Kansas inks deal to outsource IT to Chicago-area company

Source: Celia Llopis-Jensen, Topeka Capital-Journal, December 7, 2016

The state will retire a mainframe used by four major state agencies and contract with a private company in its stead, drawing concern from state employees about potential impending layoffs. The state has inked a five-year contract with Illinois-based Ensono for more than $14 million to replace an IBM mainframe, as recommended last January in a state efficiency review commissioned by the Legislature. The January efficiency study laid out several opportunities for IT-related savings across state agencies. … Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said she has heard concerns from IT workers who say they were called to a meeting last week to discuss the decision regarding the mainframe. IT workers are concerned they will lose their jobs, and that outsourcing these services sends taxpayer dollars out of state. One IT worker emailed Proctor following the meeting to say it appeared dozens of employees would be laid off. Milburn confirmed a meeting had taken place but said he does not have specifics about potential job cuts. … Asked about the concern that the contract with Ensono would send public money out of state, Milburn said state contracts are sometimes with in-state and sometimes with out-of-state companies. Proctor said the KOSE union hasn’t been informed of any layoff plan yet. The state has to notify the union at least 45 days in advance, she said. … The audit says the state operates a single IBM mainframe at an annual cost of $6.38 million, including $2.4 million in labor costs. About 40 full-time-equivalent IT employees support the mainframe, which serves the Department for Children and Families, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Revenue and the Department of Labor. “If bundled with a comprehensive data center outsourcing initiative,” the report says, “the state could generate between 15 and 25 percent in total savings or $960,000 to $1.6 million in annual savings.” The audit recommends considering contracts with private companies not just for the mainframe, but for “all existing state-owned data centers,” which includes servers and storage. The report says there are 60 full-time-equivalent public jobs supporting “the server, storage and data center environment,” representing $4.3 million in annual labor costs. …

ICE releases nearly 500 from Dilley, Karnes City detention centers over weekend

Source: Jason Buch, My San Antonio, December 6, 2016

A legal aid group representing immigrant families at two controversial detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley said the federal government released 460 women and children, about 25 percent of those being held, over the weekend. Some of the families had been in detention only a short time and have not yet had their credible fear interviews, the first step in the asylum process, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services said in an announcement about the releases. … ICE, however, said the releases “were scheduled as a part of normal operations and not in response to the court ruling.” “ICE is currently reviewing the court’s ruling on the matter of the operating license for the South Texas Family Residential Center,” spokesman Carl Rusnok said. “Operational activities continue without interruption at this time.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought licenses for the facilities last year after a judge in California ruled that the Karnes and Dilley centers were in violation of a court settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children. …

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Immigration detention centers will continue operating despite judge’s ruling
Source: Julian Aguilar, Texas Tribune, December 6, 2016

Two privately run immigration detention centers in Texas will continue their normal operations despite a Travis County judge’s ruling last week that prevents the state from licensing the facilities as child care centers. Late Friday, state District Judge Karin Crump ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could not issue the licenses, which are needed to comply with a federal judge’s order issued last year. The centers are in Dilley and Karnes City and are operated by Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, respectively. The companies are under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run the centers holding some of the tens of thousands of Central American women and children that have illegally crossed into Texas since 2014. The centers have been criticized by rights groups for allegedly operating more like prisons. … In an email an ICE spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the ruling but said “operational activities continue without interruption.” The Texas Attorney General’s office filed an appeal of the ruling on Monday but declined to give additional details about the case.

Texas Judge Says “No More!” to Licensing Detention Facilities as Day Care Centers
Source: Ruth McCambridge, NonProfit Quarterly, December 6, 2016

In Travis County, Texas, Judge Karin Crump has ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services must end the practice of licensing immigrant detention centers run by private prison groups as childcare facilities, whether or not they meet basic standards. The Texas facilities in question are in Karnes and Dilley; together, they can hold 3400 women and children. They are run by the two mega-groups in the private prison industry, GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America, and for the convenience of the feds are designated “state-regulated childcare centers.” The state made the concession, apparently, to “help out” the federal government after it was successfully sued twice for the conditions in which children were being held. The latest suit was brought in California and produced a ruling that advocates hoped would prevent further large-scale detention of families.

Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit opposing the use of private prisons, brought the suit, using as counsel Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA). Wesevich says there was never any intention of putting the child’s interests first in this arrangement:

The state’s executives admitted in documents and testimony that DFPS wanted to license these facilities to help the federal government, and not the children. Motive matters, and we believe it was the key to the case.

My Turn: What it’s really like inside immigration ‘baby jails’
Source: Sambo Duz, Arizona Republic, September 20, 2016

I recently spent a week at the euphemistically named South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the largest of the Department of Homeland Security’s “baby jails.” As a volunteer attorney with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, I conducted legal orientations and worked with recently arrived mothers and children to prepare them for the first step in the very long asylum process: the credible fear interview, in which asylum seekers must demonstrate a credible fear of returning to their country and a significant possibility of establishing asylum eligibility. … In the Dilley detention center, the tables are round and the outlets are covered — the place is baby-proofed, because babies are among the detained. Several times each day, a Corrections Corporation of America guard would knock on the door of the legal consultation room and ask the mother I was meeting with whether this lost, crying toddler was hers. … Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that children should not be detained in unlicensed and secure detention centers and that the government’s detention policy violates the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs the standards for the detention, release and treatment of minors in immigration custody. Indeed, as a recent report by Human Rights First details, detention for any amount of time exacerbates the trauma these children have already suffered. And a growing body of medical literature has found that detention can have long-lasting health and developmental consequences for children. … Last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the establishment of a subcommittee to evaluate whether DHS should follow the lead of the Department of Justice and phase out the use of private prisons. This announcement comes on the heels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement soliciting proposals for 1,000 additional family detention beds in Texas. …

Largest Private Prison Company Could Lose Lucrative Family Detention Contract
Source: Roque Planas, Huffington Post, August 12, 2016

The country’s largest private prison company saw its stock price dip this month, after revealing to investors that it might lose a lucrative contract to lock up migrant families in south Texas. Corrections Corporation of America reported in an Aug. 3 earnings call that it has presented a new plan to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reduce costs at the South Texas Family Residential Center, located an hour south of San Antonio. … Immigration authorities have been shopping around Texas for a new family detention center that might replace the Dilley facility or a similar facility in Karnes City, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Losing the contract would put a major dent in CCA’s revenues. The 2,400-bed Dilley facility generated $244.7 million for the company last year, according to its most recent annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February ― more than 13 percent of the company’s total revenue. …

Licensing of Detention Centers Violates State Law, Hurts Families, Attorneys Say
Source: Alexa Garcia-Ditta, Texas Observer, May 14, 2016

Attorneys representing detained immigrant women and children argued in court Friday that Texas is violating state law and jeopardizing families by approving child care licenses for the state’s two family detention centers. Lawyers for the state and private prison companies that operate the facilities maintained that the families’ lawsuit will keep Texas from ensuring that children are fully protected. … Robert Doggett and Jerry Wesevich — Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorneys representing the plaintiffs — argued before Travis County Judge Karin Crump that DFPS that does not have the legislative authority to issue licenses to immigrant detention centers. The state’s main motivation, they said, is keeping them open and in compliance with the 1997 Flores v. Meese agreement, which prohibits detention of children in unlicensed facilities. Last summer, a federal judge in California reaffirmed the Flores agreement and ordered that children in unlicensed centers be released. … Jay Brown, an attorney representing the Corrections Corporation of America that operates the Dilley facility, argued that the immigrant facilities do not meet the state’s definition of “secure detention center,” which the Legislature wrote before the centers began housing children. …

Judge weighs fate of South Texas family immigration detention centers
Jazmine Ulloa, American-Statesman, May 13, 2016

As long as immigrant family detention centers remain open in Texas, the state Department of Family and Protective Services should be allowed to regulate them to protect the safety and welfare of immigrant children, state lawyers argued Friday. In a Travis County hearing, lawyers with the Texas attorney general’s office sought to show the benefits of allowing the state agency to provide child care licenses to the controversial facilities in South Texas. … State District Judge Karin Crump on Friday extended a temporary restraining order against the Department of Family and Protective Services, keeping the agency from issuing a child care license to at least one of the centers. Now, she is weighing whether to issue a temporary injunction that would invalidate the new rules all together. … On the other side, immigration lawyers and three immigrant detained mothers argued that jail-like facilities are no place for children. The mothers, who were brought in from Dilley, took the stand in bright T-shirts and jeans they said had been handed to them by detention center officials. They said they escaped gang violence and terror with their children only to end up in a place where they feel incarcerated. Their children have grown depressed and have trouble sleeping at night as guards shuffle through their rooms about every 30 minutes, they said. They said they are served the same dishes over and over, and the water tastes like chlorine and makes their children sick. …
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Governor gets bill that could benefit Youngstown’s private prison

Source: WFMJ, December 7, 2016

A bill on its way to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich could breathe new life into a private prison in Youngstown. Lawmaker in Columbus have passed a bill to ease overcrowding in Ohio’s state operated prisons by allowing more people to be housed in prisons for profit, such as the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons pulled 1,400 offenders from the private prison in Youngstown last year after awarding its contract to another company. The reduction resulted in the loss of 185 jobs at the prison according to a notice posted under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. …

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Ohio Senate OKs bill allowing private prisons to take state inmates
Source: Mark Kovac, The Vindicator, December 2, 2016

Legislation that would allow state prisoners to be transferred to private prisons, like the one in Youngstown, has cleared the Ohio Senate. The Thursday vote on Senate Bill 185 was 26-1, and the legislation heads back to the Ohio House for consideration of Senate amendments. The original legislation focused on arson offenses, expanding the crime to include unoccupied structures. Language added by senators during committee deliberations would enable the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to contract with private facilities to house state prisoners. State Sen. John Eklund of Chardon, R-18th, who serves as chairman of the committee that considered the legislation, said the language would allow the state to take advantage of inmate beds left vacant when the federal government ended contracts to house federal prisoners at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown. … The Federal Bureau of Prisons opted in March 2015 not to renew a contract, which expired May 31, with NOCC on Youngstown’s East Side, resulting in the exodus of about 1,400 of its 2,000 prisoners. Those prisoners were illegal immigrants charged with felonies. Also, 185 employes were laid off. Then, four months ago, federal officials announced they no longer routinely would house federal inmates in privately operated prisons because of a rapid decline in the U.S. inmate population nationwide. The prison, run by CoreCivic of Nashville, currently houses about 580 inmates through a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service that expires at the end of 2018. …

Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations

Source: Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, December 5, 2016

Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations. The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property. … The plan dovetails with Trump’s larger aim of slashing regulation to boost energy production. It could deeply divide Native American leaders, who hold a range of opinions on the proper balance between development and conservation. The proposed path to deregulated drilling – privatizing reservations – could prove even more divisive. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture. … Reservations governed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended in part to keep Native American lands off the private real estate market, preventing sales to non-Indians. An official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to a request for comment. The legal underpinnings for reservations date to treaties made between 1778 and 1871 to end wars between indigenous Indians and European settlers. Tribal governments decide how land and resources are allotted among tribe members. …

California continues to bet on public-private partnerships. Will it pay off?

Source: Adam Ashton, Merced Sun-Star, November 20, 2016

In the rolling greens of a defunct county golf course next to California’s youngest public college, tractors turned earth earlier this month for a long-awaited project that would double UC Merced’s footprint at an unprecedented pace. The heavy equipment on campus these days is breaking new ground in another way, too. It’s a sign of the University of California’s biggest-yet experiment with a construction project drawing substantially on private funding, committing the campus to a 39-year deal with a single developer that ultimately costs more than $3.6 billion. Known as UC Merced 2020, the project is distinct in its scale and its long-term contract with an international developer called Plenary Group. Plenary stands to earn about $1.77 billion over time for its role designing, constructing and maintaining the new buildings. … That contract adds UC Merced to a small but growing list of public agencies in California that are turning to the private sector for help with projects that otherwise might wait indefinitely for state funding. The roster includes a new city hall complex in Long Beach and a tunnel off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Each likely will tie up public finances for decades. At UC Merced, the university expects to pay about $103 million a year from 2020 to 2055 for an upcoming growth spurt. It’s so expensive that the 12-year-old university might not be able to afford another development until it pays off the current expansion. … At UC Merced, Plenary is putting up almost $600 million of its own funding for initial construction, which helped clear the way for the expansive project favored by the campus’s chancellor, Dorothy Leland. Campus leaders also were won over by the prospect of quickly building expensive structures, and by a commitment to keep them well-maintained through the life of the contract, Feitelberg said. …

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UC Merced Closing In On Execution Of Massive P3
Source: Kyle Glazier, Bond Buyer, June 23, 2016

The University of California, Merced, is closing in on formal execution of a $1.1 billion public-private partnership to nearly double the physical capacity of the campus by 2020. The university announced earlier this month that Plenary Properties Merced (PPM) was the winning bidder for the school’s next major phase of campus development, which the UC Board of Regents gave conceptual approval to last November. … Fitch Ratings earlier this month cited the UC Merced project as a primary example of how colleges and universities are increasingly finding P3s an attractive option for financing their campus infrastructure. College campuses provide public services that can generate revenues attractive to private investors, the rating agency pointed out, also noting that large flagship universities with strong credit ratings are less likely to go the P3 route because they have ready access to low-cost borrowing through traditional muni market access. …

UC Merced Picks Company For $1.14 Billion Expansion
Source: Inside Higher Ed, June 16, 2016

The University of California, Merced, is moving forward on a $1.14 billion campus expansion plan designed to use a public-private partnership to allow the newest campus in the University of California System to grow by 3,300 students. UC Merced on Wednesday named international investor and infrastructure developer the Plenary Group as the lead developer on a project to increase the size of its campus by 2020. The plan calls for new facilities to be built within a 219-acre site currently supporting the existing campus. Under the public-private partnership, private companies will design and build new facilities, then operate them over a 39-year contract. Funding will include private financing from the developer, money from UC Merced and up to $600 million in revenue bonds issued by the University of California Board of Regents….

Exclusive: Tennessee State Senator Calls for Hearings on School Bus Privatization

Source: Mike Elk, Pay Day Report, November 29, 2016

In the wake of a tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga that left 6 children dead, many are seeking for ways to reform the current system that allows school districts to outsource busing to privatized companies. An investigative report by Payday Report first revealed that Durham School Services had a long history of worker intimidation, safety violations, and low wages, which some say make it difficult to attract qualified drivers. Now, following Payday’s reporting, State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), the Chairman of Senate Democratic Caucus, is calling for the State Senate to convene hearings on the danger of outsourcing school bus services. … Yarbo’s call comes as Republican Governor Bill Haslam has also called for examining the safety risks of outsourcing school bus services to private companies. … Its unclear if Haslam intends to push legislation to address school bus privatization. However, Haslam is increasingly facing calls to pay school bus drivers better and ensure that contractors hold contractors accountable for safety violations. According to federal safety data, Durham School Services has been involved in 346 crashes in the past two years. These accidents have resulted in 142 injuries and 3 fatalities. During that same time period, the company was cited 53 times for “unsafe driving conditions”.  According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “93% of motor carriers in the same safety event group have better on-road performance” than Durham. …

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Tennessee Governor Says Outsourcing Buses Needs To Be Reassessed After Chattanooga Crash
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, November 28, 2016

After last week’s school bus crash in Chattanooga, Governor Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s leaders need to reassess how to use private companies to operate buses. Emails show administrators were warned about the driver of the bus months ago. The accident has claimed six lives, and Haslam says it appears to be a sign of deeper problems. … One big question is why 24-year-old Johnthony Walker was driving a school bus. Parents, teachers, even the kids themselves had complained he was dangerous behind the wheel. Walker was said to be unrepentant when criticized about his driving, but because he was employed by a private bus contractor, administrators say their options for dealing with him were limited. Haslam seems to be saying districts should get more power to discipline drivers. He stops short of saying outsourcing is a bad idea in all circumstances.

Immigration detainees should be held in for-profit prisons, panel says

Source: Brian Bennet and Joseph Taffani, Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2016

Immigration authorities should continue holding people accused of immigration violations in for-profit prisons despite complaints about safety and other problems, a Department of Homeland Security review panel has concluded after examining the issue. Privately run detention facilities have long attracted criticism from immigration advocates and human rights groups for poor conditions and inadequate medical care. But in a 23-page report released Thursday, the panel said eliminating them would cost too much and make it harder for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to cope with sudden surges in the detainee population. … Using a mix of private and public facilities to house detainees now costs $3 billion a year. Using only government-run prisons would cost up to $6 billion, the panel found. But Marshall Fitz, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress who helped draft the report, wrote a dissent saying evidence “points directly toward the inferiority of the private prison model.” …

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Increased immigration enforcement activity means added costs
Source: Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union Tribune, November 21, 2016

The number of people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has increased by more than 20 percent in the past two months. According to ICE officials, the average daily population in August was 33,957. On Oct. 22, the population nationwide was 41,037. At the higher count, detainees are costing American taxpayers more than $5 million per day, based on the average bed per day rate of $126 in the 2017 Department of Homeland Security budget. The Department of Justice announced in August that it would be moving away from private prisons. Shortly after, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said DHS would review its use of private detention as well. The deadline for that review is at the end of November. … Many have speculated that the forthcoming Trump administration will reverse that trend as deporting the numbers that he’s promised to deport will require more detention space. Stocks for private prison companies rose when he became President-elect. Twelve former immigration judges, including two who worked in California immigration courts, spoke out at the end of October against the expanding use of immigration detention in a letter addressed to Secretary Johnson. … ICE uses a combination of publicly and privately owned and operated facilities to detain immigrants. Those in detention range from people waiting to be deported to people waiting to be interviewed to determine if they qualify for asylum. Immigration officials said that, unlike private prisons, ICE facilities are used as part of the civil immigration process, meaning that ICE cannot hold someone as punishment.  “ICE remains committed to providing a safe and humane environment for all those in its custody. ICE’s civil detention system reduces transfers, maximizes access to counsel and visitation, promotes recreation, improves conditions of confinement and ensures quality medical, mental health and dental care,” said ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack via email. Since some facilities are contracted through local governments or the U.S. Marshals Service, it is difficult to determine how many of the facilities ICE uses are owned or operated by private companies. …

California must wait for federal decision on private prisons
Source: Bob Egelko, SFGate, October 9, 2016

California lawmakers will have to wait until next year to curb the use of private prisons to hold thousands of immigrants awaiting federal deportation hearings. About 3,700 immigrants under federal detention orders are being held in corporate-owned prisons under contracts with four California cities: Bakersfield, San Diego, Adelanto (San Bernardino County) and Calexico (Imperial County). Amid government findings of safety and security problems at private prisons, the Legislature passed SB1289, which would have prohibited such contracts starting in 2018, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it. … The action followed the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement in August that it would start phasing out its use of private prisons, which now hold 22,600 inmates sentenced for federal crimes. But tens of thousands of state prisoners, including 10,700 from California, will remain in private facilities. … SB1289, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), applied only to the use of private prisons for immigration detainees, most of whom are held because of criminal convictions while awaiting deportation proceedings. A majority are held in local jails, but some cities have contracted with private companies. The bill would have barred local governments from signing or renewing private contracts, starting in 2018, and also would have required the four current prisons to respect inmates’ legal rights. …

Immigrant Detention System Could Be in Line for an Overhaul
Source: Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2016

A recent Homeland Security Department decision to consider ending the widespread outsourcing of immigrant detention could mean overhauling a $2 billion-a-year system built around private prison contractors that house the majority of immigrant detainees. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency within Homeland Security that oversees immigrant detention, says the current system is efficient and cost-effective, given the congressional mandate to have 34,000 prison beds available each day. Transferring control of all immigrant prisons to ICE “would require an 800% expansion of ICE capacity” to replace facilities that are privately run, said a senior ICE official who declined to be identified, adding that it likely would cost “billions of dollars.” … The review comes after a federal report concluded privately run prisons were less safe than those operated by the government, and after advocates complained about conditions for immigrants in privately run detention centers. … On Wednesday, human-rights and immigrant-advocacy groups are set to deliver a petition with 200,000 signatures demanding that Homeland Security follow the Justice Department’s lead. Dozens of for-profit prisons are contracted to hold undocumented immigrants, at a cost of $127 a day a person, as they fight deportation in court, await removal from the country or seek asylum in the U.S. Roughly 10% of detainees are held in ICE-controlled facilities, more than two-thirds are in private detention centers, and the rest are in state or municipal facilities. As of Aug. 8, there were 33,676 immigrants in detention, with 24,657 of them in private facilities, ICE said. More than half of those in ICE custody don’t have a criminal conviction. …

Ending Private Detention Would Turn System ‘Upside Down,’ Says Immigration Enforcement Chief
Source: Roque Planas & Elise Foley, Huffington Post, September 22, 2016

Shutting down for-profit detention facilities would hurt Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ability to do its job, agency director Sarah Saldaña said Thursday amid a review over whether the government should do just that. “It would pretty much turn our system upside down,” she said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, “because we are almost completely contractor-run with respect to our detention facilities.”   Saldaña’s comments fly in the face of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s recent decision to review whether ICE should continue relying on private prison contractors to run its detention centers. … Johnson responded by ordering a review of ICE’s use of privatized facilities to lock up immigrants. An advisory council called by Johnson has until Nov. 30 to submit a report evaluating whether privatized immigrant detention centers should be eliminated. ICE officials pushed back from the start on the idea that the DOJ decision should apply to immigrant detention as well because they have different missions. Immigrant detention is meant to be short-term and non-punitive, while the criminal system is punitive but should also have rehabilitative services, an official said in August. … Saldaña said ICE would not be able to maintain 34,000 beds if it ended its use of private detention centers, in response to questioning from Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). She said later that more than 34,000 beds were filled as of a few days ago. …

How the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Can End Its Reliance on Private Prisons
Source: Sharita Gruberg and Tom Jawetz, Center for American Progress, September 14, 2016

The DOJ’s ability to work toward ending its use of private prisons was made possible, in large part, through the adoption of various smart and widely supported criminal justice reforms in recent years. These reforms have helped reduce the federal prison population and thereby ease the pressure on the BOP to turn to private prison companies. Together, the DOJ’s efforts to reduce its prison population and cut ties with private prisons are commendable steps in the right direction that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, should follow. … Similar to the BOP, the DHS can reduce and ultimately eliminate its reliance on private prisons by adopting sensible reforms to reverse the growth in detention. In the past 20 years, the immigration detention system has ballooned, increasing in size from 7,500 federally funded beds in 1995 to 34,040 federally funded beds today. But the size and nature of the unauthorized immigrant population currently in the United States is also changing. In each year since 2008, the unauthorized population has declined and apprehensions by border officials—a common metric used to measure the number of unauthorized crossings—remain at low levels not seen since the early 1970s. Despite these facts—and DHS’ focus on the priority enforcement categories outlined in Secretary Johnson’s November 2014 memo—the number of detention beds has remained around 34,000, at a cost to the federal government of more than $2 billion annually. …

White House considers ending for-profit immigrant detainee centers but critics say it could add billions to the cost
Source: Brian Bennet, Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2016

The Obama administration is considering an end to the practice of keeping immigrant detainees in for-profit centers, weeks after the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced it would stop its use of private prisons. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the immigration service and the Border Patrol, in late August ordered a review of ways to end the use of the private facilities. … But immigration officials have pushed back against the idea, arguing that they have no cost-effective alternative to the private facilities and that other choices could be worse. … Cutting out private companies from the system would cost taxpayers billions of dollars more a year and take more than a decade to implement, the official warned. Johnson’s Homeland Security Advisory Council is expected to make a recommendation by the end of November. The secretary has not indicated which side of the debate he favors. Nine of the country’s 10 largest immigration detention facilities are operated by private companies, and they hold about two-thirds of the detainees in a system that currently keeps more than 31,000 people in custody on a typical day. While some centers are located in border areas, others are far from the border because deportation officers arrest migrants living in the interior of the country as well. …

Private prison companies in the US lost more than $2 billion in value—and counting
Source: Hanna Kozlowska, Quartz, August 30, 2016

The first announcement sent tumbling the stocks of the largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group. The latest news deepened their losses. Together, the two companies have now lost more than $2.2 billion in value—CCA $1.2 billion in market capitalization and the GEO Group $917 million. Since the DHS just started its evaluation process, more bad news for the private prison companies is likely. Privately-run immigration detention facilities are as notorious for their conditions as for-profit prisons. Advocates have been exposing problems plaguing the facilities for years. … But this still does not mean the end of the private prison industry. Foreseeing changes in policy from authorities as the US tries to wrestle with its mass incarceration boom, the companies have in recent years turned to diversifying their services. They have been investing in alternatives to incarceration: rehabilitation, monitoring, re-entry and mental health. …

U.S. weighs pullback from use of private immigration detention
Source: Chris Harlan, Washington Post, August 29, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday said it would reexamine the use of private operators for detention facilities, signaling a potentially major change in U.S. immigration policy. Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that he has asked the Homeland Security Advisory Council to evaluate whether the use of private immigrant detention “should be eliminated.” He said the review will be finished within three months. … The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — a component of DHS — holds more than 60 percent of its 400,000 annual detainees at private facilities. Nine of the 10 largest detention centers are private, operated either by the Corrections Corp. of America or the GEO Group. The facilities hold individuals who have committed crimes, are awaiting deportation or are pressing legal claims to remain in the country. In 2014, both companies were also awarded contracts to house mother and child asylum seekers; the deals are unusual because the firms receive fixed payments no matter how many beds are occupied.

US considers ending use of private immigration detention facilities
Source: Oliver Laughlin, The Guardian, August 29, 2016

The Obama administration could end its use of private immigration detention centres, the US homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, said on Monday. The announcement follows a landmark decision by the US Department of Justice to phase out private prisons, after a stinging independent review found they were drastically less safe than publicly operated centres. The move, made earlier in August, led to intense pressure on the homeland security department to conduct a similar review, as it relies more heavily on the use of privatised facilities. … The agency’s use of private detention centres has long been criticised by human rights advocates. An investigation published by Human Rights Watch in July found evidence of substandard medical care at a number of facilities, while protests at privately operated family detention centres in Texas have become commonplace. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detains a total of 33,676 people, as of the beginning of August, with an overwhelming 24,567 (or 72%) of these held in the country’s 46 private detention facilities. …

The Feds Could Stop Hiring Private Prison Companies to Detain Immigrants
Source: Madison Pauly, Mother Jones, August 29, 2016

Last Friday, Johnson directed an advisory council to evaluate whether DHS should “move in the same direction” as the Justice Department. The council is expected to report back by November 30. If Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the DHS division that controls migrant detention, were to end its contracts with for-profit prison companies, the decision could be more significant than the Justice Department’s announcement. … ICE’s immigration detention capacity has skyrocketed over the past two decades. Private prisons have played a key role in expanding ICE’s capacity to hold migrants. For-profit prison operators controlled 62 percent of immigration detention beds in 2014, up from 25 percent in 2005. The rewards for private operators of immigration detention centers can be huge: Last year, CCA made 14 percent of its total revenue from one 2,400-bed facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center, after it obtained a four-year, $1 billion contract from ICE.

Homeland Security to review privatized immigration detention
Source: Nolan McCaskill, Politico, August 29, 2016

Johnson said he asked Webster to create an advisory council subcommittee “to review our current policy and practices concerning the use of private immigration detention and evaluate whether this practice should be eliminated.” The subcommittee will lead the review, while the full council will file its evaluation to Johnson and the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by the end of November.

U.S. to review use of private immigration prisons, shares slide
Source: Julia Edwards, Reuters, August 29, 2016

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of DHS, currently uses detention facilities run by Corrections Corp of America and The GEO Group. Corrections Corp of America’s stock slid 9.4 percent and The GEO Group’s stock fell 6 percent immediately after news of the review. Both stocks were rebounding later in the afternoon. Corrections Corp of America earned $689 million from ICE contracts since 2008, 12 percent of its revenue from state and federal contracts over that time, according to the website SmartProcure which tracks government contracts. The company currently manages a facility for Central American women and children in Dilley, Texas. The GEO Group runs a similar facility in Karnes City, Texas and has earned $1.18 billion from contracts with ICE since 2008, about 35 percent of its total revenue from government contracts, according SmartProcure data.

Here are 4 government programs Trump’s team wants to privatize

Source: VERA BERGENGRUEN, Sacramento Bee, December 1, 2016

Donald Trump was not the kind of presidential candidate who lays out the finer details of his policies on the campaign trail. Now, as the president-elect assembles his government, the people he is choosing to run it provide a clearer picture of the policies his administration will pursue. Among them are a lot of plans to privatize government programs, including Medicare, services provided by the Veterans Affairs department, college loans and infrastructure projects. …

… Trump’s pick to head the Health and Human Services Department, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has championed privatizing the Medicare program for seniors and disabled people. Last month, Price said he expected the House to push forward with Medicare privatization “within the first six to eight months” of Trump’s administration. This could happen through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to pass the plan through a simple majority that could not be blocked by filibuster. Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act” calls for providing tax credits, based on age rather than income, to help purchase private health insurance. …

… Trump’s transition is being advised by Concerned Veterans for America, a small, conservative organization backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, who have long supported privatizing veterans’ healthcare. Trump reportedly met with with Pete Hegseth, who served as the group’s CEO until January this year, about the job of Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Another person Trump is considering for the position, retiring House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has also worked closely with the CVA. …

… Trump’s choice to head the Department of Commerce, financier Wilbur Ross, has proposed a plan to privatize infrastructure improvements. It would create $1 trillion worth of new infrastructure through federal tax credits to construction companies to build new toll roads, toll bridges and other projects that create revenue. The Trump administration would entice private companies to invest $167 billion of their own equity into projects in return for a tax incentive equal to 82 percent of that investment – or roughly $137 billion in government tax breaks. …

… The Trump campaign indicated that it wanted to remove the government from student loans by overhauling the federal aid system and shifting lending to the private sector. It would return college loans to the way they worked before President Bill Clinton and Obama moved them from private lenders to the federal government. In May, Trump’s policy director Sam Clovis told Inside Higher Education that the Trump administration would have private banks lend the money to students instead. …

Salt Lake County budget up for public hearings, with focus on ‘Pay for Success’

Source: Mike Gorrell, Salt Lake Tribune, December 4, 2016

Two public hearings are on the Salt Lake County Council’s agenda Tuesday. The first, at 4 p.m., will seek public comment on Mayor Ben McAdams’ proposal to invest $3.75 million in two “Pay for Success” programs, one aiming to reduce homelessness, the other to lower jail recidivism. … The council wants to apply $500,000 to extending substance abuse and mental-health treatment services from April to July for people entered into programs through the recent Operation Diversion roundups in downtown Salt Lake City. That joint county-city effort is aimed at curbing illegal drug trafficking by arresting dealers and diverting addicts into treatment. Another $250,000 would be dedicated, in the council plan, to an initiative to combat opioid abuse. The county district attorney’s office helped kick off the effort earlier this fall, providing funding to equip Unified Police Department officers with anti-overdose kits. The Pay for Success plan is a key piece of both McAdams’ budget, which does not require a tax increase, and his multiyear plan to address criminal-justice reform by attacking its root causes. … Both programs are designed to achieve specific success rates based on a variety of criteria. If the programs reach those benchmarks, the county will repay the investors with interest. If they don’t succeed, the county has no repayment obligations. Nelson told the council that four senior lenders would invest up to $6.5 million:

• Northern Trust Bank in Chicago.
• Ally Bank in Midvale.
• Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based “catalyst for change in low-income communities.”
• QBE Insurance from Australia.

Another $2 million in subordinate loans have been pledged by the Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center at the University of Utah and New York City-based Living Cities, a collaboration of foundations and financial institutions dedicated to low-income urban residents.

Upper Merion school board OKs move to outsource busing operations

Source: Oscar Gamble, Daily Times, December 7, 2016

The school board voted 6-3 Monday to turn over busing operations and sell its fleet of school buses to national transportation provider First Student. About 100 residents attended the meeting, which was held in the auditorium in anticipation of a larger-than-usual turnout. The almost four-hour-long meeting was, at times, contentious, with many residents and bus drivers vocally airing their dissent with the board’s imminent decision, which came around 11:30 p.m. Eric Elvanian, who was elected board president at a reorganization session prior to the main meeting, said he was happy to see the community’s interest and encouraged attendees to come to more school board meetings. … He called the idea that the district would be losing control of the busing system a “myth” and assured residents that every effort was being made to ensure that the same routes would be driven by the same drivers, whom First Student would be contractually obligated to hire. … Elvanian also pointed out at that the district’s projected $500,000 annual savings from outsourcing the bus contract would go toward all-day kindergarten. Following Elvanian’s remarks, First Student’s Regional Director of Business Development Jim Woods took to the podium to talk mainly about safety. Woods said First Student is the “safest company in the industry” and exceeds state safety standards. He cited driver background checks, vehicle tracking, daily inspection of buses using handheld computers and on-board safety features as some of the reasons why. Public comments began after Woods’ statement, with several residents voicing their displeasure with what many perceived as the board’s foregone decision to go with First Student. … Several parents expressed their concern that the contract with First Student — which would switch drivers’ retirement plans from the Pennsylvania School Employee’s Retirement System to 401(k) accounts— would hurt retention of drivers they and their children have grown to rely on. … A vitriolic exchange erupted when drivers argued that their union president, Michael Bonaduce of Teamsters Local 348, misrepresented the repercussions of not voting to accept an interim contract — which was ultimately signed and ratified — by allegedly threatening that drivers who didn’t sign it would revert to the lowest rate offered by First Student. … When it was time to vote, each of the board members shared remarks explaining their decision. Several board members pointed out that they had been attacked on social media in the days leading up to the vote and were discouraged by the tone of the discourse surrounding their deliberations. Thad Radzanowski, who upheld a campaign pledge not to outsource by voting “no” said he almost changed his vote after witnessing the disrespect shown to District Superintendent Dr. John Toleno and his fellow board members. Board member Maura Buri cited several reasons — including chronic bus lateness and an incident in which a child was left unattended after getting off a school bus — for her “yes” vote. Buri, who had previously voted against outsourcing because, she said, it would have adversely affected drivers financially, said she found it offensive that some members of the community thought a vote to outsource meant that the board did not care about the district’s children. An emotional Maggie Phillips said she voted “yes,” in part, because she believed that a contract represented the best deal for the drivers because the district would not be able to sustain the busing contract into the foreseeable future. …