Ted Lieu: The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable

One of the key right-wing priorities is to outsource government functions and privatize whatever they can. We’ve seen the trend from the early ’80’s with allowing the healtcare industry to become a for-profit based industry (and how they have profited!), to deregulation of the airlines, charter schools, water systems, war (hence the title Blackwater for the infamous private army that has wreacked havoc on the people of Iraq and elsewhere) to establishment of private prisons to house our criminal population.
There are reasons that we have government-run services and programs. Those reasons have been glossed-over or forgotten, but shouldn’t be. First, the government, unlike the private sector, is answerable and responsible to the people. Second, there is accountability and “sunshine” or transparency with how these government run entities operate.
With none of the above, and with private profit the singular purpose, we lose our ability to control how these programs are run and the impact they have on us as a society. Plain and simple, this is bad for democracy and bad for our communities.
Regardless of how it’s couched, privatizing our prisons as an excuse to improve our public universities is dishonest at best, and destructive to the fabric of our nation at worst. Assemblyman Ted Lieu provides a look at this as our guest blogger of the day. — HBJ

The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable
By Ted Lieu


I agree
with the Governor that we need to increase higher education spending so that California
spends more on higher education than prisons. However, there are smart ways to
reform our prison system, shortsighted ways, and
outright dangerous reforms. The Governor’s proposal to hand over our
corrections system to for-profit corporations is dangerous. We should reform
our prison system by better rehabilitating prisoners and reducing California‘s sky-high recidivism rate. Contracting out government’s core
responsibility of public safety will not reform our prisons; instead we will
endanger the public and cause inhumane consequences.

institutions across the board condemn private prisons
as both inhumane and ineffective. The Presbyterian
Church USA
stated, “Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is
earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental
conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison
system…for-profit private prisons should be abolished.” The Catholic Bishops in a resolution stated, “We bishops
question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The
profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behavior, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for
reintegration into the community.”

prisons are also dangerous, both to prisoners and to the public. In 2003 a
report by Grassroots Leadership detailed a range of failures by CCA, a
for-profit private prison company, including: failure
to provide adequate medical care to prisoners; failure to control violence in
its prisons; and escapes.

I voted
no last year on the corrections budget bill because it was cutting
rehabilitation programs and parole supervision, both of which will result in
increased recidivism. The Governor’s current proposal is even worse. Abandoning
government’s core responsibility of public safety by contracting out
and injecting a profit motive will result in disastrous consequences. Our
nation has already been burned by our experience with Blackwater. California cannot afford
to have its own Blackwater problem.

Assemblymember Ted W. Lieu, candidate for Attorney General, represents the 53rd Assembly District, which stretches from Venice and parts of Los Angeles to Torrance and Lomita along the coast. He was elected in September 2005, re-elected in November 2006, and re-elected again in November 2008.

Assemblymember Lieu has led the fight in California against Wall Street’s excesses and fought to reform the subprime mortgage system and reduce home foreclosures. As an activist legislator, he has taken on special interests and successfully authored laws in the areas of public safety, child sex offenders, domestic violence, the environment, education, health care, veterans issues, and transportation. Numerous law enforcement, civic, and community groups have recognized Ted for his accomplishments.