Matt Stoller has a new article on the evils of prison privatization, which I wholeheartedly agree with. An industry which considers a risk:
reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities
pretty clearly does not have the best interests of, well, anyone at heart. Stoller’s article makes many familiar (and correct!) anti-privatization points, and frames his piece in response to a WSJ article about modern day debtors’ prisons from March. According to that article, there have been more than 5,000 arrest warrants signed for failure to pay debts, from January 2010 to March 2011 and interviews with judges across the country have said that “the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.” With that a springboard, Stoller asks
What is behind the increased pressure to incarcerate people with debts? Is it a desire to force debt payment? Or is it part of a new structure where incarceration is becoming increasingly the default tool to address any and all social problems?
Wha? There’s no indication in the article that there has been increased rate of warrants issued for debtors, only that more threats of arrests have been made since the start of the financial crisis. When more people have gotten into trouble with debt. Also, the WSJ quotes the owner of the largest publicly traded debt-buying company as saying they are specifically not looking to incarcerate people for nonpayment of debt.
With so many good arguments to marshall against privatization, I don’t get why Stoller chose this dubious one, based on a months old article at that. Surely this new report from the Justice Policy Insitute, released just this week, would have been a better hook.
The WSJ piece may be a more surprising and high-profile springboard than a think tank report, but when you have to misconstrue it to make your point, you’ve taken a wrong turn.