Mogul Russell Simmons sat down with MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan late last month to discuss the prison industrial complex for the 92Y’s “Campaign for the American Conversation,”including the role DC lobbyists play in transforming America’s prisons into a for-profit industry.
“The Rockefeller drug laws,” he said, “came because people were fed up with drugs and they thought that they wanted to find some harsh way to stop people from taking them and selling them. They started locking up, non-violent, diseased people for long periods of time. And those people went to jail and they learned to be criminals and they came back and brought prison culture to some of the communities, especially the black community. Destroyed the fabric of some communities, in my opinion.”
“Changing the laws is a good step,” he continued, adding that locking up “diseased” individuals for an extended period of time is not doing anything to impart a positive change.
Simmons blamed the “legal bribery” in the prison system for allowing people to pay politicians 15 million dollars in order to make several billions of dollars through keeping people in prison.
“And a prison is ultimately like a hotel chain,” Ratigan interjected. “Prison is a business. If we were a group of investors and we were, like, ‘Listen we got some money. What are we going to do with our money?’ We’d say, well, ‘Why don’t we go into the for-profit prison business?'”
He added that there is statistical evidence that some “very small percentage of any population may warrant incarceration,” the percentage is much smaller than the population currently in the prison system. We have also created a political system in this country that ultimately “facilitates those who benefit from any rule to continue to pay to keep that rule whether it’s good for us or not.”
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