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New Hampshire Moving Ahead with Prison Privatization Plans

11:09 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

New Hampshire’s legislature and governor have been looking to privatize much, if not all, of the state’s prison system for the past few months. The state submitted a request for proposals in April, and in May announced a new proposal to send all male prisoners to private facilities.

Apparently not content with just considering prison privatization proposals, New Hampshire wants to partially privatize the process of figuring out the bids.  The state expects the process to take about 2.5 months and is seeking technical assistance to sort through the plethora of information they’ll receive responsive to the request for proposals.  The consultant, the only one who bid, was just awarded a contract for nearly $175,000.  The state had actually asked 3 other companies to bid, but they all declined.  A spokesperson for one of the companies that turned down the state said they did so because they didn’t want to be involved in a process where “the job would go to the lowest bidder.”  I’m sure this in no way could lead to a conflict of interest or poor decision-making by the state.

CCA and MTC appear to be at the forefront of the cash grab; CCA is looking into 3 sites, and MTC seems pretty competitive in the bidding process.  Folks in New Hampshire are becoming a little frustrated with the process and its lack of transparency; an agency within the executive branch has the authority to award the contract with little to no public discussion of the potential risks and ramifications.  This is especially troubling given the industry’s propensity to not save money and have higher rates of incidents like assaults, escapes, and other security issues.

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.

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.

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.

Update on Arizona’s RFP for 5,000 New Private Prison Beds

7:11 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"prison guard tower"

"prison guard tower" by Rennet Stowe on flickr

Update on Arizona’s RFP

The state of Arizona is currently seeking proposals from private prison companies to construct 5,000 new prison beds. This comes despite the fact that numerous private prisons already operate in the state (but they mostly take prisoners from other states, which is a whole separate mess), and that those private prisons have been proven to be more expensive than the government-run ones

So the supposedly conservative leadership of the state apparently doesn’t really care about fiscal responsibility. No surprise there.  But I sure hope they care about contract non-compliance and a failure to deliver efficient and effective services.  Because the groups vying to get the contracts for these beds all had awful track records.  A DOC spokesman said recently that the department would consider past performance in awarding the contracts.  If so, the GEO Group might not fare too well in the bidding process, because very recently they have had major issues operating the Walnut Grove Youth CF and the Eastern Mississippi CF.  Things like riots, stabbings, guards selling drugs, children being sprayed with chemicals while locked down, physical abuse, extreme malnourishment of prisoners, and abusing prisoners for displaying symptoms of untreated mental illness.  You know, little things.

Another company, MTC, is no better.  After 3 convicts escaped their Kingman, Arizona facility last year and killed an elderly vacationing couple, it took the company 8 months to implement new security measures.  Unfortunately, I don’t think these issues or the ones that all other private prison companies seem to suffer from will stop the state from privatizing, partly because these companies are very effective PR machines, able to consistently sell bad products to the same consumers.  The good citizens of Goodyear, AZ didn’t fall for the sales pitch, and emphatically declared their opposition to a private prison coming to their town.

The rest of the state’s taxpayers may also be in luck.  Rep. Chad Campbell, the state’s House Majority Leader, has called for a delay of the proposed 5,000 bed expansion.  As public hearings continue in various rural areas throughout the state to debate the relative merits of bringing a private prison to town, Campbell asks that the expansion be delayed until “after enhanced security, training, and monitoring policies are in place and shown to be effective at all existing private facilities.”  Thank you Mr. Campbell for injecting some common sense into the situation.

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.”

Regurgitation / Compilation

12:54 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Regurgitation / Compilation

I had been hoping to write some witty entry perfectly capturing the craziness that Bob Ortega has been covering in Arizona.  A little background; the state is seeking proposals for 5,000 new private prison beds (which is a step back from last year’s plan to privatize the entire state system and sell off then re-lease the state house.  I wish I was kidding about that.), despite the problems its private prisons have had for their entire history and recent reports showing they don’t even save money, and could in fact wind up costing the state more.

So the state has been seeking suitors to build a bunch of new private prison beds, and thankfully has set up multiple public hearings to air the situation out.  Bob Ortega, a reporter at the Arizona Republic, has done some fantastic reporting recently on the histories of the companies bidding for these beds, and the public hearings to discuss the potential risks and benefits of bringing private prisons to towns.

So rather than try to steal his thunder, I’m just going to link to his fabulous work.

First is a story about the lack of oversight of the industry, and its failure to deliver on promises of cost-savings while being incapable of running a secure facility.

Next is a great piece on the sordid history of the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the world.

Then today he released two articles, the first of which goes into MTC’s also pathetic history.

The second discusses one of those public meetings, at which officials for the GEO Group found strong opposition from the citizens of Goodyear, Arizona.

Private Prison Shortchanges Staff

8:00 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

MTC logo

Management & Training Corporation (MTC)

Private prisons are often pitched to small rural areas desperate for economic development and jobs as a great way to create both. Unfortunately though, when contracts don’t come through as expected, those claims rarely materialize. Raymondville, Texas found this out the hard way.

Management and Training Corporation (MTC) runs an ICE detention center in town, which recently had to lay off 120 employees because it could not secure the contracts it had intended on getting, meaning they would have less prisoners than anticipated. As a now former employee said, “That’s a lot of people… It’s a small town, that’s a heavy blow.”

But what’s even worse is that MTC for years had not been paying these employees their required wages. They were being paid $8-9 an hour (basically minimum wage, to supervise criminals) for nearly 5 years, during which time they were supposed to have been paid at least $14.50 per hour. MTC has not paid these back wages and is delaying as long as possible in doing so, also refusing to pay other wages due and 401Ks.