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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.

Taking ALEC to Task

9:38 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Taking ALEC to Task

ALEC, one of the banes of my existence, has been in the news a lot recently, as people are starting to realize that they’re behind every conservative conspiracy to screw over some segment of the population.  As I’ve reported on before, the industry has helped to write and push laws that have dramatically increased our country’s prison population and funneled taxpayer dollars to private prison companies.  The group is also behind a lot of the anti-reproductive rights legislation sweeping the country, the anti-union measures that passed in places like Wisconsin, Maine, and Ohio, voter suppression measures like anti-fraud legislation (which was a solution in search of a problem), and the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida that’s one of the focuses of the Trayvon Martin case.  So basically, ALEC is the manifestation (and source) of the anti-democratic forces directing conservative ideology.

So I was happy to see that a journalist of such a high caliber as Paul Krugman took them to task for promoting privatization efforts that threaten to dismantle many democratic institutions. He focused only a small part of his article on the group’s work with the private prison industry, and mentioned how SB1070 came out of an ALEC conference.  But CCA’s intimidation PR machine came out in full force, demanding an apology from Krugman for implying that CCA lobbied on behalf of SB1070.  CCA, as a company, did not lobby or donate on that bill.  But multiple members of its executive board did, something CCA’s shill Steve Owen seems to always coincidentally forgetThe company is clearly trying to intimidate Krugman and others who would potentially disparage the good name and reputation of the industry, and prevent negative press.

Folks, this is only a small taste of what a truly free market would be capable of.  As groups like ALEC erode the foundation of civility and equity on which our country has thrived, by promoting privatization of public assets and destroying the democratic party’s voting base, we, the common people, lose.  Thankfully there are still reporters with some cojones who tackle these important issues, but they seem to be getting fewer and farther between.  ALEC is an absolute menace to the 99% of people who don’t stand to benefit from an even greater concentration of political power and wealth.

AZ Finds Private Prisons Don’t Save Money, Are More Dangerous

7:52 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

AZ Finds Private Prisons Don’t Save Money, Are More Dangerous

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.

Private Prisons Don’t Save Money in Arizona

9:21 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(image: publik15, flickr)

(image: publik15, flickr)

Private Prisons Don’t Save Money in Arizona

Arizona sure loves it some privatization.  Facing extreme budget shortfalls, the state attempted to sell off and then re-lease its state house in 2009 to earn some extra money, along with privatizing its entire prison system.  But while that plan failed, the state’s thirst for privatization never waned.  Though it already had multiple private prisons holding prisoners from other states and the federal government, a prominent republican in the state legislature introduced and helped pass SB1070, the now-infamous “Breathing While Brown” law.  This law, as pointed out in an investigative report by NPR, was written by ALEC, a conservative legislation front group that has longed worked with the major players in the private prison industry and promoted privatization across the board.  They’re also the ones behind attacks on global warming, voting rights, and unions, but that’s a different story.

So, the state basically gave a handout to private prison operators, who would undoubtedly benefit from stronger enforcement of federal immigration laws and increased detention.  This came after the industry donated heavily in the 2010 election cycle, to candidates, political parties, and ballot initiatives favored by republicans.  Then, even after 3 prisoners escaped from a private prison found to have numerous security deficiencies and went on a murderous rampage, state officials still pushed for more private prisons.  They re-initiated a request for proposals from private companies to construct 5,000 prison beds.

Thankfully, people began to take notice.  An advocacy organization filed alawsuit trying to block the RFP, which was dismissed on a technicality.  But the substantive issue in the lawsuit wasn’t resolved; namely, that the state, by law, is required to conduct performance audits of its existing private facilities every two years, including cost-comparisons with public institutions.  So the state began its audit late last year to compare public and private prisons, and the request for proposals was put on hold until the state could evaluate whether or not it would save money by turning to for-profit incarceration. Read the rest of this entry →

ALEC’s Influence in Arizona

8:01 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

ALEC’s Influence in Arizona

As I’ve reported on extensively in the past, ALEC is a nefarious front group for conservative legislation that has been a major driving force behind our nation’s crisis of mass incarceration.  So there’s no way I could pass up highlighting a new report that has come out detailing how effective ALEC has been at getting corporate-sponsored legislation passed in the state of Arizona

You’ll probably remember that ALEC was where SB1070, Arizona’s “Breathing While Brown” law, was born, before ALEC member Russell Pearce brought it home and introduced it to the state legislature.  The law was drafted with CCA at the table, and would have a direct impact on their bottom line as it resulted in increased incarceration of illegal immigrants, almost half of whom are detained in private facilities.  Arizona also happens to be home to many private facilities that currently house out-of-state prisoners and immigrants, and the state is seeking to add 5,000 additional private beds to its existing state-run facilities.

So this report comes at a critical time for Arizona, as it evaluates whether or not it wants to proceed with a plan to contract away millions of taxpayer dollars to an industry that hasn’t even been able to demonstrate savings in the state of Arizona.  ALEC has pushed for the privatization of prisons in the past, and it has given private prison companies direct access to state legislators who are considering the privatization bids.  Those same companies have also donated thousands of dollars to these politicians, all of which amounts to a tremendous amount of political influence for the industry in the state.  As The Executive Director of the People for the American Way stated, “There’s no way ordinary citizens can match the level of access and influence that ALEC provides to these corporations.

For now, the state is holding back on awarding contracts until some time in January, after it was twice sued over the request for proposals because it has for years failed to conduct an efficiency audit of its existing private facilities.  Once that report is complete, the state should have (even more) data to demonstrate that private prisons don’t actually save any money, which will hopefully compel state legislators to reject the industry’s influence and make wiser decisions with the constituents’ hard-earned money.

 

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.”

CCA’s Investment in Georgia

7:09 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"Money!"

"Money!" by Tracy O on flickr

CCA’s Investment in Georgia

CCA and other private prison companies have a business model that relies upon a steady flow of prisoners to remain profitable.  It’s a natural outcome of the industry.  Unfortunately for everyone not profiting from locking human beings up, this plays out as companies help write and pass legislation that increases criminal and civil penalties, to the degree that we now have the highest rate and real numbers of incarceration in the entire world. 

In Georgia, as in Arizona, CCA has sought to ensure itself a steady flow of “revenue” by first drafting what would become SB1070, and Georgia’s copycat bill, HB87, then by contributing to the campaigns of representatives likely to vote on the legislation.  So after spending untold thousands of dollars for a seat at the table with ALEC to write the legislation (literally untold – its pretty much impossible to see who contributes, and how much, to this shady nonprofit), CCA spent over $240,000 in the past 7 years in campaign contributions in the state of Georgia alone.  Of 17 representatives who received contributions from CCA in the previous 2 cycles, only 2 voted against HB87, a piece of legislation that allows police to check immigration status and will undoubtedly result in more immigrants being incarcerated.  Hell, CCA even took 8 of them out to dinner, and, shocker – none of those 8 voted against the bill.  This all in a “conservative” state (wait, I thought they didn’t like government intervention?)

But Georgia’s legislators didn’t stop at illegal immigrants, because there’s money to be made in locking up their own citizens as well.  It doesn’t seem to matter that private prisons cost the state nearly $10 more per prisoner, per day (so literally millions of dollars more per year, as there are 7 private prisons in Georgia) – the state is forging ahead with plans to open a new, 1,500-bed private prison.  As an advocate said, “These prisons are new plantations, and immigrants are a new crop… there’s a huge profit margin.”

Pay to Play

8:41 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Please Pay Here

Please Pay Here by stevendepolo on flickr

Two interesting pieces here regarding the influence the private prison industry wield in its political affiliations and activities.  Most of the reason the industry has been so successful in securing contracts despite decades of failing to perform is the cozy relationship it has cultivated with state and federal officials who control the disbursement of public funds and criminal justice sentencing.  They cultivate these relationships through donating to individual politicians and various campaigns they embark upon, but also through hiring professional lobbyists to promote their will while the legislature is in session.

Lobbyists often have great access to politicians, and in many cases either come directly from government or head there after leaving the lobbying business. By utilizing lobbyists to advocate for their interests, the private prison industry is able to simultaneously amplify their voice within the legislature, and to some extent prevent the public from knowing just exactly who and what is influencing political decisions.

In Arizona, for example, I have reported extensively on the ties between Governor Brewer’s office and a huge lobbying firm that works for CCA, Highground Consulting.  Highground’s manager, Chuck Coughlin, is the governor’s chief of staff, and one of its principal lobbyists used to work for CCA (and his wife still does).  To make the situation worse, the chair of the state’s appropriations committee (that would be the committee that controls public funds), John Kavanagh, looks to be quite close with the GEO Group, the country’s second-biggest private prison company.  Public Policy Partners, an Arizona lobbying firm that GEO employs, donated at least 6 times to Kavanagh in the last election.

Is it any wonder this is the same state that passed an immigration bill that’s essentially a handout to private prison companies, or that they’re looking to privatize an additional 5,000 prison beds?

Meanwhile, over in Tennessee, state Republican representatives are coming under fire for participating in a fundraiser while the legislature was in session, that featured some of the biggest industries with a financial stake in Tennessee’s politics (fundraisers during the legislative session are supposed to be illegal).  Among the businesses represented was CCA, which is headquartered in Nashville.  They were so willing to help raise funds for state Republicans because the new Republican governor recently used the budget as an excuse to reverse a decision to close a CCA prison.

 

crossposted from Pay to Play

Republicans Hate Brown People

1:27 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Republicans Hate Brown People

The Republican governor of Alabama just signed another version of SB1070 into law in his state. This bill unfortunately goes even further than SB1070 and its copycat in Georgia; it requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally (read: “anyone with a skin tone darker than white”).

Land of the free my ass.