Partial Transcript: Episode 71 (Private Prisons)

Andrew: So we’re talking about private prisons?

Virginia: I have some general comments on the subject.

Andrew: Maybe we should define it so that people who aren’t in the know will be able to follow our podcast.  Almost everyone knows what a prison is.  If you’re convicted of a crime, you go to prison.  You’re locked away with other people who have also committed crimes.  Traditionally those places are government-run.  As a cost-cutting measure, a lot of states have contracted with an outside company to hold prisoners.  On the face of it, it sounds like a decent idea.

Nick: As long as it’s cheaper than it would be for the government to do it.

Andrew: And as long as there are standards maintained regarding treatment.  You only want to mistreat them in the sense that they don’t have the freedom to leave.

Virginia: This topic came up because Leland sent out an email about the marijuana legalization opposition.  Basically, private prisons are against legalizing pot because it would cut down on their number of inmates.  They’re hiring lobbyists.

Leland: This was particularly related to Eric Holder’s push to do away with mandatory minimum sentences.  I feel like it’s kind of a circular situation.  The industrialization of our prison complex has been accelerated by the drug war.  And that sort of perpetuates that cycle.

Nick: Because they can’t get a job once they’re in prison.

Leland: An example that’s not drug-related.  My wife has an uncle who was convicted of burglary a few years ago.  He couldn’t rent an apartment because of his background.  That wasn’t even for a job.  It was just a place to live.  It was a nonviolent crime, but he did steal.

Andrew: Any kind of crime where there is a victim, there is a level of violence there.

Nick: It’s a physical feeling.

Virginia: What did you read, Nick?

Nick: I read this Atlantic article from 1998.  It’s a 10-page article about how the whole mandatory sentencing in drug crimes led to overpopulation in prisons.  It goes into private prisons as well.  It’s interesting because you break it down to: Why did we start over-incarcerating drug crimes?  It was a political ploy.  It started in New York.  They thought that people who dealt drugs should end up in prison for life so that no one would do it.

Andrew: It’s deplorable to me that victimless crimes are capable of being prosecuted.

Leland: It’s like locking away someone for life for trying to commit suicide.

Virginia: I was thinking the exact same thing, except that you can be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.  However, that’s not for punishment but rather to help you come to terms with whatever it is that you’re facing.

Andrew: Imagine if wearing a certain color was bad.

Nick: You mean like wearing gang colors in a certain area?

Andrew: Yeah.  Stupid stuff like this shouldn’t be enforced at the point of a gun.

Virginia: What is the anarcho-capitalist version of a prison?

Andrew: The idea is to make things right.  If someone steals $100 from you, they have to pay it back plus a penalty.  At the end, everything is square.

Leland: Rather than instantly incarcerating them.

Virginia: What happens if they murder a loved one?

Andrew: You’d still have courts and stuff.

Nick: The problem is that you’d have to put a value on that person.

Andrew: Well, the death penalty would still exist.  You may be able to prove that the person is a threat to society a whole.  There are scenarios in which the death penalty exists.

Nick: That was a thing that I noticed.  A lot of people agree with violent criminals going to jail.  It’s the drug crimes where no one else is involved that people don’t know about.

Leland: Living in a capitalist economy, anytime that you allow someone to make a profit, there is a natural drive from the market to make as much money as possible.

Andrew: The problem is: We’re giving them a basic monopoly on these services.  In an anarcho-capitalist society, I don’t care how many years they spend in jail.  I just want my things back.

Virginia: What do you do in other cases like rape and assault?

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