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Effing Arizona.

7:17 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

Sometimes, a story comes along that really makes me wonder whether a lot of politicians just really don’t give a shit about people at all.  And no, I’m not even talking about how North Carolina decided it would be a good idea to codify discrimination in its frigging constitution.  I’m talking about the great state of Arizona, whose political leaders have given up their charade of pretending to represent their constituents.

Now, you might say that’s a bit of hyperbole, but how else can I explain the fact that, faced with evidence from numerous sources, including a government study, that demonstrated private prisons actually cost Arizona taxpayers more than government run facilities, the Arizona legislature decided to not only fund more private prisons, but to eliminate the requirement for the government to report on the efficiency and services it receives from the companies it contracts with to operate these money pits?

The industry is already exempt from public records laws that government agencies must adhere to, a distinction granted because it is comprised of private corporations (despite the fact that they perform an inherently governmental function).  So Arizona actually found what might have been the only way to further reduce transparency and oversight for an industry that’s not required to report much of anything about how it operates.

In addition to removing that reporting requirement, the budget that just passed allocated $16 million for 1,000 new private prison beds, while taking $50 million from funds intended to help struggling homeowners manage their mortgages.  That $16 million might go to MTC, the company that operates the Kingman prison, from which 3 prisoners escaped in 2010 in one of the most highly-publicized prison escapes in years (largely because they murdered an elderly couple).  Or it could go to CCA, the company that, despite all its denials about its influence on the legislation, was in the room when SB1070 was drafted and stands to profit handsomely from it.

In yet another example of the corrupting and toxic influence of money in government, this budget proposal was really the handiwork of Governor Brewer’s Chief of Staff, Chuck Coughlin.  Coughlin founded HighGround Consulting, the most powerful lobbying force in the state.  HighGround happens to represent the private prison industry.  A former CCA lobbyist, married to a current CCA lobbyist, also works on Brewer’s staff.  And John Kavanagh, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is quite cozy with Public Policy Partners, a lobbying firm that represents the GEO Group.  So it naturally made sense for him to be the one to introduce the provision that eliminated the analyses of private prisons in the state.

I don’t even think it’s a question who Governor Brewer and the rest of the Republican establishment in Arizona represent.  And it’s a damn shame.  Thank god I don’t live there.

More on ALEC’s Demise

7:42 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

I must say, I’ve been more than a little pleased to see all the negative press coming out about ALEC, especially considering how it has helped promote prison privatization and laws (like stricter immigration legislation and sentencing “reforms”) that boost the industry’s bottom line.  Many people are jumping on the Hate ALEC bandwagon, and I say, “Welcome aboard!”

Much of the coverage has focused on the corporations who have stopped sponsoring these conservative dbags, but not so much the thousands of state legislators who are members.  One of the first legislators to dissociate from ALEC is NM State Senator George Munoz, who basically said that ALEC’s solutions to his constituents’ problems were “not right for New Mexicans.”  Soon after, the New Mexico ALEC State Chairman called the organization “too partisan,” indicated that model legislation coming from the group is often altered to remove indications of its origin, and that its member list is actually larger than disclosed.

So maybe, hopefully, state legislators are beginning to see just how unpopular it is to support corporate-written legislation, and we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of one of my pet peeves.  More likely, ALEC will just figure out new and inventive ways to disguise its insidious handiwork and push corporate welfare privatization on all of us.

Private Prisons Don’t Save Money in Arizona

9:21 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(image: publik15, flickr)

(image: publik15, flickr)

Private Prisons Don’t Save Money in Arizona

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.

So, the state basically gave a handout to private prison operators, who would undoubtedly benefit from stronger enforcement of federal immigration laws and increased detention.  This came after the industry donated heavily in the 2010 election cycle, to candidates, political parties, and ballot initiatives favored by republicans.  Then, even after 3 prisoners escaped from a private prison found to have numerous security deficiencies and went on a murderous rampage, state officials still pushed for more private prisons.  They re-initiated a request for proposals from private companies to construct 5,000 prison beds.

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 →

Pay to Play

8:41 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Please Pay Here

Please Pay Here by stevendepolo on flickr

Two interesting pieces here regarding the influence the private prison industry wield in its political affiliations and activities.  Most of the reason the industry has been so successful in securing contracts despite decades of failing to perform is the cozy relationship it has cultivated with state and federal officials who control the disbursement of public funds and criminal justice sentencing.  They cultivate these relationships through donating to individual politicians and various campaigns they embark upon, but also through hiring professional lobbyists to promote their will while the legislature is in session.

Lobbyists often have great access to politicians, and in many cases either come directly from government or head there after leaving the lobbying business. By utilizing lobbyists to advocate for their interests, the private prison industry is able to simultaneously amplify their voice within the legislature, and to some extent prevent the public from knowing just exactly who and what is influencing political decisions.

In Arizona, for example, I have reported extensively on the ties between Governor Brewer’s office and a huge lobbying firm that works for CCA, Highground Consulting.  Highground’s manager, Chuck Coughlin, is the governor’s chief of staff, and one of its principal lobbyists used to work for CCA (and his wife still does).  To make the situation worse, the chair of the state’s appropriations committee (that would be the committee that controls public funds), John Kavanagh, looks to be quite close with the GEO Group, the country’s second-biggest private prison company.  Public Policy Partners, an Arizona lobbying firm that GEO employs, donated at least 6 times to Kavanagh in the last election.

Is it any wonder this is the same state that passed an immigration bill that’s essentially a handout to private prison companies, or that they’re looking to privatize an additional 5,000 prison beds?

Meanwhile, over in Tennessee, state Republican representatives are coming under fire for participating in a fundraiser while the legislature was in session, that featured some of the biggest industries with a financial stake in Tennessee’s politics (fundraisers during the legislative session are supposed to be illegal).  Among the businesses represented was CCA, which is headquartered in Nashville.  They were so willing to help raise funds for state Republicans because the new Republican governor recently used the budget as an excuse to reverse a decision to close a CCA prison.

 

crossposted from Pay to Play