Private Prisons

Humpday Hall of Shame: Willacy County pays the price of private prison...again.

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.”


Humpday Hall of Shame: De-coding prison profiteering

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]

Outstanding recognition for study on private prisons and people of color

Grassroots Leadership is proud to share an exciting new study by our board member, Christopher Petrella.  Christopher is a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and recently published “The Color of Corporate Corrections, Part II: Contractual Exemptions and the Overrepresentation of People of Color in Private Prisons,” in Radical Criminology.  His research presents two related arguments that are valuable in framing Grassroots Leadership’s commitment to ending for-profit incarceration.

First, Christopher found that people of color are overrepresented in prisons controlled by for-profit management companies relative to public facilities of the same security-level because private prison firms try to maximize the percentage of low-cost, healthy and young individuals they contain. Health and age, therefore, serve as stand-in selection criteria for race without any explicit reference to it. Historical sentencing patterns beginning with the so-called “War on Drugs” have fomented trends whereby prisoners over the age of 50 are disproportionately “non-Hispanic, white” and prisoners under 50 are disproportionately persons of color. Generally, the private prison paradigm is based on one premise: meet shareholder expectation by growing profits and minimizing losses. One of the surest ways to achieve that objective is to limit the number of high-cost prisoners with chronic health conditions through contract exemptions. This practice tends to result in a prisoner profile that is far younger—and healthier—in private prisons relative to public facilities and therefore ultimately yields an over-representation of people of color. Moreover, his research provides an irrefutable example of the ways in which seemingly “race neutral” or "colorblind" carceral policies continue to have a differential impact on communities of color.


Open letter to WV prisoners: Beware of private prisons before signing away your rights

As part of our ongoing efforts to stop the state of West Virginia from shipping prisoners across state lines to private for-profit prisons, Grassroots Leadership is sending an open letter to prisoners in West Virginia to raise awareness of their constitutional rights that are at risk. State lawmakers continue to debate sending prisoners to private facilities run by the Corrections Corporation of America in Kentucky instead of pursuing other options that would truly address the state’s overcrowded prisons issues and would adhere to the state constitution.  Unlike other states that we highlighed in our recent report Locked Up and Shipped Away, West Virginia's constitution bars banishment of prisoners, which places prisoners in a unique and critical role in advocating against CCA profiteering from their transfer.  They have the right to say no and to be incarcerated and rehabilitated within the state of West Virginia.

Idaho Gov. Otter takes step in the right direction, but when will he bring prisoners home?

Grassroots Leadership and our friends in the fight against prison profiteering are celebrating after Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced on Jan.3 he is ordering the state to take over the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) — a private prison operated by industry giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) with a long and sordid history of scandal and abuse. [node:read-more:link]

Private Prison Companies Punish Progress in Two Texas Counties


A story out of McLennan County in Central Texas this week reminds us how private prison companies’ incessant pursuit of profit can end up hurting local governments.  

After finishing out the current fiscal year with the jail $2 million over budget, McLennan County officials, including law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors, are looking to streamline the local justice system and cut jail costs.  McLennan County Judge Scott Felton told KWTX News 10 that the county could save $2 million a year by reducing the prison population by 10 percent.  

But, there’s a catch.

Any savings would be offset by a deal the county struck with private prison corporation LaSalle Corrections in May, which requires the county to pay LaSalle for 325 prison beds at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, regardless of whether or not there are prisoners to fill them.  In other words, even if the county reduces the number of people behind bars, which would save money and strengthen communities, the county remains obligated to fill LaSalle’s pockets with taxpayer dollars.



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