12:26 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
First published on WhyIHateCCA
Just a quick follow up on some of the news coming out of New Zealand regarding its Mt. Eden prison, which is run by Serco, probably the largest non-US based private prison operator in the world. The prison and the company have come under tremendous scrutiny in recent months for its poor operation of the facility. It was recently discovered that the company failed to meet at least 40% of the targets in its contract with the government. As more information came out, it was determined that the company failed to meet at least half of its performance goals; and that among its management issues in the past year were wrongful releases and detentions, and an escape. Less than 1/3 of the prisoners had a classification plan within the target time frame; the contract targeted a rate of 90%.
So it’s not just in the US that private companies epically fail to meet their contractual obligations to run prisons. I suppose that should make me feel better, but it doesn’t.
6:25 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
First published on WhyIHateCCA
After the state of Mississippi announced it was not renewing its contract with the GEO Group (or that the GEO Group bailed on the state, depending on how you see it) following a litany of abuse and mismanagement issues at the prisons it ran for the state, the Department of Corrections needed to bring in another company to operate the private facilities formerly run by them. Apparently, the state did not consider just hiring additional corrections staff and taking control of the prisons itself.
Into the picture now comes MTC, or Management and Training Corporation, the third-largest private prison operator in the U.S. MTC most recently made headlines as the company in charge of the Kingman prison in Arizona, from which 3 felons (2 convicted murderers) escaped, fled across the country, killed an elderly couple, and stirred up a multi-state manhunt. Shortly thereafter, an audit found the facility had numerous security flaws that the prisoners exploited in their escape. This was part of what prompted many advocates to call for a statewide audit of private prisons that found the facilities to cost more than government-operated prisons. Then Republicans in the state legislature passed a bill to prohibit future audits. Of course.
So this is the company that Mississippi has apparently seen fit to give responsibility for prisoners in the former GEO Group facilities. MTC will operate 3 prisons for the state; Walnut Grove, East Mississippi CF, and Marshall County CF, while CCA will continue to operate an additional 2 facilities (one of which just suffered a riot). But many people, including this author, are skeptical that there will be any signifncant improvement at the prisons. Hopefully, Mississippi will have learned from at least some of its mistakes with the GEO Group, such as not having an enforcement mechanism in the contract to ensure adequate staffing levels.
Meanwhile, it looks like the GEO Group is seeking to expand northward into Canada since its reputation has taken such a hit here, and MTC is focusing their sights on our continental brethren as well. I just hope the Canadians learn from our mistakes.
1:24 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
First published on WhyIHateCCA
Last week, a CCA prison in Woodville, MS became the site of the latest private prison riot. At least 23 prisoners were injured in the disturbance to the point where they required medical attention. Fights raged for nearly an hour before the prison staff got the facility back under control.
9:17 pm in Uncategorized by 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.
8:55 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
Though I rarely touch on international private prison news, two recent stories from our friends across the pond caught my attention recently. The first is an article from The Guardian
discussing the proposed privatization of nine prisons in England, which the author concludes would work out very well for any corporation that wins the contract but not so well for prisoners who end up housed in a private facility. Research cited by the author has shown that private prisons present a much higher risk to the safety of prisoners, staff, and the general public. Private prisons in the UK has seen some of the same problems as the industry experiences here in the US; “green” staff, with little training and a high rate of turnover, which results in higher levels of violence and decreased security. Likewise, the industry falls victim to the profit motive, as private prison operators continually cut costs at the expense of prisoner rehabilitation and care.
England is facing a crisis of incarceration similar to, but on a much smaller scale than our own, driven by things like mandatory minimum sentences and 3-strikes laws, which has prompted lawmakers to seek ways to cut the prison population or at least make it more manageable. Unfortunately, they seem to be taking a page out of our manual in dealing with the crisis, focusing more on increasing capacity by outsourcing services to private companies than on smart and efficient legislative and policy initiatives designed to reduce the prison population.
The second is an article that uncovers an “eye-watering scandal;” namely, that the competitive bidding process currently underway to operate 5 facilities is rigged in favor of the private companies. Stipulations were introduced by the government late into the process that rendered bids from public entities non-competitive, and the private industry has basically been handed a cakewalk of a bidding process. It’s a clear handout to the industry, and as the assistant secretary general of the probation union said, “Prison Privatisation is no longer based on efficiency, it’s now ideological.”
7:11 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
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.
12:54 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
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.
2:16 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
Last month, investigators from Florida’s Department of Corrections came to the South Bay CF, run by the GEO Group, to conduct an inspection of the facility. While this should not have made headlines, it did becausethe investigators could not get into the prison
. After repeatedly using the call box and even shining a flashlight directly into the security camera at the gate, investigators were unable to contact anyone inside the prison to let them in. Apparently, there were no guards in the control room or monitoring the perimeter of the facility to let them in. What’s even worse is that the Florida DOC doesn’t even have authority to oversee the prison – that’s handled by the Department of Management services, which apparently lets the GEO Group conduct its own internal investigations of staff misconduct. Because who would want a department of corrections to oversee something like corrections?
So the investigators filed a report, and the DMS released their own (heavily redacted) report about the incident, but no one has given a firm answer yet as to why staff were unresponsive for at least 20 minutes of the investigators’ trying to get their attention. This is very concerning, considering the state is pushing hard to privatize the correctional services of 18 counties. There are some very high benchmarks in the request the state has put out though, such a mandating 7% savings and forcing the private vendor who wins the contract to provide programs proven to reduce recidivism. I have absolutely zero faith in any private for-profit company to meet these benchmarks, since the industry has steadfastly failed to live up to similar expectations throughout its history.
I’ve written extensively on the failures of private prisons to provide programming and offer cost-savings. But Florida’s politicians need look no further than their own state to see that privatizing correctional services doesn’t save money. Because Jackson County, which recently had been seeking to outsource prison healthcare, recently decided to continue to have the government provide healthcare. Why? Because the county will save MILLIONS of dollars per year in doing so. That’s right – it would cost millions more for a private company to provide healthcare to prisoners than the government.
Is there any question anymore that Ric Scott, JD Alexander, and all the other Florida politicians looking to privatize prisons aren’t merely corporate shills?
7:56 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
Horse by anemoneprojectors
Ohio is currently in the process of trying to sell 5 state prisons to private operators to raise money during the recession. As I reported on before, the deal isn’t nearly as beneficial for the state and its taxpayers as it was initially said to be. So any hopes Ohio’s taxpayers have of saving money on corrections through privatization should be tempered, especially because private prisons have often been found to not even save any significant amount of money in operations, compared to government-run prisons.
So private prisons don’t save money. Private prisons also consistently have higher rates of escapes, assaults, and violence at their facilities, and they cut corners in every area of operations. So really the state of Ohio should listen to CCA spokesman Steve Owen, who says “If we don’t operate safe, secure facilities, and we don’t provide the cost savings that are expected, there’s no reason for government to continue to partner with our industry.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I think Ohio should heed his words, especially in light of the state’s turbulent history with private prisons. In addition to one of the biggest lawsuits to slam the industry during the 90′s, the result of a riot at a Youngstown prison operated by CCA, the state has had numerous escapes and murders at other private prisons. And in a rather blatant handout to the industry, the state of Ohio is even going to pay to help train the guards at the private prisons. On the one hand, this is good because guards at private prisons rarely if ever receive as much training as they need, but this is something that should really be paid for by the companies who buy the prisons and want to assume responsibility for operating them.
1:55 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
A recent report by the Arizona Republic, which reviewed audits, correspondence, and interviews from the Department of Corrections reveals that many of the security lapses that led to the escape of 3 murderers from the MTC facility in Kingman last year have not been resolved. In fact, 14 prisons, a mixture of private and state-run ones, suffer from the security flaws that allowed these prisoners to escape and elude the law for weeks, while killing a vacationing elderly couple in the process.
Among the failures in security are “faulty alarm systems, holes under fences big enough to crawl through, and broken perimeter lights and cameras.” The report also found a systemic ignorance of proper security protocols at nearly all the facilities studied.
The amount and extent of these security failures is just staggering, but they come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the industry and its all-consuming drive for profit. By cutting corners in these areas, the private companies that run these prisons put their staff, their prisoners, and the general public at great risk. They continuously fail to live up to contractual obligations because executives at these companies are greedy, despicable people who not only profit from incarcerating people, but do so in such an unscrupulous manner.
The first report to come out on this is linked in the title; another, appearing in the Tuscon Citizen, can be found here.