Private Prisons and
Michael A. Hallett
Disregarding evidence that the levels of drug use were already in decline,
that drug use is not responsive to criminal penalties, that criminalization
brings its own pathologies (notably street violence and disrespect for au-
thorities), and that declaring a war against drugs is, in effect, to declare a
war against minorities, the U.S. government proceeded to declare such a
war and to persist in pursuing it, despite every indication of its failure. Why?
Because the groups most adversely affected lack political power and are
widely regarded as dangerous and undeserving; because the groups least
affected could be assured that something is being done and lawlessness is
not tolerated; and because few politicians are willing to oppose a policy
when there is so little political advantage to be gained by doing so.
(Garland, 2001a, p. 132)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, [A black male in the United States today has a greater than 1 in 4 chance of going to prison during his lifetime … and a white male has a 1 in 23 chance of serving time] (Bonczar & Beck, 1997, p.l). To emphasize this point in yet another way, the incarceration of young African American men in the United States [has escalated to heights experienced by no other group in history, even under the repressive authoritarian regimes and in Soviet-style societies] (Wacquant, 2001, p. 105). When certain segments of the population become the focus of such disproportionately high rates of imprisonment
Thanks to Marvin Free and Marilyn McShane for a helpful critique of an early draft of this