Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shut Down the Gladiator School!

The ACLU is currently suing Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for its operation of the Idaho Correctional Facility, a prison so plagued by violence among the inmates it is called "Gladiator School" by those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves there.  Stories abound of guards intentionally victimizing prisoners by putting them with known enemies, then refusing to protect them when they are assaulted.  The impetus for the lawsuit came after a man was beaten severely in front of guards, who did nothing to protect the man during an assault that lasted so long, the attacker had enough time to stop and rest before resuming the assault.  The poor victim had internal bleeding in his head and spent 3 days in a coma following the assault, and now suffers from brain damage that has severely limited his mental capacity

Today's link goes to a story that details some of the information that came out in affidavits filed in the case by guards who used to work at the facility.  The guards all admit the facility is dangerously understaffed and excessively violent.  "They say the staff lacked adequate training and equipment, was overworked and encouraged by administrators to disregard and undermine the safety of inmates and underreported the number of assaults between prisoners."  The descriptions of the conditions at the facility are horrific; I strongly encourage you all, especially anyone not particularly familiar with private prisons and the abuse that is fostered in these types of facilities, to read the article.

But possibly more shocking is the video of the above-mentioned assault, which was just released to the public.  Of course, CCA is not so much concerned with the content of the video (meaning the failure of their employees to protect a prisoner under their watch), but the damage it could do to the company's reputation.

I really hate you CCA.

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: The FBI has launched an investigation into conditions at the facility.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Barbaric" Conditions at Youth Jail

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU have sued the GEO Group over alleged "barbaric" conditions at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi.  Among the egregious abuses that took place at the facility is the case of a young man who was restrained to his bunk bed for 24 hours and repeatedly sexually assaulted, after he had specifically requested protection.

In the 1,400-bed facility, which has provided more than $100 million in profit to the GEO Group in its lifetime, some young men have also been forced into drug trafficking by guards, have been assaulted while handcuffed, and were denied critical mental health treatment

One of the young men who was unfortunately housed in this hellhole described conditions there.  "'The officers did nothing to protect kids from beat downs and sexual assaults," he said.  There was little time for education, he said, "because the place was so disorganized, and the officers didn't care about our future.'"  For even more horror stories about the atrocities that have taken place inside this juvenile detention center, check out this article, which does a nice job of documenting the abuse.

But what I liked most of all in the news coming out about this facility is the analysis of the guards by a former private prison employee, who said "It is those staff who should be in prison -- as well as their corporate employers."

PA Town Thwarts GEO Proposal

As I mentioned before, a proposal for a GEO Group facility in Upper Mount Bethel Township, PA was crushed by local opposition about three weeks ago, which I have been more than negligent in writing about.  I'll keep it brief, but I want to congratulate everyone who came out against the facility for their hard work, especially the community organizers who were able to not only get the word out about the facility, but were also able to get folks worked up enough that they turned out in droves for a community meeting to voice their displeasure, which led to the council voting down the proposal.  The work you all did was a fantastic example of how strong people can be when they work together for the common good.  Bravo!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

Today, I'm thankful for my readers. Whether this is your first time here or you happen to be one of my few regulars, I'm thankful for you.  I'm thankful for people who care about the havoc the private prison industry is wreaking on small towns, the poor and minority folks who are processed through our prison industrial complex as a commodity, US citizens who are taxed unnecessarily and immigrants who are locked up for trying to make better lives for themselves and their families.  Thanks to those of you who came out against the private prison pitched by the GEO Group in Northampton, PA, which I haven't had the time to write about yet but will soon, and community activists all around the country who rally against such plans.  Thanks to those of you who work in or around the prison system, and private prisons in particular, trying to improve it any way you can.

I really appreciate it.  Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Close the Revolving Door

So much has gone on in the time I've been away that I hardly know where to begin.  Unfortunately I can't commit a ton of time right now to the stories going around, which is terrible because they certainly warrant the type of consideration and analysis I've grown accustomed to giving.

Very briefly, Stacia Hylton, a former consultant for the GEO Group, has been nominated to be the next head of the US Marshals' Service, one of the main government agencies that contracts with private prisons, especially the GEO Group.  She's also got some connections to CCA that I honestly haven't had the chance yet to review myself, but from preliminary reports are nearly as damning.  Basically though this is another sad example of the revolving door between the industry and the government that I've spoken about in the past. 

As Ken Kopczynski of the Private Corrections Working Group said, this is "Like the fox watching the henhouse."  But Ms. Hylton doesn't think the more than $110,000 she earned as a GEO Group consultant will influence her in a position in which she'll have authority over the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of federal contracts.  She's wrong.

Thankfully, a collection of organizations, led by the great team over at Prison Legal News, has already stepped up to oppose Ms. Hylton's confirmation.  Among the organizations opposed to her leading the agency responsible for 13% of GEO's revenue is the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).  WhyIHateCCA strongly supports this effort to prevent a private prison industry insider from taking the reins of a government agency with such tremendous authority over the awarding of contracts.

More on this story:

TPM Muckraker's coverage

Information from the National Lawyers' Guild, another of the organizations opposing Ms. Hylton's nomination

More coverage of the nomination and Ms. Hylton's blatant conflict of interest

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Hi Boys and Girls,

I'm putting up maybe my first personal note ever here to apologize for my silence in recent days.  Don't worry; I still hate CCA, and passionately so.  But unfortunately, due to other engagements, I've been a little out of commission and will be until at least next week.  Till then,

Keep the Hate Alive.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More on NPR's Investigation

Just a quick link here to the transcript of yesterday's "Talk of the Nation," an NPR show that discussed the organization's investigation into SB1070 and its connections to the private prison industry.  This was a very good episode of the show that really got down to the dirty details of CCA's and GEO's influence on the drafting and passing of the legislation.

Debunking the "Economic Stimulant" Myth

Aside from the promises of cost-savings that private prison companies tout when pitching a facility (which often fail to materialize as anticipated), another major selling point for many towns considering a private prison is the expected economic benefits the facility will bring.  Proponents argue that private prisons bring in more tax revenue from facility operations, bring more money to the local economy as employees from other towns come there to work, and provide jobs to locals.  Well it turns out that most of that isn't true, either.

In an interesting article that discusses California's decision to send medium-security inmates to a GEO Group facility in Baldwin, MI, Frank Smith, superstar of the anti-private prison movement, described how private prisons "look like a prison," but are essentially "cracker boxes," meaning the guards and operations of the facility aren't up to part with what you'd find at a state-run facility.  But even more disturbing were the findings of an Iowa State professor, who determined that when private prisons come to small towns, they actually wind up damaging the local economy more than help it.  Median housing value declines, unemployment rises, average household income decreases, and poverty rises after private prisons come to town.  The professor's overall finding was that "private prisons don't offer nearly the advantages that state prisons do." (emphasis added)

So the next time a private prison operator tries to pitch a facility based on the stimulation it will provide to the local economy, take that with more than a grain of salt.

More Revolving Door Politics

Eight organizations concerned with the privatization of prisons have banded together in opposition to Obama's nominee for the new director of the US Marshall's Service.  Why?  Because the nominee, Stacia Hylton, has worked as a consultant to the GEO Group over the past year, steering millions in federal contracts their way.  Previously, she had worked in the Dept. of Justice, where she helped CCA win a 20-year contract with the US Marshall's Service to hosue immigration detainees.  She's so cozy with the industry in fact that CCA's President, Damon Hininger, attended her birthday party this past February.

Why I Hate CCA stands with these organizations firmly in opposition to having an industry insider take command of one of the private prison industry's biggest clients.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Crack Team

The new Governor of Georgia has assembled a powerhouse team of former lobbyists and legislators to serve on his transition team.  As Zaid Jilani of ThinkProgress.org found, "The list reads like a who’s who list of some of the state’s top special interests and lobbyists — people who have represented corporate giants ranging from Georgia Power to Goldman Sachs."  Included among the incoming team is Dan Lee, a former legislator and former lobbyist for CCA, which already holds thousands of Georgia's prisoners.  Unfortunately, the political climate in Georgia just became even more hospitable to the private prison industry.

Strong Opposition

The residents of Upper Mount Bethel Township in Pennsylvania came out in force last night to protest the GEO Group's proposal to build a 2,500-bed immigration detention center.  The council members present, many of whom support the proposal, dodged questions all night.  But three officials, Supervisers Jerry Geake and Robert Gerwig, and council president Ron Angle admitted to having met with GEO Group brass in private meetings leading up to the proposal.

The estimated 100 citizens comprised a "hostile, overflow crowd" that vocally demonstrated their opposition, despite the council's endorsement and GEO's promise of new jobs for the area. 

Excellent work, folks!

Friday, November 5, 2010

GEO Group's 3Q Earnings WAY down

The GEO Group's profit this quarter is way down from what it was a year ago, nearly 75%.  That's right - 75 friggin percent!

Unfortunately though this won't be an ongoing trend, as the profit they earned was tempered by "one-time" expenditures at a facility in Florida and some debt-avoiding maneuvers they employed in the Cornell merger.  All told, they had $22 million or so in profit, $17 million of which went to these costs.

So it's good that their profits are down, but I don't expect them to stay down for long.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Bit of Not-As-Bad-As-I-Expected News

It's earnings time, boys and girls!  Time to find out how badly the private prison giants bent over the American taxpayers this quarter.  First to announce is CCA (as usual - GEO always seems to take longer for some reason), whose profits are down 7% (over the same quarter last year)!  Yippee!  They only earned $42 million in profit over the past 3 months.

Misplaced Priorities, Wasteful Spending

Private prisons are often touted by supporters as being more cost-efficient alternatives to government-run prisons.  They fail to mention how those cost savings are realized, namely through under-training staff, short-staffing facilities, and cutting corners on things like medical care, security, and maintenance.  But it turns out in Arizona that, despite the private prison industry employing all these tactics, they still cost more per prisoner than state-run facilities.

Significantly more so, in fact.  It costs Arizona about $7.70 per inmate, per day MORE to house their incarcerated population in private facilities, amounting to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in wasteful spending.  Arizona spends more than ten percent of its budget incarcerating people; more than it spends on funding for higher education.

This is the second such study in Arizona within the past year or so that has found private prisons to be more expensive than state-run ones, in addition to various studies in other states. Unfortunately for Arizonans, Governor Jan Brewer and the state legislature have already demonstrated their affinity for the private corrections industry, as has been reported on extensively in the past.  Governor Brewer has hired former and current CCA lobbyists to her staff, while state Senator Russel Pearce introduced SB1070, Arizona's "Breathing While Brown" law, which NPR showed to be a product of CCA's influence through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). 

After getting the bill introduced, the private prison industry in Arizona went to work, donating thousands of dollars to state legislators to ensure it would be passed.  Unfortunately for Arizona taxpayers, they were successful.  Now, the nation's most racist and draconian immigration statute will help funnel an ever-increasing number of illegal immigrants (nonviolent offenders) into private prisons.  The same private prisons that the state has found repeatedly to cost MORE than government-run facilities.  Facilities that are operated by companies that engage in the sanctioned bribing of politicians, companies who have for years been working to pass harsh criminal sentences, mostly against nonviolent offenders, all across the country.

So despite audits that dispel the common myth of cost savings, and with clear evidence of the abuse, negligence, and cost-cutting inherent to the industry, the private prison industry continues to thrive.  It does so by wooing conservative politicians with promises of savings that never materialize.  It's a shame that these sorts of politicians, who rail against pork and wasteful spending, are seemingly incapable of even seeing this inefficient and disgraceful situation in Arizona.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The GEO Group is being sued by the family of a 20-years-young diabetic man who died at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in 2007.  Dennis Earl Homes was only incarcerated in this facility for 5 months, during which time he lost 30 pounds due to being denied medical treatment for his diabetes, leading to his death.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Letting The Experts Do Their Job

I'll keep it simple today.  The title link goes to part 2 of NPR's outstanding expose on how the private prison industry helped draft, promote, and eventually pass SB1070, Arizona's "Breathing While Brown" law.  This has garnered a tremendous amount of media buzz, to which I can offer little that hasn't been said.  So I'll just provide you with a few links here to some of my favorite pieces of coverage surrounding this groundbreaking story.

Coverage of a hearing on private prisons in Tucson, AZ, that took place shortly after NPR's story dropped, including even more background on CCA's and ALEC's influence on the state legislature to promote harsh criminal sanctoins

7 Striking things to take away from NPR's story

A story from US Catholic that describes the immigration debate and the legislation.  Though not surprising, it's nice to see the religious establishment come out against this sort of thing

An article that allows Russell Pearce to feebly try to refute the story and CCA's impact

Another article in which Mr. Pearce basically admits CCA had a heavy hand in drafting the legislation he later introduced as SB1070