Friday, August 16, 2013

The New Deal vs. Prisons


(WPA image courtesy of the National Archives. Prison bars image courtesy of

In a recent op-ed, radio show host Thom Hartmann observes:

"FDR and the Democrats believed that the Republican’s benign indifference (to surplus labor) was the completely wrong approach. Instead, FDR said that it’s the responsibility of government to put people back to work during times of high unemployment. He enacted his New Deal. He put Americans back to work planting trees and forests, building schools, and improving the nation’s infrastructure. Twelve million Americans who’d been unemployed for years went back to work, and capitalism was rebooted in America."

(See "Corporate America's New Profit Center: Put as Many People in Jail as Possible")

Hartmann's op-ed highlights the fact that today, instead of a New Deal, we have the largest prison-industrial complex in human history, where profit-seeking entities utilize cheap labor. And private prison corporations, beholden to their shareholders, want more and more Americans behind bars. More prisoners means more profit. See, e.g., "CCA Letters Reveal Private Prison Industry's Tactics." The whole system is now fraught with perverse incentives. For another example, read how two judges received kickbacks for sending children to private facilities for petty offenses.

Is this what we want? A system that promotes more and more incarceration, so shareholders can make a nice profit? Or do we want a new New Deal, so that all Americans can live decent lives?

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