Writings and observations

We’ve railed against the idea of privately-run prisons for years, and the evidence against them mounts. A significant chunk has come in the last year or so from the Idaho Corrections Center, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

The latest, in a report from the Associated Press, grows out of videos associated with a court case concerning violence at the facility (which has the nickname “Gladiator school”). (Watch the video.) From that report:

The videos show at least three guards watching as Elabed was stomped on a dozen times. At no time during the recorded sequence did anyone try to pull away James Haver, a short, slight man. About two minutes after Haver stopped the beating of his own accord, the metal cellblock door was unlocked. Haver was handcuffed and Elabed was examined for signs of life. He bled inside his skull and would spend three days in a coma.

CCA, the nation’s largest private prison company, said it was “highly disappointed and deeply concerned” over AP’s decision to release the videos.

You got that at the end, right? – that CCA was disappointed and concerned, not apparently so much that a man was nearly killed in violence that its employees could and should have stopped, but that AP released the video evidence of it.

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Idaho

There was a time after the 2008 election when some Democrats were looking ahead to the Senate mid-terms of 2010 with optimism. Lots of Republican targets up that year, fewer vulnerable Democrats – it looked like a good year for Democratic pickups.

So much for that. The other part of the thinking among those Democrats, by the way, was this: It had better be a good year, because 2012 and 2014, when more Democratic seats would be up for election, would be tougher years.

Based on the surface numbers – almost twice as many Democratic seats for Democrats to defend, as Republican seats for Republicans to defend – the job facing Senate Democrats trying to keep their now-thin majority margin, will be hard. The job now, evidently, will go to Washington Senator Patty Murray, herself just off her toughest election contest.

But she did win, by a small but decisive margin. And her influences in shaping the 2012 campaign likely will include Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who she’s close to in the Senate majority and who seemed for most of last year headed to defeat, but ran what is widely described as the most brilliant campaign of the year. Suggesting that Murray’s job, while hard, isn’t hopeless.

Even more than in her own race this year, the new job is likely to be a major test of what Murray is capable of.

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Washington