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From the Editor

The 2016 elections are only a few weeks old and many people seem surprised that Donald Trump was elected president. What this means for prisoners at this point is a bit early to say, more so when juxtaposed against what might have happened had Hillary Clinton been elected.

In any event, the repressive apparatus of the modern American police state has long been in place. Obama’s administration has deported more immigrants than any other in U.S. history – around 2.5 million between 2009 and 2015. We already have over 800 miles of border wall separating the U.S. and Mexico, so presumably Trump will merely build upon the wall built by his predecessors; he isn’t starting anything new. With approximately 2.3 million prisoners held in abysmal and barbaric conditions nationally, we will see if Trump will reduce or boost those numbers. But neither candidate said anything about improving conditions for prisoners.

Clinton stated she would work to eliminate for-profit prisons, despite taking campaign donations from private prison firms and her husband’s bail-out that saved the private prison industry in 1999. The stock of private prison companies GEO Group and CoreCivic (previously Corrections Corporation of America) had plummeted in August after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would no longer use private prisons to house federal prisoners. The day after the election, the stock of both companies rose 25-50% on the news that Trump had won. GEO made a $100,000 donation to a pro-Trump PAC in the waning days of the election through one of the company’s subsidiaries, GEO Corrections Holdings. It is likely the private prison industry will continue to feed at the federal trough. As noted in this issue’s cover story about deaths in for-profit federal facilities, the private prison death machine has continued its march under all political administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, with nary a squeal of opposition from lawmakers who dole out the contracts and pony up the money to pay them.

One positive observation about Trump is that he does not have a track record of actually killing or imprisoning people, nor does he seem to be ideologically wedded to any particular policy or practice. It remains to be seen what will happen once he is in office. The bulk of the rhetoric about progressive reform from the Obama administration was largely that – rhetoric with little in the way of concrete action. We will report on developments as they occur.

More importantly, in the event the Trump administration seeks to continue worsening and increasing the U.S. prison population, HRDC will continue our steadfast fight against mass incarceration as we did under Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2 and Obama. All I can say after doing criminal justice reform work for the past 27 years is that regardless of who is president, prisoners get screwed, their numbers increase and their conditions deteriorate in an ongoing spiral. This is why your donations and support mean more and are needed more than ever before.

If you have not yet donated to HRDC’s annual fundraiser, this is the time to do it! We are one of the very few organizations exclusively dedicated to criminal justice reform. We are non-partisan and focused on the rights of prisoners and their families, and ensuring that we have a transparent, accountable criminal justice system that protects public safety and minimizes the number of people in prison and jail while ensuring that prisoners are held in humane conditions and treated with dignity and respect. We are not fair weather advocates. We publish, advocate and litigate without fear or favor regardless of who is in office.

If you want to support the struggle for prisoners’ human rights, please donate to HRDC; I also encourage you to become a monthly sustainer. You can donate by mail, online or over the phone. We rely on support from people like you to keep fighting the good fight; we currently receive no foundation funding.

Consider getting the loved ones on your holiday list a subscription to Prison Legal News or a book from our book store. If you are not able to donate, ask your friends or family members to support us.

As this year closes I don’t know what the next year holds, but on our end we will continue fighting and trying to win as much as we can for prisoners and their families on all fronts. Please do your part and help us prevail in this fight!

From everyone at HRDC, enjoy the holiday season and best wishes for a new year of greater and more militant struggle. 

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