Private prison corporations are now a multi-billion dollar industry, preying on rising rates of incarceration and confinement to ensure profit. Through the Public Safety and Justice Campaign, Grassroots Leadership works with partners across the country to expose the private prison industry, stop its expansion, and close existing private prisons. We believe public safety and justice can only be achieved when no one profits from the incarceration of human beings.
Public Safety and Justice Campaign
“These contracts are very lucrative,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the Austin-based justice advocacy nonprofit Grassroots Leadership. “A reduction in the number of prisoners could be a huge threat to the private prison corporations’ bottom line.” Read more about Prison Reform 2015: Growing Push To Reduce Incarceration Rates Could Hurt Private Prisons, Experts Say
News of the escape raised concerns from criminal justice advocates and civil rights advocates.
The incident "seems to encapsulate all of problems of turning a jail over to a for-profit prison corporation," said Bob Libal, Executive Director Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based civil-rights organization and an outspoken opponent of the private prison industry. "Including incentivizing high rates of incarceration, staffing at a very low level to mazimize profits, which lead to operational outcomes like you've seen - failed inspections and escapes. These things are all preventable, but symptomatic of for-profit prison corporations operating jails as for-profit and not for rehabilitation or public safety, frankly." Read more about Inmate still on lam after escape from Liberty County Jail
CCA “has a horrible track record of abuse and neglect of prisoners and so we’re especially opposed to any reopening of that facility, says Lars Negstad, Strategic Campaigns Coordinator for ISAIAH.
A Grassroots Leadership report on CCA’s 30 years of operation details the company’s problems, including sexual abuse of prisoners, and incompetent guards who are paid very little.
“We think we should start scaling back the number of prisons,” says Stevensen. “One of the things that we know is that if you build it they will come. So if we build prisons, especially for-profit prisons, they will be filled up because someone needs to fill those beds in order to make a profit.” Read more about Religious Leaders Don’t Want A For-Profit Prison In Minnesota
Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based national organization working to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention, hailed the legislation as "a major stride toward a justice system that is obliged to put human beings over private interests."
"As long as there are corporate financial incentives for locking people up and keeping them behind bars, reforming drug laws and other sentencing policies will produce limited results for meaningfully decreasing the astronomical rate of incarceration in this country," said Kymberlie Quong Charles, criminal justice programs director for Grassroots Leadership. Read more about 'Justice Is Not For Sale': Bernie Sanders Leads Charge Against For-Profit Prisons
Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill) introduced the Justice is Not for Sale Act, a comprehensive bill that outlaws the use of for-profit prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers. Read more about 7 good things that will happen if we ban private prisons with the #JusticeNot4Sale Act
Also on hand was Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. His national organization pushes for criminal justice reform.
Libal, in an interview, said his home state of Texas closed three prisons the past few years and saved millions of dollars in the process.
“The tragedy in Kingman should have Arizona rethinking its criminal justice system,” Libal said. Read more about Advocates to Ducey: Scrap bid for more private prisons
“What works is getting to the root causes of crime," Isaacs said "You can’t punish your way out of addiction. You can’t punish your way out mental illness. You can’t punish your way out of poverty.”
Other states such as Texas have began to reduce their prison population. Bob Libal, director of the justice advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, points to Texas closing two privately operated prisons in 2013.
Read more about Activists Urge Arizona Governor To Cancel Private Prison Expansion
Earlier this month, prisoners incarcerated by the Arizona Department of Corrections at a for-profit private prison in Kingman, Arizona rioted and destroyed much of the facility. The recent unrest and violence at the Kingman prison should come as no surprise to any of us. In fact, we should have anticipated it. Under the management of MTC, a private for-profit prison corporation based in Utah, Kingman has been the site of other unconscionable and high-level disturbances, including the escape of three people who were later tied to the murder of a couple in New Mexico.
The following are remarks by Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal at a July 20th press conference at the Arizona House of Representatives:
I'm very happy to be here this morning with advocates, legislators, and members of the faith community calling for Arizona to implement policies that reduce reliance on mass for-profit incarceration.
Arizona's struggles with for-profit prisons are not unique. Private prisons are well-documented for cutting corners in staffing levels, staff training and staff benefits, all which lead to notably higher staff turnover rates in private prisons than in publicly run prisons. Of course, violence, disruptions, and staff incompetency is found in publicly run prisons, too. The difference is that, as publicly run entities, they can and should be held to account by the public. But when taxpayer dollars are used to outsource the management of prisons, we actually relinquish the right to holding these companies accountable. That, too, is unconscionable. States across the country have seen the kind of incidents that Arizona has saw at the Kingman facility over the past several years. In Texas, conditions at the Willacy County Correctional Center - also operated by Management and Training Corporation, the same private prison company - deteriorated and poorly trained prison leadership reacted so badly that immigrant prisoners rioted and destroyed the facility. Read more about Grassroots Leadership stands with Arizonans calling for an end to for-profit imprisonment