Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poke-em-with-a-Stick Wednesday: The Price of Privatization

So, this is a story I wanted to blog about when I first learned about it back about two months ago, but I found I was too upset to write about it then. More time having passed, I think it's time to revisit the story.

Basically, two law-and-order judges in Pennsylvania known for handing out harsh sentences and sending juvenile offenders to prison rather than assigning them community service turned out to have been doing so because the private prisons in question gave them a kickback of so much money for each person they handed down jail time to. All told, the two judges pocketed over 2.6 million dollars in a five-year period.

It's all over now, of course. The judges have been disbarred, and resigned from the bench, and received stiff prison sentences themselves. But it remains a stark reminder of how dangerous privatization is. To introduce the profit motive into criminal justice is automatically to corrupt the system. And it stands as an object lesson for those who are pushing to privatize our schooling system (all those disciples of Bill Bennett who see the potential to loot billions from the public schools into private, mostly segregated schools via "voucher" programs). We went a long way towards privatizing our armed services under Secretary Rumsfield: roughly half of our force in Iraq were mercenaries ("contractors"), not U.S. soldiers directly under our control. Most of the things the army used to do for itself (K.P. duty, military police) were "outsourced" under the Rumsfield system, and I suspect it'll be years before we truly understand the impact of that.

In any case, here are the links to the original story, plus some editorializing about it:

current reading: TOLKIEN ON FAIRY-STORIES: Extended Edition [2009]

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