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Judge Keeps Private Prison Settlement Secret

9:29 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Judge Keeps Settlement Secret

Last year, the ACLU reached a settlement with CCA over its deplorable operation (or lack thereof) of the Idaho Correctional Center, which was so plagued with violence and assaults that it had been dubbed “gladiator school” by the prisoners.  The lawsuit had sought up to $150 million in damages, but a settlement was reached that was likely substantially lower (and which allowed CCA to avoid admitting responsibility).  After the settlement, the AP petitioned the court to have the settlement documents de-classified, so that the public could get an idea of the terms of the agreement.  Such a move could have given the public a better understanding of just how shitty this CCA prison was, and still is; in fact, it was still the most violent prison in the state, even after the lawsuit settled! 

But apparently the judge doesn’t want the people of Idaho to have any real oversight of the private prison that’s taking millions of taxpayer dollars every year to provide such substandard treatment, because he refused to unseal the settlement.  His basic reasoning was that he feared releasing the documents could discourage a company like CCA from seeking settlements in the future.  Which would be GREAT, because then they could actually have to take some responsibility for the thousands of instances of abuse and negligence that have taken place in the prisons they’re paid billions of dollars to operate.


After the Revolving Door Stops Turning

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

After the Revolving Door Stops Turning

A really interesting story came out of New Mexico last week that really speaks to the great benefit the industry enjoys in having former (and potentially future) employees working in government.  I have often complained of the political and contractual favoritism shown to the industry by former employees, but this one really struck me.

The new Secretary of Corrections has decided to finally start holding the GEO Group accountable for its terrible mismanagement of its facilities in the state, fining the company more than $1 million for failing to maintain  adequate staffing levels, which obviously presents a huge risk of violence.  This is the first time the state has really held any private prison company accountable for failing to meet contractual obligations.  The former Secretary, who had previously worked for the GEO Group, repeatedly declined to fine the industry for known failures to comply, saving the GEO Group nearly $20 million worth of fines in the process.  And it seems like the new Secretary is serious about holding GEO Group and CCA accountable for the millions of taxpayer dollars they get in contracts; he says he wants to review staffing levels at private prisons every single month.

And the fines could not have come at a more appropriate time.  Because a prisoner in a GEO Group facility in Clayton, New Mexico, was just beaten to within an inch of his life and is now on life support following the vicious assault.


Tennessee Private Prisons Have Higher Incident Rates

1:01 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Tennessee Private Prisons Have Higher Incident Rates

(Republished with permission of Private Corrections Institute)
Incident Rates at CCA-run Prisons Higher than at Public Prisons in Tennessee
Private Corrections Institute
October 18, 2011
For Immediate Release
Nashville, TN – According to an analysis of incidents involving assaults and disturbances at publicly-operated and privately-managed prisons in Tennessee from January 2009 to June 2011, incident rates were consistently higher at the state’s three private prisons.
Data obtained from the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) recorded incidents in 11 categories related to assaults on inmates, assaults on employees and institutional disturbances. Data was reported for the state’s 11 prisons operated by the TDOC, as well as three facilities that house state prisoners run by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
The three CCA prisons (South Central Correctional Facility, Hardeman County Correctional Facility and Whiteville Correctional Facility) held between 25 and 27 percent of the state’s prison population between January 2009 and June 2011 – slightly over 5,000 inmates.
While the average number of incidents per month per facility was 17.29 at the state-run prisons in 2009, the average number per month was 31.56 at each CCA facility. In 2010, the average number of incidents per month at each state prison was 19.58, and the average number was 31.69 at each CCA prison. During the first six months of 2011, the average number of incidents per month at state facilities was 20.38, while the average number per month at the CCA prisons was 29.56.
In terms of rates per 1,000 prisoner population, the privately-operated prisons had notably higher incident rates. For 2009, the average rate of incidents at the 11 state-run prisons was 13.92 per 1,000 population, while the average rate at the three CCA facilities was 18.68 – 34% higher than at TDOC prisons. The 2010 average rate of incidents at TDOC facilities was 14.51 per 1,000 population and the average rate at the CCA prisons was 18.68 – 28.7% higher than at the state-operated facilities. During the first six months of 2011, the average rate of incidents at TDOC prisons was 15.0 per 1,000 population while the average rate at the CCA facilities was 17.44 – 16.2% higher than at the TDOC prisons.
According to the TDOC’s website, the 11 state-operated prison complexes all are rated either close or maximum security (not including minimum-security annexes), while two of the three CCA prisons are rated medium (a lower security designation) and one is rated close. Thus, even though more higher-security prisoners – close and maximum – were housed in state prisons, the CCA facilities still had higher average numbers of incidents per facility per month and higher average incident rates over the time period examined. In fact, during the 30-month period from January 2009 through June 2011, the average rate of incidents at TDOC prisons exceeded the rate at the privately-operated facilities only twice – in December 2009 and March 2011.

“This research confirms what other studies over the years have found – that privately-operated prisons have higher rates of assaults and other violent incidents than their public counterparts,” said Alex Friedmann, president of the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), who conducted the Tennessee research. “For example, according to an Associated Press report earlier this month, a CCA facility in Idaho had more assaults than all other Idaho state prisons combined, based on 2010 data,” Friedmann stated. CCA settled a class-action lawsuit involving the Idaho Correctional Center in September 2011, agreeing to make changes to reduce the high levels of violence at that facility.

“CCA will likely complain about the messenger, as the Private Corrections Institute is opposed to prison privatization,” said Friedmann, a former prisoner who served time at a CCA-operated prison in the 1990s. “But the message, which is based on data reported by the state’s Department of Correction for both public and private facilities, is very clear: privately-operated prisons in Tennessee have higher average numbers and rates of assaults and disturbances than public prisons, even though TDOC facilities house more prisoners with higher security levels. This indicates a serious problem with private prison management and also signifies a problem with the state’s oversight of the CCA-operated facilities.”

A copy of the statistical analysis is attached and the source data obtained from the TDOC is available upon request. While the higher rate of incidents at private prisons has been decreasing (from 34.2% higher in 2009 to 16.2% higher in June 2011), this seems to have more to do with a rise in incidents at state prisons rather than significantly fewer incidents at CCA facilities.

PCI’s Tennessee research mirrors other studies that have shown private prisons have higher rates of violence than their publicly-operated counterparts. According to a 2001 Bureau of Justice Assistance report, for example, private prisons had 65.8% more inmate assaults and 48.7% more assaults on staff than public prisons per 1,000 prisoner population. Further, a Tennessee study conducted by the Select Oversight Committee on Corrections in 1995 found that the CCA-operated South Central Correctional Facility “reported significantly more injuries to prisoners and staff,” with 214 injuries reported over a 15-month period compared with 21 and 51 injuries reported at two comparable state prisons.
The Private Corrections Institute (PCI) is a non-profit citizen watchdog organization that works to educate the public about the significant dangers and pitfalls associated with the privatization of correctional services. PCI maintains an online collection of news reports and other resources related to the private prison industry, and holds the position that for-profit prisons have no place in a free and democratic society.

For further information, please contact:
Alex Friedmann, President                 Ken Kopczynski, Ex. Director
Private Corrections Institute              Private Corrections Institute
(615) 495-6568                                           (850) 980-0887

Good Luck, AP

9:35 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Good Luck, AP

Honestly – I’m not being sarcastic here.  The AP has requested the settlement in the recent case the ACLU and Marlin Riggs won against CCA in Idaho be unsealed.  The case alleged violence at the facility was so pervasive that it was called “Gladiator School,” and that the prison intentionally denied medical care to assaulted prisoners in order to cover up the extent of the violence.  The AP says the case raises profound questions of public concern, which I certainly agree with.  So, I wish you the best of luck in getting that settlement unsealed; I’d love to see what it says, and how much CCA had to pay.


“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 →

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.

Failing to Deliver

12:22 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

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.’”

A Mini Riot

8:38 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

“It was a mini riot, and yet no guards intervened.”

That is the description of the situation which Antoney Jones found himself in almost immediately after arriving at the Idaho Correctional Center. Jones, a black gay man, was intentionally placed by guards into a housing unit where he would be assaulted by other prisoners. “Prisoners throughout the pod lined the rails and began yelling, ‘Kill the nigger,’ ‘Get the fag’ and ‘Kill the rat.’”

Mr. Jones’ story is one of more than a dozen similar ones found in the complaint of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Idaho against CCA for their operation of ICC, a prison so notorious for its violence that it’s been dubbed “gladiator school” by those housed there. The violence is so pervasive particularly because the prison is private; by routinely hiring unqualified staff and reducing staffing levels to the barest of minimums, the prison is literally a breeding ground for violent activity. In the assault that prompted the lawsuit (and an FBI investigation), a prisoner was brutally beaten for so long that his assailant had time to stop and rest in the midst of the attack, while guards simply watched from a control tower. That sort of unprofessional conduct is heart-wrenchingly unacceptable.

And in other effed-up privatization of correctional services in Idaho news, the state has fined a private medical care provider, CMS, “nearly $400,000 by state officials for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state.” And this is in a state that permitted CCA to operate the ICC for years without fining them, which means the medical “care” CMS was providing must have been appallingly insufficient.