- Date published:
10:25 am, March 10th, 2009 - 29 comments
Categories: act, corruption, national, prisons, privatisation - Tags: garth mcvicar, geo group, private prisons, sensible sentencing trust
One of the features of a privatised prison system is the potential for corruption of the political process by the commercial interests of private prison operators.
Thanks to Tom in the comments it’s come to light that GEO Group, the company formerly known as Wackenhut and main contendor for National’s privatised prisons, has funded ‘tough on crime’ lobby groups in the US to help fill their private prisons and improve their profit margins.
CCA and The GEO Group are major contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C. based public policy organization that develops model legislation that advances tough-on-crime legislation and free-market principles such as privatization.
Under their Criminal Justice Task Force, ALEC has developed and helped to successfully implement in many states ‘tough on crime’ initiatives including ‘Truth in Sentencing’ and ‘Three Strikes’ laws. Corporations provide most of the funding for ALEC’s operating budget and influence its political agenda through participation in policy task forces. ALEC’s corporate funders include CCA and The GEO Group. In 1999, CCA made the President’s List for contributions to ALEC’s States and National Policy Summit; Wackenhut also sponsored the conference. Past cochairs of the Criminal Justice Task Force have included Brad Wiggins, then Director of Business Development at CCA and now a Senior Director of Site Acquisition, and John Rees, a former CCA vice president.
By funding and participating in ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Forces, critics argue, private prison companies directly influence legislation for tougher, longer sentences.
Could the same thing be happening here? The extremely well funded and media savvy Sensible Sentencing Trust has come to dominate our public discussion on law and order in recent years but they’ve steadfastly refused to reveal where their funding is coming from. Their policy platform of “truth in sentencing” and “three strikes” matches ALEC’s right down to the rhetoric.
As we’ve pointed out in the past, the SST has gone to such lengths to hide their funding that they’ve publicly refused to comply with the Electoral Finance Act and have even declined to register under the Charities Act despite the tax benefits, because doing so would force some transparency over who’s paying the bills.
In the interests of democracy, now would be the time to start putting some hard questions to Garth McVicar about whether his organisation has received any funding or help from GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America or any other private prison company or interest group. And while we’re at it, it might just pay to ask ACT and National too.