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Serco Sucks at Running Private Prisons, Too

12:26 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

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.

MTC Takes Over Where The GEO Group Left off

6:25 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

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.

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.

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.’”

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

7:56 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Horse

Horse by anemoneprojectors

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Ohio is currently in the process of trying to sell 5 state prisons to private operators to raise money during the recession.  As I reported on before, the deal isn’t nearly as beneficial for the state and its taxpayers as it was initially said to be. So any hopes Ohio’s taxpayers have of saving money on corrections through privatization should be tempered, especially because private prisons have often been found to not even save any significant amount of money in operations, compared to government-run prisons.

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.