Bob Donley reports that Senator Bernie Sanders, who is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, has called for the end of private prisons in the federal correctional system. Sanders, who has trailed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race, has joined with African-American congressman Keith Ellison in sponsoring legislation that would ban private prisons, reinstate the federal parole system and eliminate quotas for the number of immigrants held in detention. The legislation is seen as part of an effort by Sanders to attract black voters and a response to criticism from the Black Lives Matter group.
[Note: LBN has reported extensively on private prisons, most recently on September 16, 2015.]
The proposed legislation, should it pass both houses of Congress, would take effect two years after being signed into law. Sanders said that “Keeping human beings in jail for long periods of time must no longer be an acceptable business model.” Sanders was referring to America’s prison population of 2 million people, the largest prison population in the world. Donley says that the percentage of minorities in the prison population is considerably higher than the percentage of minorities in the U.S. population. Privately operated prisons currently house about 10% of those inmates. Private prisons are a multi-billion dollar industry.
The legislation Sanders is backing would also change the quotas for the number of illegal immigrants. Donley reports that private prisons currently have 34,000 beds for those immigrants. The legislation Sanders is sponsoring would have no effect on contracts by states with private prison companies.
Despite Sanders’s sponsorship of the prison legislation, he is seriously trailing Hillary Clinton in polls of black voters, where she has support of about 66% compared to Sanders’s 14%. Donley points out that political analysts have said that a Democrat cannot win the presidential election without getting a majority of the votes from African-Americans.
Donley says that, whether or not the legislation ever passes, the fact that it has been introduced is an indication that change may be coming.
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