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Another Major Blow to Private Immigration Detention

4:22 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

 

Following fresh on the heels of the announcement that the citizens of Crete, IL had successfully defeated a proposal from ICE and CCA to build a private prison there, Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, FL residents got their own bit of great news: CCA isn’t going to build there either!  After the mayor demanded an answer following months of back-and-forth, the company and ICE announced it was no longer pursuing the site.  This is a huge victory for all residents of the area, especially those who fought so hard to keep their neighborhood from becoming another victim of the prison industrial complex.  Congratulations to everyone involved!

 

Crete, IL Residents Slay the Private Prison Giant

7:30 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

Residents of Crete, IL have accomplished the (near-)impossible feat of successfully rejecting a plan by CCA and ICE to build an immigration detention center in their town.  The plan had come under heavy fire from residents practically from its inception, but CCA and ICE pushed hard to get permission to build the facility despite overwhelming opposition by the citizens.  The Sheriff of Lake County even threw his hat into the ring – publicly supporting legislation that could have prevented the facility’s construction (it would have prevented agencies in the state from contracting with private prison companies), because the plan was clearly designed to benefit a private company with no obvious benefit to the community.  The legislation ultimately failed, but that wasn’t enough to dissuade opponents of the facility from continuing to protest and work against it, even though many of their representatives had failed to support the bill.

In a voice vote, village trustees unanimously decided to reject the proposal.  This is a monumental victory for the hundreds of groups and individuals who worked so hard to prevent this facility from coming to town.  Congratulations to everyone involved!  This just goes to show that no matter how big and powerful some corporations can get, they can never completely trump the will of the majority.

Curbing Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

12:25 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First Published on WhyIHateCCA

A few weeks back, the Obama Administration finally got around to releasing new regulations governing sexual abuse in correctional facilities, as mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003.  PREA initially only applied to DOJ facilities and agencies, but the Administration has expanded its scope to include immigrants in detention here in the US (mostly under the jurisdiction of ICE).  This is particularly relevant for the private prison industry, which houses about half of the immigration detainees in the US, though it remains to be seen how effective these new regulations will actually be in stopping sexual abuse.  ICE will have to draft rules and regulations to govern its facilities, but given all the problems ICE has had in ensuring the private prison companies it contracts with provide humane treatment to its detainees, I’m not overly optimistic that the oversight of efforts to stop prison rape will be any more stringent than for a host of other issues.  Especially considering the fact that CCA just recently finished battling a shareholder who wanted the company to report on its efforts to curb sexual assault in its facilities.

 

Florida’s Love Affair With Private Prisons

7:56 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

A tiny jail window.

Historic jail in Florida. Photo by Marsanne Petty.

Many lawmakers in Florida, home of the GEO Group, are enamored with the idea of prison privatization.  Legislators, mostly Republican, have thrice attempted (and failed) to privatize half the state’s prison system within the past two years. The former speaker of the house, serving time in prison, is still being investigated by the FBI in part for his role in bringing a private prison to the state and attempting to force the closure of multiple state facilities to populate it. He’s also the target of a federal grand jury investigation for his dealings with the GEO Group.

In the towns of Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, residents have been waging war against CCA and ICE, who want to build a huge immigration detention center there. Upset over the risks of bringing a private prison to town, residents have already faced legal harassment after they have failed to capture the attention or sympathy of their representative, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The parties are engaged in a struggle over resources, as CCA is attempting to strong-arm the small towns into providing water and sewer services to the prison. Pembroke Pines has already had to shell out more than $120,000 in legal fees to battle a detention center that the federal government seems to be forcing on them.

The most recent battle in Florida has arisen over the state’s plans to privatize health care for all its prisoners, which I guess was the fall-back option if wholesale privatization failed. The plan is being challenged by the Nurses’ Association, which filed a lawsuit similar to the one that successfully defeated the wholesale privatization; basically saying the state Legislature didn’t have the authority to order such a sweeping change to such a huge portion of the state budget without passing a stand-alone bill. It’s estimated that as many as 2,800 jobs and $300 million of the budget could be impacted by the switch, which is also opposed by the union that represents COs.

It seems simple to explain part of this love affair, the GEO Group and CCA have contributed huge sums of money to Florida legislators, with most of that going to Republicans. During the last election cycle, the industry donated nearly $1 million to campaigns, with more than 80% of that coming from the GEO Group. GEO has already given more than $100,000 to Governor Scott for the upcoming election.

But just looking at the campaign contributions fails to reveal the whole story. Governor Scott’s closest advisor and de facto gatekeeper, Steve McNamara, is a man with so much political influence he’s been called the state’s “Shadow Governor.”  He also happens to be close personal friends with Jim Eaton, head lobbyist for the GEO Group, which might help explain why Scott decided to can the head of the Department of Corrections for challenging the privatization scheme. After news came out that McNamara had been using his influence to advance himself and his friends politically and financially, he was forced to resign. Jim Eaton, by the way, also happens to be the head lobbyist for Wexford, one of the companies in the running for the state healthcare contract.  So McNamara’s influence is likely to last well beyond his tenure as “Shadow Governor.”

Private Prison Riots Causing Concern

12:58 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA
The recent riots (or “disturbances,” in industry parlance) at CCA prisons in Georgia and Mississippi have raised the concern of advocates in other states looking to privatize prisons.  The teamsters union down in Florida is urging state lawmakers to consider CCA’s poor management of the facilities when it inevitably takes up the now annually-recurring massive privatization effort.  Information about the cause of the riot has been slow to trickle out of the facility in Mississippi, but it looks at least preliminarily like my intuition was correct.  Prisoners claim the guards routinely assault them; and that the medical care, food, and programming at the facility, which houses immigrants in the US illegally, were woefully insufficient. Even the Nashville Business Journal picked up on the story, albeit it to discuss how CCA can save face.

The recent riots (or “disturbances,” in industry parlance) at CCA prisons in Georgia and Mississippi have raised the concern of advocates in other states looking to privatize prisons.  The teamsters union down in Florida is urging state lawmakers to consider CCA’s poor management of the facilities when it inevitably takes up the now annually-recurring massive privatization effort.  Information about the cause of the riot has been slow to trickle out of the facility in Mississippi, but it looks at least preliminarily like my intuition was correct.  Prisoners claim the guards routinely assault them; and that the medical care, food, and programming at the facility, which houses immigrants in the US illegally, were woefully insufficient. Even the Nashville Business Journal picked up on the story, albeit it to discuss how CCA can save face.

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.

CCA Being Sued Over Sexual Assault of Immigrants

10:40 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Entrance to T. Don Hutto Facility (Photo: Courtesy Texasprisonbidness.org

Entrance to T. Don Hutto Facility (Photo: Courtesy Texasprisonbidness.org

CCA Being Sued Over Sexual Assault of Immigrants

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CCA on behalf of three women who were sexually abused at the T. Don Hutto Immigration Detention Center.  The facility was previously the target of a lawsuit that CCA lost over squalid conditions and negligent medical care; after the lawsuit, the facility was transitioned to a female-only prison.  Before, it had housed entire families of immigrants, including children who were forced to dress in prison scrubs and provided with the barest minimum of education and programming.  Converting the facility to female-only has not stopped the problem however, and this is not even the first instance of sexual abuse of immigrants AT THIS PRISON. 

To allow CCA to continue to operate this, and other, facilities is a reprehensible moral failure.  We as a nation have an obligation to our fellow human beings, these immigrants, many of whom come to this country seeking asylum from their homelands, to treat them respectfully and humanely.  Despite all the rampant anti-immigrant settlement sweeping the nation, many of the 400,000+ people who pass through ICE custody each year are only guilty of status violations, not a major criminal offense.  Private prison companies are quite efficient at avoiding effective oversight (which is about the only thing they’re efficient at), a situation which has permitted companies like CCA to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from taxpayer dollars while systematically abusing and neglecting the human beings in their care.

This is Why I Hate CCA.

 

Finally Starting to See the Light?

1:42 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Finally Starting to See the Light?

In two separate instances, national politicians have begun to question some of the primary issues surrounding private prisons; namely, security and transparency.  Last week, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, rising star of the Democratic Party, began questioning the secrecy surrounding the planned ICE immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches.  This would be the same facility CCA has successfully persuaded the local town council to keep mum about.  Though she initially supported the proposal, the lack of clarity on the contract negotiations has caused her some alarm, and she has made it known that she expects local communities to have a say in the final word on the facility’s construction.

Then, on Friday, Senator Dick Durbin (IL) addressed the sexual abuse of detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.  Recently revealed documents detail extensive sexual harassment and abuse of (primarily female) immigrant detainees.  The immigration detention system is already notoriously devoid of oversight, so the revelation of pervasive sexual abuse should certainly raise alarm.  A large and growing percentage of detained immigrants are in private prisons (more than half of them), and the government has a responsibility to protect them from sexual assault, especially since the majority have not committed any serious criminal offense.  Dick Durbin says he expects “Zero tolerance” on the issue, and I hope he pursues that until it is achieved.

 

CCA Guard Pleads Guilty to Molesting Women

9:58 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"CCA" by publik15 on flickr

"CCA" by publik15 on flickr

Their Guards Molest Women

Private prisons often appear so attractive to lawmakers because they claim they are able to save bundles of money compared to government-run prisons.  While this isn’t exactly the truth, these companies still routinely cut corners in almost every aspect of their operations in order to maximize profits, because, after all, that’s what they really care about.  Since staff expenses (salary, benefits, training) comprise the largest portion of any facility’s budget, private prisons often pay dramatically less to their staff in the name of profit. 

The problem with this approach lies in the fact that private prisons, because they offer less in salary and benefits, aren’t able to attract as high-quality candidates as government-run prisons.  Just recently, when Hernando County Florida took over operation of its jail from CCA, the sheriff hired only about 1/3 of the private company’s employees to work for his department (and remarked at the time that he couldn’t believe a lot of CCA’s employees weren’t incarcerated themselves).  Anecdotally, it’s rather well-known that many guards at private prisons have some unsavory histories, and guards who screw up at one prison or another (government-run or not) can usually find work at a different private prison, where the companies rarely perform background checks that are as extensive as the government would.  Combine all this with the industry’s aversion to providing adequate and consistent training to their guards (because, again, that would hurt the bottom line), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, this disaster revealed itself to women who immigrated to the US but found themselves locked up in the Hutto Correctional Center, part of ICE’s network in Texas, which is operated by CCA.  A guard at the facility just pleaded guilty to sexually molesting immigrants as he transported them to and from the facility.

Almost Comically Corrupt

12:34 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"Stop Corruption"

"Stop Corruption" by Kenny Miller on flickr

Almost Comically Corrupt

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 →