Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jailed Billionaire Allen Stanford Accused of Fraud Is Now Firmly Opposed to Privatization of Prisons

Learning a Lesson in a Very Hard and Tragic Manner

Few Americans have heard of Allen Stanford, whose story is becoming much too typical these days.

The 61-year-old Mr. Stanford is set to go on trial Monday in Houston on 14 criminal counts related to the alleged $7.2 billion fraud. Prosecutors claim the Ponzi scheme swindled thousands of people through the sale of fictitious certificates of deposit by a bank he controlled in Antigua. Some investors lost their life savings when Stanford Financial Group collapsed, while Mr. Stanford allegedly siphoned off more than $1 billion to finance a lavish lifestyle.

Okay, (yawn, yawn) just another billionaire who got his wealth by alledgely stealing it from hapless investors.  Attacking Mr. Stanford is just another attack on the free enterprise system, an attack on capitalism and freedom, so we won’t do it here.  But there is another part of the story that is of interest.  Mr. Stanford requested bail upon waiting for his trial, something usually given in a case like this.

But prosecutors said the jet-setting financier might flee. Mr. Stanford surrendered two passports, but the whereabouts of a third were a mystery. Judge Hittner ruled that Mr. Stanford was a "serious flight risk" and ordered him held without bond.

Because a federal prison in Houston was full, Mr. Stanford was sent about 30 miles north to Conroe and the medium-security Joe Corley Detention Facility, owned by GEO Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla. A lawyer for Mr. Stanford soon requested a transfer, citing "oppressive jail conditions" such as sharing with eight to 10 other men a windowless cell with faulty air conditioning. The judge denied the request.

So Mr. Stanford had to stay in a private prison, and in that prison he was beaten so badly that

After the attack, Mr. Stanford was transferred to the government-run Federal Detention Center in Houston. Defense lawyers claim he was isolated in a cell for 23 days, with food slipped to him through a slot in the metal door and no antibiotics or painkillers for two weeks.

And a judge ruled initially that Mr. Stanford was so damaged by the beating that he could not assist in his defense.  This last point is subject to dispute

In December, the same judge, David Hittner of U.S. District Court in Houston, reversed his decision and ordered the criminal trial to start Monday.

One reason: In a hearing before the ruling, a government psychologist said Mr. Stanford had likely faked a battery of tests, performing so badly in one case that "mentally retarded children did much better."

and so Mr. Stanford may face justice after all.

But the point here is that no person in this country of decency and democracy should have to go to a private prison where he or she is savagely beaten.  Of course, preventing that sort of thing might reduce the profits of the private prison, or even return the country to the quaint and outdated notion that incarceration is the role of government, not a profit making company.

But such an argument some would argue would  be counter to the principles of free enterprise, although one strongly suspects that Mr. Stanford is now a convert to the traditional way of thinking.

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