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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.

Florida’s Politicians (But Not Its Residents) Love Private Prisons

1:58 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (photo: studio08denver/flickr)

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (photo: studio08denver/flickr)

Florida’s Politicians (But Not Its Residents) Love Private Prisons

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz represents Southwest Ranches, Florida, which has been at the epicenter of a debate over a proposed immigration detention facility.  Residents of the town have consistently demonstrated their opposition to the facility, which they feel was designed and planned without much public knowledge of the proceedings.  Basically, they think they have been fleeced by CCA, who hopes to build the facility on land it already owns, into having a detention center that they fear will lower property values and present a risk to public safety.

Unfortunately, they’ve got a pretty poor representative in Ms. Wasserman, who’s basically taking a “lesser of available evils” approach.  She initially called a town hall meeting to allow residents to voice their opposition and learn more about the project.  After more than 250 people showed up to let CCA and the town council know they didn’t want a private prison, Wasserman, who had called the meeting, decided she would support the project.  She now thinks it’s a good idea and that the town should move forward, saying she thinks “it is going to be far better to have that ICE detention center there than to have any other facility that would have a much more negative impact on residents there.”  Other than a lead paint producing puppy mill, I can’t really imagine what would be worse for a community than a privately operated, for-profit human rights violations incubator.  But there’s no chance she could have been partially swayed by the nearly $20 million CCA has spent lobbying the federal government over the past decade.  Right?

Unfortunately for the residents of Southwest Ranches, Wasserman isn’t alone in ignoring her constituents interests and supporting a company with a long track record of failing to live up to its contracts.  The mayor of Southwest Ranches just basically told his constituents to pound sand, because the deal is done.  CCA owns the land, and has for a decade, so he says there’s really nothing residents can do to stop the construction at this point.  If there’s any saving grace in all of this, it might be found in Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart from Miami, who just sent a letter to ICE to demonstrate his opposition to the proposed detention center.  So there is at least one Congressperson from Florida who hasn’t been bought off by the industry yet. Read the rest of this entry →

ALEC’s Influence in Arizona

8:01 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

ALEC’s Influence in Arizona

As I’ve reported on extensively in the past, ALEC is a nefarious front group for conservative legislation that has been a major driving force behind our nation’s crisis of mass incarceration.  So there’s no way I could pass up highlighting a new report that has come out detailing how effective ALEC has been at getting corporate-sponsored legislation passed in the state of Arizona

You’ll probably remember that ALEC was where SB1070, Arizona’s “Breathing While Brown” law, was born, before ALEC member Russell Pearce brought it home and introduced it to the state legislature.  The law was drafted with CCA at the table, and would have a direct impact on their bottom line as it resulted in increased incarceration of illegal immigrants, almost half of whom are detained in private facilities.  Arizona also happens to be home to many private facilities that currently house out-of-state prisoners and immigrants, and the state is seeking to add 5,000 additional private beds to its existing state-run facilities.

So this report comes at a critical time for Arizona, as it evaluates whether or not it wants to proceed with a plan to contract away millions of taxpayer dollars to an industry that hasn’t even been able to demonstrate savings in the state of Arizona.  ALEC has pushed for the privatization of prisons in the past, and it has given private prison companies direct access to state legislators who are considering the privatization bids.  Those same companies have also donated thousands of dollars to these politicians, all of which amounts to a tremendous amount of political influence for the industry in the state.  As The Executive Director of the People for the American Way stated, “There’s no way ordinary citizens can match the level of access and influence that ALEC provides to these corporations.

For now, the state is holding back on awarding contracts until some time in January, after it was twice sued over the request for proposals because it has for years failed to conduct an efficiency audit of its existing private facilities.  Once that report is complete, the state should have (even more) data to demonstrate that private prisons don’t actually save any money, which will hopefully compel state legislators to reject the industry’s influence and make wiser decisions with the constituents’ hard-earned money.

 

Australia’s Private Prison Experiment Keeps Getting Uglier

11:19 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Christmas Island Detention Centre (photo: diacimages, flickr)

Christmas Island Detention Centre (photo: diacimages, flickr)

Australia: It Just Keeps Getting Uglier

A few more interesting pieces of news have come out of Australia recently, following riots and hunger strikes at an immigration detention facility and widespread criticism of the country’s reliance on private incarceration.  It appears as though the government had been warned of major issues in its private detention centers at least 5 months before the riots this spring, which cost more than $8.5 million in damages.  The report indicates that the Immigration Department knew its private prison industry was “severely compromised,” but apparently did nothing to rectify the situation before prisoners finally rioted over substandard living conditions.

 

Then, as if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Serco (the private company that runs the facility) was using administrative staff at the Christmas Island facility as security guards during the riots.  To put it simply, as the frigging director of Serco himself said, “I can’t think of a more serious breach of occupational health and safety.”

Certainly, the government should have heeded the warnings it received about the private detention centers, because this crisis could have potentially been averted.  Hindsight is of course 20/20.  Hopefully though the government will use this as a learning experience, since it is considering giving Serco a new multi-billion dollar contract for services at a hospital (Serco already has a contract worth more than $4 billion to run the private detention centers).  Especially considering a psychiatrist who just reviewed healthcare at Serco’s Scherger Detention Center concluded that “tragedy is very likely to occur” due to the prisoners’ inability to get adequate treatment. One person even went so far as to claim that Serco is compromising mental health care services in the community because of how poorly it operates.

 

Yet Another Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against CCA

10:06 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

ACLU files new lawsuit against CCA

By Elaine Hirsch
A lawsuit recently filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU-TX) against the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) underscores the perils of the American prison-industrial complex, an aspect of corrections facility management studied by politicians, master’s degree candidates, and lawyers in the United States.
The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of three female detainees whose identities were withheld to maintain anonymity. According to the ACLU-TX filing, the immigrant women were being transported from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Williamson County to Austin, Texas, when they allegedly suffered sexual abuse while in the custody of ICE. One CCA employee and three ICE officials have been named in the lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time that CCA has come under fire for prisoner abuse. The CCA has operated the T. Don Hutto Residential Center since 2006. The day-to-day operations of the detention center are conducted by a cadre of ICE employees and CCA guards. In August 2010, the ACLU reported that a CCA guard was charged with numerous counts of sexually abusing female inmates at the same ICE facility in Williamson County. The Graduate Employees and Students Organization at Yale University teamed up with the school’s employee union to force a divestment based on CCA’s long record of civil rights violations.

Days after the filing the latest lawsuit against the CCA, the ACLU released a scathing report criticizing the massive profits realized by private prison contractors such as CCA during recessionary times. “Banking on Bondage: PrivatePrisons and Mass Incarceration” is the name of the report that shows the two most prominent prison profiteers, CCA and the GEO Group, received a combined revenue of $3 billion and earned hundreds of millions in profits in 2010.

CCA’s sketchy record of managing American prisons comes at a time when the state of Arizona is preparing to award a lucrative contract to private jailers despite a report from the Auditor General that state-operated facilities would actually cost less to maintain.

The meteoric rise of the private prison population in the United States is certainly sobering: a 1664% increase over the last two decades. According to industry analysts, there are plenty of long-term growth opportunities for business entities such as CCA. Mark Whitburn, an attorney at the ACLU of Texas, believes that the complaints lodged by the three plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit against the CCA are only “the tip of the iceberg.” 

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.  She is currently a writer for a master’s degree program resource.

 

More Issues in Australia

2:41 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

More Issues in Australia

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.

The Australian Government recently deployed an advisory group to report on the state of mental health care for immigrant detainees in private prisons.  The chairwoman of the group reported that the private prison system in the country is dysfunctional, and incapable of meeting the mental health needs of the immigrants housed there.  In fact, the system is so bad that some employees carry knives to cut down prisoners who try to hang themselves, because it’s apparently a rather common phenomenon.

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.

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.

 

Privatization = Government Waste

8:42 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Privatization = Government Waste

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.

 

No Surprise Here – More Privatization = More Misconduct

1:23 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

2 + 2 = 4

What do you get when you cross an explosion in the incarceration rate of immigrants with the proliferation of private, for-profit prisons to house them?  Why, you get a FUCKING 90% increase in the arrest of guards in federal prisons over the last decade, and a 200% increase in investigations of misconduct.  And mind you, private prisons still only house about 17% of federal prisoners.  So their guards must really be terrible.

If anyone ever tries to convince you that an employee of a private prison company (or employee of any private company performing an inherently governmental function for that matter) operates to the same standards as his government counterpart, you can call that person an idiot.