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.
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First published on WhyIHateCCA
First published on WhyIHateCCA
Two weeks ago, prisoners rioted at a CCA prison in Georgia, resulting in the prison being put on lockdown. There’s not much more information available on that
But a second riot occurred at another CCA prison, this one in Mississippi, and what has come out so far isn’t pretty; 200-300 prisoners were said to be involved in the disturbance, and at least one guard has died. A handful of staff and inmates were injured at the immigration detention facility. The situation lasted for hours, with prisoners taking moire than a dozen staff hostage. Which makes sense, because a former employee said the staff-to-inmate ratio was dangerously low, so much so that he left his job there. Sixteen staff members had to be transported to a hospital due to injuries. Prison riots are a relatively rare occurrence; this one even more so because of the facility’s population. It houses immigrants charged with illegal re-entry, not many of whom have criminal convictions beyond that. So this isn’t a population that necessarily lends itself to violence and rioting; I imagine they are upset with the living conditions in the facility, though no word has yet come out about what incited it.
Thankfully, the company is already coming under fire for its poor management by a Mississippi Congressman, and the riot is being investigated by the FBI.
The guard who died was 24-year-old Catlin Carithers.
Following on the announcement of the removal of all juvenile prisoners in Mississippi from private prisons, the Department of Justice has just released a report of its findings in investigating the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which is run by the GEO Group. Walnut Grove was the target of the lawsuit that resulted in the prohibition on sending juveniles to private prisons, and it turns out the state was more than justified in ordering such a removal. Juveniles incarcerated at the facility were subjected to ongoing sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse; the abuse was “among the worst that [the DOJ has] seen in any facility anywhere in the nation.”
This is truly one of the most gut-wrenching tales of the horrors of privatization that I’ve ever seen. The report indicates that the profit motive inherent in the private prison industry led the GEO Group to ignore the suffering of children under its care; the company earned more than $100 million from the facility’s operation. Staff were frequently involved in gang activity, and children suffered from excessive use of force regularly. The children were sexually assaulted, guards smuggled drugs into the facility, numerous extremely violent riots occurred, and the kids were routinely subjected to long periods of isolated confinement, denied medical care and access to educational programming. It was so bad that the judge who just ruled on the settlement remarked that “The sum of these actions and inactions … paints a picture of horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” The inaction the judge refers to is not only the fault of the GEO Group; the state of Mississippi was remiss in repeatedly failing to enforce and monitor the contract it has with the company to ensure its own citizens, children of all people, would not suffer through such horrendous experiences.
It looks like long-needed change has finally come to the children housed at Walnut Grove and their families, all of whom were victimized by the prison-industrial complex, and more specifically, by the profit motive inherent to the private prison industry. Judge Reeves, who approved the settlement, claims he will avidly enforce the agreement to ensure that no other children fall prey to the GEO Group.
I apologize for being so late on this; there are actually a few stories I’m behind on and I’ll try to catch up as much as possible.
A report was just released by the American Friends Service Committee in Arizona that found private prisons actually cost the state more to operate than their government-run counterparts. In just three years (2008-2010), the state spent $10 million more on private prison beds than it would have cost them to just operate the prisons itself. The state for some reason loves private prisons, having previously tried to privatize its entire correctional system. The state was also the first place that an iteration of the “Breathing While Brown” law (that ALEC-written handout to private prison companies) was introduced It is currently seeking 2,000 additional private prison beds, which would cost $6 million more than beds the government could operate. And this comes at a time when the state’s prison population is actually decreasing. It is also looking to outsource medical and mental health care to private, for-profit providers, for as many as 34,000 prisoners; that segment of the private prison industry suffers from all the problems inherent to the profit-driven world of incarceration.
The report was conducted because the state has consistently failed to conduct analyses of private prisons, even though there is a state law mandating that it do so. After years of ignoring calls to produce such a report, the state finally finished one in January of this year, which, surprise surprise, found private prisons to be more expensive.
This new report by the AFSC also found that private prisons are more dangerous, and experience higher levels of “disturbances” (prison parlance for riots/violent incidents), many of which were never reported to the public. In fact, the state exempts private prison companies from reporting such information that is required of government-operated prisons, shielding them from accountability for all the terrible things they let happen. The report by AFSC noted that these instances were likely under-reported, and that the public has very little access to vital information concerning the operation of prisons in Arizona.
So you would think with all this information; that private prisons cost considerably more to taxpayers, that they consistently fail to operate prisons safely and securely, that the state’s political system would bring the hammer down and start to hold private prison operators more accountable for the millions in taxpayer dollars they benefit from, if not abolish the industry altogether. But, this is Arizona. The state legislature released a budget bill that still provides funding for private prisons, and actually eliminates the requirement for cost-comparison studies of public vs. private prisons that brought about the first report (by the state). Talk about burying your head in the sand.
Then, as if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Serco (the private company that runs the facility) was using administrative staff at the Christmas Island facility as security guards during the riots. To put it simply, as the frigging director of Serco himself said, “I can’t think of a more serious breach of occupational health and safety.”
Certainly, the government should have heeded the warnings it received about the private detention centers, because this crisis could have potentially been averted. Hindsight is of course 20/20. Hopefully though the government will use this as a learning experience, since it is considering giving Serco a new multi-billion dollar contract for services at a hospital (Serco already has a contract worth more than $4 billion to run the private detention centers). Especially considering a psychiatrist who just reviewed healthcare at Serco’s Scherger Detention Center concluded that “tragedy is very likely to occur” due to the prisoners’ inability to get adequate treatment. One person even went so far as to claim that Serco is compromising mental health care services in the community because of how poorly it operates.
Continuing with WhyIHateCCA’s guest author series, I present this first-hand account of a father’s struggle to find his son, who was lost in the Mississippi system after suffering brain damage in a riot at the GEO-Group operated Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. Walnut Grove is currently the target of a lawsuit by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center over deplorable conditions and abhorrent violence.
by Michael McIntosh
On a normal visitation day, I was told by the Walnut Grove (WG) staff that my son, who had been there for 3 months, was no longer at the facility. Walnut Grove is a private juvenile detention center operated by the GEO Group for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. When I reached out for more information of where my son was, they consistently denied knowledge of his whereabouts. How could a child placed in the custody of the MDOC disappear?
After not getting any assistance from WG staff, I was referred to the Warden, who refused to tell me about my son’s whereabouts. After 2 1/2 weeks of MDOC and WG passing the buck back and forth and playing games, I took matters in my own hands and started my own investigation. I realized that they did not care about the well being of my son, nor did they care about me knowing his status. I found out that my son was in the hospital, but no status information was given. I called MDOC and asked the medical department about my son’s status to which I received no response.
A few days later, an MDOC chaplain called to help me with visitation to my son. After 5 1/2 weeks of searching, visitation was granted to me to see my son, but they had moved him to another facility. A new visitation order was granted for a two-hour visit, in which I was only able to spend a half hour with my son. The reason this happened is because I questioned the head nurse about the status of my son; because of her attitude, she called security and told them she felt threatened and needed assistance. Security came to assist her, but it was not the 24-hour security that was already in his room, but rather hospital security. The security officer told me I had to leave, that visitation was over. Keep in mind that this was more than a month after the incident.
The next day I called the chaplain back, explained what happened and asked for another visitation with my son. On Friday of the following week the head doctor of MDOC called and I was told no further visitation will be granted and the visitation that I was granted was done as a favor to me. I was forced to wait until my son was granted visitation rights by MDOC. My son was transferred to Parchman hospital where he received no medical treatment.
After four to six weeks, he was released from the Parchman hospital, and he was transferred to a drug and alcohol facility at Parchman though he does not have a problem with either. He has yet to receive treatment that addresses his injuries even though many request have been made for treatment. He is an underage inmate at Parchman, put there and left there so that this incident would not be known. My son had been assaulted in a riot at the Walnut Grove YCF in which he received brain damage, but has still not received proper medical treatment for what he experienced
The hunger strike at Northern Immigration Detention Center continues, as prisoners have now climbed onto the roof of the facility to stage their protest. More prisoners have joined the strike since it began, with 20 prisoners now staked out on the roof, starving themselves.
Meanwhile, juveniles from Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran being housed at the Broadmeadows detention center have acted out in desperation, not having access to case managers for months on end. They have sewn their lips together in protest, and posted the pictures on facebook to try to draw attention to their struggle.
At the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Center, prisoners have been rioting and burning the facility for at least 3 days. Frustrated with the government dragging its feet on whether or not to grant asylum, the immigrants have been fighting with the prison and police for days. Over at the North Point Correctional Centre, prisoners have begun burning various parts of the facility. As one of the Christmas Island asylum seekers said, “They have been here a long time and got rejected without reason…They can’t stay in detention like animals waiting, waiting with no justice.” The situation is so bad that guards with just 2 weeks of training have been called in, and many asylum seekers are being placed in solitary confinement, which opens up a whole new can of worms that for the sake of brevity I’ll only mention that once.
Inspired by their brethren at Christmas Island, mainland asylum seekers have begun to protest the conditions of their confinement as well, launching a hunger strike at the Cape York AFB. The facility is operating at almost 200 percent capacity, as immigrants in Australia, like in the US, remain incarcerated in a sort of legal limbo. The plight of these prisoners has caught the attention of the Human Rights Alliance, who is calling on the UN to step in and require UN monitors to be placed at some of the private prisons to monitor conditions. Because “Human courtesies, peoples’ rights and their very dignity were disregarded. Asylum Seekers distressed were screaming not only for themselves however out of care for each other. Some distressed guards were appalled at the sheer inhumanity by the actions of the AFP (Australian Police Force) and other guards.”