Of the Prisons, By the Prisons, For the Prisons
Right on Crime feeds the Privatization of Reentry
While mens rea reform was central to Koch’s Right on Crime platform, other focuses involve a combination of sentencing reform and the privatization of reentry programs.
The organization Grassroots Leadership has defined the "Treatment Industrial Complex" as:
the movement of the for-profit prison industry into correctional medical care, mental health treatment, and "community corrections." Community Corrections include correction programs outside of jail or prison walls: probation and parole services including halfway houses; day reporting centers; drug and alcohol treatment programs; home confinement; electronic monitoring; and an array of supportive services such as educational classes and job training.
For example, the private prison giant, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, now CoreCivic), claims to have entered the “residential reentry space” in 2013 with the $36 acquisition of Correctional Alternatives, Inc. In 2014 they announced that "Reentry programs and reducing recidivism are 100 percent aligned with our business model." They recently acquired one of the country’s largest reentry providers, Community Education Centers, Inc, for $13.5 million.
Since 2009, another top private prison, Geo Group, acquired several large reentry providers, including Just Care Inc. for $40 million, Cornell Companies for $685 million, BI Inc. for $415 million. As of its 2011 acquisition, BI Inc. was the sole provider of monitoring and supervision services for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as part of the Department of Homeland Security's "Alternatives to Detention" program.
Many of these contractors have histories with abusive treatment, and discrimination toward immigrants. Private parole providers like Sentinel Offender Services, Providence Community Corrections, and Judicial Correction Services, have been sued for violation of civil rights for establishing a system of “judicially sanctioned extortion racket” in several states, and yet they continue to get local and state contracts.
Increased electronic monitoring and increasingly privatized parole are two things explicitly advocated for by Right on Crime.
ALEC’s Revisionist Account of the U.S. Criminal Justice System
ALEC’s 2011 report describes the "Smart on Crime" platform, providing "A Legislator’s Guide to Criminal Justice Policy." The report condemns the “birth of Tough on Crime politics,” explaining:
In response to rising crime conservatives swung the pendulum in the opposite direction, embracing the “tough on crime” attitude that touted more incarceration as the only effective solution to crime.
Further, the ALEC report touts Right on Crime leaders as opposing this trend:
On Dec. 15, conservative leaders came together through the Right on Crime initiative to support tough and smart approaches. Joining Gingrich, Bennett, Meese, and Norquist in endorsing the Right on Crime Statement of Principles were conservative leaders such as American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene, Prison Fellowship executives Chuck Colson and Pat Nolan, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
A leaked program for ALEC’s 1994 conference shows that it was ALEC was responsible for driving the nation’s tough on crime legislative agenda, and that Gingrich, Bennett, Meese, and Norquist were all present for it. In a session entitled “Campaign School on Crime,” Gingrich joined NRA and prison lobbyists on the panel:
Controlling crime is the priority concern for voters today. This fall, candidates who campaign on crime, frame the issue effectively, present a credible, tough-on-crime agenda, and debunk the myths and misinformation of their opponents will find an electorate ready to take back the streets from criminals and their apologists. More importantly, this year's elections will send a forceful message to lawmakers and begin to define next year's legislative battles over crime and criminal justice policy. The Campaign School on Crime brings together pollsters, campaign strategists and experts on crime control to provide legislators with an agenda and plan to advance meaningful crime control this fall and during the coming legislative session. (ALEC 1994)
Not only were David and Charles Koch attendees of the meeting, they were awarded the Adam Smith prize by ALEC. Koch Industries’s Daniel Zaloudek was on ALEC’s board of directors as the time.
ALEC’s 2011 version of the mens rea bill was developed by ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections Taskforce.” This taskforce was disbanded/renamed in 2012 after widespread criticism over its adoption of the Stand Your Ground, the “Arizona Immigration” bill, and Voter ID laws.
Former members of the taskforce include representatives of Corrections Corporation of America and the Heartland Institute, as well as many of the key figures within Right on Crime, including Marc Levin and Jerry Madden from the Texas Public Policy Institute, and Prison Fellowship Ministries’s Pat Nolan.
Attendees of the 1994 ALEC meeting included John McKay, Edwin Meese, Grover Norquist, William J. Bennett, Ronald Scheberle, and Newt Gingrich, all signatories of Right on Crime Principles (or in McKay's case, Florida's 2009 smart justice open letter). Sponsors of the ALEC conference listed in the program include corrections contractors like BI Incorporated and CCA.
Meese (the former Attorney General chosen by President Ronald Reagan) presented a session, "From Crime to Security," whose description claimed that "America's crime rate has risen sharply in recent decades. Much of the cause can be traced to permissive policies, especially in corrections and the judiciary."
Meese, a past attendee of Charles Koch's donor summits, also serves on the board of directors of Koch's Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Right on Crime is for Private Prisons
Right on Crime advocates appear to be careful not to criticize profit motives with the corrections crisis, and in fact, they expressly promote the continued use of private prisons, suggesting that:
For those instances when prisons are necessary, explore private prison options. A study by The Reason Foundation indicated that private prisons offer cost savings of 10 to 15 percent compared to state-operated facilities. By including an incentive in private corrections contracts for lowering recidivism and the flexibility to innovate, private facilities could potentially not just save money but also compete to develop the most cost-effective recidivism reduction programming.