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Did Ohio’s AG Bend the Law to Help Prison Privatization?

9:52 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

That’s basically the conclusion of this analysis, which says that Attorney General Mike DeWine’s ruling that the Ohio State Police would still be responsible for investigating crimes at the Conneaut prison the state sold to CCA was a politically-motivated, and possibly illegal, action.  Essentially, the author claims that DeWine overruled a couple of career attorneys in his office to hand down his ruling, which facilitated the politically perilous privatization venture — folks in Conneaut were initially up in arms over the potential the sale had to unduly strain its police resources.

So a governor who hired a former CCA employee as the director of his DOC decided to sell a prison to CCA, then after some of his constituents were rightfully upset and fearful at the ramifications that would have for them, his attorney general bent the law to quell those concerns.  The attorney general happens to be the same guy who rallied federal support to re-open a private prison (with a $129 million contract to CCA) a few years ago that’s been at the center of a dispute over back taxes.  Great.

Curbing Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

12:25 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First Published on WhyIHateCCA

A few weeks back, the Obama Administration finally got around to releasing new regulations governing sexual abuse in correctional facilities, as mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003.  PREA initially only applied to DOJ facilities and agencies, but the Administration has expanded its scope to include immigrants in detention here in the US (mostly under the jurisdiction of ICE).  This is particularly relevant for the private prison industry, which houses about half of the immigration detainees in the US, though it remains to be seen how effective these new regulations will actually be in stopping sexual abuse.  ICE will have to draft rules and regulations to govern its facilities, but given all the problems ICE has had in ensuring the private prison companies it contracts with provide humane treatment to its detainees, I’m not overly optimistic that the oversight of efforts to stop prison rape will be any more stringent than for a host of other issues.  Especially considering the fact that CCA just recently finished battling a shareholder who wanted the company to report on its efforts to curb sexual assault in its facilities.

 

Mental Health in Prisons and the GEO Group

7:49 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

By Jenny Landreth

Rows of squalid bunk beds in a 1925 NC Prison Farm

Historic photo of North Carolina prison farm, 1925 (Photo: Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC).

The news that GEOCare, a private for-profit company, is hovering around the prisoner mental health honeypot in North Carolina is an extremely worrisome development. Mental health in prisons tends to fall at or near the very bottom of the list of priorities in prison management– and likewise in prison budgets– not least because a large percentage of the typical prison population suffer from mental health issue. This covers everything from anxiety and depression, to self-harm, insomnia, suicide attempts, psychosis, borderline personality disorder, uncontrollable anger and violent impulses associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and eating disorder. To be honest, if a prisoner is not suffering from some sort of despair related condition whilst incarcerated in the US prison system, they are doing remarkably well. Some prisoners are clearly more robust mentally than others, and it cannot be denied that these prisoners are likely to become the strongest of the population, sometimes to the point of bullying of vulnerable, mentally ill prisoners.

Tough Lives

Bullying of those with mental health issues is as common outside of prison walls as it is on the inside. Many criminals have suffered lives of appalling neglect, which has stunted their ability to feel anything approaching a normal response to others. When you think of these prisoners, think also of the little three year old child they once were, being abused, ignored, going hungry, being battered and shouted at. Any child being brought up in this sort of impoverished manner, often with parents who are poor and criminalised, will be seriously scarred by the experience, and will be developmentally and socially underdeveloped. Abused children often go on to be bullies themselves, in response to their own feelings of powerlessness. It’s not an excuse for such behaviour, but it goes a long way to explaining it. Beginning life with a poor home background is a huge disadvantage, and often the young teenagers who end up behind bars never had a chance at a better future. The thought of mental health services taking over the care of damaged and vulnerable prisoners – the bullies as well as the bullied, beggars belief. In the words of Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, “It just boggles my mind that folks think a for-profit private company with shareholders can perform a more efficient, better service at a cheaper rate than state employees.” Quite so.

Forensic Psychiatry

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CCA Can’t (Or Won’t) Defend Its Business

1:34 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

About three weeks ago, the ACLU challenged CCA to a public debate on the merits of prison privatization, a timely request given that it came on the day of CCA’s shareholder meeting where it faced a proposal from a shareholder that would have required the company to report on its efforts to curb sexual violence within its facilities.  The ACLU asked CCA to discuss rationales behind using private companies to perform an inherently governmental function, particularly when the industry has failed in so many respects, from efficiency and oversight to the humane treatment of the prisoners it houses.

CCA, incapable of actually defending its morally reprehensible and laughably inefficient business model, meekly rejected the ACLU’s offer to debate in a public forum. I guess they find it difficult to justify abusing and neglecting human beings while reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year, and having spent millions more lobbying for an ever-expanding prison industrial complex while crime rates continue to fall.

Just a hunch…

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

Private Prison Riots Causing Concern

12:58 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA
The recent riots (or “disturbances,” in industry parlance) at CCA prisons in Georgia and Mississippi have raised the concern of advocates in other states looking to privatize prisons.  The teamsters union down in Florida is urging state lawmakers to consider CCA’s poor management of the facilities when it inevitably takes up the now annually-recurring massive privatization effort.  Information about the cause of the riot has been slow to trickle out of the facility in Mississippi, but it looks at least preliminarily like my intuition was correct.  Prisoners claim the guards routinely assault them; and that the medical care, food, and programming at the facility, which houses immigrants in the US illegally, were woefully insufficient. Even the Nashville Business Journal picked up on the story, albeit it to discuss how CCA can save face.

The recent riots (or “disturbances,” in industry parlance) at CCA prisons in Georgia and Mississippi have raised the concern of advocates in other states looking to privatize prisons.  The teamsters union down in Florida is urging state lawmakers to consider CCA’s poor management of the facilities when it inevitably takes up the now annually-recurring massive privatization effort.  Information about the cause of the riot has been slow to trickle out of the facility in Mississippi, but it looks at least preliminarily like my intuition was correct.  Prisoners claim the guards routinely assault them; and that the medical care, food, and programming at the facility, which houses immigrants in the US illegally, were woefully insufficient. Even the Nashville Business Journal picked up on the story, albeit it to discuss how CCA can save face.

Shareholders Challenging the Private Prison Industry

11:45 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

A civil commitment center run by The GEO Group in DeSoto County, Florida

First published on WhyIHateCCA

In an interesting bit of grassroots advocacy, a few shareholders of the country’s two largest private prison companies have worked to bring more accountability to the industry, which is exempt from public records laws in nearly every jurisdiction despite the fact that it performs inherently governmental functions.

The GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, FL, had its annual shareholders’ meeting in Palm Beach a few weeks back.  Some demonstrators protested outside, but the true challenge for the company would come from inside that very meeting.  The Dominican Sisters of Hope and Mercy Investment Services, both of which own a small amount of stock in the company, introduced a resolution that would have required the company to improve its policies to address human rights abuses within its facilities and submit to third-party audits.  A resolution by the Capuchin Order of Priests would have required the company to publicly disclose all the money it spends lobbying and which issues that money is meant to influence.

Meanwhile, CCA has been fighting off a resolution by an activist and shareholder that would require it to report on efforts to reduce sexual abuse within its facilities.  The resolution would bring some much-needed accountability to an industry that has proven quite effective at skirting it.  CCA has been aggressively fighting the resolution with the SEC from its inception, I assume because they’d rather spend their money lobbying Congress and state legislatures than trying to protect the prisoners under their watch.

Unfortunately, all three of these proposals were defeated in the respective meetings.  But there is reason for optimism – they all managed a sizable margin of support.  The resolution before the GEO Group concerning human rights abuses garnered nearly 30% of the vote.  The resolution introduced by the CCA shareholder was likewise rejected, but did garner more than 14 million votes out of a possible 86 million, nearly 20% of the vote.  With such support, I am optimistic these resolutions will be introduced again in the future, which would continue to pressure the industry into more accountability for its actions and transgressions.

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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