Thursday, October 28, 2010

I've Been Saying This for Months

I couldn't possibly NOT post the article linked to in the title today.  As I have been ranting about on here for months and months, CCA had a direct and heavy influence on the drafting and passing of SB1070, Arizona's "Breathing While Brown" law.  NPR did a bang-up job on exposing the true nature behind the negotiations and donations that led up to the bill's passage, and this story has been picked up by many varied media outlets.

So you're probably asking yourself, "OK Mike, just exactly how much influence did CCA have on the bill, and how was that influence exerted?"  It turns out that:

1) State senator Russell Pearce, in a highly secretive meeting, made a presentation before ALEC (with CCA reps present) on how immigration needed to be addressed.  The meeting, like many of ALEC's, was filled with corporate reps who spent literally tens of thousands of dollars to have direct access to lawmakers

2) from this presentation, the idea for the bill was hatched.  The bill was then drafted by a task force that included CCA employees

3) after the bill was introduced, an unexpectedly high number of cosponsors signed on almost immediately.  more than 2/3 of those cosponsors are either ALEC members or attended the meeting.

4) 5/6 of those cosponsors received campaign donations from private prison industry interests over the next six months

5) Jan Brewer hired a former CCA employee, and their current lobbyist, to work as advisers while the bill was finalized and eventually passed.

To put it simply, this stinks.  It's terrible that a corporation, representing a very small constituency, can have such tremendous influence over the drafting and passing of legislation.  It's not often we get a glimpse into the workings of how legislation is drafted, introduced, and eventually passed to anywhere near this degree.  CCA corrupts the democratic processes of our government, usurps power from individual constituents, and manipulates legislators all in the name of ever-expanding profits, at the direct expense of American taxpayers and the poor souls who are forced into their prisons.  If they aren't the face of evil, I don't know what is.

Moving Along

A pretty alarming story today out of Florida, where Youth Services Interational (YSI), a private prison company that operates juvenile facilities, is being sued by a 15-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted by a staff member multiple times.  YSI used to be a subsidiary of Correctional Services Corporation, which was founded by a loathsome welfare hotel owner that moved into the private detention business (James Slattery, who now runs YSI).  After riots broke out at an immigration detention center run by CSC (then known as "Esmor"), the company moved to Florida, changed its name, and was back in the business of abusing its wards.  Despite all this, the state of Florida does not have plans to investigate any other facilities run by YSI.

I've seen stories before of guards with criminal records or histories of physical, mental, or sexual abuse moving from private prison to private prison, where background checks and training are in short supply.  But I must say this story kind of took me by surprise; I had no idea entire abusive companies moved around the industry like this.  There most certainly ought to be an investigation into the other facilities run by this abhorrent company.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who Woulda Thunk?

As I reported on extensively in the past, Sheriff Richard Nugent of Hernando County, Florida, took over the county jail after CCA bailed on its contract earlier this year.  Following a prolonged battle over who owned particular appliances and systems within the facility, it seems as though the commotion has died down and the jail is running smoothly.  So smoothly, in fact, that the Sheriff anticipates being able to return $277,000 to the county commission at the end of the year.  It turns out that by not operating a prison for profit, one can actually save money while simultaneously operating a humane, constitutionally-adequate facility.  Someone should alert CCA to this development

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Broken Security Systems

MTC finally fixed the alarm system at the Kingman, AZ prison that had been malfunctioning prior to the escapes in July.  The escapes took place on July 30, and the alarm system had been broken before then, which means the facility, which holds medium-security prisoners, went about 3 months (or maybe longer) with a malfunctioning alarm system, because MTC neglected to repair it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What The Heck Were They Paying For?

One of the most common arguments in favor of privatizing prisons (granted, it usually comes from the privateers themselves, but that's not the point) is that they generate cost savings for financially-strapped governments looking to manage more prisoners than they have capacity for.  More often than not, the cost savings they generate come from cutting corners in things like medical care, maintenance of the facilities, staffing (and training of staff), and programming.

It turns out however that even all these reductions in services aren't enough for the private prison industry to save money in New Mexico.  The state has decided to remove 114 prisoners from private prisons and transfer them back to state-run facilities.  This move will save them approximately $2.1 million over the next year, or more than $18,000 per prisoner.  So for nearly $20,000 per prisoner per year LESS than what private prisons charge, New Mexico can incarcerate its own citizens.

Or alternatively, New Mexico has been overpaying its private prison operators by millions upon millions of dollars for years.  Whichever way you slice it, the private prison industry is a scam.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Smart Investment

No, I'm not going to begin telling you that investing in private prisons is a good idea.  Don't worry.  Rather, the title is a reference to the investment(s) CCA has made in itself in the form of political contributions.  I have, on occasion, mentioned how CCA, the GEO Group, and other private prison operators lobby the federal government and cultivate political relationships through campaign contributions (For more on that, see pretty much every entry I've ever done on here).  Those contributions help to ensure these companies continue to secure contracts with state and federal governments to operate correctional facilities.

It turns out the money they invested in these political relationships have really paid off.  A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which audits government contracts, found that CCA took in more than $800 million in contracts last year.  They were able to make all this money despite the fact that they have been cited for numerous safety violations and circumventing labor laws.  So you can feel confident knowing that your tax dollars are being funnelled to a corporation that repeatedly violates the terms of its contracts, fails to maintain safe facilities, and doesn't see the need to follow labor regulations.  Great.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mass Incarceration and Profiteering

Diversity, Inc. has come out with two fantastic articles that detail how the private prison industry has helped contribute to the US far and away leading the world in its rate of incarceration.  We lock up more than one out of every 100 adults in this country, and more than 1 out of every 31 are in prison, or on probation or parole.  We have more people in prison, in both real numbers and percentage-wise, than Russia, North Korea, Iraq, or any other country in the world.  We have over 1 million more people in prison than China, despite the fact that they have more than 4 times our population.  And all this amidst the fact that rates of crime are actually dropping across the country.  So what happened?

The private prison industry happened.  After it was nearly crushed out, for a second time, in the late 90s following a series of abuses, lawsuits, and mismanagement, the industry was resurrected (largely) by the immigration detention boom that took place over the past decade and a half.  After CCA and GEO had worked through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to increase penalties for repeat felons and drug offenders in the 80s and 90s, in the late 90s and early 2000s they began to focus on immigration.  Both companies lobby the federal government and state governments, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, on immigration issues.  Additionally, both work with ALEC to promote and pass model legislation like SB1070, which guarantees them a steady flow of more and more prisoners for their beds.  The other article on Diversity, Inc. delves much deeper into the connections each company has with ALEC, and how they have used this conservative front group to promote their anti-American agenda.  (Yes, it's anti-American, because they're trying to incarcerate as many of us as possible, regardless of whether its sensible or moral to do so.)

As today's title link points out, the privateers exploited the poor planning of government agencies who passed tough-on-crime legislation but failed to build enough prison beds to handle the added capacity.  Able to design and build facilities in half the time it takes the government, using private funds, CCA and GEO capitalized on a market that had a high demand and very little supply.  As CCA's CEO readily admits, they want to continue to exploit those decisions in the future: "we have the salespeople and lobbyists pitching the benefits of privatization to the governors and legislators... they wake up one day and they don't have beds and will have to turn to the private sector." 

Unfortunately, private prison companies, especially CCA and the GEO group, have a tremendous foothold on the industry, especially in immigration detention.  By cultivating relationships with tough-on-crime and pro-business politicians, they have all but ensured their continued survival, and thriving, despite the fact that they have each established independent track records of negligence, abuse, contract noncompliance, and malfeasance.  Simply put, there is no place in our criminal justice system that should lend itself to someone making a profit, especially the incarceration of American citizens.  It's a sick, sick world out there.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Criminalization of Immigrants

Peter Cervantes-Gautchi, a writer for the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy, has written a fantastic and scathing report on how corporate interests have dominated the immigration debate in this country, and how that has paid dividends for CCA and GEO, who have both profited tremendously off America's rush to incarcerate illegal immigrants.  This article is really just amazing; it explains how major corporations have invested in the tycoon companies, and how the companies have manipulated politicians (who often have a personal stake in the issue) to ensure they continue to get contracts despite the fact that they can't operate a prison humanely or efficiently.  He really knocks it out of the park with this one.