for-profit private prisons

Sep 28, 2017
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Reveal

ICE issues plan to detain 1,000 more migrants in Texas

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is soliciting private-sector interest in a new detention center to hold 1,000 people in South Texas, according to a notice posted Wednesday on a federal contracting site.

The post is a preliminary request for information, asking for room to house men and women within 50 miles of I-35. ICE said its preference is for a facility dedicated to holding its detainees, but it would consider a large facility with inmates from another agency. The agency said it will consider pre-existing facilities, renovated old facilities or new construction.

The contract would mean more good news for the private prison industry, which has rebounded quickly under President Donald Trump. A year ago, the federal government seemed poised to end deals with the private prison industry’s biggest players, after federal inspectors noted safety concerns in their facilities.

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The new South Texas facility likely would be the largest since then, according to Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based nonprofit that tracks private prisons and advocates against expanding them.

“This would continue the trend of this administration’s giveaways to the private prison industry at the expense of immigrants that it’s targeting for deportation,” Libal said. The region already is home to many of ICE’s largest detention centers, in remote towns without easy access to legal help, he said.

“I would question the logic behind this,” he said, “because from what we’ve heard, for the most part, asylum-seeking folks, that population hasdeclined in the first few months, while internal apprehensions have increased.” Read more about ICE issues plan to detain 1,000 more migrants in Texas

Aug 17, 2017
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dead Bodies and Billions in Tax Dollars

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The company's problems didn't end there, though. GEO and other leading for-profit prison corporations have been plagued by health and safety issues for years, with prisoner and staff complaints and wrongful-death lawsuits piling up like mounds of unopened jail mail.

Since 1997, private prisons have been

paid billions

by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to annually house more than 34,000 federal inmates.

But the companies have enjoyed a lucrative relationship with the federal government. Since 1997, they’ve been paid billions by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to annually house more than 34,000 federal inmates. It was a convenient arrangement for a nation with the world’s highest prison population, underpinned by a belief that private corporations could do the job cheaper and better.

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Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas advocacy group that has opposed the private-prison industry for the last 20 years, offered a blunt assessment: “These are very troubled facilities that have a history of people dying of entirely preventable medical conditions or violence.” Read more about Dead Bodies and Billions in Tax Dollars

Jun 6, 2017
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WyoFile

Legislature chooses savings over rights in prison contract

The Wyoming Department of Corrections recently signed a contract with CoreCivic to house prisoners if the state penitentiary becomes uninhabitable; a future that seems all but certain with the consistent dilly dallying of the Wyoming Legislature and its inability to meet any of the state’s problems head on. A new contract will be entered into this year with CoreCivic, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. CoreCivic is the name Corrections Corporation of America has chosen in an apparent effort to reorganize and leave its shameful past behind.

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In August the Department of Justice announced that it will be phasing out the use of private prisons after a scathing report from the inspector general’s office. This report found substandard living conditions, inadequate medical care and high rates of violence at prisons run by private companies including 14 prisons run by CoreCivic. In the early 1980’s, CoreCivic was the first company in the country to run for-profit prisons and, according to a recent report by Grassroots Leadership, a group that advocates against private prisons, one of the founders of Core Civic stated that they sold incarceration just “like you were selling cars or real estate or hamburgers.”

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In 2013 Grassroots Leadership issued a report about CoreCivic’s celebration of its 30th anniversary in business. Entitled The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About 30 Years of Corrections Corporation of America the report outlined the corporations infamous history. 

According to Grassroots Leadership the report looks at many areas of concern: “As well as unearthing notable scandals and violations that have taken place over the company’s last three decades, this report charts several other key areas in which CoreCivic has left a dubious legacy. From controversial economic and political ties to operational cost-cutting and depressing labor practices, CoreCivic’s drastic efforts to maximize profits only serve to demonstrate the fundamental reasons why the for-profit prison industry is at odds with the goals of reducing incarceration rates and raising correctional standards.”

Grassroots selected a few of the more egregious issues in CoreCivic’s history to present its concerns about the use of private prisons for incarceration. CoreCivic purchased the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in 2011 and a year into its administration state audits found “staff mismanagement, widespread violence, delays in medical treatment, and unacceptable living conditions including a lack of access to toilet facilities with prisoners forced to defecate in plastic containers and bags.” The prison was often overcrowded and prisoners were forced to sleep on mattresses on the floors or were triple-bunked. Medical care was delayed and chronically ill prisoners were not treated with standard medical protocols.

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According to the Grassroots Leadership report staff misconduct is prevalent and well documented in CoreCivic’s facilities with allegations of violence, sexual abuse, incompetence and mistreatment being regular complaints.  Officers have been found stealing prisoners’ money, selling drugs to prisoners and taking bribes. CoreCivic staff officers have been fired for urinating and placing fecal matter in prisoners’ drinks and food and for sexually abusing female prisoners.

The Grassroots Leadership reports that lack of expertise and training have resulted in numerous escapes and mistaken releases and CoreCivic’s security policies have received heavy criticism. Improper staffing and officer assistance was involved in some of the escapes. Poor conditions, understaffing, and inadequate response have led to riots at CoreCivic’s facilities. A riot in 2004 At Crowley County Correctional Facility resulted in a $600,000 settlement for prisoners who allegedly suffered retribution and abuse. After the riot, prisoners were assaulted by staff, forced to lie in sewage, left outside all night in handcuffs and forced to relieve themselves in their clothes as they were gassed and harassed by staff. Even prisoners who had not participated in the riot were punished. According to the Wyoming Department of Corrections, Wyoming inmates were housed in this private prison at the time of the riots.

Grassroots Leadership goes on to report that lack of adequate medical care has been a continuing problem for CoreCivic. In 1988 a complaint was filed over the death of a 23 year old from pregnancy complications. CoreCivic settled this lawsuit with the family for $100,000. Other lawsuits followed. For example, a death resulted from failure to provide prescribed medication; the inmate ran out of medication, repeatedly asked for a new prescription, and died a day before he was to be released. This case was settled by CoreCivic in 2004 for an undisclosed amount.

Numerous prisoners have suffered under Core Civic’s profit-making schemes and the Grassroots Leaders report lists numerous incidents. In 2003, Estelle Richardson died in a CoreCivic facility in Nashville, Tennessee.  According to the autopsy, Richardson had four broken ribs, a cracked skull, and internal organ injuries consistent with her head and body being slammed on a hard surface. CoreCivic settled this case for about $2 million dollars.

In the CoreCivic Hutto facility built in 1997 as a for-profit medium security prison in Taylor, Texas, immigrant families from Central America, Africa, Iraq, and Eastern Europe were housed when it was changed from a prison to a detention center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the report, the detainee families, including children, were dressed in prison scrubs, housed in cells, and forced to adhere to strict prison schedules. CoreCivic employee Donald Charles Dunn was found guilty of sexually abusing at least 8 female immigrant detainees while transporting them from the facility. These stories and many others tell the tale of who Corrections Corporation of America was and who CoreCivic very likely will be. Read more about Legislature chooses savings over rights in prison contract

May 19, 2017
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The VT Digger

Prisoners in Pennsylvania is not the solution

 

Vermont inmates are now going to Pennsylvania. That’s good news … or is it? Vermont recently signed a three-year contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to house Vermont inmates.

Let us not forget, too, the transportation of the inmates from Baldwin, Michigan, to Pennsylvania. There was areport by Grassroots Leadership in conjunction with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform in 2013, in which an inmate describes the transportation process: “John, (who preferred we did not use his real name) was transferred to a private prison in Kentucky in 2006, said he had no clue what was happening when officers came into his Vermont cell in the middle of the night, told him to get up and grab his things, and refused to answer when asked where he was going. Shackled to the person next to him, he endured the 36-hour bus ride, still without any idea where he would end up …” The transport process sounds like an awful process, filled with inhumane treatment; in my view the only transport for these men should be back to Vermont. Other men soiled themselves because they could only use the facilities when allowed, even in emergencies. The report went on to state: “The transfer to Kentucky stripped John of access to rehabilitative programs, which simply did not exist at the private prison in Kentucky. Now out of prison and back in Vermont, John regularly advocates for prisoners’ rights, and said, ‘This practice of transferring inmates out-of-state is horrendous. You’re taking people who, whatever support network they may have, is gone. The truth of the matter is [that as an incarcerated person] you’re alone. You’re isolated.’”

Vermont is not only promoting this kind of treatment, in the transfer of inmates, but is continuously allowing inmates to be warehoused with little or no opportunity to work on programs that help them with the reintegration process. Read more about Prisoners in Pennsylvania is not the solution

May 1, 2017
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The Texas Observer

Legislature Plans to Close Four Correctional Facilities. Will They Become Immigrant Detention Centers?

The lean, mean budgets proposed by the Texas House and Senate don’t do much to inspire optimism about the coming two-year cycle. But opponents of mass incarceration have found some solace in funding cuts.

Both chambers propose closing four state correctional facilities this session — a cost-cutting measure that criminal justice reformers say is worth celebrating.

“This is extremely exciting,” said Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights mass incarceration. “We have far too many prisons in Texas, so this is definitely a step in the right direction.”

On the chopping block are Williamson County’s Bartlett State Jail, Wise County’s Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, Mitchell County’s Dick Ware Transfer Facility and Terry County’s West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility. Altogether,the facilities cost the state $51.2 million every two years and hold 1,755 inmates, according to officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

The proposed prison closures aren’t yet final. The House and Senate still have to reconcile the differences in their budgets, and Governor Greg Abbott has to approve whatever compromise the chambers reach. Still, shuttering these facilities seems likely.

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It’s not hard to see why the House and Senate both suggest closing a few prisons. The state is in toughfiscal straits, and it stands to save hundreds of millions in the years to come by closing the four facilities, which aren’t needed to the extent they once were. Each of the four facilities is operating at reduced capacity, according to TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier. Altogether, the four units the Legislature is considering for closure can hold more than 2,000 inmates; they’re currently more than 250 prisoners shy of capacity.

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If the recommended closures clear the Legislature, the state will maintain ownership of its two prisons should it need them again, Collier said. CoreCivic and the City of Brownfield, on the other hand, are free to sell their facilities or find new prisoners. That worries Kirby and other policy advocates, who fear they could be used forimmigrant detention.

“I think it’s important that we keep a close eye on how these facilities might be repurposed,” Kirby said. “It’s common practice for privately owned facilities to get used for other populations of prisoners, like immigrants, and it’s particularly concerning in the current political climate, with talk of expanding detention.” Read more about Legislature Plans to Close Four Correctional Facilities. Will They Become Immigrant Detention Centers?

Mar 8, 2017
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Alternet

Private Prison Execs Are Gloating Over Soaring Profits from Trump's Mass Deportation Agenda

In a February 22 call with investors, the private prison corporation GEO Group openly boasted that the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants is boosting its bottom line and fueling its expansion.

One of the largest private prison companies in the world, GEO Group, stands accused of widespread human rights violations, including charges that the company forced tens of thousands of immigrants in ICE detention at the Aurora, Colorado Denver Contract Detention Facility to perform slave labor. GEO Group’s Karnes family detention center in Texas, where mothers are incarcerated with their children, has been the site of repeated hunger strikes over poor conditions and indefinite detention.

Speaking with investors (transcript is available here), David Donahue, the President of GEO Corrections and Detention, directly cited the Trump administration’s “deportation force” as a boon to business.

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Speaking with investors, chairman and chief executive officer George Zoley gloated, “We’re very pleased with our strong fourth quarter and year end results and our outlook for 2017," adding: “It is gratifying to see GEO’s continued financial success.”

Zoley went on to directly cite Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders as a boon to business, proclaiming:

With respect to detention services, in support of border security, we would continue to be the largest provider of detention services to the three federal agencies — that is to ICE, the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service. With this increased and expanded approach to border security, the first agency that will need additional capacity is ICE. Border Patrol will catch individuals and then send them to an ICE facility. Subsequently, there will be a need by the U.S. Marshals Service for those people that have committed criminal acts and need to be detained for adjudication. And further on down the line, BOP will need additional capacity as well for those people who’ve been sentenced and need to serve their time in one of the CAR facilities.

So it’s really an escalation of capacity need for all three federal agencies as a result of the president’s new executive orders redirecting the approach to border security for the three federal agencies.

The advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership blasted the company for profiting from Trump’s plans to implement mass deportations. "While immigrant communities are being terrorized by raids, the private prison industry is quietly celebrating a potential boom in business,” said Bob Libal, the executive director of the organization. “Prison companies like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America are preparing for an enormous expansion to detention under this administration. Mass deportations should make our country ashamed, not make private prison executives rich." Read more about Private Prison Execs Are Gloating Over Soaring Profits from Trump's Mass Deportation Agenda

Feb 27, 2017
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Westword

The Torturous, Completely Preventable Slow-Motion Death of Dennis Choquette

When he entered a for-profit Colorado prison in July 2014, Dennis Choquette had a serious but treatable foot malady related to diabetes.

But according to a lawsuit filed by his estate, his jailers repeatedly refused to address this problem as a way of saving money, thereby allowing his condition to deteriorate slowly and agonizingly over the course of more than a year.

He died in November 2016, on the very day that lawyers working on his behalf had been scheduled to file a motion asking a judge to set aside his sentence and order that he be admitted to a hospital for an amputation.

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Choquette was imprisoned in the Bent County Correctional Facility, a jail owned by Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, whose website currently lists thirteen jails or facilities in Colorado, including the one in Bent County, is at the center of the 1999 feature article by Alan Prendergast headlined "McPrison." And in 2013, Prendergast tackled the topic again in "Thirty Years of Private Prisons: New Report Details Trouble Behind Bars."

In the latter post, about a scathing condemnation of the firm by the group Grassroots Leadership, Prendergast wrote that CCA was "launched in 1983 by a group of Kentucky Fried Chicken investors" and has been criticized over the years based on allegations that its "for-profit model cuts too many corners, resulting in ill-trained and poorly paid staff," as well as "inadequate medical care."

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The length of time that elapsed between Choquette's entry into jail and his demise makes the manner of his passing even more tragic, in Holland's view. "This was a slow-motion death. In some cases of people dying in jail, people come in and their condition is exploding with urgency at that specific moment. But this was like watching a slow torture unfold."

Co-counsel Holland Edwards sees the story as an example of a larger problem.

"What happened to Dennis is exactly what's wrong with health care at corrections," she says. "They knew he had a condition, and it was treatable. But they refused to help him or to intervene even after we sued. Even when we brought to their attention that it was likely to result in irreparable harm or death, they still didn't want to help him. We went from trying to help our client to trying to figure out the value to his estate of them having killed him."

She argues that Choquette "died of deliberate indifference to his medical needs. He died because this Department of Corrections system and the Corrections Corporation of America were reckless with his medical care. Certainly, he had underlying medical conditions, like a lot of people in jail. He had diabetes and some heart issues. But his foot should have never gotten to the point where he needed amputation. He should still be alive today."

The length of time that elapsed between Choquette's entry into jail and his demise makes the manner of his passing even more tragic, in Holland's view. "This was a slow-motion death. In some cases of people dying in jail, people come in and their condition is exploding with urgency at that specific moment. But this was like watching a slow torture unfold."

Co-counsel Holland Edwards sees the story as an example of a larger problem.

"What happened to Dennis is exactly what's wrong with health care at corrections," she says. "They knew he had a condition, and it was treatable. But they refused to help him or to intervene even after we sued. Even when we brought to their attention that it was likely to result in irreparable harm or death, they still didn't want to help him. We went from trying to help our client to trying to figure out the value to his estate of them having killed him."

She argues that Choquette "died of deliberate indifference to his medical needs. He died because this Department of Corrections system and the Corrections Corporation of America were reckless with his medical care. Certainly, he had underlying medical conditions, like a lot of people in jail. He had diabetes and some heart issues. But his foot should have never gotten to the point where he needed amputation. He should still be alive today." Read more about The Torturous, Completely Preventable Slow-Motion Death of Dennis Choquette

Feb 24, 2017
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The Christian Science Monitor

Sessions memo: Reversal on private prisons could portend shift on justice, observers say

Private prisons could be here to stay, Jeff Sessions signaled on Thursday.

In a memo to the Bureau of Prisons Thursday, the attorney general rolled back Obama-era guidance in which then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates directed the BOP not to renew contracts with private prisons. Attorney General Sessions wrote that Ms. Yates’ August order “impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”

The move may not have a significant impact immediately: The BOP has contracts with just 12 private facilities, housing only about 21,000 of the nearly 190,000 inmates in federal prisons, according to the Justice Department. But for observers, the rethink on private prisons from one administration to the next is indicative of their very different values – and may foreshadow the future of criminal justice under President Trump. 

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“A large part of the impetus for privatization among both Republicans and Democrats is this notion of efficiency – it just sounds really appealing,” says Professor Mears. 

And with a lack of "apples-to-apples" comparative research on similar inmates at the two prison types, politicians' ideology may be the guiding force behind their determination of whether private prisons offer a way to house inmates that is equally as humane, secure, and cost-effective as publicly-operated facilities, he says.

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Campaign donations may also have helped inform the Trump administration’s decision, some suggest. GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit prison operators in the country, gave $250,000 to support Trump's inauguration events, Pablo Paez, the company's vice president of corporate relations told USA Today. CoreCivic, another major private prison operator, gave $250,000 to the inauguration as well.

“Private prison companies were major donors to the President’s campaign.... No doubt there was an expected policy shift in exchange for their support,” writes Michele Deitch, a longtime attorney who is a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, in an email to the Monitor.

Private prisons with government contracts lauded Sessions’ memo.

“Our company welcomes the memorandum by the Attorney General reinstating the continued use of privately operated facilities,” Mr. Paez, of the GEO Group, said in a statement emailed to the Monitor. 

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“It appears that this administration is deeply committed to increasing incarceration, particularly of immigrants, and has very close ties to the private prison industry,” says Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice reform group based in Austin, Texas. Read more about Sessions memo: Reversal on private prisons could portend shift on justice, observers say

Feb 24, 2017
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The Houston Press

Trump AG Rescinds Obama Decision to Stop Use of Private Prisons

Reversing yet another Obama administration decision, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that the federal government would resume the use of private, for-profit prisons.

Only six months ago, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates had asked the Federal Bureau of Prisons to phase out its use of the controversial prisons by no longer renewing contracts. The directive affected 13 private prisons across the country that housed roughly 22,000 inmates. Nearly half of those inmates were housed in Texas at five private prisons.

"Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities," wrote Yates, who was fired by President Donald Trump after she directed the Department of Justice not to defend Trump's travel ban. "They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security."

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But on Thursday evening, Sessions appeared to write off these findings as insignificant. In a one-paragraph memo, he wrote:

“The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system. Therefore, I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach.”

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“Today’s announcement is yet another edict from this administration that undermines civil rights for incarcerated people and criminal justice reform efforts,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “This administration appears to be more interested in lining the coffers of its friends at private prison corporations than promoting commonsense policies that would reduce the incarcerated population and close troubled prisons.”

As the Washington Post reported, the private prison industry donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. One such $100,000 donation was sent in from private-prison giant GEO Group just one day after Yates announced they would be discontinued. Read more about Trump AG Rescinds Obama Decision to Stop Use of Private Prisons

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