Grassroots Leadership In The News

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Oct 17, 2016
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Raw Story

Is this the end of prison for profit in the US?

This past August, the Department of Justice released a statement that it would begin the process of phasing out private prison contracts in federal prisons. According to the Department of Justice, the decision came in response to a declining prison population and acknowledgements that private prisons often have lower safety and security standards.

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Private prison corporations, such as Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) and GEO Group, were struggling in the early 2000s. However, following 9/11, immigration became a national security issue, which led to an increase in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The growth in ICE following 9/11 led to CCA and GEO Group being awarded lucratvie immigrant detention center contracts. 

These private prison contracts often include a further requirement that the government keep immigrant detention centres full and at times contain a "tiered pricing structure" that provides discounts for those detained in excess of the guaranteed minimum. Private prison companies now control 62 percent of immigration detention beds in the US, according to a report by Grassroots Leadership.

Following the Department of Justice's announcement, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would evaluate whether it will phase out the use of private immigrant detention centers as well.  Read more about Is this the end of prison for profit in the US?

Oct 11, 2016
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The Huffington Post

Bloodsucking TIC (Treatment Industrial Complex): Video Reveals The Ugly Truth Behind the For-Profit Prison Industry’s Embrace Of Treatment, Rehabilitation, And ‘Alternatives’

The past few months  have been hard for private prison corporations. First, the Department of Justice announced they would begin phasing out the use of private prisons. This was followed by the Department of Homeland Security announcing they would re-examine the use of private corporations in running immigrant detention centers. These announcements caused stock in both Community Corrections of America (CCA) and GEO Group, two of the largest private prisons companies, to drop dramatically. However, a new trend suggests that they are not out of business yet. 

We call it the Treatment Industrial Complex, or TIC. Through a combination of acquisitions and mergers and an aggressive marketing campaign, for-profit prison companies are moving to preserve their profits by seeking contracts to provide in-prison medical and mental health care; manage mental hospitals and civil commitment centers; and deliver “community corrections” programs, including prisoner reentry services and “alternatives to incarceration” like electronic monitoring.

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This disgusting trend is brought vividly to life in a new video produced by Brave New Films in which the TIC is portrayed as a hairy, bloodsucking tick that is quite literally a parasite on state and federal efforts to end mass incarceration. The video lays bare how the profit motive is fundamentally at odds with efforts to truly rehabilitate people. Instead, these companies rely on recidivism and expansion of the criminal punishment system.

Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership Bob Libal warns, “Private prison corporations’ very existence is at risk as the federal government and states around the country rethink their mass incarceration policies.” He points out that the companies can only profit through volume — which means ensnaring as many people as possible and holding them for as long as possible.

Read more about Bloodsucking TIC (Treatment Industrial Complex): Video Reveals The Ugly Truth Behind the For-Profit Prison Industry’s Embrace Of Treatment, Rehabilitation, And ‘Alternatives’
Oct 11, 2016
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Raw Story

New film exposes dangers of the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’

A new film exposes the 'treatment industrial complex' that has sprung up following announcements that the Department of Justice will begin to phase out use of private prisons and that the Department of Homeland Security will review its' use of privately operated immigrant detention centers. 

As these announcements caused stock in private prison corporations to drop, companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have begun buying facilities that provide 'community corrections' programs, such as electronic monitoring, prisoner re-entry services, and other alternatives to prison.

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Robert Greenwald’s new film, “Treatment Industrial Complex,” produced by Brave New Films, shows how these companies are profiting off efforts to rehabilitate drug users and the mentally ill who become entangled in the criminal justice system.

These companies can only make money if they ensnare more Americans — and hold them as long as possible, said the film’s executive producer, Bob Libal.

Read more about New film exposes dangers of the ‘Treatment Industrial Complex’
Oct 10, 2016
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Public News Service

Federal Judge Bans ICE Detainers on Immigrants

A federal judge has ordered U.S. Immigration officials to stop requesting local law enforcement officials to detain certain people without warrant so they can determine their immigration status. This ruling adds to the already intense debate over so-called 'sanctuary cities', where local officials do not have a working connection with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), therefore creating a safe space for undocumented immigrants.

Bob Libel, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said that the ruling would begin by only affecting six Midwestern states, but he believes it will eventually apply everywhere, including Texas.

"We're not entirely sure what that's going to mean for some of the detainers that are issued here in Texas,” Libal said. "We also believe that the underlying assertion of the court is correct and that will have the impact of affecting other courts around the country."

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The topic has become a major issue in the race for Travis County sheriff, where the Democratic candidate has vowed to end voluntary cooperation with ICE. Advocates said her stance would make Austin the state's first true sanctuary city. Libal says opposition to warrantless ICE holds has been growing in other parts of the state as well.

"In Dallas County, the sheriff said she wouldn't be honoring some detainers, and in Houston, there's been a very active campaign to try to convince elected officials there to end detainers,” Libal said. "We do believe that there seems to be growing momentum against these things."

  Read more about Federal Judge Bans ICE Detainers on Immigrants

Oct 6, 2016
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KVUE

Immigrant detainers ruled invalid in more than 30 states including Texas

A federal court ruling on Wednesday invalidated thousands of immigration detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in over thirty states, including Texas. The ruling will not impact those sent to the Travis County Jail, which detains undocumented immigrants that are being held for deportation. However Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit group, expects that to change. 

"This court decision essentially confirms what we've been saying for years, which is that not only do immigration detainers in the jail break up immigrant families, but they are also unconstitutional," said Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal.  

KUVE did reach out to ICE for a statement, but a spokesperson said they are reviewing the ruling to determine its course of action.  Read more about Immigrant detainers ruled invalid in more than 30 states including Texas

Oct 4, 2016
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KVUE

APD, Vision Zero proposal to impound vehicles for drivers with an invalid license

A proposal to impound vehicles for drivers with an invalid license without an arrest is in the works to go to the Austin city council.

The public safety commission, though, voted not to endorse the proposal in a 5-5 vote. Some commissioners voiced concerns it would disproportionately affect a group of people too much.

Immigration organizer Alejandro Caceres with Grassroots Leadership in Austin went further and said this would be an attack on the immigrant community.

“It feels like it is a way for the city of Austin if it does decide to move forward with this policy to push out undocumented immigrants out of this city,” Caceres said.

Caceres says the state does not allow undocumented immigrants to get a license. That’s why he wants the legislature instead to change that.

“We need to make sure that the people who are driving on our streets are qualified to drive so we need to be able to get drivers licenses,” Caceres said.

One commissioner did talk about proposing to the city council to have them lobby the legislature to get a bill like that passed. The commission said they’ll talk about that in their next meeting.

The proposal does not need an endorsement from the commission. Manley said they plan on taking it to the council in the next couple months.

  Read more about APD, Vision Zero proposal to impound vehicles for drivers with an invalid license

Sep 27, 2016
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The Wall Street Journal

Immigrant Detention System Could Be in Line for an Overhaul

A recent Homeland Security Department decision to consider ending the widespread outsourcing of immigrant detention could mean overhauling a $2 billion-a-year system built around private prison contractors that house the majority of immigrant detainees.

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Critics of ICE question why there are so many people in custody when illegal immigration has slowed significantly. “The growth in the private-prison industry has been driven by more enforcement that fills beds, even at a time of relatively low immigration levels,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that studies for-profit incarceration and favors ending it.

The immigrant-bed quota, which Congress first mandated in 2009, benefits the private-prison industry and promotes detention, Mr. Libal and others say. Read more about Immigrant Detention System Could Be in Line for an Overhaul

Sep 27, 2016
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The Daily Texan

Activists gather to address additional funds for Travis County Jail

Criminal justice advocates gathered Friday at the Travis County Commissioner’s Court to call on officials to scale back the $2.4 million in funding allotted to hiring 36 additional correctional officers for the county jail.

Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting mass incarceration, led a press conference at the commissioner’s court where advocates emphasized the need to fund programs that could potentially keep people out of jail.

“Our goal here today is to demand that before voting to allocate more resources to jail staff, that the county commissioners and other local policy-makers prioritize funding community-based services that address the root causes of mass incarceration in our community,” Grassroots Leadership member Jorge Renaud said. Read more about Activists gather to address additional funds for Travis County Jail

Sep 23, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Criminal justice activists want Travis County to lower jail population

“Our jails aren’t treatment centers, but when we look at the population of our jails, the vast majority of them have substance abuse issues, mental health issues. These are things that we as citizens of Austin and Travis County need to prioritize our tax dollars on effecting in the community by prevention, by treatment,” said Reggie Smith, Texas Advocates for Justice representative. “This is something that is being overlooked so we’re, by default, utilizing our jails as treatment centers.” Read more about Criminal justice activists want Travis County to lower jail population

Sep 21, 2016
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Fort Worth Weekly

Private Hells

A scathing early-August report by the Office of the Inspector General on the quality-of-inmate-life in private prisons led to a very quick decision by the Department of Justice: Unless a new contract is “substantially reduce[d] in scope in a manner consistent with law,” the Bureau of Prisons must allow its current contracts with private prisons to expire.

The U.S. deputy attorney general said she believes this is just the beginning. In a memo to the acting director of the BOP, Sally Q. Yates wrote, “This is the first step in the process of reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

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But on Friday, Aug. 25, Jeh Johnson, homeland security secretary, announced that he has ordered “a review of for-profit immigration detention contracts.”

The homeland security review comes as something of a surprise: In an e-mail to me later on that same Friday, ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok indicated that private prisons would continue to be utilized as part of ICE’s inventory of prisoner housing. It should be noted, he included in his message that “ICE detention is solely for the purpose of either awaiting the resolution of an individual’s immigration case or to carry out a removal order. ICE does not detain for punitive reasons.”

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit focused on ending the use of private prisons in the United States, scoffed at the notion that ICE prisons are not punitive.

“People stay in ICE facilities for weeks, months, sometimes years,” he told me in response to Rusnok’s comments. “Just because they put pictures on the walls doesn’t mean [the facilities] are not punitive. There are still locks on the doors and guards to keep you from leaving.” Read more about Private Hells

Sep 6, 2016
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Los Angeles Times

White House considers ending for-profit immigrant detainee centers but critics say it could add billions to the cost

The Obama administration is considering an end to the practice of keeping immigrant detainees in for-profit centers, weeks after the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced it would stop its use of private prisons.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the immigration service and the Border Patrol, in late August ordered a review of ways to end the use of the private facilities.

A decision to do so would mark a major victory for the coalition of civil rights groups and immigrant advocacy organizations that has sought to roll back the growth of the private-prison industry. Immigration detention facilities house far more detainees than the private facilities the federal prison system has used.

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Civil rights advocates have documented a pattern of poor medical care and abuse inside private immigration facilities over the last several years. They say such prisons have an incentive to cut corners and reduce costs.

Although the allegations of abuse are not limited to privately run prisons, “we certainly see a lot of these problems magnified when a company is seeking to extract as much profit as it can out of a detention center,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. Read more about White House considers ending for-profit immigrant detainee centers but critics say it could add billions to the cost

Aug 30, 2016
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Public News Service

DHS to Review Use of For-Profit Detention for Immigrants

AUSTIN, Texas - The federal Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will review its policy of detaining undocumented immigrants in private, for-profit facilities. The announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson comes on the heels of a decision by the Department of Justice to phase out private companies used to operate federal prisons.

Christina Parker, the immigration programs director with Grassroots Leadership, said her group has documented a litany of problems and abuse at the for-profit immigration facilities located in Texas and elsewhere.

"They say that they're going to conduct a review looking at all aspects of contracting in these facilities, how they've operated and what happened there, the kind of abuses and neglect that we see in those facilities," she said. "Any honest review looking at that would have to result in them terminating their contracts just like the DOJ did." Read more about DHS to Review Use of For-Profit Detention for Immigrants

Aug 30, 2016
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Public News Service

El DHS revisará el uso de la detención lucrativa de inmigrantes

Austin, TX – El Secretario de Seguridad Nacional, Jeh Johnson, ha ordenado al consejo consultivo de la agencia revisar el manejo que dan los corporativos privados a los centros de detención para inmigrantes. El movimiento surgió unos días después de que el “Departament of Justice” (Departamento de Justicia) de los Estados Unidos anunciara que está haciendo ajustes al uso de ceder la operación de prisiones federales a empresas privadas con fines de lucro.

El “Deparament of Homeland Security” (Departamento de Seguridad Nacional) anunció el lunes que revisará su política de detención de inmigrantes en instalaciones manejadas por compañías privadas. El anuncio del Secretario Jeh Johnson llega muy poco después de que surgiera la decisión del Departamento de Justicia en el sentido de hacer ajustes a la operación de la operación que las empresas privadas hacen de los reclusorios federales.

Christina Parker, directora de programas de inmigración en Grassroots Leadership, dice que su grupo ha documentado una retahíla de problemas y abusos en las instalaciones lucrativas para inmigrantes de Texas y de muchas partes.

“Dicen que llevarán a cabo una revisión visual de todos los aspectos de contratación en esos lugares, cómo han operado y qué pasó, el tipo de abusos y negligencias que vemos en esas instalaciones. Cualquier revisión honesta tendría que llevar a finalizar sus contratos, tal como lo hizo el DOJ (Departamento de Justicia).” Read more about El DHS revisará el uso de la detención lucrativa de inmigrantes

Aug 30, 2016
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Rewire

ICE May Stop Contracting With Private Prison Companies

The Texas-based organization Grassroots Leadership last year released a report revealing that private prisons increased their share of the immigrant detention industry after the implementation of the “detention bed quota,” which guaranteed 34,000 immigrants would be detained at any given time.

Private prison corporations accounted for two-thirds of ICE detention beds in 2014, according to the organization. The share of immigration detention beds operated by private prison corporations has increased to 72 percent, as NPR reported. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the country’s two largest private prison companies, operate nine out of ten of the largest detention centers.

The HSAC is comprised of 40 members that advocates have called “an unusual group of people.” Members include controversial New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, a retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Chuck Canterbury, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Marshall Fitz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and Dr. Ned Norris Jr., former chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, a tribe that was divided by the construction of the U.S./Mexico border. Read more about ICE May Stop Contracting With Private Prison Companies

Aug 30, 2016
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AlterNet

DHS To Revisit For-Profit Immigrant Prisons: Will It Also Revisit Mass Detentions?

It is not clear, at this point, what impact Johnson’s announcement will have on the people incarcerated in immigrant detention centers, which rights campaigners say are more like prisons or even internment camps.

The incarceration of immigrants, migrants and refugees is the area of greatest growth for the private prison industry in the United States, with the companies Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group making windfall profits. According to the latest figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more than 70 percent of all ICE beds are operated by for-profit companies.

In turn, these corporations have been instrumental in pressing the U.S. government to adopt heavy-handed immigration policies. A report released last year by the organization Grassroots Leadership, which opposes prison profiteering, reveals that the for-profit prison industry in 2009 successfully pressured Congress to adopt the congressional immigrant detention quota, which today directs ICE to hold an average 34,000 people in detention on a daily basis. Read more about DHS To Revisit For-Profit Immigrant Prisons: Will It Also Revisit Mass Detentions?

Aug 30, 2016
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El Diario

Encarcelación privatizada: Gobierno federal evalúa poner fin al uso de cárceles privadas para inmigrantes

El anuncio reciente del Departamento de Justicia sobre la eliminación de todo contrato con empresas privadas que manejan cárceles porque que la taza de abuso y violencia contra prisioneros en esos centros es más alta que en cárceles manejadas por el gobierno ha tenido un efecto inmediato.

El Departamento de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE), señaló que ellos también revisarán sus contratos con empresas privadas para verificar la cantidad de abuso y exigir contabilidad de las corporaciones que se nutren de la encarcelación de tantos latinos en el país, en su mayoría mexicanos. Read more about Encarcelación privatizada: Gobierno federal evalúa poner fin al uso de cárceles privadas para inmigrantes

Aug 29, 2016
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Huffington Post

Obama Administration Considers Ending For-Profit Immigrant Detention

Private prison contractors may lose the ability to run immigrant detention centers as for-profit businesses.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is ordering a review of the agency’s policy of using private contractors to run immigrant detention centers, according to a statement issued Monday.

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ICE relies on private companies to handle most of its detention operations. Nearly two-thirds of immigrant detention beds are privatized, according to report last year by Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. By comparison, 12 percent of Bureau of Prisons facilities are run as businesses.

“Based on the stories that have come out of for-profit detention centers for years, including hunger strikes and protests by detained migrants, there is every reason to believe that ICE-contracted private prisons have many of the same problems that the DOJ uncovered this month,” Grassroots Leadership Director Bob Libal wrote in an email. Read more about Obama Administration Considers Ending For-Profit Immigrant Detention

Aug 28, 2016
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Arizona Republic

Valdez: Private prisons are an immoral, publicly funded mistake

In Arizona, Republican supporters of for-profit prisons ended the cost-benefit discussion about for-profit state prisons in 2012 by repealing a requirement to compare private prisons with those run by the state.

In reality, cost-benefit discussions are a distraction. The bedrock goal of a private prison is to make money. That’s the point.

Detainees are dollar signs. That’s the problem.

“There’s something morally wrong with making a profit from locking up human beings,” Libal said.

Tax dollars built the private prison industry. The withdrawal of tax dollars can dismantle it. Read more about Valdez: Private prisons are an immoral, publicly funded mistake

Aug 23, 2016
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Daily Tarheel

NC private prison among 14 impacted by Department of Justice announcement

North Carolina ended its use of private prisons in 2000 after little cost-savings, said Daniel Bowes, an attorney at the Second Chance Initiative at the N.C. Justice Center.
 
“A lot of the benefits that were touted regarding privatizing prisons just based on the DOJ report haven’t proven to be true,” Bowes said.
 
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas prison reform group, said Criminal Alien Requirement facility inmates are often convicted of drug or immigration crimes.
 
“(This decision) will essentially reintegrate the federal prison system,” Libal said.
 
The decision does not apply to immigration detention facilities contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to a report by Grassroots Leadership, 62 percent of all beds in ICE immigration detention centers are operated by private corporations. Read more about NC private prison among 14 impacted by Department of Justice announcement
Aug 22, 2016
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KQED Radio

Federal Government to Phase Out Use of Some Private Prisons

The Obama Administration announced last week that the federal Bureau of Prisons will end its reliance on privately-run, for-profit prisons. The facilities, which the Justice Department calls unsafe and expensive, currently house about 22,000 inmates, almost all of whom are not U.S. citizens. While the move will do little to reduce the nation’s overall prison population — now numbering more than 2.2 million — supporters say it’s a crucial step in bringing about broader criminal justice reforms. We discuss the details of the policy change and the prevalence of private prisons across the United States. Read more about Federal Government to Phase Out Use of Some Private Prisons

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