How Are Corporations Interfering With Our Criminal Justice System?
Corporations and their politician allies voted behind closed doors through ALEC to change America's criminal justice system by:
- Anti-immigrant legislation that requires local law enforcement to enforce complex federal law, encourages racial profiling, and destroys the law enforcement-community relationship (see this bill, this bill, this bill, and this bill).
- Overturning common-law rules designed to deter police misconduct and ensure arrests and searches are constitutional, including:
- Adding new penalties to retail theft, which will benefit ALEC Private Sector Board Member Wal-Mart, such as:
- Perpetuating the war on drugs through:
- Imposing unrealistic conditions for parolees or persons on probation, setting them up for failure and re-incarceration.
- Supporting the National Rifle Association's agenda through legislation and resolutions that:
- Propping up the commercial bail bond industry that has a record of corrupting the sentencing process, and putting the decision of whether an accused person goes free in the hands of a profit-oriented business, through legislation that:
- Attacks efforts to enact evidence-based alternative pre-trial release programs by
- Offers bail bond companies opportunities to avoid paying debts to states by:
- Expanding the list of offenses for which a person must pay a for-profit bail-bondsman for their release (see also this bill and this bill).
Some of this Corporate Agenda Has Become Law
Truth in Sentencing & Private Prisons
When current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was a state representative, he was an ALEC member and introduced several bills proposed by ALEC, including "Truth in Sentencing" and bills to privatize the state's prison system.
Passed in Wisconsin in 1997, "Truth in Sentencing" requires inmates to serve their full sentence without options for parole or supervised release. The program has inflated prison populations and greatly increased the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on prisons -- in Wisconsin, to an estimated $1.8 billion through 2025. In many states, Truth in Sentencing has increased profits for private prison companies like the Corrections Corporation of America, a member of ALEC's Private Sector board. In 1999, then-Rep. Scott Walker introduced two bills that would allow private prisons in Wisconsin. While those bills did not pass, some inmates were contracted out to private prisons in other states, and the Corrections Corporation of America has registered lobbyists in the state ever since.
A former head of Wisconsin's prison system who is currently a University of Wisconsin Law Professor, Walter Dickey, told American Radio Works it is "shocking" that lawmakers would write sentencing policy with help from ALEC, a group that gets funding, and supposedly "expertise," from a private prison corporation.
"I don't know that they know anything about sentencing," he said. "They know how to build prisons, presumably, since that's the business they're in. They don't know anything about probation and parole. They don't know about the development of alternatives. They don't know about how public safety might be created and defended in communities in this state and other states."
The Wisconsin state legislature apparently recognized the folly of Truth in Sentencing and rolled back the law between 2001 and 2009. When Scott Walker became governor, he reversed this progress and requested legislation to restore the ALEC corporation-supported Truth in Sentencing, despite the costs to taxpayers and despite claiming Wisconsin was "broke." It is unknown whether privatized prisons will soon follow.
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The NRA's "Castle Doctrine Act"
In 2011, Wisconsin ALEC members introduced AB-69, a bill nearly identical to the ALEC "Castle Doctrine Act" approved by the National Rifle Association. The bill allows a homeowner to shoot and kill a person they claim is breaking into their home, without fear of civil liability. A marked-up version of AB-69, noting the relevant sections of the ALEC Castle Doctrine Act, can be found here.
Have any of these bills been introduced or enacted in YOUR state? If so, please add that information to the ALEC Exposed page on your state by searching for your state's name in the search engine at the top of this page.
More Helpful Resources
Additional resources on ALEC's corporate agenda:
- ALEC Funding, PRWatch (2011)
- American Legislative Exchange Council and other related articles, SourceWatch (2011)
- Ghostwriting the Law for Corporate America, American Association for Justice (2010)
- Climate Denial Report on ALEC and Exxon Funding for ALEC, Greenpeace (2011)
- Governing the Nation from the Statehouses, Progressive States Network (2006)
- Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, Common Cause (2006)
- Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law, NPR (2010)
- Exposing ALEC, blogging group, Daily KOS (2011)
- ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures, People for the American Way (2011)
- Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council (2002)
- The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law, Commonwealth Institute (2003)
- Wisconsin's Cronon Affair: The Power of a Simple Fact, The Nation Magazine (2011)
- Ghostwriting the Law, Mother Jones (2002)
- ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts, Center for American Progress (2011)
- ALEC Report, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (2011)
- ALEC Exposed: Business Domination Inc., The Nation Magazine (2011)