Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cross Border Lobbying and the Reality Behind Conservative Enthusiasm for Bill C10

Prison Expansion: Canada
There is plenty to know about prison expansion in general and specifically about what is taking place in Canada as we speak.  Below I've included a link to "End the Prison Industrial Complex's" information regarding the companies which are profiting from prison expansion in Canada.

I've also included a link to a short piece by Rittenhouse on the same issue which relates to the complexities around prison building, human suffering, and the need for fair income opportunites.

Then you will find a link by the California Prison Moratorium project to a handbook entitled, "How to Stop a Prison in Your Town".  A timely resource for everyone living with a future prison overshadowing your town and potentially your own freedomWhether contractors have broken ground in your community yet or not this booklet provides some real insight into all of the many impacts which prisons are apt to bring with them and provides strategy ideas, as well as responses to some of the most widely used misinformation intended to soften opposition to prison building.

And finally you can read a copy of an article I've written on prison expansion and prison profiteer lobbying for the same on both sides of the Canada/US border, chock full of information on expansion plans across Canada and resources where you can learn more. 

Cross Border Lobbying and the Reality Behind Conservative Enthusiasm for Bill C10
by sheryl jarvis, July, 2012

Is Bill C10 really about "Safe Streets and Communities" as its name implies or are there ulterior motives.  Many suspect Bill C10 really lays the groundwork for generating new sources of revenue, a warped vision of economic repair, by opening our prisons to private markets.  This allows corporations here in Canada to rake in the big bucks which capitalists to the south have been enjoying for years.  Rapacious capitalists have finally found a way to transform those they consider burdens to the state, into profit for the rich.  The bodies of the poor, those who use drugs, and the mentally ill are sourced out to third parties for profit through privatized prisons.   

  Christian Parenti, author of Lockdown America describes how imprisonment is a windfall to capitalists; three ways in which incarceration bolsters capitalism: government economic stimulus for stagnant communities the privatization of prisons and prison-related services, and the exploitation of prison labor by private firms.”  

The mainstream media has only recently begun discussing the profit motive (i.e.: privatization) behind conservative support of Bill C10.  When plans to privatize imprisonment (a function of class war)  have been in the works for years, and visibly on the books since at least November of last year. 
Critics opposing the Bill have focused on the direct impacts that C10 sanctions will likely have on those to be targeted by the Bill, such as longer prison terms and criminal records.  While these issues are important, critical even, they only scratch the service and fail to look at the ideology beneath increased calls for the use of criminalising tactics.  Ideology which includes the isolating effects of blaming only the individual and failing to look at lawbreaking within the larger context of the surrounding social structures.  Structures such as poverty, inequality, violence against women, colonization, and ableism (think neo-liberal push for lower wages, fewer worker protections, drug war, and the defunding of womens orgs.....and for that matter, everyone else who speaks out), much of which has long been institutionalized through policy, practice, and belief. 

Day of action to support workers on strike at Electro-Motive facility in London, On.  Employers threatened to pull the plant out of Canada if workers did not accept a 50% wage cut.  Workers refused, Electro left, and the neo-liberal Canadian government which had gifted the company millions of dollars in tax deductions and other forms of corporate welfare did nothing.
If public safety and accountability of individuals were the true motive in these massive policy changes, the conservatives would be going at this from a completely different direction.  After all expert after expert have pointed to provisions of safe, affordable housing, and childcare, access to opportunity, jobs, education, and substance use treatment as being far more likely to increase public safety than the biased and exclusionary practice of criminalisation has ever been or will ever be.
Profit and not public safety is more likely the true conservative motivation behind the crime agenda. 
Exploitation of our most vulnerable people by turning individual bodies into sources of revenue - profit for private hands, through imprisonment and forced prisoner labour is the most egregious form of bullying practices, and a terrifying stance for any nation leader to be implementing.  The belief systems driving these forms of classist, and racist policy change are so socially entrenched,  that the effects are invisible to all but the vulnerable people targeted.  People begin to believe that retribution, hate, and exclusion are not only warranted and deserved, but a natural consequence to lawbreaking or for that matter, any breach of the current "moral" order.  Only through decades of struggle has the face of such deep seated intolerance ever been up rooted, and shown for what it really is – hatred, fear, and ignorance.  Think of the centuries long struggles of aboriginal, African, and female bodied peoples.  The fact is, that we are nowhere near close to exposing the truth behind the true causes of community harm – that which we refer to as crime.  We are simply not ready to talk about it in a wide spread and critical way.  Because of this, prisons are likely to be a part of the social landscape for a very long time to come.
Private Prison Profiteers in the USA

Private interest groups have 3 means for influencing and convincing government to support their efforts.  Lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking.  Networking includes revolving door techniques such as moving private prison owners between prison ownership and government jobs in corrections.
One journalist had this to report on the lobbying efforts of private prison profiteers in the US, “For one thing, they’ve forked over a fair share on lobbying Congress. While netting $133 million in income between 2006 and 2008, the CCA spent nearly $3 million lobbying; during that decade, the number of dollars spent in Washington amounted to around $17.6 million.  Corrections Corporation of America officers have been linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has in turn lobbied for increased sentencing for inmates convicted of non-violent crimes across the country and helped pass the controversial immigration law in Arizona. Corrections Corp. themselves have lobbied for Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, and the reasoning is simple: an more stringent immigrant laws means more arrests and, thus, more jam-packed for-profit prisons.”  (
 Journalists at the online “404 System Error”, a relatively new and completely cool independent news source, report a system which encourages the increase of prison populations through a per head funding system which benefits players all down the criminal legal system line.  “In 2009 reports obtained by National Public Radio found that the Corrections Corporation of America conceded in a report that they expected  “a significant portion of our revenues” to come  from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays around $90 every day for each detainee that their work helps land behind bars.”
So not only do those working in the criminal legal field benefit financially through the work they do – criminalising mostly working class people, but they have designed the system in such a way that it pays out “bonus’” per arrestee.  
US Prison Profiteers Seek Capitalist Expansion in Canada
2 of the largest privatized prison profiteers in the US, Geo Group Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) have been busy lobbying our Canadian government around Bill C10, firearms, and other criminal law issues.  And more recently US based Management and Training Corp has joined the tough on crime fray, looking to Canada to replace the bucks they are currently losing in the states where they have virtually been pushed including Mississippi, due to multiple court actions suing MTC for sexual misconduct, failing to maintain safety for prisoners, assault, and even wrongful death.  In fact this track record is hardly individual to MTC, all of the private prison profiteers mentioned here have similar histories.  These are the players currently laying the ground work for expansion of this dirtiest form of capitalist profit onto Canadian soil.
CCA's record of hiring untrained guards who brutalize prisoners is notorious.   In fact these histories are rampant throughout the prison system period.  However the conditions (poor salaries and training for staff which lead to constant staffing shortages, which in turn ensures a near constant state of lockdown. Compounding these issues are the limited access to healthcare, insufficient food, tampons, and other toiletries for prisoners) at private institutions are conducive to higher tension and stress levels for both prisoners and guards, ensuring the number of violent incidents within privately owned/managed facilities are through the roof, over and above any numbers at publically run facilities.
 Geo reported income of 61 million in 2008, increasing to over 98 million in 2011.  They imprisoned 80,000 people in state, federal, and international prisons, immigration holds, and mental health facilities in the US, the UK, Australia, and South Africa last year.  And have several expansion projects in the works this year.  If those impressive records didn’t stir you maybe their human rights record will.  Geo has managed to rack up substantial numbers here too. Charges of negligence, civil rights violations, abuse, and even death. 
Civil Rights lawyer, Scott Medlock had this to say, “GEO cuts corners by hiring poorly trained guards, providing inmates with cut rate medical care, and running their facility in a grossly unprofessional manner.”  (Rosa, E., 2009) This is perhaps the number one criticism in regards to for profit prison profiteers generally.  Cutting corners, and risking prisoner health all in the name of the bottom line.  
Canada – US Lobbying
This idea of cross border lobbying is actually far more common than many of us might be aware.  Canadian markets lobby the US congress and US markets lobby the Canadian parliament, often pushing for changes to policy, and law, with profit being a top motive.  According to The Centre for Responsive Politics (2012), Canadian corporations have contributed about 2.5 million to candidates in the congressional elections so far this year.  “Big hitters” are Microsoft and the Royal Bank of Canada.
US to Canada Lobbying – Prison Privatization
Conversely, when American capitalists detect the possibility of profit this side of the border, they lobby our government intensely with the hopes of influencing policy decisions.  A contradiction of capitalism is its need to seek out and expand into new markets, to find ever new profits outside of itself.  One method for achieving ever greater market shares is to look to new lands, to convince new people (governments, corporations, the public, the media) that we need a particular product or service that we don’t yet have – private, for profit prisons are what’s missing from the Canadian landscape.  Thus an opportunity for American bread capitalism and corporatists to expand outside of their own borders, into Canada and elsewhere.                                  

The GEO Group for instance is a registered lobbyist with active dealings among the following branches of the Canadian Federal Government:
  • Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)
  • Public Safety Canada (PS)
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)
  • Public-Private Partnerships Canada, Solicitor General Canada (SGC)
The news of USA based prison profiteers lobbying here in Canada has remained pretty hushed within the mainstream media and most reporting has been through online independents.
So what did consultants employed by Geo have to talk about with the Canadian government?  In fact there were 2 separate consultants, Ronald Bilodeau and Patrick Gagnon hired by Ronald Champion, Vice President of Geo, from March 2011 – Currently for similar purposes Notes made by Ronald and Patrick on the Government of Canada web page state the following, Assist the client about the possibilities of public markets for the operation of institutions of correctional services, Discuss the possibility to establish a public-private partnership for the operating of correctional institutions in Canada, contracts to modernize correctional facilities in Canada.”  “We are assisting the client regarding procurement opportunities pertaining to the operation of correctional services institutions”

Prison Privatization in Canada

 MTC, sent packing with Mike Harris
Canada has attempted prison privatization twice.  Currently with a youth facility in New Brunswick, privately managed by U.S. prison firm, Management and Training Corp (MTC), and once previously in Ontario under the conservative Harris regime of the time.  Management and security was provided by MTC for that facility as well.  The Ontario facility was a horror to those imprisoned there, to their families, and it was a dismal failure for the tax payer who footed the bill for inferior management outcomes, and human rights abuses.
Law firm, Fasken Marineau, provided services to the then provincial Ministry of Correctional Services on Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) in 1998. They are “experts” in Public/Private or P3 advising.  They were also responsible for advising and structuring the 407 highway privatization agreement a decade ago and which is set to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions more than it need have.  

Fasken Marineau posted this comment on their webpage in regards to expectations of the private CNCC facility at the time, “This public-private partnership is part of the Government's commitment to transform the Province's correctional system to one that is more safe, secure, effective, efficient and accountable.”  
Unfortunately the CNCC under Utah based Management & Training Corp. was less safe for prisoners and staff alike with chronic staff shortages,  contributing to an increase in violence,  a decrease in security both cause and effect of increased violence, prisoner healthcare services were decimated, and recidivism increased.  
One of the claims around privatisation of public services is that private entities will be more accountable.  My understanding is that when the money is coming out of their own pockets, one is likely to be more responsible with it.  But the truth is that the upfront operating costs are paid for by the tax payer via the government.  The question for the prison operator then, is, how much money can I rake back for my own pockets, not how much must I pay out from my own pockets. 
According to a John Howard Society staffer, “Any decision to continue or even expand privatization initiatives would be based on the results of the comparison of CNCC, the privately-operated facility and CECC which would continue to be publicly-operated.”

On Sept. 19, 2002 corrections guards at CNCC voted to unionize in response to terrible working conditions.  Staff number was 350 and they were to receive the same training as those in the publicly-operated facilities.  After unionization (represented by OPSEU), their salaries and benefits were similar to public employees.  Most staff were new to corrections, having just been hired by MTC since its opening. (John Howard, 2006)

Specific Incidents at CNCC:
·        In September 2002, a riot occurred Around 100 prisoners using a battering ram were prevented from escaping and a cordon of armed Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) including the tactical rescue and canine units had to be stationed around the perimeter.
·        The death in August 2003 of former CNCC prisoner Jeffrey Elliot.  Mr. Elliot died of blood poisoning after being forced to wait three weeks to be transferred from the prison to hospital after being wounded. An incident at CNCC on 4 September left two prisoners with stab wounds.
·        Dr Martin McNamara of Midland says a patient was in agony for three weeks, waiting for medical attention for his broken jaw.

After having to fight for her son Ryan’s well-being during his eight month incarceration at CNCC, Sharon Storring-Skillen formed Families Against Private Prison Abuse, (FAPPA).
Ontario and indeed Canada have never again pursued the idea of privatization.  Until now that is.  The current federal conservative government are determined to steer Canadians back down the dark road to prisons for profit.
Conservative Bill C10 Laying the groundwork for Prison Expansion and privatization
John W. Whitehead, author of Jailing Americans for Profit: The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex, and published by the Huffington Post, April10, 2012 had this to say; “Among the laws aimed at increasing the prison population and growing the profit margins of special interest corporations like CCA are three-strike laws (mandating sentences of 25 years to life for multiple felony convictions) and "truth-in-sentencing" legislation (mandating that those sentenced to prison serve most or all of their time).” th of these – mandatory minimums and so called truth in sentencing provisions have been enacted in Canada under the conservatives despite conservative warnings from the US not to take the failed road that they have.

Prison related P3’s US
Giant Wall St. firms such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch write between two and three billion dollars in prison construction bonds every year. Swimming along- side the big fish of incarceration are schools of for-profit caterers, prison HMOs, private transport companies, architecture firms and other subcontractors that feed at the margins of the prison industrial complex.

Prison Related P3’s Canada

As of April 1, Brookfield LePage Johnson Controls will take over property management services from the B.C. Building Corp., the real-estate wing of the provincial government. The contract, awarded last December, covers almost half of the B.C. government's real estate arm and includes 10 correctional facilities.  Brookfield LePage Johnson Controls, values the deal at $90 million annually.  The Crown corporation expects to realize savings of up to $40 million per year.  The new re-build of the Surrey Detention Centre is expected to be one of the facilities under private building management.

The Toronto South Detention Centre, to replace the Don Jail, carries a price tag of over $1 billion and is being built as a “Public-Private-Partnership” (P3) with a private company to build, design and operate the 1650 bed facility for 30 years.  Retrieved from:

Prison Labour US

Microsoft, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret and TWA, Unicor, Dell are all known to use or have used prisoner labour in the past for penny’s a day and sometimes prisoners are not paid anything at all.  Most of these are strictly private profiteers, save Unicor which is a government corporation which profits from prisoner labour.  One particularly disgusting example of the US government using forced prisoner labour was the cleanup of the BP oil spill in Louisianna.  BP was provided tax exemptions for charitably providing work experience to these untrained prisoners to clean up a dangerous, toxic, waste dump for pennies a day. Meanwhile, practically the entire fishing economy in the area was put out of work thanks to the oil contaminated ocean.

Prison Labour Canada

To my knowledge there is no central database keeping track of the multiple human misery profiteers in Canada.  I know of two explicit prison labour contractors.  One, Corcan is operated by the federal government with a mandate to provide prisoners with paid work experience while on day passes and parole.  I have no idea how much prisoners are paid in that programme.  Though prisoners working on correctional grounds within the few industries located inside are typically paid a few dollars a day.  The federal government has recently cancelled a special incentive programme intended to provide bonuses to some workers. 

Located on Ontario government property, adjacent to the Maplehurst prison in Milton, ON is the Cook-Chill Food Preparation Centre.  It’s operated as a P3 using prisoner labour, and run by private contractor, Eurest Dining Services which is owned by Compass Group Canada Ltd.  Cook-Chill has the contract to provide 3 meals a day for prisoners at all 3 super jails in Ontario.

Fasken Martineau posted the following information about this P3 contract on their web page:
“The agreement also requires the contractor to provide skills training opportunities for inmates as part of an industrial work program during times when meals are prepared for Ontario's correctional system. Qualified inmates involved in a temporary absence program will also be able to work at the CCFPC as part of an employment initiative. All inmates involved with the CCFPC will be low risk and carefully screened. The Ministry expects that its demands will not fully use the CCFPC's production capacity. Subject to meeting the Ministry's requirements as its first priority, the contractor will be permitted to use the CCFPC's excess capacity for the production of third party sales and the province will receive a share of the revenues.”  Retrieved from
Profiting From Our Misery

In considering the ideology which allows public responsibilities such as the operation of prisons to be privatized for profit we must also consider the larger capitalist system which gave birth to it.  Consider the many ways in which poverty is criminalised for instance.  Anti panhandling laws, welfare fraud, and anti-sex work law.  All of these can be considered survival income – or survival “crime”.  And perhaps none of them would be necessary if the capitalist system wasn’t set up to intentionally maintain some substantial rate of unemployment, thus keeping some people in a constant state of desperation and in survival mode, keeping others afraid to ask for more money at work, or better benefits, lest they be forced into the criminalised workforce too.  Of course these factors keep wages low, at poverty levels, allowing more people fewer choices, leading to wide spread desperation, depression, and trauma which in turn leads people to seek out means for coping, which in turn can lead to substance use issues, and to a greater use of criminalised survival strategies, which of course leads to criminalization and imprisonment. And there we have it class war, providing profits for the owning class at our expense. 
How do they get away with it?  And why do we let them?  I believe that intelligent propaganda through corporate media is key.  There are many means and methods within the misinformation campaign strategy.  The most successful tactics are perhaps those which seek to turn people from the same classes against each other by playing on fear and hate.  Turn friend against friend and neighbour against neighbour.  Lies which set the working poor against those on welfare, judgment against those who engage in survival crime by those who do not and blaming those who use drugs for all that is wrong in the lives of those who don’t.  This is a huge part of how they get away with it.  How we let them has much to do with limited access by the poor, to progressive ideas and challenges of conservative myths and ideology.  Limitations in both time and money keep many people from ever attaining access to the ideas which would set us free.


Canada to us lobbying

Us to Canada lobbying

Petition sponsored by 404systemerror 

Rosa, E., (2009). Retrieved April 8, 2012 from:
Parenti, Christian, (1999).  Retrieved April 12, 2012 from:

Prison Privatization Report International (PPRI)
Report #64 detailed concerns about CNCC  (John Howard, 2006 appendex)


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