Friday, May 28, 2010

Why Frank Smith and I Hate Corplan Corrections

James Parkey is the director of Corplan Corrections, a shadowy firm that builds private prisons on speculation that they'll be awarded contracts to house prisoners, then after construction runs out of town, fleecing desperate small communities across America. Jails they have built sit empty sometimes for years after construction, and counties often end up defaulting on the bonds they issued to build the facility, while Corplan makes out like bandits. Numerous facilities built by Corplan remain unfilled across the country, costing small towns literally hundreds of millions of dollars as they often wind up selling these buildings for pennies on the dollar of what they were built for, after years of sitting dormant.

The title link is to an awesome Letter to the Editor by a guy named Frank Smith, who details much of the long, sordid history of Corplan Corrections and the unfortunate towns that were scammed by James Parkey and his cronies.

What All That Lobbying Money Goes To

Wackenhut (A branch of the GEO group) recently won a $6 million contract in Wisconsin to transport prisoners for the Milwaukee County Sheriffs' office.  This came after an investigation revealed they had hired someone who spent months in jail as the head of security for the county courthouse.  I'm absolutely certain they could not have won this contract without the connections and money they have circulating in the county legislature, because why would anyone rehire a company that puts criminals in charge of security at a government facility?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Slight Change of Pace Today

Don't worry folks, I still hate CCA.  But I figured I could throw in a bit of relatively hopeful news today, in that Sheriff Richard Nugent has been officially named chief corrections officer for Hernando County, Florida, and he will assume operations of the jail there in August, after 22 years of a CCA regime.  I have written pretty extensively on the situation in the past, and now I am very optimistic about the future of the Hernando jail because, as Sheriff Nugent so accurately points out, his office is "a partner in this [operation of the jail], not a for-profit company running it to milk it."  Well said, and good luck, Sheriff Nugent.

Conflict of Interest?

Quick link here to a pretty good investigative piece from a blogger in Arizona regarding the money CCA contributed to Gov Brewer via shareholders and lobbyists, right before she signed the controversial immigration law.  The potential conflict arises because the bill will likely be a boon to the private prison business, which has a lot of contracts with ICE to incarcerate these immigrants; 3 of CCA's ICE-contracting facilities are located in Arizona.  Mr. Lemons did a great job tying all these pieces together.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Biased Information

Ken Kopczysnki, of the Private Corrections Institute, a fantastic nonprofit watchdog of the private prison industry (go to their site - there's a link to the left!), has called into question the neutrality and accuracy of the information contained in a recent report by the Reason Foundation and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) that called for increased privatization of California prisons.  CCA has contributed heavily to the campaign of a politican supported by the HJTA, and hundreds of thousands more to California politicians and PACs.  Additionally, CCA and GEO give tons of money to the American Correctional Association, a private entity that accredits prisons and jails, which provided information on how much California pays to house its prisoners.  Mr. Kopczynski then goes on to detail a ton of misleading "findings" from the report, including issues such as the costs associated with housing prisoners, medical care costs, and comparisons between public and private prisons.  The Reason study is based partially on information known to be erroneous or biased, including a report performed by a professor found to have been paid more than $3 million by CCA, and notably excludes prominent research on how private prisons can be more expensive to operate, and information on the abuses and violations that take place within private facilities.

Basically, my point is; be careful of your sources of information.  An author for a financial magazine recently wrote a huge article espousing all the great aspects of privatization, based largely on this report (found here), and many others have already cited this report in discussing how privatization can benefit their communities.  Please, take this report with more than a grain of salt (as you should with most things in life), and consider the source whenever you hear someone spout off about how great private prisons are.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Market Privatization and the Revolving Door

It's rather common among high-level employees of major industries like banking, oil, and even prisons, to be involved in the "revolving door" of the arena of politics and lobbying, often shuttling back and forth between political jobs, lobbying jobs, and industry jobs. Which makes me especially nervous in the case of North Carolina, whose current head of the department of health and human services used to lobby for private mental health contractors. Mr. Cansler has proposed privatizing much of the state's mental health system that handles violent offenders, working with a GEO Group lobbyist who formerly oversaw the state's massive transition from public - private mental heatlh care. As is typical with any profit-driven private industry providing human necessities, the privatization effort was a huge disaster that saw a drastic decline in the quality and accessibility of mental heatlh care in the state, which then overtaxed hospitals who had to deal with mentally ill people who couldn't find or afford care (which was passed on the the average North Carolinian taxpayer, while the private companies of course made out rather well). So of course GEO wants to get in on the mental health biz (the article says they provide "mental health care management services," though I'm sure they use the term lightly). I'm honestly kind of worried about the future of mental health care in North Carolina because, well, The GEO Group has never seemed to be too concerned with things like human rights and dignity when there's profit to be made.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Improper Strip Searches = A Slap on the Wrist

The GEO Group just settled a lawsuit regarding its improper strip-searches of thousands of low-level offenders in mutliple jails. 10,000 prisoners over the course of just 2 years were improperly strip-searched, many of whom were incarcerated for relatively minor offenses such as DUI. Apparently, women were essentially herded into large rooms and strip-searched in front of groups of other arrestees. Unfortunately for the victims, The GEO Group's legal team somehow managed to limit the damage to the company, with the group only shelling out $2.9 million in the settlement. That breaks down to about $400 per person. Just once, I'd like to see a court step up and slam these despicable companies with a legitimate penalty for even one of the myriad abuses they inflict on the poor souls who enter their facilities.

Why I Hate CCA Today

The Hawaii legislature recently passed a bill calling for an independent audit of the contract the state has with CCA to house prisoners in Arizona.  Apparently, CCA is intentionally holding Hawaiian prisoners well past their release dates (because they continue to earn money as long as they're in CCA custody).  However, HI's Director of Public Safety is confident no audit is needed because it's already ACA accredited and inspected on a regular basis.  Well apparently he doesn't read much of Why I Hate CCA, because if he did, he'd know that the CCA facility in Hernando County, FL which was ACA accredited and passed all its inspections, was recently determined to need millions of dollars worth of maintenance repairs.  But the real issue is that the audits consist of only a checklist of mostly structural issues, and don't involve any review of the lengths of stay of the prisoners in the facility, which is a big deal considering HI stands to lose about $2,000 per month on every prisoner held past his release date.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Profiting From a Broken System

SEIU is taking CCA to task for the tremendous profits they reap at the expense of the American taxpayers via our broken and dysfunctional immigration system.  Bravo, SEIU! 

Click on the link to sign a petition to ask CCA to stop exploiting this broken system.

Monday, May 17, 2010

From Bad to Worse

Just a quick little thing I noticed in an article detailing a number of the issues CCA has had in hiring and retaining corrections officers; their head of HR used to hold a simliar position at Wal-Mart, Inc.  Even better, he took advice on managing people from Sam Walton.  Now there's someone who treats his employees right.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Win for the Little Guy

Prison Legal News, a publication that provides news and legal information to prisoners, just won a decision in the Florida Courts that will force the GEO group to disclose its records on incidents of violence and lawsuits the company has settled.  The decision came after a 5-year court battle in which the GEO group consistently fought against clearly-established Florida law that holds private prisons must comply with public records laws.  Basically, they stalled for 5 years with petty legal challenges, trying to wear down PLN, which doesn't have nearly the same types of resources a huge company like GEO has.  This is a huge victory not only for PLN, but for anyone who feels that government agencies should be held accountable for their actions.  Congratulations, PLN!

What Our Tax Dollars are Funding

CCA spent a quarter of a million dollars lobbying just the federal government over the past 3 months (the same as they spent in the first quarter of last year), on issues involving immigration detention, cell phones, and FOIA requirements. It should come as no surprise that this company lobbies to protect their interests; my problems with this are A) prisons shouldn't be a for-profit venture, and B) most of their interests run counter to the best interests of society (like when they lobby against legislation that would force them to comply with public records laws).

Also, John Ferguson, CCA's CEO, just sold $6 million worth of stock:

I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly fathom why someone who incarcerates other human beings for a living should be earning so many millions of dollars to do so. He has liquidated millions upon millions of dollars in stock in recent months, as has the director of the GEO Group. It's just not right.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making Out Like a Bandit

George Zoley, chairman and CEO of the GEO group, recently sold more than 230,000 shares of company stock at an average price of over $20/share, which comes out to $4,600,000.  I can't be the only one who thinks it's wrong for him or anyone to profit so much from incarcerating people.  What's worse is that he still owns huge amounts of company stock, so there's plenty more where this came from.  He recently unloaded more than 100,000 shares, and i'm pretty sure another few hundred thousand will follow in about 3 months.

And if that wasn't bad enough, he's not even the only executive from this amoral company pulling in loads of cash.  3 executives earned more than $200,000 each, and the COO liquidated more than $3 million worth of stock:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trying to Force the County's Hand

Just a quick link today to a fantastic editorial discussing how CCA's decision to opt out of its contract with Hernando County, Florida is nothing more than a ploy to try to weasel a more profitable contract out of the county.  And as the author properly points out, the county should allow CCA to walk and direct the Sheriff's department, which is beholden to county taxpayers rather than CCA stockholders, to take over the facility

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I Also Hate CCA Today

CCA just released their earnings report as well. In the first 3 months of 2010, they earned $35 million in profit (that would be taxpayer dollars going into John Ferguson and company's pockets), with a total revenue stream of nearly $415 million dollars. So between CCA and GEO, the American taxpayers just gave away more than $50 million in profit alone over the past 3 months. But I'm sure none of the conservative blowhards would take issue with such obviously bloated, wasteful spending, because hey, rich white guys get to become just a little richer.

Why I Hate GEO Today

It's that time of year again; private prison companies earnings reports time!  The GEO Group brought in nearly $18 million in profit in the past 13 weeks (even though they assumed $300 million worth of debt in an acquisition of Cornell).  Isn't that just great?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why Private Prisons Needs to Comply With Public Records Laws

A private prison in Texas has been found to be out of compliance with the minimum provisions of its contract for the second time in the past year.  Why?  Because they failed to report 2 DEATHS at the facility.  But of course the deputy warden wouldn't know he needed to report something so minor as a death, since neither he nor the warden are even licensed!  The prison is run by LCS (Louisiana Correctional Services, a relatively minor player), for anyone who's interested.  I Hate You Today, LCS

Those Who Don't Study History...

A very interesting article from the Pahrump Valley Times (In Nevada), regarding CCA's decision to opt out of a contract to run a women's prison in 2004 because of the high medical costs associated with its operation.  This is especially pertinent considering CCA is scheduled to open a new prison in Pahrump. Though the contract cancellation isn't exactly routine for CCA, this isn't the only time they've cancelled a long-term contract due to costs, essentially leaving the state to clean up its mess.  And I worry with this new facility coming online, it won't be the last.  Good luck, Pahrump.  You're going to need it.