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Another Riot in a CCA Prison

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.

Beating a Malnourished, Restrained Man to Death

1:33 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

UPDATE: Retraction

First published on WhyIHateCCA

CCA is being sued by the family of Michael Minnick, a Tennessee man who was killed by Sheriff’s deputies while in restraints.  After being arrested for failing to appear in court for a suspended drivers’ license hearing, Minnick was taken into custody and turned over to CCA.  Some time later, he was admitted to the hospital for loss of muscle mass and extreme dehydration.  While in the hospital and handcuffed, he was beaten so severely by the guards that he fell into a coma.  The hospital was able to revive him temporarily, but Mr. Minnick died a few hours later.

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.

Idaho Should Rethink Its Relationship With Private Prisons

7:15 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Idaho Should Rethink Its Relationship with Private Prisons

It turns out private prisons might cost more to operate than government ones in Idaho, according to a report from the Associated Press.  The thing is, Idaho hasn’t bothered to find out; the state has never conducted a cost comparison study despite elected officials’ claims that the industry saves it money.  The AP’s study attempted to compare costs at public and private prisons, but ran into the common obstacles facing researchers who try to compare costs.  Namely, the per diem paid by the state doesn’t account for oversight of the industry, CCA has a clause in its contract with the state that bars any prisoners with serious medical issues (thus placing a heavier financial burden on the state), and the private facility is much newer than state prisons (resulting in lower operating costs).

So the Board of Corrections has not yet allocated funds for a comparison, but a new board member says he’s willing to do so, and even went so far as to say he was “on the verge of calling [contracting with CCA] a failed experiment.”  He would seem to be correct in making such a claim – the state’s history with privatization is far from pretty.  For starters, it failed to ever conduct a cost comparison before privatizing in the late 90s, against the recommendation of a consultant hired to help with the transition.  It brought CCA in to run the Idaho Correctional Center, which became the target of a multiple of lawsuits alleging civil rights abuses and an FBI investigation.  Conditions became so bad that it was called “gladiator school” by the prisoners housed there, who would routinely suffer severe physical assaults while staff failed to intervene, sometimes even watching the beatings.  A class action lawsuit about the violence at ICC was settled out of court late last year, but details on that are unavailable because the judge sealed the settlement.

The time has come for Idaho to evaluate its relationship with CCA and privatization, as its prisons are currently operating at or near capacity and the state will likely need to open a new facility within the next few years to handle the anticipated rise in the population.  Particularly because the state legislature just allocated $29.8 million to the private prison fund for this coming year, a 3% increase over the last budget (that again won’t take into account the administrative costs of overseeing the prison).  This was the only item on the budget that didn’t pass unanimously, possibly because it’s about a million extra dollars going to CCA; 3 representatives voted against it.  Since private prisons have been found to cost as much or more than government ones in basically every study not funded by the industry, and given its track record of failing to properly operate prisons both in Idaho and elsewhere, the state should think long and hard about the 30 million taxpayer dollars it’s giving CCA to operate a prison that just a few short years ago had more violent assaults than all other state prisons combined.

Judge Keeps Private Prison Settlement Secret

9:29 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Judge Keeps Settlement Secret

Last year, the ACLU reached a settlement with CCA over its deplorable operation (or lack thereof) of the Idaho Correctional Center, which was so plagued with violence and assaults that it had been dubbed “gladiator school” by the prisoners.  The lawsuit had sought up to $150 million in damages, but a settlement was reached that was likely substantially lower (and which allowed CCA to avoid admitting responsibility).  After the settlement, the AP petitioned the court to have the settlement documents de-classified, so that the public could get an idea of the terms of the agreement.  Such a move could have given the public a better understanding of just how shitty this CCA prison was, and still is; in fact, it was still the most violent prison in the state, even after the lawsuit settled! 

But apparently the judge doesn’t want the people of Idaho to have any real oversight of the private prison that’s taking millions of taxpayer dollars every year to provide such substandard treatment, because he refused to unseal the settlement.  His basic reasoning was that he feared releasing the documents could discourage a company like CCA from seeking settlements in the future.  Which would be GREAT, because then they could actually have to take some responsibility for the thousands of instances of abuse and negligence that have taken place in the prisons they’re paid billions of dollars to operate.

 

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.”

 

Private Prisons Are Run by Super-Classy People. /s

8:08 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

They’re Run By Super Classy People

Sometimes this stuff is just too easy.  Grady Sims, the former warden of a halfway house run by the GEO Group in Walnut Grove, MS, has been charged with sexually assaulting a prisoner under his watch, then attempting to cover up the incident.  This should not be confused with the juvenile prison in Walnut Grove, also run by the GEO Group, which is the target of a wide-ranging lawsuit by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center alleging, among other things, rampant violence and neglect of serious medical and mental health care needs.

But he didn’t stop there.  Mr. Sims, who was also the mayor of this small town for decades, used the town’s taxpayers’ money to perform maintenance on the private prison.  In fact, he used over $30,000 worth of their money to perform labor on the facility.  Because apparently the GEO Group, which already takes in literally billions of dollars every year in taxpayer money as revenue, tens if not hundreds of millions of which ends up as profit, couldn’t perform that labor themselves.

 

CCA’s Revolving Door in Idaho

9:01 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

CCA’s Revolving Door Continues to Turn

CCA’s influence in Idaho just got a boost, thanks to the departure of the Governor’s long-time aide to a lobbying firm.  After working for four years as the top aide to Governor Otter, Jason Kreizenbeck is leaving the administration to take a job with one of the largest lobbying firms in the state, led by former Senator Skip Smyser.  Smyser’s firm represents, among other clients, CCA, whose failure to adequately operate the Idaho Correctional Center resulted in a huge lawsuit against the company for violence so pervasive it was called “Gladiator School” by the prisoners housed there.

 

Good Luck, AP

9:35 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Good Luck, AP

Honestly – I’m not being sarcastic here.  The AP has requested the settlement in the recent case the ACLU and Marlin Riggs won against CCA in Idaho be unsealed.  The case alleged violence at the facility was so pervasive that it was called “Gladiator School,” and that the prison intentionally denied medical care to assaulted prisoners in order to cover up the extent of the violence.  The AP says the case raises profound questions of public concern, which I certainly agree with.  So, I wish you the best of luck in getting that settlement unsealed; I’d love to see what it says, and how much CCA had to pay.