Humpday Hall of Shame

Humpday Hall of Shame | CCA-run state jails prove unsafe (again) for prisoners

Thanks to a lawsuit filed by Edwards Law in Austin, TX on September 3rd, a veil of secrecy around rampant sexual abuse and staff misconduct is being lifted at CCA-run Bartlett State Jail in Bartlett, TX.  In particular, the suit sheds light on acute staff incompetence and most disturbingly, a well-known hazing ritual known by prisoners and prison staff alike as “ass on the glass.”

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Get with the program, feds.

Yesterday, Grassroots Leadership board member Megan Quattlebaum’s piece in the Huffington Post called out the federal government, and specifically the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), for seriously slacking on criminal justice reform. Her post, “States Lead - Will the Feds Follow?”, shines a light on the fact that while states across the country are taking steps toward progress, the federal government is shamefully lagging behind.  

One way they have fallen behind is in the treatment of women prisoners. While states like Iowa and Washington are putting the concept of “gender responsive” prison programming into practice, the BOP has closed the only minimum security facility for women in the Northeast, converting it to a prison for men only. As a result, some women were transferred far from their families and communities, making it particularly difficult for children to maintain connections to their incarcerated mothers.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Nayely is only 7 and fighting brain cancer in detention

UPDATE: Nayely and Sara were finally relased on Wednesday, September 3 after hundreds of calls poured into the facility demanding their release.

This week on Humpday Hall of Shame we are highlighting the Karnes County family detention center, which is operated by GEO Group. Beginning August 1 of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began using Karnes to hold more than 500 women and children who have recently come to the U.S. from Central America seeking refuge.

Recent reports indicate that ICE is unwilling to grant any bonds, or grants exorbitantly high bonds — even to those women with children who are able to pass a credible fear interview and qualify to apply for asylum status. According to ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda, bond decisions are now being made on a case-by-case basis with consideration given to flight risk and public safety.  However, the majority of the women currently being denied bond can prove that they have family members or others who are available to receive them. This new policy was handed down as a reaction to the influx of women and children fleeing from increasing violence in Central America.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Travis County's million dollar deportation program

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton submitted an unfunded budget request totaling more than $7.4 million this summer. In response, the Travis County Commissioners Court asked him to put the request in priority order. Those priorities totaled $1.8 million dollars, and included things such as more mental health counselors at the jail, and other staff as well as license plate readers, fingerprint technology, and other upgrades.
 
Sheriff Hamilton and his top officers testified about the need for this budget increase — for a budget that already totals more than $153 million — on Wednesday August 13, where he was met with more than 30 people protesting his continued compliance with the federal mass deportation program.
 
Missing from the discussion were the millions of dollars the Travis County Sheriff's Office is spending by detaining immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement through the "Secure Communities" program. 
 
Today we released a report showing that the Travis County Sheriff's Office has spent more than $3.8 million in the last two years holding people in the jail for ICE.
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Humpday Hall of Shame: Corrections Corp. of America wants to lock up your puppy?

Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America has long been accused of caging incarcerated people like animals for a profit.  Now the private prison giant — founded on the simple principle that prisons could be sold "just like you were selling hamburgers" — is looking to branch into a new market — building an animal shelter for a Florida county.

With CCA's track record of staff misconduct, squalid conditions, and unsafe prisons for people incarcerated in its facilities, we aren't optimistic this is will turn out well for the animals of the Citrus County.  Here are the details from GTN News in Gainesville:

Citrus County and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) are considering a partnership to build a new animal shelter. The county says there is a definite need for the new facility.

Citrus County Spokesperson, Tobey Phillips, says, "Space issues-- we have-- we need new runs for the animals, we have kennels that are being doubled up, it's just this facility has been here for a while and we've made it work, but we need a new facility."

The CCA's proposal says the company will handle the logistics and building the facility, but the county has to foot the $2.8 million bill. 

Phillips says, "The county pays CCA a per diem rate per inmate. So CCA's proposal is to increase that per diem rate to cover financing."

 The proposal suggests upping that per diem rate by $5.25, meaning each inmate could now cost the county just over $74 per month. If the new facility is build it will be on county property right next door to the jail. The CCA and the county agree this could be a benefit because inmates could help with the upkeep. [node:read-more:link]

Humpday Hall of Shame: Disturbing reports emerge from Artesia, what can we expect from family detention at Karnes?

Reports have started to emerge from Artesia, New Mexico, suggesting that conditions are dangerous and unhealthy inside the family detention center that was created almost overnight at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Others have expressed concerns that procedures within the detention center present a threat to due process that could result in women and children who have sought refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border being sent back into harm's way. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has allowed some to tour the facility, including Tannia Esparza, executive director of Young Women United. Esparza told the Associated Press that the women she visited in Artesia reported that children were sick with coughs and diarrhea but were not given medication and that pregnant women are being targeted for quick deportation. 

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who ran on a hardline anti-immigrant platform, admitted after visiting the facility that it was "no place for young mothers and babies." 
 
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Humpday Hall of Shame: Forgetting the horrors of T. Don Hutto, Obama plots massive increase in immigrant family detention

President Barack Obama will be in Texas this week for a fundraising event in Austin.  He will also be meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry to discuss the government’s response to an increase in the number of Central American children and families coming to the Texas-Mexico border to seek asylum.  

While many communities in Texas have responded by opening their arms to provide shelter to unaccompanied children, the Obama administration has requested an additional $3.7 billion in money that would mostly be spent on border enforcement, detention, and deportation.  This comes despite the fact that federal spending on immigration enforcement already surpasses all other federal law enforcement activities combined.  

Included in the supplemental spending request is $897 million to detain and deport refugee families.  Reports have emerged from D.C. that the administration may be considering more than 6,000 new family detention beds, up from only 80 beds currently detaining families.   The administration has already begun sending asylum-seeking refugee families to be housed at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artisia, New Mexico.   

Apparently, the administration has forgotten the shameful history of family detention in the United States that spans from the Japanese internment to the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  Families were detained at Hutto - a privately operated prison located just outside Austin - from 2006 to 2009.  During that time reports quickly emerged that children as young as eight months old wore prison uniforms, lived in locked prison cells with open-toilets, were subjected to highly restricted movement, and threatened with alarming disciplinary tactics, including threats of separation from their parents if they cried too much or played too loudly. Medical treatment was inadequate and children as young as one lost weight.  The facility was sued by the ACLU and University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic.

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Humpday Hall of Shame: TX Health and Human Services Commissioner Janek takes tips from GEO Group on how to privatize mental health hospitals

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission regularly reviews state agencies to assess functionality and efficiency. This year Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is under review. During its response to the Commission yesterday, Health and Human Services Commissioner Janek felt compelled to use his time in front of legislators to promote privatization of state hospitals which provide voluntary and court-ordered inpatient mental health treatment.

The Sunset Staff Report, which called for immediate action to address the “current crisis in the state mental health hospital system,” did not include recommendations that warrant the privatization of state hospitals. Yet Comm. Janek touted the recent release of a Request for Proposals to run Terrell State Hospital as a supposed solution. "We are in the business of operating facilities when we could contract with someone to operate those facilities,” he began. “I don't feel any hesitation if the private sector can run our facilities, I think they could offer something."

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Humpday Hall of Shame: Texas Department of State Health Services plan to privatize Terrell State Hospital

Allies across the state were hoping Texas’ attempts to privatize state hospitals ended in 2012 when Department of State Health Services Commissioner Lakey rejected GEO Group’s bid to take over Kerrville State Hospital. We celebrated that victory in a previous blog post, but now, two years later, DSHS has issued a Request for Proposals for operation of Terrell State Hospital. DSHS plans to award a five-year contract as soon as August 15, 2014.

The RFP raises concerns for various reasons, but most notably because it indicates that eligible applicants “must be an entity with at least three years’ experience operating a Joint Commission-accredited psychiatric inpatient facility and demonstrate the financial strength to operate a large psychiatric hospital.” These requirements narrow the applicant pool considerably, leaving the bidding to only a few large companies, including the for-profit private prison corporation GEO Group, which has a sordid history delivering mental health services in Texas facilities.

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