On April 16, 2014 the Charles Koch Institute and Mediaite hosted Rule of Law: How the Criminal Justice System Impacts Well-Being, a panel discussion in Austin, TX, which sought to foster discussion focused on the impacts of mass incarceration on our society. For an event branded by Koch — the family name notorious for their mutli-billion dollar conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc. and pro-free market and privatization ideology — the discussion around the for-profit, private prison industry was an interesting one.
Panelists, including President of the Texas NAACP, Gary Bledsoe; former Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Bernard Kerik; Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Norman L. Reimer; and Director of the Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Marc Levin, had a few powerful remarks concerning the private prison industry and its tactics to maximize the number of people we put behind bars. Here are a few noteworthy highlights from the discussion. You can watch the event in it's entirety here.
Question: Might criminal justice reform mean more private investment or investment in work release or transitional housing programs?
Once the topic of private prisons arose, Bernard Kerik referenced a letter written by private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, sent to the Governors of 48 states offering to take control of their prison systems under conditions that the state 1) sign a minimum 20-year contract and 2) guarantee 90% occupancy. This is what he had to say about it:
"There are some places where you have to say no, privatization isn’t right. You wouldn’t privatize the national defense of the country. We shouldn’t privatize incarceration or the criminal justice system. Do private entities have a role to play in helping? Sure. But, you can’t put a profit motive in locking people up. Because if you do that, you wind up with what you have now, which is mass incarceration.” - Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
We're excited and hopeful to see that conversations about mass incarceration are increasingly calling out the role private prison corporations are playing in its perpetuation. The discussion in it's entirety is definitely worth a watch.