Private Prisons

Victory - McAllen, TX City Commission Rejects Proposal to Build a New Private Prison!


Grassroots Leadership and our allies are celebrating today as the McAllen, TX City Commission has rejected for-profit prison company GEO Group’s proposal to build a new private prison for immigrants!  

In July, we caught wind that the city planned to seek a private contractor to build and operate a new 1,000-bed facility under their existing contract with the U.S. Marshals Service.  In doing so, the city would have not only contributed to the expansion of an industry that reaps billions from incarcerating human beings, but also the rising trend of profiteering from the criminalization of migrants under Operation Streamline.  


The Dirty 30 | #3 - Keeping Costs Low and Profits High Through Employee Mistreatment

In 2013, Corrections Corporation of America is "celebrating" its thirtieth anniversary.  We believe there is nothing to celebrate about 30 years of profiting off of incarceration.  In response Grassroots Leadership and Public Safety and Justice Campaign published "The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About Thirty Years of Corrections Corporation of America," a list of thirty stories that exhibit the most troubling aspects of the company's history.  Each week we'll highlight one of these stories.  Click here to view the full report.  Printed copies are available in limited quanitity.  For more information please contact Kymberlie Quong Charles.

Corrections Corporation of America’s record of malpractice is not just confined to the treatment of prisoners within its facilities but has often come at the expense of the company’s own employees. In an effort to maximize its profit margins and bill itself as a cheaper alternative to government-run prisons, CCA’s cost-cutting measures have frequently been through practices like reducing employee benefits and salaries, operating on routinely low and dangerous staff-to-prisoner ratios, and not offering sufficient staff training. 

Research for a lawsuit brought by people incarcerated at the Idaho Correctional Center revealed the facility’s 2012 monthly staffing reports, which showed guards working 24, 36 and 48 hours straight without time off, sometimes without appropriate compensation and in direct violation of state laws.[1] In May 2012, a group of shift supervisors at Kentucky’s Marion Adjustment Center sued CCA for forcing them to work extra hours, denying them overtime or meal and rest breaks, and requiring them to attend training sessions without pay.[2] Similarly, a class-action Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit was settled in Kansas in February 2009 for up to $7 million, alleging that some employees were required to perform work duties without financial compensation. Meanwhile, several lawsuits have also drawn attention to CCA’s failure to pay even the prevailing wage rate to employees, with cases settled in 2000 at Louisiana’s Winn Correctional Center[3] and the San Diego Correctional Facility.[4] The low wages of most CCA employees certainly do not extend to its top executives. In 2011, CEO Damon Hininger was paid $3,696,798, while Chairman of the Board John Ferguson received a salary of $1,734,793.[5]


GEO Group lauds industry-funded study, Ohioans deserve all the facts

A guest column, Privately run prisons offer value to Ohio, ran in the Toledo based paper, The Blade, on Monday.  The authors, economic professors from Temple University, Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone, point to findings from their recent study to argue that private for-profit prisons are “proven solutions that deserve a second look” from state governments.  GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison operator, posted the piece on their website and lauded the study’s findings on twitter.  


Secret's Out: McAllen, TX Seeking New Private Prison

UPDATE:  There will be a public forum at McAllen City Hall on WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 11th at 5:30 PM for the residents of McAllen, TX to voice their views on the construction of a new private prison!  Click here to see details, sign the petition, and find out what you can do to make your voice heard.

This week, we learned that McAllen, TX has been keeping a dirty secret.  Located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the city plans to publish a formal request for qualifications this week from private prison operators willing to build a new 1,000-bed lock-up.  The new prison would house federal prisoners for the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) under an existing agreement with the city. 

McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez said, “There’s a great need to have their prisoners held in a facility that’s local.” Currently, the federal government pays McAllen $52 a day per prisoner housed at the Public Safety Building, located blocks from the courthouse, but only capable of housing 30 prisoners. USMS transports prisoners from private prisons in Laredo and La Villa to McAllen for court hearings, described as the cause of “logistical headaches” for the Marshals Service.  Under the new deal, the private prison operator would pay the city of McAllen to house prisoners, but that amount is still being negotiated.  The location of the new prison is also yet to be determined.


Action in Arizona: CCA, GO AWAY!

On May 1st, we announced a series of protests and informational events that are taking place around the country in opposition of for-profit incarceration and Corrections Corporation of America’s celebrations of their 30th anniversary this year.  Collectively, organizers across the nation are sending a message to CCA  that thirty years of profiting from pain is nothing to celebrate! 


The first event took place on Tuesday in Washington, DC where civil rights leaders, people of faith, criminal justice reform groups, and immigrant rights organizations protested outside CCA’s Correctional Treatment Facility. In preparation for the event, Seema Sadanandan, ACLU organizer in DC, gave three reasons why everyone should join the Public Safety and Justice Campaign, citing the deaths of Juan Villanueva and Catlin Carithers in CCA’s Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi.  


Social Justice Hero: Caroline Isaacs

Welcome to our Social Justice Hall of Heroes: once a month we’ll be highlighting someone in the field fighting to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.

Our Social Justice Superhero for November is Caroline Isaacs, the program director for the American Friends Service Committee office in Tucson, Arizona.  Isaacs began her work with the Quaker organization in 1995, when she was hired on for a one-year internship; she became the Criminal Justice Program Coordinator six years later, and in 2004 moved into her current position.  I had an opportunity to talk with Isaacs last week about her life as an activist and Tucsonian. 


Haunted Hump Day Hall of Shame | Community Education Centers

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.

Community Education Centers (CEC) is a pretty creepy for-profit private prison corporation.  They recently made New York Times headlines for their mismanagement of New Jersey half-way houses and their ties to Governor Chris Christie, and have a well-documented history across the United States for egregious problems that have arisen in facilities that they run.

Beyond what actually happens in these facilities, it’s pretty creepy understanding the framework that private, for-proft prison companies employ in their business practices.  For CEC and the private for-profit prison business, incarcerated people are dollars signs before they are human beings.  And, reducing the number of people in prison is bad for their business. [node:read-more:link]


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