Grassroots Leadership Blog

Humpday Hall of Shame: 30 Years of CCA

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame:  Every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

30 years ago, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) became the first for-profit company to contract with governments to operate correctional facilities.  They are the founders of the industry and, though other companies have joined the prison business, CCA continues to be the largest provider of private corrections in the United States.  As a company they have announced a year-long celebration of their successes and industry leadership.  As an advocacy community opposed to prison privatization we will also be commemorating this anniversary as a call to action to put an end to profiteering from incarceration.

Ten years ago Grassroots Leadership published a comprehensive report on CCA; in the years following, Grassroots Leadership and our partners have continued documenting CCA’s egregious history.  Some of the highlights from our blog and the folks over at Texas Prison Bid’ness are below.

At 30 years old CCA and the private prison industry should be retired.  We will be working with our partners this year to continue exposing the abuses of the private prison industry, their influence on policy-making, and the enormous profits that are derived from locking people up.   With this momentum we want to put an end to private corrections for good.


Grassroots Leadership welcomes social work intern Holly Kirby!

Grassroots Leadership is pleased to welcome Holly Kirby to our Austin staff.  Originally from Jacksonville, Arkansas, Holly graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2009 with a B.A. in Sociology and minor in Cultural Anthropology.  Currently she is pursuing a Masters of Science in Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin with an emphasis on community and administrative leadership.


Will “Smart Justice” in Florida Mean Prison Privatization?

An outgrowth of Associated Industries of Florida’s Smart Justice Council – the Florida Smart Justice Alliance - is touting itself as “the latest development in justice reform advocacy in Florida.” Their stated goals: 1) Make Florida’s communities safer, 2) Save the taxpayers money, and 3) Hold offenders accountable while providing the tools for them to live law-abiding lives.

To accomplish these goals, members of the alliance are urging Florida lawmakers to divert nonviolent offenders to private prisons for substance abuse and mental health rehabilitation, arguing that privately operated prisons can house and rehabilitate prisoners for much cheaper, thus saving taxpayer money, reducing recidivism, and improving public safety.


Hump Day Hall of Shame | Texas Prison Bid'ness' Top 5 Worst Lobbyists

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame:  Every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

With the Texas legislative session underway, the  Texas Prison Bid’ness blog, a joint project of Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, is shining a spotlight on five of the worst private prison lobbyists in our state.  As they've covered before, GEO Group, CCA, CEC, and MTC pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for lobbying services and campaign contributions for state and federal legislators.  Here are five men and women who profit the most from peddling prisons, jails, and detention centers in Texas:


Social Justice Hero: Pamela Reséndiz

Welcome to our Social Justice Hall of Heroes: once a month we’ll be highlighting someone in the field fighting to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.  

To start the new year, our January Social Justice Hero is Pamela Reséndiz, a Texas-based activist for immigrant youth. Ms. Reséndiz has courageously spoken out about her own experiences as an undocumented student, including her incarceration in the T. Don Hutto Detention Center; you can see her speech at our recent protest at the Polk County Detention Center here.  Below is Pamela’s story in her own words.


Ohio’s prison privatization debacle should be a warning to other states

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame:  Every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

In 2011, Ohio debated the wholesale privatization of its prison system.  While the mass prison privatization efforts were largely curtailed, the Lake Erie Correctional Institution was sold to Corrections Corporation of America for $72 million. The state now rents back beds from the facility as part of the sale-leaseback deal.  Operation, but not ownership, of another prison – the North Central Correctional Complex – is now carried out by private prison corporation Management & Training Corporation.

As may have been expected, conditions at the facilities have turned sour according to a new a report by state auditors, including what a contract monitor deemed: “unacceptable living conditions of inmates being housed inside recreation areas, with no immediate access to running water for hydration, showers or the use of a toilet.”


What have we accomplished this year?

As the year winds down, we wish you a wonderful holiday season.  We also wanted to take a look back at some of what we’ve accomplished.  Thanks to our staff, volunteers, allies, and donors, Grassroots Leadership has done some extraordinary things this year.  Here’s just a sample:

- We began the year successfully advocating to block the opening of new Hutto-like immigrant family detention centers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Now, we’ve undertaken a campaign with our allies to close one of the worst immigrant detention centers in the U.S. - the privately-operated Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas.

- In Florida, we helped local groups win a “miracle campaign” that stopped the state from turning over twenty-nine prisons to for-profit prison corporations andstopped a new private immigrant detention center outside Miami.

- Deep in the heart of Texas, private prison corporation GEO Group wanted to take over the Kerrville State Hospital.  We brought together a coalition of advocacy groups and local leaders to organize against the proposal.  And, we won!  In October, Texas announced it had canceled privatization plans at the hospital.

- Grassroots Leadership’s report Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences and subsequent advocacy is helping influence the national debate against a program that is driving tens of thousands of migrants into the criminal justice system and is swelling the private prison population.

- Our Grassroots Leadership Blog has taken off with “The Humpday Hall of Shame” entries exposes ties between prison corporations and elected officials and “Social Justice Heroes” posts to highlight good word being done across the country.

All of this work relies on the hard work of our staffboard, and many volunteers.  It also takes resources, and we are deeply grateful for every donation.

Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Grassroots Leadership for the holidays. You can contribute online or by mailing a check to Grassroots Leadership, P.O. Box 36006, Charlotte, NC, 28236.  Better yet, become a monthly sustainer of the organization.

Thank you for your support.


Bob Libal
Grassroots Leadership


Close Down Polk: Expose & Close Vigil on December 8th

Activists marching outside the Polk detention center
As part of the national Expose & Close campaign, Grassroots Leadership, Texans United for Families, and Houston Unidos led a vigil this Saturday outside of the IAH (Polk) County Secure Adult Detention Center. Over a hundred community members from a diverse coalition of human rights group gathered to call for the closure of the detention center, highlight the continued human rights abuses, and denounce profiteering from the detention of immigrants in the US.  Activists from Austin had previously toured the facility and found atrocious conditions – detained men eat, sleep, and use the bathroom all in one room, spend up to twenty three hours in their crowded cells, and have little access to family or legal aid on the outside.  Sam Vong, one of the authors of a report on the facility, "witnessed horrible conditions" and says that "ICE must shut down this facility as a first step towards reducing its detained population."


Hump Day Hall of Shame: Short-term Sentences Become Death Sentences at Dawson State Jail

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame:  Every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

In 1997 the state of Texas built the Dawson State Jail, a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)-operated, medium-security, co-gender prison facility in downtown Dallas.  “State jails” are prisons in Texas designed to incarcerate people convicted of nonviolent offenses serving short sentences of two years or less close to their homes.  The creation of the state jail system was a response to overcrowding in state prisons in the early 1990s.  The introduction of state jails into the corrections system was supposed to alleviate overcrowding in the more expensive, maximum security state facilities and create a greater ability to provide people convicted of nonviolent offenses supports to get them in and out of the system quickly and back into society.

At Dawson, however, far too many people have entered what are supposed to be six-month to two-year stints, and have died inside the prison of medically treatable conditions.