Wed, 18 February 2009
"The crimes of the two judges are informed by the logic of a political culture born in institutional theft, murder and kidnapping for profit."
The case of the two Pennsylvania judges who conspired to funnel juveniles into for-profit detention centers in return for kickbacks, is an example of whole flocks of American chickens coming home to roost. The Pennsylvania abomination's roots are as ancient as the bounties placed on Native American scalps and on the living bodies of persons who might, or might not have been, escaped slaves. The crimes of the two judges are informed by the logic of a political culture born in institutional theft, murder and kidnapping for profit. It is a political culture whose essential moral depravity survives - and thrives - in an ever-expanding, nationwide system of privatized prisons whose very existence is an indictment of American society.
At its core, a criminal justice system that provides financial incentives to capture, incarcerate, humiliate and stigmatize other human beings, is an incubator of the most evil potentialities of the species. Bounty-hunting and for-profit prisons share the same underlying morality as cannibalism. No one should be surprised when such a state-sanctioned perversion of morality results in the system devouring its young, as occurred in Pennsylvania.
The two judges are alleged to have taken $2.6 million in kickbacks for maintaining a steady flow of juvenile prisoners to fatten the coffers of two private youth detention centers. One judge used his influence to secure contracts for the private jailers; the other kept the bodies coming, sentencing five thousand young people during the five-year course of the conspiracy. For this crime of mass kidnapping of children, the judges have been allowed to plead guilty to the relatively minor charges of wire fraud and income tax fraud, for which they will serve a little over seven years in federal prison. And there are no plans to prosecute executives of the two private youth detention centers that reaped tens of millions of dollars from the crimes of the two judges.
"The overlapping crimes against potentially thousands of young victims, creates a huge mosaic of pain stretching into the far distances of the century."
Federal prosecutors defend their leniency with the judges, claiming the case is so "complex" it would take years to litigate. Well, of course it is complex. The overlapping crimes against potentially thousands of young victims, the consequences of which will touch additional tens of thousands over the course of lifetimes, creates a huge mosaic of pain stretching into the far distances of the century. The "complexity" that prosecutors worry about involves the precedent that would be set if the judges and the private prison owners they worked for were charged with offenses suited to their real crimes: kidnapping and human trafficking for profit. Kidnapping is a federal offense punishable by life behind bars. Human trafficking can get you 30 years in a federal prison.
With the expansion of private prisons all across the country, the "incentive" to harvest a bounty of captured human beings is as powerful today as it was when the Fugitive Slave Act was the law of the land. When the profit motive infests the criminal justice system, justice doesn't stand a chance.