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Your Guide to Meaningful Action

Stop Policing for Profit

Police tape

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can take people’s money and property without even making an arrest. They just have to suspect the assets are tied in some way to illicit activity and, in many cases, they can keep the profits without an indictment, much less a conviction.

Some states are working to stop this type of abuse. But thanks to a statutory loophole called “equitable sharing,” state police can still take people’s money and property under federal law and pocket up to 80 percent of the proceeds.

TO DO

Help end policing for profit. Tell the Department of Justice to stop cops from using federal law to ignore stronger state level forfeiture protections.

TO WATCH

The latest video from Prison Profiteers, The Nation’s partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, sheds light on the astonishing abuse of civil asset forfeiture and the organizations that have fought hard to prevent much needed changes.

TO READ

Sarah Solon of the ACLU and Jesse Lava of Beyond Bars describe how civil asset forfeiture has lead to people losing cash, cars and even their homes. In an award-winning and shocking investigative report in The New Yorker last year, Sarah Stillman became the first journalist to expose the use and abuse of civil forfeiture laws.

Meet the Company That Makes Huge Profits From Locking Up Immigrants

A prisoner

Private prison companies like the GEO Group pull in millions of dollars a year locking up immigrants in federal custody. If Congress passes draconian new immigration legislation, they stand to profit enormously.

This summer, the House Judiciary Committee passed the SAFE Act (HR 2278), a toxic measure that would transform millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. No longer a civil violation, not having papers would become a felony punishable by months or years in a US prison. The legislation would also dramatically expand the civil immigration detention system. Companies like GEO Group would reap huge profits off the changes—nearly half of all people in immigration detention are locked in private jails and prisons.

TO DO

There’s still time to stop this destructive legislation. Tell Speaker John Boehner not to bring the SAFE Act to the House floor.

TO WATCH

In our latest Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, criminal justice advocates and former inmates detail the appalling conditions at GEO Group facilities around the country.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off of mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

Should It Cost Less to Get Out of Jail if You’re Rich?

From 1992 to 2006, the average bail amount for people who are detained more than doubled from $39,800 to $89,900. Bail in the United States has become so expensive that eight in ten people would have to pay over a full year’s wages just to make the average amount.

Of course, most people don’t have that kind of money lying around. This is where the commercial bail industry steps in. Loans from bondsmen allow pretrial defendants to stay out of jail, but with a catch: the bondsmen keep a nonrefundable fee of around ten percent, even if the defendant is found innocent.

There are better systems; in fact, the United States is one of only two countries that use commercial bail. But any changes would entail fighting the American Bail Coalition, a powerful lobbying group that spends millions of dollars fortifying the bail industry.

TO WATCH

Our new Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, sheds light on the bail bondsmen, insurance companies and wealthy investors behind the skyrocketing cost of bail in the United States—and the devastating effect their lobbying has on prisoners and their families.

TO DO

The commercial bail industry isn’t alone in profiting off mass incarceration. Visit our Prison Profiteers action page to learn about other profiteers and to find out how you can fight back.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

President Obama Nominates Janet Yellen to Head the Federal Reserve

Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen, vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Bank, speaks at the Economic Club of New York (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In a ceremony scheduled for 3 pm today, President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. If appointed, she will become the first woman ever to hold the post, a considerable accomplishment in a field that has remained stubbornly male-dominated. Her nomination comes after President Obama’s presumed first pick, Larry Summers, withdrew from consideration amid intense opposition to his appointment. The former Treasury secretary’s support of the deregulation policies that lead to the financial crisis—The Nation’s William Greider said that his appointment would be akin to “rewarding the same guys who got things disastrously wrong for the country”—and comments implying women were naturally less apt in science and math lead progressive and women’s rights organizations to mount a successful fight against his nomination.

The Nation played a role in this campaign, joining groups such as the National Organization for Women and Daily Kos, as well as a number of Democratic senators. We began with a petition demanding that the president reject Summers, then followed it up with one calling on him to “Break Up the Old Boys’ Club” and appoint Yellen. All together, we garnered over 10,000 signatures, many from readers who expressed disappointment that a president they fought to get elected would appoint someone so closely aligned with the policies that crashed our economy.

Supporters of Yellen’s nomination have expressed hope that she will make addressing our unemployment crisis a top priority and have noted her prescience in raising concerns about the housing bubble before many were aware of the danger. Still, others have pointed out that her policies skew close to those of the centrist wing of Democratic party—in the 1990s, she backed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, advocated for cutting Social Security through Chained-CPI and supported the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In a blog post responding to Summers’ decision to withdraw his name from consideration, Greider pointed out that Yellen “well understands that much deeper change must be considered to get the US economy back in balance” and summed up the significance of the role progressives had already played in the nomination process:

But the defeat of Larry Summers tells the White House and this president they had better start listening to the restless reformers on the left of the party. Senators and progressive Democrats in the House have serious ideas for reform. Having won this pivotal victory, they are sure to push for larger goals. Instead of running away from the liberal-labor progressives, Obama’s presidency should put an arm around them.

Janet Yellen’s nomination speaks well to the president’s commitment to addressing the nation’s unemployment crisis. Now progressives must keep the pressure on the administration to fight for an economy that works for all of us.

Meet the Medical Company Making $1.4 Billion a Year Off Sick Prisoners

The healthcare provider Corizon makes an estimated $1.4 billion off sick prisoners every year. With profits like those, you would think it was actually treating prisoners. But in states that are using Corizon to provide healthcare in their prisons—and right now twenty-nine are—medical neglect and abuse run rampant.

As Liliana Segura reported in her introduction to the Prison Profiteers series, Corizon’s attitude toward the debilitating virus Hepatitis C is especially alarming: They just don’t treat it. “The result could be deadly,” Segura writes,

Last year alone, no fewer than seven sick prisoners died at Metro Corrections, a jail in Louisville, Kentucky, while on Corizon’s watch. The company made headlines when six employees quit their jobs, according to local press, “amid an investigation by the jail that found that the workers ‘may’ have contributed” to two of the deaths. This summer, it was announced that the contract between Corizon and the city would not be renewed.

TO WATCH

In our new Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, prisoners’ family members describe the horrendous treatment that their loved ones received in institutions that use Corizon.

TO DO

Corizon isn’t the only company profiting off mass incarceration. Visit our Prison Profiteers action page to learn about other profiteers and find out how you can fight back.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

Tell the FCC: Prison Phone Companies Shouldn't Profit Off Indigent Families

Today, The Nation partnering with the ACLU and Beyond Bars—a Brave New Films project—launched a new video series. “Prison Profiteers” profiles the powerful corporations—from telephone companies to private prison corporations—making billions of dollars by exploiting our mass incarceration crisis.

The first video highlights Global Tel* Link, a for-profit telephone company that makes $500 million per year charging prisoners exorbitant rates to keep in touch with their loved ones. Calls through Global Tel* Link can cost as much as $1.17 per minute—that’s $17 for a fifteen-minute phone call.

TO DO

The Federal Communications Commission took an important first step in August by capping the price of prisoner phone calls made from one state to another at twenty-five cents per minute. But most prisoners are serving time in their home state. Tell the FCC to finish the job and end this predatory practice for all prison phone calls.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off of mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

TO WATCH

Nearly 3 million kids in the United Stats have an incarcerated parent. In our video on Global Tel* Link, 9-year-old Kenny talks about keeping in touch with his incarcerated father.

Spread the Word: The Hyde Amendment Must Be Repealed

Today marks thirty-seven years since the passage of the Hyde Amendment, the law banning federal Medicaid coverage for abortion. The legislation has particularly dire consequences for poor women by effectively eliminating coverage of abortion under Medicaid in all but fifteen states. Without insurance, abortions can cost an average of $451 in the first trimester, and some can cost more than $3,000.

Reproductive justice advocates recently launched a new campaign to fight abortion coverage bans: All* Above All: United to Restore and Sustain Abortion Coverage for Low-Income Women. The activists will fight to protect policies in states that do provide vital Medicaid coverage for abortion as well as push for the nationwide repeal of the Hyde Amendment.

TO DO

Write to your local newspapers to spread the word about the new fight for expanded abortion access and the need to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Use our talking points or write your own. Then, if you can, support the National Network of Abortion Funds

TO READ

On the thirty-seventh anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds and the *All Above All campaign describes the new coalition of abortion rights and reproductive justice groups poised to fight attacks on coverage of abortion and, ultimately, overturn Hyde. 

TO WATCH

In this new video, members of the National Network of Abortion Funds explain why they fight for abortion access.

Demand the United States Military Prioritize Civilian Lives

This October marks twelve years since the invasion of Afghanistan. While many Americans can cite the more than 2,200 Americans killed and the billions of dollars spent on that war, even those who are vociferously antiwar often fail to discuss, or even comprehend, its catastrophic effects on Afghan civilians. In part to remedy this collective ignorance, The Nation created an interactive database detailing Afghan civilian deaths by United States and coalition forces. As the project documents, the United States military has often been inadequate to the task of accounting for the lives lost in its armed conflicts.

Currently, the Department of Defense does not have an office dedicated to tracking and reducing civilian casualties. As a result, lessons often fail to become institutionalized and the military risks repeating its mistakes. As Robert Dreyfuss and Nick Turse write, “The American people, the media, academia and think tanks all have a role to play in demanding that, in any future wars, the United States place the highest priority on avoiding civilian casualties and, if they occur, on being accountable and making amends.”

TO DO

Someday we may live in a world where war and militarization are rare, but, until then, we must demand the protection of innocent life when conflicts happen. Sign our open letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking him to implement a permanent office at the Pentagon dedicated to monitoring and preventing civilian casualties.

TO READ

In their introduction to The Nation’s special issue on Afghan civilian casualties, Nick Turse and Robert Dreyfuss detail the difficulties of gauging the true toll of the war on Afghan civilians.

TO WATCH

In a video for Foreign Affairs, Center for Civilian Casualties Executive Director Sarah Holewinski describes the challenges facing organizations who advocate for civilians in war zones.

Obama Administration Announces Expanded Labor Protections for Homecare Workers

A homecare worker
A homecare worker in Miami Florida (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Nearly two years after promising to make the change, the Obama administration announced today that it will extend minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s homecare workers. The workers, most of them women, were previously not covered due to the “companionship exemption” in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new protections will take effect in January of 2015.

Activists have been pushing for the change for quite some time. As Bryce Covert has pointed out, an expansion of the FLSA was even included among the demands of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the fifty years since the march, homecare work has become one of the fastest growing fields in the country, while remaining one of its lowest paid. Homecare workers make an average of $9.70 an hour and nearly 40 percent rely on Medicaid or food stamps.

Beginning in March of this year, Nation readers joined the growing call for President Obama to fulfill his promise with an open letter that garnered many hundreds of signatures. One reader, a homecare worker herself, listed the demands of her job: “I have provided physical rehabilitation care, wound care, emotional and psychological care (counseling/listening) for families and their loved ones,” she wrote, “I have provided Hospice care, pet care, plant care, personal care, yard care and I could list much more.”

While the changes will greatly expand the protections offered homecare workers, there is still much to be done to improve the lives of domestic workers more broadly. Andrea Mercado, the Campaign Director for NDWA, pointed out over email that, while the changes are important and “long overdue,” they “do not solve all of the issues that domestic workers face.” The NDWA and other organizations will continue to push for more labor protections for domestic workers through Domestic Workers Bill of Rights legislation passed on the state level.

Nation readers have also joined that campaign, sending nearly 900 letters to their state legislators asking for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in their state. New York and Hawaii have already passed versions of the law and a bill in California was recently passed by the legislator and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. If your state hasn’t gotten on board yet, take a minute to join the campaign. And if you live in California, call Governor Jerry Brown at 916-445-2841 and demand that he sign AB241 to expand labor protections for California’s domestic workers.

California State Senate Passes a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

A domestic worker
(Reuters/Luke MacGregor)

California could soon become the third state to implement a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, ensuring that the state’s domestic workers are entitled to labor protections that many take for granted. The State Senate voted yesterday to pass AB 241, which guarantees overtime protections for workers such as housekeepers, childcare providers and caregivers for people with disabilities and the elderly. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a previous version of the legislation.

Groups such as the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the National Domestic Workers Alliance responded to the veto last year by intensifying their push for the law with demonstrations on the capitol, phone-ins and a “Drive for Dignity” from San Diego to Sacramento. Across the country, New York and Hawaii have already passed similar protections, and efforts are underway for states such as Massachusetts and Illinois to follow suit.

Since we launched an action this past May, Nation readers have sent over 800 e-mails to their state legislators asking them to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in their state. If your state hasn’t caught on yet, be sure to take a minute to join the campaign. And if you’re in California, call Governor Jerry Brown’s office at 916-445-2841 and demand that he sign AB 241.

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