Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but every time a private prison company pops up as a top sponsor of the largest “impartial” accrediting association in the world, we are. This time not one but eight private prison and private correctional healthcare companies, each with a history of human rights violations, are the top sponsors of the American Correctional Association’s 144th Congress of Corrections conference.
Humpday Hall of Shame
This week’s Humpday Hall of Shame spotlight turns to the practice of using immigrant detainees for cheap — and sometimes free — labor in public and private immigrant detention facilities.
The practice was recently highlighted in a New York Times article where author, Ian Urbina, writes:
As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities.
While the government insists on implementing an arbitrary quota on the number of people to force into detention centers, it has difficulty sustaining its own operations without this source of forced labor. The practice of strong-arming these men and women into the upkeep of the very institutions that deprive them of their basic liberties underlines the larger injustice of mass immigrant detention.[node:read-more:link]
Congratulations, GEO! You've been given another honorable mention in our Humpday Hall of Shame!
According to the Digital Journal, Healthyroads Incorporated awarded the Fit Company Award to the GEO Group because of their "GEO-fit-for-life" program, run through... you guessed it... Healthyroads Incorporated.
Stephen V. Fuller, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at GEO, spoke favorably of the fitness program: "Thanks to our wellness program, employees are getting more exercise and eating better...More importantly, though, they're enjoying themselves and building camaraderie in the process, which is what will lead to better relationships and lifelong healthy lifestyle changes."
Ironically enough, GEO has a horrific track record of abuse, neglect and retaliation of people locked up in their for-profit private prisons and detention centers.[node:read-more:link]
The 5th Circuit Court is not holding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responsible for sexual assaults reported by eight women who were formerly detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.
According to Courthouse News, the women filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, claiming that they were sexually assaulted while being transported by a male guard with no female guard present. According to the contract between the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and ICE, a female guard was to be present during transport of female detainees. The women claimed that 22 male guards had completed 77 such transports. Each plaintiff in the case had been granted asylum and was being transported out of detention at the time of assault. The man accused of these assaults, former CCA guard Donald Dunn, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2011.
A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit Court dismissed the claims against ICE, insisting that the contractual violations did not necessarily indicate that the women were in danger. Judge Emilio Garza clearly was not concerned:[node:read-more:link]
The Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee held a budget hearing April 10, where they discussed ways to reduce the rising costs of our mass incarceration system. Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, testified. Per the usual, privatization was offered as a viable option.
The hearing began with a discussion of the prison industry program, and many members of the subcommittee lamented that the program had been reduced in recent years to prevent competition with the private sector. Supporters of those programs, including Chairman Frank Wolf (VA) and Rep. John Culberson (TX), were particularly frustrated that fewer prisoners in federal prisons are manufacturing goods when, “we are importing products from slave labor camps in communist China.” Unfortunately, that was only the beginning.
Rep. Culberson wasted no time in advocating for not only an expansion of private prison industries, but also the use of private prison contractors. He began by highlighting the “great success in Texas using private contractors to come and build and operate private facilities.” Without any data to support his claims, he went on the say that private facilities in Texas, “operate at a significant savings to taxpayers and provide, frankly, better facilities, better food and better healthcare.” Where he got this information remains unclear.[node:read-more:link]
This week’s Humpday Hall of Shame spotlight is on a Willacy County, Texas, private prison debacle that dates back to 2005. It resurfaced last Friday when the Valley Morning Star reported that the county will mediate with a construction company it sued for alleged poor workmanship at three county correctional facilities. The subsequent repairs cost the county $620,000, according to County Judge John F. Gonzales.
The county filed the lawsuit March 7 against Houston-based Hale-Mills Construction, for poor construction on the $7.5-million Willacy County Jail, a $14.5-million county-funded private prison used by the U.S. Marshals' Service, as well as a $111.5-million county-funded private prison comprised of tent-shaped structures.
Willacy County alleges that Hale-Mills’ poor construction practices resulted in roof leaks at the Willacy County Adult Correctional Center, a private prison operated by Management & Training Corporation and contracted by U.S. Marshals’ Service, which led the Marshals' Service to threaten to remove their detainees from the facility in 2011. Gonzales claimed, “We had all these structural problems because they cut corners.”[node:read-more:link]
Congratulations, it's a tie! Today's Humpday Hall of Shame award goes to the GEO Group and Rep. John Kavanagh.
Last Friday, Arizona House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Kavanagh allegedly wrote an additional $900,000 into the Arizona budget the for-profit prison corporation. Kavanagh maintains that GEO Group lobbyists requested the money, but Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick, however, claims that no additional funding was requested for GEO.
Such a deal perhaps should not come a surprise, since Kavanagh apparently received six campaign contributions from GEO during the last election cycle. In fact, GEO CEO George Zoley, senior vice presidents Thomas Wierdsma, John Bulfin, Jorge Dominicis, and Stephen Fuller, and employee James Black all donated the maximum individual donation amount, $424, between June 29 and and July 9, 2012. Kristin Boilini and and Nicholas Simonetta, two lobbyists for GEO's lobbying firm Pivotal Policy Consulting, also donated to Kavanagh during that time.[node:read-more:link]
Kentucky plans to make the private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), rich off of taxpayer money by locking up aging and sick people. This new prison plan will fill a CCA prison that closed after prisoners were relocated due to horrendous sexual assault allegations and penal reforms.
Despite the fact that Kentucky kicked CCA out of their state mere months ago, they are allowing the company to fill this empty prison to operate as an “assisted living and nursing facility.” Kentucky’s Department of Corrections has made it clear that this is not an initiative they requested or are behind.[node:read-more:link]
Despite a combined revenue of more than $3.2 billion in 2012, private prison companies like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) are typically careful not to highlight the fact that they exist to make a profit. But, regardless of what their PR teams may lead you to believe, these companies have business models that rest on perverse incentives — the more people they incarcerate the stronger their bottom line. [node:read-more:link]