6:53 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
Previously published on WhyIHateCCA
Cell in Alcatraz. Photo by Miss Millions.
Mississippi, of all places, has had enough. Not exactly known for its hospitable prison system, the state announced last Friday that it intends to terminate its contract with the GEO Group to operate 3 facilities, effective in July. One of those facilities is Walnut Grove, which was recently the target of a lawsuit that brought sweeping change to the way Mississippi incarcerates its youth. Plagued with violence, medical neglect, and persistent sexual abuse, the facility’s conditions were so abysmal that the Department of Justice called it “some of the worst abuse” they had seen in any investigation of a prison or jail. Children housed there used terms like “barbaric,” “a war zone,” and “the deepest depths of hell” to describe it. The settlement in the lawsuit removed all juveniles from Walnut Grove and mandated that they never be held in solitary confinement. Lest you feel bad for GEO getting slapped around so hard in the lawsuit, remember that they earned millions of dollars in profit by treating children like shit.
Read the rest of this entry →
2:04 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
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.
8:42 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
Proponents of privatizing government services (i.e. “conservatives”) love to talk about supposed improvements in efficiency and delivery of services the private sector offers compared to the government. In reality, attempts to privatize government services, including everything from military service to social security, are nothing more than government welfare for wealthy corporate donors and empowered individuals. Politicians give contracts to companies and individuals who contribute to their campaigns and causes, not to companies who will perform the services in good faith. The private prison industry is a shining example of this phenomenon.
Which brings me to this article. I’ll let the author speak for herself: “Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have continued to use troubled detention facilities despite documenting flagrant violations of their own detention standards, including poor medical care and mistreatment of detainees.”
ICE’s own records indicate a litany of areas in which private prison operators have failed to live up to contractual obligations and failed to operate safe, humane facilities. Yet they continue to get contracts, due in large part to the millions of dollars the industry spends in lobbying and campaign contributions every year.
7:11 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
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.
9:54 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
"House Chamber, Florida State Capitol" by StevnM_61 on flickr
Thankfully, one of Alexander’s fellow Republicans, Mike Fasano, is able to easily identify the root of the deficiencies of private prisons, and has been challenging this plan from the get-go.
“Talk about a dangerous situation for the public! Because, in my opinion, privatizing our prisons, you bring a private company in, all they care about is the bottom line. That’s why they’re a company. That’s why they trade on the New York Stock Exchange, that’s why they trade on any exchange for that matter, they have stockholders, they have board members to be answerable to; therefore, they have to make a profit and by doing that, in my opinion, you put people at risk.”
(The article cited here goes into a lot more detail on the lack of oversight and transparency of the industry, which in turn results in a breakdown of accountability) Read the rest of this entry →
12:34 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
I say “Almost,” because this story at its heart really deals with human lives and suffering, as impacted by the private prison industry (of course), but the blatant handout from New Jersey to CEC is just ridiculous.
So the state was looking for someone to operate a private prison with approximately 450 beds. CEC, whose vice president is a close friend and confidant of anti-government governor Chris Christie (you know, the fiscal conservative who flies in a state-owned helicopter to little league games), seems to have had the proposal tailor-made for it. So much so in fact, that they were literally the only company that could possibly comply with all the restrictions of the request, among them “that the facility be located within a two-hour drive of Newark, New York and Philadelphia and within a 10-mile radius of the Essex County Jail on Doremus Avenue in Newark; that the successful bidder have a facility already being used for correctional purposes; and that it be within 20 miles of a major airport.”
Anyhoo, as part of the request, Essex County said it was seeking an open and competitive bidding process “so [it] can obtain the most professionally delivered and cost effective services.” CEC’s parent company has already been the beneficiary of more than $500 million in contracts from the state, but apparently NJ thinks that a company that can wrongfully release half a dozen prisoners, including a convicted murderer, in the course of a year can do that. Because CEC was the only bidder, and – surprise – they won the contract for nearly $10 million. It seems sometimes as though the more we privatize government services, the more willing governments are to overlook complete breakdowns in contract compliance and delivery of services. I tend to think CEC’s close (aforementioned) ties with the Governor, and the tens of thousands of dollars it donated to an influential county executive might have helped. CEC was so darn confident about its chances that it even posted announcements for openings at the facility before it had been announced that they won the contract. As an immigrant advocate, Karina Wilkinson, said, “Essex County has shown that profits come before human rights.” Read the rest of this entry →
12:46 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
Quick link here to an article by Bill Cotterell, analyzing the influence of the $1 million spent on lobbying prison issues in Florida in the past election cycle combined with the government’s efforts to neuter its only effective means of oversight of private prisons. This would almost be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying; it’s the logical iteration of conservative ideology at its worst. Candidates take millions of dollars in campaign contributions from powerful corporations and lobbyists to turn a blind eye to both the human suffering inflicted by these companies and their consistent failure to even live up to contractual standards. They then work to dismantle regulatory agencies that could serve as the only buffer for society against the excesses of these corporations and provide a check on their inefficient wasting of taxpayer money.
This is the conservative model for America. Handing over the operation of government functions to inefficient and dangerous private companies, then preventing the government from enforcing any means of oversight or accountability. The vaunted “free market” is bullshit. Conservatives are only interested in keeping the government from stopping them from screwing us all over with our own money.