Humpday Hall of Shame: TX Health and Human Services Commissioner Janek takes tips from GEO Group on how to privatize mental health hospitals

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission regularly reviews state agencies to assess functionality and efficiency. This year Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is under review. During its response to the Commission yesterday, Health and Human Services Commissioner Janek felt compelled to use his time in front of legislators to promote privatization of state hospitals which provide voluntary and court-ordered inpatient mental health treatment.

The Sunset Staff Report, which called for immediate action to address the “current crisis in the state mental health hospital system,” did not include recommendations that warrant the privatization of state hospitals. Yet Comm. Janek touted the recent release of a Request for Proposals to run Terrell State Hospital as a supposed solution. "We are in the business of operating facilities when we could contract with someone to operate those facilities,” he began. “I don't feel any hesitation if the private sector can run our facilities, I think they could offer something."


Jun 23, 2014
El Diario

Buscan incentivar visitas a inmigrantes detenidos

Cristina Parker aún recuerda su primera visita a una mujer inmigrante detenida a la cual no conocía y que se encontraba recluida en uno de los Centros de Detención para Inmigrantes que hay en el país.

“Fue triste la primera vez que hice la visita, pero es más difícil para ellas estar ahí”, recordó Parker.

Parker es coordinadora del proyecto de inmigración de la organización ‘Grassroots Leadership’, misma agrupación que implementó el Programa de Visitas a Inmigrantes en Detención en el T. Don Hutto Detention Center en Taylor, Texas.

Mediante este programa se coordinan las visitas de voluntarios con el fin de romper con el aislamiento de los detenidos y destacando el significado emocional de una visita. Ahora su objetivo es crear otros programas similares en otros lugares de Texas, como podría ser en El Paso. [node:read-more:link]

Humpday Hall of Shame: Texas Department of State Health Services plan to privatize Terrell State Hospital

Allies across the state were hoping Texas’ attempts to privatize state hospitals ended in 2012 when Department of State Health Services Commissioner Lakey rejected GEO Group’s bid to take over Kerrville State Hospital. We celebrated that victory in a previous blog post, but now, two years later, DSHS has issued a Request for Proposals for operation of Terrell State Hospital. DSHS plans to award a five-year contract as soon as August 15, 2014.

The RFP raises concerns for various reasons, but most notably because it indicates that eligible applicants “must be an entity with at least three years’ experience operating a Joint Commission-accredited psychiatric inpatient facility and demonstrate the financial strength to operate a large psychiatric hospital.” These requirements narrow the applicant pool considerably, leaving the bidding to only a few large companies, including the for-profit private prison corporation GEO Group, which has a sordid history delivering mental health services in Texas facilities.


Humpday Hall of Shame: Report exposes outrageous abuse and dangerous quotas inside prisons for migrants

Every year, the federal Bureau of Prisons subjects tens of thousands of immigrants to lengthy prison sentences simply for unlawfully crossing the border. A new report from the ACLU and ACLU of Texas exposes an outrageous level of abuse, neglect and discrimination in these "Criminal Alien Requirement" (CAR) Prisons. [node:read-more:link]

Attorneys sound the alarm as ICE continues to detain immigrants in sub-standard Waco facility

Attorneys in Austin and Waco are sounding the alarm over the conditions at an immigrant detention center in Waco. They say the Jack Harwell Detention Center is not an appropriate place to house immigrants in detention and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have not done enough to fix serious problems at the facility. 

“Our interest in the Harwell Detention Center stems from a history of concerns about the facility.” said Denise Gilman, a University of Texas-Austin law professor.  “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention.”

In fact, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. The facility is run by a private prison company who expected that the federal government would supply enough immigrant detainees to ensure that the facility was profitable. 

“If any facility is unable to comply with the standards, ICE should ensure that immigrants are not detained there.” said Barbara Hines, also a University of Texas law professor. “It does not appear that ICE officials adequately considered the situation at the facility before sending immigration detainees there.”

According to ICE’s own proclamations, a penal environment is not appropriate for immigrant detainees — the majority of whom have recently crossed the border and have no criminal history at all. “It is very clearly a penal institution,” added Hines. 

Part 2 of KSAT-San Antonio exposé follows the private prison money trail

On Friday, KSAT – San Antonio ran Corportations profit from immigration system, part two of reporter Steve Spriester’s Defender’s Investigation into the shady practices of private prison corporations. Spriester’s exposé – which featured Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal – revealed the way in which private prison corporations strategically pour money into campaign contribution and lobbying efforts that will produce benefits for their bottom line by ensuring a large and steady flow of detainees.

As Spreister put it, “A stalemate on immigration reform in this country is very good for their business.”

Added Libal, "They're banking on there being a steady and increasing number of immigrants behind bars."



Humpday Hall of Shame: TX Rep. John Culberson in the pocket of private prisons

The Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee held a budget hearing April 10, where they discussed ways to reduce the rising costs of our mass incarceration system. Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, testified. Per the usual, privatization was offered as a viable option.

The hearing began with a discussion of the prison industry program, and many members of the subcommittee lamented that the program had been reduced in recent years to prevent competition with the private sector. Supporters of those programs, including Chairman Frank Wolf (VA) and Rep. John Culberson (TX), were particularly frustrated that fewer prisoners in federal prisons are manufacturing goods when, “we are importing products from slave labor camps in communist China.” Unfortunately, that was only the beginning.

Rep. Culberson wasted no time in advocating for not only an expansion of private prison industries, but also the use of private prison contractors. He began by highlighting the “great success in Texas using private contractors to come and build and operate private facilities.” Without any data to support his claims, he went on the say that private facilities in Texas, “operate at a significant savings to taxpayers and provide, frankly, better facilities, better food and better healthcare.” Where he got this information remains unclear. 


Hump Day Hall of Shame: Securus video service replaces in person visits, violates attorney-client privilege in Travis County

Thanks to the Texas Civil Rights Project, Grassroots Leadership recently learned about and testified against the removal of in-person visits at the Travis County Jail. This harmful policy has limited all visiting rights to computer-based interactions even if loved ones physically visit the jail. The provider of the video conferencing technology is a private Dallas-based company, Securus, which makes $30 million each year on contracting call and video visitation services with jails and prisons.

The video “visitation” system, which costs $20 for 20 minutes, puts additional financial hardship on families, has a history of not working but still charging users, and has been used to violate attorney-client privilege through the recording and sharing of conversations.

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.  



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