Private Prisons

Oct 29, 2015
Houston Press

One community welcomes bid for detention center, another rejects it

A private prison firm that abandoned a detention center in South Texas, leaving leaders there to grapple with how to keep it afloat, won support from a community near Houston to host a new facility in a vote that came less than a week after a neighboring city rebuffed a similar proposal.

Emerald Correctional Management approached city officials in Shepherd on Monday, asking for permission to pursue a bid to build the facility in the small municipality of about 2,000 people an hour northeast of Houston. The Louisiana-based company is among three expected to submit bids to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency for a 1,000-bed detention center the federal organization wants to build in the Houston area.

Before Shepherd signed off on the proposal, Emerald approached nearby Cleveland, where leaders narrowly rejected the deal.

Private detention facilities have proliferated across Texas over the last two decades, in response to a wave of illegal immigration. The facilities were seen by many municipalities as a low-risk way to bring jobs and federal funds to small Texas communities.

But as apprehensions have dropped and beds across the state have increased, facilities have struggled. At some sites, detainees have held hunger strikes and riots because of poor conditions. In other instances, local counties that financed the facilities are dealing with unforeseen debt when the companies canceled contracts after the inmate population dropped.


At another, in the small south Texas town of Encinal, in LaSalle County, Emerald's operations came under additional scrutiny after it abruptly pulled out of the center after the inmate population dropped, saddling county officials with a facility with a leaky roof, about $20 million in debt, and scrambling to find a new operator to save the jobs of the 100 guards and staff.

Critics who have long opposed private companies operating prisons continue to be skeptical.

"Recent evidence does not add up that there's going to be such an increase in numbers of immigrants detained [by the government] that ICE is going to need thousands of additional beds," said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that has long opposed the private-prison industry. "Often when these contracts dry up, [private detention operators] walk from the facilities. And in many cases, they have left communities high and dry." [node:read-more:link]

Oct 23, 2015

Donald Trump Demands Super PACs Supporting Him Return Money, as Hillary Clinton Disavows Private Prison PACs

Earlier on Friday, Clinton's campaign staff confirmed to Fusion that she won't accept donations from federally registered lobbyists and PACs for private prison companies. Instead, she will donate those direct contributions to charity. It was not immediately clear which charities Clinton will choose.

"Hillary Clinton has said we must end the era of mass incarceration, and as president, she will end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers," a representative from her campaign tells Newsweek. "When we're dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don't need private industry incentives that may contribute—or have the appearance of contributing—to over-incarceration."

Clinton’s decision reportedly follows pressure from groups, including immigration organizations and Black Lives Matter. Sixty-two percent of immigration detention beds are located in facilities operated by private prison companies, according to a report published in April by Grassroots Leadership. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 27, 2015
The Uptake

Religious Leaders Don’t Want A For-Profit Prison In Minnesota

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.

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.” [node:read-more:link]

Sep 17, 2015
eNews Park Forest

'Justice Is Not For Sale': Bernie Sanders Leads Charge Against For-Profit Prisons

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. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 17, 2015
Huffington Post

Bernie Sanders Wants To End Private Prisons. That's Really Ambitious.

WASHINGTON -- Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation on Thursday that promises to ban government contracts for privately run prisons and jails within three years. Implementing such a plan would be an ambitious effort, as it would give authorities more than 100,000 additional inmates to manage -- the number held in private facilities as of 2013. The bill's immigration provisions are similarly bold.

"We have got to do everything that we can as a nation to end that reality of locking up so many people, and we have got to do it as rapidly as possible," Sanders said at a press conference on Thursday.

The Justice Is Not For Sale Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and other lawmakers, would ban federal, state and local governments from contracting with private companies to run prisons and other detention facilities. Within three years, facilities housing prisoners must be under government control. 


The bed mandate and use of private prison contractors, in particular, are incentives for immigration agents to apprehend and detain as many people as possible, according to advocates for reform. The government is required to maintain 34,000 beds to hold immigrants who are undergoing deportation proceedings. 

Officials say they consider that mandate to refer to having the capacity to detain that number, not actually having those beds full at all times. But more people in detention means more money for the companies housing immigrants awaiting deportation, because 62 percent of beds are in privately run facilities, according to the civil rights group Grassroots Leadership. [node:read-more:link]

Jul 20, 2015
The Republic |

Advocates to Ducey: Scrap bid for more private prisons

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. [node:read-more:link]

Jul 20, 2015
KJZZ 91.5

Activists Urge Arizona Governor To Cancel Private Prison Expansion

“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.

A Tale of Two States: Washington and Vermont sign contracts to ship prisoners to Michigan

Two weeks ago we were disappointed to learn that both Washington state and Vermont awarded contracts to private prison corporation, GEO Group, to house overflow prisoners at the long-shuttered North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, MI.

This is concerning not only because of GEO’s particularly egregious history at the Baldwin private prison, but also because shipping prisoners out-of-state for profit is regressive and harmful criminal justice policy.

It allows state leaders to ignore root causes of prison overcrowding and delay desperately needed sustainable reform. Shipping prisoners far away severs critical ties to family and community, compounding the already devastating effects of isolation felt by people who experience incarceration. It places enormous emotional and financial burdens on the families and loved ones of those shipped away. All the while, private prison corporations rake in profits for every prison bed they can fill. 


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