Humpday Hall of Shame

Humpday Hall of Shame | Harris Co. sends 100 to privately-run jail

When we’re writing about prisoner transfer to privately operated facilities, we’re usually talking about state prisons.  However, Harris County, TX made headlines this week with Sheriff Ron Hickman’s decision to move prisoners out of the county jail to the Jefferson County jail, run by for-profit private prison company LaSalle Corrections.  Hickman cites overcrowding as rationale for outsourcing roughly 100 post-trial inmates from Houston to Beaumont.  
 
The maneuver may have gone unnoticed had it not been for the public critique of Houston-area state senator John Whitmire who also chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.  In his letter to the Sheriff, Senator Whitmire takes issue with the decision both on the grounds that there are empty beds in Harris County jail facilities, and that local stakeholders were not given an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.  Sound familiar Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame | Harris Co. sends 100 to privately-run jail?

While mothers and children languish in detention, private prison companies reveal million dollar compensations for top executives

Private prison companies GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) recently released proxy materials revealing million dollar compensations for their top executives. Both documents included charts that reflected salary figures, stock awards, option awards, among various other means of monetary compensation. Read more about While mothers and children languish in detention, private prison companies reveal million dollar compensations for top executives

Humpday Hall of Shame | Stop the deportation of Nan-Hui Jo

We should all be ashamed of a justice system that punishes people who are trying to do the right thing.  In the case of Nan-Hui Jo, doing the right thing meant fleeing the United States with her infant daughter, Vitz Da, to escape the physical and emotional abuse of the child’s father.  Upon her escape, her ex-partner filed child abduction charges, for which Nan-Hui was tried twice. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have continued to leverage their institutional power to maintain an immigration hold and pursue deportation, which would permanently separate Nan-Hui from her daughter.

Despite evidence of abuse and her status as a survivor and a pending U Visa application on file, Yolo County (CA) District Attorneys have advanced racist, anti-immigrant, and sexist tropes to paint Nan-Hui as an abuser, leading to what has been a seven-month separation of mother and child.  If she is deported, this separation will become permanent.

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Texas’ Civil Commitment Program Stymied By Scandal Over Bias Allegations and Housing Crisis

In the past four months, District Judge Michael Seiler of Montgomery County has been recused from hearing eight civil commitment cases due to allegations of bias. These eight cases accounted for half of the sixteen petitions in total made by defense attorneys to have him removed from proceedings. Read more about Texas’ Civil Commitment Program Stymied By Scandal Over Bias Allegations and Housing Crisis

Humpday Hall of Shame: Another Texas county removes face-to-face jail visits

We are disappointed to learn that Denton is the newest Texas county to eliminate face-to-face visitation between those incarcerated at the county jail and their loved ones.  Like Travis and Bastrop counties, Denton County is now forcing "visitors" to use a video visitation system provided by Dallas-based Securus Technologies which charges users up to $20 for 20 minute "visits."  Consistent with reports from other counties, the system in Denton is sub-par.  "It was very choppy and pixelated, and at times where it would cut off completely and say it's trying to reconnect us," said one user.  Shame on Securus and Denton County for extorting those who are committed to mainting face-to-face ties with their loved ones by forcing them to pay for a system that doesn't work.  If you're as angry as we are, we invite you to join us for a protest at Denton County Jail next Thursday, February 26th and to sign and share this petition to Denton County Commissioners demanding that they find a way to restore in-person visitation.  

Just as we were about to pull our hair out learning of the news from Denton, our partners at the Prison Policy Initiative released this series of hilarious videos that shine a spotlight on the very complaints that we hear from those who have been forced to use video visitation services.  We applaud and give thanks to those who can use humor to shed light on these disgraceful practices and feel hopeful that messages like the ones below are the keys to making the ills of video visitation something everyone can relate to.     

 

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Human Resources laurels for Securus' inhumane corporate practices

This week's Humpday Hall of Shame is written for us by guest blogger Jorge Renaud, policy analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coaliton


Words matter, as do the accolades we give to each other to recognize achievement and progress. Both must be grounded in an agreed-upon understanding of terms. Otherwise, we have a grotesquerie similar to the one achieved when Henry Kissinger – whose idea to deescalate the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia resulted in 40,000 deaths there – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

An entity named DallasHR saw fit to award its 2014 Human Resource Executive of the Year Award to Kate Lengvel, a vice president in Human Resources for Securus Technology. If your memory needs refreshing, Securus is the Dallas-area company that provides telephone and video services to a bunch of U.S. jails and prisons and also trumpets a product line called Satellite Tracking of People (STOP). This latest is reminiscent of a long-time Texas tradition whereby ranchers staple identifying markers to the ears of their cattle to keep accurate counts of their herds, and it’s pretty well indicative of what Securus does – dehumanize incarcerated individuals and their families, all for profit.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Is CCA running prisons or fraternities?

For many who are incarcerated and detained, visitation is a lifeline to the community that awaits them in the free world.  The ability to see visitors, which is highly regulated in most carceral facilities, is so powerful that it is generally utilized as a tool to incentivize “good” behavior and compliance with the rules and the culture of prison.  Making visits to prisons, jails and detention centers can be arduous for family and friends who often travel long distances, draw on financial resources, and wait in long lines to connect with the people that they love and care about.  Peoples’ commitment to make these visits is an important public service for helping to ensure community ties and support networks when prisoners are released; factors well-known to have positive impacts on recidivism rates.     

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.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: CCA, put your money where your flimsy PR campaign is

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.  

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Profit motive leads to revolving door, corruption, federal indictment in Mississippi

The Mississippi Department of Corrections is a repeat offender in our Humpday Hall of Shame.  In recent years we’ve highlighted stories of violence, inmate and staff deaths, uprisings, lawsuits against MDOC and the private prison companies that operate several Mississippi facilities.  

Last week, long-time MDOC Commissioner, Christopher Epps, abruptly resigned from his post, offering no comment on his reasons for leaving the agency.  Other spokespeople for the agency and the state remained tight-lipped about the resignation, raising eyebrows for many.  Within twenty-four hours it came to light that Epps is facing a 34-count federal indictment on charges of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud, offenses that were conducted through MDOC and Epps employing position as Commissioner to cover the scandal.

Allegedly, under Epps’ leadership, MDOC paid close to $1 billion to firms affiliated with Cecil McCrory, a local businessman, former state legislator, and Rankin County School Board President (until he also abruptly resigned from his post this week).  In exchange, McCrory paid Epps nearly one million to guarantee the contracts go to his firms.  Evidently, Epps received so many bribes that he had to launder the money through his multiple properties.

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GEO Group subsidiary, Correct Care Solutions, bids to re-purpose the Bill Clayton Detention Center as a new civil commitment facility

The Bill Clayton Detention Center has been the subject of a long saga that has been draining the tiny West Texas town of Littlefield of revenue for years. The problems in Littlefield have been persistent since building the jail for $10 million in 2000. Littlefield has tried to auction off the facility and fill it with prisoners from New Mexico, California, and even immigrant children. None of these plans have panned out as the town now looks toward a civil commitment contract with Correct Care Solutions. Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as GEO Care, is a spin-off corporation of GEO Group, the same corporation that operated the facility until 2009.

If approved, this facility would house approximately 200 individuals convicted of multiple violent sexual offenses-but who have already completed their prison sentences-beginning as early as November 2014.  In this case, the term civil commitment refers to the process of continued monitoring, surveillance, and treatment of individuals labeled as the “worst of the worst” in the world of those convicted of violent sexual offenses. In Texas, individuals can be mandated for civil commitment when they have been convicted of more than one sexually violent offense and have been deemed as suffering from a behavioral abnormality. Again, those who become civilly committed have completed their prison sentences but are mandated to receive continued treatment and active monitoring upon release.

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