The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and CCA avoided admitting liability for the actions of its staff. Because they pay good money to effective, if completely crooked, attorneys.
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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 →
In a complaint just filed in Honolulu, Hawaiian prisoners are suing CCA and the state of Hawaii for subjecting them to the brutal conditions at Saguaro. The complaint details some of the problems these men face, saying
“Plaintiffs were stripped of nearly all of their clothing while being beaten, questioned, and humiliated.
So the first article comes from the small town of Littlefield, TX. A small town desperate for economic stimulus, Littlefield financed the construction of a private prison for nearly $11 million dollars. After the prison was built in 2000, the GEO Group was hired to run it. In the shocker of the century, the facility was plagued with violence, assaults, and escapes to the degree that Idaho, the state whose prisoners comprised the largest segment of the population, decided to pull all its prisoners from the facility. Shortly thereafter, the GEO Group backed out of operating the facility. The town however was still on the hook because it had financed the facility, and is now facing a bill of $65,000 per month. Unfortunately, “Littlefield is not alone. Several other Texas towns that build prisons to be run by private companies have found the prisons to be financial drains.” Littlefield actually auctioned off the prison a few days ago, to an undisclosed buyer, but the damage has been done to the city’s bond rating.
The other article comes from our friends up north, where British Columbia lawmakers are debating where they should place a new private prison. Of course, the town is hoping for some stimulus from the prison in terms of revenue and jobs. While this has not yet turned into a money pit like Hardin and Littlefield, the article goes on to describe how BC is looking to save money by privatizing, and discusses all the great economic benefits of bringing a prison. But what really caught my eye is a quote they pulled from the Economist, hardly the left-wing rag, which discusses the nature of privatized corrections and how the savings achieved in terms of dollars and cents may not be worth the toll privatization takes on humans who experience it. The Economist said, ”It is ‘hard to see the expansion of a forprofit industry with a permanent interest in putting ever more people in cages as consistent with either efficiency or justice.’”
At the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Center, prisoners have been rioting and burning the facility for at least 3 days. Frustrated with the government dragging its feet on whether or not to grant asylum, the immigrants have been fighting with the prison and police for days. Over at the North Point Correctional Centre, prisoners have begun burning various parts of the facility. As one of the Christmas Island asylum seekers said, “They have been here a long time and got rejected without reason…They can’t stay in detention like animals waiting, waiting with no justice.” The situation is so bad that guards with just 2 weeks of training have been called in, and many asylum seekers are being placed in solitary confinement, which opens up a whole new can of worms that for the sake of brevity I’ll only mention that once.
Inspired by their brethren at Christmas Island, mainland asylum seekers have begun to protest the conditions of their confinement as well, launching a hunger strike at the Cape York AFB. The facility is operating at almost 200 percent capacity, as immigrants in Australia, like in the US, remain incarcerated in a sort of legal limbo. The plight of these prisoners has caught the attention of the Human Rights Alliance, who is calling on the UN to step in and require UN monitors to be placed at some of the private prisons to monitor conditions. Because “Human courtesies, peoples’ rights and their very dignity were disregarded. Asylum Seekers distressed were screaming not only for themselves however out of care for each other. Some distressed guards were appalled at the sheer inhumanity by the actions of the AFP (Australian Police Force) and other guards.”
Ohio is currently in the process of trying to sell 5 state prisons to private operators to raise money during the recession. As I reported on before, the deal isn’t nearly as beneficial for the state and its taxpayers as it was initially said to be. So any hopes Ohio’s taxpayers have of saving money on corrections through privatization should be tempered, especially because private prisons have often been found to not even save any significant amount of money in operations, compared to government-run prisons.
So private prisons don’t save money. Private prisons also consistently have higher rates of escapes, assaults, and violence at their facilities, and they cut corners in every area of operations. So really the state of Ohio should listen to CCA spokesman Steve Owen, who says “If we don’t operate safe, secure facilities, and we don’t provide the cost savings that are expected, there’s no reason for government to continue to partner with our industry.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I think Ohio should heed his words, especially in light of the state’s turbulent history with private prisons. In addition to one of the biggest lawsuits to slam the industry during the 90′s, the result of a riot at a Youngstown prison operated by CCA, the state has had numerous escapes and murders at other private prisons. And in a rather blatant handout to the industry, the state of Ohio is even going to pay to help train the guards at the private prisons. On the one hand, this is good because guards at private prisons rarely if ever receive as much training as they need, but this is something that should really be paid for by the companies who buy the prisons and want to assume responsibility for operating them.
“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.
The killer had actually spent time in solitary confinement previously for threatening to kill his cellmate. He had previously stabbed another inmate and been found to be in possession of a weapon twice while incarcerated.
Sites was supposed to be in protective custody for crying out loud; a classification which should have prevented him from being housed with any other prisoners. Not only was he housed with multiple prisoners while in PC; he was housed with one that had a history of violence and had previously talked about killing his cellmate.
$6.5 million wasn’t nearly enough. Two of the jurors were pushing for a penalty of $25 million to be imposed, but they were overruled during deliberations. I’m sure this isn’t justice for Mr. Sites’ family; hopefully it will at least serve as a wake-up call to the GEO Group to have them clean up their act.
But honestly, I doubt it will.
Mr. Jones’ story is one of more than a dozen similar ones found in the complaint of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Idaho against CCA for their operation of ICC, a prison so notorious for its violence that it’s been dubbed “gladiator school” by those housed there. The violence is so pervasive particularly because the prison is private; by routinely hiring unqualified staff and reducing staffing levels to the barest of minimums, the prison is literally a breeding ground for violent activity. In the assault that prompted the lawsuit (and an FBI investigation), a prisoner was brutally beaten for so long that his assailant had time to stop and rest in the midst of the attack, while guards simply watched from a control tower. That sort of unprofessional conduct is heart-wrenchingly unacceptable.
And in other effed-up privatization of correctional services in Idaho news, the state has fined a private medical care provider, CMS, “nearly $400,000 by state officials for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state.” And this is in a state that permitted CCA to operate the ICC for years without fining them, which means the medical “care” CMS was providing must have been appallingly insufficient.