rn: Anger Grows re: US Jails/ Texas Under G. Bush


Jan Slakov

Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 11:17:37 -0800
From: Sid Shniad <•••@••.•••>
  Manchester Guardian

The Manchester Guardian                                 Tuesday February 15, 2000 
        The land of the free is now home to 25% of the world's prison population 
        By Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles 
        Vigils are being mounted today in more than 30 major cities in 
the United States to  draw attention to the arrival of the two 
millionth inmate in American jails. The US  comprises 5% of the 
global population yet it is responsible for 25% of the world's  
prisoners. It has a higher proportion of its citizens in jail than any 
other country in history,  according to the November Coalition, an 
alliance of civil rights campaigners, justice policy  workers and drug 
law reformers.
        The coalition is co-ordinating protests across the US to draw 
attention to what they  feel is a trend for locking up ever more 
offenders, most of them non-violent.
        "Incarceration should be the last resort of a civilised society, not 
the first," said  Michael Gelacak, a former vice-chairman of the US 
sentencing commission. "We have it  backwards and it's time we 
realised that."
        "Two million is too many," said Nora Callahan of the coalition, 
which is calling for  alternatives to prison for the country's 500,000 
non-violent drug offenders.
        "We are calling on state and federal governments to stop 
breaking up families and  destroying our communities. Prison is not 
the solution to every social problem," she said.
        In New York city, the Prison Moratorium Project will focus on 
the fact that one in  three black youths is either in custody or on 
parole. Kevin Pranis, of the project, said:  "New York state is 
diverting millions of dollars from colleges and universities to pay 
for prisons we can't  afford."
        Criminal justice is already a campaign issue in the presidential 
race. The Republican  frontrunner George W Bush, governor of 
Texas, is a staunch supporter of both the death  penalty and stiffer 
sentencing for drug offences.
        Since he took over in Texas, the prison population there is up 
from 41,000 to  150,000, much of this as a result of locking up 
people for drug possession.
        This is one of the reasons that commentators have pressed Bush 
to be more open  about his own alleged drug use in the past.

Second biggest employer

         Of those held in federal rather than state prisons, 60% are drug 
offenders with no  history of violence. Aminah Muhammad, who is 
organising the Los Angeles vigil, said:  "My husband is doing 23 
years for just being present in a house where drugs were found,  so 
my 10-year-old son doesn't have his father."
        The vigil also coincides with the publication of Lockdown 
America, a report by  Christian Parenti analysing the US criminal 
justice system. He notes the expansion of the  private prison sector 
- dubbed by one investment firm the "theme stock for the nineties" -  
which now runs more than 100 facilities in 27 states, holding more 
than 100,000 inmates.
        A total of 18 private firms are involved in the running of local 
jails, private prisons and  immigration detention centres. It is 
estimated that firms such as Goldman Sachs and  Merrill Lynch 
write between $2-3bn in prison constructions bonds every year.
        This has led some commentators to suggest that the United 
States is effectively  creating a prison-industrial complex in much 
the same way as the military-industrial  complex operates.
        Critics of the system suggest that so much money is invested in  
incarceration that politicians would find it difficult to reverse the  
trends against the wishes of their financial backers and lobbyists.
        In his study Christian Parenti suggests: "In many ways the  
incarceration binge is simply the policy byproduct of rightwing  
electoral rhetoric."
        With the economic restructuring of America, politicians found it  
necessary to address domestic anxieties, Parenti suggests and this  
"required scapegoats, a role usually filled by new immigrants, the  
poor and people of colour".
        The cost of building jails has averaged $7bn per year for the last  
decade and the annual bill for incarcerating prisoners is up to $35bn  
annually. The prison industry employs more than 523,000 people,  
making it the country's biggest employer after General Motors.  
Some 5% of the population growth in rural areas between 1980 and  
1990 was as a result of prisoners being moved into new rural jails.
        The national convention of the American Bar Association,  held 
in Dallas, Texas last weekend, was told there was growing  
momentum for a moratorium on the death penalty. This  follows the 
recent announcement by the Illinois governor,  George Ryan, that 
the state will suspend executions pending an  investigation into the 
number of death row inmates who turn  out to have been wrongly 
convicted. There are 3,600 people  awaiting execution in the US - 
463 of them in Texas alone.
        Today's vigils are being held near jails, courthouses and prisons  
and span the US from Spokane in Washington state to Gainesville  
in Florida, from Austin in Texas to Newhaven in Connecticut.
        In 1985, the then Chief Justice Warren Burger said: "What  
business enterprise could conceivably succeed with the rate of recall  
of its products that we see in the 'products' of our prisons?"
        The demonstrators today are hoping to make the same point  
count, if not with the politicians, then at least with the voters who  
will be called in to endorse such penal policies in the coming  
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 21:49:39 -0800
From: Randy Schutt <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Texas Leads the Nation

I don't know if these statistics are correct, but they sound accurate 
-- and chilling.

Just thought you'd like to know...

The state of Texas, under the leadership of Governor George W. Bush, is ranked:

50th.  Spending for teachers salaries

49th.  Spending on the environment

48th.  Per capita funding for public health

47th.  Delivery of social services

42nd.  Child support collections

41st.  Per capita spending on public education

  5th.  % of population living in poverty

  1st.  % of poor working parents without insurance

  1st.  % of children without insurance

  1st.  Air and water pollution

  1st.  Executions (average of 1 every 2 weeks for Bush's 5 years)

Just think of what he could do for the country if he were president......