills.  Other states have passed legislation that recognizes ALEC’s influence but has exempted their activities from lobbying laws (such as Indiana) but in Minnesota the opposite was decided.  In MN. in 1997 they banned ALEC’s “scholarships” as gifts.

Wisconsin’s Ethics Board  should have ruled similarly to the determination made in Minnesota 15 years ago.  Perhaps the fact that Wisconsin has so many ALEC members and their departments and agencies filled with staffers willing to do the bidding of ALEC is why the Board ruled as they did upon a complaint filed last year by CMD.  Whatever the case, Wisconsin continues to be fertile territory for ALEC’s model “legislation” even as CMD and their tireless staff keeps up the pressure to throw the bums to the curb.

Read the full Brendan Fischer article -> HERE <-

Inspection of Kasich’s CCA owned prison shows staff assaults up over 300% – Thanks ALEC!

Inspection of Kasich’s CCA owned prison shows staff assaults up over 300% – Thanks ALEC!

For the second time in six months, Correction Corporation of America’s (CCA) privately owned Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI) has received a dismal report from prison inspectors.  A report, issued in February by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) presents some very alarming statistics.

“From 2010-2012, inmate-on-inmate assaults at LaECI have increased by over 180 percent while inmate-on-staff assaults increased by over 300 percent. Inmate violations for fighting have increased 40 percent, and the total number of prison disturbances in 2012 doubled in comparison to prior years.”

lake erie CIThis is the second failed inspection report received by CCA for LaECI since CCA bought the institution in 2011.  When negotiating for purchasing and operating the facility, CCA promised to operate the facility to meet the standards set by the ODOC for all prisons in the state.  However, as with nearly every other such contract signed based upon promises and assurances from CCA, once they take possession both assurance and promise are tossed out the window.

The report advises that CCA will be given another six months to clean up the institution and their act.  With two dismal reports already and worsening conditions between the first inspection and the second, it is unlikely CCA will make more than a cursory effort of compliance.  For Ohio to take back the institution and run it properly would involve a lengthy period of litigation and paying CCA for the facility.  Ohio sold the prison to CCA because they needed cash to operate the rest of the prison system and that money is long gone.  Thinking they could scrape together nearly $300 million to repurchase LaECI and pay for litigation costs is unrealistic.  This all began years ago with legislation written by a right wing think tank to allow states to lease state prison facilities to private companies – “Private Correctional Facilities Act“.  This legislation has now been disseminated coast to coast and is the basis for dozens of privately run prisons today housing hundreds of thousands of prisoners at taxpayer expense.

Governor Kasich appointed Gary Mohr to the position of Director of the Ohio Department of Corrections in January 2011.  Mohr came back to Ohio from Corrections Corporation of America where he was a managing director.  Kasich’s former congressional “chief of staff” was hired by CCA the same month Mohr was appointed:

“Mohr is a former consultant and managing director for Corrections Corporation of America, a Nashville-based company that is eligible to bid on the state prison contracts once they are made available next month.

“The company, which bills itself the leading private-sector provider of corrections services to governments, also hired Kasich’s former congressional chief of staff, Donald Thibaut, as a lobbyist in January.”

So there are several close ties and connections between Ohio’s current Governor and CCA similar to an ongoing relationship between CCA and Arizona Governor Brewer,  In Arizona, two of Brewer’s top staffers worked as lobbyists for CCA immediately prior to the introduction and passage of SB 1070 in 2010.  CCA has been identified as helping write the SB 1070 legislation that was crafted at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Governor Kasich and Governor Brewer are ALEC Alumni – as is CCA who quit the organization in 2010 after their part in SB 1070 was revealed.

CCA has a history of operating prisons in a manner to generate profits.  Profits that are used to pay dividends to investors and to lobby lawmakers for more criminal laws, longer sentences, less regulation and to vote to sell or lease state prisons to CCA.  All of this fills their beds, creates “products” to fill those beds and a shelf life that continues to increase through longer sentences and the absence of parole (which incidentally ALEC helped to abolish nationwide).  This drives up the costs of incarcerating millions of Americans and turns those tax dollars into corporate profits.  In 2011 it was reported CCA and Geo Group, the two top U.S. private prison companies earned $2.9 billion dollars…nearly all of that from tax expenditures by the feds and state issued contracts to incarcerate.

Taxpayers should receive a proper return on their investment.  They are paying CCA in Ohio to operate their privately run prisons in compliance with existing laws and administrative regulations.  This is not being done, and as always, CCA is given leniency and provided more time to come into compliance.  Such leniency would not be given to state run prisons and heads would roll if this was a state operated facility.  Staff and inmates alike are risking their lives every day they serve in LaECI – as workers or prisoners – and the state ultimately bears a responsibility to offer both protection from violence.

Over the next six months CCA will continue to operate as they have and the CIIC will go back, find more of the same and shrug it off…because prisoners have no voice, no lobby and no representative to speak on their behalf.  Most will return to the streets of Ohio cities and towns after serving time in this CCA prison.  Housed three deep in cells designed for one inmate, with no rehabilitation, drug or counseling programs  – and citizens will ask why they are so angry when they return and why released offenders commit further crimes an return to prison?  The answers are simple, because that is how the “system” has been designed, to operate as a revolving door to accept prisoners and keep them as long as possible, return them to their communities with a deep anger and no possibility of securing a job…then welcome them back a second or third time and with longer sentences.

If Governor Kasich and his CCA appointed ODOC Director cannot hold CCA’s feet to the fire to come into compliance and are unwilling to take back this publicly owned prison that they sold to their “friends” or former employers, then they should both go, replaced by others with less propensity for such open corruption.  A Department of Corrections is supposed to incarcerate prisoners and “correct” the behavior that sent each man or woman to prison.  These kind of contracts between state actors and companies such as CCA are barely average on the incarceration requirement and completely failing in providing any form of correction.

Below is the overview summary taken from the CIIC report that shows clearly the severity and potential harm that exists in LaECI:

“The inspection of LAECI raised a number of significant concerns. At CCA staff’s invitation, CIIC will conduct a full re-inspection in six months’ time to reevaluate; this report is therefore to be considered a progress report.

“LAECI’s primary issue is safety and security. Staff interviews, inmate focus groups, the inmate survey, and institutional data all indicate that personal safety is at risk at LAECI. Assaults, fights, disturbances, and uses of force have all increased in comparison to prior years. There is a high presence of gang activity and illegal substance use. Inmates reported frequent extortion and theft.

“Incident reports indicate that staff hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.

“The above issues are compounded by high staff turnover and low morale. New staff generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their response.

“Staff have relayed that they have already instituted additional security measures to control contraband and that they are in the process of implementing a stratification plan that will improve the overall facility environment and violence levels. Following the inspection, LAECI staff were very responsive to CIIC’s concerns. Staff promptly developed extensive action plans and engaged in several follow-up discussions with CIIC regarding the identified issues. LAECI staff also relayed that they are actively engaging local stakeholders to build positive relationships with the surrounding community.

“CIIC welcomes the opportunity to return in six months to reevaluate.”

I believe CCA staffers were “very responsive” to the first inspection and developed actions plans and made promises.  As seen from this latest report, this is CCA’s way of doing business and stalling compliance that would cut into their profits.

Here is another report from Idaho on CCA’s falsification of employee shift records.  In this case they not only was the prison understaffed, CCA was charging the state for imaginary staffers working shifts of as long as 48 hours.  In all CCA employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records over seven months last year in violation of its contract with the state.  CCA has now admitted to this falsification of staff work records, saying,  “Workers involved will be reprimanded, and the company told the Department of Correction it will reimburse the state.”  I’m thinking if this was committed by state workers or for that matter, you or I, we’d receive much more than a reprimand and would very likely find ourselves sitting in one of CCA’s prisons…

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

From PRWatch by Rebekah Wilce

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reports that Darden Restaurants which operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other chain restaurants has stated they have not renewed their ALEC membership as of 2010.  Darden representative Rich Jeffers, Director of Media Relations told CMD that the company had not renewed its ALEC membership since January 2010 because it “felt that different organizations like the National Restaurant Association would . . . serve us best.”

Unfortunately the “other NRA” continues to be a member of ALEC so Darden will still have representation within ALEC’s task forces and working group through representation by the National Restaurant Association. This NRA is involved in pursuing “ag-gag” bills and legislation eliminating paid sick days or leave for employees.

Read the full CMD article <- here ->

More ALEC Model Legislation Passing Committees in North Carolina

More ALEC Model Legislation Passing Committees in North Carolina

From Global Solar Industry Website

Bill to repeal the North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) passes a committee of the House of Representatives

“A bill to repeal the US state of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has passed a committee of the state’s House of Representatives 11-10. The bill must now pass more committees, the full House and the North Carolina Senate before it can go to the governor to be signed.

“House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” was introduced by House Majority Whip Mike Hager (R), and three other members of the state’s Republican Party. The bill is one of many state-level efforts to repeal RPS policies that have been advanced by Republicans through a national effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

Not surprising that the bill’s sponsor, Mike Hager is an ALEC member – or that this same legislation is advancing nationally through ALEC’s efforts.  Also not surprisingly, Duke Energy, a powerful and influential ALEC member with a seat on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force,  is headquartered in NC and is undoubtedly helping fund lobbying for this legislation.

Read the Global Solar article here…and a second GL article about this same legislation passing another NC committee here.

North Carolina GOP Files Arizona-Style ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Bill

North Carolina GOP Files Arizona-Style ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Bill

From Think Progress article by Rebecca Leber on Apr 12, 2013 – analysis by Bob Sloan

North Carolina’s House has introduced H.B. 786 that replicates Arizona’s SB 1070 “Show Me Your Papers” legislation.  One would think that since studies have shown that Arizona has suffered from reduced tourism and income, NC’s lawmakers would shy away from copying the law and financial outcome that resulted in an effort of sparing their state the same fate.  Not surprisingly, one of the four primary sponsors, Harry Warren is an ALEC member as are six bill co-sponsors; Rayne Brown, Turner, Stone, Stevens, Samuelson and Moffitt.

‘”But SB 1070 only worsened Arizona’s fiscal woes, according to several studies. In the few months after its passage, Arizona’s economy lost $141 million, including $45 million in hotel and lodging cancellations and $96 million in lost commercial revenue, according to a joint study by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center. A drop in tourism also resulted in an estimated 2,761 jobs lost, resulting in $253 million lost in economic output. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit blocked most of SB 1070’s provisions. But if ever fully implemented, the study adds, the law would eliminate an estimated 580,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born Arizonians, shrinking the state’s economy by $48.8 billion. These figures don’t include the $1.9 million Arizona has spent to defend the state from lawsuits, which have forced Gov. Jan Brewer to establish a legal defense fund for contributions.

Last year Alabama adopted legislation similar to Arizona’s – and suffered as NC is destined to if they pass this legislation:

“Despite the fiscal fallout, Alabama followed Arizona’s footsteps and approved its own immigration law in September. That measure, which analysts say is more draconian than Arizona’s, could result in a $10.8 billion loss to the state’s GDP, mostly due to reduced demand for goods and services provided by Alabama businesses, according to a widely cited study by economists at the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama. Professor Samuel Addy, who led the study, estimates that the loss of 40,000 to 80,000 undocumented immigrants would result in 70,000 to 140,000 lost jobs in Alabama, which amount to $1.2 to $5.8 billion in lost earnings. An additional $57 to $264 million would be lost in state income and sales tax collections.

Such is the influence, and control of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) exerted over their conservative members – and through ALEC’s membership, exerted over policy in individual states.  All three of these states are considered “red” states and have a huge number of ALEC legislative members.  No doubt NC’s contingent will be proudly announcing to the attendees at ALEC’s May conference their efforts of introducing and trying to pass one of ALEC’s key model bills this session.  Year after year just prior to these ALEC meetings, summits or conferences their members rush to introduce legislation adopted and sent out by ALEC over the preceding months ,,, and then attend the confabs and crow about their efforts of advancing these pro-corporate, free market conservative bills in their state.

Few today remain unaware that ALEC was responsible for crafting and sending SB 1070 to Arizona and for disseminating that same legislation to more than half the remaining U.S. state since 2010.  Less well known, perhaps is the fact that Corrections Corporation of America was instrumental in helping write, sponsor and provide millions in campaign funding to seek passage of SB 1070.  Two members of Governor Brewer’s staff were later identified as having close ties to CCA and actually lobbying on behalf of CCA in Arizona.

Read the full Think Progress article -> here <-

 

 

 

Prison Industry Bill Clears Nevada’s Senate Judiciary Committee

Prison Industry Bill Clears Nevada’s Senate Judiciary Committee

Senators move quickly to rein in runaway prison program

By Bob Sloan

On Wednesday a proposed bill amending Nevada’s Prison Industries was debated before the state Senate Judiciary Committee.  The bill, SB 478 was sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by former Assemblywoman and now Senator Debbie Smith (D-13).  Senator Smith explained the bill to the Committee and why a revision to NRS 209.461 is needed to protect workers, private businesses and taxpayers from being unfairly compromised by prison industry operations.

Attending the hearing in support of the legislation, former U.S. Senator (and Nevada Governor) Richard Bryan outlined a proposal he’d submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners last month that would help protect Nevada’s businesses and workers.  Proposed revisions to NRS 209 within SB 478 language would serve that purpose.

Sen BryanSuggested language includes requirements that the NDOC provide adequate notice and consult with private businesses and unions prior to entering into new contracts or developing new prison industries.  This would help protect Nevada’s workers from displacement and private businesses from unfair competition arising from the use of prison labor by private companies or state sponsored industry programs.

These requirements are already mandatory and annunciated under federal guidelines controlling prison-made products introduced into interstate commerce.  This is to protect workers and businesses in states receiving such goods.

Senator Bryan explained the reason such policy changes were necessary to first protect Nevada’s business and workers.  He stated that these protections were at the core of the proposal made to the BPC in March.

SB 478 includes a requirement that any private company applying to participate in prison industrial programs be required to provide a guarantee that operational expenses will be paid to the NDOC.  This provision requires the posting of a surety bond or personal guarantee:

“7. Before entering into any contract with a private employer for the employment of offenders pursuant to subsection
1, the Director shall obtain from the private employer:
   (a) A personal guarantee, surety bond in the sum of $1,000,000 made payable to the State of Nevada or security
agreement to secure any debt, obligation or other liability of the private employer under the contract including, without limitation, lease payments, wages earned by offenders and compensation earned by personnel of the Department.”

This clause seemed to draw the most concern and discussion from the Committee as they attempted to ascertain whether such a high bond was necessary.

Danny Thompsonsb 478 hearing conway

Other revisions require the NDOC Director to secure documentation pertaining to the impact upon private industry and labor in Nevada.  Before submitting such projects or new industries to the Interim Finance Committee’s Committee on Industrial Programs for recommendations or Board of Prison Commissioners for approval, these studies must be completed.

Also speaking in support of SB 478’s changes to policy requiring notice and consultation with labor, was Nevada’s AFLCIO Executive Secretary Treasurer, Danny Thompson and Robbie Conway of Ironworkers Local 433.

The Union Representatives spoke on behalf of unemployed union workers being displaced or unable to find employment because of prisoners used by Alpine Steel, LLC.  Alpine has been accused of using cheap prison labor to reduce labor costs and secure bids on projects, reducing the ability of other companies to compete fairly for the same jobs. One of those projects is the high profile construction of the Sky Vue Ferris Wheel on the Las Vegas strip.

SkyVue pic

Thompson raised issues of public safety due to using inmate labor to fabricate steel components used in building a public bridge over I-15 and the Wet ‘N’ Wild theme park in Summerlin. Thompson mentioned he’d made repeated requests for proof of required certification of the prison shop and inmate welders but Alpine and NDOC continues to withhold those documents.

Time for discussion opposing SB 478 was consumed by Alpine Steel owner, Randy Bulloch.  He vehemently opposed any requirement of posting a surety bond or consulting with unions, labor or competing businesses before starting up new prison industries.  He advised his company had been using inmates as a workforce for seven years before the operation was stopped early this year.

His argument was that requiring a bond would be cost prohibitive and “catastrophic” to prison industry operations.  Bulloch also claimed that noticing and consulting with unions and competing businesses and requiring approval of both would be impossible, “they’ll never agree to such projects.”  Presumably Bulloch’s persistent advocacy on behalf of prison industries demonstrates a desire to reopen the prison industry’s metal shop to Alpine Steel and regain access to that less costly workforce.

The proposed revisions do not include a requirement of “approval” by unions or competing businesses.  It only requires notice and an opportunity to participate in any discussion prior to submission of proposed new industries for approval. In addition until Bulloch repays nearly half a million dollars owed to the state it is unlikely authorities will consider allowing his company back onto prison property.

It’s interesting that Mr. Bulloch’s company was at the root of a controversy that ultimately resulted in the necessity of this legislative review of prison industries.  Actions of Bulloch and Alpine Steel placed the entire program in jeopardy by his refusing to pay incurred operational expenses owed to the NDOC.

Rather than open discussions of new industry operations to transparency, Bulloch seems intent upon keeping any new or proposed contracts shrouded in secrecy, and decisions regarding use of inmate labor made outside the view of obviously interested parties.

Alpine ran up a huge bill with the prison industries by failing to pay inmate and NDOC staff wages, utility costs, workers compensation or lease payments for nearly four years, accumulating a debt of $438,000 to the state.  After the story broke in the media is when officials closed Alpine’s operation at High Desert State Prison and forced Bulloch to agree to repay the state over the next four years.  Though Bulloch no longer has any inmates working for him in the prison shop and the facilities are closed to him, he continues to be the lone voice advocating for operating Nevada’s prison industries without any policy changes to ensure other companies are not able to operate with taxpayers footing the bill.

Competing steel companies protested lost business through unfair practices exercised by Alpine to secure contracts due to low-paid prison wages.  They also voiced concern that the state was unfairly subsidizing Alpine’s operations through a sweetheart lease agreement for prison facilities and a failure to collect the debts owed.  Both gave Alpine Steel a substantial advantage over all competitors in the steel industry there in Nevada.

NDOC Director Cox and Deputy Director Connett were present and stated they and the department was “neutral” on the legislation and will be submitting written statements to that effect.  Several former inmates attempted to speak in opposition, but time was short due to Bulloch’s lengthy statements in opposition and their discussion limited.

The following day, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to move the bill to the full Senate for discussion and vote.  It is unknown at this time how much support this legislation will get from the Nevada Assembly and full Senate.