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Happy Anniversary, CCA!

By: WhyIHateCCA Monday January 28, 2013 5:32 pm

First published on WhyIHateCCA

I apologize for falling silent for the past few months.  Life caught up with me.  Anyway, don’t think I’ve stopped hating on private prisons – far from it.  I just haven’t really had the time to write.

But I can’t let a day like today go by without some mention.  Today, CCA turns 30.  That means for three decades we as a nation (beginning with Tennessee (thanks a lot, Tennessee)) have been bullishly pursuing a failed experiment in which we turn over society’s most vulnerable members to private companies, who systematically fail to live up to their contractual standards, let alone any notion of human decency, in how they operate their facilities.  In the process, millions of lives have been impacted, with all but a very few exceptions (the corporate brass) being worse for the wear.

We’ve sold our morality to the lowest bidder, repeatedly, to the tune of BILLIONS of taxpayer (i.e. my and your) dollars every year.  Meanwhile, these companies earn hundreds of millions of dollars (again, our money) in profit annually. But even THAT wasn’t enough, because now CCA and the GEO Group are reincorporating as something called Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which, in a nutshell, is a legal maneuver that will allow them to largely avoid paying taxes.

So CCA, GEO Group, MTC, and everyone else who takes my money to abuse and mistreat people, on the thirtieth anniversary of your despicable existence, here’s a heart-felt

Fuck You.

from me to you.

 

New Hampshire Moving Ahead with Prison Privatization Plans

By: WhyIHateCCA Saturday July 14, 2012 11:09 am
First published on WhyIHateCCA

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.

Serco Sucks at Running Private Prisons, Too

By: WhyIHateCCA Monday July 9, 2012 12:26 pm

First published on WhyIHateCCA

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.

A Glimpse Inside the Private Prison Industry’s Influence in Florida

By: WhyIHateCCA Friday June 29, 2012 10:37 am

President of the Florida Senate, Mike Haridopolous

First published on WhyIHateCCA

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.”

Is Michigan Going Back on Its Word?

By: WhyIHateCCA Thursday June 28, 2012 9:22 am

First published on WhyIHateCCA

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).

MTC Takes Over Where The GEO Group Left off

By: WhyIHateCCA Wednesday June 27, 2012 6:25 am

First published on WhyIHateCCA

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.

Another Major Blow to Private Immigration Detention

By: WhyIHateCCA Monday June 25, 2012 4:22 pm

First published on WhyIHateCCA

 

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!

 

Another Riot in a CCA Prison

By: WhyIHateCCA Monday June 25, 2012 1:24 pm

First published on WhyIHateCCA

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.