Private prison corporations are now a multi-billion dollar industry, preying on rising rates of incarceration and confinement to ensure profit. Through the Public Safety and Justice Campaign, Grassroots Leadership works with partners across the country to expose the private prison industry, stop its expansion, and close existing private prisons. We believe public safety and justice can only be achieved when no one profits from the incarceration of human beings.
Public Safety and Justice Campaign
Two weeks ago we were disappointed to learn that both Washington state and Vermont awarded contracts to private prison corporation, GEO Group, to house overflow prisoners at the long-shuttered North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, MI.
This is concerning not only because of GEO’s particularly egregious history at the Baldwin private prison, but also because shipping prisoners out-of-state for profit is regressive and harmful criminal justice policy.
However, our ability to hold the government accountable becomes compromised when it outsources core functions, like incarceration, to private companies. Currently, federal U.S. agencies (Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshalls) have outsourced the management of prison and immigrant detention facilities to private, for-profit companies like Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and MTC (Management and Training Corporation). Private corporations are not subject to FOIA laws even though they assume the role of the federal government in the administration of U.S. federal carceral facilities and are compensated with public tax dollars. This fact creates tremendous barriers to justice for those who are incarcerated in privately-run federal facilities because the people who are tasked with protecting their rights do not, in this moment, have the right to request information about what is happening inside of these facilities. This lack of transparency contributes, in our opinion, to the rampant cases of mismanagement, neglect, and other types of prisoner abuse that we have tracked for decades in private facilities, such as those documented in our Dirty 30 report.Read more about U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act
(Burlington, VT) — The Vermont Department of Corrections announced today the signing of a new contract with private, for-profit prison corporation, the GEO Group, to house Vermont prisoners at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, MI. Vermont prisoners currently housed in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prisons in KY and AZ will be transferred to the Baldwin facility this summer. Read more about Advocates Oppose New Private Prison Contract to House Vermonters Out-of-State
Last Thursday the Michigan House approved legislation that would help private prison company, the GEO Group, get one of their shuttered prisons up and running again.
House Bill 4467, if passed, would allow GEO Group to house Level V high-security prisoners at the now-empty North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, MI. Although the prison has been empty since 2011, Michigan law allows for the GEO prison to house prisoners, including those from other states, but only prisoners requiring Level IV security and below.Read more about Michigan, don't help GEO reopen troubled private prison. Stop HB 4467 now!
Outside, more than 100 activists from half a dozen organizations were protesting the Boca Raton firm. Members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Dream Defenders, Enlace International, SEIU-Florida and the Palm Beach Environmental Coalition were on hand, as was Texas-based Grassroots Leadership, which has worked with Karnes facility immigrants.
Protesters blasted the billion-dollar company’s fundamental business, which hinges on a daily payment rate for every prisoner or immigrant it houses. Read more about Hunger strike? What hunger strike? GEO asks as protests mark meeting
We release this three-part series now to harken back to our own roots in the struggle(s) for true justice, and to spotlight the re-emergence of a flourishing prison divestment movement in which students, again, are playing a central role. It is in this context that Grassroots Leadership and our long-time partner Enlace, are anchoring major national actions against CCA and the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison companies, in May 2015. We hope that this series will elucidate the historic power that individuals have had on challenging the for-profit prison industry, and to compel participation in the exciting events on the horizon.
- April 19-25, National Week of Engagement for Prison Divestment
- May 2, Dilley Texas: Close Dilley, #EndFamilyDetention
- May 3-5, Boca Raton, Florida: We Want Freedom, Breaking the Chains and Transforming Communities
Kymberlie's Story, Earlham College, Class of ‘02Read more about Grassroots Leadership's roots in prison divestment, Part I: Kymberlie's story
Our friend Jorge Antonio Renaud, from the Center for Community Change, reflects on prison reform.
"The Willacy CCC protest was actually the third major revolt reported at a Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facility since 2008, points out Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that advocates against for-profit incarceration. Grassroots Leadership has long chronicled the all-too-often violent history of privately-run prisons, but few in the public or government actually listen to the organizations that scramble to monitor and report on overall prison conditions. Living environments protested by Willacy prisoners—like cramped living quarters, sewage-contaminated showers and drinking water, vermin- and bug-infested food, and solitary confinement misused as punishment merely for speaking out—had already been described as problems in privately-run immigrant prisons by a 2014 ACLU report, to little effect." Read more about Prison reform is making life inside prison worse, not better
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.Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA running prisons or fraternities?
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.Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: CCA, put your money where your flimsy PR campaign is