Humpday Hall of Shame

What Schools are Promoting Private Prisons?

Last week, the announcement that GEO Group had bought the naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s new football stadium set off a firestorm.  The for-profit private prison corporation’s $6 million donation to the school is shocking, but its ties to FAU go back much further; CEO George Foley isn’t just an alum, he’s also a former chair of the FAU Board of Trustees and member of the Foundation board of directors.  He even served chair of the Presidential Search Committee that hired Mary Jo Saunders, who has been quoted calling GEO Group “a wonderful company” and that she is “very proud to partner with them.”

This incidence of crossover between the for-profit private prison industry and schools is not unique – both GEO Group and CCA have close ties to universities.  In this Humpday Post we'll look into a few other universities elevating and validating the private prison industry.

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Privatized Mental Health Services is Bad Medicine

Last week we began a conversation about the privatization of services within correctional facilities, highlighting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s move to privatize food service throughout the state’s prison system, including juvenile detention facilities.  Today we want to examine another vital service that has been increasingly seized by private providers – health care, specifically mental health services, within correctional facilities.  

The high prevalence of mental illness among incarcerated populations is given little public attention.  In 2005, more than half of our country’s incarcerated population, a total of more than 1.2 million people, had a diagnosed mental health condition.  This fact should give us pause and raise national concerns about how mental health care is addressed in correctional settings.  Perhaps this crisis would seem more compelling if people knew that incarcerated persons with mental health issues have lower rates of employment, high rates of substance dependence or abuse, high rates of homelessness, and high prevalence of violent offenses – all of which have far reaching, negative effects.  It’s clear that mental illness among incarcerated populations is a serious, systemic issue with dire consequences for all of us. 

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Privatizing Prison Food Leaves a Bad Taste in Our Mouths

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.

It’s no secret that prison privatization is not merely bad policy, but fundamentally counters our efforts as a nation to reduce incarceration and rehabilitate members of our society who need it most.  Week after week, we highlight the pitfalls of privatized corrections with accounts of inadequate medical care, understaffing, security and safety issues, inhumane conditions, and the list goes on.  

Today, however, we want to highlight not the privatization of prisons, but something just as troubling and dangerous - the privatization of services within correctional facilities, public and private alike.  

In the past week, reports have surfaced of plans by Ohio Governor John Kasich to hire a private vendor to provide meals to over 50,000 inmates within the state’s prison system, including juvenile detention facilities.  Kasich argues that privatizing Ohio’s prison food service will save the state up to $16 million annually... but at what cost?

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Meet the private prison industry’s lobbyists who could shape immigration reform

In the last two years, major private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have spent at least $4,350,000 on lobbying the federal government, primarily to win immigration-related contracts.  What does that kind of money buy you?  Some pretty lucrative contracts, apparently.  In 2011, the federal government paid $1.4 billion to the two corporations, nearly a third of their total profits.

In fact, a 2011 report by Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network found that private prison corporations operate nearly half of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds.  What's more, private prison corporations are benefiting greatly from the criminalization of migration through programs like Operation Streamline.  

It’s no surprise – or secret – that immigration reform which reduces detentions and deportations would be a threat to private prison corporations' business.  Business Insider reported on February 2nd that in 2011, GEO Group CEO George Zoley told investors:

"At the federal level, initiatives related to border enforcement and immigration detention with an emphasis on criminal alien populations as well as the consolidation of existing detainee populations have continued to create demand for larger-scale, cost efficient facilities."

That same year, CCA stated in its annual earnings report that immigration reform

“could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."

So who are these wealthy private prison corporations looking to to win them immigration detention contracts?   Below the jump are just some of the some the major lobbyists for private prison interests in Washington:

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Humpday Hall of Shame: 30 Years of CCA

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.

30 years ago, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) became the first for-profit company to contract with governments to operate correctional facilities.  They are the founders of the industry and, though other companies have joined the prison business, CCA continues to be the largest provider of private corrections in the United States.  As a company they have announced a year-long celebration of their successes and industry leadership.  As an advocacy community opposed to prison privatization we will also be commemorating this anniversary as a call to action to put an end to profiteering from incarceration.

Ten years ago Grassroots Leadership published a comprehensive report on CCA; in the years following, Grassroots Leadership and our partners have continued documenting CCA’s egregious history.  Some of the highlights from our blog and the folks over at Texas Prison Bid’ness are below.

At 30 years old CCA and the private prison industry should be retired.  We will be working with our partners this year to continue exposing the abuses of the private prison industry, their influence on policy-making, and the enormous profits that are derived from locking people up.   With this momentum we want to put an end to private corrections for good.

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Hump Day Hall of Shame | Texas Prison Bid'ness' Top 5 Worst Lobbyists

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.

With the Texas legislative session underway, the  Texas Prison Bid’ness blog, a joint project of Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, is shining a spotlight on five of the worst private prison lobbyists in our state.  As they've covered before, GEO Group, CCA, CEC, and MTC pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for lobbying services and campaign contributions for state and federal legislators.  Here are five men and women who profit the most from peddling prisons, jails, and detention centers in Texas:

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Ohio’s prison privatization debacle should be a warning to other states

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.

In 2011, Ohio debated the wholesale privatization of its prison system.  While the mass prison privatization efforts were largely curtailed, the Lake Erie Correctional Institution was sold to Corrections Corporation of America for $72 million. The state now rents back beds from the facility as part of the sale-leaseback deal.  Operation, but not ownership, of another prison – the North Central Correctional Complex – is now carried out by private prison corporation Management & Training Corporation.

As may have been expected, conditions at the facilities have turned sour according to a new a report by state auditors, including what a contract monitor deemed: “unacceptable living conditions of inmates being housed inside recreation areas, with no immediate access to running water for hydration, showers or the use of a toilet.”

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Hump Day Hall of Shame: Short-term Sentences Become Death Sentences at Dawson State Jail

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.

In 1997 the state of Texas built the Dawson State Jail, a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)-operated, medium-security, co-gender prison facility in downtown Dallas.  “State jails” are prisons in Texas designed to incarcerate people convicted of nonviolent offenses serving short sentences of two years or less close to their homes.  The creation of the state jail system was a response to overcrowding in state prisons in the early 1990s.  The introduction of state jails into the corrections system was supposed to alleviate overcrowding in the more expensive, maximum security state facilities and create a greater ability to provide people convicted of nonviolent offenses supports to get them in and out of the system quickly and back into society.

At Dawson, however, far too many people have entered what are supposed to be six-month to two-year stints, and have died inside the prison of medically treatable conditions.  

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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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