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Koch Institute Mass Incarceration Panelists Call Out Private Prisons

On April 16, 2014 the Charles Koch Institute and Mediaite hosted Rule of Law: How the Criminal Justice System Impacts Well-Being, a panel discussion in Austin, TX, which sought to foster discussion focused on the impacts of mass incarceration on our society. For an event branded by Koch — the family name notorious for their mutli-billion dollar conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc. and pro-free market and privatization ideology — the discussion around the for-profit, private prison industry was an interesting one.  

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Willacy County pays the price of private prison...again.

This week’s Humpday Hall of Shame spotlight is on a Willacy County, Texas, private prison debacle that dates back to 2005. It resurfaced last Friday when the Valley Morning Star reported that the county will mediate with a construction company it sued for alleged poor workmanship at three county correctional facilities. The subsequent repairs cost the county $620,000, according to County Judge John F. Gonzales.

The county filed the lawsuit March 7 against Houston-based Hale-Mills Construction, for poor construction on the $7.5-million Willacy County Jail, a $14.5-million county-funded private prison used by the U.S. Marshals' Service, as well as a $111.5-million county-funded private prison comprised of tent-shaped structures.

Willacy County alleges that Hale-Mills’ poor construction practices resulted in roof leaks at the Willacy County Adult Correctional Center, a private prison operated by Management & Training Corporation and contracted by U.S. Marshals’ Service, which led the Marshals' Service to threaten to remove their detainees from the facility in 2011.  Gonzales claimed, “We had all these structural problems because they cut corners.”

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Testify: the Texas Homeland Security Subcommittee and God's Call for Us

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. --Exodus 22:21 

On Monday, April 7, I was privileged to testify in front of the Texas state Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee regarding border security, sanctuary cities and other immigration issues. Cristina Parker and Eleana Diaz, both of Grassroots Leadership, and Alejandro Caceres of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition also offered testimony. Eleana speaks candidly about her family's experience here

I spoke to the committee as a Presbyterian missionary serving in the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program. From my work, I've learned that the immigration system in our nation, as well as the for-profit prison industry, is programmed to prey on people who have done nothing but cross a line. Crossing that line is not a crime, but is a civil matter. Immigrants are not guaranteed legal counsel, and if "apprehended," can languish for months and years in immigration detenton centers owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Community Education Centers (CEC), and other for-profit prison corporations. That doesn't sound like sanctuary to me!

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Some thoughts about the relationship between the Hutto Visitation Program and Casa Marianella/Posada Esperanza.


At the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, the incarceration continues of women from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, often perceived and then grouped as "las Latinas" or Spanish speakers.  The relentless, lethal gang wars that are tearing apart their neighborhoods and cities, in addition to domestic violence and sexual exploitation, impels some courageous women to suffer the hell passage on the train that goes from the southern border of Mexico with Guatemala into various points in Mexico. This train is known as la bestia. When they finally cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. they then spend days or as much as two weeks in the cold buildings under the control of the Border Patrol.  There they are subjected not only to extreme cold, absence of adequate clothing and bedding but a daily diet that many have told me consisted of nothing but two bologna sandwiches and water.  One woman asked me, “Is that not what is called torture?”
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