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Happy Anniversary, CCA!

5:32 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

I apologize for falling silent for the past few months.  Life caught up with me.  Anyway, don’t think I’ve stopped hating on private prisons – far from it.  I just haven’t really had the time to write.

But I can’t let a day like today go by without some mention.  Today, CCA turns 30.  That means for three decades we as a nation (beginning with Tennessee (thanks a lot, Tennessee)) have been bullishly pursuing a failed experiment in which we turn over society’s most vulnerable members to private companies, who systematically fail to live up to their contractual standards, let alone any notion of human decency, in how they operate their facilities.  In the process, millions of lives have been impacted, with all but a very few exceptions (the corporate brass) being worse for the wear.

We’ve sold our morality to the lowest bidder, repeatedly, to the tune of BILLIONS of taxpayer (i.e. my and your) dollars every year.  Meanwhile, these companies earn hundreds of millions of dollars (again, our money) in profit annually. But even THAT wasn’t enough, because now CCA and the GEO Group are reincorporating as something called Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which, in a nutshell, is a legal maneuver that will allow them to largely avoid paying taxes.

So CCA, GEO Group, MTC, and everyone else who takes my money to abuse and mistreat people, on the thirtieth anniversary of your despicable existence, here’s a heart-felt

Fuck You.

from me to you.

FBI Investigates Blatant Corruption in Florida

1:19 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

FBI Investigates Blatant Corruption in Florida

As I’ve reported on before, the GEO Group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Florida legislature over the past few legislative sessions, culminating first in the state’s giving them $110 million to build a prison, then turning over the correctional services of 18 counties to private control in the biggest prison privatization scheme I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, the FBI has launched an investigation into the rampant and blatant corruption that engulfed the Florida legislature surrounding these actions.

Former Budget Chief and Speaker of the House Ray Sansom, who now sits in prison on corruption and fraud charges, is one of the primary targets of the investigation. While he was budget chief, GEO gave a presentation before the legislature on a proposal to expand their services within the state. A month later, Sansom visited the corporate home of the GEO Group, supposedly on “personal business” (though this was the only trip he took there in 4 years as a representative). The month after that, he introduced a very last-minute provision into the budget bill to provide for $110 million to be appropriated to the GEO Group for the construction of what became the Blackwater Correctional Facility.

The prison was built on prison population projections that anticipated the state system would continue to grow; rather, it shrank. But the new budget chief, JD Alexander, tried to come to the rescue of the GEO Group, introducing his own last-minute budget amendment in the 2010 session to try to force the state to depopulate state prisons to send prisoners to the private one. Of course, he had received generous donations from the industry as had Ray Sansom. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Anyhoo, as I said the FBI is currently investigating the circumstances that led the state to give a multiple hundred-million dollar handout to a company with a long track record of human rights abuses and contract noncompliance. And DBA press has just released hundreds of documents obtained through the investigation that chronicle some of this sordid history.

I’m just thankful that our FBI apparently has some shred of decency left

A Mini Riot

8:38 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

“It was a mini riot, and yet no guards intervened.”

That is the description of the situation which Antoney Jones found himself in almost immediately after arriving at the Idaho Correctional Center. Jones, a black gay man, was intentionally placed by guards into a housing unit where he would be assaulted by other prisoners. “Prisoners throughout the pod lined the rails and began yelling, ‘Kill the nigger,’ ‘Get the fag’ and ‘Kill the rat.’”

Mr. Jones’ story is one of more than a dozen similar ones found in the complaint of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Idaho against CCA for their operation of ICC, a prison so notorious for its violence that it’s been dubbed “gladiator school” by those housed there. The violence is so pervasive particularly because the prison is private; by routinely hiring unqualified staff and reducing staffing levels to the barest of minimums, the prison is literally a breeding ground for violent activity. In the assault that prompted the lawsuit (and an FBI investigation), a prisoner was brutally beaten for so long that his assailant had time to stop and rest in the midst of the attack, while guards simply watched from a control tower. That sort of unprofessional conduct is heart-wrenchingly unacceptable.

And in other effed-up privatization of correctional services in Idaho news, the state has fined a private medical care provider, CMS, “nearly $400,000 by state officials for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state.” And this is in a state that permitted CCA to operate the ICC for years without fining them, which means the medical “care” CMS was providing must have been appallingly insufficient.

Saving Money by NOT Privatizing

8:23 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

The new Sheriff of Hernando County, Florida, is continuing in the ways of his predecessor. After Sheriff Nugent uncovered widespread neglect of maintenance at his county jail, which had been run for 22 years by CCA, he took over operations and estimated he could save more than $200,000 per year by operating it as part of the department (which should have been operating it all along).

New Sheriff Al Neinhuis went a step further. He is actually saving the county more than a million and a half dollars just this year, compared to what CCA would have charged to operate the facility. And he’ll do it better.

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.