Maybe I Should Have Set Buyout in Arizona

I was thinking about influence and insurance and politics one day back in 2000, and I started a book that I thought would be called Buyout. About eight years later, after many fits and starts, I finished it and it came out in 2009. If you haven’t read it, Buyout tells the story of a private corrections company that creates new laws in the state of California to keep a constant supply of prisoners coming through their prisons, and to make sure those prisoners are from the most profitable demographics.

Now come these pieces in Salon (“Private prison industry helped draft Arizona immigration law”) and on NPR (“Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law”) about a private corrections company that essentially created new laws in Arizona…to make sure they would have a steady flow of inmates.

Sometimes people expect SF to predict the future. I don’t, and I certainly didn’t predict this. Buyout began as a thought experiment and expanded into what I think is a pretty good novel, but it’s no effort at prediction. To me, it’s a story about a guy who thinks he has a chance to do the right thing and get wealthy in the process…and, of course, nothing is ever that simple. It’s a story about the rationalizations we live by, and their consequences. (Plus kind of a homage to some of the things I love about Philip K. Dick.) Even so, by the time I finished writing the book, the scenario seemed more real to me than it had when I started. Now, thanks to this Arizona story (and this one about Pennsylvania judges taking kickbacks to funnel youth prisoners to their private-prison cronies), it’s a little more real yet.

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