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Is Michigan Going Back on Its Word?

9:22 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

The state of Michigan for some reason thinks it should contract out high-security beds to a private company, expecting to save about $1.3 million per year in operations. Aside from the reality that those savings will probably never materialize, the state should be wary of proceeding with such a plan considering the industry’s consistent failures to maintain adequate levels of well-trained staff, which could prove extremely risky with high-security prisoners.  A few years back, corrections officials had promised residents that security of the facility would be the top priority, as residents were worried about the potential risks to public safety inherent in bringing in a private, for-profit company to operate it.

Over the next few years, the state gradually reduced security at the facility, moving away from constant patrols to more mechanical security instruments.  Now, it wants to not only privatize security staff at the facility, but medical and mental health treatment as well.  Local leaders are upset at these recent developments, particularly because they have seen how privatization has failed to save money in many other states. Many of the COs currently employed at the facility would likely either lose their jobs or face significant reductions in pay and benefits, the area in which private prison companies are able to reduce expenses most easily (by just cutting them).

So add me to the list of people who hope the state decides to keep to its word and ensure the facility remains secure (i.e. not privatized).

MTC Takes Over Where The GEO Group Left off

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.

GEO Group Fined More Than $100,000

8:35 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

OSHA has fined the GEO Group more than $100,000 for occupational hazards present in the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, one of the prisons it had operated for years before losing its contract with the state in the wake of some terrible abuses that took place in the juvenile detention center they also ran.  Some of the violations at EMCF included malfunctioning locks and staffing levels so low that guards had to conduct head counts of prisoners alone.

 

Riots at 2 CCA Prisons

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.

The End of Leniency in New Mexico

2:15 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

The End of Leniency in New Mexico

I have previously reported on the problems New Mexico has experienced with private prisons.  In particular they’ve found the prisons to be wildly more expensive than government-run facilities, and have found major staffing deficiencies and other issues at prisons run by the GEO Group and CCA.  In the past, these companies had escaped responsibility for short-staffing their facilities, when the head of the state’s DOC, Joe Williams, former employee of the GEO Group, failed to fine the companies for repeated contract violations.  Well all that has changed with new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez, who is determined to ensure the state collect on the fines her predecessor failed to bring in (to the tune of $18 million the state missed out on).

Now that Joe Williams has returned to working for the private prison industry, reclaiming a position with the GEO Group after leaving his post in New Mexico, the state has begun to hold the two companies to account.  After assessing more than a million dollars’ worth of fines last year against the industry, CCA and the GEO Group failed to learn their lesson.  GEO just got fined almost $300,000 for failing to maintain adequate staffing levels at its facilities, and CCA got hit with nearly $12,000 in fines for holding female prisoners well beyond their expected release dates, in some cases more than a month longer.  Now, why would a prison do that?, you may be asking yourself.  Because by continuing to house those prisoners, they continued to collect on the per diem the state paid them to house the prisoners.

This abuse of authority is sickening; CCA literally imprisoned people unlawfully in order to make more money.  Welcome to the world of for-profit prisons!

Government Still Trying to Force Private Prisons in Florida

10:47 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(photo: anythreewords, flickr)

(photo: anythreewords, flickr)

Effing Florida

So before I go off on a tangent here, I apologize for the litany of links to come.  But the situation in Florida has quickly spiraled out of control and, seeing as I’m already weeks late on reporting this, I wanted to try to put together as much info here as possible.  Enjoy!

Florida’s politicians really just can’t take a hint.  After they failed to force widespread privatization on the state’s prison system, against the wishes of the director of their DOC (but at the behest of companies that spent a million dollars lobbying the legislature), the asshats in the state legislature are back at it, this time with a vengeance.  Even the fact that the GEO Group is under FBI investigation over a deal that brought a private prison to the state, and the state’s Circuit Court ruling the initial push unconstitutional, have failed to slow down the push to privatize.

The state Senate introduced a stand-alone bill that mirrors the one that previously failed.  On January 18th, the law that would force nearly 4,000 government employees out of jobs (of course, this comes from the Republicans, the party of “job creators,” or so we’re told) passed a rules committee and went before the full Senate for consideration.  A separate bill would even exempt the state from a requirement to perform a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed privatization until after a contract is signed.  In a state where the two biggest private prison companies have been found to have cheated the state out of almost $13 million within the past 7 years.  The state ought to perform a more thorough analysis of the potential risks and benefits of privatization before committing so many taxpayer dollars to such a risky venture.  Because otherwise, this is just about as blatant a handout to corporate special interests as I could conceive, a gateway to giving millions of taxpayer dollars to companies that, if they weren’t subsidized by desperate governments, would utterly fail on the free market.  Then again, Republicans don’t actually like free markets, they just like markets rigged in the favor of the wealthy, but that’s a different story altogether.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the state seems to be assisting the industry that has failed to demonstrate any significant cost savings, ever, by removing the most costly prisoners from the facilities intended to be privatized. The industry is notorious for cherry-picking the cheapest inmates, but I can’t remember an instance in which a state preemptively took the most expensive prisoners for itself.  This whole thing reeks so badly of corruption that a conservative-leaning newspaper in Florida has opined that the state’s legislators “seem to be drawn to secrecy and backroom deal-making at the expense of good government and public trust.”  I’ll say. Read the rest of this entry →

Updates in Florida and Ohio

8:28 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Updates on Hernando County, FL and Conneaut, Ohio

Two quick links stories here, to update two recent examples of private prisons failing to provide cost-effective services.

First, let’s look at Hernando County, Florida, which had contracted with CCA for over 20 years to manage its jail.  After an inspection by the Sheriff uncovered a litany of neglected maintenance issues requiring millions of dollars worth of repairs, CCA bailed on the contract rather than fix the facility they had let fall into disrepair.  The sheriff’s office then took over operations of the jail, and quickly realized they could operate the facility cheaper than CCA had, with higher-quality staff, even after performing the maintenance CCA had failed to do.  In fact, the jail for the first time passed an inspection as a “Model Jail” for the state of Florida, and by taking over operations, the sheriff’s office has saved Hernando County taxpayers more than a millions dollars in just one year.

Then there’s Conneaut, Ohio, an innocent bystander in Governor Kasich’srush to privatize his state’s prison system.  Conneaut is the home of the Lake Erie CF, which was purchased by CCA last year.  After CCA purchased the prison, the local police department learned that it would now be responsible for responding to emergencies or disturbances at the facility, which the state police had done when it was owned by the state.  A small town like Conneaut does not have the resources to staff a police department capable of responding to something like a prison riot, so they were rightfully pissed off.  Thankfully, the state’s attorney general appears to be a reasonable guy, because he just released a ruling that the state would still be the primary law enforcement authority for the prison.  Which is a good thing, because emergencies seem to happen more often at privately owned and operated prisons.

 

After the Revolving Door Stops Turning

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

After the Revolving Door Stops Turning

A really interesting story came out of New Mexico last week that really speaks to the great benefit the industry enjoys in having former (and potentially future) employees working in government.  I have often complained of the political and contractual favoritism shown to the industry by former employees, but this one really struck me.

The new Secretary of Corrections has decided to finally start holding the GEO Group accountable for its terrible mismanagement of its facilities in the state, fining the company more than $1 million for failing to maintain  adequate staffing levels, which obviously presents a huge risk of violence.  This is the first time the state has really held any private prison company accountable for failing to meet contractual obligations.  The former Secretary, who had previously worked for the GEO Group, repeatedly declined to fine the industry for known failures to comply, saving the GEO Group nearly $20 million worth of fines in the process.  And it seems like the new Secretary is serious about holding GEO Group and CCA accountable for the millions of taxpayer dollars they get in contracts; he says he wants to review staffing levels at private prisons every single month.

And the fines could not have come at a more appropriate time.  Because a prisoner in a GEO Group facility in Clayton, New Mexico, was just beaten to within an inch of his life and is now on life support following the vicious assault.

 

The UK’s Dubious Prison Privatization Experience

8:55 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

UK’s Dubious Privatization Experience

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.”

 

They Rapin’ Errbody Up in Here

10:16 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

They Rapin’ Errbody Up in Here

To borrow a line from Antoine Dodson.  

Forgive me for making light of the situation in the title, but two CCA officers are currently facing charges of rape in separate incidents.

In Florida, a guard is on trial for allegedly raping a fellow employee who was suffering an asthma attack.  Meanwhile, over in New Mexico, a trial against a corrections officer who has admitted to raping 4 women under his watch at the Camino Nuevo Women’s CF in 2007 has been delayed as CCA tries to buy more time to mount a defense.

Once again, these shining examples of private prison professionalism give us a glimpse into what happens when profit is a higher priority than providing quality service