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Big Stories of 2011 - #3 - ALEC and Private Prison Lobbying Exposed

Over the next several days, Texas Prison Bid'ness will be highlighting the top five private prison stories of 2011, and looking forward to the new year.   Our #3 story is the increased exposure of the American Legislative Exchange Council and the role of private prison lobbyists in influencing legislation.

Earlier this year, The Nation and The Center for Media and Democracy released ALEC Exposed.  ALEC Exposed brought to light the actions of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that unites corporations with state legislators to “discuss” public policy and draft model legislation.  One of the most concerning areas of this public/private partnership is in the realm of criminal justice and prisons.  In fact, criminal injustice may be a more appropriate phrase.  Thanks to ALEC, the for-profit prison industry has a lot to be thankful for during this holiday season.

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ALEC Exposed Wiki releases previously restricted documents

I was recently alerted to the ALEC Exposed Wiki which is an amazing resource for all things about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) including materials that were restricted to non members for years.  We have recently reported on ALEC's connections in Texas.

Folks have been suspecting for a long time now that ALEC's influence has a correlation to expanding prison privatization.  Part of the organization's mission is to:

advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.


NPR on ALEC and State Legislature Influence

On Friday,

NPR's Laura Sullivan followed up on Thursday's investigative piece with more intel into how the American Legislative Exchange Council influences state policymakers

According to NPR:

ALEC is a membership organization. State legislators pay $50 a year to belong. Private corporations can join, too. The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members. They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year.

As we reported in our post Thursday several state policymakers have current relationships with ALEC and are looking to introduce legislation similar to Arizona's SB 1070 in addition to other measures.   Those lawmakers include:

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NPR: Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

NPR In the aftermath of Arizona's racist immigration law SB 1070, NPR has exposed links between private prison companies and Arizona lawmakers.  This story is the latest from mainstream news organizations working to document connections between the for-profit prison industry and policymaking.  Earlier this year, Rachel Maddow and a local news organization in Arizona ran a similar story.

This report has implications for Texas since it highlights the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to ALEC's website, several state lawmakers participate in ALEC public sector committees. State Reps Joe Driver and Jerry Madden sit on the Public Safety and Elections committee while company officials from the American Bail Coalition and prison profiteer Corrections Corporation of America sit on the committee's private sector counter part. 

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