Grassroots Leadership Blog

"Live Free" ...or Die in a For-Profit Prison

New Hampshire Considers Prison Privatization

New Hampshire was the first of the thirteen colonies to declare its independence.  The nation’s first free public library was established in Peterborough. Revolutionary hero General John Stark coined the phrase that is still associated with New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die.” New Hampshire, where we experience the first primary in the nation every four years, is quintessentially a New England state, rich and a little quirky in manner and politics and history.  And it is, these days, possibly a player in the private prison industry’s massive attempt to privatize our nation’s prisons and departments of corrections.

A House and Senate committee to develop a plan to privatize the Department of Corrections in The Live Free or Die State, New Hampshire, will report its findings and recommendations to the speaker of the house of representatives, the president of the senate, the house clerk, the senate clerk, the governor, and the state library on or before May 1, 2012.


"Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act"

We often use this blog to explore some of the terrible decisions made by policy makers, elected officials and private prison personnel. Today, however, we have something to celebrate in Florida.

Thanks to Representative Betty Reed (D-Hillsborough), House Bill 367, prohibiting the use of restraints (shackles) on incarcerated women in labor, delivery and recovery, passed in a 114 to 1 vote in the House.  Only Darryl Ervin Rouson  (D-St Petersburg) voted against the bill. Previously, Senator Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) and her colleagues passed the identical Senate bill, SB 524, in a unanimous decision.

When the bill becomes effective in July of this year, Florida will become the first southern state to ban the shackling of pregnant women in their third trimester and during childbirth.  That leaves thirty-five states across this country that allow the shackling of pregnant and birthing women.


On International Women's Day, What About the Women?

On International Women’s Day let us pause for a moment and think of the women incarcerated in this country. Approximately 113,000 women are incarcerated in state and federal facilities. There are, in the United States, approximately 381 prisons for women and 3,376 jails housing both men and women. [node:read-more:link]

“Whack-A-Mole” in Michigan

Keeping up with the goings-on of the private prison industry is like playing “Whack-a-Mole.” Every time you smack down a proposed prison, another one pops up elsewhere, like the pesky critter in the old carnival game. Just a few weeks ago, an extraordinary coalition of people of faith joined with labor, and civil and human rights groups to expose Florida’s hasty attempt to deliver more than two-dozen, publicly-run prisons into the hands of the private prison corporations.  It would have been the largest mass prison privatization in the history of the nation.  But on-the-ground pressure coupled with solid research and data helped move the issue. The bill was eventually defeated by just two votes.

These past few weeks the for-profit prison industry has its sights on Michigan.  The Michigan House of Representatives is considering bills HB 5174 and HB 5177 to reopen a youth correctional facility in order to house adult inmates. The North Lake Facility for Youth, or Baldwin facility, was opened in 1998 by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation – now know as The GEO Group shuttered the facility in 2005.  GEO, in a speculative move with high hopes of filling the prison with Californians, expanded the prison from less than 500 to about 2400 beds. The expected California contract did not fully materialize and the GEO Group’s Lake County facility, dubbed the ‘punk prison’, stood empty for some years.  See more about Wackenhut/GEO Group’s atrocious track record at the youth facility after the jump.


An Eye on Crete

Just a few years ago, as Illinois folks scratched their heads about a privatized Chicago Skyway, for-profit parking meters, parking lots and more, there was real confidence that even though the move towards privatization was strong, prisons and detention centers would be safe because of the Private Correctional Facility Moratorium Act.

In 1990, the State of Illinois, with bi-partisan support, banned most privately run detention centers and prisons through the Moratorium Act.  The law has kept private prison giants Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group out of the Land of Lincoln.  Read some of the text of that bill (730 ILCS 140/2) (from Ch. 38, par. 1582) after the jump.


Michigan May Re-open Troubled GEO Prison

Michigan state lawmakers are debating re-opening GEO Group's prison in Baldwin.  This despite the fact that Michigan has a declining prison population and does not need additional prison capacity. According to a report by the Sentencing Project, Michigan saw a 12% decline in its prison population from 2006-2009 (one of the report's authors, Judy Greene, tells us that the decline is now 14%). [node:read-more:link]

Bi-partisan support kills prison privatization sweetheart deal in Florida

On Valentine's Day the Florida state Senate killed Senate Bill 2038: Privatization of Correctional Facilities, which would have instigated the largest mass privatization of prisons in the nation's history. Private corrections corporations gave Florida lawmakers almost $900,000 in the last campaign cycle. Florida lawmakers pulled out all the stops - trying to bypass both public and media scrutiny - to get it passed. In an extraordinary move, nine Republicans broke ranks, defied their leadership and joined with their Democratic colleagues to stop the bill.

SB 2038 was fast tracked through the Senate. Despite powerful testimony against the bill in the Rules Committee, it was rushed through to the Budget Committee - circumventing the committees that would ask the hard questions about this legislation.  Senate President Mike Haridopolos thought he had the votes he needed.  But a second reading saw a handful from his own party questioning the bill.  And it all fell apart.


Florida’s Ongoing Privatization Saga - Call in the Clergy?

During the temporary postponement of SB 2038 Privatization of Correctional Facilities we see a once smug Senate President, Haridopolos, scrambling for support.  After trying to fast-track a vote on what would become the largest prison privatization move in the nation, its supporters are scrounging for the 21 senate votes it needs to deliver to the multi-million-dollar private prison corporations what they had promised.

The senate president fired Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, from his chairmanship of the budget panel in charge of prisons because Fasano dared to suggest an amendment that would require real study and real thought. Oh, and he publicly stated that privatizing was a payback to GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America.  And, he called Haridopolos a bully.


Humpday Hall of Shame: Mike Haridopolos, Part 2

Welcome to the Humpday 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.

For the second week in a row, our Humpday Hall of Shame award goes to Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R – Merritt Island).  Haridolopos is a major proponent of an effort to cede control of 29 south Florida prisons to private prison corporations.  That effort, until this week, appeared to be sailing through the state legislature.  We reported last week that Haridopolos had received more than $67,000 in campaign contributions from private prison corporations since 2009.

However, this week, several state Senators (including many members of Haridopolos's Republican party) have bucked the idea of what would be the largest prison privatization in U.S. history.  They've objected to the proposal saying that prison privatization doesn't save money, can be dangerous for those incarcerated and working in prisons, and is ultimately is a payoff to for-profit prison companies who have made huge donations to politicians in Florida.


Grassroots Leadership Welcomes Laura Price as Women's Campaign Intern

Grassroots Leadership is proud to welcome Laura Price as our Women's Campaign Intern!

Laura Price is currently a junior at Davidson College majoring in Postcolonial Studies through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.  She spent the past four months studying Arabic and Political Science in Rabat, Morocco.  After graduation, Laura hopes to pursue a career in law.

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