Monday, December 31, 2012

A Glimpse At The Prison Industrial Complex

Today, in the course of reviewing documents for my job, I came across a copy of a letter completely unrelated to what I was looking for, and so does not fall under the scope of client confidentiality.

Most people have likely heard of the term "prison-industrial complex", which basically means that certain groups in our society derive a monetary or other benefit from incarcerating more people in prisons.

The letter I came across provides a glimpse of one facet of this complex, namely our politicians in New York State.  It is a letter dating from January of 2000 from a New York state senator named Hugh Farley, to the then Republican Senate Majority Leader, Joe Bruno.

It reads as follows:

"If this year's budget includes authorization for a new prison, the Hale Creek site in Fulton County has always been favored by the Corrections Department.

Although Fulton County has long been at the top of the list, in recent years Senator Stafford has received a prison, I stepped aside for Senator Present when he needed a prison, and Senator Nozzolio has received a prison.  Now it should be Fulton County's turn.

I do hope, Joe, that you will do everything you can to ensure that we have a prison in the budget and that it is located in Fulton County."

This letter is interesting to me for two reasons.  First, it is clearly implied that prisons were doled out to state senators in New York like some kind of reward for loyalty or service to the Senate Majority Leader.  Second, Senator Farley's plea to Bruno to ensure funding for a prison in the budget is not couched in terms of a societal need, such as "Hey, we have an exploding prison population and need more prisons to address overcrowding!"  Rather, he wants funding for a new prison, because, dammit, he just wants one in his district and it's his turn.

Presumably, politicians like having prisons put in their district because it provides jobs for construction companies and construction and corrections officers union members.  It probably goes without saying that the beneficiaries of these contracts make campaign contributions to these politicians, while the unions give the senators their endorsements come reelection time.

Of course, it's no secret that this sort of thing does go on.  It's just that the letter I quoted, which was clearly not intended to be read by the public, really illustrates the corruption involved from the political side of things, with prisons budgeted for and dispensed like candy to state legislators.

No comments: