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CCA Forcing a Private Prison on Floridians

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Similar Immigration Detention Center (Photo: diacimages, flickr)

Similar Immigration Detention Center (Photo: diacimages, flickr)

CCA Forcing Prison on Floridians

I admit I have been rather lax in reporting on the brewing situation in Southwest Ranches, Florida.  Briefly, CCA has proposed building an ICE detention center in the town, but has met with some pretty stiff resistance from the locals, who justifiably don’t want a prison in their town.  After learning of the public’s opposition, CCA successfully petitioned the town council to keep mum about the prison’s construction.  That’s right; officials elected to represent the people of Southwest Ranches were persuaded by CCA to tow the company line and represent the company’s interests over that of their constituents.  So we’re off to a great start here…

Anyway, after that debacle, CCA employed yet another questionable tactic as it started using robocalls to try to drum up support in the community.  In fact, they misrepresented the facility and touted the job creation benefits as they harassed Southwest Ranches residents with these calls.  So they’re clearly the paragon of corporate responsibility.

Then there was a town council hearing last Saturday, at which no CCA representative was scheduled to be present.  I guess they didn’t feel it was necessary to respond to the legitimate concerns of the people who don’t want yet another private, for-profit immigration detention facility in their town.  Hundreds of local residents showed up at the meeting, complaining that the project had been rammed through despite numerous objections.  The meeting was so popular that more than 100 people opposed to the project couldn’t even get in.  It got so contentious that the mayor of Pembroke Pines, the next town over, criticized Southwest Ranches officials for ignoring the concerns of their own constituents.

So, to recap.  Southwest Ranches residents don’t want another private immigration detention facility.  The officials of the next town over are publicly criticizing the leadership of Southwest Ranches for ignoring constituents.  But the project keeps moving steadily along, as CCA has used questionable tactics to force this prison on these poor folks.  Thankfully though, yet another obstacle has arisen; immigration advocates are now calling for CCA to conduct an environmental impact study, which is supposed to happen before they construct the prison, per federal law.  I don’t think this will be much more than another minor speedbump in CCA’s determined march to build this prison, but at least it’s something.

 

Revolving Door Paying Off

9:46 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Revolving Door Paying Off

As I reported on previously, the GEO Group has exercised the revolving door between the private prison industry and politics rather well, as their former lobbyist and consultant, Stacia Hylton, was elected to head the US Marshal’s Service, one of the federal agencies that contracts with the GEO Group.  Clearly, some people were disturbed by the idea that someone who earned literally hundreds of thousands of dollars working for a company with a long track record of human rights abuses and poor contract performance would be placed into a position with significant oversight over the management and awarding of contracts to that very company.

It turns out those people (myself included) may have been onto something.  Because Ms. Hylton has refused to investigate numerous claims by immigration detention advocates that detainees in a GEO Group prison in New York have been subject to ongoing abuse.  It must be nice for the GEO Group to have friends in such high places, but that really sucks for the immigrants being abused by this private, for-profit social leech of a corporation.

 

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.

 

Transparency Issues in a Florida Private Prison

1:35 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Transparency Issues

How’s this for a joke?  A man walks into a prison and asks to see records of its operations.  Standard stuff like expenses, staffing levels, and the visitors’ log.  He cites a statute that allows for public review of the records of government agencies, similar to Freedom of Information / Public Records laws in states across the country and the federal government.  Only, this prison is a private one, run by a private, for-profit company, performing an inherently governmental function (as had been previously determined by the state’s Supreme Court), and officials at the prison tell this man he can’t have access to the very documents that he has a clearly-established right to see.

This is the story of Joel Chandler, who requested information from the Moore Haven CF in Florida.  Florida is one of two states that requires private prison operators to comply with public records laws (called the “sunshine law” in the state), because it has determined they perform an inherently governmental function.  In any of the other 48 states, Mr. Chandler would have no legal recourse because private prisons are rarely if ever forced to turn over records to the public – their only reporting duties are to the state they contract with.  But thankfully Mr. Chandler has filed a lawsuit against CCA for this violation of the law and his rights.
This is one topic I don’t cover often enough on here, but oversight of prisons, especially privately operated, for-profit facilities, is crucial to ensuring public safety and contract compliance.  The industry is notorious for skirting regulations and effective oversight, so it particularly troubles me that in a state that has expressly told private prison operators they must abide by such regulations, CCA still sees fit to so brazenly ignore the law.

Florida’s Misguided Privatization Push

11:07 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"prison guard tower"

"prison guard tower" by Rennet Stowe on flickr

Florida’s Misguided Privatization Push

Florida is one of a few states that is seeing a wave of pro-privatization, anti-government rhetoric wreak havoc on employee unions and public services after electing a super conservative governor.  This same governor has also, with the help of longtime privatization advocate and state budget chair JD Alexander, pushed for Florida to embark on the most ambitious prison privatization scheme in history.  The state is currently in the process of privatizating the correctional services of 18 counties, covering nearly 30 facilities.  Thousands of state employees will lose their jobs as an inherently governmental function is turned over to a profit-driven private industry with a long history of human rights abuses and failure to deliver on promised cost-savings.  However, conservatives never seem to concerned with how much their bogus strategies wind up costing the state, as is evidenced by Scott’s mandatory drug-testing program for welfare recipients that has already wound up costing taxpayers far more than its anticipated savings.  Hopefully though the state legislature will come to realize that privatization is an experiment that has consistently failed, and they need look no further than their own state to see just how poorly the industry has performed, and how undeserving it is of being rewarded for its failures 

But it’s not just the headlong dive into privatization that’s got me concerned.  In addition to giving this blatant handout to an industry that donated $1,000,000 in the last election cyclethe state Legislature has just gutted the agency charged with overseeing medical care for the state’s prisoners.  JD Alexander, who has been arguably the biggest proponent of privatizing the states’ prisons since he tried to ram through a last-minute budget amendment last year forcing the state to send more prisoners to private facilities, is the Chairman of the Budget Committee that failed to appropriate funds for the agency.  So not only is the state handing over operations of prisons to private companies, it also failed to fund an agency that would have some oversight over an industry notorious for being able to evade it.

Making matters worse, Governor Scott’s office just pressured state DOC officials to cancel a contract with a separate monitor who was set to oversee the state’s planned privatization of even more prisoner health care.   Read the rest of this entry →

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.

A Terrible Combination in Florida

12:46 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

A Terrible Combination in Florida

Quick link here to an article by Bill Cotterell, analyzing the influence of the $1 million spent on lobbying prison issues in Florida in the past election cycle combined with the government’s efforts to neuter its only effective means of oversight of private prisons. This would almost be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying; it’s the logical iteration of conservative ideology at its worst. Candidates take millions of dollars in campaign contributions from powerful corporations and lobbyists to turn a blind eye to both the human suffering inflicted by these companies and their consistent failure to even live up to contractual standards. They then work to dismantle regulatory agencies that could serve as the only buffer for society against the excesses of these corporations and provide a check on their inefficient wasting of taxpayer money.

This is the conservative model for America. Handing over the operation of government functions to inefficient and dangerous private companies, then preventing the government from enforcing any means of oversight or accountability. The vaunted “free market” is bullshit. Conservatives are only interested in keeping the government from stopping them from screwing us all over with our own money.