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Florida’s Politicians (But Not Its Residents) Love Private Prisons

1:58 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (photo: studio08denver/flickr)

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (photo: studio08denver/flickr)

Florida’s Politicians (But Not Its Residents) Love Private Prisons

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz represents Southwest Ranches, Florida, which has been at the epicenter of a debate over a proposed immigration detention facility.  Residents of the town have consistently demonstrated their opposition to the facility, which they feel was designed and planned without much public knowledge of the proceedings.  Basically, they think they have been fleeced by CCA, who hopes to build the facility on land it already owns, into having a detention center that they fear will lower property values and present a risk to public safety.

Unfortunately, they’ve got a pretty poor representative in Ms. Wasserman, who’s basically taking a “lesser of available evils” approach.  She initially called a town hall meeting to allow residents to voice their opposition and learn more about the project.  After more than 250 people showed up to let CCA and the town council know they didn’t want a private prison, Wasserman, who had called the meeting, decided she would support the project.  She now thinks it’s a good idea and that the town should move forward, saying she thinks “it is going to be far better to have that ICE detention center there than to have any other facility that would have a much more negative impact on residents there.”  Other than a lead paint producing puppy mill, I can’t really imagine what would be worse for a community than a privately operated, for-profit human rights violations incubator.  But there’s no chance she could have been partially swayed by the nearly $20 million CCA has spent lobbying the federal government over the past decade.  Right?

Unfortunately for the residents of Southwest Ranches, Wasserman isn’t alone in ignoring her constituents interests and supporting a company with a long track record of failing to live up to its contracts.  The mayor of Southwest Ranches just basically told his constituents to pound sand, because the deal is done.  CCA owns the land, and has for a decade, so he says there’s really nothing residents can do to stop the construction at this point.  If there’s any saving grace in all of this, it might be found in Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart from Miami, who just sent a letter to ICE to demonstrate his opposition to the proposed detention center.  So there is at least one Congressperson from Florida who hasn’t been bought off by the industry yet. Read the rest of this entry →

Australia’s Private Prison Experiment Keeps Getting Uglier

11:19 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Christmas Island Detention Centre (photo: diacimages, flickr)

Christmas Island Detention Centre (photo: diacimages, flickr)

Australia: It Just Keeps Getting Uglier

A few more interesting pieces of news have come out of Australia recently, following riots and hunger strikes at an immigration detention facility and widespread criticism of the country’s reliance on private incarceration.  It appears as though the government had been warned of major issues in its private detention centers at least 5 months before the riots this spring, which cost more than $8.5 million in damages.  The report indicates that the Immigration Department knew its private prison industry was “severely compromised,” but apparently did nothing to rectify the situation before prisoners finally rioted over substandard living conditions.


Then, as if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Serco (the private company that runs the facility) was using administrative staff at the Christmas Island facility as security guards during the riots.  To put it simply, as the frigging director of Serco himself said, “I can’t think of a more serious breach of occupational health and safety.”

Certainly, the government should have heeded the warnings it received about the private detention centers, because this crisis could have potentially been averted.  Hindsight is of course 20/20.  Hopefully though the government will use this as a learning experience, since it is considering giving Serco a new multi-billion dollar contract for services at a hospital (Serco already has a contract worth more than $4 billion to run the private detention centers).  Especially considering a psychiatrist who just reviewed healthcare at Serco’s Scherger Detention Center concluded that “tragedy is very likely to occur” due to the prisoners’ inability to get adequate treatment. One person even went so far as to claim that Serco is compromising mental health care services in the community because of how poorly it operates.


Yet Another Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against CCA

10:06 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

ACLU files new lawsuit against CCA

By Elaine Hirsch
A lawsuit recently filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU-TX) against the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) underscores the perils of the American prison-industrial complex, an aspect of corrections facility management studied by politicians, master’s degree candidates, and lawyers in the United States.
The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of three female detainees whose identities were withheld to maintain anonymity. According to the ACLU-TX filing, the immigrant women were being transported from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Williamson County to Austin, Texas, when they allegedly suffered sexual abuse while in the custody of ICE. One CCA employee and three ICE officials have been named in the lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time that CCA has come under fire for prisoner abuse. The CCA has operated the T. Don Hutto Residential Center since 2006. The day-to-day operations of the detention center are conducted by a cadre of ICE employees and CCA guards. In August 2010, the ACLU reported that a CCA guard was charged with numerous counts of sexually abusing female inmates at the same ICE facility in Williamson County. The Graduate Employees and Students Organization at Yale University teamed up with the school’s employee union to force a divestment based on CCA’s long record of civil rights violations.

Days after the filing the latest lawsuit against the CCA, the ACLU released a scathing report criticizing the massive profits realized by private prison contractors such as CCA during recessionary times. “Banking on Bondage: PrivatePrisons and Mass Incarceration” is the name of the report that shows the two most prominent prison profiteers, CCA and the GEO Group, received a combined revenue of $3 billion and earned hundreds of millions in profits in 2010.

CCA’s sketchy record of managing American prisons comes at a time when the state of Arizona is preparing to award a lucrative contract to private jailers despite a report from the Auditor General that state-operated facilities would actually cost less to maintain.

The meteoric rise of the private prison population in the United States is certainly sobering: a 1664% increase over the last two decades. According to industry analysts, there are plenty of long-term growth opportunities for business entities such as CCA. Mark Whitburn, an attorney at the ACLU of Texas, believes that the complaints lodged by the three plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit against the CCA are only “the tip of the iceberg.” 

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.  She is currently a writer for a master’s degree program resource.


Challenging Constitutional Violations in Private Prisons

8:01 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Challenging Constitutional Violations in Private Prisons

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case tomorrow morningregarding the liability of employees of private prisons in instances where a prisoners’ rights have been violated.  The case, Minneci v. Pollard, calls into question whether or not employees of private companies who contract with the government can be held personally responsible for violating constitutional rights in the line of duty.  The case revolves around a prisoner who broke both his elbows while working in a prison, then was repeatedly forced to perform awkward and painful movements by prison staff, violating his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (the 8th Amendment to the Constitution).  The prisoner wants to sue the employees of the GEO Group, which operates the prison, for monetary damages for violating his right.

That first link goes to an analysis of the case from the SCOTUS Blog, which is pretty thorough and dense but a good read if you can get through it.  Here’s a more succinct summary from the Wall Street Journal.

Arguments are scheduled for 11:00am.  The Court is not expected to release a decision on the case until sometime next year.


A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Continuing with WhyIHateCCA’s guest author series, I present this first-hand account of a father’s struggle to find his son, who was lost in the Mississippi system after suffering brain damage in a riot at the GEO-Group operated Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.  Walnut Grove is currently the target of a lawsuit by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center over deplorable conditions and abhorrent violence.

by Michael McIntosh

Good Afternoon, My name is Michael McIntosh.  I am the parent of a youth that was attacked, critically injured and then hidden in the system, to keep the incident quiet.

Imagine this…

On a normal visitation day, I was told by the Walnut Grove (WG) staff that my son, who had been there for 3 months, was no longer at the facility.  Walnut Grove is a private juvenile detention center operated by the GEO Group for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. When I reached out for more information of where my son was, they consistently denied knowledge of his whereabouts. How could a child placed in the custody of the MDOC disappear?

After not getting any assistance from WG staff, I was referred to the Warden, who refused to tell me about my son’s whereabouts. After 2 1/2 weeks of MDOC and WG passing the buck back and forth and playing games, I took matters in my own hands and started my own investigation. I realized that they did not care about the well being of my son, nor did they care about me knowing his status. I found out that my son was in the hospital, but no status information was given. I called MDOC and asked the medical department about my son’s status to which I received no response.

A few days later, an MDOC chaplain called to help me with visitation to my son. After 5 1/2 weeks of searching, visitation was granted to me to see my son, but they had moved him to another facility. A new visitation order was granted for a two-hour visit, in which I was only able to spend a half hour with my son. The reason this happened is because I questioned the head nurse about the status of my son; because of her attitude, she called security and told them she felt threatened and needed assistance. Security came to assist her, but it was not the 24-hour security that was already in his room, but rather hospital security. The security officer told me I had to leave, that visitation was over. Keep in mind that this was more than a month after the incident.

The next day I called the chaplain back, explained what happened and asked for another visitation with my son. On Friday of the following week the head doctor of MDOC called and I was told no further visitation will be granted and the visitation that I was granted was done as a favor to me.  I was forced to wait until my son was granted visitation rights by MDOC. My son was transferred to Parchman hospital where he received no medical treatment.

After four to six weeks, he was released from the Parchman hospital, and he was transferred to a drug and alcohol facility at Parchman though he does not have a problem with either. He has yet to receive treatment that addresses his injuries even though many request have been made for treatment. He is an underage inmate at Parchman, put there and left there so that this incident would not be known. My son had been assaulted in a riot at the Walnut Grove YCF in which he received brain damage, but has still not received proper medical treatment for what he experienced

“Gladiator School” Lawsuit Settles

10:13 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

“Gladiator School” Lawsuit Settles

The lawsuit the ACLU had against CCA for its poor operation of the Idaho Correctional Center, commonly referred to as “Gladiator School” by its residents, has settled, after being combined with a separate suit that had been filed by a prisoner.  Violence levels at the facility were so severe that the ACLU had sought more than $150 million in damages, CCA’s annual profit (yes, as in the amount of taxpayer dollars they saved as profit by cutting services and medical care).  Staff routinely ignored prisoners’ requests to protect them from violence, and in many cases intentionally placed vulnerable prisoners in high-risk situations in which they knew they’d be assaulted.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and CCA avoided admitting liability for the actions of its staff.  Because they pay good money to effective, if completely crooked, attorneys.

Treatment of Prisoners by Guards in Private Prisons

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"Prison Guard" by sonofgroucho on flickr

"Prison Guard" by sonofgroucho on flickr

Treatment of Prisoners by Guards in Private Prisons

Today we open a new chapter in WhyIHateCCA’s illustrious history; our first guest author!  So without further ado, I present this article by Allison Gamble of

Treatment of Prisoners by Guards in Private Prisons

Prisons have begun to become more privatized over the last few decades. One reason for this increase in privatization is the explosion of the prison population, which has undermined states’ ability to address the construction and maintenance of public prisons. Another factor is the emerging belief that a free market system with private owners will perform better than public institutions. However, issues with how these private prisons run are a public concern and fuel a particularly strong debate.

One recent example further illustrates this point. In Hawaii, prisoners were beaten and abused by employees of the Corrections Corporation of America, a private company that contracts guards for prison facilities. In July 2010, five prisoners were threatened with death, kicked, and beaten by the guards. This single example highlights starkly the issues with private prisons, specifically with the professionalism of privately contracted guards.

In terms of forensic psychology, why do these abuses occur? Jenni Gainsborough, director of Penal Reform International, says many corporations take shortcuts in training prison guards. Prisons are no place for novice security workers, but require well-trained staff that are highly educated to respond to the types of situations common in a prison. Workers need to understand prisoner’s rights, appropriate self-defense procedures, and need to be able to communicate with prisoners in a fair and effective manner. Read the rest of this entry →

Update on Arizona’s RFP for 5,000 New Private Prison Beds

7:11 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"prison guard tower"

"prison guard tower" by Rennet Stowe on flickr

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.

Ongoing Abuse

12:42 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

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 harassmentviolence, 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.

Situation Worsening in Australia

9:43 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Situation Worsening in Australia

The riots and hunger strikes I reported on last week were only part of the ongoing struggle asylum seekers in Australia have been engaged in for months, if not years, challenging their confinement in private, for-profit detention centers.

The hunger strike at Northern Immigration Detention Center continues, as prisoners have now climbed onto the roof of the facility to stage their protest.  More prisoners have joined the strike since it began, with 20 prisoners now staked out on the roof, starving themselves.

Meanwhile, juveniles from Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran being housed at the Broadmeadows detention center have acted out in desperation, not having access to case managers for months on end.  They have sewn their lips together in protest, and posted the pictures on facebook to try to draw attention to their struggle.