Signup for our free newsletter:

Illegal Search and Seizure

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted December 9, 2012

It all went down a few months ago…

Law officials stormed Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande, Arizona. Fully-armed, they ordered the entire school on lockdown and began a major sweep for illegal drugs.

Drug-sniffing dogs searched lockers, backpacks, and even students, while kids stood by nervously, waiting to be interrogated by police.

But as it turned out, some of the “police” weren’t police at all…

They were nothing more than employees of a private prison company wearing uniforms that could easily be mistaken for law enforcement officials. And apparently, using prison employees to assist in these types of raids is nothing new. It’s actually been going on for years.

It’s been heavily criticized as illegal and a violation of civil rights — and it begs the question, Why would a private prison even want to be involved in these types of operations, anyway?

Well, I’m about to tell you…

And believe me, you’re going to be furious.

1.7 Billion Tax Dollars

On the day of the “drug raid,” Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the for-profit prison company that sent employees to Vista Grande High School dressed similarly to police officers, added three units of inventory — i.e. processed and warehoused three students, two for the equivalent of one marijuana cigarette.

And with the processing and warehousing of those “violent” criminals, CCA got a few more bucks from Uncle Sam.

You see, the company makes money on every prisoner and detainee it warehouses. And all revenues are derived from government contracts that pay an actual per-prisoner rate. This has resulted in annual revenues of $1.7 billion for CCA.

That’s 1.7 billion tax payer dollars — a nice score when you have friends in the right places.

But think about that for a second…

CCA makes money when people are arrested and warehoused. It doesn’t matter if they’re guilty or not. As long as they can get someone in the system, they get paid.

So, is it any wonder the company has been more than willing to “assist” real law enforcement in these types of raids?

And how is it that employees of a private prison can even be involved in arresting anyone?

Well, as it turns out, in Arizona the “administrative code” exempts private prison contractors from obtaining the certification required to take on the duties of a peace officer.

Hmmm. Wonder why such an exemption would even exist?

Perhaps because CCA is the largest non-government employer in Pinal County, Arizona?

Not a bad deal, assuming you’re not the one being harassed or potentially being set up by one of these guys.

Of course, CCA and other private prison companies are simply playing the game the government created. In other words, if you got the cash, you can do pretty much anything — even impersonate a police officer.

Fourth Amendment For Sale!

The pay to play game isn’t new. And private prison companies aren’t barred from the halls of Congress.

In fact, just last year the Justice Policy Institute released a report uncovering the political strategies of private prison companies, which essentially involved lobbying for harsher policies and longer sentences.

According to the report, the private prison industry employed three strategies to influence policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking.

The three largest private prison companies contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and more than $6 million to state politicians.

The return on that investment: The Federal Bureau of Prisons is paying private companies with access to politicians $5.1 billion for 13 contracts of varying lengths.

Look, it’s not I have a problem with privately-run prisons. The problem is with the way the system is set up. The government is still too closely involved. Politicians are making special exemptions and influencing policy based on how much these private prison companies pony up in campaign contributions.

It’s just another way for the government to misuse tax dollars and create policy that benefits the highest bidder, not the taxpayer.

Now, I’m not saying I have any solutions to this problem — other than dragging all special interests out of Washington. (I’ll put the odds of that happening up there with the accuracy of the Mayan calendar in predicting the end of the world this month.)

But when these politicians are so heavily indebted to these private prison companies that they allow non-trained law enforcement to conduct police raids and harass our kids at school, that’s where I draw the line. After all, what’s next?

Are private prison employees going to bust into your office with guns drawn? Are they going to bully their way into your home with drug-sniffing dogs?

You know, the Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Are private prison companies going to find a way around that one?

I’m not trying to be a fear monger, but these are slippery slopes, my friends…

And even the slightest suspicion that some lawmakers are looking the other way while our Fourth Amendment rights could potentially be sold for the right price is cause for alarm.

Private prison employees are not police officers — and our elected officials are not kings and queens who’ve been granted the authority to knight them as such.

Live honorably, live free…

Jeff Siegel Signature 

Jeff Siegel
for Freedom Watch