Prisons for profit: The Evil Corporation Connection, Part I, by Guest Author Dot Walsh

Luzerne County Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre, PA, site of “kids for cash” scandal in which kids were incarcerated for profit. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Flickr upload bot

As I write about the ongoing and never ending connection between the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex and the association with for-profit corporations, I find myself on edge and angry.  To know the individual pieces is upsetting but to see the entire immoral circle is beyond that feeling.

I was at the U.U. General Assembly a week ago volunteering to help at a booth with the Lionheart Foundation when a gentleman from a southern state approached to talk about what was happening in the largest prison in his area.  Run by a private corporation, the prison was involved in a scandal in which judges in the area were investing in the corporation–which no doubt helped to keep the prison filled to capacity.

This discussion prompted me to look a little deeper into what was happening in the for- profit prison system – a system in which individuals are physically confined or interned by a third party under  contract to a government agency. Private prison companies typically enter into contractual agreements with governments that commit prisoners and then pay a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner confined in the facility.

Presently, corporations involved in building for-profit prisons as private prisons are profiting in the billions.  The two largest corporations in the United States are Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut (named after the former FBI agent who formed the for-profit corporation).

In 2002 the company was bought out and in 2010 the name was changed to G4S Secure Solutions.  This probably helped to disguise Wackenhut, as it has a negative reputation in the United States and is known for creating contracts with corporate industries and using prison labor for as little as 17 cents per hour.  Many items that are used by the military are made by prisoners in the for-profit prisons–a cozy connection indeed.

For more about for-profit prisons, you can view the PBS documentary at

Dot Walsh is a lifelong peace activist and member of the Engaging Peace Board of Directors.


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Can we get there from here? Pursuing nonviolence

Trination Mega Festival : Bangladesh India Pakistan Photographs by Faisal Akram Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Discouraging stories, infuriating stories, heart-breaking stories abound.

The media shout out their tales and pummel us with their gory photos, of violence, murder, rape, hatred, and we at Engaging Peace try to provide some different perspectives, regarding events…

In Gaza

In the Ukraine

In Nigeria

In Central America

And in Ferguson Missouri

Engaging Peace has had posts on most of these horrifying stories, but, stubbornly, we have also continued to press the feasibility of nonviolence, most recently with posts from Dr. Ian Hansen and Dr. Majed Ashy as well as reminders from Ross Caputi and Dr. Alice LoCicero of ways in which you can help.

In today’s short post, I invite you to learn more about an important peace initiative aimed at promoting a stable peace between India and Pakistan.

Please be inspired by this model and send your words and images on behalf of peace and social justice—starting perhaps with the work that needs to be done in your own country.

Anyone anywhere can work for peace and nonviolence. The world will be better off if you join the endeavor.


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Feel the pain

Guest Post from the Steering Committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR)


Today’s post is a statement from the Steering Committee of the Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), of which I am a member. As an organization focused on psychology’s contributions to peace and positive social change, PsySR is keenly aware of the profound psychological impact of living in a war zone, including the following:


  • Psychological distress in war zones is often as great as the physical suffering that receives more widespread attention. For some, including children, coping with issues of family separation, multiple losses, and bereavement can be even more unbearable than other health-related concerns.


  • People already under stress before an attack – from severe poverty, chronic exposure to harsh imposed restrictions, and past bloodshed – are likely to have stronger and more overwhelming psychological reactions to violence.


  • Prolonged fears of attack, powerful feelings of helplessness, and deep worries about family and community heighten the damaging psychological effects of life-threatening events and can contribute to ongoing cycles of violence.


  • The magnitude of psychological suffering in war zones can be mitigated somewhat by people’s immediate and continuing access to individual and family supports, along with broader efforts that are locally, culturally, and psychologically-informed.


As a result of the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, psychological suffering has overtaken communities across the Palestinian territories and Israel this summer. However, we believe that external financial support for community healing is particularly essential in Gaza. In our judgment, this is not only because Israeli forces have engaged in the disproportionate use of violence in recent weeks, including reported attacks on schools, hospitals, ambulances, and health professionals, but also because of the exceedingly difficult socioeconomic circumstances and the harsh and seemingly hopeless conditions brought about by the decades’ long occupation.

Ultimately, a just and lasting peace and a brighter future for Palestinians and Israelis alike will require that these psychological consequences and considerations receive serious and sustained attention.

With a special emphasis on vulnerable groups including children, women, and victims of torture and human rights violations, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) provides crucial and irreplaceable mental health services to thousands of Gaza residents. These services will be even more broadly and desperately needed in the days and months immediately ahead. Throughout its history, the GCMHP has also been firmly committed to nonviolent resistance and to working for a world where Palestinians and Israelis can live together in peace.

The Programme has suffered extensively from the fighting this past month, with several staff, including the director, suffering family losses. In times such as these, external aid can be important beyond the purely financial support by serving as an expression of caring and compassion from the outside world.

Organizing help for the GCMHP is one way that we, as psychologists and mental health providers, can counter the despair and hopelessness bred in all parties by this renewed outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas. In so doing, we make a statement in support of human rights, mutual recognition and security, and a pathway to the reconciliation that must underlie a sustainable peace in this region.

Donations should be made by check payable to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation and mailed to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, PO Box 380273, Cambridge, MA 02238. Please include your name, address, telephone number, and email address. 100% of your donation will be sent to GCMHP. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

For more information about this PsySR initiative, please email A PDF version of this statement is available here.

   The Steering Committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility

August 13, 2014


Posted in Armed conflict, Children and war, Human rights, Reconciliation and healing, Torture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tomorrow’s wars: Let’s stop them now.

Battle_of_Giannitsa_(1912-11-01),_First_Balkan_War,_Greece; published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.


Part 2 in a two-part series by Dr. Majed Ashy

Leaders can use their power and authority for good or bad.  Unfortunately, some leaders promote moral disengagement by persuading the masses that the crimes of wars and terrorism are, among other things, essential, unavoidable, victimless, ways of preventing more evil, fully the responsibility of the other side, and will be the last war or act necessary to create peace.

The foot soldiers who carry out the fighting are led to believe that they are fighting for their country, race, religion, sect, tribe, peace, or whatever they are told the conflict is about—which may be something quite different from what they are told. For example, while spewing out rhetoric about patriotism and loyalty and faith, the leaders might actually be fighting over natural resources such as natural gas, gas pipelines routes, mines, or oil, drugs or drug smuggling routes, money, influence over their own people, regionally, or internationally. Or they may be seeking to obtain the votes of extremists in their group. Or they may be pursuing violence just to satisfy their own narcissistic needs or psychopathology.


On the other hand, the relationship between the leader and the masses can contribute to a lot of good. The grip of war and terror mongering leaders on ordinary people needs to be shaken, their intentions and motives need to be examined, and their strategies to manipulate and mobilize the masses and to fuel the conflicts need to be exposed and countered. The relationship between such leaders and the ordinary people in their domains are the main origin of all international and local wars and ills.


Such leaders have sometimes been deposed or convinced to end their love affairs with violence in the past, and this can happen again. The enforcement of the Hague and international law might convince some of these leaders to accept alternatives to violence and change the nature of their relationship with their people or followers.

Posted in Armed conflict, Democracy, Moral disengagement, Patriotism, Propaganda | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment