August 08, 2015

Private Prisons: An Incomplete Survey

I had the opportunity to Chair and present at an excellent session at the 4th Annual East Asian Law and Society conference in Tokyo, Japan. The session itself was titled Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships with Prisons and Corrections: Benefits, Concerns and Models.

My paper was titled Models of Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships with Prisons: An Incomplete Survey.

Abstract: Israel has no private prisons, thanks to a decision by the High Court of Justice that privately run prisons were unconstitutional; that having a profit motive in running a prison nullifies the legitimacy of punishment and violates the rights of the people it holds. In contrast, the United States has bred a multi-billion dollar multi-national private prison industry that recently became Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) to avoid corporate taxes. Japan’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) prisons/rehabilitation centers are kept small in number and draw on a wide variety of profit and non-profit organizations. Australia is embracing a rehabilitation center to be built, run and financed by four major corporations. This paper provides an overview of these various thoughts of, and experiments with, privatization. The conclusion comments on the perils and promise of the apparent trend of using the private sector to bolster rehabilitation efforts.


Models of Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships with Prisons: An Incomplete Survey (2015) by Dr Paul Leighton

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See also 

Prison Privatization in US and Japan (2014 presentation and information on Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center - a Japanese high-tech, public-private partnership)

The problems with private prisons (2011 and 2013 presentations) 

Why Private Prisons Do Not Save Money (2008)

Punishment for Sale book - publisher: Rowman and Littlefield ~ Amazon ~ more info from this blog


July 19, 2015

#YikYak: It’s not all bad; but, yes there are some bad parts & some actions we can take

I started using Yik Yak late in 2014, mostly to get a different look at my students on campus. Life for students has changed a lot since I started teaching here, let alone since I was an undergrad. I was drawn in by some posts about rape and domestic violence - topic that overlap with my teaching, writingpresenting and serving. I've been on it since and was asked to present about it. That turned into a revised and expanded version that's available here.

This draws exclusively on "the heard" at EMU, so parts of it are not applicable to other places.  The description of what Yik Yak is, how it works, analysis of anonymity, and suggestions for activism can apply beyond the hyper-local.

Motivated to add this to the blog when I saw someone recently post to EMU's Yik Yak: 

Shoutout to my herd for hearing about all my problems I could never tell anyone in real life. You da true MVP


#YikYak: It’s not all bad; but, yes there are some bad parts & some actions we can take

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October 19, 2014

Why Private Prisons Do Not Save Money

This presentation, which looks at the overhead costs of private prisons, was done in 2008 and subsequently became a chapter in Punishment for Sale (co-authored with Donna Selman). At that time, Dana Radatz was my graduate assistant who was very helpful in collecting the data and organizing it in a meaningful way.

Why Private Prisons Do Not Save Money: Overhead Costs and Executive Pay

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Prison Privatization in US and Japan (2014 presentation and information on Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center - a Japanese high-tech, public-private partnership)

The problems with private prisons (2011 and 2013 presentations) 

Punishment for Sale book - publisher: Rowman and Littlefield ~ Amazon ~ more info from this blog

September 15, 2014

Women's Studies or Gender Studies

I received this email from a student about a class assignment:

"We have to ask 3 faculty members to briefly describe the relationship between women's studies and gender studies... Whether or not they're the same, similar, and/or different. Just something short and sweet would be awesome!"

My response:

Interesting question.

To me, women's studies focuses on looking at women's experiences and taking their reality (say, the level of harassment and violence) seriously. It then needs to explain why this experience gets erased and the implications of taking this reality seriously. Because men oppress, I can see that there is some place for critical studies of men and masculinity within women's studies, but gender studies seems more obviously to include the study of masculinity. Also, at least some of the change that men should do is for themselves and to reduce the violence against other men - and I'm not sure that women's studies is the appropriate disciplinary frame. Changes in how I enact masculinity may have an effect on women, but they may also be done to lead a more fulfilling and creative life. To my mind, masculinity is relevant to both those issues, but it isn't women's studies.

"Short version: Yes, women have been silenced and excluded, but still, it isn't always about them -- so we need gender studies, even if women's studies is the biggest piece of that." 

Mass salmonella poisoning by the Peanut Corporation of America [UPDATE 2]

When nine people died and 4,000 products were recalled because of salmonella in peanuts, my years of writing and teaching about white collar crime told me there was significant wrongdoing here. Unfortunately, media did not really put together a long form narrative, so I have put this together over time with some help and encouragement.

UPDATE 1: The jury has convicted the ringleaders at PCA and found them guilty on many counts, which is good and what they deserved. News stories tend to have a quote about how this will send a message to other food producers. I think the message is more subtle because the indictment was mostly about fraud against Kellogg's and other corporations; the nine people who died were not mentioned in the indictment or at trial. I think the take away is that if you are a small food producer, don't screw with Fortune 500 companies. Perhaps I am cynical, but would the criminal charges have happened and would they have been found guilty of crimes if they had sold directly to the public and killed nine, hospitalized 166 and officially sickened 714?

UPDATE 2: The journal article has been published: Mass Salmonella Poisoning by the Peanut Corporation of America: State-Corporate Crime Involving Food Safety. Critical Criminology, 2015. DOI 10.1007/s10612-015-9284-5.

ABSTRACT: Animal feces in food causes outbreaks of salmonella poisoning, whose assault on the body results in several days of diarrhea, vomiting and even death. This paper looks at the massive distribution of salmonella-contaminated peanuts in 2008–2009 that caused nine deaths, 11,000–20,000 illnesses and the recall of 4000 products in the US. The Peanut Corporation of America operated filthy, sometimes unregistered, plants and shipped products to major food manufacturers and schools after receiving test results positive for salmonella. This corporate crime was facilitated by substantial weaknesses in regulation, and is thus a state-facilitated corporate crime. This case study is developed by looking at the peanut plant conditions, decisions of executives, regulatory failure, and overall response. The conclusion asks about the puzzle of the state responding to a crime it facilitated, and how to understand the role a corporation victimizing another corporation plays into the response.

Mass Salmonella Poisoning by the Peanut Corporation of America: State-Corporate Crime Involving Food Safety...

The piece below is an excerpt from the longer journal article. It focuses on the problems at the plant and their frauds with the Certificates of Analysis. For better or worse, it is an earlier draft, with more - and perhaps too much detail. Between this background piece, the Congressional hearings, and coverage from Food Safety News, readers should be able to find as much info as they want. 

Crimes of the Peanut Corporation of America: Mass salmonella poisoning, 2008-9

People often see white collar and corporate crime as being nonviolent, but the victims can experience substantial physical suffering. These blog entries may have too much medical info for some, but the give great insight into what death from salmonella poisoning looks like. Yes, Stewart Parnell and PCA, You Killed People with Salmonella Peanut Butter  and Yes, Stewart Parnell, You Killed Bobby Ray Too With Salmonella Peanuts ("additional bouts of green, foul-smelling diarrhea" sounds like it should be a violent crime).

Remember that authorities had the DNA fingerprint of the salmonella from his body, and it matched the salmonella from PCA products. But the criminal indictment, when it finally came, was for fraud against major food companies. The nine dead were not mentioned, and because they were not in the indictment the defense could not bring them up at the trial.

August 02, 2014

Why Inequality Matters for Criminology and Criminal Justice

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to present at the ISA's World Congress of Sociology in Yokohama, Japan in July. This presentation builds on and updates some earlier ones (listed in the RELATED section below). 


The presenter, a co-author of The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, will focus on economic inequality, which receives less attention than race or gender. This paper will start by  providing an overview of economic inequality in several developed nations before discussing several ways to conceptualize the inequality between natural and corporate persons. Next, the presentation will summarize the links between inequality and crimes of the poor as well as crimes of the rich, following Braithwaite’s formulation that inequality worsens crimes of need and crimes of greed. The impact of inequality on each stage of the criminal justice system will then be reviewed. Law making is influenced by lobbying. Policing means war on crimes done by the poor and zero tolerance, but deregulation for corporations. Judicial processing and outcomes are heavily influenced by quality of legal assistance and resources. By sentencing, the wealthy and corporations who have harmed workers, consumers and communities have been largely weeded out; it is the poor who get sentenced to prison, reinforcing the belief that they are the most dangerous. The conclusion highlights the importance of ideology in minimizing concern about inequality and its effect on justice.


Why Inequality Matters for Criminology and Criminal Justice

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Manifestations of Poverty (longer lecture for EMU Honors College - 2013)

Criminology Needs More Class: Inequality, Corporate Persons and an Impoverished Discipline (#occupy)

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Inequality, Corporate Power and Crime(Sidore lecture at Plymouth State)

June 06, 2014

We Need A Post-Warehouse Prison: Learning from Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center

"Interesting" is the comment I hear most frequently when presenting this new line of research. That's exactly what I said when I came across it and what motivated me to explore further this high-tech, public private partnership prison/rehabilitation center that strives to be a good partner to the community. Their literature mentions the idea of creating "prisons the public could understand and support." 

I've continued to study Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center because it is also important. In working to create what they call a model prison for the next 50 years, the Japanese studied privatization and rehabilitation; they went through the literature to find "what works" and traveled extensively to learn about programs. 

The US has a bloated system of warehouse prisons that are the model for no one in the world. But we are not having a discussion about a new model, a model for the next 50 years - a post-warehouse prison.  We need to. The idea is not to copy what Japan did, but to recognize the need for and wisdom of such an effort, and to learn from their experience. Unfortunately, the main conversation is about privatization, which means trying to deliver the current warehouse prison system more cheaply and further entrenching not just a prison-industrial complex, but a warehouse prison-industrial complex.

This post lays out what I have done so far: a journal article, a TEDxEMU talk, and two presentations  that include/build on my prison privatization work. There's also a request for help translating some additional information about Shimane Asahi.


"A Model Prison for the next 50 years": The high-tech, public-private Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center" Justice Policy Journal v11#1 2014 (available free online - pdf)

ABSTRACT: The declining incarceration rate in America provides an opportunity to rethink the quality of prisons and ask: If you were told that your neighbors were newly released prisoners, what kind of institution would you want them to have served time in? One positive model of prison is a high-tech, public-private partnership prison that embraces rehabilitation, reentry and restorative justice – and that also strives to have the local community as a partner. The article reports on a visit to Shimane Asahi rehabilitation center in Japan. It provides background on the prison and Japan’s experiment with privatizing “social infrastructure.” The article then describes the involvement of the private sector and the infusion of technology, including tracking, scanners, and automated food delivery. Next, it provides an overview of numerous educational, therapeutic, and vocational programs. Finally, it discusses how the prison has a center for community engagement and makes many efforts to utilize the resources of the local region.


TEDxEMU: Thoughts from a day in a Japanese Prison

I actually did this talk before finishing the article, so it is not as sharp as how I would do it now. But I enjoyed the challenge of the time limit and trying to provide an inspiring direction. (12 minutes)


The University of Michigan's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute did a series of talks in 2014 on public-private partnerships, and I was invited to present on private prisons. The first half of this talk outlines the importance of getting the profit motive situated correctly with punishments, reviews the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex and (the problems with) private prisons. The second part reviews what Japan did after studying our system: Their law created partnerships for rehabilitation centers, not prisons. The warden and his deputies are government employees who oversee a number of private sector contractors. It also includes some of the key info from the journal article noted above, with some pictures and graphics. I was pleased how this came out. 

Private Prisons in the US and Japan: Unleashing the profit Motive in Punishment and Rehabilitation

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I was also invited to be the keynote speaker for a Prison Awareness week sponsored by the University of Toledo's Law and Social Thought, and also by Toledoans for Prison Awareness. (Thanks to Alexandra Scarborough for the invite and arrangements.) This presentation has many of the same slides as the Osher lecture, but it is reshuffled and has more of an emphasis on prison reform. 

Thinking About A Post Warehouse Prison

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WGTE recorded the event for and the video is here. 



Shimane Asahi celebrated its 5th anniversary by having a symposium that presented evaluation results and updates on programs. They put those presentations together into a publication that I have a copy of, but I could use some help translating it from Japanese. (Here is the Table of Contents.) There are also two Japanese books on Shimane Asahi and would like to know more about what is in them. 

If you would be interested in translating or helping to underwrite some of the translation efforts, please contact me through the information on my website



Shimane Asahi website (English)

The problems with private prisons (2011 and 2013 presentations)

Why Private Prisons Do Not Save Money (2008)