Grassroots Leadership In The News

Dec 3, 2014
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Burlington Free Press

Report: Out-of-state inmates risk re-offense

Grassroots Leadership, a social justice group, released a report at the Statehouse press conference on the costs and consequences of sending inmates to private prisons in other states in response to prison overcrowding.

The report— "Locked Up & Shipped Away: Paying the Price for Vermont's Response to Prison Overcrowding" — says an over-reliance on out-of-state private prisons cuts ties between prisoners and families, which are critical to keeping inmates from reoffending. It also says shipping inmates out-of-state is costly to families, emotionally and financially. A little less than 500 Vermont inmates are currently incarcerated out of state, mostly in Kentucky. Read more about Report: Out-of-state inmates risk re-offense

Dec 3, 2014
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Fort Worth Star Telegram (blog)

Private companies should not run our state hospitals

BY ESHE COLE - SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM

"Private prison companies such as GEO Group, Correctional Corporations of America (CCA) and a conglomerate of new corporations are attempting to take over state hospitals in Texas.

This seems like a risk that Texas should not be willing to take."

ESHE COLE IS MENTAL HEALTH AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAM COORDINATOR FOR AUSTIN-BASED GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP. ECOLE@GRASSROOTSLEADERSHIP.ORG Read more about Private companies should not run our state hospitals

Nov 28, 2014
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Austin Chronicle

The End of S-Comm? Presidential order protects millions, Limits ICE detainers

"Local immigrant advocates applauded last week's executive order by President Barack Obama shielding millions from immediate deportation – particularly given the action's potential to dismantle the Secure Com­mun­ities program that's already banished thousands of people from Travis County.

Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator forGrassroots Leadership, shared in the elation. She joined a group of some 30 demonstrators in front of the Cap­itol the day after the announcement in calling for even broader protections. 'S-Comm creates community distrust,' she said, quoting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. 'That's what we've been saying all along! We feel vindicated.'" Read more about The End of S-Comm? Presidential order protects millions, Limits ICE detainers

Nov 26, 2014
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Dallas Observer

Captive Audience: Counties and Private Businesses Cash in on Video Visits at Jails

Curious about how the limited human contact affects inmate behavior, he began filing open records requests once he got out of jail. Using data provided by Travis County, Renaud found that inmate infractions climbed from 820 in May 2012 to 1,160 in April 2014, and the facility went from averaging 940 infractions per month to 1,087 per month in that same period. Contraband into the facility increased 54 percent, the data showed, and inmate-on-inmate assaults increased 20 percent. Renaud published his work in an October report sponsored by Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based prison rights group. Most troubling for jail workers, Renaud's report found, inmate-on-staff assaults in Travis County jumped from three to six in the month immediately after the change, and have gradually increased since, topping out at eight in April 2014. Read more about Captive Audience: Counties and Private Businesses Cash in on Video Visits at Jails

Nov 25, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Commentary: Closing state jails should be on Legislature’s agenda

Jailing at the rates that Texas does has had devastating social and economic effects for those incarcerated, who are disproportionately poor people of color, and their communities. But our addiction to incarceration affects us all. Texas taxpayers foot the bill at a cost of nearly $3 billion annually spent on state jails and prisons, money that could otherwise be invested in education and other front-end programs that give people opportunities to avoid interaction with the criminal justice system. Read more about Commentary: Closing state jails should be on Legislature’s agenda

Nov 24, 2014
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The Austin Chronicle

Private Prisons Seek Broader Markets. Latest corporate wrinkle: "Treatment Industrial Complex"

A new report finds that prison corporations, stymied by prison reform, are seeking new markets for human product lines – if you can't jail ’em, find another way to make ’em pay.

The “Treatment Industrial Complex has the potential to ensnare more individuals, under increased levels of supervision and surveillance, for increasing lengths of time – in some cases, for the rest of a person’s life.” A report released last week by the American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots Leadership, and the Southern Center for Human Rights coins the term “Treatment Industrial Complex” to describe the latest spinoff of the prison privatization business – aka the Prison Industrial Complex. The emerging “Treatment” complex, declares the report, are those “for-profit prison corporations … adapting to historic reductions in prison populations by seeking out new markets previously served by non-profit behavioral health and treatment-oriented agencies.” Read more about Private Prisons Seek Broader Markets. Latest corporate wrinkle: "Treatment Industrial Complex"

Nov 24, 2014
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The Scanner Newspaper

For-Profit Prison Companies Foster 'Treatment Industrial Complex'

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As cash-strapped state and local governments shift resources from incarceration to treatment for individuals convicted of low-level drug crimes, for-profit prison companies are following the money and potentially “undermining efforts to treat and rehabilitate prisoners,” according to a new report.

The report published by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Grassroots Leadership, and the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), groups that advocate for criminal justice reform and human rights, found that the “emerging ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’ has the potential to ensnare more individuals, under increased levels of supervision and surveillance, for increasing lengths of time—in some cases, for the rest of a person’s life.” Read more about For-Profit Prison Companies Foster 'Treatment Industrial Complex'

Nov 21, 2014
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Truth-Out.org

Community Corrections: Profiteering, Corruption and Widening the Net

"Smoke and Mirrors is a new series that dives into the details of "bipartisan prison reform" to reveal the right-wing, neoliberal carceral sleight of hand that's really at work. It asks hard questions about the content and consequences of various proposals and explores ways in which commitments to unregulated free markets, privatization and states' rights drive the agenda for a new generation of reforms that will reinforce structural racism, intensify economic violence and contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society. Just as this week's Smoke & Mirrors article was going to press, an essential new resource was announced:"The Treatment Industrial Complex: How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat andRehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain," is a groundbreaking report that exposes the ways in which for-profit prison corporations are adapting to historic reductions in prison populations by seeking out new markets previously served by non-profit behavioral health and treatment-oriented agencies. The report highlights the expansion of the incarceration industry away from warehousing people and into areas that traditionally were focused on treatment and care of individuals involved in the criminal justice system -prison medical care, forensic mental hospitals, civil commitment centers, and 'community corrections' programs such as halfway houses and home arrest." Read more about Community Corrections: Profiteering, Corruption and Widening the Net

Nov 21, 2014
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Business Insider

For-Profit Prison Companies Have A Worrying Plan For Boosting Profits

For-profit prison companies are exploiting "new markets" to compensate for the recent decrease in America's prison population, according to the report released by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

Psychiatric facilities in particular could bring in major cash for private prison companies. These state facilities typically include a number of "forensic" cases, meaning patients ended up in a psych facility because they committed a crime.

For-profit prison operators also stand to gain from a type of confinement known as civil commitment, which confines sex offenders after their prison sentences if they're likely to abuse somebody again.

Both of these prison alternatives could be more lucrative for for-profit prison companies than running an actual prison. From the report:

Unlike prisons, from which over 90% of those incarcerated are eventually released, mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers represent the potential for lifetime confinement, which spells long-term, guaranteed profits for private corporations.

While there's definitely a need for forensic psych units, it can be problematic if they're run by for-profit companies.

Nov 21, 2014
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Vice

Why Are Minorities Overrepresented in Private Prisons?

But private prisons often contractually exempt th​emselves from the financial burdens of medically expensive—which is to say older—inmates. It should come as no surprise, then, that according to the study, the "states in which the private versus public racial disparities are the most pronounced also happen to be the states in which the private versus-public age disparities are most salient."

"Race is basically a proxy for health, and therefore age," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice advocacy group opposed to the for-profit prison industry. "Private prisons pluck healthy folks and send people who are less healthy and therefore more expensive to incarcerate back to the public system."  Read more about Why Are Minorities Overrepresented in Private Prisons?

Nov 21, 2014
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The Texas Observer

Obama’s Immigration Reform: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A Priority Enforcement Program, aka PEP, replaces the controversial Secure Communities program—which encouraged local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law. It looks like under PEP, ICE detainers will be replaced by a notfication system among other things.

Cristina Parker, spokesperson for the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, which helped lead the charge in Texas against the unpopular Secure Communities program, says that her organization and others who have fought against the program for years are celebrating its demise. S-COMM was the reason that many immigrants were deported for minor misdemeanors or traffic infractions.

Parker says they are pessimistic, however, about the new program and eagerly awaiting more details on how it will be implemented. “ICE doesn’t inspire confidence in how it follows directives. It’s a rogue agency. And this really sounds very similar to the first day of S-COMM,” she says. “That’s kind of where we’re at now but we’re trying to be cautiously optimistic.” Read more about Obama’s Immigration Reform: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Nov 19, 2014
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Arizona Daily Star

Report takes aim at 'treatment industrial complex'

A new study purports to show the expansion of private-prison firms into areas of medical and other treatment for incarcerated people.

The American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots Leadership and Southern Center for Human Rights released the report Tuesday titled "Treatment Industrial Complex: How for-profit Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain."

The report says many of the companies traditionally involved in operating for-profit prisons have begun to "profit from providing treatment-oriented programs and services."

The report says companies involved in the so-called "treatment industrial complex" have capitalized on state and federal efforts seeking alternatives to incarceration such as reforming sentencing laws and expanded parole possibilities.

Authors of the report noted the incarcerated population in the United States has grown more than 500 percent since the 1980's - to more than 2.2 million people behind bars. Read more about Report takes aim at 'treatment industrial complex'

Nov 17, 2014
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The Daily Texan

Protesters rally against Red McCombs' affiliation with immigration detention facility

"A group of protesters met with Thomas Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business, on Monday to ask him to request the school’s namesake, Red McCombs, break his real estate firm’s lease that will pave the way for the construction of the biggest immigrant detention facility in the nation. 

The group of protestors, which included students, sought to speak with the dean about the business school’s position on the subject. Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at Grassroots Leadership and one of the six protesters who spoke with Gilligan, said one of her main concerns was McCombs’ involvement with the facilities. 

'I think we all have a claim to UT as Texans, and we want to talk to him about our concerns,” Parker said. “It’s problematic for us that a man whose name is on the building is profiting from a modern day internment camp.'”  Read more about Protesters rally against Red McCombs' affiliation with immigration detention facility

Nov 13, 2014
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RH Reality Check

Asylum-Seeking Women and Children Are Treated Like Dangerous Criminals When They Arrive

"A private prison company could be making hundreds of dollars each day keeping 7-year-old Nayely Beltran under lock and key.

Instead, on one warm October morning, Nayely is zooming around a home in East Austin, Texas, showing off her new braids and handing out hugs to anyone who’ll take one. She’s finding a lot of takers at Posada Esperanza, a nonprofit shelter for immigrant moms and kids—currently about 20 people—who are seeking asylum in the United States." 

Read more to find out what Grassroots Leadership's Cristina Parker says about the return to family detention by the Obama Administration. Read more about Asylum-Seeking Women and Children Are Treated Like Dangerous Criminals When They Arrive

Nov 13, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Editorial: In-person visitation should be an option at Travis, Bastrop jails

Just last month, inmate advocates in Austin called on sheriff’s officials to restore in-person visitation at Travis County jails, saying the video chatting system is costly for prisoners and their families and has not improved security as promoted. The advocates pointed to a recent study by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership that showed overall increase in disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband between May 2012 and April 2014 in the county jail. Advocates say the results indicate conditions have worsened for prisoners. The findings are contrary to what the sheriff’s office said would happen when it introduced the video system in May 2013. At the time, the sheriff’s office said the new system would be safer for inmates. Read more about Editorial: In-person visitation should be an option at Travis, Bastrop jails

Nov 7, 2014
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The Austin Chronicle

Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

"We're being careful to say there's not a direct correlation, but it certainly hasn't decreased violence," says Grassroots Lead­er­ship's Kymberlie Quong Charles, who argues that there's a necessary human, physical element in face-to-face interactions. "Even through Plexiglas, it allows you to see the color of [an inmate's] skin, or other physical things with their bodies," she adds. "It's an accountability thing, and lets people on the outside get some read on the physical condition of a loved one. If there are concerns, it gives people on the outside a tool." Read more about Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

Oct 28, 2014
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National Public Radio

How will a small town in Arizona manage an ICE facility in Texas?

The South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley, TX sounds like it could be a pleasant apartment complex, but it's actually going to be a detention camp for female and child immigrants who have arrived from Central America.

Located next to a state prison and a man camp, the facility is currenty under construction, with workers quickly installing the modular buildings that will eventually hold 2,400 detainees, technically under the custody of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit prison corporation in the country, is contracted to run and maintain the facility. However, the contract is slightly unusual. While the facility is located in Dilley, the contract is going through the town of Eloy, Arizona—effectively bypassing the typically 18 month process that involves competitive bidding, environmental impact reports, and other safeguard measures before breaking ground on a new detention facility.

Immigrant rights advocates are worried about the contract for a multitude of reasons. Among other concerns, the immigrant detention center in Eloy has had the most detainee deaths in the country—13 since it was opened in 2004, says Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership.  Read more about How will a small town in Arizona manage an ICE facility in Texas?

Oct 27, 2014
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El Universal

For-profit family detention in the U.S.

The expansion of family detention facilities is expected to surpass 3,500 beds this year, including one 532-bed facility in Karnes City, Texas and another 2,400-bed facility planned in Dilley Texas, according to Detention Watch Network. 

Bob Libal, executive director of the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership, said: “While little kids and their families will suffer in remote private prisons, far away from legal or social services, these multi-billion dollar private prison companies stand to make enormous profits.” Read more about For-profit family detention in the U.S.

Oct 27, 2014
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El Universal

Familias, nuevo blanco de "la migra"

"Aunque en los últimos meses la atención se ha centrado en los niños inmigrantes que llegan a EU no acompañados, hay otro grupo de menores que cruza con alguno de sus padres, o los dos. Y a diferencia de los niños que viajan solos, que son transferidos a albergues y reinsertados en ambientes familiares a la brevedad, la administración de Barack Obama ha optado por poner bajo llave a los menjores que llegan acompañados por su familia mientras reciben sentencia en las cortes de inmigración, lo cual puede tomar meses.

En el reporte Detención de familias con fines de lucro, publicado hace unos días, la organización activista que trabaja contra el encarcelamiento como negocio privado Grassroots Leadership concluye que con el establecimiento de estos centros 'el presidente [Barack] Obama ha lanzado el proyecto de detención de familias más grande de EU desde los campos de concentración para japones [durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial]'." Read more about Familias, nuevo blanco de "la migra"

Oct 23, 2014
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CBS Houston

Video-Only Prison Visits A Profitable Replacement For Texas Jails

A report from Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition notes that personal visits improve jail security and lower recidivism rates. “Video-only visitation policies ignore best practices that call for face-to-face visits to foster family relationships,” the report argues. “They advance arguments about security that are dubious, not rooted in research, and may be counter-productive.” Read more about Video-Only Prison Visits A Profitable Replacement For Texas Jails

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