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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.

GEO Group Fined More Than $100,000

8:35 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

OSHA has fined the GEO Group more than $100,000 for occupational hazards present in the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, one of the prisons it had operated for years before losing its contract with the state in the wake of some terrible abuses that took place in the juvenile detention center they also ran.  Some of the violations at EMCF included malfunctioning locks and staffing levels so low that guards had to conduct head counts of prisoners alone.

 

Beating a Malnourished, Restrained Man to Death

1:33 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

UPDATE: Retraction

First published on WhyIHateCCA

CCA is being sued by the family of Michael Minnick, a Tennessee man who was killed by Sheriff’s deputies while in restraints.  After being arrested for failing to appear in court for a suspended drivers’ license hearing, Minnick was taken into custody and turned over to CCA.  Some time later, he was admitted to the hospital for loss of muscle mass and extreme dehydration.  While in the hospital and handcuffed, he was beaten so severely by the guards that he fell into a coma.  The hospital was able to revive him temporarily, but Mr. Minnick died a few hours later.

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.”

Another Wrongful Death Suit Against CCA

12:59 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

 

The ACLU of Hawaii has filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of the family of Clifford Medina, a 23-year-old Hawaiian prisoner who was murdered in the Saguaro Correctional Center, a CCA prison in Arizona.  The lawsuit contends that the company’s negligence and drive for profit led to Medina’s murder by a fellow prisoner.  This murder was one of two in a very short time frame at the facility, and one of a few issues that led the Governor of Hawaii to pledge to return all his prisoners to the islands, including an alleged sexual assault by a staff member at this same prison.

The lawsuit has already been covered by a ton of media outlets, so I won’t go into a detailed breakdown.  Suffice it to say, I effing hate CCA.  I’ll just give you links

KVOA News in Tucson, AZ
KITV News in Honolulu
Hawaii Reporter
Hawaii News Now
Nashville Scene
Courthouse News Service

CCA Sued Over Working Conditions

7:40 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA
By Jenny Landreth

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has been sued by six current and former employees. The employees, who were supervisors at the Marion Adjustment Center in St. Mary’s, Kentucky, assert that CCA forced them to work additional hours whilst denying them overtime.
Jail Cell

(Photo: abardwell/flickr)

 

Supervisors claim they are required to work additional hours, denied meals and breaks, and forced to participate in training on their days off.
The employees are seeking damages of an unspecified amount. They are also seeking an injunction which would require CCA to pay appropriate levels of compensation to any employees working in excess of 40 hours per week.
Their attorney, Tom Miller, has stated concerns that CCA has been cutting essential costs so as to increase its profit: “This is a for profit company…the way you maximize profit is to reduce expenses”
He also indicated that the lawsuit may also relate to employees of two other CCA-run prisons in the State of Kentucky, namely the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright and the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville.
In response, CCA Spokesman Mike Machak stated: “Overall, we are committed to ensuring that our employees are fully compensated, and we strive to provide lasting career opportunities for those professionals who chose to work with our company.”
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The FLSA was enacted in 1938 in order to provide protection to private sector and government workers and sets several standards relating to record keeping, minimum wage, youth labor, and overtime pay. The Act States that non-exempt employees must be paid overtime, at the rate of at least time-and-a-half, when their working hours exceed 40 per week.
At present CCA claims that all supervisors and assistant supervisors can be categorised as exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as their job encompasses management duties.
However, the process of defining a post as exempt due to managerial responsibility is complex. Multiple criteria must be satisfied. Namely, the employer must regularly supervise two or more other employees and management must constitute the primary component of the position. They must also have some input into the employment status of fellow employees, for example with regard to hiring, promoting and dismissing.
Tom Miller, however, suggests that the work completed by prison supervisors does not constitute an exemption under the FLSA.
Previous Case Law

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Mississippi Tosses Private Prison Company, The GEO Group

6:53 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Previously published on WhyIHateCCA

Cell in Alcatraz. Photo by Miss Millions.

Mississippi, of all places, has had enough.  Not exactly known for its hospitable prison system, the state announced last Friday that it intends to terminate its contract with the GEO Group to operate 3 facilities, effective in July.  One of those facilities is Walnut Grove, which was recently the target of a lawsuit that brought sweeping change to the way Mississippi incarcerates its youth.  Plagued with violence, medical neglect, and persistent sexual abuse, the facility’s conditions were so abysmal that the Department of Justice called it “some of the worst abuse” they had seen in any investigation of a prison or jail.  Children housed there used terms like “barbaric,” “a war zone,” and “the deepest depths of hell” to describe it.  The settlement in the lawsuit removed all juveniles from Walnut Grove and mandated that they never be held in solitary confinement.  Lest you feel bad for GEO getting slapped around so hard in the lawsuit, remember that they earned millions of dollars in profit by treating children like shit.

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Arizona’s Political Leaders are Crazy for Private Prisons

1:08 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Arizona’s Political Leaders Are Crazy for Private Prisons

Arizona

(Photo By tolomea via flickr)

I’ve been remiss in updating everyone on the situation in Arizona, the state that loves private prisons, even though it’s likely paying more for them than what the government could operate facilities for.  After a few reports came out detailing how the state was paying through the nose for private prisons, its legislature continued to bullishly forge ahead with a request for proposals to construct an additional 2,000 private prison beds.  This came despite evidence that private prisons in the state cost more and are more dangerous; the American Friends Service Committee filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the state from entering into a new contract for these beds.  But it was thrown out on a technicality; the judge basically said that citizens of Arizona have no standing to ask the Department of Corrections to follow the law.

So the AFSC and the NAACP joined together in filing a formal protest asking the court put a stop to the request for proposals, which came alongside a piece of legislation designed to prevent the state from conducting cost comparisons in the future.  The Department of Corrections swiftly dismissed the request, again on a technicality basically amounting to “we don’t want to listen to socially conscious organizations working in the best interest of Arizona citizens.”  The state seems to be quite insistent on these new private prison beds, possibly because its politicians have long had cozy relationships with the industry.  From SB1070, which came out of ALEC, to the governor’s staff consisting of CCA lobbyists, Arizona politicians and the private prison industry are well acquainted.  In fact, Dennis Deconcini, a former senator from the state, sits on CCA’s board.  And it appears as though the state’s Chamber of Commerce is rife with conflicts of interest related to the industry; CCA, the GEO Group, and PHS are all represented on the board of the Chamber, either directly or through lobbying firms.

So it seems like Arizona’s political leaders are really just oblivious to common sense and the advice of groups who have thoroughly studied the problems inherent to the private prison industry.  I want to believe that, rather than the alternative, which would be that they just don’t care about how terrible and inefficient the industry is, because they want to give handouts to their political allies. As Sasha Abramsky at The Nation writes, “One might think that, faced with evidence that the state isn’t getting enough bang for its buck, Arizona legislators would rethink their commitment to putting ever mroe prisoners into private facilities.  Instead, in a move Orwellian even by the gutter standards of Arizona politics, they’ve simply tried to bar the state from collecting the evidence.

With all the news about the state attempting to further privatize its prison system, it might have been easy to overlook the state’s decision to bring in a private, for-profit medical care provider, Wexford, to manage healthcare for the entire system.  Which is just another clusterfuck waiting to happen.  The company will charge more than the state paid last year to provide healthcare this year, and estimates it will reap of profit of more than $5 million in the process.  I’m sure none of that will come from denying treatment or neglecting prisoners.

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.

Idaho Should Rethink Its Relationship With Private Prisons

7:15 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Idaho Should Rethink Its Relationship with Private Prisons

It turns out private prisons might cost more to operate than government ones in Idaho, according to a report from the Associated Press.  The thing is, Idaho hasn’t bothered to find out; the state has never conducted a cost comparison study despite elected officials’ claims that the industry saves it money.  The AP’s study attempted to compare costs at public and private prisons, but ran into the common obstacles facing researchers who try to compare costs.  Namely, the per diem paid by the state doesn’t account for oversight of the industry, CCA has a clause in its contract with the state that bars any prisoners with serious medical issues (thus placing a heavier financial burden on the state), and the private facility is much newer than state prisons (resulting in lower operating costs).

So the Board of Corrections has not yet allocated funds for a comparison, but a new board member says he’s willing to do so, and even went so far as to say he was “on the verge of calling [contracting with CCA] a failed experiment.”  He would seem to be correct in making such a claim – the state’s history with privatization is far from pretty.  For starters, it failed to ever conduct a cost comparison before privatizing in the late 90s, against the recommendation of a consultant hired to help with the transition.  It brought CCA in to run the Idaho Correctional Center, which became the target of a multiple of lawsuits alleging civil rights abuses and an FBI investigation.  Conditions became so bad that it was called “gladiator school” by the prisoners housed there, who would routinely suffer severe physical assaults while staff failed to intervene, sometimes even watching the beatings.  A class action lawsuit about the violence at ICC was settled out of court late last year, but details on that are unavailable because the judge sealed the settlement.

The time has come for Idaho to evaluate its relationship with CCA and privatization, as its prisons are currently operating at or near capacity and the state will likely need to open a new facility within the next few years to handle the anticipated rise in the population.  Particularly because the state legislature just allocated $29.8 million to the private prison fund for this coming year, a 3% increase over the last budget (that again won’t take into account the administrative costs of overseeing the prison).  This was the only item on the budget that didn’t pass unanimously, possibly because it’s about a million extra dollars going to CCA; 3 representatives voted against it.  Since private prisons have been found to cost as much or more than government ones in basically every study not funded by the industry, and given its track record of failing to properly operate prisons both in Idaho and elsewhere, the state should think long and hard about the 30 million taxpayer dollars it’s giving CCA to operate a prison that just a few short years ago had more violent assaults than all other state prisons combined.