10:47 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
(photo: anythreewords, flickr)
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 →
1:09 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
"Prison Guard" by sonofgroucho on flickr
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 →
9:58 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
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.
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.
9:38 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA
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.