Thursday, March 29, 2012

IL Senate Seeks to Block CCA Facility

Just a quick update on the story in Crete, IL, where residents are resisting being force-fed a private immigration detention center to be run by CCA.  The Senate just passed a bill that would block local governments and state agencies from contracting with private prisons, which would not only kill the detention center's prospects, but any hope for privatization within the state.  So the bill is, in a nutshell, fantastic.  Its prospects for passage though are murky at the moment, so be sure to keep an eye on the situation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MS May Soon House Death Row Prisoners in Private Prisons

Another quick link here.  Mississippi's legislature has advanced a bill to the governor that would permit the state to house death row prisoners in a private prison facility.  To my knowledge, no other state in the country does this; private prisons house primarily low to medium-security level offenders, and very rarely house even high security people, let alone death row.  The DOC apparently approves the measure, despite the fact that the state was just ordered to remove all its juveniles from private prisons due to the obscene amounts of abuse the kids suffered.  I guess they just don't care about the guys on death row.  A spokeswoman for the department claimed they could also save money by sending death row prisoners to a private facility, but *SHOCKER* - she couldn't actually back that up with any evidence.  Possibly because there is no evidence that private prisons save any money.  Possibly.

New Report on CCA

Another quick link here, this one to a great new report from Corazon Tuscon, titled "The Corrections Corporation of America: How CCA Abuses Prisoners, Manipulates the Public and Destroys Communities."  Which is a perfectly appropriate description.

Wrongful Death Suit Against ICE

Quick link here to an article about a wrongful death suit that has just been filed by the wife of Roberto Medina-Martinez, who died in a private prison under ICE custody in 2009.  The suit claims that the facility, run by CCA, was negligent in failing to provide adequate medical care for Roberto before he died of an inflammatory heart disease.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Lawsuit from Gladiator School

Another prisoner from the Idaho Correctional Center has filed a lawsuit against CCA over the abhorrent levels of violence the facility just can't seem to control.  Jacob Clevenger, who was beaten senseless inside the prison in August 2010, claims CCA "has allowed and even fostered systemic conditions of brutality, peril, and injuriousness at the ICC."  This is the same prison that was sued by the ACLU over violence so severe and persistent that the facility was called "gladiator school" by the residents.  That lawsuit settled out of court, but the settlement did not preclude prisoners from filing individual cases against CCA.  Clevenger claims in his suit that CCA officials knowingly put him at risk by housing him with known gang members; shortly thereafter he was assaulted, resulting in a broken tooth, fractured eye socket, and partially torn ear.  I'll go so far as to say that when someone's injuries sound like the aftermath of a fight with Mike Tyson, the violence is pretty severe.

COs in PA Oppose Privatization

The union of correctional officers in Pennsylvania came out to a legislative hearing to show support for a bill that would prohibit the state DOC from contracting out health care services to a private company.  The bill has been sponsored by politicians from both sides of the aisle, but primarily those with prisons in their districts.  They understand the potential risk of privatization in the same way as an RN from a state prison does; "It will compromise the safety of staff, inmates, and the communities where inmates return."  In addition endangering public safety, the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Fleck, said he couldn't find any evidence to support the notion that privatizing such services would even save money, which is basically the entire idea behind the governor's proposal to do so.

Feds Reducing Reliance on Immigration Detention?

Another quick link here to an article about the President's recent budget request.  In it, he seeks funding for about 1,200 less beds for immigration detainees than in FY2012, and a increase of nearly $40 for initiatives that promote alternatives to incarceration.  Hopefully this signals the beginning of our government weaning itself off its addiction to locking up immigrants.

2 Prisoners Escape from Private Pre-Release Center in MT

Two young women have disappeared from a private work-release center in Montana.

Nurse for Private Company Arrested for Drug Trafficking

A nurse working for Corizon, which provides health care to prisoners in the Indiana State Prison, has been arrested and charged with trafficking marijuana into the facility.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poor Pay for Private Guards in Louisiana

Just a quick link here to an article from Louisiana discussing how the state will seek to save money: privatizing its prisons.  Specifically, they're going to privatize the Ayovelles detention center, and apparently plan on paying guards less than half what is paid to government COs.  Is it any wonder the industry seems to have so much trouble attracting qualified guards?

Idaho Should Rethink Its Relationship with Private Prisons

It turns out private prisons might cost more to operate than government ones in Idaho, according to a report from the Associated Press.  The thing is, Idaho hasn't bothered to find out; the state has never conducted a cost comparison study despite elected officials' claims that the industry saves it money.  The AP's study attempted to compare costs at public and private prisons, but ran into the common obstacles facing researchers who try to compare costs.  Namely, the per diem paid by the state doesn't account for oversight of the industry, CCA has a clause in its contract with the state that bars any prisoners with serious medical issues (thus placing a heavier financial burden on the state), and the private facility is much newer than state prisons (resulting in lower operating costs).

So the Board of Corrections has not yet allocated funds for a comparison, but a new board member says he's willing to do so, and even went so far as to say he was "on the verge of calling [contracting with CCA] a failed experiment."  He would seem to be correct in making such a claim - the state's history with privatization is far from pretty.  For starters, it failed to ever conduct a cost comparison before privatizing in the late 90s, against the recommendation of a consultant hired to help with the transition.  It brought CCA in to run the Idaho Correctional Center, which became the target of a multiple of lawsuits alleging civil rights abuses and an FBI investigation.  Conditions became so bad that it was called "gladiator school" by the prisoners housed there, who would routinely suffer severe physical assaults while staff failed to intervene, sometimes even watching the beatings.  A class action lawsuit about the violence at ICC was settled out of court late last year, but details on that are unavailable because the judge sealed the settlement.

The time has come for Idaho to evaluate its relationship with CCA and privatization, as its prisons are currently operating at or near capacity and the state will likely need to open a new facility within the next few years to handle the anticipated rise in the population.  Particularly because the state legislature just allocated $29.8 million to the private prison fund for this coming year, a 3% increase over the last budget (that again won't take into account the administrative costs of overseeing the prison).  This was the only item on the budget that didn't pass unanimously, possibly because it's about a million extra dollars going to CCA; 3 representatives voted against it.  Since private prisons have been found to cost as much or more than government ones in basically every study not funded by the industry, and given its track record of failing to properly operate prisons both in Idaho and elsewhere, the state should think long and hard about the 30 million taxpayer dollars it's giving CCA to operate a prison that just a few short years ago had more violent assaults than all other state prisons combined.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Michigan Toying With Privatization, Again

The Michigan legislature is currently considering legislation that would allow a currently empty GEO Group facility to once again house prisoners; the bills passed the senate narrowly but not the house (yet).  Under the legislation, a private prison operator would have to demonstrate savings of at least 10% in certain aspects of operations, so I assume this means no private prisons will open in Michigan (I kid, I kid! - they won't care if it actually saves money).

In particular, the legislation would permit for the re-opening of a facility that used to house juveniles in Baldwin, MI (and which was for a time considered as a potential landing spot for those gitmo detainees that were supposed to have been transferred before Obama dropped the ball on that).  The prison closed about 8 years ago because it cost too much, but now the Michigan legislature is convinced, for some reason, that it won't cost so much.  The bill doesn't really seem to have any enforcement or accounting mechanism to ensure the state will save money (but that didn't stop the Senate from passing it) and it doesn't grant the Corrections Ombudsman permission to have any oversight of private prisons.  In fact, it expressly denounces the state's responsibility to provide oversight of private prisons.  Because if there's something an industry that's been a proven failure for 3 decades needs, it's less oversight.

CCA Prison Plans Shelved for Now

The proposed private prison in Valdosta, GA has been shelved for the time being.  CCA has decided to not renew an economic development agreement after a bunch of incentives were taken off the table.

The Private Prison Problem

A video from the ACLU, focusing mostly on the assaults at Idaho Correctional Center ("Gladiator School")

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Update on CCA's Diabolical Scheme

Just wanted to give a quick update on the newest craze sweeping the private prison industry, CCA's diabolical scheme to connive state governments into selling prisons to the company and guaranteeing 90% occupancy of said prisons for decades to come.  Basically, they're looking to ensure the US remains the world's embarrassing outlier in its unnecessarily high rate of incarceration.  The proposal has been quickly and loudly criticized by dozens of groups, including advocacy groups and a coalition of religious organizations.

Beyond the mere idiocy of guaranteeing a private prison company income despite prison population shifts for the next twenty years, people are starting to question the source of the proposal; former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin.  Shortly after leaving his post in the federal government, Mr. Lappin took his highly lucrative job in the private sector in one of many examples of the "revolving door" that characterizes the industry and its success at cultivating political relationships.  The proposal from CCA actually encourages the sale of federal prison facilities, which Mr. Lappin himself was in charge of just a few short months ago.  But that's not all; in his capacity as director of the BOP, Mr. Lappin authored a report highly critical of the very private prison industry in which he is now employed

Thankfully, it's looking like the work of the groups who were quick to oppose CCA's proposal is paying off.  Many states have already decided to reject it; at least five states, including those with the highest correctional populations, many of which have existing contracts with private prison companies, have said they aren't even considering it.  I guess their current relationships with the industry have dissuaded them from wanting to further entangle themselves with a company that profits off human misery.  Who woulda thunk?  Of course, some governments were bound to take the bait; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently announced his plans to sell a state prison to the highest bidder, which is, in the words of a state representative, "an unlawful dereliction of state duty."

I'm sure this won't be the last of what we hear from states as they consider the proposal.  But hopefully this will be the last bad news.

Group Challenges Privatization in Arizona

The AFSC, a Quaker organization, has just filed a formal protest along with the NAACP in an attempt to block Arizona's request for proposals to construct 2,000 new private prison beds.  Arizona loves private prisons, with multiple facilities housing Arizona prisoners, prisoners from other states, and immigration detainees.  The AFSC conducted a report last year, in the absence of one mandated by the government, that found private prisons in the state were considerably more expensive than government-run facilities.  Once the government finally got around to conducting its own report, it found the same thing; private prisons don't save money and they are more dangerous than government ones.  But the legislature is pushing ahead with the request anyway, and is even considering legislation that would relieve the state of its responsibility to conduct cost-benefit analyses of private prisons.  Because what better way to stop a problem than ignore it altogether and allow it to fester?

MS Bans Juvenile Solitary Confinement, GEO Group Housing

In a really monumental settlement agreement, the state of Mississippi has been ordered to remove all its juvenile prisoners housed at the Walnut Grove YCF, a juvenile facility operated by the GEO Group (formerly by Cornell), and place them elsewhere.  Following rampant sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the children detained at the prison to try to relieve the nightmarish conditions they were housed in.  In addition to removing the children from a prison that profits with every additional incarcerated soul, the settlement mandates that no children in the state can be housed in solitary/isolated confinement, a notoriously dangerous and harmful classification that typically involves 23-hour per day lockdown and extreme sensory and social deprivation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Escape from CCA Prison in Kentucky

A man convicted of manufacturing meth just escaped from the Marion Adjustment Center, a CCA prison in Kentucky. 

Update on Crete Debate

I just wanted to drop a quick link to an article discussing the proposed immigration detention center in Crete, IL, that is opposed by most of the residents.  The article's basic conclusion is that any economic windfall that may come as a result of the facility being built will likely go to CCA, not the residents of the town.  Shocking, I know.

I Thought We Had It Bad in the US

But over in merry old England, they've decided to privatize not only prisons, but police and the judicial system as well.  Is this sort of private police state what we're headed towards?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fight Goes on in Pembroke Pines / Southwest Ranches, FL

Yesterday, Pembroke Pines's Commissioners voted to cancel a contract to provide water and other utility services to a proposed CCA immigration detention center that is strongly opposed by seemingly everyone but CCA and ICE.  So CCA is trying to strongarm the town by suing them in federal court.  If you're anywhere near Pembroke Pines/Southwest Ranches, Florida, I urge you to come out to a protest tonight at 7pm:

(flyer reprinted with permission of

FL Republicans Just Won't Quit

I'll spare you a long recap of all the turmoil that keeps arising in Florida as Republicans try to repay the private prison industry for its generous campaign contributions (nearly $1 million in the 2010 cycle alone) by trying to force through the largest, most expansive prison privatization scheme in human history.

Long story short, they tried to force it through as a budget amendment last year, which the state supreme court ruled unconstitutional.  The head of the DOC lost his job for opposing that measure, because hey, who's the head of the department of corrections to say that privatizing half the system is a bad idea?  After that shady deal failed, they tried to pass it through the legislature, but that plan was shot down by a group of legislators that hadn't been bought off by the industry.  A state senator lost his chairmanship of a committee for opposing that measure.  So you would think that this would probably be an indication to the pro-privatization lobby in the legislature that turning over control of 24 or so prisons maybe isn't in the best interest of Floridians, and that they should just stop.  Either that or all the evidence that came out showing the state hasn't saved money from its past experiences with privatization, and that it would be on the hook for $25 million owed to state employees who would lose their jobs if the plan went through.

But no; privatization proponents know no bounds.  They tried to, once again, insert the privatization as a last-minute budget amendment.  That's the same action that totally rubbed many people the wrong way, that had previously been ruled unconstitutional by the court. Thankfully, this measure was thwarted by some of the same politicians who have stood firm against the overwhelming influence of the industry, including Paula Dockery, who called the move "abhorrent."  Which is a far nicer term than I would have used.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The End of Leniency in New Mexico

I have previously reported on the problems New Mexico has experienced with private prisons.  In particular they've found the prisons to be wildly more expensive than government-run facilities, and have found major staffing deficiencies and other issues at prisons run by the GEO Group and CCA.  In the past, these companies had escaped responsibility for short-staffing their facilities, when the head of the state's DOC, Joe Williams, former employee of the GEO Group, failed to fine the companies for repeated contract violations.  Well all that has changed with new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez, who is determined to ensure the state collect on the fines her predecessor failed to bring in (to the tune of $18 million the state missed out on).

Now that Joe Williams has returned to working for the private prison industry, reclaiming a position with the GEO Group after leaving his post in New Mexico, the state has begun to hold the two companies to account.  After assessing more than a million dollars' worth of fines last year against the industry, CCA and the GEO Group failed to learn their lesson.  GEO just got fined almost $300,000 for failing to maintain adequate staffing levels at its facilities, and CCA got hit with nearly $12,000 in fines for holding female prisoners well beyond their expected release dates, in some cases more than a month longer.  Now, why would a prison do that?, you may be asking yourself.  Because by continuing to house those prisoners, they continued to collect on the per diem the state paid them to house the prisoners. 

This abuse of authority is sickening; CCA literally imprisoned people unlawfully in order to make more money.  Welcome to the world of for-profit prisons!

Bribery, Fraud, and Tuberculosis

I know, not exactly an everyday combination.  But all those fun things are coming out of (or circulating around) a private jail in Texas run by LCS Corrections.  The warden of the facility is currently under investigation by the FBI for bribery, fraud, and theft allegations.  The US Marshal's Service is also investigating claims of inadequate medical care; infections and lesions apparently go untreated for days at a time.  But the lack of treatment goes beyond individual cases; a doctor at the prison has been permitting prisoners exhibiting symptoms of TB, a highly contagious lung infection, to be housed in the general population.  It has also routinely failed to conduct tests for TB, which can help stem outbreaks.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CCA Looking to Buy a County Jail

Recently, CCA has been looking to purchase and operate existing government-run prisons, dedicating up to $250 million towards that venture.  One of the places that plan might already be coming to fruition is Hall County, GA, which just passed a resolution allowing CCA to purchase a jail it currently leases to hold immigration detainees.  The decision caught city council members off-guard, because the county commission hadn't exactly been forthcoming with the information before it signed the deal. 

The decision to sell the facility is looking like a really good deal for CCA as details emerge.  CCA is buying the jail for about $1.5 million less than what the property has been valued at, probably because it hasn't been able to maintain the prisoner population it anticipated when it initially signed the lease (owning the facility would mean they'd pay far less in the long run to keep it open).  And this isn't the only shady prison-purchasing deal going down in the Peach State.  Over in Valdosta, a private landowner is set to sell a different prison to CCA, and will earn a return of nearly 100% on his investment in just five years, far above the rate of 18% the county had earned in the previous 10 years that it owned the land.  How's that for southern hospitality?

Coverage on Resolution to Hold CCA Accountable For Sexual Assaults

Just wanted to drop a quick link to a story from the Guardian, a UK newspaper, covering the proposed resolution by a CCA shareholder that would bring greater transparency and accountability to the company's practices in regards to sexual assaults that take place in its facilities.

Friday, March 2, 2012

CCA's Diabolical Scheme

Now some of you might think that title is a bit of exaggeration; hyperbole, even.  But I assure you, it's not.  See, CCA recently sent a letter to the governors of 48 states, offering to purchase prisons currently operated by state or local governments and operate the facilities.  That in theory may not sound so terrible, if you ignore all the issues that plague the private prison industry and its consistent failure to deliver on its promises of cost-savings.  But the letter, written by Harley Lappin, former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (who coincidentally wrote a pretty scathing report of private prisons in that role), doesn't just offer an influx of cash in the short-term for budget-crunched state officials.  Its true intention is much more sinister.

In order to get CCA to purchase a prison, a state or government entity that contracts with them will have to agree to maintain 90% occupancy at the prison, for a contract term of no less than 20 years.  What that means is that states who agree to sell a prison to CCA would commit a significant amount of fiscal resources to the company for the next two decades.  Governments would also be required to either redistribute prisoners from government prisons if the population declines (which is really important, considering state prison populations have declined for 2 straight years), or pay CCA for empty beds.  So what this letter really amounts to is offering a binding, generation-spanning commitment for governments to continue to financially support an industry that an increasing body of research shows doesn't save money and performs less efficiently than the public sector.  Further, it would continue our nation's over-reliance on incarceration as it would dissuade state legislators and officials from seeking meaningful criminal justice reform, by removing a primary incentive to reduce our absurdly overblown prison population.

Unfortunately, some governments have already started to be lured in by this asinine proposal; Tennessee state officials are considering selling the Clifton state prison to the company.  But as the plan's true intentions became clear, a host of advocacy groups have started to speak out publicly in opposition to the proposal.  Letters from a coalition of faith-based groups and from civil rights and other advocacy organizations have come pouring into governors' offices across the country.  CCA is of course already lashing out at these groups with their typical criticism, but opponents should remain undeterred. Any state representative who even considers this proposal is, either willingly or not, considering the continuation of the foolishness that has caused the US to lead the entire world in locking its own people up.

4th Quarter Earnings

It's our (least) favorite time of year again here at WhyIHateCCA, when we get to see just how obscenely CCA and the GEO Group have profited off human misery in the past few months.

First we'll go over the GEO Group's earnings report, which shows that their 4Q profits somehow dipped nearly 20%, despite an increase of more than $30 million in revenue, when compared to the fourth quarter of 2010.  But don't worry, GEO Group investors; the company still made $18.74 million in profit over those three months, which averages out to about $208,000 in profit every single day, from taxpayer dollars, or $144 per minute.  They take in about $1.6 billion of taxpayer dollars every year in revenue.

Next, let's look at CCA.  Their 4Q earnings report shows they also had a dip in profits compared to the 4th quarter on 2010 (again, even though revenues increased), but they still earned $40.52 million in profit.  That comes out to  about $13.5 million per month, $450,000 per day, $312 per minute, and $5 every single fucking second.  In profit.

No wonder private prisons don't save money despite cutting services in every conceivable way; they just rake in more and more profit for their executives.  But that's exactly what privatization proponents want.  Because, let's face it; privatization is NEVER about increasing efficiency or competition.  It's a legal way for conservatives to funnel money to their friends in private business who would never survive on a truly free market, since all they care about is lining their own pockets.

AZ Finds Private Prisons Don't Save Money, Are More Dangerous

I apologize for being so late on this; there are actually a few stories I'm behind on and I'll try to catch up as much as possible.

A report was just released by the American Friends Service Committee in Arizona that found private prisons actually cost the state more to operate than their government-run counterparts.  In just three years (2008-2010), the state spent $10 million more on private prison beds than it would have cost them to just operate the prisons itself.  The state for some reason loves private prisons, having previously tried to privatize its entire correctional system.  The state was also the first place that an iteration of the "Breathing While Brown" law (that ALEC-written handout to private prison companies) was introduced  It is currently seeking 2,000 additional private prison beds, which would cost $6 million more than beds the government could operate.  And this comes at a time when the state's prison population is actually decreasing.  It is also looking to outsource medical and mental health care to private, for-profit providers, for as many as 34,000 prisoners; that segment of the private prison industry suffers from all the problems inherent to the profit-driven world of incarceration.

The report was conducted because the state has consistently failed to conduct analyses of private prisons, even though there is a state law mandating that it do so. After years of ignoring calls to produce such a report, the state finally finished one in January of this year, which, surprise surprise, found private prisons to be more expensive

This new report by the AFSC also found that private prisons are more dangerous, and experience higher levels of "disturbances" (prison parlance for riots/violent incidents), many of which were never reported to the public.  In fact, the state exempts private prison companies from reporting such information that is required of government-operated prisons, shielding them from accountability for all the terrible things they let happen.  The report by AFSC noted that these instances were likely under-reported, and that the public has very little access to vital information concerning the operation of prisons in Arizona.

So you would think with all this information; that private prisons cost considerably more to taxpayers, that they consistently fail to operate prisons safely and securely, that the state's political system would bring the hammer down and start to hold private prison operators more accountable for the millions in taxpayer dollars they benefit from, if not abolish the industry altogether.  But, this is Arizona.  The state legislature released a budget bill that still provides funding for private prisons, and actually eliminates the requirement for cost-comparison studies of public vs. private prisons that brought about the first report (by the state).  Talk about burying your head in the sand.

Fight Continues in SWR Florida

I just wanted to give a quick update on the fight in Southwest Ranches, Florida, where residents are adamantly opposed to a proposed CCA immigration detention center.  So I've got two quick links for you:

The first goes to an article describing all the rather subversive tactics and misinformation coming out of CCA's PR machine leading up to a vote of the town council.

And the second goes to an article detailing how the town council of Pembroke Pines, and more recently an advocacy group of citizens, have sent letters to President Obama asking him to intervene.  I hate to say this, but since he's ramped up ICE detention and deportations more than any President before him, I don't know how effective the letters will be.  But I do sincerely hope he steps in to stop CCA from running roughshod over this town and its citizens' interests.