US bans private jails

Washington bans future use of private jails … Global security firms lobby Australian politicians to step up prison privatisation … Canberra’s new double act: The Pauline Hanson & James Ashby Show … Festival of Dangerous Ideas featuring John Howard … Great Crashing Bores continued …

US ban on privately-owned jails

In Washington DC on August 11 this year the US Deputy Attorney-General Sally Yates announced a Justice Department decision to end future use of private prisons. She instructed federal Justice officials to decline to renew contracts for private prison operators when they expire and to stop issuing fresh contracts. “This is the first step in the process of reducing, and ultimately ending, our use of privately operated prisons,” Ms Yates said.

Why? Because private prisons have proven to be less safe and less effective in providing prison facilities than those run by the government. “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programmes and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and, as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector-General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Ms Yates explained at a press conference.

So, after 40 years of privatising prisons and outsourcing state incarceration to the private sector and handing billion-dollar contracts to the private security hustlers, Washington’s bureaucracy has come to the conclusion that it was all a mistake and it should be stopped.

America’s disillusion with the mega-contractors is echoed in Britain where there is growing Whitehall concern about privately-run jails around such issues as deaths in custody, inadequate health treatment, cost-cutting in order to drive up profits, poor staff training, overcrowding and lousy food and kitchens.

Predictably, Ms Yates’s announcement provoked screams of protest from the private security industry, its boardrooms and shareholders. Over the decades, they have made a fortune from government contracts, federal, state and county, and they rightly feared a serious blow to their luxuriant life-style.

Corrections Corporation of America and the worldwide GEO Group run 14 Federal facilities that fall within the scope of Ms Yates’s edict. On the most recent figures there are more than 22,000 federal (FBI) prisoners within the privately-run system, a tiny fraction of the USA’s prison total population which is the largest in the world.

Inside the private jail system

America, aka the “Land of the Free”, has 2,193,798 people, mainly African-Americans, behind bars. China is second followed by Russia and Brazil. One in every 15 African American men are jailed compared to one in every 106 white men. One of three black men can expect to go to jail in their lifetime, according to official statistics.

In August last year a former Pennsylvania judge, Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr, was sentenced to 28 years’ jail for selling “kids-for-cash” to privately-run juvenile detention centres. He was alleged to have taken $1 million in bribes from security contractors to send children to their cells when they were convicted in his court.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was obliged to overrule about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008 when he was receiving bribes to lock up teenagers. Reagan Ali of Counter Current News asked: “Now that Ciaverella has been locked up, that solves one problem, but raises an important question that few are asking: was this an isolated incident, or are there more just like him who have made similar deals with prisons across the United States?

Fair question.

Senator Bernie Sanders who sponsored a 2015 Bill to end the use of private prisons got the point, saying: “We cannot fix our criminal justice system if corporations are allowed to profit for mass incarceration.”

Lobbyists start influence-peddling

Since the Washington announcement, the corridors of power have echoed to the drumbeat of lobbyists, sales and marketing personnel, influence-peddlers, retired cops and ex-defence officers – all selling private penal “products”.

They have been flooding the corridors in Canberra too, anxious to maintain the billion-dollar “refugee” contracts on Manus, Christmas Island and the mainland.

But their warmest reception has been in Sydney where Premier Mike Baird’s Coalition government, gripped by neo-con mania, wants to roll out a privatising agenda for prisons, youth detention centres, courts and public buildings. After giving guns to private guards at some public buildings, they now want armed private security patrolling hospitals and schools.

A staggering $3.8 billion is being spent on three new jails at Cessnock, Nowra and Berrima with Grafton to be renovated and reopened. The new facilities, most to be privately-managed, will provide cells for 3,000 inmates as the State’s prison population soars to a record high of 12,000.

The private security industry has a long love affair with the NSW governments, Labor or Coalition. The industry supports tougher laws, longer prison sentences, tighter parole and cracking down on juveniles because it fits their business model. Baird’s neo-cons are pushing the agenda along very nicely, the champagne is being served in the private boardrooms and there’s some poor bastard being locked up for a couple of years for non-payment of fines.

Do the private security firms target Australian politicians and officials because they are particularly stupid or do they simply find them more amenable to “persuasion”? 

The Hanson-Ashby double act

The execrable Senator Pauline Hanson and her chief of staff, the equally execrable James Ashby, were on Norfolk Island this week as guests of the Norfolk Island People for Democracy Limited.

An invitation by the Council of Elders was sent to islanders to meet Hanson and Ashby at the “Tent Embassy”, the nerve centre of their campaign for independence following the territorial grab made by the Australian government under pressure from the US Pentagon.

I fail to see how inviting Hanson and Ashby on a three-day junket is going to help their cause. One Nation is a racist party with looney views on climate change, Islam, taxation and the economy. Next thing you know, a delegation from the Ku Klux Klan will be on the island advising on how to keep the population white (or only slightly suntanned).

In the meantime, I would urge readers to orders copies of Ashbygate which is sub-titled: Conspiracy, power, sex, intrigue, scandal.

If you remember, Ashby was a senior staffer with Speaker Peter Slipper. When Slipper defected from the Liberal backbench in 2011 to take the speakership thereby protecting prime minister Julia Gillard’s minority government and thwarting Tony Abbott’s hateful ambitions, the Liberals declared war on Slipper and vowed to destroy him.

Central to that effectiveness of that brutal project was Ashby who allegedly collected information from Slipper’s telephone records, accounts, computers and invoices and fed them to Slipper’s opponents.

While I would be the last person to defend the actions of Slipper who was a vanity-driven stuffed-shirt reactionary, I can’t see why the dirty tricks department of the Liberal Party should remain in the shadows. Doesn’t its tactics deserve public scrutiny?

Obviously David Donovan, managing director of Independent Australia, a media group, thinks so. He has used the investigative skills of Vince O’Grady, Ross Jones and many others to expose the conspiracy to bring down Speaker Slipper. Ultimately the conspirators hoped to bring down the Gillard government too.

Although the current edition of Ashbygate can be bought online the investigation continues and new information keeps piling up. If any of my readers has anything to offer the Independent Australia researchers, I urge them to find a way to send it along.

Ashby, a former fulltime Liberal Party staffer in Queensland, is now at Hanson’s elbow during the critical life of a hung Senate. Hanson has made up with her previous nemesis Tony Abbott and she is being courted by Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne. She and Ashby took a three-day junket to Norfolk this week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, while Turnbull was scrambling for votes in the Senate for his anti-union legislation. Funny that.

With whom was she paired? And who paid for their fact-finding mission? Watch this space. 

Festival of Dangerous Ideas. A new series – 3

Sponsored by the ABC, John Howard will discuss the transformation of Australia under Prime Minister Robert Menzies. Hear how Menzies took Australia from post-war independence and confidence into an era of post-colonial slumber and forelock-tugging philistinism between 1949 and 1966. Watch the sparks fly when the 77-year-old former prime minister is questioned by a specially selected ABC panel consisting of Mrs Janette Howard, Gerard Henderson, Mrs Henderson and other members of the Henderson family. Book now.

Great Crashing Bores – 18*

I’ve bought two bottles of Bundy rum for the Wallabies game against the All Blacks. I’ll be pissed by the time of the final whistle, but who cares, we will probably lose anyway. I just want to see our boys smash some of the Kiwis and have them carted off to hospital and believe me, it’s a war out there. What a great team we’ve got for the battle – Allan Alaalatoa, Sekope Kepu, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefa Naivalu, Tatafu Polata-Nau, Scott Sio and Lopeti Timani – all good Aussie blokes with big hearts and bigger muscles. I don’t know any of them. I lost interest after Poido, Ealesie and Campo stopped playing.

* Great Crashing Bores is a work of satirical fiction.

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  1. Shouldn’t the piece on John Howard giving a talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas be included in the Great Crashing Bores’ section?

  2. Alex,
    The reason has to be in this sentence below since privatisation has been profitable for 40 years, it means the Government is now not giving them enough money.
    In the Trump vs Clinton debates both of them have repeated that the US debt has climbed over 20 trillion dollars. The candidate who does not make it as president may be the lucky one.
    “So, after 40 years of privatising prisons and outsourcing state incarceration to the private sector and handing billion-dollar contracts to the private security hustlers, Washington’s bureaucracy has come to the conclusion that it was all a mistake and it should be stopped.”

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