Tuesday, November 16, 2010

INSOURCING III - Corporate Wheel of Profit Rolls On...

Corporations depend upon labor for their manufacturing and service industry needs. To keep the labor pool full to the rim, they develop ideas for new laws that benefit them and contribute to access to more and more individuals, some of which are highly educated and well trained with skills that will benefit prison industry operations. To this end they partner with organizations and politicians sympathetic to their needs and desires.

The machinations in the foregoing paragraph are accomplished over and over again through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their corporate membership. Corporate representatives meet with ALEC's conservative lawmaker membership and write "model Legislation" that is then taken back to states where the member lawmakers attempt to attract sponsorship and eventually pass the legislation into law. One a law is enacted and put in place, other machinery awakens and goes to work.

A violation of the new law is discovered, the person committing the "crime" is arrested and the actual "Wheel of Sorrow and Money" begins to turn and generate profits for the corporate interests. First, the arrestee is provided an opportunity to be released pending trial by posting a surety bond to get out of jail.

ALEC's corporate member, the American Bail Coalition (ABC - it's Executive Director serving upon ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force) is there to provide bonding and of course, profit from the "service" provided to the arrestee. Many state's and the federal government have implemented a pre-trial release program allowing pre-trial release of defendants, but ALEC vigorously fights against these programs to keep private sector bonding intact and making money. This is a a very important arena for ALEC, as can be seen at their Model Legislation page on Public Safety page. ALEC has no less than 13 proposed legislative bills dedicated to bail and bail recovery issues. No mis-understanding of the influence wielded by ABC within the Public Safety Task Force. Of course reading about any of this soon to be proposed legislation is not possible, due to the secretive nature of ALEC. You must be a member to access their model legislation pages.

However there is a way to discover some of what they propose by access to proposed legislation through other sources. For instance here is a two part clip on a presentation given by the ABC to ALEC lawmakers on Model bail bond legislation proposed by ALEC (second part here). For those who watch these video presentation and wonder what the document contained in the "package" given to lawmakers was, here it is. "A Plan to Reduce Prison Overcrowding and Violent Crime - “Conditional Post-Conviction Release Bond Act”. Earlier and detailed proposed legislation on this issue is found here.

For those too busy to watch the video or read the proposed legislation, here it is in a nutshell: the American Bail Coalition makes millions off of pretrial bonding. Now they want to make millions more off the same pretrial defendants - who were convicted and sent to prison - once they are up for early release. How? The ABC is promoting legislation that would allow states to require those up for release to get their family or friends to post a post-release surety bond, guaranteeing the state that they won't re-offend if released early. Of course the surety bonds issued would require a minimum 10% "fee" paid to the bonding company for the posting of the bond. The ABC Executive Director Dennis Bartlett suggested at one of the legislative presentation that lawmakers should first check to see if their state could implement this bonding system through administrative means, saying legislation takes longer and may not be as successful as just issuing and edict to allow bonding of released offenders.

So ALEC corporate members make money immediately on bonds issued to release pretrial defendants and they wish to make more on the back end through more bonding initiatives. Following arrest and bonding a trial is held - or pretrial deals made - and an offender is found guilty. Once that occurs, the sentencing guidelines enacted by ALEC model legislation kicks in and the offender is often times sentenced to the harshest sentence allowed under the guidelines, and returns to jail to await transfer to the state prison. Many jails are now privately run facilities outsourced to the likes of ALEC members Geo Group and CCA. The state or county pays these corporations a per diem for each day the convicted offender is housed there. Corporations providing food and canteen products to the inmates also make profits. Any phone calls made by the offender are handled by AT&T or other telecom providers, and the costs of these collect calls are as much as 300% higher from jail facilities than they are when made from pay phones. The convicted offender's family and friends pay these outrageous fees. The jail facility receives a "commission" from the telecom provider for allowing the placement of their equipment within the jail. Within many states county and municipal jails now charge inmates for their room and board, assessing a daily fee for incarceration. This charge is taken out of the offender's account and if he/she has no money, a lien is placed upon the account and any money received into the account is then debited first to pay for the charges and remaining funds can then be used by the offender.

Once bed space is available at the prison for the offender, he is put on a bus and transported from the jail to the prison. Often times this transfer is made using private transportation companies that contract to move prisoners around the state and country. More corporate profit from the prisoner.

Once at the prison the offender - now called an inmate - is put through orientation and medical screening. The medical department is also operated by a private corporation such as Prison Health Services, now called PHS Correctional Health out of Tennessee. Your tax dollars pay for this medical screening and any subsequent use of medical care or treatment needed by the inmate. Inmates are usually charged a co-pay of from $4.00 to $6.00 and this is turned over to the private contractor.

Following orientation the inmate is moved in the "general population" area of the prison for permanent housing. Once there he/she is put through another screening process to determine what job will be assigned to the inmate. IF he/she has skills particularly needed by the prison industry located at the prison, the inmate is assigned to the prison industry. Otherwise he/she is assigned to another job within the prison.

Again, phone calls are handled by the same or another telecom provider that is contracted with the prison operator to handle communications. The fees are usually higher from prisons than they were from jails (security is quoted as causing the increased rates) and again, paid for by the person or family called by the inmate.

The prison authority establishes an account for the new inmate. Banking has also been outsourced and privatized and the corporation with the contract is allowed to charge a monthly fee of between $4.00 and $6.00 for handling the account - regardless of whether or not the inmate has money in the account or not. Money sent in to the inmate can no longer be sent as money orders, personal checks or cash through the mail directly to the inmate or prison where he/she is housed. The inmate is provided "deposit slips" that he/she must send to friends and family who wish to send them money. They have to enclose a money order and send it with the deposit slip to the address established by the bank and prison authority. Once received it is deposited in the inmate's account - after a fee of from $.50 to $2.00 is taken out for "handling" by the bank.

Money that is left after paying the above fees is available to the inmate to purchase clothing, hygiene and other items he/she desires: food, snacks, tobacco, etc. The commissary where these items are purchased are owned and operated under contract between the prison authority and a private corporation such as Keefe Commissary Network. The only items available to an inmate must come from this provider. Family and friends can no longer send food, clothing, hygiene or other items to an inmate - everything an inmate buys or is allowed to have in his/her possession is purchased through the commissary provider.

Tomorrow I will continue this sad tale about the corporate profits from inmates - both as inmates and as a source of cheap labor.


  1. Using an argument against an industry by saying they are "for profit" is ridiculous. Its like saying I am not going to go to a soup kitchen for dinner tonight, but instead I am going to go to the "for Profit" McDonalds. The bail bond industry plays a key role in the criminal justice system by ensuring the appearance of a defendant in court. The statistics have proven time and time again, that commercial surety bail is the most effective way to release and manage defendants.

  2. Depends on who's statistics you use. For profit is what corporations are in business for, I agree. It is the use of prisoner labor and prison housing that I object to - when it is done "for profit".

    Bail bonds do serve a useful purpose, however government attempts to provide the same services have been fought tooth and nail by ALEC and the ABC. The purpose of the fight is about an industry that makes money from bonds versus a government program that would eliminate the profit to bonding companies. If the same services are offered by both, and one is less onerous to the defendant, why should the choice be the private sector and profits?

    I've heard and read the arguments that the government can't assure the appearance of a defendant - or recapture them if they jump bail - but I believe that argument is somewhat hollow. If the government program were enabled, law enforcement agencies already in place could be supplemented by a bail enforcement unit.

    So costs and guarantees of apprehension would be comparable once the program was in place and allowed to develop. Again, the difference is the profit motive.

    The new push and legalization of surety bonding of parolees and probationers following prison, is just another way to profit from the same "products", on the front and back ends. Again who benefits?