If anything causes you to lose sleep at night, it should be this: "More than a third of the nation's state lawmakers — 2400 of them — are members of ALEC."
Do not underestimate ALEC. For starters they do as much as possible to avoid attention. Think about their name The American Legislative Exchange Council. This name is designed to be anonymous and forgettable. Their actions are not forgettable. They border on evil. For example, they are directly responsible for supporting, promoting and passing into law, legislation that increases the number of people in prison. They have literally created and promoted laws, including sponsoring social science "research" that shows that such legislation, for example three strikes, reduces crime. As a professional social scientist, this manipulation of data alone is enough to enrage me. But far worse, is what they are really doing; based on calculations of revenue and man-cell hours, is creating circumstances in which prisons, manufacturers, and suppliers of prison services can increase their profit.
Immoral. If you dig deep enough into the literature you will find, for example, calculations which put fiscal values on laws, evaluating their success in terms of the number of man-cell hours that they produce, in other words, in terms of financial revenue. You will also discover the very disturbing conclusion that ALEC is a vehicle through which companies can create laws to increase their revenue: that companies and corporations pay money to sponsor ALEC, effectively paying to create laws which will benefit the sale of their services. Some of the story reveals immoral behavior, for example, privatized prisons sponsoring ALEC and displaying live stock exchange ticker symbols of their share value on electronic boards at their entrance.
And this is only one of many areas where they are active.
As a researcher working at the University of California. I was teaching a class on Community Development and Relations. The subject of prison labor came up. At that time, as a professional researcher, it took me several days to unravel the complex thread of legislation and deceit that ALEC had created. In the end I concluded that ALEC had done something truly evil. They were and are directly responsible for the success of the current prison explosion which historically replaces slavery with incarceration. The bottom line is that they have created the framework in which it is possible to profit from incarcerating people. In other words, they have made it possible to make money off of putting people in jail. The prison inmate population is "working" for ALEC and its corporate sponsors simply by sitting in cells. If ever there was a sin, surely that must be one.
One of the most helpful resources at the time I was researching the subject was here;
Corporate-Sponsored Crime Laws by John Biewen which is online here: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/corrections/print1.html and part of a series: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/corrections/index.html
Here are three quotes from this excellent piece of writing;
"Over the past two decades, America's prison population doubled, then doubled again, before finally leveling off at about two million inmates. One result: a $50-billion corrections industry. That's bigger than tobacco. The crackdown on crime has enriched corporations that build prisons or sell products to them, prison guard unions, and police departments that use budget-fattening incentives to pursue drug criminals. In this special report, American RadioWorks correspondent John Biewen explores how some groups with vested interests work to influence public policy— helping to keep more people locked up longer."
"More than a third of the nation's state lawmakers — 2400 of them — are members of ALEC. Most are Republicans and conservative Democrats. ALEC says its mission is to promote free markets, small government, states' rights, and privatization. Members gather at ALEC meetings to swap ideas and form "model legislation." Legislators then take those "model" bills home and try to make them state law."
"ALEC officials say proudly that lawmakers on the group's crime task force led the drive for more incarceration in the states — "and really took the forefront in promoting those ideals and then taking them into their states and talking to their colleagues and getting their colleagues to understand that if, you know, we want to reduce crime we have to get these guys off the streets," says ALEC staffer and Criminal Justice Task Force director Andrew LeFevre.
Among ALEC's model bills: mandatory minimum sentences; Three Strikes laws, giving repeat offenders 25 years to life in prison; and "truth-in-sentencing," which requires inmates to serve most or all of their time without a chance for parole. ALEC didn't invent any of these ideas but has played a pivotal role in making them law in the states, says Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
"By ALEC's own admission in its 1995 Model Legislation Scorecard, they were very successful. They had introduced 199 bills [that year]. The Truth-in-Sentencing Act had become law in 25 states, so that right there is fairly significant."
By the late 1990s, about forty states had passed versions of truth-in sentencing similar to ALEC's model bill. Because of truth-in-sentencing and other tough sentencing measures, state prison populations grew by half a million inmates in the 1990s even while crime rates fell dramatically."