Treatment Industrial Complex

Over the last 30 years, private prison companies have capitalized on growing rates of incarceration in the United States and abroad. In particular, companies such as GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) have often been able to influence prison, immigration detention, and sentencing policy to ensure their interests are met. New prison reform and smart on crime policies that encourage reduced incarceration rates and prioritize community alternatives to detention are threatening corporate profit margins. Given these new industry threats, GEO Group, CCA, and a new conglomerate of prison companies are looking for new sources of profit.

While the prison industrial complex is dependent on incarceration or detention in prisons, jails, and other correctional institutions, this emerging “Treatment Industrial Complex” or TIC allows the same corporations to profit from providing treatment-oriented programs and services. This includes moving to capitalize on efforts at the state and federal levels to look at alternatives to prison, a softening of criminal sentencing laws, and a new interest in evidence-based practices in parole, probation, and sentencing.

The Treatment Industrial Complex includes the privatization of 1) psychiatric care facilities and civil commitment facilities for individuals convicted of violent sexual offenses, 2) mental and medical health care in prisons where private contracts manage close to a third of the care and 3) community corrections. The community corrections component is a particularly promising profit source given that it includes a variety of treatment services historically delegated to probation and/or parole, halfway houses, day reporting centers, home arrest, surveillance, and electronic monitoring. Overall, two-thirds of individuals involved in the criminal justice system are under some sort of community supervision, not behind bars.

Given that private prison corporation’s bottom line is to make a profit, this oftentimes results in significant cuts to staff and much need services. The repercussions of these detrimental practices are evidenced in the abysmal track records of these companies whose histories are spotted with numerous instances of abuse, neglect, death, and lawsuits. Allowing these private prison companies to operate treatment programs increases the likelihood that these instances of abuse will continue and that the degree of quality care would decrease due to significant spending reductions. More importantly, profit motive incentivizes keeping people under supervision. This is in direct contradiction with and discourages sound efforts at treatment.

As a result, this 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. In November 2014, Grassroots Leadership released a report in collaboration with American Friends Service Committee and Southern Center for Human Rights provides in-depth insight into the nature of this growing phenomenon. See the full report here. 

Grassroots Leadership believes that no one should profit off the incarceration of human beings.  We also believe that turning over treatment and community services to for-profit prison corporations is the wrong way forward. Through advocacy, coalition building, and connection to on-the-ground movements, we are committed to putting a halt to the expansion of private prison profits into new and broader treatment based markets.

Reports

InCorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement, Cate Graziani and Eshe Cole, March 2016.

The Treatment Industrial Complex: How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain, Co-Published with Caroline Issacs (American Friends Service Committee) and Southern Center for Human Rights, November 2014.

 

Related Posts

Grassroots Leadership's latest publication lays the groundwork for a new program area

Grassroots Leadership is excited to release Beyond Alternatives to Incarceration and Confinement, which lays the groundwork for a new project area to fight the Treatment Industrial Complex. Our work exposing the TIC has shed light on the private prison profiteers who built billion dollar empires as partners in tough on crime policies and who are now adapting to reforms by rebranding themselves as humane treatment providers and reentry experts. Read more about Grassroots Leadership's latest publication lays the groundwork for a new program area

Jan 17, 2017
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VICE

How Medical Copays Haunt Prisoners and Their Loved Ones

In the Texas prison system, illness is just another way for the state to profit on the back of inmates.

It's early on a weekday morning and Kyle Walker is thinking about what she has to do to keep her incarcerated boyfriend alive. At over six feet tall, the energetic 41-year-old stands out from the relatively somber rush hour crowd making their way to the office buildings of downtown Austin, Texas. She's on her way to work as a legal assistant, the job that supports her two kids and her boyfriend, who despite being in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still needs a constant stream of help just to have the most basic necessities behind bars. 

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Walker's boyfriend* has been labeled as a sex offender since he was 17, after he slept with his then-girlfriend, who was 13 at the time. Upon finishing a seven-year term in the Barry B. Telford Unit, a prison in New Boston, Texas, he struggled to find a home because of his sex offender status. When police came by her home acting on a tip that there were drugs on location in early 2015, Walker says, they arrested and charged her boyfriend with failing to register his residence, a violation of probation. Now he's back at the Telford Unit, the same prison in which he spent much of his youth. Despite making parole last summer, he's been unable to find a legal place to live, a condition of his release. And until Walker and her boyfriend sort that out, he needs to cope with the Texas prison system, where inmates supplement their meager provisions with food and supplies bought by their families on the outside. 

More than anything else, though, it's health care that comes at a steep price.

After a 2011 Texas law raised the copay for medical care from $3 for each visit to a $100 annual flat fee, families of the incarcerated have scrambled to find a way to pay the difference. If a prisoner is considered indigent, meaning they don't have any money in their "trust fund"—the account that's used to pay for items like food and toilet paper—then they don't have to pay the $100 to receive health care. But once any money is deposited into the trust fund, half of it is docked to go towards the outstanding copay until the full amount is paid off. For Walker, that means any money she places into her boyfriend's account would go to pay off his debt for the health care he's already received, which includes care for managing his schizophrenia, desperately needed dental work, and further treatment for mental health issues. 

"I can only afford to spend $30 to $40 every couple of weeks to support him, and even to just put the money in his trust fund, there's a fee for that transaction," Walker explains. "So for them to deduct half of the money for services he's already received—it defeats the purpose of me even sending him money."

Families and significant others like Walker have found themselves shouldering a growing financial burden as prison systems across America look to raise revenue by charging inmates for necessities like clothing, food, toilet paper, and even the prison cell they're being kept in. Right now, at least 35 states charge their prisoners for health care in some way or other, with some county jails going so far as to pursue civil actions against prisoners after they're released in hopes of recouping health care costs. But Texas has the highest state prison population in the country, with an average of over 150,000 people sitting in its cells at any one time. And like many things in Texas, the state's prison medical copay is easily the largest in America

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But the fact is that in Texas prisons, commissary—and the funds sent by families to ensure access to it—plays a key role in ensuring the safety and health of prisoners. Jennifer Erschabek has spent years advocating on behalf of the families of inmates as executive director of the Texas Inmate Families Association after her own son was incarcerated. Her son developed serious rashes on his hands and arms after working in a metal shop in incredibly hot conditions. Erschabek was able to buy for her son the anti-fungal medication to keep him from developing a serious medical problem, but others aren't so lucky as to have someone on the outside looking out for them. Scabies, skin infections, chicken pox, norovirus and other easily treated conditions confront prisoners, who face a constant struggle to maintain their health. 

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And even when prisoners see a doctor, either by claiming indigence or paying the copay, there's still a serious gap between what prisoners receive and the healthcare people get in the outside world. Jorge Renaud spent 27 years in the Texas prison system and is now an organizer at Grassroots Leadership, a national organization that aims to take profit out of the prison industry. For the amount of agricultural and physical labor that prisoners have to do, Renaud says, he witnessed indifference on the part of some authorities to physical pain. 

"I didn't have a really good medical check up the entire time I was there," Renaud tells me. "The medical care is atrocious, and every individual who has been incarcerated could give you a story about it."

For the past several years, the state has slashed millions from the budget for medical care, provided for most prisons by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), which runs a prison hospital in Galveston. As the age of prisoners continues to rise, along with the cost of care, UTMB has relied on telemedicine to make up the difference, where doctors can videoconference with prisoners instead of being on site. Dr. Owen Murray, the vice president of correctional managed care at UTMB, has watched as the population in the prison shifted considerably—there are now 27,000 inmates over the age of 50. With costs running so high, and the governor looking to cut the overall prison budget by as much as $250 million, Murray doesn't see the money generated by the copay as making much of a difference in the larger picture. People aren't paying, but the state continues to need to provide tremendous amounts of money for care.  Read more about How Medical Copays Haunt Prisoners and Their Loved Ones

Oct 27, 2016
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89.3 KPCC

California counties look to private firm to run new state psychiatric hospital

A statewide consortium of county mental health officials is planning to create California's first privately-run state mental health hospital. It says it's the fastest way to address the persistent shortage of beds for the state’s most dangerously and severely mentally ill.

But critics of prison privatization worry care will worsen, pointing to past problems with the contractor, Correct Care Recovery Solutions, a spinoff of the private prison giant GEO Group.

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Still, many state and local governments are attracted to the private market's promise to drive down costs. That worries critics.

"They are securing these contracts by promising to treat the most people at the lowest cost," said Cate Graziani, a community organizer at Grassroots Leadership, a group critical of privatization. "And what this results in is a dangerous practice of cutting corners, especially staff. And this is where we see incidents of abuse, neglect and death."

Graziani points to South Florida State Hospital as an example. The facility was one of the first state mental health hospitals in the U.S. to be privatized. It was managed by a division of GEO Group until 2014, when Correct Care Solutions bought the unit.

Read more about California counties look to private firm to run new state psychiatric hospital
Oct 11, 2016
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Raw Story

New film exposes dangers of the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’

A new film exposes the 'treatment industrial complex' that has sprung up following announcements that the Department of Justice will begin to phase out use of private prisons and that the Department of Homeland Security will review its' use of privately operated immigrant detention centers. 

As these announcements caused stock in private prison corporations to drop, companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have begun buying facilities that provide 'community corrections' programs, such as electronic monitoring, prisoner re-entry services, and other alternatives to prison.

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Robert Greenwald’s new film, “Treatment Industrial Complex,” produced by Brave New Films, shows how these companies are profiting off efforts to rehabilitate drug users and the mentally ill who become entangled in the criminal justice system.

These companies can only make money if they ensnare more Americans — and hold them as long as possible, said the film’s executive producer, Bob Libal.

Read more about New film exposes dangers of the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’
Oct 11, 2016
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The Huffington Post

Bloodsucking TIC (Treatment Industrial Complex): Video Reveals The Ugly Truth Behind the For-Profit Prison Industry’s Embrace Of Treatment, Rehabilitation, And ‘Alternatives’

The past few months  have been hard for private prison corporations. First, the Department of Justice announced they would begin phasing out the use of private prisons. This was followed by the Department of Homeland Security announcing they would re-examine the use of private corporations in running immigrant detention centers. These announcements caused stock in both Community Corrections of America (CCA) and GEO Group, two of the largest private prisons companies, to drop dramatically. However, a new trend suggests that they are not out of business yet. 

We call it the Treatment Industrial Complex, or TIC. Through a combination of acquisitions and mergers and an aggressive marketing campaign, for-profit prison companies are moving to preserve their profits by seeking contracts to provide in-prison medical and mental health care; manage mental hospitals and civil commitment centers; and deliver “community corrections” programs, including prisoner reentry services and “alternatives to incarceration” like electronic monitoring.

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This disgusting trend is brought vividly to life in a new video produced by Brave New Films in which the TIC is portrayed as a hairy, bloodsucking tick that is quite literally a parasite on state and federal efforts to end mass incarceration. The video lays bare how the profit motive is fundamentally at odds with efforts to truly rehabilitate people. Instead, these companies rely on recidivism and expansion of the criminal punishment system.

Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership Bob Libal warns, “Private prison corporations’ very existence is at risk as the federal government and states around the country rethink their mass incarceration policies.” He points out that the companies can only profit through volume — which means ensnaring as many people as possible and holding them for as long as possible.

Read more about Bloodsucking TIC (Treatment Industrial Complex): Video Reveals The Ugly Truth Behind the For-Profit Prison Industry’s Embrace Of Treatment, Rehabilitation, And ‘Alternatives’

Congrats and good luck, Cate!

Cate Graziani, our mental health campaigns coordinator, will be completing a Fulbright fellowship in Portugal from September 2016 to May 2017. Though we will miss her over the next eight months, we are excited to see what she uncovers! Here is a brief description of her project: Read more about Congrats and good luck, Cate!

Grassroots Leadership responds to private prison corporations' statements to investors

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, Grassroots Leadership responded to investor conference calls held last week by private prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.   In the calls, company executives reported on earnings from 2016’s second quarter and spoke of the financial outlook moving forward.

“These statements show that policy reforms that are good for immigrants, good for those tied up in the criminal justice system, and good for taxpayers are bad for private prison corporations,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.   “Policy-makers should prioritize reforms that reduce the number of people behind bars and , not policies that line the pockets of private prison corporation executives.” Read more about Grassroots Leadership responds to private prison corporations' statements to investors

Mar 9, 2016
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Palm Beach Post

Here’s how business makes money off the state’s mentally ill and sex offenders

As the public rethinks harsh mandatory sentences swelling prison populations, a GEO Group offshoot and other private prison firms are focusing on another cash-for-inmates opportunity: privatization of state mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, particularly in Florida and Texas.

Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based criminal justice advocacy group, is taking aim at this “net-widening,”especially in Florida and Texas,  with a report released Wednesday.

It’s a perfect profit center, the report’s authors said, because unlike traditional prisoners, terms of confinement can leave people there indefinitely.

Some aren’t going to make it out alive, such as the mental patient who died in a scalding bathtub in South Florida State Hospital, the tissue on his face “sloughing” off, as The Post reported in 2013.

As problems have surfaced at GEO-run facilities, protests have grown.

Last month, another man died in  the state’s privately run 198-bed Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center. He had reportedly been punched by another inmate.

If Grassroots’ criticism of mental health and civil commitment centers seem familiar, so does the company involved. Boca Raton-based GEO Group spun off its medical unit a few years back; the spinoff became part of Correct Care Solutions LLC. A former GEO executive became  president and CEO of Correct Care. Read more about Here’s how business makes money off the state’s mentally ill and sex offenders

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