CI: Con Artists, Profit and Community Corrections

January 16, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

CI:  Con Artists, Profit and Community Corrections

by Kay Whitlock

There’s a con game, going on in the field of reducing prison populations, folks, and a big part of it is disguised under concepts like “community corrections” “alternatives to incarceration,” and “re-entry programs.”

The focus in this post is on the New Jersey “community corrections” confidence game. 

Like all swindles, this con game plays to and manages a variety of public perceptions, hopes and expectations:  reducing the prison population, reducing prison spending, ending the injustices of the so-called “war on drugs (particularly for those convicted of minor offenses),” emphasizing alternatives to incarceration wherever possible, relying on imprisonment only for the most violent offenders, and creating safer communities.  It’s a win-win for everyone, right?  Or so the public relations blitz on the subject seems to indicate.
Take another look.  A while back, CI published “Confidence Men & Prison Reform,” an overview of the blitz and problem: profit-producing “prison reform” initiatives that are attracting uncritical “bipartisan” support in state legislatures.

This swindle has no intention of dismantling the racism and economic violence so foundational to the U.S. incarceration society.  But it does have every intention of strengthening the complex network of public and private interests, institutions, and corporations that make up the prison industrial complex – though it tries to use a variety of cosmetic tricks and a little sleight of hand to convince you you’re seeing something different.  As economist Paul Krugman says, what’s going on in New Jersey is part of “a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.” 

Here’s the New Jersey cautionary tale – revealed with special thanks to the New York Times and to Prison Legal News; their articles detailing aspects of this story are linked throughout this discussion.


Koch Group Kicks Off Massive Voter Suppression Effort

September 24, 2012 By: seeta Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Voting Rights

From The Nation:

They’re gathering in newly set up offices in critical swing states. Some of the locations have a tinge of irony for a supposedly grassroots, ordinary citizens-led organization: In Saddlebrook, Arizona, they’ll be meeting in a country club; in Clearwater, Florida, the local AFP field director rented space from an outsourcing company called TAC Worldwide. But the work the AFP machine is doing is no laughing matter for liberals. The Koch network has a sophisticated targeting system, as well as an army of experienced Republican campaign hands to guide the effort. The volunteers even receive Samsung Galaxy tablets to quickly log information and move on to the next potential Romney voter.

Its the beginning of an extremely well-planned get-out-the-vote effort that duplicates what an entire national party would attempt. And its been four years in the making.

In 2009, the Koch network created a model called the Wisconsin Prosperity Project to move the state to the far right. After witnessing the Democrats’ stunning 2008 ground game, the operatives in Wisconsin were determined to out-organize liberals. They hired Tea Party organizers, invested heavily in front groups (like the MacIver Center), ran constant advertising and coordinated with employers to hold propaganda meetings with workers. Tea Party bus tours in the state, fully financed by AFP, were “designed” to help elect Republicans.

The Koch network, which is actively training Tea Partiers, via a partnership with True the Vote, to harass and intimidate voters, may tip the scales in this election. And you won’t see their work on television, or through FEC disclosures (they refuse to register their grassroots electioneering as independent expenditures). Like Wisconsin, liberals might see the ground shifting beneath them, and wonder what happened.