Private prisons racket a sin

Privatization of prisons is what happens when right-wing politicians collude with corporations to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,” to borrow Grover Norquist’s vivid phrase. A major church has belatedly taken a stand against such ventures:

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, “after six months of study, discussion and prayerful consideration,” announced on January 3 that it had withdrawn nearly $1 million in stocks from two private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

A spokesperson for the board said the decision was not based on finance, but morality. “Our board simply felt that it did not want to profit from the business of incarcerating others,” Colette Nies, managing director of communications for the board, told The Crime Report.

She added: “We believe that profiting from incarceration is contrary to Church values.”

The decision comes after a year of lobbying by the National Prison Divestment Campaign, a coalition of immigrant rights, criminal justice and other organizations targeting CCA and GEO. The effort seeks to convince private and public institutions that for-profit prisons are a bad idea.

One of the major objections to private prisons is that, unlike normal prisons, they have no incentive to rehabilitate prisoners because private prisons profit from keeping people incarcerated. Last week CCA was the subject of controversy when it was revealed that it was offering to buy state-owned prisons and operate them for 20 years on the condition that the states keep the prisons at least 90% full.

It’s a pleasure, and a bit of a surprise, to learn that some Christian groups ultimately can’t stomach investing in businesses that are clearly un-Christian.

5 thoughts on “Private prisons racket a sin

  1. The wall between church and state is being ground down, decision by decision, law by law, and by politicians thinking they must be holier than the wackiest of rightwingers.

    In Washington state, a judge ruled that a pharmacy does not have to carry Plan B pills (the combination of pills which may prevent pregnancy by making the uterine wall unable to hold the fertilized egg — same principle as contraceptive pills, of course. So here we go down the slippery slope).

    From USA Today’s report on the decision:

    TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state cannot force pharmacies to sell Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying the state’s true goal was to suppress religious objections by druggists — not to promote timely access to the medicines for people who need them. (My emphasis)

    The pharmacists bringing suit said it was against their religious principles to do anything which might prevent a potential life, or at least the implanting of a fertilized egg. I expect this pharmacy now to stop stocking contraception pills and refuse to fill such prescriptions. Then they will refuse to stock condoms or contraceptive jellies. Oh…maybe they already do this?

    But, somehow, I don’t think this same judge will honor religious principles which see war as a means of murdering already born and living life…. In the February hearing, the judge said “the contraceptive issue is more important than many other freedom-of-religion cases, such as those concerning religious dress or other ceremonial matters.”

    U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton heard closing arguments earlier this month in a lawsuit that claimed state rules violate the constitutional rights of pharmacists by requiring them to dispense such medicine. The state requires pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community need and to stock a representative assortment of drugs needed by their patients.

    Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia, Wash., and two licensed Washington pharmacists sued in 2007, saying that dispensing Plan B would infringe on their religious beliefs because it can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, an act they equate with taking human life.

    The state argued that the requirements are legal because they apply neutrally to all medicines and pharmacies, and that they promote a government interest — the timely delivery of medicine, including Plan B, which becomes less effective as time passes.

    But Leighton ruled that the state allows all sorts of business exemptions to that rule. Pharmacies can decline to stock a drug, such as certain painkillers, if it’s likely to increase the risk of theft, or if it requires an inordinate amount of paperwork, or if the drug is temporarily unavailable from suppliers, among other reasons. (My emphasis)

    Will this get to the Supreme Court? The appellate decision should be interesting….

    This judge ruled in 2007 that the state’s dispensing law was unconstitutional, but he was overruled by the Ninth Circuit and the case was returned to him. So, his new reasoning will certainly be appealed.

  2. Weird — my blockquote tags didn’t take here, but they did when I previewed at a site allowing preview….

  3. Six months of Bible study to get to a don’t invest in prisons decision? I’ll bet half their board is driving around with “What would Jesus do?” bumper stickers.

  4. Hey, that’s my Methodists now. Anyone remember when Methodist ministers came out clearly against the war in Iraq? Probably not for all the good it did, but they did speak out. For their trouble, the denomination was assaulted by corporate funded conservatives attempting to strong arm the church’s ruling bodies. Hence the debacle of SMU hosting the Texas Dipshit’s pretzeldential liebary. I’m glad to see at least one christian denomination remember why they’re called christian.

  5. “Belatedly”…. Ya, it makes me so angry when an organization does their due-dilligance, then tries to reform via stockholder resolutions, and then FINALLY decides to divest, when a knee-jerk reaction would so obviously have been a better course of action.

    How about investigating the history and then giving credit where credit is due?

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