Friday, January 27, 2012

Effing Florida

So before I go off on a tangent here, I apologize for the litany of links to come.  But the situation in Florida has quickly spiraled out of control and, seeing as I'm already weeks late on reporting this, I wanted to try to put together as much info here as possible.  Enjoy!

Florida's politicians really just can't take a hint.  After they failed to force widespread privatization on the state's prison system, against the wishes of the director of their DOC (but at the behest of companies that spent a million dollars lobbying the legislature), the asshats in the state legislature are back at it, this time with a vengeance.  Even the fact that the GEO Group is under FBI investigation over a deal that brought a private prison to the state, and the state's Circuit Court ruling the initial push unconstitutional, have failed to slow down the push to privatize.

The state Senate introduced a stand-alone bill that mirrors the one that previously failed.  On January 18th, the law that would force nearly 4,000 government employees out of jobs (of course, this comes from the Republicans, the party of "job creators," or so we're told) passed a rules committee and went before the full Senate for consideration.  A separate bill would even exempt the state from a requirement to perform a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed privatization until after a contract is signed.  In a state where the two biggest private prison companies have been found to have cheated the state out of almost $13 million within the past 7 years.  The state ought to perform a more thorough analysis of the potential risks and benefits of privatization before committing so many taxpayer dollars to such a risky venture.  Because otherwise, this is just about as blatant a handout to corporate special interests as I could conceive, a gateway to giving millions of taxpayer dollars to companies that, if they weren't subsidized by desperate governments, would utterly fail on the free market.  Then again, Republicans don't actually like free markets, they just like markets rigged in the favor of the wealthy, but that's a different story altogether.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the state seems to be assisting the industry that has failed to demonstrate any significant cost savings, ever, by removing the most costly prisoners from the facilities intended to be privatized. The industry is notorious for cherry-picking the cheapest inmates, but I can't remember an instance in which a state preemptively took the most expensive prisoners for itself.  This whole thing reeks so badly of corruption that a conservative-leaning newspaper in Florida has opined that the state's legislators "seem to be drawn to secrecy and backroom deal-making at the expense of good government and public trust."  I'll say.

In fact, some politicians seem downright hell-bent on getting this privatization passed, despite the substantial opposition coming from pretty much everyone BUT Republicans in the state government and the industry.  Senate Republicans have fast-tracked the two bills by putting them before just one committee, a committee that really has never had any responsibility in determining correctional needs.  Thankfully, there is at least one Republican in the state with some sense, Mike Fasano, who has voiced his opposition to the way the bills are being handled and called upon his colleagues to refer the bill that would privatize half the prison system to the committee that oversees the state prison system.  Revolutionary thinking, I know.

So Haridopolous, the bill's sponsor, said he'll also refer it to the Budget Committee.  As in, not the criminal justice committee.  As in, the same committee that hid the original privatization proviso as a last-minute amendment, prompting the circuit court to rule its actions unconstitutional.  As in, the committee headed up by JD Alexander, who has pushed for privatization for years, starting with the deal that the GEO Group is currently under investigation for.

More than two hours of testimony from state employees who would likely lose their jobs if the plan moves forward failed to sway the opinions of the republicans who are just determined to destroy state jobs for the sake of giving hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations that lobby them. JD Alexander remains convinced, based on evidence no has has seen but him apparently, that the state can save $45 million per year by privatizing its prisons.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that, should those fantasy numbers ever materialize, that it will come directly at the expense of the prisoners who find themselves in private lockups.  The bill then passed a house appropriations subcommittee, where the legislators are seemingly unaware of the other bill that would allow for contracts to be signed with private prison operators absent any demonstration of cost-savings.  In what I guess is supposed to be some conciliatory gesture towards the thousands of state employees who will be out of work, the bill requires they get the first shot at jobs at the new private facilities.  Those would be jobs that pay significantly less in wages and benefits, where they would be surrounded by green staff without proper training, and where they would likely be routinely subjected to working with a short staff, which creates a dangerous environment for employees and prisoners alike.  What a great deal!

Or, more accurately, what a fucking mess.

CCA Lobbyist at Center of Ethics Debate

The great state of Idaho is one of only 2 in the country that lacks a public disclosure requirement for its legislators.  This has prompted Democrats in the state to seek to implement stricter ethics requirements, including financial disclosure and a 1-year waiting period before former legislators or public officials can register as lobbyists.  That second part is especially relevant for CCA, who now employs the former chief of staff for the governor as a lobbyist, less than 1 year after he left his official position.  Unfortunately, though, past attempts to introduce some ethics reform into Idaho's legislature have failed, and it doesn't seem incredibly likely that this will pass, given the person who thwarted the last attempt in 2009 is still Speaker of the House.

Media Coverage from the Day of Action

This past Tuesday, January 24, was a nationwide "Day of Action," calling on Wells Fargo to divest itself from companies that profit by incarcerating people.  There were protests in more than a dozen cities across the country, all of which had great energy and a wonderful turnout.  Here's a gathering of media coverage from the day.

And here's a video from the protest I was at in DC, where a very powerful speaker by the name of Matias Ramos took the mic to discuss the industry's role in immigration detention:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thinking of Tumbling...

This one goes out to my 2 regular readers (thanks mom!); now that Google is going to change its privacy policy and track everything people do, write, search for, or see online, I want to dissociate WhyIHateCCA from their service (Blogger).  I am looking for a new platform to host my outlandish views.  So I am seeking input from my audience as to whether I should move to Tumblr, WordPress, or some other client.  Let me know in comments, or shoot me an email if you have an opinion.  Thanks!

PS - this isn't only limited to the regulars.  I was being facetious.  Please give me some input.

More on the Shady Deal in Illinois

I'd like to give you a brief update on the proposed ICE detention center in Crete, Illinois, which has caused come controversy among the local population who knew almost nothing of the project until the past few weeks, despite the fact that CCA and ICE have been targeting the city for over a year.  In fact, CCA appears to have worked out a tentative approval for the center, while many residents remain in the dark about the project's specifics.

Some officials from the town have been in discussions with CCA and ICE since 2010, though they have barely provided their residents with any information.  But even they don't seem to know all that much about the project; in fact, at a recent meeting, CCA and ICE dominated the discussion and the mayor of Crete said officials from his town "sat there and listened for about an hour, never said a word during the whole thing."  I feel very sorry for the Cretians who apparently don't have an elected representative willing to voice any of the numerous concerns of his constituents regarding things like the project's impact on the local economy and property values.  Unfortunately, their mayor seems to really enjoy drinking the Kool-Aid, having cited the promise of jobs and revenue as reasons to bring the detention center to a town where no one seems to want it but those who stand to profit off it.

The community is so opposed to the center that a town hall meeting the other night was standing-room only, filled to the brim with people who don't want to help shoulder the burden of our country's bloated and unwieldy immigration detention system.  As one resident who lives a block away from the proposed site said, "this is a bad idea all around for multiple reasons."  She's exactly right.

We're All Screwed in the End

I often try to figure out ways to convince people that private prisons are not in the best interest of anyone but executives of private prison companies.  There are plenty of others out there like myself, trying to work with elected officials and concerned citizens to convince our legislators that continually giving billions of dollars to an industry whose very survival depends on locking up an ever-increasing segment of our population is morally reprehensible, and bad business to boot. But unfortunately, much of that activism seems for naught, as the anti-privatization movement's resources and political relationships pale in comparison to the influence built up by the privateers.

Take for example Broderick Johnson, lobbyist extraordinaire who was paid more than $1 million to lobby to get TARP passed on behalf of the major financial institutions that destroyed our economy.  He has also worked for such socially conscious organizations as Talx Corp (which helps employers challenge unemployment claims), Comcast, and the GEO Group.  Mr. Johnson also happens to be a senior adviser to President Obama, whose immigration policies have been, if not an expansion, at least the continuation of the compassionate and sensible policies of his esteemed predecessor.

So Obama's got a former GEO Group lobbyist working as a senior adviser.  He also appointed a former employee of the GEO Group and CCA, Stacia Hylton, as director of the US Marshal's Service, a federal agency in control of millions of dollars worth of private prison contracts.  I guess it should come as no surprise that the GEO Group was awarded a contract in excess of $235 million to house immigration detainees, despite decades of evidence proving the company can't operate a prison efficiently and that it seems incapable of treating its wards with basic human decency.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blueprint for Success

Just a quick link here to a great report that the Sentencing Project put out two weeks ago that investigates private prison companies' blueprint for success. In a nutshell, they don't save money, but they do cut corners on nearly everything (primarily staffing), and use the money they save in that regard to lobby for more private prisons.  Genius.

Friday, January 20, 2012

National Day of Action

The Private Prison Industry Divestment Campaign, being waged by the folks at Enlace, is hosting a national day of action on January 24, to mount protests in multiple cities across the US to call on Wells Fargo and other companies who profit handsomely from the private prison industry to divest of their holdings.  If you are in any of these cities, you should come out to show your opposition to an industry that preys on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Tacoma, WA
Portland, OR
Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco, CA
Austin, TX
Denver, CO
Wichita, KS
Salt Lake City, UT
Nashville, TN (Home of CCA)
Hempstead, NY
Washington, DC
Atlanta, GA
San Jose, CA
Boca Raton, FL (Home of the GEO Group)
Boston, MA

GA Lawmaker Drinking With CCA Lobbyist Prior to DUI

That is all.

Bankrupted By Private Prisons

The town of Littlefield, Texas found out that private prisons aren't all they're cracked up to be, in the newest video from the Prison Divestment Campaign.

Secrecy in Illinois

Quick link here to a brief editorial from the Southtown Star in Illinois, questioning a planned immigration detention center and the lack of publicly-available information about it.  Apparently, ICE and CCA have already worked out a tentative approval of the 750-bed facility's construction, but there has been no public hearing about the matter.  In fact, the mayor of Crete, the town in which the prison would be built, only agreed to the hearing after a bunch of his constituents voiced concern over the lack of information.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Private Prisons Don't Save Money in Arizona

Arizona sure loves it some privatization.  Facing extreme budget shortfalls, the state attempted to sell off and then re-lease its state house in 2009 to earn some extra money, along with privatizing its entire prison system.  But while that plan failed, the state's thirst for privatization never waned.  Though it already had multiple private prisons holding prisoners from other states and the federal government, a prominent republican in the state legislature introduced and helped pass SB1070, the now-infamous "Breathing While Brown" law.  This law, as pointed out in an investigative report by NPR, was written by ALEC, a conservative legislation front group that has longed worked with the major players in the private prison industry and promoted privatization across the board.  They're also the ones behind attacks on global warming, voting rights, and unions, but that's a different story.

So, the state basically gave a handout to private prison operators, who would undoubtedly benefit from stronger enforcement of federal immigration laws and increased detention.  This came after the industry donated heavily in the 2010 election cycle, to candidates, political parties, and ballot initiatives favored by republicans.  Then, even after 3 prisoners escaped from a private prison found to have numerous security deficiencies and went on a murderous rampage, state officials still pushed for more private prisons.  They re-initiated a request for proposals from private companies to construct 5,000 prison beds.

Thankfully, people began to take notice.  An advocacy organization filed a lawsuit trying to block the RFP, which was dismissed on a technicality.  But the substantive issue in the lawsuit wasn't resolved; namely, that the state, by law, is required to conduct performance audits of its existing private facilities every two years, including cost-comparisons with public institutions.  So the state began its audit late last year to compare public and private prisons, and the request for proposals was put on hold until the state could evaluate whether or not it would save money by turning to for-profit incarceration.

Now, common sense would tell you that there's no way to improve services in a not-for-profit venture without raising the budget for that given venture.  Private prison companies don't make money by generating more revenue; they make it by cutting costs, in things like maintenance, security, and medical care provided to prisoners.  So private prisons simply don't offer better or even equivalent services and conditions compared to state-run facilities.  But the findings of the audit may surprise those who aren't familiar with this blog or the industry: the state wouldn't actually save any money by privatizing its prisons.  That's right; even though they pay less, offer less benefits, cherry-pick the cheapest prisoners, and cut corners in every area of operations, private prisons cost just about as much to operate in Arizona as state-run facilities.

As a result, Arizona has cancelled its request for proposals for new beds, and the plan to further privatize the system is on hold for now.  This is a smart move for many reasons, including the fact that the state's rate of prison population grow slowed dramatically over the past few years.  And when one looks at the numbers a little deeper, the myth of cost-savings offered by private prison operators becomes even more apparent.  For medium-security prisoners, it cost the state of Arizona $5 less per prisoner, per day to house than a private prison would.  If say half of the state's 6,400 privately-housed prisoners are medium security, that means the state paid private prison companies $5,840,000 more than it would have cost them to just house those prisoners itself.  In just 2010.  For minimum-security prisoners, private companies offered a whopping $0.03 in savings per prisoner per day.  And that's for the cheapest possible population!  Delving even further into the numbers, the audit seemed to show that private prison facilities' value depreciates at an exorbitantly higher rate than public facilities (probably because they don't perform regular maintenance, as a way to increase the bottom line).  For example; state-run facilities depreciated at a rate of about $1.40 per prisoner, per day.  Private facilities in the state depreciate at a rate of $12 per prisoner, per day.  That's around eight times as fast as government-run facilities.

The full report of the Arizona DOC can be found here.

Another Riot

Very quickly, I just wanted to call attention to a riot that took place in a GEO-Group operated jail in Australia, which has experienced many of the same troubles in privatizing prisons that we have.  Some of the younger prisoners in the jail have taken officials hostage, revolting over conditions at the facility.  30 prisoners are involved in the crisis, which apparently could have been prevented had GEO not cut back on costs for maintenance and staff.  In fact, conditions are so dismal at this jail that the prisoners rioted, in part, in order to try to get new toothbrushes.  For Christ's sake, GEO, you can't give them toothbrushes?  That would dig too deep into your bottom line?  Maybe some of your CEO's millions of dollars in annual compensation could have gone to providing these poor kids with a shred of decent treatment.  Oh no, I guess all that money is needed for you to live in absurd luxury and purchase multi-million dollar homes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

They Withhold Information from the Public

Quick link here to a story about the riot that took place in the CCA-operated facility in Sayre, Oklahoma last year (seems to be a trend today, huh?).  Three months after the riot took place, CCA has yet to release ANY information that could provide some insight into why hundreds of men would riot in the facility, causing extensive damage and leaving 46 people injured, some of whom required hospitalization.

Better Late Than Never

In the past, I praised Hawaii's governor for proclaiming that he would return all his state's prisoners to the island, taking them out of private prison facilities on the mainland US where they have been repeatedly abused and violated.  I then panned him for seemingly going back on his word when he said the state wouldn't actually be able to do that.  So, in fairness, I again have to give him some credit, because the state has been working with a group of experts to come up with a comprehensive plan to reform the state's criminal justice system.  The plan, which is expected to save the state $150 million over the next five years, includes removing prisoners from private prisons and returning them to Hawaii.

CCA Ignores Problems Until a Crisis Develops

Apologies for being so late on getting to this, but I wanted to put in a quick link here to a story about a riot that took place in Colorado about 7 years ago at a CCA prison in Crowley.  After an extensive investigation, it's been revealed that CCA failed to adequately train it staff and failed to prepare for emergency situations such as riots.  They also neglected many warning signs that the facility was nearing a crisis point, failing repeatedly to prevent the brewing unrest. Following continuous abuse at the hands of the undertrained staff, some prisoners began to riot while others tried to stay in their cells to avoid getting in trouble.  After the riot had been raging for hours, a special forces unit was called in to put it down.  Many prisoners reported they then received harsher treatment from staff following the incident than anything they had experienced during the riot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Questionable Track Record

Happy MLK Day!  To start this week a little late, I want to begin with a quick link to an article that evaluates the record of the GEO Group as they attempt to secure a contract to house mentally ill criminals in North Carolina.  With a population as vulnerable for abuse as the mentally ill, NC should really take a hard look at this for-profit company with a history of cost-cutting and negligence.  In fact, the company's care has been called "atrocious" by one expert who has studied their operations for years.  As you'll see in the article, and if you have ever read anything on here before, that's a very accurate statement.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Protesters Shut Down Wells-Fargo

Really quick, I just want to give a shout-out to the protesters who came out last week against Wells-Fargo, shutting down 2 branches in California due to the bank's being the "king of private prison finances."

Updates on Hernando County, FL and Conneaut, Ohio

Two quick links stories here, to update two recent examples of private prisons failing to provide cost-effective services.

First, let's look at Hernando County, Florida, which had contracted with CCA for over 20 years to manage its jail.  After an inspection by the Sheriff uncovered a litany of neglected maintenance issues requiring millions of dollars worth of repairs, CCA bailed on the contract rather than fix the facility they had let fall into disrepair.  The sheriff's office then took over operations of the jail, and quickly realized they could operate the facility cheaper than CCA had, with higher-quality staff, even after performing the maintenance CCA had failed to do.  In fact, the jail for the first time passed an inspection as a "Model Jail" for the state of Florida, and by taking over operations, the sheriff's office has saved Hernando County taxpayers more than a millions dollars in just one year.

Then there's Conneaut, Ohio, an innocent bystander in Governor Kasich's rush to privatize his state's prison system.  Conneaut is the home of the Lake Erie CF, which was purchased by CCA last year.  After CCA purchased the prison, the local police department learned that it would now be responsible for responding to emergencies or disturbances at the facility, which the state police had done when it was owned by the state.  A small town like Conneaut does not have the resources to staff a police department capable of responding to something like a prison riot, so they were rightfully pissed off.  Thankfully, the state's attorney general appears to be a reasonable guy, because he just released a ruling that the state would still be the primary law enforcement authority for the prison.  Which is a good thing, because emergencies seem to happen more often at privately owned and operated prisons.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Private Prison Lawsuit Thrown Out By Supreme Court

Privatizing Ohio's Prisons Doesn't Make Business Sense

By Elaine Hirsch

In an effort to reduce a large budget deficit, Ohio governor John Kasich proposed the sale of five Ohio prisons to private companies in the spring of 2011. However, in September, the state announced that it would only sell the Lake Erie Corrective Institution to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for $72.7 million. Rather than being sold, the North Central Correctional facility in Marion would be merged with another nearby facility that is already privately owned, and the North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in Lorain County would be merged with the Grafton Correctional Institution.  North Coast had been privately owned for ten years.  The state has not made a decision whether or not to privatize the other two facilities.  Governor Kasich and some criminal justice experts initially announced that the Lake Erie sale would save the state $3 million per year. 

Faulty Accounting

Opponents of privatizing Ohio’s prison system claim that the savings estimates are not entirely accurate. According to journalist Bob Paynter in his report Cells for Sale: Understanding Prison Costs and Savings, he indicated that the calculations used by the state indicating a cost savings contained significant errors, omitting data that was significant to the formula and included accounting assumptions that should be considered controversial. After the release of the report, the state admitted that their method for determining the costs savings were imprecise, and when they released the new formulas a few weeks later, it was clear that the state had completely overhauled the savings formula method in an effort to report more accurate savings figures.

Corrections Corporation of America

CCA has ties to Ohio government; Gary Mohr, the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, is a former consultant and managing director for the company.  Mohr was hired to his position shortly before the proposed sale was announced.  The company, which received a 20-year contract, will own and operate the Lake Erie Correctional Institution. CCA purchased the facility for $72.7 million, more than the $50 million the state hoped to generate from the sale. CCA announced that they would run the prison for 8% less than the state, which would amount to $3 million in savings each year.

Opponents claim that selling the Lake Erie facility cost the state an asset valued at over $73 million. Additionally, although the state is claiming that the cost of capital improvements will now fall to CCA, the facility is one of the newest prisons in the state, so capital improvement costs will likely not be significant for at least several years.

Future Adjustments

Although CCA's contract with Ohio lasts twenty years, the corporation will have incentive to raise per diem prices after the contract is resolved due to its favorable bargaining position. If the state were to take over operations after the contract, it would have to incur heavy payroll and equipment costs to reestablish itself in managing the prison system.

With this knowledge, it would be favorable for both CCA and Ohio to renew a contract with CCA upping per diem prices, since they can cite inflation and increasing costs as reasons for doing so. This of course doesn't make sense, since most efficient businesses would strive to cut costs and factor in rates of inflation when conducting long-term business plans.

New figures indicate that privatizing Ohio’s prisons may actually cost taxpayers more than keeping them under state control. The use of questionable accounting methods and figures that are unable to be substantiated indicates that the state’s prediction of $13 million in savings per year may not actually come to fruition. Considering the security problems that have been consistently found in privatized prisons, public concern regarding this privatization venture seems warranted.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education to technology to public policy, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. She currently writes for an online MBA resource.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Death By Negligence

Another quick link here, this one to the story of a preventable death that took place inside a CCA prison in Colorado in October of 2010.  A 26-year-old man died of an enlarged heart, a condition that would have been treatable if the medical staff at the facility had not ignored his requests for help.  In fact, the young man had attempted to be seen by medical staff daily over the two weeks preceding his death, but was ignored.  The prison told his mother his death was "natural."  As in "we naturally let him die."

This is why I hate CCA.

From the Inside

Really quick, I want to just turn your attention to an excellent article that came out today regarding a riot at the North Fork CF, a CCA facility in Oklahoma.  This article was written by a prisoner from California who had been transferred to the prison and experienced the riot first-hand.  It's called "Riot at North Fork: Private Prison Exchanges Security for Profits," and it's a great read.

Monday, January 9, 2012

GEO/Cornell Sues to Get More Beds

Many private prisons start off as relatively small facilities, with bed counts varying depending on the custody level(s).  They then grow from there; the industry tends to basically plant a seed with a community by starting with a moderately-sized facility, then expanding that facility to bring more and more beds online (because they need to continuously grow their population to continue to generate profits (because they can't actually turn a profit on the prisoners they house)).  Many communities then wind up with prisons much larger and much more unwieldy than they had originally anticipated.  In California, such a situation is playing out in the context of a GEO-operated halfway house.  The local council rejected GEO's request to expand the facility's capacity, because the community had not intended to have a facility larger than its current one.  So the GEO Group, upstanding corporate citizen that it is, is suing the town to force it to allow them to build more beds.

Political Donations and Cronyism in NJ

I just wanted to provide a quick update on the ongoing situation in NJ, where a contract to build and operate an immigration detention center was basically handed to a company with strong political ties in the state.  I've covered this a bit in the past (here and here), but basically, the state set up the bidding process in such a way that only one company, a subsidiary of CEC, would be able to secure the contract.

An immigration advocacy group has just released a report detailing the political influence that helped CEC's subsidiary win the contract.  It's a rather short report, but a nice case study of how political relationships cultivated by private industry can severely restrict public oversight and accountability. 

CCA Costs More in Kentucky

Ron Herrington, who runs the Henderson County Jail in Kentucky, was really looking forward to the new year.  The state released 31 prisoners from his facility as part of a larger reduction in the state's incarcerated population on January 3.  The state is releasing prisoners as a way to save money; it will instead focus more on improving rehabilitation, especially for low-risk offenders who are not well-served by spending time behind bars.  But Mr. Herrington seemed even more excited due to the fact that the state's 2 contracts with CCA expired at the end of the year.  Because, he said, "[CCA] has two private prisons in Kentucky that hold many prisoners who could be housed in qualified county jails...for substantially lower cost."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Methodists Divest from Private Prisons

Quick link here.  The United Methodist Church has just divested itself of its investments in private prison companies, including CCA and the GEO Group.  The resolution they just passed declares that the Church will no longer include in its investment portfolio any company that derives at least 10% of its earnings from the owning or operation of a private prison.  This is a huge victory for the Divestment Campaign, and hopefully will be the start of a mass migration away from investing in the immorality of private incarceration.

Private Prisons & Wall Street Fuel Immigrant Detention and AZ Copycat Laws

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Fight Continues in Arizona

I just wanted to give a quick update on the lawsuit challenging Arizona's rush to privatize its prison system, as the state had submitted a Request for Proposals (RFP) to build 5,000 new private beds.  The AFSC in Arizona sued the state because for the past 2 decades the state has had private prisons, it has failed to conduct a single cost evaluation, which is required by law, to see if the private facilities actually save any money.

An initial review found that private prisons can cost up to $5 per prisoner, per day more for the state than its own prisons; further reviews seem to support the notion that private prisons simply don't offer any cost-savings at all for the state.  However, the lawsuit AFSC has against the state was dismissed on a technicality, and the state continued to proceed with its RFP (more on that in the near future).

Report Exposes Private Prison Lobbying

Judge Keeps Settlement Secret

Last year, the ACLU reached a settlement with CCA over its deplorable operation (or lack thereof) of the Idaho Correctional Center, which was so plagued with violence and assaults that it had been dubbed "gladiator school" by the prisoners.  The lawsuit had sought up to $150 million in damages, but a settlement was reached that was likely substantially lower (and which allowed CCA to avoid admitting responsibility).  After the settlement, the AP petitioned the court to have the settlement documents de-classified, so that the public could get an idea of the terms of the agreement.  Such a move could have given the public a better understanding of just how shitty this CCA prison was, and still is; in fact, it was still the most violent prison in the state, even after the lawsuit settled!

But apparently the judge doesn't want the people of Idaho to have any real oversight of the private prison that's taking millions of taxpayer dollars every year to provide such substandard treatment, because he refused to unseal the settlement.  His basic reasoning was that he feared releasing the documents could discourage a company like CCA from seeking settlements in the future.  Which would be GREAT, because then they could actually have to take some responsibility for the thousands of instances of abuse and negligence that have taken place in the prisons they're paid billions of dollars to operate.

MTC Finally Forced to Remit Payment

Just a quick update here on a story I covered a while ago.  MTC, which runs the private prison in Arizona from which 3 men escaped in 2010 among other facilities, has been fighting over back-pay due to its employees.  For years, it had been paying guards at a Texas Immigration Detention Center $8-9 per hour, while they were supposed to be paying them nearly $15 per hour.

After a lengthy battle, the US Dept. of Labor has forced MTC to pay up.  To the tune of $21 million.  If you were curious as to how private prisons can generate a profit, look no further than this example.  Staffing is the most expensive part of any prison's budget, and MTC is not the only company that shortchanges its staff to boost profits for its executives.  Private prison or otherwise.

Making Prisons Private