Now that some of the dust has settled regarding Arizona's harsh immigration law, in which police are directed to detain any person suspected of being in the country illegally and who cannot produce papers to prove otherwise, NPR has filed a report highlighting the disturbing influence that a for-profit prison company had in the creation of the bill.
From the report:
"NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry."
The story goes on to highlight how the bill's sponsor, Arizona Republican state Senator Russell Pearce, presented his ideas at a meeting of powerful corporate leaders in Washington, DC, including executives from the private Corrections Corporation of America, who claimed in a memo that, "they expect to bring in 'a significant portion of our revenues' from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants."
The consortium, American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, describes itself as a conservative public-private partnership, in which business leaders often write drafts of bills that legislatures eventually adopt and governors sign. NPR says that this is not illegal in itself, but reports that scores of cosponsors of the Arizona bill received campaign contributions from CCA and other private prison companies. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill, creating public uproar on both sides, and thus advancing the immigration debate just a bit further, and, seemingly, a bit to the right.
Even if nothing was done illegally in the creation of the Arizona bill, what does this process say to the nature of "democracy" in our state legislatures? Further, what about the "yuck" factor here? A private prison company, a concept that seems ripe for corruption and abuse in itself, sponsoring a bill to give them more "clients," in this case, creating systems and processes to deliver more "criminals." Something seems askew here. The power that corporations and big money hold in our political system is something deserving of scrutiny and attention, and in Arizona, families and individuals are being victimized, perhaps for something as outrageous as someone's bottom line.