Tuesday, October 04, 2016
democracynow | AMY GOODMAN: Ava DuVernay’s new documentary, called 13th, is being released by Netflix on Friday. It premiered at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center here in New York. Part of the documentary looks at how ALEC, the America Legislative Exchange Council, has played a central role in the expansion of the U.S. prison system—ALEC’s work with states to write legislation promoting the privatization of prisons, in addition to pushing for harsher, longer sentences.
Joining us now is Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, who is also featured in 13th.
Talk about the thesis of the film 13th. It’s not just about the 13th Amendment, but the clause within the 13th Amendment that goes from slavery in the amendment of 1865 to mass incarceration today, and then how private corporations play a role in this.
LISA GRAVES: Well, this film is a magnificent, incredible meditation about race and crime in America, and it really tells new stories. One of the stories it tells is about how that amendment, where it says that you can’t be enslaved or you can’t be put in involuntary servitude unless you’re convicted of a crime, except as punishment, has really manifested in the 21st century and the 20th century through a lot of criminal justice policies.
And one of the things that Ava DuVernay brilliantly shows is the role of corporations in joining in this effort, this very racialized criminal justice system, how corporations, through ALEC, have helped advance their own bottom line. And one of the things that she helps document is the role of the Corrections Corporation of America within ALEC. It was a member of ALEC for a number of years, as we’ve written about. It was the chair of ALEC’s crime task force for a number of years, and ultimately it left ALEC after it was disclosed that CCA was in the room when corporations were voting on the SB 1070 legislation in Arizona that would have put—that was designed to put more immigrants in detention facilities and jails for immigrants. And CCA is just one of the many corporations that has been part of ALEC as it has pushed forward both for privatization of prisons, as well as measures to make people go to jail for longer—longer sentences.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain how ALEC works. You’ve got the private corporations, like CCA, and then you’ve got the legislators, who introduce the legislation written by the—or co-written by the corporations.