« Lots of new data from BJS on prisoners and from USSC on federal sentencing | Main | Ohio judges pushing for "truth in plea bargaining" »

September 17, 2015

Prez Candidate Bernie Sanders announces plan to restore federal parole and eliminate private prisons

Images (1)As reported in this new USA Today piece, headlined "Sanders seeks to ban private prisons," a US Senator on the presidential campaign trail has come out with a distinctive and ambitious criminal justice reform proposal. Here are the basics:

Sen. Bernie Sanders said he hopes to end the “private, for-profit prison racket” with the introduction Thursday of bills to ban private prisons, reinstate the federal parole system and eliminate quotas for the number of immigrants held in detention.

The Vermont independent, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, introduced the “Justice is not for Sale Act” with Democratic Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Bobby L. Rush of Illinois. It would bar the federal government from contracting with private incarceration companies starting two years after passage.

“The profit motivation of private companies running prisons works at cross purposes with the goals of criminal justice,” Sanders said. “Criminal justice and public safety are without a doubt the responsibility of the citizens of our country, not private corporations. They should be carried out by those who answer to voters, not those who answer to investors.”...

Ellison said the private-prison industry spends millions each year lobbying for harsher sentencing laws and immigration policies that serve its bottom line. “Incarceration should be about rehabilitation and public safety, not profit,” he said.

The legislation would reinstate the federal parole system, abolished in 1984, and increase oversight of companies that provide banking and telephone services for inmates. It also would end the requirement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintain 34,000 detention beds.

Sanders said the bill represents only a piece of the major criminal justice reforms he believes are needed, but he’s convinced the issue can find bipartisan support. “Making sure that corporations are not profiteering from the incarceration of fellow Americans is an important step forward.”

The full text of the Justice is Not for Sale Act of 2015 can be accessed at this link, and it is a very interesting read. Perhaps not surprisingly, the media is so far focused on the provisions of the bill seeking to eliminate use of private prisons. But I think the provisions in the bill that are the most important and could be, by far, the most consequential are those that would reintroduce parole in the federal system.

September 17, 2015 at 05:52 PM | Permalink


If Obama was the Harvard Law indoctrinated rent seeker in chief, this Commie is Obama on steroids. He made Burlington unlivable, as he made it a homeless tramp paradise. Every scum was welcomed, privileged, and protected by this Commie America hater. He is also a self hating Jew and 10 times the existential threat to it that Obama ever was.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 17, 2015 8:51:28 PM

S.C., I for one am tired of your homophobic, racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and otherwise ignorant rants. And by the way Sanders is not a "self-hating Jew"; on the contrary, he is "proud to be Jewish" and attributes his life-long interest in politics and the promotion of the common good to his Jewish upbringing. https://www.questia.com/newspaper/1P2-38391797/bernie-sanders-i-m-proud-to-be-jewish

Posted by: observer | Sep 18, 2015 11:05:42 AM


Are you auditioning to write for a UK tabloid paper?

Good red-baiting.

If you want to follow the best and pick-up some pointers, follow #jeremycorbyn on Twitter.

Posted by: Fred | Sep 18, 2015 11:06:16 AM

All sarcasm aside, Sanders’ candidacy is useful. But do not consider this comment to be an endorsement of Sanders. Furthermore I do not think he will win the democratic nomination, and nor do I think that his bill will become law.

However, I am pleased that his candidacy is getting traction, because he will force a re-examination of the First Principles underlying much of current government policy, and in particular Incarceration Nation. This re-examination, if sustained, will result in a much better informed electorate, and an enlargement of the electorate’s Overton Window of acceptable policy choices, which the inside-the beltway crowd may have to pay attention to.

As to Incarceration Nation, this has been a bi-partisan effort over the last 35 years. This effort has been consistently supported by our famously free press, which always gave proponents a pulpit without extending the same to its opponents.

The First Principles (there are some others) underlying this consensus are that we as a nation have been suffering an out-of-control crime wave since the 70s, that the first duty of good government is to protect the public, and that lengthy incarceration is the best or only policy response. All of these are disputable and the first is refutable, but any politician that did so had to face the scaremongers and was at risk of not being considered a serious person. Many of the discussions/arguments on the comment threads here are good examples of how this consensus is enforced.

Yes, Sanders is far to the left of Obama. But whether he is or is not a Commie is not important for this comment. What is important is that he is outside the consensus on Incarceration Nation and is not afraid to be there.

This matters because he is not obligated to defend Obama or any other democrat (such as Biden and Bill Clinton) that helped construct Incarceration Nation. Because there are so few candidates contesting the democratic nomination (and may soon only be Sanders and HRC), this freedom can lead to a meaningful public discussion of our criminal justice system.

I am not expecting this discussion to change anything in the short term. After all, Incarceration Nation took 35 years to construct. But it is a discussion we would not be having, if Sanders weren’t a candidate. As to any issue, compare what a democratic debate with only Sanders and HRC on the stage would be like with the republican debate of a few nights ago. It won’t get the ratings, but so what?

Posted by: Fred | Sep 18, 2015 12:51:15 PM

Observer. I think you are tired of the sad facts surrounding the legal profession. I am ten times more tired of them than you are.

All -isms are folk statistics based on real world experience rather than the left wing propaganda fictions that you are swimming. So if you want to hire a black man to manage your finances, and a Jew for your professional basketball team out of your diversity agenda, and political correctness, you deserve the consequences. If you cite the great black financiers and the great Jewish basketball players, you will be supporting my argument, by their being counted on the fingers of one hand.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 18, 2015 11:34:24 PM

observer. Bernie Sanders belongs to the refuser caucus. He refused to sign a letter on the policy of disarming Hamas and demilitarizing the Gaza strip. Hamas is an agent of Iran, and executed dozens of Palestinian PLO officials, more than the number they accused of spying for Israel. Support Sanders, you support the Ayatollah Khomeini, even more than Obama.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 18, 2015 11:40:52 PM

observer. A phobia is a fear of a harmless thing. For example, the dark, the crowd, the clown.

If something is dangerous, that is not a phobia, it is a fear, a rational reaction to a threat to one's well being. So homophobia is a misnomer.

1) AIDS, killing millions of heterosexuals, by the selfish sexual conduct of homosexual males, that none may even criticize without losing one's job, totally empowered and enabled by lawyer passed legislation.

2) Homosexual marriage elevates what will never be more than a friendship to the status and privilege of marriage. Why? To destroy the white family (the black family is done), by ending its first purpose, breeding. Why? To generate massive government make work jobs to replace the authority of the patriarchal family with government services for massive social pathologies from bastardy.

3) A tyrannical tendency once homosexuals are allowed to take political power. For example, the entire Nazi hierarchy, to the very top? Gay as the day is long. Now a gay heads the Army. It has started.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 18, 2015 11:50:14 PM

observer. The only criticism of the Jews was to demand to know how Jewish law students could quietly submit to the law school indoctrination of the criminal cult enterprise from the Catholic Catechism. I made the same criticism of Protestant students. I can add, my shock that Jewish law profs could then turn around and indoctrinate the next generation of law students into really stupid, Medieval Catholic church supernatural doctrines.

Let me know if you would like me to review these for the tenth time.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 19, 2015 1:09:14 AM

Parole was never abolished. It has just been capped. There always has to be a procedure to encourage good behavior by prisoners. The assertion that it was abolished is just disinformation by politicians trying to look good.

Posted by: Fred | Sep 20, 2015 1:24:18 PM

I'm not sure how much Sanders as a whole adds to the "conversation" here, which isn't his general concern -- he is more concerned about general economic issues. Sanders is getting a lot more traction, so whatever he says on an issue will get more attention, but it might be argued that Jim Webb put criminal justice issues more front and center than Sanders did.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 20, 2015 3:36:32 PM

What will determine the breadth of the discussion, or if there is one at all, on criminal justice issues or any other issue, is our famously free press.

Yes, Webb has done more than Sanders, but he won't be on the stage.

Sanders is a single issue candidate, but a single issue that is broader than any single issue in the last 70 years. I'm sure that if he could conduct his entire campaign only talking about how the USG funds itself and how that can benefit the greatest number of people, he would. For him, any other issues are distractions which will create noise that weakens his message on the economy.

Posted by: Fred | Sep 21, 2015 11:57:22 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB