Hillary Clinton Courting the Private Prison Lobby

According to an article in The Intercept, the private prison lobby is working closely with Hillary Clinton to fund her 2016 presidential run:

Last week, Clinton and other candidates revealed a number of lobbyists who are serving as “bundlers” for their campaigns. Bundlers collect contributions on behalf of a campaign, and are often rewarded with special favors, such as access to the candidate.

Richard Sullivan, of the lobbying firm Capitol Counsel, is a bundler for the Clinton campaign, bringing in $44,859 in contributions in a few short months. Sullivan is also a registered lobbyist for the Geo Group, a company that operates a number of jails, including immigrant detention centers, for profit.

As we reported yesterday, fully five Clinton bundlers work for the lobbying and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in America, paid Akin Gump$240,000 in lobbying fees last year.

This should worry anyone who believes that the incarceration rate in the United States is too high, which should include anyone with half a brain who is paying any attention. Of the many issues on the discussion table for 2016, two of them are drug law and immigration reform. Both issues heavily influence the profitability of private prisons, so private prison lobbies will of course want to weigh in on these issues. And Hillary Clinton seems open to listening.

Are private prisons a good idea? Well, first you have to ask the question whether prisons for long-term incarceration are a good idea. I would say no. There is only one reason a person should be incarcerated: if he is awaiting trial for a capital crime and there is good reason to believe he won’t stick around otherwise. Prison as a punishment for crimes is inefficient, unjust, expensive, ripe for corruption, and ineffective.

Punishments should fit the crime. This has been a bedrock of jurisprudence since the dawn of law. Did you steal something? Pay back the victim twice over. If you can’t pay, work for him until you’ve worked off your debt. If you hurt someone through malice or negligence, pay for their healthcare and their lost time at work. If you commit a capital crime (e.g., murder, kidnapping, rape, molestation, etc.), you forfeit your life. Done.

If we executed our laws in this way, we could house all of our temporary inmates in a few small local jails without a problem. The original need for private prisons stemmed from a rising incarceration rate and a need for greater business efficiency. What the civil government can do, the private sector can usually do better and cheaper. I understand the reasoning, but now you have given the free market a compelling financial incentive to increase incarceration and extend prison terms. You have also given them a compelling financial incentive to lobby for laws that might be more about money than justice. That’s a dangerous combination.

And now the private prison lobby has Hillary Clinton’s ear. If you think this is good news for freedom and justice, you need to get your head in the game.