The War on Drugs and this new prison industry is a template for where we seem to be heading as a culture. In the last ten years or so, a disturbing part of the system has metastasized into the system itself. As our financial system has increasingly and more overtly dominated the very structure of the country, freedom itself is being commoditized.
Debtor’s prison are making a comeback because of the debt collection industry. Elites like former Comptroller David Walker are waxing nostalgically for more punitive measures in the face of a population that simply cannot pay its debts. The for-profit prison industry fits right in to this trend, both in terms of the financialization of the industry itself and the increased market for “beds” sought by for-profit prison lobbyists in terms of harsher prison sentences.
Trying to end the war on drugs and stopping the incarceration of undocumented workers should move up the priority list. Once it becomes profitable to put people into steel cages, then it becomes profitable for judges to sell children in some creepy bizarro 21st century version of Oliver Twist. And if you think the housing bubble was bad because it misallocated resources, or foreclosure fraud is bad because it allows powerful actors to seize property based on raw power, then imagine what could happen if the logic of the for-profit prison system met the same type of leveraged financial hurricane.
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