Tag Archives: US Justice Department

Feds nix private prisons … good!


I have long disliked the idea of privatizing the prison system.

Whether it’s state prisons or throughout the federal system, the notion of turning the incarceration of convicted criminals over to for-profit business simply strikes me as wrong.

The U.S. Justice Department has decided to end its relationship with private prison companies … to which I offer a hearty cheer.


“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates wrote.

I am not going to challenge any of that here.

I simply want to say — as I’ve noted before over many years in journalism — that my opposition to private prisons rests mainly as a matter of principle.

We ask our police departments to protect us from criminals; we pay officers’ salaries with our tax money. We ask the state and county district attorneys to prosecute suspects; we pay them for that, too. We then demand justice in our courts; and we pay judges’ salaries as well.

Then, when criminal defendants are convicted, we are able to farm out their incarceration to private businesses? The way I see it — and I’m open to discussion on this — the state has an obligation to finish the job that public entities began back when the suspect is arrested and charged with committing a crime.

That job ought to include keeping these individuals locked up. It also ought to include full public scrutiny of the job they are doing — on our behalf.

Texas hands over a fair amount of its incarceration responsibilities to private firms. I don’t expect the state to follow the feds’ lead in getting rid of private prisons.

However, I always can hope.

Tsarnaev likely to go down

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now a convicted murderer.

A Boston jury convicted him of all counts of first-degree murder in the April 15, 2013 bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The U.S. Justice Department will seek the death penalty once the sentencing phase of the trial begins next week.

Based on what I understand occurred in the courtroom during the trial, the young killer is likely to be put down.

He didn’t show remorse. He didn’t exhibit any emotion. He didn’t even flinch, blink or look away when prosecutors produced graphic autopsy photographs of the three people killed in the blast; meanwhile, the jurors wept as they looked at the pictures.

What does that say about Tsarnaev? To me, it says he carried out a premeditated attack against innocent victims to prove some political point. The last person to be executed by the federal government, Timothy McVeigh, did the same thing when he detonated the truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City nearly 20 years ago this month.

I’ve noted already my opposition to capital punishment. Tsarnaev’s cold response is testing that opposition to the max.

Although I oppose this punishment on principle, I won’t grieve if the jury sends this young man to his death.

Restore voting rights for felons?

This one is giving me a touch of heartburn.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has come out for a major criminal justice change, which would be to restore voting rights for those who have been convicted of a felony.


I’ve had trouble with this notion for many years. I long have thought that someone who commits a felony ought to lose his or her right to vote, given that they have committed serious crimes against society. Thus, they have surrendered their right to determine who should govern the society against which they have committed their crime.

Then a certain light bulb came on.

If you sentence someone to prison and that someone serves his or her term, has the prisoner then repaid — in full — a debt to society? Furthermore, if that debt is paid in full, doesn’t the felon have the right to become a full citizen, given that the sentence has been carried out according to the law?

Holder spoke to a Georgetown University Law School crowd when he said: “At worst, these laws, with their disparate impact on minority communities, echo policies enacted during a deeply troubled period in America’s past – a time of post-Civil War discrimination,” Holder said. “And they have their roots in centuries-old conceptions of justice that were too often based on exclusion, animus and fear.”

I’m still wrestling a bit with this one, but my inclination is to allow felons — I do not want to call them “ex-felons,” because the record is permanent — the right to be re-enfranchised in the voting process.

They’ve paid for their crimes. So why not allow them back into society?