Tuesday, May 31, 2011

They Don't Pay Fair Wages

Another quickie here to a story about guards who work for the GEO Group in Texas. At an immigration detention facility in Pearsall, the guards have taken to the streets in protest, demanding they be compensated more for a job in which they risk their life daily. They are picketing because they haven't had a significant raise in 6 years.

Sexual Assaults

Quick link here to an article detailing the repeated sexual assaults suffered by multiple women at the hands of a psychiatrist at a CCA facility. This would be the Hernando County, Florida facility which had to be taken over by the county after 22 years of mismanagement by CCA, who neglected to perform millions of dollars worth of maintenance. Apparently, they also neglected to hire professional staff. Shocking, I know.

Some Bad, Some Good

A fantastic report by Detention Watch Network, a nonprofit that advocates around immigration issues, shone a light on the shady lobbying activities of the largest private prison companies in the country, and how they have contributed to our nation's explosion of immigration detention.

"For years, private prison firms have played a critical role in shaping public policy around immigration detention, pursuing the bottom line at the expense of basic civil rights and tax payer dollars... This report highlights deep corporate investment in the detention business, raising concerns about how the corporate profit-motive is fueling the expansion of the detention system as a whole."

And now for the bit of good news. A federal district judge refuted the claims of the US government that it did not have to disclose information on the prices paid to private prison companies for the operation of immigration detention centers. This is a great decision which will hopefully lead to greater transparency and oversight of an unwieldy and inefficient contracting system that rewards poorly-performing companies.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Food Issues

I'll let the lead-in sentence from the title link speak for itself:

"The Republican plan to privatize food service in the state prisons will increase the odds of dangerous and costly violence, corrections workers warn."

This is wise advice, and what's also important to note is that privatizing food services, which inevitably leads to the malnourishment of prisoners, is counter-productive in a system that is also required to provide healthcare for its wards.

Prisoners have rioted over poor food service in Kentucky in the past, which is really saying something because it takes awfully deplorable situations to incite prisoners to riot. And a little over a week ago, a hunger strike was started at a CCA prison in Arizona over the food services.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What a Million Bucks Can Buy

A new report from the Institute on Money in State Politics finds that private prison interests spent $1 million to influence Florida's government this past year. This figure only includes campaign and party contributions, and does not include the tens of thousands also spent lobbying the government during the same timeframe. This all came leading up to the Governor's proposal, and Legislature's decision, to privatize the correctional services of 18 counties, the largest single-instance privatization of prisons probably ever.

The GEO Group alone spent more than $820,000 in campaign contributions in the last year. So exactly what did all this money buy for them? “I think the Florida opportunity is several hundreds of millions,” said Brian Evans, GEO Group’s chief financial officer, adding that it will be among “the largest opportunities we’ve ever seen in the history of our industry.”

I am just really sad to see how influential money can be in our government. Unlimited private campaign contributions and our corporate welfare state are simply unacceptable. Florida's government doesn't give a shit about anything or anyone that doesn't feed its insatiable greed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CCA and Yesterday's Supreme Court Decision

Yesterday, SCOTUS ruled in Brown v. Plata that California must reduce its prison population by over 30,000 prisoners. Why? Because their system was so severely overcrowded that the medical neglect prisoners were facing amounted to a violation of their 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. That’s some mightily deficient medical care.

California has been facing a crisis in its prison system for decades, as the sentencing reforms that came as a result of the War on Drugs and other initiatives have steered an ever-increasing segment of the populace into prison. Arguably most impactful in this regard is California’s “Three Strikes” laws, which mandate a life sentence for anyone convicted of a third felony charge, whether that charge be for murder or larceny, rape or possession of a controlled substance. California’s prison population has grown dramatically under this legislation.

“Three Strikes” laws were initially devised in, and then promoted by members of, a conservative legislation front group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a nonprofit group that brings the leaders of the biggest companies in the country together with state legislators in an open forum where model legislation is developed. These state legislators then return with model legislation in hand to their state Assemblies, often to see the bills passed. This really shouldn’t be legal, because nonprofits aren’t supposed to develop model legislation, but since nearly 2/3 of state Republican legislators are members, a blind eye is conveniently turned to this fact.

ALEC is essentially a pay-to-play organization; the more a company pays in membership fees, conference fees, etc., the more influence they can expect to have on the model legislation that’s developed. During the 90’s, CCA paid more than $20,000 per year for a seat on the steering committee of ALEC’s Criminal Justice taskforce, in which the 3-strikes law was developed.

To the joy of hard-line criminal justice advocates everywhere, 3-strikes laws passed with much fanfare in California and elsewhere, though they have had the largest direct impact on a prison population in the Golden State. CCA had direct influence over the drafting, and final approval of the model, of this law. CCA also began operations in California in the 90s, and have since developed a strong relationship with the state government through campaign donations and lobbying. Such a strong relationship in fact that, as California’s population spiraled out of control, CCA increased their contract with the state by more than 3,000%, with practically no public bidding process. So CCA pretty much wrote the law that has had the single largest impact on California’s growing prison population. The very same law they have greatly benefited from as their market share in the state increased 30-fold.

New/Old Governor Jerry Brown has proposed to redistribute many of the state’s prisoners to county jails, primarily nonviolent ones. But this is not a solution; all it does is shift the onus of California’s over-reliance on incarceration to smaller jurisdictions and excuse the state of its responsibility to be accountable for the people it has locked up. Other proposals include the option of shipping prisoners to private facilities in other states, or building even more private prisons. These aren’t solutions either.

The right thing to do would be to reverse 3-strikes, provide for compassionate release of older prisoners with major health problems, and reform technical parole violations. Essentially, begin to wean California off its addiction to incarceration as a primary means of punishment/social control. But I guess that would be just too logical.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Randi Rhodes Delves Into Prison Privatization

I've Been Saying This for Years...

An excellent article in the New York Times from last week discusses how private prisons have failed to deliver on their promises of cost-savings in Arizona. In fact, "privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons — even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates."

Private prisons essentially cherry-pick their prisoners. They take primarily low-level, nonviolent offenders, who cost less to house and maintain. They take mostly younger guys, and force the state to take older prisoners, who are more prone to costly health problems. They also rarely house high-security inmates.

In addition to all this, they cut corners on maintenance, have a horrible track record of denying medical care, and use significantly less staff than government-run institutions (staff costs being among the most expensive components of a prison's budget). They pay and train their staff less, and offer less benefits, which results in their staff being by and large less qualified and professional than you'd find in a government prisons.

Yet even after all of this, they still don't save a significant amount of money, and can even cost more to operate than a government-run facility. This study is just the latest of numerous reports that have all found essentially the same thing, going back nearly a decade. But our country's inability to enact effective sentencing and parole/probation reform to reduce our over-reliance on incarceration has caused governments to continue to perform this failed experiment with privatization. Hopefully, the decision that came down today in Plata v. Schwarzenneger will demonstrate that we cannot just continue to expand our prison population indefinitely.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Australian Prison "Out of Control"

In possibly only the second edition of our international series, this morning's link goes to a story about private prisons in Australia. Well, one in particular, run by Serco, one of the major international private prison firms.

This particular prison, Villawood, reports a "critical incident" every two days. These can include "assaults, bomb threats, chemical and biological threats, death, sexual assaults, riots, escape, hunger strikes, damage to facilities or protests." So one of those every two days. Which is great.

I guess America isn't the only country that can have a completely f***ed up prison system.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Made to Break Your Soul and Handicap You"

Those are the words used by Pedro Guzman to describe the treatment he received at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, run by CCA. Guzman, who's been in this country for 23 years and has a wife and son who are both citizens, was forced into Stewart for over a year and a half on a supposed immigration violation (he was later granted a green card). He described some of the hellacious treatment prisoners receive, amounting to a constant screaming match between COs and the immigrants housed there. He said, "The treatment you get is like you’re an animal. I have two dogs, and I treat my dogs much better than the detainees are treated in there."

Wrongful Deaths

Two more quickies here. The title link goes to an article describing the "gross negligence" of a private healthcare provider, PHS, which led to the wrongful death of an immgration detainee in Massachusetts.

And here's a link to a story from Texas about a 45-year-old woman from Texas serving a 1-year drug conviction who died from, what else, gross medical neglect in a CCA prison

Message to Florida's Governor

I'll keep it brief here with just an excerpt from a message the Florida Police Benevolent Association (the CO union in Florida) has asked state legislators to send to Governor Scott in response to his proposal to privatize much of the state prison system:

"Please veto the budget because it allows the additional privatization of state corrections institutions. This will not save the taxpayers of Florida a dime and it will risk public safety. If you allow this, you are hurting public safety while sending a very bad message — big corporate dollars and influence are more important than the government protecting the public or spending taxpayers' money wisely.
"Further, leave payouts to state correctional officers will cost the state approximately $32 million, thus erasing the supposed $11 million savings expected this year from privatization. Therefore, it will cost the taxpayers $21 million this year so big corporations doing business with the state can make a profit."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And the Revolving Door Continues to Turn

Michael Taafe used to work in the Oregon Department of Corrections, Health Services Division. He served on a three-member panel that selected Correctional Health Partners, a private company that provides "medical care" to prisoners, to be the recipient of a multi-million dollar contract with the state's DOC to care for 14,000 prisoners. Mr. Taafe left his position with the state in March, and three days later, 3 DAYS, began a new job at correctional health services.

Fired up in Ohio

Just want to give a quick shoutout to the protesters in Ohio who came out in force to oppose governor Kasich's plan to sell multiple state prisons to private operators for a one-time cash influx to help patch up the budget hole.

They Prevent Free Expression of Religion

Hawaiian prisoners housed at a private prison in Arizona are suing CCA for the right to practice their religion. Six prisoners at Saguaro have been prevented from participating in Makahiki ceremonies and have sued CCA to try to force the facility to allow them to express their religion freely, because, as their attorney says, "prisoners are being denied most of the key elements of their beliefs."


According to a report from the Detention Watch Network, private prisons spent $20,432,000 lobbying the federal government over the decade 1999-2009. That's an astounding amount of money, especially given the fact that there's no realy counter-lobby to the industry. No group spends any significant amount of money lobbying against private prisons. And that's just the federal government; that figure doesn't include state lobbying money, or money spent on campaign contributions or donations to political action committees (PACs).

This has resulted in our government sending nearly half of its immigrant detainees into private custody, and nearly 1 out of every 5 federal prisoners are in a private prison.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Quick link here to a heartbreaking story of a kid who was badly assaulted in a riot at the Walnut Grove YCF in Mississippi, resulting in severe brain damage, and his father's quest to find answers from the GEO Group, who operates the prison. Very poorly, I might add.

This prison has been described as "the deepest depths of hell." Situations like this beg the question of what do we really want from a criminal justice system. Do we want a system that sells off correctional services to the highest bidder? Do we want a system in which human lives and freedom are nothing but commodities? Can anyone suggest that outsourcing correctional services to a private corporation whose primary and secondary goals are both profit, is a good idea? Can anyone tell me that these children, CHILDREN, deserve to suffer like this?

It's a shame and it saddens me to know that, of all places, the United States subjects its own citizens to torture like this, all so that some big corporate greedy assholes can make a few bucks. This is beyond despicable. It's embarrassing. There is absolutely no excuse for our elected leaders to subject people to situations like this.

Fired up in New Hampshire

Just a quick shout-out to the folks who came out to protest New Hampshire's proposal to ship 600 prisoners to out-of-state private facilities. What a great summation of proposals to privatize correctional services:

“What this bill doesn’t even consider or care about are the people involved that this bill would severely impact – the inmates, their families, the jobs of the prison staff, their families and even the economy"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Interesting Logic

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case in which a prisoner at a GEO Group facility had both his elbows broken, and was then forced into shackles, and denied medical attention and assistance for days. He wants to sue the officers who subjected him to this torturous abuse.

The GEO guards have used some interesting logic in their defense. They claim "that prisoner lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations are 'already inundating the federal courts.' The appeals court’s 'dramatic expansion of liability, combined with the increasing prevalence of private prison contractors, will only ensure that such litigation increases,' the employees argued.

So basically what they're saying is, there are a ton of lawsuits against private prison guards because of all the abuse they inflict upon prisoners, so you shouldn't allow prisoners to sue because it's taking too much court resources to process these claims. Maybe you shouldn't FUCKING ABUSE PEOPLE SO BADLY IT VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTION. How about that?

We have a judicial system for this very type of occurence. We have a judicial system that allows for people who have been abused or wronged to find some redress for their suffering; in fact, that's its primary purpose. To claim that giving people justice is too burdensome is blasphemous, inexcusable bullshit.

Privatization. Ugh.

South Carolina's new governor, Nikki Haley, is a teaparty darling and rising GOP star. So of course she loves privatization. She is looking to privatize mental health care services for up to 300 individuals in her state. Surprisingly, this came after GEO donated thousands of dollars to the Republicans Governors' Association, which helped get Ms. Haley elected. Ms. Haley also wants to privatize school buses, work force centers, and educational television, for Christ's sake.

However, GEO has a reputation that's spotty at best when it comes to the "care" they provide. South Carolina could take a cue from its neighbor to the north, which has had private mental healthcare for a decade. “What we’ve learned is that, frankly, it doesn’t work for this population,” a mental health advocate said. “Their whole thing is they have to keep the beds full in order to make money.”

"We Should Never Privatize Public Safety"

Florida's legislature just passed a budget that will privatize the correctional services of 18 counties, basically 20% of its prison population. Though the decision has been criticized by both side of the aisle (the quote I used for the title comes from a Republican legislator, Mike Fasano), and despite the fact that private prisons in Florida, as elsewhere, have a long history of abuse and failure to perform up to contract, the deal went through. Senator Fasano described the claims of cost-savings touted by proponents, including budget chief JD Alexander, as "unconvincing and undocumented." In fact, Alexander at one point even said he himself was not convinced of the savings, but wanted to privatize a huge portion of the state system as part of an "experiment."

This is unrestrained Republican ideology in its most logical iteration. Governor Ric Scott and many Republicans in the state legislature, especially JD Alexander, received huge contributions from the GEO Group in campaign contributions. The GEO Group has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Florida legislature in recent years, building a great relationship with conservative legislators. This is nothing but a ploy to divert taxpayer money to corporations. Republicans promote corporate welfare while eschewing individual and social welfare. They label the poor as "lazy" and bitch about their tax dollars going to social welfare programs, while they turn around and give huge tax cuts to the wealthy and subsidies and contracts to private corporations with histories of abuse and negligence, corporations that donate generously to their campaigns and help keep them in office. This is what they do.

The GEO Group utilized 2 of the top 5, and 3 of the top 10 lobbying firms in Florida during the past election cycle to maximize their influence. They have also donated hundreds of thousands to state campaigns, mostly to conservatives and incumbents. So it should come as no surprise that the state has decided to embark on the most ambitious prison privatization scheme in history.

This is conservative economics. This is the face of a country that allows for unlimited corporate contributions to politicians and campaigns. Republicans literally want to dismantle government and turn over government services to the private sector. They want to perpetuate the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and power in this country, because it serves their purposes and interests at the expense of everyone else's. And I fear this is only the beginning of what will be a huge wave of anti-government, pro-privatization activity that we're seeing crop up across the country. But people need to realize that government is not the problem. The government is a tool we can use to fix the problems inflicted on society by corporations and their endless greed.

Immigrants for Sale

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fired Up All Over The Country

It would be remiss of me to not mention the simultaneous anti-private prison protests taking place in 5 cities across the country today. WhyIHateCCA stands firmly with all of you in spirit. Fight the Power!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's Happening in Florida

Lots of news from Florida recently, all of which I’ll try to compile into this one post. Most of this is at least a week old though. My bad.

First, I wanted to just link to two excellent editorials that appeared in the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times. Both detail part of Florida’s long and sordid history with contracting out prison management to private companies. Among the issues that have plagued private prisons in Florida are a failure to properly document the costs of private prisons (resulting in disputes to claims of cost-savings), “lax contracts, spotty state oversight, overbilling by contractors and less legal accountability for abuses.”

The Herald editorial also documents a prison riot that occurred in 2004 at a private Florida juvenile center for girls. The girls rioted in response to cost-cutting measures taken by the private company in pursuit of maximizing profits. These measures included “increased number of lockdowns, cancellations of physical and outdoor activities, cancellation of educational classes, cancellation of various therapy sessions, cancellations of volunteer programs, cancellations of special activities.” The editorial then goes on to properly point out the influence that literally millions of dollars in lobbying money has had on the Florida legislature, which is now poised to further expand the state’s use of private prisons.

Next, here’s a link to a great interview with Dr. Michael Hallett which delves into the connection between the drug war, our country’s ridiculously disparate rates of incarceration, and the private prison industry. The disparities between incarceration rates of African Americans and Caucasians as a result of the “War on Drugs” is a topic for a different blog, but the connection between the rise in our rates of incarceration and the rise of private prisons is clear.
Dr. Hallett says, “If the question is why did we have to privatize prisons, the answer would be the drug war.”

Now, I’ll leave you on this last bit. The GEO Group donated $25,000 to the new Florida House Speaker’s Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC, called the “Florida Freedom Committee” is one of those new super-PACs created after the Citizens United ruling that can pool corporate money for candidates or political causes. A bunch of major corporations seeking to expand their business interests in Florida donated generously to this PAC. This comes in addition to direct campaign and issue contributions by the GEO Group, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent lobbying. Clearly GEO is spending a lot of money wooing legislators in its home state, hoping to secure some political favor.

And it looks like all this money has been rather effective. The title link goes to an article detailing some of the recent developments in the Florida legislative session. Among them is the fact that the House caved to pressure from the Senate, but really from GEO’s influence through the above-mentioned PAC and other forms of monetary influence peddling, to go along with a plan to privatize the correctional work of 18 counties in the bottom half of the state. This would privatize as many as 18,000 more prison beds in the state.

The Senate Budget Chief, JD Alexander, has apparently become much more confident in his claims of cost-savings. Recently, he was touting this plan as an experiment to determine whether cost-savings could be achieved (albeit a fucking stupid experiment, but an experiment nonetheless). Now he “has insisted that the shift could save at least 7 percent in operating expenses at each facility turned private.” That’s an incredible conclusion to come to with absolutely no evidence to support it and a great deal of evidence that runs counter to that claim. I guess Republicans will just never stop lying to their constituents when it serves the interests of their corporate sugar daddies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Happens When You Cut Corners

The Sheriff of Mohave County, Arizona, was recently asked to describe some of the problems that led to the escape of 3 men from the MTC facility in Kingman, AZ last year. Essentially, he talked about a bunch of security failures that are the natural consequence of a company seeking to maximize profit by cutting corners. In other words, problems endemic to the industry (and by extrapolation, many inherently governmental services that are privatized).

Among the issues he identified as contributing factors:

Failure to follow security protocols
Alarms that never worked
Doors propped open with rocks
Failure to properly monitor the perimeter fence
Allowing prisoners outside at night, unsupervised

It also took more than an hour and a half for the prison to notify local law enforcement following the escape, at which point they couldn't identify the prisoners by name, or even tell which race they were. What's even worse is that had this information been available, the prisoners would have likely been captured almost immediately after escaping, and the men would not have had the opportunity to kill an elderly couple who was on vacation.

Good News from Maine

Maine's legislature has put off for at least another year a proposed bill that would permit for the privatization of Maine's prisons. Maine is one of a few states that explicitly prohibits sending its prisoners to private facilities, and the decision to not act on this piece of legislation in this session is a victory for all Mainers, prisoners and non-prisoners alike. Prisoners will undoubtedly benefit from not being thrust into private facilities that cut every possible corner to maximize profit. Free Mainers will benefit from not having a private corporation perform an inherently governmental function, less efficiently than the government, for at least the same cost.

This comes after lengthy negotiations that took place between CCA and the town of Milo, Maine, which unveiled what amounted to a quid-pro-quo deal that went bad. CCA had been courting Milo for years, while trying to get a bill passed that would allow them to build a private prison for Maine prisoners. When that bill failed to pass, CCA decided to pass on building a prison in Milo. Shocker.

"Profitization, not Privatization"

Don't just take it from me - those are the words used by an Ohio state representative, Matt Lundy, to describe Governor Kasich's plan to sell off several state prisons to private operators to generate a one-time cash influx of possibly $200 million. Lundy also called the idea "insane."

John MacDonald, a police officer, went even further; he calls the plan a "swindle of taxpayers." Of course this is all being done under the guise of saving money but it's really just another example of Republicans looking to privatize government services to benefit their friends and donors. The DOC spokesman claims that the 5% cost-savings promised by the industry are "indisputable," a claim that certainly is not.

Thankfully, though, the state is on the verge of passing some reforms to their criminal sanctions which will allow prisoners to leave prison earlier and divert low-level nonviolent offenders from incarceration. So not all is lost.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mounting Opposition

Advocates in Mississippi have begun to petition and protest against the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, a GEO Group juvenile prison. Walnut Grove is the target of a lawsuit by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its abnormally high rates of abuse and violence (primarily). The lawsuit further alleges that GEO houses children at Walnut Grove in "barbaric, unconstitutional conditions."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Making a Killing"

Just a quick link here to a press release and report from the AFSCME that discuss how private prison companies make our communities less safe and more prone to crime, while not really offering any savings.

More Earnings

CCA just released their first quarter 2011 earnings statement. For the first three months of 2011, CCA earned more than 40 million dollars, an increase of more than $5 million over the same period last year.

This breaks down to about $477,777 PER DAY in profit, or more than $5 in profit every single second of the year so far.

All for just locking people up and routinely denying them rehabilitative services and medical attention. Who knew it could be so easy?

How anyone could think that earning this much money to perform an inherently governmental function by depriving people of their liberty is OK, I will just never be able to comprehend.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Earnings Time!

It our favorite time of year here at WhyIHateCCA, when I get to re-affirm my deeply rooted hatred of an industry that earns profit from incarcerating human beings. The first-quarter 2011 earnings statements are being released. Yay!

The GEO Group was the first to release their statement this year. They earned $22.7 million in profit over the last four months. That comes out to around $252,222 every day, or $175 EVERY FRIGGING MINUTE. In profit.

Their chairman, George Zoley, said he's "pleased with our strong first quarter earnings." I guess he would be.

Classy Staff

Two quick links here to stories of staff at private prisons breaking the law while working. The title link goes to a story of a young CO in Oklahoma who has been charged with bringing cell phones and tobacco, both considered contraband, into the private CCA prison where he worked.

The other story involves a mental health counselor at a private GEO facility in Florida that houses sexually violent predators. This counselor had an ongoing relationship with one of the prisoners, having engaged in sexual intercourse with him over 15 times. But that's not all. The GEO Group took over the facility from the previous contractor after it lost the contract due to high turnover as a result of counselors having sex with prisoners.

Private prisons hire unqualified staff.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Grand Scheme

I realize I'm way too late on posting this, and for that I apologize. The link goes to an excellent piece from Mother Jones magazine that outlines the GOP's plan to sell prisons and their management to private companies. I've seen and reported on various proposals in places like Maine, Ohio, and Florida, among others, but this article does a great job of tying it all together.

As with everything Republicans do, the push to privatize is all being done "for the sake of the budget." This comes despite widespread abuses and problems at private prisons and the fact that private prisons may indeed cost more to operate than government-run facilities.


Monday, May 2, 2011


New Mexico's government loves private prisons. They love them so much that they don't even care to collect information on their operating costs, because hey, why would a company that incarcerates people for profit try to use any underhanded business tactics?

The former secretary of corrections loves private prisons so much that he declined to fine the industry for up to $20 million worth of penalties for not complying with their contracts, costing his taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue from companies known to have violated the terms of their contracts with the government.

It's actually kind of remarkable how poorly private prisons have performed in New Mexico, and the continued failure of the government there to do anything about it. 4 of NM's ten prisons are privatized, and the companies can be fined when they fail to maintain 90% staffing at any of the prisons. From January of 2010 to last month, two GEO Group facilities combined to fall below that threshold for 23 of a possible 28 months. No fine. Another prison, a CCA one, missed the mark in one out of every four months reviewed. No fine. In fact, at one of the GEO facilities, the staffing vacancy rate hovered above 1/4. ONE OUT OF EVERY FOUR POSITIONS WAS VACANT, for seven consecutive months. This creates dangerous situations not only for prisoners, but for the poor guards who actually work there. If there are supposed to be, say 4 guards for every 100 prisoners, but there's only 3, that means those 3 have more work, more stress, and are often asked to work overtime to cover the extra time.

It is simply unacceptable for New Mexico's taxpayers to be forced to continue to pay these consistently underperforming companies to not properly maintain a government function. Hopefully, the new administration will not simply continue to follow in the footsteps of the previous one, which allowed this problem to fester for far too long.

I Guess That Explains It

Quick link here to an article very favorable to CCA in regards to their attempts to build a private prison in Maine. Maine has a law that forbids the use of private prisons, but after CCA donated $25,000 to the incoming governor, all of a sudden the administration and some Republican legislators think private prisons are just peachy.

One of the proponents of bringing private prisons to Maine is state Senator Doug Thomas of Milo, the town at the front of the running for a private prison. Unfortunately, however, "Doug Thomas will be the first to admit that he doesn't know much about prisons. But the Ripley Republican...[has] advanced LD 1095 to help the town of Milo attract a private prison to their community."

I feel really bad for Mainers right about now. That's like a poltician saying, ya know, I don't know much about pollution, but sure, go right away and dump that nuclear waste in our water.

More Transparency on the Horizon?

Slightly off-topic here, but President Obama is working to develop rules that would help to shed light on campaign funds used by companies in line with the Citizens United ruling. The new regulations would force disclosure of any funds companies use that are geared towards political action, including lobbying activity, individual donations, and donations to super PACs, PACs that compile corporate money to use primarily in advertising.

Citizens United essentially held that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns, as long as the money doesn't go directly into a candidate's campaign. So corporations can run their own ads, or pool money together in these super PACs, to run ads against or in favor of any politician, ballot initiative, or other political action. The new regulations Obama is working on would simply require that these instances be considered in the contracting process.

But of course, Republicans hate it because it would force the companies that fund their campaigns to disclose the influence they attempt to wield on politicans prior to bidding on contracts. In a trademark Republican spin, they even claim the order "unnecessarily politicizes the procurement process," and that it "could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of individuals to contribute to candidates of their choice."

Now aside from the fact that I love the idea simply because Republicans hate it, I must say this logic is hard to follow. The notion that full disclosure of money being spent on political activity somehow makes the process more political is ludicrous. The contracting process is already highly political, largely because there is not full disclosure of how much money corporations spend to influence politicians. But to claim that this could have a chilling effect on individuals' first amendment rights is just patently absurd. It is the first amendment rights of corporations at stake here, not individuals. Individuals don't secure government contracts. When individuals who work at, or lobby for, a particular company donate to politicians, that is a donation on behalf of a corporation (for the most part). THAT has a chilling effect on individual first amendment rights. The first amendment rights of individuals are stifled by corporations, who by virtue of the amount of money they can spend, effectively drown out individual speech. Individuals may have a right to free speech, but corporation can buy a metaphorical stage and loudspeaker to make sure their opinion gets heard louder and clearer than ours.