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In These Times and D.B.A. Press Expose Publicopoly

Independent media outlets In These Times and D.B.A. Press recently published an exposé of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s work to privatize government.  TPB readers will remember that we have published stories related to the organization's role in prison privatization. 

According to the report, ALEC asserts that government agencies have an unfair monopoly on public goods and services.  The organization engages in efforts to counter this assertion through various policy initiatives via privatization that shifts government functions to the private sector.  The report mentions that ALEC openly advocates privatizing several services including the surveiling and detaining of convicted criminals among other services.

ALEC identifies several initiatives by title that is open to public view from its website.  However, the specifics of such legislation are restricted to member access.  An assessment of the section entitled "Corrections and Reentry" from ALEC's website indicate that the organization is supportive of criminal justice reform concepts like justice reinvestment and efforts to eliminate in prison sexual assault.

In recent years bipartisan efforts have successfully enacted criminal justice reform efforts in Maryland and Texas and other states.  In several of these initiatives ALEC public sector members engaged in reform efforts.  For example, Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden who heads the Corrections Committee was the public sector chair of ALEC's Corrections and Reentry subcommittee in 2009. 

The strategy promoted to reform state criminal justice systems in several states is consistent with the strategy outlined in the recent exposé that:

"call for the creation of state "councils" or "committees" tasked with streamlining state agency performance and identifying services to be outsourced to the private sector."

Salient to many of these efforts have been sentencing reform that includes modifying probation and parole policies; there has also been a reliance on alternatives to incarceration that relies on the private and sometimes nonprofit infrastructure of residential treatment programs.  While in many instances sentencing to these alternative prison settings are initiatives that criminal justice reform organizations support, the current framework that relies on alternatives should also be met with a critical review and continue to identify solutions that ends the nation's reliance on incarceration completely.