Glenn Greenwald has a very good piece on the obstacles Jim Webb will face in trying to reform the present (lucrative) prison system. The internal links here are well worth viewing.
It’s hard to overstate how politically thankless, and risky, is Webb’s pursuit of this issue — both in general and particularly for Webb. Though there has been some evolution of public opinion on some drug policy issues, there is virtually no meaningful organized constituency for prison reform. To the contrary, leaving oneself vulnerable to accusations of being “soft on crime” has, for decades, been one of the most toxic vulnerabilities a politician can suffer (ask Michael Dukakis). Moreover, the privatized Prison State is abooming and highly profitable industry, with an army of lobbyists, donations, and other well-funded weapons for targeting candidates who threaten its interests.