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Christopher Petrella
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“The Obama Administration’s complicity with the private prison industry must not go unnoticed today or this November.”

President Obama’s IncarcerNation

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During his State of the Union Address in January President Obama claimed that he “will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products.”

What if “anywhere in the world” means inside U.S. prisons?

With widespread spending cuts already scheduled for public assistance programs like Medicare and Medicaid and yet another deficit anticipated in FY 2013, President Obama has managed to request a 4.2% increase in allocations to the Federal Bureau of Prisons operating budget, one of the largest of any federal agency, which would bring its total operating resources to more than $6.9 billion.  Oddly enough, the President’s budget is being submitted despite a national decrease in incarceration rates for the first time since 1972.

Moreover, the Obama administration has for the third consecutive year set a record in the number of undocumented immigrants detained and deported—nearly 400,000—from the U.S. during FY 2012. Nearly half of detainees are housed in privately owned or operated detention centers. Just two companies—the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO)—account for 70% of the “private detention” market.

 In total, more than one-million undocumented immigrants have been deported since President Obama assumed the presidency. These record-breaking detention and deportation figures come at a time when “illegal immigration” rates have dropped precipitously and violent crime rates are at their lowest levels in over forty years.

The agency responsible for the hyper-detention and deportation of people of color, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, claims that more than half of those deported in 2011 were “criminals.” ICE, however, currently classifies “criminals” as those “found guilty of minor violations of law such as traffic offenses, disorderly conduct, as well as immigrations violations such as illegal entry.” That is, “breathing while undocumented” constitutes criminality.

The massive deportation campaign signals the titanic horizontal growth of the American surveillance apparatus. It involves new police-state instruments and practices, including the Secure Communities Program, which requires that the fingerprints of any person processed at a county or municipal jail be submitted to a Homeland Security database. The Obama administration continues to use the Secure Communities Program to achieve his annual deportation quota, currently set at 400,000. In fact, an internal ICE document from 2010 warned the agency to increase its “non-criminal removals” in order to meet its deportation quota. The administration hopes to implement fully the Secure Communities Program in all 50 states by 2013.

Sadly, President Obama’s collusion with the private prison industry cannot be fully captured by his FY 2013 budget for Federal Bureau of Prisons or his blighted record on deportation.

In October 2011 President Obama tapped Broderick Johnson as a senior advisor for his re-election campaign. According to OpenSecrets, a clearinghouse for lobbying data, Johnson lobbied extensively on behalf of the GEO Group since the mid-1990s. And Johnson’s so-called “advisorship” comes on the heels of President Obama’s 2010 nomination of Stacia Hylton as the new Director of the United States Marshals Service (USMS). Just months before her nomination Hylton started a private prison consulting firm— Hylton Kirk and Associates—while working at the Department of Justice (DOJ) as the Federal Detention Trustee. After retiring as a trustee, Hylton agreed to a consulting contract with The GEO Group worth $112,500.

As current Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, Hylton now leads an agency that has a well-established contractual relationship with The GEO Group. In 2011, the U.S. Marshal’s accounted for 11% of GEO’s revenue. With Hylton in a position to recommend government contracts with private prisons, the ongoing influence of private prison companies in the public sphere remains largely undisturbed.

Since President Obama’s first day in office the Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group have been awarded $1.7 and 1.8 billion dollars in federal contracts, respectively. And beginning in October 2011 the Corrections Corporation of America has taken its place as the government’s top contractor whereas the GEO Group comfortably maintains the third-place position. Finally, according to USAspending, over one-quarter of private prison contracts have been established under “non-compete” agreements.

The Obama Administration’s complicity with the private prison industry must not go unnoticed today or this November. For more information on private prison divestment please visit the National Prison Divestment Campaign’s website at

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ABOUT Christopher Petrella

Christopher Petrella is a NationofChange contributing author and a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He writes on the contradictions of modernity and teaches at San Quentin State Prison. His work has appeared in such publications as Monthly Review, Truthout, Axis of Logic, NationofChange, and The Real Cost of Prisons. Christopher also holds degrees from Bates College and Harvard University.

Private prisons. In the

Private prisons. In the beginning it may sound like a good solution to problems of saving the state's money. But with this ground work laid the future is open for ever greater enslavement of the population. It may present an opportunity to have a captive workforce ready in the community that does not need to be given a salary. It may have other results that are not fully known at this point. But the principle is certain injustice will prove to have been multiplied.
These private prisons have a captive work force they make money using the extremely cheap labor of the inmates to do jobs that would otherwise be outsourced to other countries. You'd be surprised how many 800 numbers go to prisons. They also make things like furniture and package things. The whole country sould fear this.

If the increase in the

If the increase in the Federal Bureau of Prisons' budget was to lock up Obama's thieving Wall Street "Savvy Businessmen" billionaire buddies, the billionaire Kochroaches, the billionaire Murdochs, filthy rich corporate executives and their boards of directors, and the filthy rich tax evaders/ tax cheats (corporate and individual) who hide their wealth offshore in tax havens like Switzerland, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Antigua and the Antilles, etc., then I would gladly suppport it.

But Teabagged2Death said a mouthful about Obama's early White House visits from the economic hitmen (READ John Perkins' book "Tales of an Economic Hitman"). It's too bad that Obama is relatively young and has 2 young daughters because that makes him vulnerable to blackmail, unlike an elderly bachelor and experienced fighter of corporate trash like Ralph Nader who is less likely to succumb to the threats of the filthy rich sociopaths and psychopaths who really control things.

Spin THIS!!! None of this is

Spin THIS!!! None of this is Obama's doing. Ask ALEC alumni governor Jan Brewer or Corrections Corp. why. Ask the ALEC republican house/senate/court - why? Obama is fighting 300+ major global corporations and 2000+ republican politicians that are ALL members of ALEC.
Hit from Day 1 and this is 3 yrs later. We didn't think he was Superman. He can be guaranteed one thing....ALEC has woken us up and We are not buying the ALEC spin, lies, deceipt, blame anymore.

One thing every American must

One thing every American must come to realize, and keep in mind regarding every presidential decision, is the fact that O'Bama had his John Perkins-style meeting with an Economic Hitman immediately after his inauguration speech.

That is the reason for No Change in the prison system, nor will he ever stop the war that drains more than $700 million a day with one stroke of the pen that would end our budget deficit almost immediately.

Now that privatization of the public sector is the key to keeping jobs in America at the bare minimum paying non-livable wages this allows for a working class kept divided by lack of education and hatred for "foreigners".

Those billion dollar contracts are being doled out with our tax money to pay inflated adminstrative costs, leaving those doing the actual work at minimum wage or less. This leads to resentment on the part of those in direct contact with people are incarcerated in a system designed to punish, not rehabilitate.

We, the people, must call for everyone holding on to these unnecessary jobs to come to terms with their consciences, leave these foul workplaces, and heed the words of Cool Hand Luke:

"Just saying it's your job don't make it right, boss!"

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