Monday, August 29, 2011

Florida's Misguided Privatization Push

Florida is one of a few states that is seeing a wave of pro-privatization, anti-government rhetoric wreak havoc on employee unions and public services after electing a super conservative governor.  This same governor has also, with the help of longtime privatization advocate and state budget chair JD Alexander, pushed for Florida to embark on the most ambitious prison privatization scheme in history.  The state is currently in the process of privatizating the correctional services of 18 counties, covering nearly 30 facilities.  Thousands of state employees will lose their jobs as an inherently governmental function is turned over to a profit-driven private industry with a long history of human rights abuses and failure to deliver on promised cost-savings.  However, conservatives never seem to concerned with how much their bogus strategies wind up costing the state, as is evidenced by Scott's mandatory drug-testing program for welfare recipients that has already wound up costing taxpayers far more than its anticipated savings.  Hopefully though the state legislature will come to realize that privatization is an experiment that has consistently failed, and they need look no further than their own state to see just how poorly the industry has performed, and how undeserving it is of being rewarded for its failures

But it's not just the headlong dive into privatization that's got me concerned.  In addition to giving this blatant handout to an industry that donated $1,000,000 in the last election cycle, the state Legislature has just gutted the agency charged with overseeing medical care for the state's prisoners.  JD Alexander, who has been arguably the biggest proponent of privatizing the states' prisons since he tried to ram through a last-minute budget amendment last year forcing the state to send more prisoners to private facilities, is the Chairman of the Budget Committee that failed to appropriate funds for the agency.  So not only is the state handing over operations of prisons to private companies, it also failed to fund an agency that would have some oversight over an industry notorious for being able to evade it.

Making matters worse, Governor Scott's office just pressured state DOC officials to cancel a contract with a separate monitor who was set to oversee the state's planned privatization of even more prisoner health care.  Just to make it clear, the state is also looking to privatize medical care for thousands of prisoners, in addition to privatizing much of the state system; this lady would have overseen that medical care.  But as with all conservative political maneuverings designed to steer power and taxpayer dollars away from government and into private hands, the powers that be decided having any sort of effective oversight that could produce some accountability would be bad for business' bottom lines, so they eliminated the threat.  Granted, she probably would not have been a great or even unbiased monitor, because her husband works for the ACA, but some oversight has to be better than nothing.

So - Florida is going to privatize correctional services for thousands of prisoners, costing thousands of state jobs and millions of dollars that taxpayers must foot the bill for.  The same politicians who were bought off with $1 million worth of campaign contributions have stripped oversight agencies and individuals of power so that these new prisons can abuse people without scrutiny.  But what about the contracts to be awarded?  Surely, the state wouldn't turn over all these services to one single company, which would totally undermine the conservative argument of competition increasing the viability of the marketplace, right?  Wrong.  The state wants to give all the contracts to one company.  So now one company will now be in control of several hundred million dollars worth of state contracts.

If this strikes you as rather bizarre, foolish, and seemingly corrupt, you're not alone.  It turns out the FBI concurs with us.  They have launched an investigation into the overt corruption that has plagued this deal since before it was even hatched.  See, the former Speaker of the House, Ray Sansom, is currently serving time in federal prison for corruption and bribery charges after he, as Budget Chairman (JD Alexander's current role) tried to force through a last-minute budget amendment forcing the state to fund a private prison (sound familiar?), which ended up costing the state $140 million.  This came after he had taken a "personal" trip to Boca Raton, home of the GEO Group, which donated more than $800,000 in this past election and was awarded the contract for the prison Sansom got built.  Sansom claims he met with legislators on that trip and it wasn't related to the $140 million facility he got funded, but he can't remember which legislators.

Thankfully, the FBI seems to be seriously investigating this absurd situation.  Unfortunately though for Ed Buss, secretary of the state's DOC, their intervention did not come soon enough.  Buss was forced to resign last week because he was not supportive enough of Governor Scott's and JD Alexander's push to privatize half of his system.  Buss had warned the Governor and Budget Chairman of the $25 million that taxpayer would be on the hook for if the privatization plan moved ahead, and basically lost his job because he, as the head of the department of corrections, thought it would be a bad idea to privatize correctional services.  He has already been defended by State Senator Paula Dockery, who questions the privatization push and the message Buss' ouster will send to other members of the Scott administration.  She properly points out that the privatization effort is about more than "saving money," as JD Alexander would say.  "'It’s not only not going to save money, it’s going to affect public safety,' she said. 'It’s more than just money. It’s a complete change in policy.'"

I just hope Governor Scott keeps that in mind and stays true to his word, because he recently remarked that "If [the privatization plan] does not save money, then we won't do it."  Well Mr. Scott, let me be the first to tell you you will not save money, and you are taking a very risky gamble on public safety and the integrity of your state's government in this process.  I sincerely hope you reconsider this misguided push to privatize your prisons.

Tennessee's Revolving Door Problem

Just a quick one here.  TN Governor Bill Haslam has just hired Leslie Hafner to be his new director of legislation.  Hafner has previously worked in "government relations" (i.e. lobbying) for CCA in numerous states, including Tennessee, which also happens to be the home of CCA.  Isn't that swell?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Update on Arizona's RFP

The state of Arizona is currently seeking proposals from private prison companies to construct 5,000 new prison beds. This comes despite the fact that numerous private prisons already operate in the state (but they mostly take prisoners from other states, which is a whole separate mess), and that those private prisons have been proven to be more expensive than the government-run ones.

So the supposedly conservative leadership of the state apparently doesn't really care about fiscal responsibility. No surprise there.  But I sure hope they care about contract non-compliance and a failure to deliver efficient and effective services.  Because the groups vying to get the contracts for these beds all had awful track records.  A DOC spokesman said recently that the department would consider past performance in awarding the contracts.  If so, the GEO Group might not fare too well in the bidding process, because very recently they have had major issues operating the Walnut Grove Youth CF and the Eastern Mississippi CF.  Things like riots, stabbings, guards selling drugs, children being sprayed with chemicals while locked down, physical abuse, extreme malnourishment of prisoners, and abusing prisoners for displaying symptoms of untreated mental illness.  You know, little things.

Another company, MTC, is no better.  After 3 convicts escaped their Kingman, Arizona facility last year and killed an elderly vacationing couple, it took the company 8 months to implement new security measures.  Unfortunately, I don't think these issues or the ones that all other private prison companies seem to suffer from will stop the state from privatizing, partly because these companies are very effective PR machines, able to consistently sell bad products to the same consumers.  The good citizens of Goodyear, AZ didn't fall for the sales pitch, and emphatically declared their opposition to a private prison coming to their town.

The rest of the state's taxpayers may also be in luck.  Rep. Chad Campbell, the state's House Majority Leader, has called for a delay of the proposed 5,000 bed expansion.  As public hearings continue in various rural areas throughout the state to debate the relative merits of bringing a private prison to town, Campbell asks that the expansion be delayed until "after enhanced security, training, and monitoring policies are in place and shown to be effective at all existing private facilities."  Thank you Mr. Campbell for injecting some common sense into the situation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eff Steve Owen

(Warning: My post today contains strong language. Sorry - I couldn't help myself. In fact, I think I kept it rather restrained, at least compared to what I'm thinking...)

Private companies seem to have been quite successful in their lobbying efforts last election. In addition to the hoopla in Florida, Ohio is embarking on an audacious privatization scheme which it hopes will generate millions in revenue to plug a budget shortfall and save money in the long run. They won't. But Governor Kasich, another anti-government, pro-corporate politician (ignore the hypocrisy in that, if possible), who hired a former CCA employee to be the director of the state's Department of Corrections, seems hell-bent on getting this deal done. He has undoubtedly been influenced by the more than $40,000 MTC has contributed over the past 2 years, along with the maximum-allowable contributions from both CCA and the GEO Group to his inauguration fund, to think that private prisons can somehow save money or provide more efficient services than the government.

These notions have been consistently refuted by nearly all available evidence and research not funded by the industry, but that doesn't stop CCA shill Steve Owen from lying through his goddamn teeth: "We’ve been able to deliver on the value proposition,” Owen said. “Marry that with the oversight and accountability of government, (and you get) the best of both worlds." Mr. Owen is dead wrong about private prisons being able to deliver "on the value proposition," as well as about the accountability. Private prisons are exactly that - private, as in companies that aren't bound by open government/public records laws. Oversight of the industry is notoriously weak and ineffectual, because private prison operators are not held to the same standard as government-run prisons, despite the fact that they perform an inherently governmental function. 

But he wasn't done there. Mr. Owen also conveniently either forgot his own company's history or just loves to misrepresent facts (a familiar conservative tactic), because he said “We’re not in the business of public policy. We don’t grow our business by impacting crime and sentencing laws. We grow our business by providing safe, secure facilities.” That's complete BULLSHIT. The connections between CCA and Arizona's SB1070 (The "Breathing While Brown" law), and copycat laws across the country, are well-established. What is less well-known is how CCA was also heavily involved in the American Legislative Exchange Council throughout the 90's, when it successfully passed laws like 3-strikes (you may have heard of that) and "Truth in Sentencing," both of which have directly contributed to the explosion in our prison population over the last two decades.

So Mr. Owen, I'm calling you out for being a giant fucking lying asshole. You intentionally lie and deceive politicians and the general public to push a product that benefits absolutely no one but your douchebag self and your company's stock. You are a disgusting excuse for a human being. You deceive people so that your company can turn a profit by incarcerating, humiliating, and abusing US citizens and immigrants. You literally prey on human misery and suffering, and steadfastly refuse to tell the truth because the truth would hurt your bottom line. You take taxpayer dollars to perform a governmental function, do it less efficiently than the government, with no accountability, then turn that money around into lobbying for longer and harsher sentences to lock up an ever-growing segment of our population. You and your company, and the entire industry, are the absolute lowest of the fucking low, and you make me sad about the future of our country, and indeed the entire human race.

 Thankfully, Matt Lundy and Carlton Weddington (love that name), 2 state senators from Ohio, are challenging the proposal. They have submitted a public records request to release the bids that private prison companies have put in to operate the facilities. Mr. Weddington puts it in great perspective: “I reiterate concerns today over the privatization of five state prisons. The CIIC’s (Correctional Institution Inspection Committee) recent report showing massive overcrowding coupled with the announcement of 950 jobs being lost should raise red flags for the public and the Kasich administration,” Weddingon said. “Our safety and the safety of inmates are at risk. It is simply inexcusable that Gov. Kasich continue to keep the legislature and the public in the dark while our safety and security are at risk.”

Another Wrongful Death Suit

Douglas Poole, A 54-year-old man convicted of DUI was sentenced to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia, which contracts out its medical care to a private, for-profit provider, CMS (Correctional Medical Services). Upon arriving at the facility, Poole informed medical staff that he suffered from diabetes and hypertension, which the staff apparently ignored because he went 4 days without receiving any medications, then only got insulin for his diabetes but nothing to control his hypertension. He wound up getting dizzy, collapsing, and hitting his head on a table - when he was taken to the infirmary, medical staff told him he was "faking blindness." He ended up with a brain hemorrhage and died a few days later. Mr. Poole's family has filed a wrongful death suit against CMS, but this is hardly the first time they've had trouble providing medical services - the company was fined $900,000 in the past for failing to provide adequate care to prisoners. Maybe this will finally convince Virginia lawmakers that contracting out medical services is not a safe or viable option.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fight Against MTC

A story about the family of two victims of the murderers who escaped from the MTC Kingman prison in Arizona last year, fighting to prevent MTC from getting even more contracts from the state to operate 2 other prisons.

Florida's Prison Privatization Mess

Florida is embarking upon the largest prison privatization plan in history.  As part of a last-minute budget amendment, the state legislature mandated the privatization of the correctional services of 18 counties in south Florida, for a total of nearly 30 correctional facilities.  No state has ever undertaken such an ambitious expansion of their private prison system, and for good reason; private prisons consistently fail to live up to contractual obligations, don’t save money, and provide less efficient services than government-run prisons.

But that hasn’t stopped Florida from forging ahead, even despite the fact that the Senate’s Budget Chief at one point even called this initiative an experiment to see if the state could save money by privatization .  While that’s not a gamble most sane politicians would ever want to make, JD Alexander was probably swayed, as were many other politicians, by the more than ¾ of a million dollars that the GEO Group spent lobbying the state legislature in the last election cycle.

Thankfully, one of Alexander’s fellow Republicans, Mike Fasano is able to easily identify the root of the deficiencies of private prisons, and has been challenging this plan from the get-go.  "Talk about a dangerous situation for the public! Because, in my opinion, privatizing our prisons, you bring a private company in, all they care about is the bottom line. That's why they're a company. That's why they trade on the New York Stock Exchange, that's why they trade on any exchange for that matter, they have stockholders, they have board members to be answerable to; therefore, they have to make a profit and by doing that, in my opinion, you put people at risk."  (The article cited here goes into a lot more detail on the lack of oversight and transparency of the industry, which in turn results in a breakdown of accountability)

In addition to Mr. Fasano’s agitation within the legislature, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union for COs in the state, has also come to the rescue of Florida’s prisoners by filing a lawsuit seeking to prevent the privatization push.  The lawsuit contends that the process by which the plan was passed actually violates the state constitution, part of which is designed to keep budgetary and policy decisions separate.  By utilizing the budget as the sole forum for discussing the plan, legislative leaders avoided a public debate that could have proven disastrous to the interests of privateers.   The legislature also pulled a nifty trick by tying the plan to the entire corrections budget, making it virtually veto-proof.

And as with all privatization ventures pushed by conservatives, this plan isn’t quite as rosy as it first seemed.  The state initially thought it was going to save nearly $20 million in operating expenses by converting these prisons to private operation.  But – oopsie! – both Governor Scott and JD Alexander, the budget chief, forgot to tell lawmakers about the $25 million the state would still be on the hook for in compensation for the literally thousands of state employees who will lose their jobs as a result of the privatization.  Now I know what you’re thinking – anyone could overlook a $25 million payout.  Well you’d be right, if you were talking about legislators who’ve already been purchased by the private prison companies that stand to make a killing off this deal. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Almost Comically Corrupt

I say "Almost," because this story at its heart really deals with human lives and suffering, as impacted by the private prison industry (of course), but the blatant handout from New Jersey to CEC is just ridiculous.

So the state was looking for someone to operate a private prison with approximately 450 beds.  CEC, whose vice president is a close friend and confidant of anti-government governor Chris Christie (you know, the fiscal conservative who flies in a state-owned helicopter to little league games), seems to have had the proposal tailor-made for it.  So much so in fact, that they were literally the only company that could possibly comply with all the restrictions of the request, among them "that the facility be located within a two-hour drive of Newark, New York and Philadelphia and within a 10-mile radius of the Essex County Jail on Doremus Avenue in Newark; that the successful bidder have a facility already being used for correctional purposes; and that it be within 20 miles of a major airport."  

Anyhoo, as part of the request, Essex County said it was seeking an open and competitive bidding process "so [it] can obtain the most professionally delivered and cost effective services." CEC's parent company has already been the beneficiary of more than $500 million in contracts from the state, but apparently NJ thinks that a company that can wrongfully release half a dozen prisoners, including a convicted murderer, in the course of a year can do that.  Because CEC was the only bidder, and - surprise - they won the contract for nearly $10 million.  It seems sometimes as though the more we privatize government services, the more willing governments are to overlook complete breakdowns in contract compliance and delivery of services.  I tend to think CEC's close (aforementioned) ties with the Governor, and the tens of thousands of dollars it donated to an influential county executive might have helped.  CEC was so darn confident about its chances that it even posted announcements for openings at the facility before it had been announced that they won the contract.  As an immigrant advocate, Karina Wilkinson, said, "Essex County has shown that profits come before human rights."

Thankfully though, that wasn't the last word on these shenanigans - ICE and county officials have decided to re-evaluate the contract awarded to CEC.  Amy Gottlieb, of the American Friends Service Committee, hit the nail on the head when she said "The exposure of the unorthodox bidding process, the non-transparency of the bidding process, has maybe raised some questions."  I'll say.  Of course this hasn't stopped that influential county executive, Mr. Devincenzo, from defending the bidding process, which lasted all of 23 days (yep, because you can find a suitable partner for a multi-million dollar contract in 3 weeks), as "fair and open."

"Fair and Open."  And the Pope's a Muslim.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Most Insidious Group in America

Now that's a mighty claim to make, I know, but I do firmly believe that ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) fits that bill to a tee.  ALEC is technically a nonprofit, which develops and promotes model legislation. It is a membership-based organization, with nearly 2/3 of state legislators and leaders of practically every major corporation in this country comprising its membership base.  It holds conferences a few times per year, in which they invite state legislators to sit with corporate chairpersons and lobbyists to develop model legislation that is shipped to state houses around the country and enacted with alarming frequency.

So basically, corporations pay to have direct access to state lawmakers, then literally craft corporate-friendly legislation with them, and bring it home to get it enacted.  Now you may think that legislation written and promoted by corporate leaders would not be very kind to the interests of the majority of American citizens.  You'd be right.

ALEC is the group behind the anti-union laws that have swept the nation, trying to undercut a base of liberal political support.  They are behind attacks on the EPA, and every other movement to stifle government regulation.  ALEC, along with CCA, helped write and pass 3-strikes laws and "truth in sentencing" legislation during the 90s, which contributed to our skyrocketing rate of incarceration, and our country having the largest prison population, in both rate and real numbers, in the entire world.

It turns out they also have a heavy hand in promoting privatized prisons, and even promote privatizing parole systems (because if there's one thing our criminal justice system needs, it's another profit-driven corporation trying to exploit poor people).  ALEC has also been very aggressive in pushing for private corrections industries, basically laws that permit for private prisons to operate industries.  Unfortunately for prisoners, these private prisons take a large cut of the income produced by prison labor, turning the whole scheme into a big money-making racket. Of course, the proliferation of such operations was made possible by ALEC's influence, particularly in the state of Texas.

A program was developed for Texas' prisons by Rep. Ray Allen, an ALEC member, and passed in the early 90's.   Coincidentally enough (or not coincidental at all, if you know anything of the conflicts of interest inherent to conservative political gamesmanship), oversight of this program was changed from the DOJ to a trade organization represented by Rep. Allen's lobbying firm.  Allen became chair of the Texas legislatures' corrections commission in 2003 and started pushing for ALEC's Prison Industries Act.  He then even took a seat as the chair of ALEC's task force on criminal justice.  So the chair of the nonprofit agency that wrote an act designed to allow private prison operators to take obscene amounts of cash in overhead expenses for prison industries directed the corrections commission in a state with one of the largest prison, and private prison, populations in the country.  The current director of that task force, Jerry Madden, also happens to be the chair of the corrections committee in Texas.

So the next time someone says that claims of a corporate takeover of our government are just a "conspiracy," you can simply tell them to take a look at ALEC, the embodiment of everything that's wrong with capitalism in this country.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Regurgitation / Compilation

I had been hoping to write some witty entry perfectly capturing the craziness that Bob Ortega has been covering in Arizona.  A little background; the state is seeking proposals for 5,000 new private prison beds (which is a step back from last year's plan to privatize the entire state system and sell off then re-lease the state house.  I wish I was kidding about that.), despite the problems its private prisons have had for their entire history and recent reports showing they don't even save money, and could in fact wind up costing the state more.

So the state has been seeking suitors to build a bunch of new private prison beds, and thankfully has set up multiple public hearings to air the situation out.  Bob Ortega, a reporter at the Arizona Republic, has done some fantastic reporting recently on the histories of the companies bidding for these beds, and the public hearings to discuss the potential risks and benefits of bringing private prisons to towns.

So rather than try to steal his thunder, I'm just going to link to his fabulous work.

First is a story about the lack of oversight of the industry, and its failure to deliver on promises of cost-savings while being incapable of running a secure facility.

Next is a great piece on the sordid history of the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the world.

He also of course couldn't resist delving into the illustrious track record of CCA.

Then today he released two articles, the first of which goes into MTC's also pathetic history.

The second discusses one of those public meetings, at which officials for the GEO Group found strong opposition from the citizens of Goodyear, Arizona.

A Dose of His Own Medicine

Remember Mark Ciavarella, the judge from Pennsylvania who received millions of dollars in bribes from a private prison operator to sentence undeserving children to that private prison?  His conviction resulted in the dismissal of over 4,000 convictions of juveniles, as the court saw the obvious corruption and conflict of interest in his decisions.

Well thankfully that slimy piece of shit just got 28 years in prison.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Earnings Time

It's my (least) favorite time of the quarter-year!  Both CCA and the GEO Group recently released their 2nd quarter earnings.  

First up is GEO, which in what had to be a joke, announced it earned $21.6 million over the past three months based on "sound operational performance."  I guess re-purchasing $100 million worth of your own stock qualifies as "operational performance."
Meanwhile in Tennessee, CCA earned $42.4 million in profit over the last 3 months.  So combined, the two largest private incarcerators in this country earned more than $64 million in PROFIT over the past 3 months, just by locking up US citizens and immigrants.  Who knew it could be so easy?  For the math lovers (and haters of unrestrained capitalism) out there, that works out to a whopping $711,111 every single day, or $493.83 per minute.  Yes every fucking minute these monsters make nearly $500 in profit off taxpayer dollars, much of which is turned around in efforts to incarcerate an ever-increasing number of people.

But I guess there is a bit of consolation, for me at least, in the fact that both companies apparently under-performed, based on market expectations.

Crappy Medical "Care"

Another quickie here, this one from Indiana, where the medical services for the Lake County Jail are contracted out to a private company, MedStaff.  As with the companies that operate entire prisons, private medical care contractors cut corners and hire unqualified staff, all in a bid to maximize profits.  Unfortunately for Lake County prisoners, they are subject to the "care" of a company in which "no one in the organization has experience in correctional medical care... The organization lacks leadership and direction."  So little direction in fact that a recent audit found that medical staff routinely devise their own courses of treatment because no one is available to guide them.

More on the Understaffed GEO Facility

I wrote previously about some of the trouble Florida has had with its private prisons, which is relevant because the state is looking to privatize the correctional services of up to 18 counties.  This is just a quick link to an article that goes into more detail on the South Bay Correctional Institution, the GEO Group facility that investigators were unable to inspect last month because they couldn't find anyone at the prison to let them in.

Monday, August 8, 2011

CCA's Investment in Georgia

CCA and other private prison companies have a business model that relies upon a steady flow of prisoners to remain profitable.  It's a natural outcome of the industry.  Unfortunately for everyone not profiting from locking human beings up, this plays out as companies help write and pass legislation that increases criminal and civil penalties, to the degree that we now have the highest rate and real numbers of incarceration in the entire world.

In Georgia, as in Arizona, CCA has sought to ensure itself a steady flow of "revenue" by first drafting what would become SB1070, and Georgia's copycat bill, HB87, then by contributing to the campaigns of representatives likely to vote on the legislation.  So after spending untold thousands of dollars for a seat at the table with ALEC to write the legislation (literally untold - its pretty much impossible to see who contributes, and how much, to this shady nonprofit), CCA spent over $240,000 in the past 7 years in campaign contributions in the state of Georgia alone.  Of 17 representatives who received contributions from CCA in the previous 2 cycles, only 2 voted against HB87, a piece of legislation that allows police to check immigration status and will undoubtedly result in more immigrants being incarcerated.  Hell, CCA even took 8 of them out to dinner, and, shocker - none of those 8 voted against the bill.  This all in a "conservative" state (wait, I thought they didn't like government intervention?)

But Georgia's legislators didn't stop at illegal immigrants, because there's money to be made in locking up their own citizens as well.  It doesn't seem to matter that private prisons cost the state nearly $10 more per prisoner, per day (so literally millions of dollars more per year, as there are 7 private prisons in Georgia) - the state is forging ahead with plans to open a new, 1,500-bed private prison.  As an advocate said, "These prisons are new plantations, and immigrants are a new crop... there's a huge profit margin."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Inhumane and Dangerous

Two quick links here.  First up, one of the official mental health advisers for Australia's federal government is convinced that the situations asylum seekers find themselves placed in when they're incarcerated in private prisons are worse than what is being reported.  A recent investigation is seeking to determine if the rates of self-harm in these facilities is higher than what's being reported.  A professor recently estimated that there is a "near-miss" suicide attempt nearly every single night in one of Australia's private immigration detention centers.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a death at a prison has raised questions about the medical care being provided by Corizon, a private, for-profit company.  Anthony Dwayne Davis died nearly 20 hours after requesting medical attention but being denied treatment at the Fayette County Detention Center.  17 hours after he submitted the claim, he was finally taken to the infirmary, where he did not have a pulse.  Davis had a history of heart trouble, which makes the 17-hour delay especially worrisome.  This company apparently has a bit of history in denying medical attention; last year, a 54-year-old prisoner died of a pulmonary embolism after not receiving treatment quickly enough.

Fodder for the Conspiracy Theorists

Just a quick link here to an interesting column discussing Corplan Corrections and its leader, James Parkey.  Corplan has constructed numerous immigration detention centers and prisons across the country, working most often with CCA.  They have built a lost of facilities on municipal bonds, and have often left small towns to foot the bill for the construction after they fail to help secure a contract to bring in prisoners - the most famous case is that of Hardin, Montana, which I've written about extensively.

But this article discusses how Corplan has been building many detention centers around the country, though not in response to a particular need for beds.  The author argues, somewhat convincingly, that these beds are being constructed to give the government the ability to detain political dissidents in the case of a "national emergency."  Basically, the government is building prisons to be able to silence political dissent when shit hits the fan.

That's some creepy stuff.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cause for Concern

Last month, investigators from Florida's Department of Corrections came to the South Bay CF, run by the GEO Group, to conduct an inspection of the facility.  While this should not have made headlines, it did because the investigators could not get into the prison.  After repeatedly using the call box and even shining a flashlight directly into the security camera at the gate, investigators were unable to contact anyone inside the prison to let them in.  Apparently, there were no guards in the control room or monitoring the perimeter of the facility to let them in.  What's even worse is that the Florida DOC doesn't even have authority to oversee the prison - that's handled by the Department of Management services, which apparently lets the GEO Group conduct its own internal investigations of staff misconduct.  Because who would want a department of corrections to oversee something like corrections?

So the investigators filed a report, and the DMS released their own (heavily redacted) report about the incident, but no one has given a firm answer yet as to why staff were unresponsive for at least 20 minutes of the investigators' trying to get their attention.  This is very concerning, considering the state is pushing hard to privatize the correctional services of 18 counties.  There are some very high benchmarks in the request the state has put out though, such a mandating 7% savings and forcing the private vendor who wins the contract to provide programs proven to reduce recidivism.  I have absolutely zero faith in any private for-profit company to meet these benchmarks, since the industry has steadfastly failed to live up to similar expectations throughout its history.

I've written extensively on the failures of private prisons to provide programming and offer cost-savings.  But Florida's politicians need look no further than their own state to see that privatizing correctional services doesn't save money.  Because Jackson County, which recently had been seeking to outsource prison healthcare, recently decided to continue to have the government provide healthcare.  Why?  Because the county will save MILLIONS of dollars per year in doing so.  That's right - it would cost millions more for a private company to provide healthcare to prisoners than the government.

Is there any question anymore that Ric Scott, JD Alexander, and all the other Florida politicians looking to privatize prisons aren't merely corporate shills?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Private Prisons in a Wider Context

An excellent video that delves into the private prison industry, its motivating factors (SPOILER ALERT: $$$), and how the increasing criminalization of American citizens and immigrants helps the industry's bottom line.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ongoing Abuse

Hawaiian prisoners continue to report extreme violence and abuse at the Saguaro Correctional Facility, a CCA joint, in Arizona.  Thousands of Hawaiian prisoners are housed by CCA on the mainland, despite Governor Abercrombie's promise to bring them all home.  In the private hellholes, they have been repeatedly subject to sexual assault and harassment, violence, and even murder.  The Solicitor General of the state even released a scathing report on the questionable tactics CCA engages in to manipulate cost projections and scam the state into thinking it's saving money by having prisoners at their facility.

In a complaint just filed in Honolulu, Hawaiian prisoners are suing CCA and the state of Hawaii for subjecting them to the brutal conditions at Saguaro.  The complaint details some of the problems these men face, saying

    "Plaintiffs were stripped of nearly all of their clothing while being beaten, questioned, and humiliated.
     "Plaintiffs were threatened with harm to themselves and their families, including through such statements as:
     "a. 'We have your emergency contact information;'
     "b. 'We know who your family is and where they live and we are going to harm them;'
     "c. 'We are going to kill you;'
     "d. 'We will continue to beat you and the only way to stop that is to commit suicide;'
     "e. 'We will send you to hell;'
     "f. 'We will stick something up your ass.'
     "g. 'We will smash all the bones in your face.'"

I really hope this finally catches the Governor's attention and that he realizes sending prisoners to private facilities is a disgraceful and inhumane way to back out of the state's responsibility to house its prisoners.

Failing to Deliver

There are two stories I wanted to highlight today, both of which deal with the failure of the private prison industry to deliver on its promises of economic stimulus.  Private prisons are often pitched to small towns and rural communities as vehicles of economic growth, with promises of tax revenues and jobs.  Unfortunately though, many of these prisons are built on the speculation that they'll be filled (meaning no contract to house prisoners is in place before many of these prisons are built), but the contracts don't always come through as planned.  For a great example of how this happens, see the example set by Hardin, Montana, which was conned by Corplan Corrections and still has a jail that sits empty, 5 years after it was built.

So the first article comes from the small town of Littlefield, TX.  A small town desperate for economic stimulus, Littlefield financed the construction of a private prison for nearly $11 million dollars.  After the prison was built in 2000, the GEO Group was hired to run it.  In the shocker of the century, the facility was plagued with violence, assaults, and escapes to the degree that Idaho, the state whose prisoners comprised the largest segment of the population, decided to pull all its prisoners from the facility.  Shortly thereafter, the GEO Group backed out of operating the facility.  The town however was still on the hook because it had financed the facility, and is now facing a bill of $65,000 per month.  Unfortunately, "Littlefield is not alone. Several other Texas towns that build prisons to be run by private companies have found the prisons to be financial drains."  Littlefield actually auctioned off the prison a few days ago, to an undisclosed buyer, but the damage has been done to the city's bond rating.

The other article comes from our friends up north, where British Columbia lawmakers are debating where they should place a new private prison.  Of course, the town is hoping for some stimulus from the prison in terms of revenue and jobs.  While this has not yet turned into a money pit like Hardin and Littlefield, the article goes on to describe how BC is looking to save money by privatizing, and discusses all the great economic benefits of bringing a prison.  But what really caught my eye is a quote they pulled from the Economist, hardly the left-wing rag, which discusses the nature of privatized corrections and how the savings achieved in terms of dollars and cents may not be worth the toll privatization takes on humans who experience it.  The Economist said, "It is 'hard to see the expansion of a forprofit industry with a permanent interest in putting ever more people in cages as consistent with either efficiency or justice.'"