Grassroots Leadership Blog

Social Justice Hero: Caroline Isaacs

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.

Our Social Justice Superhero for November is Caroline Isaacs, the program director for the American Friends Service Committee office in Tucson, Arizona.  Isaacs began her work with the Quaker organization in 1995, when she was hired on for a one-year internship; she became the Criminal Justice Program Coordinator six years later, and in 2004 moved into her current position.  I had an opportunity to talk with Isaacs last week about her life as an activist and Tucsonian. 

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA Getting Into the School Cop Biz?

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.

Since 1983, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), our country’s largest for-profit prison company, has been finding ways to make money off of the criminalization and incarceration of people.  In the early 80’s, when incarceration rates at the federal, state, and county levels were on the rise, CCA began contracting with states to build, expand, and manage prisons.  In the early 2000’s, as draconian immigration enforcement measures were ramped up by the federal government, CCA saw yet another profitable opportunity and began contracting with an increasing number of immigrant detention facilities.  More recently other private for-profit prison companies have been branching into public sectors.  GEO Group, for example, has broken into the market of operating mental health and behavioral health facilities around the country, in addition to correctional facilities and immigrant detention centers.  As advocates working to stop profiteering off incarceration and detention of people, we keep tabs on where companies like CCA and GEO show up.

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Haunted Hump Day Hall of Shame | Community Education Centers

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.

Community Education Centers (CEC) is a pretty creepy for-profit private prison corporation.  They recently made New York Times headlines for their mismanagement of New Jersey half-way houses and their ties to Governor Chris Christie, and have a well-documented history across the United States for egregious problems that have arisen in facilities that they run.

Beyond what actually happens in these facilities, it’s pretty creepy understanding the framework that private, for-proft prison companies employ in their business practices.  For CEC and the private for-profit prison business, incarcerated people are dollars signs before they are human beings.  And, reducing the number of people in prison is bad for their business. [node:read-more:link]

Small New England State Finds Big State and National Support in Opposing Private Prison Proposal

For the past several months we’ve kept you updated about the movement by New Hampshire’s legislature to wholly privatize the state’s prison system.  No other state has privatized its entire prison system, and we are very concerned about the precedent that would be set if the state awards a contract to one of four bidders on its Request for Proposal.  We raised particular concern when we learned that lead manager of the private firm that New Hampshire hired to assist in analyzing the RFP’s is George Vose, a former private corrections administrator who currently sits on the board of Community Education Centers, a private prison company that operates halfway houses and recently has been highlighted for mismanagement of its New Jersey facilities.

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Welcoming the Stranger in Utah – A Report from Father Les Schmidt

The following is a report from the recent trip to Utah by Father Les Schmidt, Coordinator of Grassroots Leadership’s Keeping Faith Campaign.  


The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, which encompasses the entire state of Utah, invited Father Les Schmidt, Grassroots Leadership’s Faith Organizer, to give the keynote address at the annual gathering of Catholic lay leaders from across the state. [node:read-more:link]

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.

Remembering Donald Suggs, Gone Far Too Soon

November 2017 Update: Grassroots Leadership is proud to sponsor the newly announced Donald Suggs Jr. Street Naming Project.  The project seeks to to co-name a corner of East 6th Street, between Avenue A & B, in Manhattan’s East Village, "Donald Suggs Jr. [node:read-more:link]

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]

Social Justice Hero: Gail Tyree

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.

On Wednesday, October 10th, Grassroots Leadership and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary will be co-sponsoring a guest lecture by Gail Tyree, a Soros fellow and former organizer for Grassroots Leadership.  In honor of her upcoming visit, Gail will be our first Social Justice Superhero.Gail Tyree with Rev. Neal Presa, Moderator of the PCUSA

As a 2011 Soros Justice Fellow, Gail is creating a network of organizations and individuals in the southeast U.S. who can respond quickly and effectively to stop for-profit prisons, jails, or detention centers from moving into their communities.  Currently, she is a board member of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, and Tyree boasts over 30 years of Labor and Community organizing experience.  

Her experience includes: international representative for the Workers United Labor Union; campaign director and organizer with Grassroots Leadership in Charlotte, North Carolina; board member of Workers Interfaith Network; advisory member of the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network; campaign director for the Southern Faith Labor and Community Alliance in Memphis, Tennessee; project labor organizer with the Communications Workers of America; organizing instructor for the MidSouth Peace and Justice Center. She was also an AFL-CIO Teaching Fellow and a graduate of Southern Empowerment Project 2005 Advance Leadership Preparation Initiative.  Most recently, Tyree was asked to help form the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network and was elected to the board of the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association.

At the most recent congress of the PCUSA, Tyree represented the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network as a resource person to the Social Justice Committee.  Gail was integral in passing the overture “On Instructing MRTI to Report to GAMC on the Corporate Practices of Publicly Traded Corporations That Operate For-Profit Prisons.”  For Gail, this overture is an extension of the Presbyterian Church’s 2002 condemnation of for-profit prisons; she’s glad to see the denomination finally “putting its money where its mouth is” as it ensures against investment in companies that profit from imprisonment.

Despite her impressive CV as an activist, Tyree maintains that her work and her journey are more personal and spiritual than occupational.  I had an opportunity to talk with Gail on the phone and over email.  Click "Read More" to see my interview with Gail.

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