The American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful, conservative lobby group

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful, conservative lobby group

Meyers, 2016), ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful, conservative lobby group) has over the past 40 years created a highly organized and sophisticated system of lobbying state and federal policy makers on behalf of the interests of its member corporations. Its influence is organized around (1) the drafting of bills such as the “stand your ground” and voter ID laws, (2) the training of legislators, and (3) media campaign supports. In their review of leaked documents that included 800+ ALEC model bills, the study’s authors found that ALEC lobbied to expand the private prison industry in the following ways: by expanding the use of private prisons and their goods and services (such as food services, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals), by promoting the use of prison labor (which had been illegal until the ALEC-supported Prison Industries Act of 1995), and by increasing the size of the prison population by expanding definitions of crime and increasing likelihood of incarceration and recidivism.

At a time when state-level incarceration rates are somewhat decreasing, ALEC has begun to turn its attention to immigration and detention centers as a new stream of income for its corporate members (Cooper et al., 2016). It is important to note that as we write this second edition, the incoming White House administration campaigned on a law and order and anti-immigration platform that is likely to reverse decreasing incarceration rates and create the need for more prisons and detention centers.

Since policy changes in the 1970s, the U.S. prison population has exploded into the largest in the world (see Figure 10.4; Wagner & Walsh, 2016; World Prison Brief, 2017). The U.S. represents just 5% of the world’s population, yet holds 25% of the world’s incarcerated population (American Civil Liberties Union, 2017). The United States incarcerates 693 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country in the world. When the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states are considered separately, 32 states

§ (and Washington, DC) have incarceration

rates higher than that of Turkmenistan, which at 583 per 100,000 residents is the nation with the second-highest incarceration rate in the world (Wagner & Walsh, 2016).

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