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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.

 

Why I Hate Florida Today

7:33 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"Rick Scott Head Shot" by Governor Rick Scott on flickr

"Rick Scott Head Shot" by Governor Rick Scott on flickr

Why I Hate Florida Today

Florida is currently in the midst of the biggest prison privatization push in history – the state is looking to privatize 29 correctional facilities, basically the entire bottom half of the state’s prison system.  This comes after the GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, along with other private prison interests, spent record amounts in campaign contributions and lobbying in the last election cycle, so you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this sounds a bit like a handout from Florida’s Republican leadership to wealthy donors. 

As this move to privatize has developed, a few groups in the community have started to fight back against the outsourcing of an inherently governmental function.   The union that represents Corrections Officers (The PBA) has filed a lawsuit, seeking to block the privatization, and the Teamsters union has filed an ethics complaint against Governor Scottbecause he accepted campaign contributions from the two largest private prison companies in the country, both of which are bidding on the proposed privatization.

The lawsuit by the PBA has limped its way through the court system.  After a lower court ordered ousted Corrections Secretary Edward Buss (ousted because he, as the EFFING SECRETARY OF CORRECTIONS, thought the plan was a horrible idea) to be deposed in the matter, a higher court affirmed the ruling, only to have Governor “I Love Privatization” Scott appeal.  Well, Scott lost, whining about how state officials are not to be deposed under Florida law (I guess he forgot the part where he forced Buss to resign because Buss disagreed with him). The PBA has had trouble getting information out of the Corrections Department through discovery, which is why Buss was called to testify in the first place.  It appears as though Buss, the aforementioned secretary of corrections, was never really consulted about the push to privatize nearly 30 prisons.  The state seems pretty scared to let Buss testify; the Scott administration has already appealed the ruling numerous times, and isconsidering challenging Buss’ testimony in the Florida Supreme Court.  In fact, his lawyers at one point even let a little Freudian Slip pass, remarking that allowing Buss to testify might do “irreparable harm” to state government. Read the rest of this entry →

Challenging Privatization in Arizona

10:36 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Arizona is one of a few states looking to further privatize its prison system despite the industry’s consistently poor performance, after intensive lobbying campaigns convinced the legislature it was a good idea to continue to throw money into this black hole.  The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the state’s plans to privatize its prison system until it completes a cost/benefit analysis to demonstrate that private prisons can save money, as is mandated by the state constitution.  All available evidence seems to point to the contrary.
The plan is also being challenged on the grounds that the state has failed to perform bi-annual audits of private prisons to compare the efficiency of their services to the government sector.  The state says they are working on a study, to be completed around January 2012, but still plans on just awarding contracts for up to 5,000 additional private prison beds in the meantime.
Unfortunately a judge denied the motion, because AFSC could not prove that their interests would be harmed by the privatization.  Judge Anderson has basically permitted for the DOC to respond to the lawsuit, rather than filing an injunction to prevent the privatization, which is the proper legal avenue to take.  But as Caroline Issacs of AFSC said, “Certainly, the taxpayers are harmed by wasting $650 million.”

The Mighty Political Influence of the Private Prison Industry

9:30 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

The Mighty Political Influence of Private Prisons

I’m not going to go off on a tangent here; I just want to share with you a link to a fantastic article by Bob Ortega of the Arizona Republic.  Mr. Ortega details the tremendous amounts of influence and leverage the private prison industry has cultivated in both state and federal legislatures over the past few decades through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door between the industry and government.  The amount of money donated to politicians is staggering, and greatly helps to explain the continued success of the industry in securing contracts despite performing less efficiently than its government counterparts.

Big Move for CCA in Ohio

10:04 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Big Move for CCA in Ohio

Ohio’s governor, John Kasichhas been looking to privatize more of his state’s prison system from practically the day he took office.  He and the privateers secured a victory on that front last week, when the state sold one of its prisons to CCA.  MTC also made out, securing contracts to run 2 other Ohio facilities.  This plan has been roundly denounced by critics as little more than handout to wealthy and politically-connected firms at taxpayer expense, which is exactly what it is.

This story isn’t as bad as is could have been though; the state was originally planning on selling up to 5 prisons to close a budget gap, but plans changed somewhere along the line.  I believe that the lawsuit filed by ProgressOhio challenging the proposal likely had some influence on the Governor’s decision to reign in his desire to privatize so much of the system, so quickly.  Considering CCA’s influence in the state house (Kasich’s former chief of staff runs a lobbying firm employed by CCA and the DOC Director spent 5 years as their consultant), it’s a good sign that the contract mandates 5% cost-savings.  On the one hand, I fear the ramifications of a company trying to adhere to such a policy (such ascutting corners, which the industry is notorious for), but at the same time this gives the state an enforcement mechanism to ensure these companies live up to their promises.

Eff Steve Owen

1:12 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Eff Steve Owen

(Warning: My post today contains strong language. Sorry – I couldn’t help myself. In fact, I think I kept it rather restrained, at least compared to what I’m thinking…)
          Private companies seem to have been quite successful in their lobbying efforts last election. In addition to the hoopla in Florida, Ohio is embarking on an audacious privatization scheme which it hopes will generate millions in revenue to plug a budget shortfall and save money in the long run. They won’t. But Governor Kasich, another anti-government, pro-corporate politician (ignore the hypocrisy in that, if possible), who hired a former CCA employee to be the director of the state’s Department of Corrections, seems hell-bent on getting this deal done. He has undoubtedly been influenced by the more than $40,000 MTC has contributed over the past 2 years, along with the maximum-allowable contributions from both CCA and the GEO Group to his inauguration fund, to think that private prisons can somehow save money or provide more efficient services than the government.
        These notions have been consistently refuted by nearly all available evidence and research not funded by the industry, but that doesn’t stop CCA shill Steve Owen from lying through his goddamn teeth: “We’ve been able to deliver on the value proposition,” Owen said. “Marry that with the oversight and accountability of government, (and you get) the best of both worlds.” Mr. Owen is dead wrong about private prisons being able to deliver “on the value proposition,” as well as about the accountability. Private prisons are exactly that – private, as in companies that aren’t bound by open government/public records laws. Oversight of the industry is notoriously weak and ineffectual, because private prison operators are not held to the same standard as government-run prisons, despite the fact that they perform an inherently governmental function.
        But he wasn’t done there. Mr. Owen also conveniently either forgot his own company’s history or just loves to misrepresent facts (a familiar conservative tactic), because he said “We’re not in the business of public policy. We don’t grow our business by impacting crime and sentencing laws. We grow our business by providing safe, secure facilities.” That’s complete BULLSHIT. The connections between CCA and Arizona’s SB1070 (The “Breathing While Brown” law), and copycat laws across the country, are well-established. What is less well-known is how CCA was also heavily involved in the American Legislative Exchange Council throughout the 90′s, when it successfully passed laws like 3-strikes (you may have heard of that) and “Truth in Sentencing,” both of which have directly contributed to the explosion in our prison population over the last two decades.
         So Mr. Owen, I’m calling you out for being a giant fucking lying asshole. You intentionally lie and deceive politicians and the general public to push a product that benefits absolutely no one but your douchebag self and your company’s stock. You are a disgusting excuse for a human being. You deceive people so that your company can turn a profit by incarcerating, humiliating, and abusing US citizens and immigrants. You literally prey on human misery and suffering, and steadfastly refuse to tell the truth because the truth would hurt your bottom line. You take taxpayer dollars to perform a governmental function, do it less efficiently than the government, with no accountability, then turn that money around into lobbying for longer and harsher sentences to lock up an ever-growing segment of our population. You and your company, and the entire industry, are the absolute lowest of the fucking low, and you make me sad about the future of our country, and indeed the entire human race.
           Thankfully, Matt Lundy and Carlton Weddington (love that name), 2 state senators from Ohio, are challenging the proposal. They have submitted a public records request to release the bids that private prison companies have put in to operate the facilities. Mr. Weddington puts it in great perspective: “I reiterate concerns today over the privatization of five state prisons. The CIIC’s (Correctional Institution Inspection Committee) recent report showing massive overcrowding coupled with the announcement of 950 jobs being lost should raise red flags for the public and the Kasich administration,” Weddingon said. “Our safety and the safety of inmates are at risk. It is simply inexcusable that Gov. Kasich continue to keep the legislature and the public in the dark while our safety and security are at risk.”

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

Already Changing Their Tune

7:06 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Already Changing Their Tune

Well that didn’t take long at all. Ohio, with its anti-union, pro-corporate governor John Kasich, is planning on selling 5 state prisons to private companies who won’t perform to the same standards as the state or save money. But the administration was convinced they offered some sort of cost-savings (despite a plethora of research to the contrary), and initially said the state would earn $200 million from the sale of the prisons. But it turns out they now only expect to earn about $50 million, 1/4 of what the originally thought they’d get.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s this story from today discussing how special interests are ramping up their lobbying efforts in the state, hoping to woo the conservative governor. It should come as no surprise that Kasich’s close personal friend for decades, and former chief of staff for 20 years, formed a lobbying company after Kasich won the election. A lobbying company that represents, among others, CCA, the company from which Kasich’s new director of the DOC came, and who will be bidding to purchase the state prisons.

Welcome to privatized utopia.

It’s Only Going to Get Worse

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

It’s Only Going to Get Worse

A prisoner with a long history of mental illness and prior suicide attempts killed himself last week while under the guard of GEOCare, a subsidiary of the GEO Group. This would be the same company who just spent 3/4 of the million dollars spent on lobbying for the prison industry in just this past election cycle. Lobbying that resulted in the state’s super pro-privatization Governor successfully shepherding his plan to privatize the correctional services of 18 counties through the legislature.

The GEO Group has long had a cozy relationship with the Floridian government, being based in Boca Raton and peddling their influence for years through campaign contributions and lobbying. They managed to convince the state to embark on one of the most ambitious prison privatization schemes in history, which they will likely stand to benefit the most from given their relationship and the ease with which they’ve been awarded contracts by the government in the past. And they will now get control over thousands of new prisoners, some of whom will undoubtedly have similar psychiatric situations to Mr. Bragman.

This is shaping up to be a disaster of monumental proportions. This is what Florida’s taxpayers have just unwillingly signed up for.

CCA and Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision

8:44 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

CCA and Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision

Yesterday SCOTUS ruled in Brown v. Plata that California must reduce its prison population by over 30,000 prisoners. Why? Because their system was so severely overcrowded that the medical neglect prisoners were facing amounted to a violation of their 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. That’s some mightily deficient medical care.

California has been facing a crisis in its prison system for decades, as the sentencing reforms that came as a result of the War on Drugs and other initiatives have steered an ever-increasing segment of the populace into prison. Arguably most impactful in this regard is California’s “Three Strikes” laws, which mandate a life sentence for anyone convicted of a third felony charge, whether that charge be for murder or larceny, rape or possession of a controlled substance. California’s prison population has grown dramatically under this legislation.

“Three Strikes” laws were initially devised in, and then promoted by members of, a conservative legislation front group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a nonprofit group that brings the leaders of the biggest companies in the country together with state legislators in an open forum where model legislation is developed. These state legislators then return with model legislation in hand to their state Assemblies, often to see the bills passed. This really shouldn’t be legal, because nonprofits aren’t supposed to develop model legislation, but since nearly 2/3 of state Republican legislators are members, a blind eye is conveniently turned to this fact.

ALEC is essentially a pay-to-play organization; the more a company pays in membership fees, conference fees, etc., the more influence they can expect to have on the model legislation that’s developed. During the 90’s, CCA paid more than $20,000 per year for a seat on the steering committee of ALEC’s Criminal Justice taskforce, in which the 3-strikes law was developed.

To the joy of hard-line criminal justice advocates everywhere, 3-strikes laws passed with much fanfare in California and elsewhere, though they have had the largest direct impact on a prison population in the Golden State. CCA had direct influence over the drafting, and final approval of the model, of this law. CCA also began operations in California in the 90s, and have since developed a strong relationship with the state government through campaign donations and lobbying. Such a strong relationship in fact that, as California’s population spiraled out of control, CCA increased their contract with the state by more than 3,000%, with practically no public bidding process. So CCA pretty much wrote the law that has had the single largest impact on California’s growing prison population. The very same law they have greatly benefited from as their market share in the state increased 30-fold.

New/Old Governor Jerry Brown has proposed to redistribute many of the state’s prisoners to county jails, primarily nonviolent ones. But this is not a solution; all it does is shift the onus of California’s over-reliance on incarceration to smaller jurisdictions and excuse the state of its responsibility to be accountable for the people it has locked up. Other proposals include the option of shipping prisoners to private facilities in other states, or building even more private prisons. These aren’t solutions either.

The right thing to do would be to reverse 3-strikes, provide for compassionate release of older prisoners with major health problems, and reform technical parole violations. Essentially, begin to wean California off its addiction to incarceration as a primary means of punishment/social control. But I guess that would be just too logical.