Private Probation Company Accused of Abuses in Tennessee

Source: Shaila Dewan, New York Times, October 1, 2015

A private probation company in Tennessee is violating racketeering laws by jailing impoverished people who fail to pay court fines for traffic violations and misdemeanor offenses, and by refusing to waive fees for the indigent, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday. In the lawsuit, seven probationers, many of them sick or disabled and living on as little as $129 a month in food stamps, say they lost housing, jobs and cars, sold their blood plasma and went without food after repeated threats by the company that they would be jailed if they could not pay. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Nashville, alleges that the county and the company, Providence Community Corrections in Rutherford County, southeast of Nashville, are violating racketeering laws by extorting money through “the wrongful use of fear.” … Providence Community Corrections targeted probationers who had some fixed income, like disability payments, and repeatedly threatened them with jail if they did not bring in money, the lawsuit says. On at least two occasions, receipts submitted by two plaintiffs show, their entire payments were applied to their probation fees while their court cost balance remained the same. One plaintiff, Cindy Rodriguez, originally owed the court $578. After a year on probation, though she had paid nearly that much to the company, she still owed $512, she says in the lawsuit.


Private Probation Company Called An Unregulated Tool for Corruption
Source: Liz Potocsnak, Courthouse News Service, Thursday, January 27, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A class action accuses a private probation company of bilking and extorting probationers who must pay for its services. The class claims that Providence Community Corrections, which operates in 45 states, triples the probation term of its average “client” so it can milk monthly supervision fees from them, charges far more in fees than the courts or service providers do, and does it all without an agency to regulate it, or to whom probationers can complain. And the class notes that there are “obvious and inherent problems associated with judges owning an interest in private probation companies.”

Judge Allows Class-Action Suit Over Mississippi Prison Conditions

Source: Timothy Williams, New York Times, October 1, 2015

Inmates at a privately run Mississippi prison where, they say, guards arranged for prisoners to attack one another, ignored fires set by inmates to signal distress, and allowed prisoners to trade whiskey and cellphones will be permitted to file a class-action lawsuit against the facility, a federal court judge ruled this week. The judge, William H. Barbour Jr., granted the request by inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian on Tuesday in their lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections. … The company that operates the prison, the Management & Training Corporation, based in Utah, also runs another Mississippi prison, the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, which is under federal court oversight for conditions including severe and systematic violence against inmates. … At the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, about 70 percent of the 1,200 inmates have some form of mental illness, advocates say. Inmates there say that they are punished for seeking medical care, that toilets often do not work and frequently overflow, and that some inmates live in near-total darkness because light bulbs are not replaced.


Mississippi prisons prove dangerous to staff, inmates
Source: Jerry Mitchell, Clarion-Ledger, October 5, 2014

Mississippi taxpayers spend more to keep people in prison than on economic development, disaster relief, drug enforcement, hospitals, hospital schools and the state’s entire judicial system combined. So what exactly are taxpayers getting for $389 million in taxes? A system where gangs rule, where corruption festers and where at least one private prison has been called “barbaric.” …. Three different private contractors have operated East Mississippi Correctional Facility since it opened in 1999. The current operator is Utah-based Management & Training Corp., which was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Seeing Squalor and Unconcern in a Mississippi Jail
Source: Erica Goode, New York Times, June 7, 2014

Open fires sometimes burn unheeded in the solitary-confinement units of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a privately run state prison in Meridian, 90 miles east of here. Inmates spend months in near-total darkness. Illnesses go untreated. Dirt, feces and, occasionally, blood are caked on the walls of cells. For years, the prison, the state’s primary facility for inmates with mental illnesses, has been plagued by problems. When a previous private operator, the GEO Group, left in 2012 after complaints to the state about squalor and lack of medical treatment, hopes rose that conditions would improve. But two years later, advocates for inmates assert that little has changed under the current operator, Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based company. Civil rights lawyers and medical and mental health experts who toured the facility recently painted a picture of an institution where violence is frequent, medical treatment substandard or absent, and corruption common among corrections officers, who receive low wages and minimal training…..
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Feds Investigate Claims UC Berkeley Underpaid Custodial Workers

Source: Associated Press, October 1, 2015

Federal authorities are investigating allegations that a UC Berkeley custodial contractor underpaid workers who cleaned up after football games and other sporting events at the university. The Los Angeles Times reports employees of Performance First Building Services say they often worked 16-hour days, but were denied overtime and only paid $10 an hour.


UCSC wage hike effective Oct. 1
Source: Ryan Masters, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 1, 2015

UC Santa Cruz increased the minimum wage for employees, including contract workers, to $13 an hour Thursday. The wage hike is the first stage of a plan to raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour Oct. 1, 2016 and $15 an hour Oct. 1, 2017. All employees hired to work at least 20 hours a week are eligible for the raise, which UC President Janet Napolitano has dubbed the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan. Napolitano announced the plan in July “to support employees and their families, and to ensure that workers being paid through a UC contract are likewise fairly compensated.” … Not everyone is convinced that the Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan is a victory for contract workers. Todd Stenhouse, communications director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, UC’s largest employee union, said the wage hike perpetuates the contract worker’s “second-class citizen status.” “Contract workers make 53 percent lower wages than the directly employed and receive no benefits,” he said. “While we’re pleased that they will be making $13, the private company paying them charges the UC system $30 to $33 an hour.”

Workers allege 80-hour weeks with no overtime at UC Berkeley sporting events
Source: Chris Kirkham, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2015

Federal authorities are investigating allegations that a UC Berkeley custodial contractor underpaid workers who cleaned up after Golden Bears football games and other sporting events, denying them overtime pay for weeks that stretched to 80 or 90 hours. The probe of Performance First Building Services, which has provided janitorial services at UC Berkeley for nearly seven years, was launched by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to the agency and former and current employees. … The state Legislature passed a bill last month that would require UC contractors to pay wages and benefits on par with direct employees of UC who perform comparable work. The bill has not yet been signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Juliana Robles worked at Performance First from 2008 until she was fired in July, cleaning the California Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley. During football season, she said, she worked seven days a week, often putting in 16-hour days from Thursday through Saturday to prepare for and clean up after Golden Bears games. She said she never received more than $10 an hour, though California law requires that employees be paid at least 1.5 times their regular pay after exceeding eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Robles said Performance First evaded the rules by issuing her checks under two names — one for her and one for her boyfriend, who hadn’t worked at the company for years.
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Passaic ends city ambulance service, opts for privatization

Source: Richard Cohen,, October 1, 2015

The city on Thursday quietly disbanded its ambulance squad, laying off 30 workers and handing over emergency medical services to MONOC, an Ocean County-based non-profit. The changeover from municipal ambulance squad to a private, out-of-town carrier happened without fanfare. None of the city’s elected officials, or the public safety director, Richard Diaz, was on hand when a crew from the Fire Department arrived at the EMS building on Grove Street shortly before midnight on Wednesday and took possession of the squad’s two ambulances. In their place stand rigs run by MONOC. … The privatizing of ambulance services has cost 30 EMS workers their jobs, but the change was done with no public discussion prior to the council vote and there has been little since. Details of the agreement remain sketchy; although MONOC took over on Thursday, the city has yet to put the agreement in writing. … It appears that the switch to a private ambulance squad will cost residents more. Scott A Matin, the vice president for MONOC, said the company plans to charge $775 per call. Picciano said the city charged $650.

The GEO Group Signs Contract for the Continued Management of Northwest Detention Center

Source: MarketWatch, October 1, 2015

The GEO Group GEO, +0.85% (“GEO”) announced today the signing of a new contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) for the continued management of the company-owned, 1,575-bed Northwest Detention Center (the “Center”) in Tacoma, Washington. The contract for the continued management of the Center will have a term of nine years and six months inclusive of renewal options. The Center is expected to generate approximately $57 million in annualized revenues at full occupancy. … GEO’s worldwide operations include the ownership and/or management of 104 facilities totaling approximately 84,000 beds, including projects under development, with a growing workforce of approximately 20,000 professionals.


Why Immigrant Detainees Are Turning to Civil Disobedience
Source: Max Blumenthal, The Nation, May 23, 2014

Reform legislation has stalled, and the private-prison industry is making obscene profits from a captive population….

….As soon as she appeared at the court to pay her husband’s $1,000 bail, Noriega was told that he would not be leaving prison anytime soon. Though a judge had cleared him of driving under the influence of alcohol, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed an immigration hold on his case. That meant that Mendoza Pascual would be immediately transferred to the Northwest Detention Center, a vast immigration detention facility in Tacoma operated by a private prison firm called GEO Group. Eight months later, Mendoza Pascual still languishes in the jail. He has not been charged with any crime, yet he has no idea when he will be released. He has been indefinitely detained for living in the United States without documentation, and deportation to Mexico is a looming possibility…..

…Starting in early March, undocumented migrants locked in the Northwest Detention Center battled back against their jailers with empty stomachs, launching a hunger strike that spread across the prison in a peripatetic but increasingly strategic fashion. The strikes spread to the GEO Group’s Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas, another privatized vessel of cruelty, where detainees have endured reprisals including solitary confinement and being shackled to steel beds. At the Northwest Detention Center, GEO Group and ICE stand accused of attempting to suppress the protests through a draconian regime of intimidation, locking strikers in solitary and even threatening them with Guantánamo Bay–style force-feeding sessions if they refuse to relent. Those confined to solitary have been relegated to cells for twenty-three hours a day with no reading material, television, radio or other diversions that might stave off the borderline insanity that accompanies sustained deprivation….

…The year after DHS introduced this startling proposal, the Northwest Detention Center opened on a badly contaminated Superfund site in Tacoma’s Tideflats area. Over vehement public opposition, the Tacoma City Council approved the jail on the grounds that it would create “hundreds of family-wage job opportunities.” It was to be operated by the Florida-based Correctional Services Corporation (CSC), a private prison contractor eager to offset construction costs through public funding. An in-depth joint investigation by the Tacoma-based News Tribune and the nonprofit InvestigateWest found that CSC collaborated with local lawmakers to ensure that city taxpayers covered the bulk of costs associated with building the jail. In the end, only forty-five jobs arose from the prison’s construction—far less than the hundreds initially projected….

CPS to lose more custodians later this month

Source: Lauren Fitz-Patrick, The Chicago Sun-Times, October 1, 2015

Another 61 privately employed custodians who work in Chicago Public Schools are about to lose their jobs cleaning schools, though the district says many of them will be hired back in other buildings. … Several hundred custodians have been laid off since the private company Aramark took over custodial management at CPS in 2014. The layoffs take effect Oct. 13 and the affected employees have been notified, according to their union, the Service Employees Union International Local 1. … CPS anticipates that more than half of the 61 will be immediately offered jobs elsewhere in CPS, leaving about 20 people out of work. CPS has about 1,800 privately employed custodians and 825 who are employed by the Chicago Board of Education.


Rahm’s privatization of school janitors is still a mess
Source: Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, June 4, 2015

For the last several months, teachers in Chicago have been doing two jobs for the price of one: instructing kids, and occasionally taking a moment to mop, scrub, or vacuum their dirty classrooms. The extra duties are the result of a $340 million privatization boondoggle from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Among other things, it’s resulted in the Chicago Public Schools firing hundreds of janitors. Now teachers at Oriole Park elementary on the northwest side have decided to take matters into their own hands. They’ve filed a union grievance that, if successful, could force CPS to hire back some of the janitors. Apparently this is the state of things: to get CPS to clean its schools, teachers have to go all legal on them.

Chicago school cleaning contract millions over budget /Aramark has so far billed Chicago Public Schools $86 million for what was supposed to cost $64 million
Source: Becky Vevea, WBEZ, April 27, 2015

The promise of cleaner schools at a lower price has turned out to be just that — a promise. Chicago Public Schools’ three-year contract with Philadelphia-based Aramark to manage all school cleaning services is $22 million over budget, according to procurement and finance records obtained by WBEZ. Aramark has billed Chicago Public Schools $86 million for the first 11 months of its three-year contract. The first year price tag was initially set at $64 million….
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St. Louis considers privatizing jail medical care

Source: Brian Sonenstein, Shadow Proof, October 1, 2015

The Saint Louis County Department of Public Health (DPH) is considering privatizing medical services for over one thousand inmates at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center and the Family Court Juvenile Detention Center in Clayton, Missouri. The Request for Proposals (RFP) [PDF], dated July 2015, calls for an initial two year agreement beginning January 1, 2016, with the opportunity to extend for three years after completion and review. Proposals were due on September 4. … For Buzz Westfall, proposals must provide “staffing necessary for a facility open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.” The contractor must provide, and is financially responsible for, intake assessments, preventative health services, “access to specialty services” and “hospital care,” emergency services and transport, pharmaceutical services, suicide prevention and all medical supplies and lab services. For the Family Court, the only staffing specification is that nurses be available Monday through Friday, 7am to 3:30 pm. The contractor must provide pediatric psychiatry, physician and lab services, all medical supplies and stock medication as well as preventative health services and testing.

Comedian-Activist Calls On State To Divest From Private Prisons

Source: Karen DeWitt, WSKG News, October 1, 2015

A New York comedian, who is also an activist on prison rights issues, is drawing attention to the state’s practice of investing a small amount of its pension fund in the private prison industry. Stand-up comedian Randy Credico, who helped bring about reform of the state’s Rockefeller Drug Laws,  is now setting his sights on the New York state comptroller’s office, where he is protesting against state pension fund investments in the private prison industry. He says the prisons’ business model is dependent upon large groups of young men, primarily African American, becoming inmates. … A spokeswoman for the state Comptroller’s office confirms that the state’s pension fund holds investments in the two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America, and the GEO group. It’s difficult to place a specific dollar amount on the investments because they are part of larger mutual- type  funds that invest in numerous companies. The total for the three funds is around $12.5 million, out of the  $184.5 billion pension fund. …

Minnesota’s prison overcrowding raises a dreaded name: CCA

Source: Susan Du, CityPages, September 30, 2015

A legislative task force is now looking at what it’ll take to remedy the overcrowding – build a new facility in Rush City for $141 million, or reopen the abandoned private prison in Appleton that is still owned by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The very mention of the dreaded CCA, America’s largest for-profit corrections company, sends chills down the spines of many, including local religious leaders. With good reason. The very thought of making a buck off human detention is a dystopian sort of philosophy. CCA has made it so much worse by amassing a trail of horror stories of cutting corners in order to do just that. … Though as much as the public might revile any contract with private companies, many already have their teeth in Minnesota. In the 1990s, the Department of Corrections was pretty gung-ho against for-profit prisons, but nowadays contracts with for-profit companies for laundry, food, and healthcare. Some of these vendors submit marvelously low bids, only to renege on the services they deliver. The companies don’t always employ enough registered nurses, for example, inciting inmate complaints about access to basic care. …


Minnesota COs Beat Privateers
Source: AFSCME Works Online Xtras, January 11, 2009

In a major victory in AFSCME’s fight against privatization, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) will shut down its Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton on Feb. 1. It housed fewer than 250 inmates last year, in part because Minnesota is placing more offenders in state-run facilities. Prisoners from the privately-owned 1,600-bed jail will be transferred to a public detention complex in Faribault.

Could this be the end of Aramark? ETSU to end contract with food service provider early

Source: David Floyd, Johnson City Press, September 30, 2015

ETSU sent a notification two weeks ago informing Aramark that the university will end its contract with the company in June 2016 rather than June 2019. This prevents the contract from expiring when the school finishes work on a $41 million renovation to the D.P. Culp University Center in the summer of 2019. … Aramark will be eligible to resubmit a bid to the university when the school issues a request for proposals in January 2016. … The termination of the contract provides the university with a degree of flexibility in the planning process, enabling the new food service provider to have input on the kinds of renovations the university will perform to the Culp Center.