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Land of the Unfree

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/24/land-unfree

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America has too many FOR PROFIT PRISONS-----and too many back and brown people and asian people have suffered under the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Oh wait—that’s not true.There’s not much freedom here and very little bravery from the elected ones,
I read about prisons in one Scandanavian nation ( I forget which one) but the people did not have cells. They lived in little work cottages and learned real skills. To make a profit of housing bodies and even now , subjecting them to Covid 19, and doing the same to immigrants— is neither kind nor sane. No where near a “more perfect union,” at all. : (

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Something not brought out in the story is the way these prisoners families are fleeced when their loved ones are but into these cages. I’ve seen articles where the authorities claim it costs anywhere from $50,000-$70,000 a year to house each prisoner. I’d like to know where that money goes.
It’s not food, as most are only given the bare minimum of calories to survive, regularly being fed substandard or rotted food. It’s not everyday consumables, as each prisoner has to buy their own soap, tooth paste and brushes, radios or small TV’s if allowed, writing paper, pens or pencils, stamps, envelops, shoes, etc., all at exorbitant prices, 2-3 times their normal costs outside of prison. It’s not communication costs, as they are charged many times the normal rate for phone calls to loved ones, if they’re allowed at all. The new scam is texting, charged as much as $0.10 per word, and many prisons and local jails have stopped in person visits from loved ones, and replaced it with video chats costing a great deal. Most, if not all of these charges are privatized, making companies very wealthy in the process. This doesn’t include the profits of their slave labor, paying the prisoners pennies on the dollar for their forced work. Besides the small amounts that go into their accounts from their labor, all of these costs are paid by families of the inmates.
It’s not the guards, as most are paid just above min. wage.
So where is all of that taxpayer money going?

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Here a breakdown of costs in Canada where the cost of a prisoner is about 117k a year.

~https://pbo-dpb.gc.ca/web/default/files/Documents/Reports/2018/Update%20Incarceration%20Costs/Update%20on%20Costs%20of%20Incarceration_EN.pdf

They give a detailed breakdown in the report.

The Conservatives used these costs to suggest privatizing prisons on the US Model when they were in power but that got no where. 70 percent of all costs are for Staff. Average pay is 31.25 per hour.

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Add to all that the situation we see where peaceful protesters are being attacked, kettled, marched on by aggressive police, tear gassed, shot with non lethal (losing eyes, etc.) bullets, beaten.
There have been no riots, just small fractions that always use the opportunity for mayhem, that protesters cannot be expected to control, where the irony is the police which is an top down controlled organization is NOT held accountable for their aggression.
It should not be a risk to well being, or even life to protest peacefully. Not in any FREE country.
Add to that too, a country with so many laws, that ought to be unconstitutional (such as seizure of property without due process, coercive plea bargaining which threatens innocent people that if they go to trial and lose, they will get the maximum punishment, or accept and “admit” to something they didn’t do) are such that a huge portion of the populace if any law enforcement decided to “get them” could find some inane law broken.

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Anyone can pay into these accounts. Sex traffickers are exploiting this to use our prison system as a convenient one-stop shopping market for roping in new workers.

Guardian documentary on the sex-trafficking cycle in American prisons:
~https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnGjQKdJrPU

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Wow, had not heard about this, thanks for the link. Another reason to end the current system.

More Funding, a lot more for public defenders!!

My husband is in prison. We were called “impoverished”- we had a public defender.
She was Competent. However no time to get to know the character of my spouse, no money for counter witnesses or experts to shoot holes in prosecutors’ charges., no time for preparing him to testify.
Months went by when he had no contact with his appointed lawyer,
and she was a replacement for his first one, who was promoted to another position.
I felt he was just a number being pushed through …
assembly line to prison.
He refused to take a plea as he was/is innocent. But his lawyer tried to push it on him
This is not justice.
In addition to systemic racism, it is hostility & indifference to the
poor of any color
that is also a problem in America.

public defenders cannot fight against the vast resources, including financial, that prosecutors have today.
This has to really be changed if America is to live up to
equality, and justice being blind. Right now it’s eyes are open and hands out to money.

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You are correct. The food in jails and prisons is substandard, and in a lot of cases, particularly in jails, rotting-unedible.
While my husband was held in pre-trial detention, as we could not afford bail,
he lost 50 pounds as he could not eat the food.
Inedible.
Yes, we pay for phone, paper, pens, toiletries,
televisions,
we do not pay for healthcare.
Why should we? after all,
There is no adequate healthcare in prisons or jails.

you do have medical staff: who ignore you,
or say straight out to “shut up” : mind you, this was a “doctor”-
while you are gagging/coughing/difficult to breathe in the waiting room, with 50 other inmates.
My husband, an inmate, witnessed this said to another inmate, and told me.
nice, isn’t it?
no, there is no sirloin steak.

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You and I know this to be true because we have family members in the system, the majority of the rest who don’t, will deny these facts, in part because we are all responsible as citizens for allowing the system to survive in it’s present form.
I wish you and your husband well.

the same to you…one day, hopefully, it will change

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Land of the Unfree, Home of the Cowards. That is truly what the U.S. is these days.