Grassroots Leadership Blog

Save the Date! Warm our new home with us!

We can't wait to show you our new place

Mark your calendars for March 5th and plan to spend the evening partying with us!  Stay tuned for the details on how to participate, in-person and virtually, in warming our new home and celebrating our organization's expanding work.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Human Resources laurels for Securus' inhumane corporate practices

This week's Humpday Hall of Shame is written for us by guest blogger Jorge Renaud, policy analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coaliton


Words matter, as do the accolades we give to each other to recognize achievement and progress. Both must be grounded in an agreed-upon understanding of terms. Otherwise, we have a grotesquerie similar to the one achieved when Henry Kissinger – whose idea to deescalate the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia resulted in 40,000 deaths there – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

An entity named DallasHR saw fit to award its 2014 Human Resource Executive of the Year Award to Kate Lengvel, a vice president in Human Resources for Securus Technology. If your memory needs refreshing, Securus is the Dallas-area company that provides telephone and video services to a bunch of U.S. jails and prisons and also trumpets a product line called Satellite Tracking of People (STOP). This latest is reminiscent of a long-time Texas tradition whereby ranchers staple identifying markers to the ears of their cattle to keep accurate counts of their herds, and it’s pretty well indicative of what Securus does – dehumanize incarcerated individuals and their families, all for profit.

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Private Corrections Institute Announces Annual Awards for Activism, Advocacy and News Reporting Related to Private Prisons

Today, the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a non-profit citizen watchdog organization, announced its 2014 awards for individual activism, organizational advocacy and excellence in news reporting related to the private prison industry. PCI opposes the privatization of correctional services, including the operation of prisons, jails and other detention facilities by for-profit companies. [node:read-more:link]

Bob Libal to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

The policies of criminally prosecuting migrants have built a shadow detention system on top of our nation’s already vast and troubled system of civil detention...Individuals in our nation’s civil detention system include asylum-seekers, women with children, parents of U.S. citizen children, long-time legal permanent residents, and recently arriving migrants. -Bob Libal

Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal will testify before the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights at the State of Civil Rights in Detention Facilities hearing at 2:30pm (EST). Bob's testimony will include evidence that creating and expanding an unaccountable for-profit detention system ineheretly violates the civil rights of immigrants. There are countless examples of civil rights violations in the vast network of immigrant detention facilities that are mandatorily filled due to the 34,000 bed quota set by Congress in a 2007 appropriations bill. Operation Streamline, as Bob describes in his testimony, has criminalized the act of immigration and is another means to expand the reach of the private prison industry in the federal prison system. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unable to maintain enough facilities, so it contracts with private prison corporations—namely Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—which have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding detention for immigrants because it provides them with a wider income stream.<--break->

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA running prisons or fraternities?

For many who are incarcerated and detained, visitation is a lifeline to the community that awaits them in the free world.  The ability to see visitors, which is highly regulated in most carceral facilities, is so powerful that it is generally utilized as a tool to incentivize “good” behavior and compliance with the rules and the culture of prison.  Making visits to prisons, jails and detention centers can be arduous for family and friends who often travel long distances, draw on financial resources, and wait in long lines to connect with the people that they love and care about.  Peoples’ commitment to make these visits is an important public service for helping to ensure community ties and support networks when prisoners are released; factors well-known to have positive impacts on recidivism rates.     

We are appalled to learn of CCA’s recent humiliation of a female visitor, a regular, to one of their Tennessee facilities where she was forced by guards to expose her genitals to prove that she was menstruating.  According to a federal lawsuit filed this week, despite already being cleared through one security checkpoint and offering to relinquish the sanitary napkin that prompted the scrutiny, she was not free to leave the facility without being searched.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: CCA, put your money where your flimsy PR campaign is

In a September 2014 press release Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) CEO Damon Hininger stated, “We are determined to prove that we can play a leadership role in reducing recidivism and that we have every incentive to do so. The interests of government, taxpayers, shareholders, and communities are aligned. We all just need to recognize that and commit to that.”  The media framed this apparent sea change for the largest private for-profit prison company as sound reaction to the realities of incarceration and recidivism; that reincarceration is costly, largely because rates of recidivism remain high.  Recent studies have found that recidivism is higher than average at privately operated prisons.

At Grassroots Leadership we know that investing in re-entry and rehabilitation is a key component to driving down rates of incarceration, but we weren’t so quick to applaud what seemed to us a dubious announcement by CCA.  How is it that an industry that relies on ever-increasing numbers of people behind (their) bars could stay in business if it’s suddenly going to invest in getting and keeping people out?  The plain and simple answer is that it can’t, unless it changes its business model.  

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Confronting the border

In mid-October I had the good fortune to be invited on a trip to the border of Texas and Mexico. I was auditing a class at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary called, “The Church, The Borderlands, and The Public Good”—all themes that I wrestle with as I learn more about immigration issues during this year of service for my church.

So far, I had felt connected to the work I'm doing here at Grassroots Leadership, and grounded in the knowledge that I am effecting systemic and individual change. The day I started was the day we started the campaign to get Sara and Nayely released from Karnes. Then I met Sara and Nayely when I took them to the hospital for an appointment. When I visited Hutto I met another woman who has been severely affected by the violence in Central America, and the subsequent violence of being locked in a prison in the country she fled to—the United States. Going to the border in October made the work that I do on the immigration team at Grassroots Leadership feel more realistic. 

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