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Treatment of Prisoners by Guards in Private Prisons

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"Prison Guard" by sonofgroucho on flickr

"Prison Guard" by sonofgroucho on flickr


Treatment of Prisoners by Guards in Private Prisons

Today we open a new chapter in WhyIHateCCA’s illustrious history; our first guest author!  So without further ado, I present this article by Allison Gamble of Forensicpsychology.net.

Treatment of Prisoners by Guards in Private Prisons

Prisons have begun to become more privatized over the last few decades. One reason for this increase in privatization is the explosion of the prison population, which has undermined states’ ability to address the construction and maintenance of public prisons. Another factor is the emerging belief that a free market system with private owners will perform better than public institutions. However, issues with how these private prisons run are a public concern and fuel a particularly strong debate.

One recent example further illustrates this point. In Hawaii, prisoners were beaten and abused by employees of the Corrections Corporation of America, a private company that contracts guards for prison facilities. In July 2010, five prisoners were threatened with death, kicked, and beaten by the guards. This single example highlights starkly the issues with private prisons, specifically with the professionalism of privately contracted guards.

In terms of forensic psychology, why do these abuses occur? Jenni Gainsborough, director of Penal Reform International, says many corporations take shortcuts in training prison guards. Prisons are no place for novice security workers, but require well-trained staff that are highly educated to respond to the types of situations common in a prison. Workers need to understand prisoner’s rights, appropriate self-defense procedures, and need to be able to communicate with prisoners in a fair and effective manner. Read the rest of this entry →

CCA Guard Pleads Guilty to Molesting Women

9:58 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"CCA" by publik15 on flickr

"CCA" by publik15 on flickr

Their Guards Molest Women

Private prisons often appear so attractive to lawmakers because they claim they are able to save bundles of money compared to government-run prisons.  While this isn’t exactly the truth, these companies still routinely cut corners in almost every aspect of their operations in order to maximize profits, because, after all, that’s what they really care about.  Since staff expenses (salary, benefits, training) comprise the largest portion of any facility’s budget, private prisons often pay dramatically less to their staff in the name of profit. 

The problem with this approach lies in the fact that private prisons, because they offer less in salary and benefits, aren’t able to attract as high-quality candidates as government-run prisons.  Just recently, when Hernando County Florida took over operation of its jail from CCA, the sheriff hired only about 1/3 of the private company’s employees to work for his department (and remarked at the time that he couldn’t believe a lot of CCA’s employees weren’t incarcerated themselves).  Anecdotally, it’s rather well-known that many guards at private prisons have some unsavory histories, and guards who screw up at one prison or another (government-run or not) can usually find work at a different private prison, where the companies rarely perform background checks that are as extensive as the government would.  Combine all this with the industry’s aversion to providing adequate and consistent training to their guards (because, again, that would hurt the bottom line), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, this disaster revealed itself to women who immigrated to the US but found themselves locked up in the Hutto Correctional Center, part of ICE’s network in Texas, which is operated by CCA.  A guard at the facility just pleaded guilty to sexually molesting immigrants as he transported them to and from the facility.

Overworking Staff

9:34 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Overworking Staff

Just a quick one here.  I saw this comment on a thread on Corrections.com, in reply to a question about whether or not it’s normal to have no breaks on a full shift while working in a prison:

“At Idaho Correctional Center, run by CCA, we work 12-16 hour shifts and are not allotted breaks of any sort.” (emphasis added). 

And yes, that would be the same Idaho Correctional Center which is currently the target of a multiple-hundred-million dollar lawsuit because the violence there is so pervasive it’s called “Gladiator School” by those unlucky enough to find themselves housed there.

Staffing Issues in Pennsylvania

9:38 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Staffing Issues in Pennsylvania

Private prisons, when they do save money, are often able to do so primarily through reductions in staff costs (staffing being the most expensive component of a prison’s operation).  This comes in the forms of reduced pay, reduced benefits, less training, and lower staffing levels (staff-inmate ratios).  Taken together, these cuts present a dangerous situation for prisoners and staff alike, as criminals are guarded by too few people, many of whom are underqualified to be in their positions.  Turnover is exceptionally high among private prison staff, so many guards are really ill-prepared to handle the responsibility of managing prisoners.

Pennsylvania’s experimentation with private prisons is suffering from exactly these sorts of problems.  At a privately-run youth detention facility, underqualified staff and low staffing levels have contributed to numerous altercations between staff and prisoners.  “When I walk into certain places, I still see staff that are too young … that act like teenagers, that get in between the gossip and the drama… I understand it’s a difficult job, but I think you need to have a certain type of heart,” said an employee of the facility. 

 At another private youth facility run by the GEO Group, turnover for the month of May was greater than 20%; “The chronic issue of insufficient staffing had risen to a near emergency level, making it impossible for staff to provide consistent supervision, much less, meaningful programming to clients.”

When you turn to private companies to provide an inherently governmental service, you should expect outcomes like this.  Unfortunately, many children have had to suffer because of the decisions of overzealous conservative lawmakers who push to privatize every service the government provides.

Private Prison Shortchanges Staff

8:00 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

MTC logo

Management & Training Corporation (MTC)

Private prisons are often pitched to small rural areas desperate for economic development and jobs as a great way to create both. Unfortunately though, when contracts don’t come through as expected, those claims rarely materialize. Raymondville, Texas found this out the hard way.

Management and Training Corporation (MTC) runs an ICE detention center in town, which recently had to lay off 120 employees because it could not secure the contracts it had intended on getting, meaning they would have less prisoners than anticipated. As a now former employee said, “That’s a lot of people… It’s a small town, that’s a heavy blow.”

But what’s even worse is that MTC for years had not been paying these employees their required wages. They were being paid $8-9 an hour (basically minimum wage, to supervise criminals) for nearly 5 years, during which time they were supposed to have been paid at least $14.50 per hour. MTC has not paid these back wages and is delaying as long as possible in doing so, also refusing to pay other wages due and 401Ks.