Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)”

An old, old, lament: “Laws are for the little people…”

I am constantly impressed at the perceptive and eloquent comments that issue from such a large number of Ethics Alarms readers. It cushions the blow of the traffic fall-off here that came shortly after the 2016 election, as the rapid Trump-Haters and resistance acolytes fled to secure echo chambers. (Facebook banning EA didn’t help.) I’d like both, sure, but I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

Aaron Pascal is long-time participant on Ethics Alarms, and he has issued many provocative comments, usually with a refreshing edge. This, in reaction to the most recent of AOC’s annoying and ethics-dead tweets, is one of his best.

Here is Aaron Pascal’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)”….

“Jail the poor to free the rich” smacks of a combination of two extreme positions on two separate valid social dilemmas interacting.

First, there is the moderately unsettling (to me) privately funded and operated prison system. It’s been suggested that inmates are the product that is sold to bring in money. If people stopped being put in prison, then the corporations running the prison would lose money. Ergo, they get the politicians (especially the nasty, racist Republicans) to criminalize more activity, and push for longer sentences for smaller and smaller offenses. Especially if the crimes you tighten up on end up imprisoning a disproportionate number of racial minorities. Not a viewpoint completely without merit, but if you assume it’s the norm it certainly encourages a topsy turvy view of criminal activity vs the justice system. It also requires picturing the police, the justice system, the prison system, and the government as really bad, selfish people. Which is only a problem for leftists once you get to the government, which once you assign the blame to those horrible Republicans, the cognitive dissonance goes away. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum!” Thread On For-Profit Prisons

Finally having the opportunity to read what the recent “Open Form!” necessitated by my enforced absence from blogging for two days, hath wrought, I encountered several deserving Comment of the Day candidates. I will be choosing the winner from the wonderfully entertaining rumble among multiple Ethics Alarms stalwarts on the alleged “school-to-prison” pipeline and a whole bundle of other ethics topics (proper treatment of elected officials on social media, appropriate treatment of citizen criticism by elected officials, and others) imminently, but for now, let’s focus on the topic of for-profit prisons, an ethics issue under-discussed here previously. In this case, the Comment of the Day format is especially useful, because this excellent post is buried deeply among  117 others.

Here is James M.’s Comment of the Day on the topic, from the open forum of 8/28/2019…

As someone who worked for the Arizona Department of Corrections for 25 years, I think I can fairly assess both the advantages and problems associated with privately-run prisons. Contracting with various companies to provide various prison services can produce some substantial cost savings to the public, but has some negative effects that aren’t always considered. The Arizona Department of Corrections privatized several different areas during my career there, including medical care, food service, and some rehabilitative programs. The department has also held portions of the inmate population in units run by private contractors.

Advantages of privatization included direct cost savings (with private prisons costing less per bed) and the ability to share prison construction costs with the contractor, allowing the construction to become part of a multi-year contract, rather than an up-front payment. The direct cost savings can be difficult to fairly assess, as contractors would often refuse to accept those inmates who were most expensive to house, either due to having major medical issues, a tendency toward harassment litigation, or membership in a prison gang. Since the private prisons had some security issues that led to inmate escapes, departmental staff also spent considerable time screening inmates before they would be considered for placement in the private prison units. The complaint from ADC staff involved in these assessments was that “Of course they’re cheaper! If I got to pick and choose only the inmates who were least difficult to deal with, I could run my unit more cheaply, too!” Continue reading