||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
No Strings Attached?
By: Dale Recinella
We continue to address the six pastoral letters on the criminal justice system
Our last installment introduced the second pastoral letter issued by our Catholic Bishops of the South, Wardens from Wall Street: Prison Privatization. We looked at the inherent problem of mixing profit motives with management and care of vulnerable, voiceless people. Now it is time to address the current American privatization myth, i.e., everything is automatically better when it is done by the private sector.
Perhaps the good people of the State of Indiana would disagree with that myth. Their leaders reportedly have just sold a major state-owned toll road to foreign investors for 3.8 billion dollars. Texas is also reported to be contracting a toll road to a foreign consortium. Little-by-little, America’s essential civil infrastructure is being placed under the control of foreign investors. Do we have any votes of control in the foreign companies running American infrastructure? How could this be any good for us?
And how could it do us any good for American-based multinational corporations who report to their shareholders, not the American public, to be running government institutions such as prisons? Is privatization of essential government services really a promised land of more quality for less money?
A recent investigative report by a major Florida newspaper into Florida’s attempts at privatization of essential government functions leaned hard against the facts in order to name the results at least “mixed.” The company that took over the state’s employee personnel functions and the officials that supported the move were mystified at how thousands of state employee personnel files were transferred overseas, outside security protection and outside control. How could it happen?
No one has to be a genius to know why and how such things happen. Those events happen because a middle-manager can increase his bonus and his career potential by cutting corporate expenses now. Any negative ramifications are far down the road, after he will already have collected his bonus and leveraged up into a higher paying job at another company. So, he transfers the files to an unsecured overseas subcontractor to be handled at lower cost. Why would anyone in government think that taking such risks is a good idea?
Well, one possible answer is that politicians do not raise large political contributions from state employees who are just doing their jobs competently. But politicians sure do roll in the green of political contributions from corporations that want to profit off the backs of the taxpayers and the state’s vulnerable populations.
A few years ago, we were allowed a peak at this cesspool of influence by the study: A Contributing Influence: The Private-Prison Industry and Political Giving in the South. This study of the year-2000 state-level election cycle found that private-prison industries contributed to 156 candidates in Texas, 107 candidates in North Carolina and 122 candidates in Florida. According to the report, more than ninety percent of the contributions went to candidates who would vote on government decisions that directly affected the corporate bottom line. All indications are that the corporate brass spent their money well.
In May of 2004, a St. Petersburg Times editorial castigated the Florida Legislature and the Governor for disbanding the state commission that was established to monitor the privatized prison companies in Florida and keep them honest. “The commission’s attempt to explore whether other companies could do the job cheaper was met with legal challenges and a full-scale lobbyist assault,” said the Times. “Lawmakers simply want to make sure, especially in an election year, that they continue to receive the fruits of their generosity to [the private prison companies].”
Those “fruits” are campaign contributions. Such is the landscape of prison privatization. In our next column we will begin to address the moral implications of Catholic teaching as applied by the Bishops of the South to the specific issues imbedded in this morass.
First published: The Florida Catholic, February 2, 2007
© 2007 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed