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New Hampshire Moving Ahead with Prison Privatization Plans

11:09 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

First published on WhyIHateCCA

New Hampshire’s legislature and governor have been looking to privatize much, if not all, of the state’s prison system for the past few months. The state submitted a request for proposals in April, and in May announced a new proposal to send all male prisoners to private facilities.

Apparently not content with just considering prison privatization proposals, New Hampshire wants to partially privatize the process of figuring out the bids.  The state expects the process to take about 2.5 months and is seeking technical assistance to sort through the plethora of information they’ll receive responsive to the request for proposals.  The consultant, the only one who bid, was just awarded a contract for nearly $175,000.  The state had actually asked 3 other companies to bid, but they all declined.  A spokesperson for one of the companies that turned down the state said they did so because they didn’t want to be involved in a process where “the job would go to the lowest bidder.”  I’m sure this in no way could lead to a conflict of interest or poor decision-making by the state.

CCA and MTC appear to be at the forefront of the cash grab; CCA is looking into 3 sites, and MTC seems pretty competitive in the bidding process.  Folks in New Hampshire are becoming a little frustrated with the process and its lack of transparency; an agency within the executive branch has the authority to award the contract with little to no public discussion of the potential risks and ramifications.  This is especially troubling given the industry’s propensity to not save money and have higher rates of incidents like assaults, escapes, and other security issues.

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.

Michigan Toying With Privatization, Again

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Michigan Toying With Privatization, Again

The Michigan legislature is currently considering legislation that would allow a currently empty GEO Group facility to once again house prisoners; the bills passed the senate narrowly but not the house (yet).  Under the legislation, a private prison operator would have to demonstrate savings of at least 10% in certain aspects of operations, so I assume this means no private prisons will open in Michigan (I kid, I kid! – they won’t care if it actually saves money).

In particular, the legislation would permit for the re-opening of a facility that used to house juveniles in Baldwin, MI (and which was for a time considered as a potential landing spot for those gitmo detainees that were supposed to have been transferred before Obama dropped the ball on that).  The prison closed about 8 years ago because it cost too much, but now the Michigan legislature is convinced, for some reason, that it won’t cost so much.  The bill doesn’t really seem to have any enforcement or accounting mechanism to ensure the state will save money (but that didn’t stop the Senate from passing it) and it doesn’t grant the Corrections Ombudsman permission to have any oversight of private prisons.  In fact, it expressly denounces the state’s responsibility to provide oversight of private prisons.  Because if there’s something an industry that’s been a proven failure for 3 decades needs, it’s less oversight.

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.

Poor Oversight of the Private Prison Industry

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Poor Oversight

One of my constant gripes about the private prison industry is the lack of oversight and transparency.  Briefly, private prisons in all but 2 states are not required to comply with public records / Freedom of Information laws, as they are private entities.  Many have argued that, because the industry performs an inherently governmental function, that it should be subject to the same sort of transparency that the government must abide by.  Which is certainly a reasonable argument.

The natural consequence of the opacity of the industry is a weak oversight structure.  If the public cannot review information about the way a private prison operates, then that public is ill-equipped to challenge issues that arise within the prison.  Which brings me to this quick link from The American Independent.  The title pretty accurately sums up the main point; “Expanding Private Prison Industry Benefits From Weak Oversight Structure.”  It’s a really well-written and detailed article that lays out the problem in better terms than I can.  Enjoy!

 

Finally Starting to See the Light?

1:42 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Finally Starting to See the Light?

In two separate instances, national politicians have begun to question some of the primary issues surrounding private prisons; namely, security and transparency.  Last week, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, rising star of the Democratic Party, began questioning the secrecy surrounding the planned ICE immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches.  This would be the same facility CCA has successfully persuaded the local town council to keep mum about.  Though she initially supported the proposal, the lack of clarity on the contract negotiations has caused her some alarm, and she has made it known that she expects local communities to have a say in the final word on the facility’s construction.

Then, on Friday, Senator Dick Durbin (IL) addressed the sexual abuse of detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.  Recently revealed documents detail extensive sexual harassment and abuse of (primarily female) immigrant detainees.  The immigration detention system is already notoriously devoid of oversight, so the revelation of pervasive sexual abuse should certainly raise alarm.  A large and growing percentage of detained immigrants are in private prisons (more than half of them), and the government has a responsibility to protect them from sexual assault, especially since the majority have not committed any serious criminal offense.  Dick Durbin says he expects “Zero tolerance” on the issue, and I hope he pursues that until it is achieved.

 

Transparency Issues in a Florida Private Prison

1:35 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Transparency Issues

How’s this for a joke?  A man walks into a prison and asks to see records of its operations.  Standard stuff like expenses, staffing levels, and the visitors’ log.  He cites a statute that allows for public review of the records of government agencies, similar to Freedom of Information / Public Records laws in states across the country and the federal government.  Only, this prison is a private one, run by a private, for-profit company, performing an inherently governmental function (as had been previously determined by the state’s Supreme Court), and officials at the prison tell this man he can’t have access to the very documents that he has a clearly-established right to see.

This is the story of Joel Chandler, who requested information from the Moore Haven CF in Florida.  Florida is one of two states that requires private prison operators to comply with public records laws (called the “sunshine law” in the state), because it has determined they perform an inherently governmental function.  In any of the other 48 states, Mr. Chandler would have no legal recourse because private prisons are rarely if ever forced to turn over records to the public – their only reporting duties are to the state they contract with.  But thankfully Mr. Chandler has filed a lawsuit against CCA for this violation of the law and his rights.
This is one topic I don’t cover often enough on here, but oversight of prisons, especially privately operated, for-profit facilities, is crucial to ensuring public safety and contract compliance.  The industry is notorious for skirting regulations and effective oversight, so it particularly troubles me that in a state that has expressly told private prison operators they must abide by such regulations, CCA still sees fit to so brazenly ignore the law.

Florida’s Misguided Privatization Push

11:07 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

"prison guard tower"

"prison guard tower" by Rennet Stowe on flickr

Florida’s Misguided Privatization Push

Florida is one of a few states that is seeing a wave of pro-privatization, anti-government rhetoric wreak havoc on employee unions and public services after electing a super conservative governor.  This same governor has also, with the help of longtime privatization advocate and state budget chair JD Alexander, pushed for Florida to embark on the most ambitious prison privatization scheme in history.  The state is currently in the process of privatizating the correctional services of 18 counties, covering nearly 30 facilities.  Thousands of state employees will lose their jobs as an inherently governmental function is turned over to a profit-driven private industry with a long history of human rights abuses and failure to deliver on promised cost-savings.  However, conservatives never seem to concerned with how much their bogus strategies wind up costing the state, as is evidenced by Scott’s mandatory drug-testing program for welfare recipients that has already wound up costing taxpayers far more than its anticipated savings.  Hopefully though the state legislature will come to realize that privatization is an experiment that has consistently failed, and they need look no further than their own state to see just how poorly the industry has performed, and how undeserving it is of being rewarded for its failures 

But it’s not just the headlong dive into privatization that’s got me concerned.  In addition to giving this blatant handout to an industry that donated $1,000,000 in the last election cyclethe state Legislature has just gutted the agency charged with overseeing medical care for the state’s prisoners.  JD Alexander, who has been arguably the biggest proponent of privatizing the states’ prisons since he tried to ram through a last-minute budget amendment last year forcing the state to send more prisoners to private facilities, is the Chairman of the Budget Committee that failed to appropriate funds for the agency.  So not only is the state handing over operations of prisons to private companies, it also failed to fund an agency that would have some oversight over an industry notorious for being able to evade it.

Making matters worse, Governor Scott’s office just pressured state DOC officials to cancel a contract with a separate monitor who was set to oversee the state’s planned privatization of even more prisoner health care.   Read the rest of this entry →

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.”

A Terrible Combination in Florida

12:46 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

A Terrible Combination in Florida

Quick link here to an article by Bill Cotterell, analyzing the influence of the $1 million spent on lobbying prison issues in Florida in the past election cycle combined with the government’s efforts to neuter its only effective means of oversight of private prisons. This would almost be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying; it’s the logical iteration of conservative ideology at its worst. Candidates take millions of dollars in campaign contributions from powerful corporations and lobbyists to turn a blind eye to both the human suffering inflicted by these companies and their consistent failure to even live up to contractual standards. They then work to dismantle regulatory agencies that could serve as the only buffer for society against the excesses of these corporations and provide a check on their inefficient wasting of taxpayer money.

This is the conservative model for America. Handing over the operation of government functions to inefficient and dangerous private companies, then preventing the government from enforcing any means of oversight or accountability. The vaunted “free market” is bullshit. Conservatives are only interested in keeping the government from stopping them from screwing us all over with our own money.