As reported by nj.com, Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s call to end private prisons has drawn the ire of one of his staunchest and most powerful political allies: Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. In a far reaching proposal to reform America’s prison system, Booker had harsh words for the privately owned prison industry saying it created a disincentive to reforming offenders and reducing recidivism.
Booker, the Democratic nominee to replace the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, laid out the policy as broader scheme to fix America’s prison system. “I am fundamentally against private prisons,” he said. “There’s a profit motive to warehouse human beings. Think about what we’re paying people for…there’s a perversion when we get to bondage and holding human beings.”
DiVincenzo fired back, saying Booker’s statement was “shortsighted and inaccurate.” “Cory is the best candidate for U.S. Senate, but in this issue we disagree,” he said. DiVincenzo has a longstanding relationship with Community Education Centers, a for-profit prison company that has been a significant revenue generator for the county.
The county’s use of private prisons came under scrutiny in 2011 when a report alleged cronyism and pay-to-play violations stemming from donations to DiVincenzo made by John Clancy, Community Education Centers’ CEO. William Palatucci, a former lawyer for CEC, is also a close friend of Gov. Chris Christie.
DiVincenzo said private prisons have yielded positive results in Essex County. “For many years, we have partnered with a private detention center to provide inmates who meet certain criteria with drug and alcohol treatment, as well as life skills training,” he said. “This proactive approach has proven results in helping our inmates get their lives back in order and reducing recidivism among those being incarcerated at the Essex County Correctional Facility.”