Plantations, Prisons and Profits
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of New York Times
Posted: June 5th, 2012
Louisiana is the worlds prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisianas incarceration rate is nearly triple Irans, seven times Chinas and 10 times Germanys. That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the states largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it. The picture that emerges is one of convicts as chattel and a legal system essentially based on human commodification. One in 86 Louisiana adults is in the prison system, which is nearly double the national average. More than 50 percent of Louisianas inmates are in local prisons, which is more than any other state. The national average is 5 percent. Louisiana leads the nation in the percentage of its prisoners serving life without parole. Nearly two-thirds of Louisianas prisoners are nonviolent offenders. The national average is less than half. In the early 1990s, the state was under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, but instead of releasing prisoners or loosening sentencing guidelines, the state incentivized the building of private prisons. But, in what the newspaper called a uniquely Louisiana twist, most of the prison entrepreneurs were actually rural sheriffs. They saw a way to make a profit and did.
Note: To read the powerful 8-part investigation of the Louisiana prison system from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, click here. For more on the cruelty and corruption of the prison-industrial complex, click here.