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).
I’ll spare everyone a summary of what’s been happening in the Florida legislature over the past two sessions (see here, here, and here, or just search for “Florida” to catch up); instead, I’ll just try to continue to update what I’d like to call CorruptionFest 2012. Again, I apologize in advance for the plethora of links to follow, but the news is coming so fast that I can’t keep up any other way.
So after the government assumed responsibility for its jail and trimmed its expenses by more than a million dollars, there was still the issue of back-pay that the county had withheld from CCA to cover the maintenance they had consistently failed to perform. The dispute was over $1.8 million worth of payments; CCA sued the county to try to recoup the money they shouldn’t have gotten in the first place. Unfortunately for Hernando County, CCA’s well-paid attorneys did their job quite effectively, and CCA has been ordered to pay only $100,000 of the money owed to the county. In other words, 5%. And, even more unfortunately, this precludes the county from releasing an accounting of just how CCA could have let millions of dollars worth of maintenance needs go unchecked. But, according to the editorial board at the Tampa Bay Times, “ending the privatization of the jail will produce long-term dividends for the citizens of Hernando County.”
Arizona sure loves it some privatization. Facing extreme budget shortfalls, the state attempted to sell off and then re-lease its state house in 2009 to earn some extra money, along with privatizing its entire prison system. But while that plan failed, the state’s thirst for privatization never waned. Though it already had multiple private prisons holding prisoners from other states and the federal government, a prominent republican in the state legislature introduced and helped pass SB1070, the now-infamous “Breathing While Brown” law. This law, as pointed out in an investigative report by NPR, was written by ALEC, a conservative legislation front group that has longed worked with the major players in the private prison industry and promoted privatization across the board. They’re also the ones behind attacks on global warming, voting rights, and unions, but that’s a different story.
Thankfully, people began to take notice. An advocacy organization filed alawsuit trying to block the RFP, which was dismissed on a technicality. But the substantive issue in the lawsuit wasn’t resolved; namely, that the state, by law, is required to conduct performance audits of its existing private facilities every two years, including cost-comparisons with public institutions. So the state began its audit late last year to compare public and private prisons, and the request for proposals was put on hold until the state could evaluate whether or not it would save money by turning to for-profit incarceration. Read the rest of this entry →
Unfortunately, the US is not alone in its blind pursuit of privatization at all costs; Australia is one of a few other countries that also permits for private, for-profit companies to house its prisoners. As in the US, these private prisons suffer from a litany of problems of mismanagement and cost-cutting.
However, unlike the US, Australia’s government actually tries to hold these companies accountable for the lives they destroy. Serco, which operates most of the country’s private immigration detention system, has been fined $15 million for its failure to adequately care for the prisoners in its facilities. This is a pretty significant fine for a company that earns more than $370 million per year in revenue to operate the facilities.
(Elaine Hirsch is a kind of jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and video games. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for an online doctorate blog.)
A few weeks ago, Mike covered the $42.4 million in profits that CCA announced as part of its Q2 earnings report. It doesn’t take an online doctorate to figure out that profit equals revenues minus costs, and whitout any significant spike int he supply for prison needs, this article will look at how CCA reaped profits by cutting costs in the recent months.
According to the company’s earnings call, headed by CEO Damon Hininger and CFO Todd Mullenfer, one of their main focuses has been on cutting costs in operations. Citing a company-wide initiative in 2009 aimed at driving greater efficiencies, Hininger admitted that CCA gave merit increases to employees last month, causing a dent in their bottom line. It seems counter-intuitive that a CEO would apologize for pay raises (especially merit-based ones!), because such raises are essentially investments into employees. Given that statement, it seems as if CCA values its employees as little as the prisoners they manage, a terrible way to run a company. Read the rest of this entry →
So private prisons don’t save money. Private prisons also consistently have higher rates of escapes, assaults, and violence at their facilities, and they cut corners in every area of operations. So really the state of Ohio should listen to CCA spokesman Steve Owen, who says “If we don’t operate safe, secure facilities, and we don’t provide the cost savings that are expected, there’s no reason for government to continue to partner with our industry.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I think Ohio should heed his words, especially in light of the state’s turbulent history with private prisons. In addition to one of the biggest lawsuits to slam the industry during the 90′s, the result of a riot at a Youngstown prison operated by CCA, the state has had numerous escapes and murders at other private prisons. And in a rather blatant handout to the industry, the state of Ohio is even going to pay to help train the guards at the private prisons. On the one hand, this is good because guards at private prisons rarely if ever receive as much training as they need, but this is something that should really be paid for by the companies who buy the prisons and want to assume responsibility for operating them.
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