The New Yorker has a depressing and insightful article this week, The Caging of America.
"In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on education."
"More than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year."
"The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncooperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape - like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows - will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized."
"No more chilling document exists in recent American life than the 2005 annual report of the biggest of these firms, the Corrections Corporation of America." Naturally they spend millions lobbying legislators.
"Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities .... The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any change with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of people arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."