The article names Fairbanks legislator Mike Kelly as being responsible for introducing new language into the House version of the FY2010 budget that opens the cell door to the likes of characters similar to Bill Weimar and Bill Allen, to rake in millions, while paying their workers minimum wage plus 15%.
Here's what Cockerham writes of the bill change:
Fairbanks Republican Rep. Mike Kelly took over the corrections budget in the state House this year and said that -- if he could -- he would slow the project down. But the bonds for construction have already been sold. That's left lawmakers with few options.
One is to privatize operations of the prison when it opens. So Kelly put language in the budget that passed the House on Friday asking the corrections department to investigate doing just that.
"The intent says, hey, take a look at what we might save in this (expensive) hill to climb and see if we have a private operator -- if that would make sense," Kelly said.
The privatization of the correctional stream around the United States, combined with the power of correctional officer interest groups in large states (like California, especially) combine to help make the United States the country with the highest raw number of convicts and ex-cons, and also the country with the highest per capita prison population in the world.
Weimar, Allen and others involved in reaping maximum profit off of petty crime isn't a new story in Alaska. And Alaska doesn't hold a candle to this recent scam in Pennsylvania:
At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke. Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.
She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by. “I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”
The answers became a bit clearer on Thursday as the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.
While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.
“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.
I worked in public safety and community (that is, privatized) corrections in Alaska for almost 13 years. I didn't witness anything as awful as this Pennsylvania story, but the privatization of many functions in Alaska's correctional stream have resulted in abuses. Not only that, Alaska politicians of both parties who support privatization of correctional programs usually receive a huge surge in political contributions from people connected with the industry.