GEO Group

Privatized Mental Health Services is Bad Medicine

Last week we began a conversation about the privatization of services within correctional facilities, highlighting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s move to privatize food service throughout the state’s prison system, including juvenile detention facilities.  Today we want to examine another vital service that has been increasingly seized by private providers – health care, specifically mental health services, within correctional facilities.  

The high prevalence of mental illness among incarcerated populations is given little public attention.  In 2005, more than half of our country’s incarcerated population, a total of more than 1.2 million people, had a diagnosed mental health condition.  This fact should give us pause and raise national concerns about how mental health care is addressed in correctional settings.  Perhaps this crisis would seem more compelling if people knew that incarcerated persons with mental health issues have lower rates of employment, high rates of substance dependence or abuse, high rates of homelessness, and high prevalence of violent offenses – all of which have far reaching, negative effects.  It’s clear that mental illness among incarcerated populations is a serious, systemic issue with dire consequences for all of us. 

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ICE Official that Pushed Deportation Quota Now Works for Private Prison Corporation GEO Group

Today's USA Today carried a disturbing article highlighting Immigration and Customs Enforcement's effort to increase the number of deportations through aggressive enforcement mechanisms.

Internal emails at the agency showed that ICE agents "were trolling state driver's license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses."  

The former official whose emails are heavily quoted in the article is David Venturella, former assistant director at ICE.  Guess where Mr. Venturella ended up after his term at ICE?  Mr. Venturella is now the Executive Vice President for Corporate Development at GEO Group, according to his LinkedIn profile.  GEO Group is a private prison corporation that heavily depends on federal immigration contracts to ensure a steady profit stream and employs a stream of heavily connected lobbyists in DC.  

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Meet the private prison industry’s lobbyists who could shape immigration reform

In the last two years, major private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have spent at least $4,350,000 on lobbying the federal government, primarily to win immigration-related contracts.  What does that kind of money buy you?  Some pretty lucrative contracts, apparently.  In 2011, the federal government paid $1.4 billion to the two corporations, nearly a third of their total profits.

In fact, a 2011 report by Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network found that private prison corporations operate nearly half of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds.  What's more, private prison corporations are benefiting greatly from the criminalization of migration through programs like Operation Streamline.  

It’s no surprise – or secret – that immigration reform which reduces detentions and deportations would be a threat to private prison corporations' business.  Business Insider reported on February 2nd that in 2011, GEO Group CEO George Zoley told investors:

"At the federal level, initiatives related to border enforcement and immigration detention with an emphasis on criminal alien populations as well as the consolidation of existing detainee populations have continued to create demand for larger-scale, cost efficient facilities."

That same year, CCA stated in its annual earnings report that immigration reform

“could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."

So who are these wealthy private prison corporations looking to to win them immigration detention contracts?   Below the jump are just some of the some the major lobbyists for private prison interests in Washington:

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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:

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Jails Fargo

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.

National Peoples Action and Public Accountability Initiative have co-released the first in a series of reports on Wells Fargo’s connections to the private prison industry.  The report shows that more than any other banking institution, Wells Fargo has provided critical financing to the private prison industry’s top giants — Corrections Corporation of America, GEO, and MTC — by either investing in them or by lending them significant amounts of capital.    According to the report’s executive summary:

  • Wells Fargo is a major lender to Corrections Corp of America (CCA), acting as the syndication agent and issuing lender on CCAʼs $785
  • Wells Fargo is a major investor in GEO Group, with $95.5 million invested through its mutual funds, and serves as trustee for $300 million of the companyʼs corporate debt.
  • Wells Fargo is a lender to Management & Training Corp (MTC). MTC is a private company and so it is difficult to find data on its investors and lenders, but Wells Fargo is listed as a lender to MTC in a Utah UCC filing.

Victory - Private Prison Corporation Will Not Take Control of Texas State Hospital!

Normally, we dedicate Wednesday blog posts to the the Hump Day Hall of Shame –  highlighting the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

However, today we decided to celebrate some good news from deep in the heart of Texas.  After months of organizing by Grassroots Leadership and our allies across the state, state leaders have rejected private prison corporation GEO Group's bid to take over the Kerrville State Hospital!  According to the Kerrville Daily Times:

"The Kerrville State Hospital will remain under state management — at least for now. Texas state commissioner David Lakey rejected GEO Care’s proposal to privatize the state hospital.

The Daily Times received an internal email from acting superintendent Jay Norwood sent to employees today that confirmed Lakey rejected GEO Care's proposal, which was to privatize the Kerrville State Hospital." [node:read-more:link]

Humpday Hall of Shame: A Fox in the Henhouse?

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.

Right now New Hampshire is considering privatizing its entire public prison system.  Although this New England state’s prison population is relatively small compared to others’, we are concerned about the precedent that statewide privatization could set, being that no other state in the country has privatized its entire system, and we are worried about what opening this floodgate could mean for the rest of the region.

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Privatizing Kerrville State Hospital is Unconscionable

Over the weekend the Houston Chronicle ran this editorial by Maria Ramos, a mental health expert and board member of the ACLU of Texas.  The first line reads, “There's a scandal waiting to happen if GEO Care gets its hands on another Texas mental health hospital,” and we agree.  GEO’s history in Texas of mismanaging prison and health care facilities has been well-documented.  Back in 2011 the San Antonio Current, a local weekly publication, ran an excellent piece on GEO’s expansion in Texas and featured “GEO Group Texas Death Watch,” a timeline of deaths in GEO-run facilities in Texas since 1999.

Over the weekend the Houston Chronicle ran this editorial by Maria Ramos, a mental health expert and board member of the ACLU of Texas.  The first line reads, “There's a scandal waiting to happen if GEO Care gets its hands on another Texas mental health hospital,” and we agree.  GEO’s history in Texas of mismanaging prison and health care facilities has been well-documented.  Back in 2011 the San Antonio Current, a local weekly publication, ran an excellent piece on GEO’s expansion in Texas and featured “GEO Group Texas Death Watch,” a timeline of deaths in GEO-run facilities in Texas since 1999.

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Who gains if GEO Care takes over Kerrville State Hospital?

You already know who doesn’t want Texas to contract with GEO Care, a division of private prison corporation GEO Group, to take over the Kerrville State Hospital.  With our partners and allies at other organizations, Grassroots Leadership sent a letter in opposition to privatization to Governor Rick Perry.  Community members from around the state have also signed on to our petition calling on the Governor to cancel the bidding process.   We have cited numerous potential problems if the Texas Department of State Health Services turns over control of the hospital to GEO Care.

Based on GEO’s history in Texas and beyond, we are concerned about what contracting with the for-profit prison company will mean for patient care at Kerrville State Hospital, for the safety of the employees that work there, and for the community of Kerrville that could see significant downsizing of jobs at the hospital. GEO has promised to cut operating costs there by 10%.

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Hump Day Hall of Shame: As Arizona faces firestorm of criticism over private prison contract, ADC moves to privatize re-entry

Co-Authored by Caroline Isaacs, director of the AFSC's Arizona Program in Tucson 

You may have seen a lot of press recently about the announcement that Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) will make this Friday, awarding a contract for construction and management of up to 2,000 prison beds to one of five private, for-profit prison corporations.

Arizona advocates have engaged the support of state and national organizations to oppose Arizona’s planned expansion of its for-profit prison beds.  This week Grassroots Leadership added its name to a letter addressed to Arizona governor Jan Brewer, along with over 50 other organizations, faith leaders, and elected officials in an effort to block the award of a new private prison contract.

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