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Some of the Worst Abuse Ever Seen in a Private Prison

1:17 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Some of the Worst Abuse Ever Seen

Following on the announcement of the removal of all juvenile prisoners in Mississippi from private prisons, the Department of Justice has just released a report of its findings in investigating the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which is run by the GEO Group.  Walnut Grove was the target of the lawsuit that resulted in the prohibition on sending juveniles to private prisons, and it turns out the state was more than justified in ordering such a removal.  Juveniles incarcerated at the facility were subjected to ongoing sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse; the abuse was “among the worst that [the DOJ has] seen in any facility anywhere in the nation.

This is truly one of the most gut-wrenching tales of the horrors of privatization that I’ve ever seen.  The report indicates that the profit motive inherent in the private prison industry led the GEO Group to ignore the suffering of children under its care; the company earned more than $100 million from the facility’s operation.  Staff were frequently involved in gang activity, and children suffered from excessive use of force regularly.  The children were sexually assaulted, guards smuggled drugs into the facility, numerous extremely violent riots occurred, and the kids were routinely subjected to long periods of isolated confinement, denied medical care and access to educational programming.  It was so bad that the judge who just ruled on the settlement remarked that “The sum of these actions and inactions … paints a picture of horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”  The inaction the judge refers to is not only the fault of the GEO Group; the state of Mississippi was remiss in repeatedly failing to enforce and monitor the contract it has with the company to ensure its own citizens, children of all people, would not suffer through such horrendous experiences.

It looks like long-needed change has finally come to the children housed at Walnut Grove and their families, all of whom were victimized by the prison-industrial complex, and more specifically, by the profit motive inherent to the private prison industry.  Judge Reeves, who approved the settlement, claims he will avidly enforce the agreement to ensure that no other children fall prey to the GEO Group.

Michigan Toying With Privatization, Again

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Michigan Toying With Privatization, Again

The Michigan legislature is currently considering legislation that would allow a currently empty GEO Group facility to once again house prisoners; the bills passed the senate narrowly but not the house (yet).  Under the legislation, a private prison operator would have to demonstrate savings of at least 10% in certain aspects of operations, so I assume this means no private prisons will open in Michigan (I kid, I kid! – they won’t care if it actually saves money).

In particular, the legislation would permit for the re-opening of a facility that used to house juveniles in Baldwin, MI (and which was for a time considered as a potential landing spot for those gitmo detainees that were supposed to have been transferred before Obama dropped the ball on that).  The prison closed about 8 years ago because it cost too much, but now the Michigan legislature is convinced, for some reason, that it won’t cost so much.  The bill doesn’t really seem to have any enforcement or accounting mechanism to ensure the state will save money (but that didn’t stop the Senate from passing it) and it doesn’t grant the Corrections Ombudsman permission to have any oversight of private prisons.  In fact, it expressly denounces the state’s responsibility to provide oversight of private prisons.  Because if there’s something an industry that’s been a proven failure for 3 decades needs, it’s less oversight.

MS Bans Juvenile Solitary Confinement, GEO Group Housing

11:26 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

MS Bans Juvenile Solitary Confinement, GEO Group Housing

In a really monumental settlement agreement, the state of Mississippi has been ordered to remove all its juvenile prisoners housed at the Walnut Grove YCF, a juvenile facility operated by the GEO Group (formerly by Cornell), and place them elsewhere.  Following rampant sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the children detained at the prison to try to relieve the nightmarish conditions they were housed in.  In addition to removing the children from a prison that profits with every additional incarcerated soul, the settlement mandates that no children in the state can be housed in solitary/isolated confinement, a notoriously dangerous and harmful classification that typically involves 23-hour per day lockdown and extreme sensory and social deprivation.

FL Republicans Just Won’t Quit in Privatization Scheme

8:10 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

FL Republicans Just Won’t Quit

I’ll spare you a long recap of all the turmoil that keeps arising in Florida as Republicans try to repay the private prison industry for its generous campaign contributions (nearly $1 million in the 2010 cycle alone) by trying to force through the largest, most expansive prison privatization scheme in human history.

Long story short, they tried to force it through as a budget amendment last year, which the state supreme court ruled unconstitutional.  The head of the DOC lost his job for opposing that measure, because hey, who’s the head of the department of corrections to say that privatizing half the system is a bad idea?  After that shady deal failed, they tried to pass it through the legislature, but that plan was shot down by a group of legislators that hadn’t been bought off by the industry.  A state senator lost his chairmanship of a committee for opposing that measure.  So you would think that this would probably be an indication to the pro-privatization lobby in the legislature that turning over control of 24 or so prisons maybe isn’t in the best interest of Floridians, and that they should just stop.  Either that or all the evidence that came out showing the state hasn’t saved money from its past experiences with privatization, and that it would be on the hook for $25 million owed to state employees who would lose their jobs if the plan went through.

But no; privatization proponents know no bounds.  They tried to, once again, insert the privatization as a last-minute budget amendment.  That’s the same action that totally rubbed many people the wrong way, that had previously been ruled unconstitutional by the court. Thankfully, this measure was thwarted by some of the same politicians who have stood firm against the overwhelming influence of the industry, including Paula Dockery, who called the move “abhorrent.”  Which is a far nicer term than I would have used.

The End of Leniency in New Mexico

2:15 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

The End of Leniency in New Mexico

I have previously reported on the problems New Mexico has experienced with private prisons.  In particular they’ve found the prisons to be wildly more expensive than government-run facilities, and have found major staffing deficiencies and other issues at prisons run by the GEO Group and CCA.  In the past, these companies had escaped responsibility for short-staffing their facilities, when the head of the state’s DOC, Joe Williams, former employee of the GEO Group, failed to fine the companies for repeated contract violations.  Well all that has changed with new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez, who is determined to ensure the state collect on the fines her predecessor failed to bring in (to the tune of $18 million the state missed out on).

Now that Joe Williams has returned to working for the private prison industry, reclaiming a position with the GEO Group after leaving his post in New Mexico, the state has begun to hold the two companies to account.  After assessing more than a million dollars’ worth of fines last year against the industry, CCA and the GEO Group failed to learn their lesson.  GEO just got fined almost $300,000 for failing to maintain adequate staffing levels at its facilities, and CCA got hit with nearly $12,000 in fines for holding female prisoners well beyond their expected release dates, in some cases more than a month longer.  Now, why would a prison do that?, you may be asking yourself.  Because by continuing to house those prisoners, they continued to collect on the per diem the state paid them to house the prisoners.

This abuse of authority is sickening; CCA literally imprisoned people unlawfully in order to make more money.  Welcome to the world of for-profit prisons!

Florida’s Private Prisons CorruptionFest 2012

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(photo: jeffreyputman, flickr)

(photo: jeffreyputman, flickr)

Florida’s Private Prisons CorruptionFest 2012!

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.

First comes an article written by a state Senator, Paula Dockery, who calls out her fellow senators for the false promises of savings and the absurd fast-tracking of the bill, which for some reason never found its way to the legislative committee that oversees corrections.  No, it just went before 2 different committees headed up by JD Alexander, who has been pushing this privatization effort for years.  Alexander has been telling anyone who will listen that the plan will save $22 million for the state, but he has never actually backed those numbers up with evidence.

As a reporter with the Orlando Sentinel noted, such “savings” can be particularly hard to calculate, especially given the industry-friendly contract terms that keep the most expensive prisoners in state facilities and leave the privates to handle the cheap, low-risk prisoners.  Many experts who have studied the industry (and who weren’t funded by the industry in their research), have found savings from private prisons to be negligible at best; and considering the state would even leave some of the more high-risk prisoners in private facilities (which is a stupid idea in its own right), Florida’s taxpayers would likely not save much, if anything, in this process.

In response to the fast-tracking of the legislation through committees that should have no say in corrections policy, the Florida Nurses Association has sued the state over the secrecy of the plan that could cost thousands of state employees their jobs.  They were followed by a coalition of 17 other organizations opposed to the privatization, who petitioned the effort’s champion, Mike Haridopolous.  Then the Correctional Officers’ Union called for the state to conduct an honest cost-benefit analysis, after their initial review found that this privatization could cost Florida taxpayers MORE THAN 120 MILLION FRIGGING DOLLARS. Read the rest of this entry →

Government Still Trying to Force Private Prisons in Florida

10:47 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(photo: anythreewords, flickr)

(photo: anythreewords, flickr)

Effing Florida

So before I go off on a tangent here, I apologize for the litany of links to come.  But the situation in Florida has quickly spiraled out of control and, seeing as I’m already weeks late on reporting this, I wanted to try to put together as much info here as possible.  Enjoy!

Florida’s politicians really just can’t take a hint.  After they failed to force widespread privatization on the state’s prison system, against the wishes of the director of their DOC (but at the behest of companies that spent a million dollars lobbying the legislature), the asshats in the state legislature are back at it, this time with a vengeance.  Even the fact that the GEO Group is under FBI investigation over a deal that brought a private prison to the state, and the state’s Circuit Court ruling the initial push unconstitutional, have failed to slow down the push to privatize.

The state Senate introduced a stand-alone bill that mirrors the one that previously failed.  On January 18th, the law that would force nearly 4,000 government employees out of jobs (of course, this comes from the Republicans, the party of “job creators,” or so we’re told) passed a rules committee and went before the full Senate for consideration.  A separate bill would even exempt the state from a requirement to perform a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed privatization until after a contract is signed.  In a state where the two biggest private prison companies have been found to have cheated the state out of almost $13 million within the past 7 years.  The state ought to perform a more thorough analysis of the potential risks and benefits of privatization before committing so many taxpayer dollars to such a risky venture.  Because otherwise, this is just about as blatant a handout to corporate special interests as I could conceive, a gateway to giving millions of taxpayer dollars to companies that, if they weren’t subsidized by desperate governments, would utterly fail on the free market.  Then again, Republicans don’t actually like free markets, they just like markets rigged in the favor of the wealthy, but that’s a different story altogether.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the state seems to be assisting the industry that has failed to demonstrate any significant cost savings, ever, by removing the most costly prisoners from the facilities intended to be privatized. The industry is notorious for cherry-picking the cheapest inmates, but I can’t remember an instance in which a state preemptively took the most expensive prisoners for itself.  This whole thing reeks so badly of corruption that a conservative-leaning newspaper in Florida has opined that the state’s legislators “seem to be drawn to secrecy and backroom deal-making at the expense of good government and public trust.”  I’ll say. Read the rest of this entry →

We’re All Screwed in the End

11:57 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(photo: rutty, flickr)

(photo: rutty, flickr)

We’re All Screwed in the End

I often try to figure out ways to convince people that private prisons are not in the best interest of anyone but executives of private prison companies.  There are plenty of others out there like myself, trying to work with elected officials and concerned citizens to convince our legislators that continually giving billions of dollars to an industry whose very survival depends on locking up an ever-increasing segment of our population is morally reprehensible, and bad business to boot. But unfortunately, much of that activism seems for naught, as the anti-privatization movement’s resources and political relationships pale in comparison to the influence built up by the privateers.

Take for example Broderick Johnson, lobbyist extraordinaire who was paid more than $1 million to lobby to get TARP passed on behalf of the major financial institutions that destroyed our economy.  He has also worked for such socially conscious organizations as Talx Corp (which helps employers challenge unemployment claims), Comcast, and the GEO Group.  Mr. Johnson also happens to be a senior adviser to President Obama, whose immigration policies have been, if not an expansion, at least the continuation of the compassionate and sensible policies of his esteemed predecessor.

So Obama’s got a former GEO Group lobbyist working as a senior adviser.  He also appointed a former employee of the GEO Group and CCA, Stacia Hylton, as director of the US Marshal’s Service, a federal agency in control of millions of dollars worth of private prison contracts.  I guess it should come as no surprise that the GEO Group was awarded a contract in excess of $235 million to house immigration detainees, despite decades of evidence proving the company can’t operate a prison efficiently and that it seems incapable of treating its wards with basic human decency.

Another Riot in Australia

7:47 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Another Riot

Very quickly, I just wanted to call attention to a riot that took place in a GEO-Group operated jail in Australia, which has experienced many of the same troubles in privatizing prisons that we have.  Some of the younger prisoners in the jail have taken officials hostage, revolting over conditions at the facility.  30 prisoners are involved in the crisis, which apparentlycould have been prevented had GEO not cut back on costs for maintenance and staff.  In fact, conditions are so dismal at this jail that the prisoners rioted, in part, in order to try to get new toothbrushes. For Christ’s sake, GEO, you can’t give them toothbrushes?  That would dig too deep into your bottom line?  Maybe some of your CEO’s millions of dollars in annual compensation could have gone to providing these poor kids with a shred of decent treatment.  Oh no, I guess all that money is needed for you to live in absurd luxury and purchase multi-million dollar homes.

 

Pushback Against Privatization Efforts in NC, PA

11:09 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Privatization Pushback

Proposals to privatize health care and mental health care for prisoners have begun to meet resistance in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  Let’s start with the NC situation, which really scares the crap out of me.

First is a quick read; a great little editorial discussing the drawbacks of privatization and how private vendors often fail to live up to the public’s expectations.  According to the author, “the logic in privatizing the services falls short… Anticipated savings might be difficult to come by… state oversight would have to be not just maintained but intensified,” and the lack of competing bids calls the wisdom of the plan into question.

The community has started to pay attention as well.  A town hall meeting was convened earlier this week at a church, where many residents expressed concerns about personal and public safety if the GEO Group starts providing mental healthcare for serious criminals.

Then there’s Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Corbett wants to privatize liquor sales and has tossed around the idea of privatizing healthcare for state prisoners.  Thankfully, that foolish plan has already met with opposition both from the general public, as nurses picketed in protest of the plan, and from local politicians.  State Senator David Argall contends that the plan presents a serious risk to public safety, as would any plan in which instruments designed to promote public safety are turned over to the lowest bidder among companies with long histories of abuse and negligence.