The prison population in the United States is not simply enormous, it’s part of a huge business enterprise. There are well over two million people in the country who are incarcerated, and the rate of incarceration – about 750 people for every 100,000 people – is the highest in the world. Strange? Maybe, but only if you are guided by the thought that sentencing policies are intended to be the result of a desire to make our streets safer. Not strange at all when you remember that, in the words of Silent Cal (Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States), “the business of America is business.” All of which brings us to the candidacy of Mark Brnovich for the position of Attorney General of Arizona.
You might wonder what all the fuss is about. Well, Brnovich, who is seeking the highest law enforcement position in the state, has been a lobbyist for the private prison industry. Brnovich also worked for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for several years beginning in 2005, as “senior director of business development.” CCA is a billion dollar company that owns and operates around 60 detention center and prisons in the United States, including six in Arizona. It makes its money by maximizing the number of beds filled in its correctional and detention centers. Simply stated, more prisoners equals more money for the company.
Does maximizing the number of inmates and detainees translate into a reduction in crime on the streets? We say no, unless you take the argument to its (illogical) conclusion; if everyone is locked up, no one is on the street to commit a crime. In fact, as the crime rate has dropped over the past decades, many still cling to the belief that the answer is still to lock up as many people as possible. The view is politically popular, yet factually inaccurate.
Look, we’re not saying that Brnovich is doing anything illegal by favoring, as we strongly suspect he will, private prison companies. What we are saying is that this raises the issue of whether his candidacy is in the best interests of the public. We predict that if Brnovich is elected Attorney General, the trend in many areas of Arizona toward alternative sentencing for first and non-violent offenders, is certainly at risk. Not because incarceration is legally or morally appropriate, but rather because it serves the purposes of businesses such as CCA. It all comes down to this: It is in the economic interest of companies like CCA to encourage recidivism, and increase the number of beds occupied in our prisons. It is in the interest of the people of Arizona to reduce recidivism, which will lower the jail and prison population.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004