Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And The Intrusion Continues...

CCA officers were used to help in a surprise drug sweep of Arizona public school students. There are so many things wrong with this situation, I couldn't possibly do it justice the way Beau Hodai has over at PRWatch. I especially like his history on how CCA influenced the introduction of "tough on crime" legislation through ALEC, which also helped pass stricter sentences for those convicted of drug offenses in school zones (how conveeeeenient), among other wondrous contributions to our nation having the largest criminal justice system probably in human history.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Haha @ DL Hughley

I normally watch the Daily Show, but I missed this interview wit DL Hughley where the subject turned to private prisons:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

GEO Group Acquires Another Company

Looks like the GEO Group wasn't satisfied with its previous expansion, when it purchased the third-largest company in the country, Cornell, which significantly increased its capacity.  They just acquired another company, called Municipal Corrections Finance, L.P., which adds another 10,000 beds across 11 facilities to its total capacity

Saturday, July 14, 2012

NH Still Considering Privatization

New Hampshire's legislature and governor have been looking to privatize much, if not all, of the state's prison system for the past few months. The state submitted a request for proposals in April, and in May announced a new proposal to send all male prisoners to private facilities.

Apparently not content with just considering prison privatization proposals, New Hampshire wants to partially privatize the process of figuring out the bids.  The state expects the process to take about 2.5 months and is seeking technical assistance to sort through the plethora of information they'll receive responsive to the request for proposals.  The consultant, the only one who bid, was just awarded a contract for nearly $175,000.  The state had actually asked 3 other companies to bid, but they all declined.  A spokesperson for one of the companies that turned down the state said they did so because they didn't want to be involved in a process where "the job would go to the lowest bidder."  I'm sure this in no way could lead to a conflict of interest or poor decision-making by the state.

CCA and MTC appear to be at the forefront of the cash grab; CCA is looking into 3 sites, and MTC seems pretty competitive in the bidding process.  Folks in New Hampshire are becoming a little frustrated with the process and its lack of transparency; an agency within the executive branch has the authority to award the contract with little to no public discussion of the potential risks and ramifications.  This is especially troubling given the industry's propensity to not save money and have higher rates of incidents like assaults, escapes, and other security issues.

Friday, July 13, 2012

FL's Healthcare Privatization Stalled

Just a quick link to give everyone an update on the healthcare privatization fight in Florida, which is currently stalled in court.  Lawmakers there are really just infatuated with privatization.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Serco Sucks, Too

Just a quick follow up on some of the news coming out of New Zealand regarding its Mt. Eden prison, which is run by Serco, probably the largest non-US based private prison operator in the world.  The prison and the company have come under tremendous scrutiny in recent months for its poor operation of the facility.  It was recently discovered that the company failed to meet at least 40% of the targets in its contract with the government.  As more information came out, it was determined that the company failed to meet at least half of its performance goals; and that among its management issues in the past year were wrongful releases and detentions, and an escape.  Less than 1/3 of the prisoners had a classification plan within the target time frame; the contract targeted a rate of 90%.

So it's not just in the US that private companies epically fail to meet their contractual obligations to run prisons.  I suppose that should make me feel better, but it doesn't.

Friday, June 29, 2012

CCA Doesn't Want to Pay Taxes

Every once in a while a story comes along that really re-ignites my burning hatred of the private prison industry.  Like this one, describing how CCA is battling the town of Appleton, MN over the value of its prison.  The lower the prison's assessed value, the less CCA will have to pay in taxes on it.  The prison has been closed since 2010, which has cost the city jobs and part of its tax base; at that time, it was valued at $42.9 million.  After appealing that valuation, as CCA has done every single time it's been audited, the facility is now valued at only $14 million, but even that's not low enough for CCA; they want the value to be knocked down to about $10 million, which would even further reduce the taxes it pays to the city.  Meanwhile, over all the times CCA has appealed the valuation, it has already cost the county $2 million directly in legal fees, not to mention the lost tax revenue as they continuously try to undervalue their property.  But here's the real kicker; the most recent reduction in value, still being appealed by CCA who wants it to go even lower, would already raise taxes for the average resident by 20%.

Fuck you, CCA.  Fuck your insensitive, greedy manipulation of the tax code and legal system to maximize the already obscene profits you earn by incarcerating people (quite poorly, I might add).  Fuck you for exploiting towns like Appleton, who rely on your company for valuable revenue.  It's not enough that you dramatically overcharge governments to house prisoners, in facilities constantly face allegations of abuse and neglect; now you've just got to stick it to these poor folks as well?

Fuck you.

Excellent Blog on Walker's Underhanded Tactics

Just a quick link to a really excellent blog post breaking down the tactics being utilized by Scott Walker, asshole Governor of Wisconsin, to surreptitiously bring private prisons to his state.  In a nutshell; he's cutting positions and pay across the board in the prison system and facilities are becoming short-staffed and costing significantly more to operate as an increasing percentage of the labor is overtime.  He's then going to use the poor performance and high costs of the system that he screwed up to justify bringing in private prisons, likely the GEO Group, which has already had representatives meet with Walker's staff.  He, along with the rest of the GOP establishment, is continuing to erode the rights of employees and dismantle unions so he can hand out lucrative government contracts to his financial backers.

A Glimpse Inside the Industry's Influence in Florida

Florida's leadership is among the most aggressive in the nation in trying to bring private prisons to the state.  The governor, speaker of the house, former speaker of the house, and a host of Republicans in the legislature repeatedly attempted to force through what would have been the largest wholesale privatization of prisons in US history.  Though those measures failed, a battle is still being waged in court over the abuse of the political process by Republicans who tried to force the privatization by putting it into the budget and bypassing the committee that would have normally reviewed it.  The state is now also moving forward with plans to privatize 20 work release centers of the 21 that are still operated by the state, possibly because Governor Scott seems downright determined to put state employees out of work.  Lest you think I'm being unfair, a DOC spokeswoman said the state wasn't likely to save any money in the process, which would have theoretically been the only justifiable reason to do so.

The industry has fared rather well in the state despite the failure to pass the wholesale privatization, but not quite as well as it has with the federal government in taking responsibility for incarcerating immigration detainees.

The GEO Group has been particularly successful in both these arenas, due in large part to the amount of influence it peddles throughout governments.  This influence was apparent during the 2010 election cycle, when the company donated more than $800,000 to campaigns in Florida.  But what's not quite as easy to see is how these companies also gain political influence by having favorable people, and sometimes previous employees, placed in positions of power.  Take for example the chief of staff to young Republican superstar Marco Rubio, Cesar Conda.  Conda still maintains ties to a powerful lobbying firm in Florida that has lobbied for the GEO Group.  In fact, he still maintains partial ownership, and was paid between $50,000-$100,000 by the firm after he became Rubio's chief of staff..  So he's still being paid by companies like the GEO Group while working as the number-one guy to a US Senator.

So the GEO Group has revenues of nearly $2 billion per year, much of which comes from the federal government as payment for detaining immigrants.  It has spent more than $5 million in lobbying and political contributions in the past 8 years, a small fraction of their overall revenue, and in doing so has greatly expanded its role in the immigration detention system.  They also now have a paid lobbyist working in the office of a Republican Senator at the forefront of the immigration debate, in a state with major immigration issues.

In the state legislature meanwhile, President of the Senate Mike Haridopolous, one of the biggest proponents of the aforementioned failed privatization measure, has a really cozy relationship with a lobbyist as well.  He steered millions of dollars to a company that monitors juveniles for the state, after it had come to light that the company had failed to meet many of the terms of its contract.  But he went a step further - he removed the competitive bidding process as a last-minute budget move (sounds familiar...), assuring the company, which employes his close friend as a lobbyist, would maintain the contract.  The secretary of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice even wrote that "the use of this exemption from competitive procurement may not be in the best interest of the state."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is Michigan Going Back on Its Word?

The state of Michigan for some reason thinks it should contract out high-security beds to a private company, expecting to save about $1.3 million per year in operations.  Aside from the reality that those savings will probably never materialize, the state should be wary of proceeding with such a plan considering the industry's consistent failures to maintain adequate levels of well-trained staff, which could prove extremely risky with high-security prisoners.  A few years back, corrections officials had promised residents that security of the facility would be the top priority, as residents were worried about the potential risks to public safety inherent in bringing in a private, for-profit company to operate it.

Over the next few years, the state gradually reduced security at the facility, moving away from constant patrols to more mechanical security instruments.  Now, it wants to not only privatize security staff at the facility, but medical and mental health treatment as well.  Local leaders are upset at these recent developments, particularly because they have seen how privatization has failed to save money in many other states.  Many of the COs currently employed at the facility would likely either lose their jobs or face significant reductions in pay and benefits, the area in which private prison companies are able to reduce expenses most easily (by just cutting them).

So add me to the list of people who hope the state decides to keep to its word and ensure the facility remains secure (i.e. not privatized).

In New Zealand, a 40% Failure Rate Is Acceptable

Or so says the associate justice minister, who sees no reason to reconsider the country's relationship with Serco, the company that failed to meet 40% of the terms in its contract to operate a private prison there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

GEO Group's Favorable Treatment in NM

Just a quick link here to an article discussing ways New Mexico can reform its criminal justice system to reduce recidivism and costs.  Among the proposals is a request that the state re-work its contract with the GEO Group to reduce payments to the company after staffing levels were reduced at the Hobbs prison.  The state still pays the GEO Group the same amount they did when the staffing levels were higher, a differential of nearly $2 million that the state is now just paying to the GEO Group as profit.  You may also recall that the GEO Group was hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines by the state last year for repeated failure to maintain staffing levels; so the actual levels of staff are probably even lower than the already-reduced number New Mexico is overpaying for.

MTC Takes Over Where the GEO Group Left Off

After the state of Mississippi announced it was not renewing its contract with the GEO Group (or that the GEO Group bailed on the state, depending on how you see it) following a litany of abuse and mismanagement issues at the prisons it ran for the state, the Department of Corrections needed to bring in another company to operate the private facilities formerly run by them.  Apparently, the state did not consider just hiring additional corrections staff and taking control of the prisons itself.

Into the picture now comes MTC, or Management and Training Corporation, the third-largest private prison operator in the U.S. MTC most recently made headlines as the company in charge of the Kingman prison in Arizona, from which 3 felons (2 convicted murderers) escaped, fled across the country, killed an elderly couple, and stirred up a multi-state manhunt.  Shortly thereafter, an audit found the facility had numerous security flaws that the prisoners exploited in their escape.  This was part of what prompted many advocates to call for a statewide audit of private prisons that found the facilities to cost more than government-operated prisons.  Then Republicans in the state legislature passed a bill to prohibit future audits. Of course.

So this is the company that Mississippi has apparently seen fit to give responsibility for prisoners in the former GEO Group facilities.  MTC will operate 3 prisons for the state; Walnut Grove, East Mississippi CF, and Marshall County CF, while CCA will continue to operate an additional 2 facilities (one of which just suffered a riot).  But many people, including this author, are skeptical that there will be any signifncant improvement at the prisons.  Hopefully, Mississippi will have learned from at least some of its mistakes with the GEO Group, such as not having an enforcement mechanism in the contract to ensure adequate staffing levels.

Meanwhile, it looks like the GEO Group is seeking to expand northward into Canada since its reputation has taken such a hit here, and MTC is focusing their sights on our continental brethren as well.  I just hope the Canadians learn from our mistakes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Another Major Blow To Private Immigration Detention

Following fresh on the heels of the announcement that the citizens of Crete, IL had successfully defeated a proposal from ICE and CCA to build a private prison there, Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, FL residents got their own bit of great news: CCA isn't going to build there either!  After the mayor demanded an answer following months of back-and-forth, the company and ICE announced it was no longer pursuing the site.  This is a huge victory for all residents of the area, especially those who fought so hard to keep their neighborhood from becoming another victim of the prison industrial complex.  Congratulations to everyone involved!

CCA Planning to Evade Corporate Income Taxes?

As if I didn't hate them already enough, that's roughly the conclusion drawn by Christopher Petrella, a guest author of this blog, who analyzed CCA's recent announcement to convert into something called a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT).  In a far more intelligent manner than I could ever hope to achieve, he captures the potential ramifications of this process for the company's tax liability and potential growth, so I really encourage you all to read it.

Another Riot in a CCA facility

Last week, a CCA prison in Woodville, MS became the site of the latest private prison riot.  At least 23 prisoners were injured in the disturbance to the point where they required medical attention.  Fights raged for nearly an hour before the prison staff got the facility back under control.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

2 New Wrongful Death Cases in Texas

Both CCA and the GEO Group are facing backlash over the alleged wrongful deaths of prisoners in their care in Texas.  The family of a prisoner at the Central Texas DF has sued the GEO Group for negligence in allowing their son to commit suicide, two days after he was removed from suicide watch.  Then, at the Dawson State Jail in Dallas, a 30-year-old female prisoner less than two months before her anticipated release date.  She apparently died of pneumonia after the medical staff at the facility failed to treat it.  CCA doesn't provide medical care to prisoners at the facility, but leaked internal documents suggests CCA supervisors at the facility failed to follow protocol when they didn't call for medical attention sooner.  The chief of security recommended firing a shift supervisor, but the warden at the facility declined to do so and couldn't identify any need for further training of his COs.

Aramark Employee Caught Trying to Smuggle Drugs

Yet another employee of a private company has been caught trying to smuggle drugs into a prison.  In Las Cruces, NM, an Aramark employee was caught trying to smuggle a bunch of cocaine and heroin into a prison.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crete, Illinois Residents Slay the Giant

Residents of Crete, IL have accomplished the (near-)impossible feat of successfully rejecting a plan by CCA and ICE to build an immigration detention center in their town.  The plan had come under heavy fire from residents practically from its inception, but CCA and ICE pushed hard to get permission to build the facility despite overwhelming opposition by the citizens.  The Sheriff of Lake County even threw his hat into the ring - publicly supporting legislation that could have prevented the facility's construction (it would have prevented agencies in the state from contracting with private prison companies), because the plan was clearly designed to benefit a private company with no obvious benefit to the community.  The legislation ultimately failed, but that wasn't enough to dissuade opponents of the facility from continuing to protest and work against it, even though many of their representatives had failed to support the bill.

In a voice vote, village trustees unanimously decided to reject the proposal.  This is a monumental victory for the hundreds of groups and individuals who worked so hard to prevent this facility from coming to town.  Congratulations to everyone involved!  This just goes to show that no matter how big and powerful some corporations can get, they can never completely trump the will of the majority.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Privatization Proposal Fails in Louisiana

Just a quick note here of some good news; as Louisiana finished up its budget negotiations, a bill that would have privatized the Avoyelles Correctional Center failed to pass, or even really spark a debate.

Did Ohio's AG Bend the Law to Help Privatization?

That's basically the conclusion of this analysis, which says that Attorney General Mike DeWine's ruling that the Ohio State Police would still be responsible for investigating crimes at the Conneaut prison the state sold to CCA was a politically-motivated, and possibly illegal, action.  Essentially, the author claims that DeWine overruled a couple of career attorneys in his office to hand down his ruling, which facilitated the politically perilous privatization venture -- folks in Conneaut were initially up in arms over the potential the sale had to unduly strain its police resources.

So a governor who hired a former CCA employee as the director of his DOC decided to sell a prison to CCA, then after some of his constituents were rightfully upset and fearful at the ramifications that would have for them, his attorney general bent the law to quell those concerns.  The attorney general happens to be the same guy who rallied federal support to re-open a private prison (with a $129 million contract to CCA) a few years ago that's been at the center of a dispute over back taxes.  Great.

"Sunk Costs"

Just another quick link here, this one to an excellent article from Al Jazeera focusing on the immigration detention system and the private prison industry's role in its expansion.  It also features some discussion of the report of the ACLU of Georgia on conditions facing immigration detainees in that state.

A CO's Evaluation of the Debate

Just wanted to drop a quick link to an article written by a CO from Florida evaluating the efficiency and safety of private prisons compared to government-ones.  Not surprisingly, he finds that private prisons fail to offer any significant cost-savings and are no safer than government-run facilities, even though he does so by relying on some older information.

Friday, June 8, 2012


In the interest of fairness and accuracy, I apologize for rushing to judgment on CCA without getting the full story of what happened in the beating death of Micheal Minick in Tennessee.  He was not beaten by CCA guards and to my knowledge had no direct interaction with CCA employees.  However, since CCA manages pretrial detainees for the county, they are being sued in their official capacity for failure to protect him from harm and deliberate indifference, essentially the same charges that have been brought against the city government (and rightfully so).  CCA and its employees had no direct involvement in Mr. Minick's death and in the grand scheme of things could hardly be considered responsible.  But if the company wishes to assume inherent governmental functions, it should at least be prepared to deal with lawsuits like this.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wrongful Death Suit Against Corizon

Corizon, the for-profit prison healthcare provider, recently came under fire for the "services" it has been providing to Idaho's prisoners.  They also are facing scrutiny as the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit coming out of the St. Louis Jail.  A 31-year-old man died there in 2009 from complications from a heart condition after requesting medical treatment numerous times.  His death should have never happened, though - a report nearly a decade and a half ago showed nearly 20 preventable deaths had occurred under the company's watch to that point, and a few other preventable deaths have occurred at this facility since.

But I guess that's the logical outcome when a profit-driven company is given responsibility to care for ill prisoners.

Report Slams Immigration Detention in Georgia

The ACLU of Georgia recently released a report on conditions facing immigrants detained in Georgia, who are held in one of four facilities (3 of which are privately operated).  CCA runs two of those prisons. The information for the report was compiled from interviews with immigrants who had spent time in the facilities; they detailed problems they faced with procedural due process, access to medical care, and the treatment of inmates.  CCA got its panties in a bunch over the report, blasting the ACLU in saying it had made over-broad generalizations and failed to paint a clear and comprehensive picture of immigration detention in Georgia.  Which is awfully rich coming from a company that refuses to publicly discuss the merits of its business model and actively attempts to thwart oversight and accountability for its many transgressions.

Curbing Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

A few weeks back, the Obama Administration finally got around to releasing new regulations governing sexual abuse in correctional facilities, as mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003.  PREA initially only applied to DOJ facilities and agencies, but the Administration has expanded its scope to include immigrants in detention here in the US (mostly under the jurisdiction of ICE).  This is particularly relevant for the private prison industry, which houses about half of the immigration detainees in the US, though it remains to be seen how effective these new regulations will actually be in stopping sexual abuse.  ICE will have to draft rules and regulations to govern its facilities, but given all the problems ICE has had in ensuring the private prison companies it contracts with provide humane treatment to its detainees, I'm not overly optimistic that the oversight of efforts to stop prison rape will be any more stringent than for a host of other issues.  Especially considering the fact that CCA just recently finished battling a shareholder who wanted the company to report on its efforts to curb sexual assault in its facilities.

Mental Health in Prisons and the GEO Group

By Jenny Landreth

The news that GEOCare, a private for-profit company, is hovering around the prisoner mental health honeypot in North Carolina is an extremely worrisome development. Mental health in prisons tends to fall at or near the very bottom of the list of priorities in prison management– and likewise in prison budgets– not least because a large percentage of the typical prison population suffer from mental health issue. This covers everything from anxiety and depression, to self-harm, insomnia, suicide attempts, psychosis, borderline personality disorder, uncontrollable anger and violent impulses associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and eating disorder. To be honest, if a prisoner is not suffering from some sort of despair related condition whilst incarcerated in the US prison system, they are doing remarkably well. Some prisoners are clearly more robust mentally than others, and it cannot be denied that these prisoners are likely to become the strongest of the population, sometimes to the point of bullying of vulnerable, mentally ill prisoners.

Tough Lives
Bullying of those with mental health issues is as common outside of prison walls as it is on the inside. Many criminals have suffered lives of appalling neglect, which has stunted their ability to feel anything approaching a normal response to others. When you think of these prisoners, think also of the little three year old child they once were, being abused, ignored, going hungry, being battered and shouted at. Any child being brought up in this sort of impoverished manner, often with parents who are poor and criminalised, will be seriously scarred by the experience, and will be developmentally and socially underdeveloped. Abused children often go on to be bullies themselves, in response to their own feelings of powerlessness. It’s not an excuse for such behaviour, but it goes a long way to explaining it. Beginning life with a poor home background is a huge disadvantage, and often the young teenagers who end up behind bars never had a chance at a better future. The thought of mental health services taking over the care of damaged and vulnerable prisoners – the bullies as well as the bullied, beggars belief. In the words of Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, "It just boggles my mind that folks think a for-profit private company with shareholders can perform a more efficient, better service at a cheaper rate than state employees." Quite so.

Forensic Psychiatry
Although GEOCare is circling mainly around the care of those prisoners who have committed serious mental health related crimes, such as murder, rape and violent assault, it won’t be long before they are pitching for wider mental health service provision.  In this business model, medical care programs become commodities and there is money to be made for shareholders. The state is considering the privatization of the whole of the prison health care system already. GEOCare is part of the GEO Group, which is the second-largest private prison company in the US. GEO Group has been charged on a number of occasions regarding the ill-treatment of prisoners and their own employees. They were fined $1.1 million in recent months by the state of New Mexico, for failing to adequately staff one of its prisons, putting the lives of staff and inmates at risk.

Fit to Run Prisons?
Questions must be asked about GEO Group’s fitness to run prisons, let alone a sophisticated forensic psychiatry service. Under the GEO Group’s management, a prison riot occurred in the New Castle Correctional Facility in Indiana in April 2007; eight prisoner deaths occurred at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County (STATE?), with subsequent lawsuits claiming negligence by GEO Group in the medical treatment and supervision of prisoners. The number of cases against the company, and presumably the attendant costs, led the GEO Group to pull out of the facility in 2008; that same year, Delaware County Jail (PA) was the site of the death of Sandy Morgan, a schizophrenic woman who died after not being given medication for a thyroid condition; in another 2008 incident Kenneth Keith Kallenbach also died after being denied medication for cystic fibrosis. Multiple cases of abuse and negligence were highlighted at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, including sexual abuse by staff, staff smuggling drugs in for inmates and the denial of medical treatment and education. The inmates’ ages ranged between 13 and 22 years of age. The list goes on and on. Now, GEO Group wants to take over the most complex form of mental health care for some of North Carolina’s most dangerous and disturbed criminals. The prospect is, frankly, terrifying both for the patients and the wider community.

Jenny Landreth is a freelance writer from England who has written for a number of journals and textbooks on the issue of workers' rights often using pay per click services to advertise her message.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Story Behind LaSalle

LaSalle Corrections is a private company based in Lousiana that operates mostly within its home state.  I don't write about the company very often on here, but I wanted to turn your attention to an excellent article detailing the history of the company and how it came to be one of the power players in Louisiana's part of the prison industrial complex.

Serco Loses Another Prisoner

Serco, the company that operates New Zealand's only private prison, somehow let a prisoner escape from the Mt. Eden correctional center, the second prisoner to escape from the facility this year.  The company is likely to be ordered to pay its second fine of $150,00 this year for the escape.

CCA Can't (Or Won't) Defend Its Business

About three weeks ago, the ACLU challenged CCA to a public debate on the merits of prison privatization, a timely request given that it came on the day of CCA's shareholder meeting where it faced a proposal from a shareholder that would have required the company to report on its efforts to curb sexual violence within its facilities.  The ACLU asked CCA to discuss rationales behind using private companies to perform an inherently governmental function, particularly when the industry has failed in so many respects, from efficiency and oversight to the humane treatment of the prisoners it houses.

CCA, incapable of actually defending its morally reprehensible and laughably inefficient business model, meekly rejected the ACLU's offer to debate in a public forum. I guess they find it difficult to justify abusing and neglecting human beings while reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year, and having spent millions more lobbying for an ever-expanding prison industrial complex while crime rates continue to fall.

Just a hunch...

Slam the Door on Private Prisons!

Just a quick link here to an excellent article from the Huffington Post discussing the proposed immigration detention center in Crete, IL, and the larger private prison industry.

Assaulting a Malnourished and Restrained Man

CCA is being sued by the family of Michael Minnick, a Tennessee man who was killed by Sheriff's deputies while in restraints.  After being arrested for failing to appear in court for a suspended drivers' license hearing, Minnick was taken into custody and turned over to CCA.  Some time later, he was admitted to the hospital for loss of muscle mass and extreme dehydration.  While in the hospital and handcuffed, he was beaten so severely by the guards that he fell into a coma.  The hospital was able to revive him temporarily, but Mr. Minnick died a few hours later

Monday, June 4, 2012

Prison Health Care in Idaho Questioned

Corizon, a private, for-profit medical care provider, has come under fire for the services it has been providing to Idaho in managing health care at the Idaho State Prison.  A lack of medical care and persistent negligence were components of a huge lawsuit against the facility that was settled last year.  Following that lawsuit, a federal court appointed an expert to oversee medical care at the facility, and his initial findings detailed some rather grave findings, including chronic patients going unfed and being left in soiled linens, delays in reporting serious health issues, and possibly even some preventable deaths due to a lack of treatment.  Corizon then commissioned its own report, which found that the company was just peachy.  Shocking.  Somehow, the report they commissioned from the NCCHC found that nearly half of the records it reviewed had problems ranging from "minor to significant," but yet the facility was in substantial compliance with national health standards.

ALEC & State-Sanctioned Corruption

Apologies for being pretty late on posting this excellent article from PR Watch discussing ALEC's role in fostering corruption in Ohio.  It's a wonderfully detailed examination of how the non-profit trade works to skirt regulations and transparency while promoting corporate legislation.

CCA Ordered to Pay $1.3 Million in Taxes

A judge in Youngstown, OH has ordered CCA to pay $1.3 million in taxes that it had disputed paying.

Florida's Love Affair With Private Prisons

Many lawmakers in Florida, home of the GEO Group, are enamored with the idea of prison privatization.  Legislators, mostly Republican, have thrice attempted (and failed) to privatize half the state's prison system within the past two years.  The former speaker of the house, serving time in prison, is still being investigated by the FBI in part for his role in bringing a private prison to the state and attempting to force the closure of multiple state facilities to populate it.  He's also the target of a federal grand jury investigation for his dealings with the GEO Group.

In the towns of Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, residents have been waging war against CCA and ICE, who want to build a huge immigration detention center there.  Upset over the risks of bringing a private prison to town, residents have already faced legal harassment after they have failed to capture the attention or sympathy of their representative, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.  The parties are engaged in a struggle over resources, as CCA is attempting to strong-arm the small towns into providing water and sewer services to the prison.  Pembroke Pines has already had to shell out more than $120,000 in legal fees to battle a detention center that the federal government seems to be forcing on them.

The most recent battle in Florida has arisen over the state's plans to privatize health care for all its prisoners, which I guess was the fall-back option if wholesale privatization failed.  The plan is being challenged by the Nurses' Association, which filed a lawsuit similar to the one that successfully defeated the wholesale privatization; basically saying the state Legislature didn't have the authority to order such a sweeping change to such a huge portion of the state budget without passing a stand-alone bill.  It's estimated that as many as 2,800 jobs and $300 million of the budget could be impacted by the switch, which is also opposed by the union that represents COs.

It seems simple to explain part of this love affair, the GEO Group and CCA have contributed huge sums of money to Florida legislators, with most of that going to Republicans.  During the last election cycle, the industry donated nearly $1 million to campaigns, with more than 80% of that coming from the GEO Group.  GEO has already given more than $100,000 to Governor Scott for the upcoming election.

But just looking at the campaign contributions fails to reveal the whole story.  Governor Scott's closest advisor and de facto gatekeeper, Steve McNamara, is a man with so much political influence he's been called the state's "Shadow Governor."  He also happens to be close personal friends with Jim Eaton, head lobbyist for the GEO Group, which might help explain why Scott decided to can the head of the Department of Corrections for challenging the privatization scheme.  After news came out that McNamara had been using his influence to advance himself and his friends politically and financially, he was forced to resign.  Jim Eaton, by the way, also happens to be the head lobbyist for Wexford, one of the companies in the running for the state healthcare contract.  So McNamara's influence is likely to last well beyond his tenure as "Shadow Governor."

Friday, June 1, 2012

TYT's Coverage of the Riot in Mississippi

Riots Causing Concern

The recent riots (or "disturbances," in industry parlance) at CCA prisons in Georgia and Mississippi have raised the concern of advocates in other states looking to privatize prisons.  The teamsters union down in Florida is urging state lawmakers to consider CCA's poor management of the facilities when it inevitably takes up the now annually-recurring massive privatization effort.  Information about the cause of the riot has been slow to trickle out of the facility in Mississippi, but it looks at least preliminarily like my intuition was correct.  Prisoners claim they routinely suffer abuse at the hands of guards, and that the medical care, food, and programming at the facility, which houses immigrants in the US illegally, were woefully insufficient. Even the Nashville Business Journal picked up on the story, albeit it to discuss how CCA can save face.

Another Wrongful Death Suit Against CCA

The ACLU of Hawaii has filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of the family of Clifford Medina, a 23-year-old Hawaiian prisoner who was murdered in the Saguaro Correctional Center, a CCA prison in Arizona.  The lawsuit contends that the company's negligence and drive for profit led to Medina's murder by a fellow prisoner.  This murder was one of two in a very short time frame at the facility, and one of a few issues that led the Governor of Hawaii to pledge to return all his prisoners to the islands, including an alleged sexual assault by a staff member at this same prison.

The lawsuit has already been covered by a ton of media outlets, so I won't go into a detailed breakdown.  Suffice it to say, I effing hate CCA.  I'll just give you links

KVOA News in Tucson, AZ
KITV News in Honolulu
Hawaii Reporter
Hawaii News Now
Nashville Scene
Courthouse News Service

Friday, May 25, 2012

NH May Send All Its Male Prisoners to Private Facilities

A proposal in New Hampshire to send all male prisoners in the state to private prison facilities has raised some serious concern.  This would be the first time any state has turned over such a sizable portion of its incarcerated population to the industry, though some other states have proposed similar measures in the past (such as Arizona).  The state is currently weighing bids from four companies to provide the beds it is seeking, and unfortunately some local officials have already started to fall for the "economic stimulus" trap.  But many others have already realized that the industry has an agenda all its own, that doesn't exactly correspond with the best interests of New Hampshire's taxpayers or prisoners.  The state expects to spend most of the summer reviewing applications, and has targeted September as the month in which a decision is likely to come down.

2 New Reports on the Private Prison Industry

I just want to quickly draw some attention to two great reports that have come out recently detailing some of the workings of the private prison industry.

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency released a study of how private interests are reshaping US criminal justice policy, titled "Prison Bed Profiteers."

The ACLU of Georgia just released a report documenting problems immigrants face in detention in that state.  The report is based on interviews with detainees at the 4 immigration detention centers in the state, 3 of which are privately-operated (2 by CCA).  Among the issues detailed were problems with due process violations, delivery of medical care, and low staffing levels

Update on the Fight in Crete, IL

Just wanted to give a brief update on the continuing battle over a planned immigration detention center in Crete, IL.  CCA and ICE are basically trying to force the town to accept a private prison it doesn't want, and locals have gotten really fired up about itUSA Today featured an excellent article on the situation a few weeks back that is really worth reading. While it seems like CCA/ICE have the upper hand in negotiations, the deal is far from certain; the village council still needs to approve the plan, and says it won't do so before holding public hearings on the matter.  I'd also just like to link to another article from the American Independent that gives some background on how the industry has been targeting Crete for years.

Shareholders Challenging the Private Prison Industry

In an interesting bit of grassroots advocacy, a few shareholders of the country's two largest private prison companies have worked to bring more accountability to the industry, which is exempt from public records laws in nearly every jurisdiction despite the fact that it performs inherently governmental functions.

The GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, FL, had its annual shareholders' meeting in Palm Beach a few weeks back.  Some demonstrators protested outside, but the true challenge for the company would come from inside that very meeting.  The Dominican Sisters of Hope and Mercy Investment Services, both of which own a small amount of stock in the company, introduced a resolution that would have required the company to improve its policies to address human rights abuses within its facilities and submit to third-party audits.  A resolution by the Capuchin Order of Priests would have required the company to publicly disclose all the money it spends lobbying and which issues that money is meant to influence.

Meanwhile, CCA has been fighting off a resolution by an activist and shareholder that would require it to report on efforts to reduce sexual abuse within its facilities.  The resolution would bring some much-needed accountability to an industry that has proven quite effective at skirting it.  CCA has been aggressively fighting the resolution with the SEC from its inception, I assume because they'd rather spend their money lobbying Congress and state legislatures than trying to protect the prisoners under their watch.

Unfortunately, all three of these proposals were defeated in the respective meetings.  But there is reason for optimism - they all managed a sizable margin of support.  The resolution before the GEO Group concerning human rights abuses garnered nearly 30% of the vote.  The resolution introduced by the CCA shareholder was likewise rejected, but did garner more than 14 million votes out of a possible 86 million, nearly 20% of the vote.  With such support, I am optimistic these resolutions will be introduced again in the future, which would continue to pressure the industry into more accountability for its actions and transgressions.

Wells Fargo's Cash Cow

I'd be remiss if I didn't put a link here to an excellent article by Charles Davis about Wells Fargo's ties to the private prison industry.  It's more than a month old at this point, but still an excellent piece.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Corrections Corporation of America Sued over Working Conditions

By Jenny Landreth

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has been sued by six current and former employees. The employees, who were supervisors at the Marion Adjustment Center in St. Mary’s, Kentucky, assert that CCA forced them to work additional hours whilst denying them overtime.

Supervisors claim they are required to work additional hours, denied meals and breaks, and forced to participate in training on their days off.

The employees are seeking damages of an unspecified amount. They are also seeking an injunction which would require CCA to pay appropriate levels of compensation to any employees working in excess of 40 hours per week.

Their attorney, Tom Miller, has stated concerns that CCA has been cutting essential costs so as to increase its profit: “This is a for profit company…the way you maximize profit is to reduce expenses”

He also indicated that the lawsuit may also relate to employees of two other CCA-run prisons in the State of Kentucky, namely the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright and the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville.

In response, CCA Spokesman Mike Machak stated: “Overall, we are committed to ensuring that our employees are fully compensated, and we strive to provide lasting career opportunities for those professionals who chose to work with our company.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act
The FLSA was enacted in 1938 in order to provide protection to private sector and government workers and sets several standards relating to record keeping, minimum wage, youth labor, and overtime pay. The Act States that non-exempt employees must be paid overtime, at the rate of at least time-and-a-half, when their working hours exceed 40 per week.

At present CCA claims that all supervisors and assistant supervisors can be categorised as exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as their job encompasses management duties.

However, the process of defining a post as exempt due to managerial responsibility is complex. Multiple criteria must be satisfied. Namely, the employer must regularly supervise two or more other employees and management must constitute the primary component of the position. They must also have some input into the employment status of fellow employees, for example with regard to hiring, promoting and dismissing.

Tom Miller, however, suggests that the work completed by prison supervisors does not constitute an exemption under the FLSA.

Previous Case Law
This is not the first time that CCA’s application of the FLSA has been challenged. A previous suit, settled in Kansas in 2009, bears strong resemblance to this case. Keith E. Barnwell et al. alleged that: “CCA violated the FLSA by failing to compensate correction officers, and pay overtime, to correction officers for work performed.”

Alleged violations included a failure to compensate workers for pre and post-shift work, briefings attendance or completion of paperwork.  A damages settlement was reached. Sealing of this settlement was overturned following a legal challenge by Prison Legal News.

“This is a for profit company…the way you maximize profit is to reduce expenses”
In private prisons, inmates are confined by a third (for profit) company that has entered into a contract with a government agency. Typically, that company is then paid, on a contractual basis, a daily or monthly rate per prisoner.

Critics of private prison provision highlight the inherent difficulty of reconciling drive for profit with quality of service - in order to generate profit, costs must be cut. They argue that cuts are made in the training of prison guards, with poor investment in career development programs, learning tools, and supervision. They also argue that cuts are made in the payment of staff.  It could be suggested that the above cases are illustrative of this.

In January 2012, the Sentencing Project published an extensive review, titled Too Good to be True: Private Prisons in America. This review concluded that:

“Private Prisons must make cuts in important high-cost areas, such as staff training and programing to create savings. The pressure that companies feel to maintain low overhead costs combined with less direct oversight are likely what led researchers at the University of Utah to conclude that ‘quality of service is not improved’ in private prisons.”
Jenny Landreth is a freelance writer from England who has written for a number of journals and textbooks on the issue of workers' rights.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2 Riots in CCA Facilities

Two weeks ago, prisoners rioted at a CCA prison in Georgia, resulting in the prison being put on lockdown.  There's not much more information available on that

But a second riot occurred at another CCA prison, this one in Mississippi, and what has come out so far isn't pretty; 200-300 prisoners were said to be involved in the disturbance, and at least one guard has died.  A handful of staff and inmates were injured at the immigration detention facility.  The situation lasted for hours, with prisoners taking moire than a dozen staff hostage.  Which makes sense, because a former employee said the staff-to-inmate ratio was dangerously low, so much so that he left his job there.  Sixteen staff members had to be transported to a hospital due to injuries.  Prison riots are a relatively rare occurrence; this one even more so because of the facility's population.  It houses immigrants charged with illegal re-entry, not many of whom have criminal convictions beyond that.  So this isn't a population that necessarily lends itself to violence and rioting; I imagine they are upset with the living conditions in the facility, though no word has yet come out about what incited it.

Thankfully, the company is already coming under fire for its poor management by a Mississippi Congressman, and the riot is being investigated by the FBI.

The guard who died was 24-year-old Catlin Carithers.

David West Hates Private Prisons Too

Add NBA Star David West to the list of people who hate private prisons.

Update on Michigan

I just want to give a super-brief update on the asinine prison privatization proposal in Michigan.  First is a great story from the Detroit Free Press detailing how a company (GEO Group) that just came under intense federal scrutiny for deplorable conditions in one of its juvenile facilities could end up securing a piece of the pie.  That was one of many papers in the state that highlighted GEO's abysmal track record.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I'm pretty behind on a lot of news, so I'll try to just get down to it.  First up we've got the first quarter 2012 earnings, where we get to see yet again how much a couple of companies profit by locking people up.  I'm happy to report that CCA didn't do quite as well this year as they did last year; it looks like the Corrections Investment Initiative hasn't quite paid off.  They only earned $31.7 million in the first three months of this year, a measly $352,222 per day.  Just last year, the company earned $40 million over that same time frame.

The GEO Group's profit dipped as well, despite the fact that its revenues increased by about $21 million.  They earned a little more than $15 million in profit, which comes out to about $166,666 per day. 

That seems totally justifiable.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GEO Group Makes Another Bold Move

The GEO Group just purchased another smaller private prison company, Municipal Corrections Finance L.P.  This comes a little more than two years after they announced the purchase of the third-largest company, Cornell Corrections, to try to increase their market share and bed capacity.  The new deal gives the company ownership of 11 additional facilities with10,000 beds, and further solidifies the company's position as the number 2 private incarcerator in the country.

Is The Industry Losing a Lifeline?

California, the state with the highest prison population, has also historically been one of the most privatization-friendly states, despite the influence of the powerful corrections officers lobby.  The state has given hundreds of millions of dollars per year to the industry to house some of its prisoners in a vain attempt to reduce the burden of its overcrowded prison system, rewarding the industry's investment in campaign contributions and lobbying.  But the industry's hold on the nation's most desperate prison system seems to be slipping in the wake of the Brown v. Plata decision from the Supreme Court.

That decision basically held that the state needed to remove about 40-45,000 prisoners from its state system just to ease overcrowding to the point where it could provide medical care that would not be so insufficient as to violate the prisoners' right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.  At the height of the overcrowding, it was estimated that one prisoner died every week from a preventable cause, because the state simply didn't have the resources or manpower to treat all the people it decided to lock up (coincidentally enough, its prison population exploded due largely to sentencing initiatives like 3-Strikes and Truth in Sentencing laws, which were passed by the industry through its work in ALEC during the 90's.  But that's a topic for a whole different post).  The governor's plan to fix the overcrowding is to send thousands of state prisoners to county jails; basically, he's shifting responsibility for the state's overzealous criminalization of nonviolent activities onto counties, many of which are poorly equipped to handle an influx of new prisoners.

In addition to shifting prisoners to county facilities, the Secretary of Corrections announced a few months ago that the state was looking at ways to reduce its reliance on private prisons and stop shipping prisoners to private facilities in other states. It looks like the state has actually started to work towards this goal; a few weeks ago, it announced a plan to halt $4 billion in new prison construction and return nearly 10,000 state prisoners from private facilities in other states.  This plan would save the state almost $400 million per year that it spends on private prisons, and reduce the prison system's impact on the state budget by nearly 4%; in a state with a budget near $137 billion, that's an awful lot of money.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More on the Riot in Oklahoma

A pretty serious riot took place at a private prison in Sayre, Oklahoma last year, in which 46 prisoners were injured and many needed to be transported to a hospital.  CCA operates the prison, and has been very cagey with the information that has come out about it, which would not have been possible if this were a government-operated facility.  Finally, a report has come out about the riot; 2,700 pages' worth, detailing how officials at the prison allowed for racially fueled violence to get so out of hand that 19 people are now being charged with Oklahoma's equivalent of attempted murder (leave it to Oklahoma to have no law against attempted murder)

The Battle for Southwest Ranches

I just wanted to give a brief update on the ongoing struggle over an unpopular immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches, FL.  After some legal wrangling, the town of Davie has agreed to provide fire and emergency medical services for the hotly contested facility, stepping in after commissioners in Pembroke Pines heeded the calls of their constituents and canceled the service contract they had signed with ICE.  Davie Council Members did this without seeking public comment, probably because they knew the community would not approve of the decision.  Along with this decision, it was revealed that the proposed size for the facility has nearly doubled; what was originally going to be a 1,500 bed facility now could house up to 2,500 immigrant detainees, because more brown people = more money for CCA.  Southwest Ranches eagerly hopped on board, approving the contract Davie signed, which puts the once-threatened construction back on track.