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Do We Want Judges Who Have Profited Off of Private Prisons and Locking Up Children?

A judicial nominee is under scrutiny because of his membership in a discriminatory country club. But what about his career as a prison profiteer?
 
 
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These are the kind of people that President Bush is nominating to the bench -- for lifetime appointments.

Gus Puryear is a well-connected Republican attorney who, after working for Bill Frist, went on to serve as general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America, a massive company that feeds off of the American prison system. CCA made $1.5 billion in 2004, and is the fifth largest prison system in the U.S. -- behind the federal government and three states. CCA also runs the notorious Hutto detention center in Texas, which detains immigrants and their children in prison conditions.

But it isn't Gusyear's CCA employment that's drawing criticism; it's his membership in a discriminatory country club.

Yes, it is true that the club does not allow women to vote. In fact, women have their own class of membership—they're called “lady members”—and lady members can't vote or hold office, even Martha Ingram, who is listed on the club's membership rolls. The only people who can vote are the club's resident members and, lo and behold, all of them are men. The club's “constitution,” which Puryear, as a judicial candidate essentially completing a take-home test, must have reviewed before answering Kennedy's questions, notes the following about resident members: “They alone, to the exclusion of all other classes of membership, shall have the right to control, manage, vote and hold office in the club.” So that means that non-resident members, associate resident members (younger members like Puryear) and, of course, lady members can't have any say in the governance of the club.

The club technically allows people of all races to join, but they only have one black member. And he lives in another state.

While I think it's fairly clear that Puryear's club membership -- not to mention his apparent inability to answer straight-forward questions about it -- should disqualify him on ethical grounds, it's his work on behalf of CCA that I find more damning.

Jill Filipovic is AlterNet's Reproductive Justice and Gender editor and a law student at NYU. More of her writing is available online at her blog, Feministe.

 
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