Private enterprise has brought us many of the things we take for granted these days. From the automobile to the airplane, or the smartphone that costs $0.99 with a two-year contract, businesses have provided Americans with products and services that are the envy of many nations. Spurred on by competition and the constant demand from shareholders for ever-increasing dividends, we’ve seen the cellular phone go from a luxury item to a common commodity in just a couple of decades.
That is just one example of the various services businesses provide that have made our lives better, and perhaps more complicated. Unfortunately, some businesses make our lives worse, like the private prison industry which depends on our justice system to keep the profits rolling in.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants that to stop, and he has made curtailing the funneling of taxpayer dollars to the for-profit prison industry part of his campaign message.
“At a time when we are spending $50 billion a year on our correctional system, it makes a lot more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our young people than in more and more jails,” Sanders said in a campaign statement Tuesday. “We need to end, once and for all, the disgraceful practice of corporations profiting from the incarceration of Americans,” he added.
The legislation would “increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services,” Sanders said. It would also end federal, state and local contracts for private prisons. Sanders highlighted racial disparities among the incarcerated in the U.S., pointing to the fact that the majority of prisoners are black and Hispanic. (Source)
The for-profit prison industry counts on harsh sentencing for minor and non-violent offenses. Yes, there are plenty of individuals out there who are a real threat to others and they absolutely should be locked up for our protection. However, as Bernie Sanders points out, our society shouldn’t be funding an industry to house people when we can prevent them from ending up there in the first place.
Many crimes are committed out of desperation. Poverty, a lack of education, and a number of other preventable factors create situations where some offenders can see no other alternative besides a life of crime. Bernie Sanders and other progressives recognize the fact that addressing the root issues is ultimately cheaper and more humane than allowing a broken system to continue. Since 1970, our prison population has increased by 700% according to the ACLU, far surpassing the growth of the United States’ population overall.
In the current status quo, innocent people are affected by crime and we continue to waste taxpayer dollars by dumping individuals into the prison system, instead of trying to address the aggravating factors. As long as there is money to be made off human misery, the private prison industry will continue to lobby for more prisons and more laws that put people behind bars. They don’t make money when an inner city child gets an education and starts his or her own business, nor will the Corrections Corporation of America be able to entice people to invest in them if prison cells sit empty.
Please contact your senators and ask them to support Bernie Sanders’ legislation. Reducing crime and saving taxpayer money shouldn’t be a partisan issue, it’s just the right thing to do for America.
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