Category Archives: Corrections

Immigrants Are Dying in U.S. Detention Centers. And It Could Get Worse.

Source: Brendan O’Boyle, Americas Quarterly, July 17, 2017

… Trump’s policies are already increasing the number of people held in detention centers, further straining the system. … The administration has signaled its commitment to private prison companies, which also operate immigrant detention centers. This alarms detainee advocates, since five out of the seven detainees who died this year were being held by privately operated providers, and multiple investigations have found privately operated prisons to be more dangerous for inmates. … As it pushes for more detentions, the Trump administration also reportedly has plans to weaken protections for immigrant detainees. …

Related:

Immigrant Deaths in Private Prisons Explode Under Trump
Source: Justin Glawe, Daily Beast, May 30, 2017

Men and women held by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are on pace to die at double the rate of those who died in ICE custody last year, a Daily Beast review of ICE records found. And most will die in privately run facilities. Eight people have died in ICE custody in the 2017 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2016. That’s almost as many as the 10 who died in the entire 2016 fiscal year. All but one of the deaths this year, and all but two last year, occurred in privately run prisons. Nine of the 18 deaths occurred at facilities run by GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison company. …

The problem with privatizing prisons
Source: Farah Mohammed, Daily JStor, May 15, 2017

… The theory behind private prisons has translated poorly into practice, however, and has been strongly criticized. Studies showed there were minimal savings compared to using public prisons. A scandal involving the murder of an Oklahoma couple by escaped inmates was linked to lax security at their private facility. Another private Ohio prison saw thirteen stabbings, two murders, and six escapes in its initial 14 months.  In 2011, a Court Judge was convicted in a “cash for kids jail scheme,” in which private prisons had paid him to dole out harsh sentences in order to maintain their prison population. … Under Trump, inmate numbers are expected to increase substantially, following a crackdown on illegal immigration and a new insistence on mandatory minimums (where repeat offenders of even non-violent crimes must serve sentences of years). …

Continue reading

Berks County considering privatizing its prison

Source: Ben Allen, WITF, July 13, 2017
 
A midstate county may need a new prison soon, and one of its leaders is considering working with a private operator. Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott says he’s been talking with one of the major players… A new prison could cost more than $100 million. But Commissioner Mark Scott says working with a private prison company could cut those costs and speed up the construction process. …

Judge rules Tennessee must release outsourcing records about Fall Creek Falls purchase

Source: Associated Press, June 29th, 2017

A judge has ruled in favor of a media group that sued the state of Tennessee to release records about its attempt to outsource services at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government says Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young on Tuesday ruled that the state must produce records to City Press Communications LLC, parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post, and reporter Cari Wade Gervin. …

Related:

Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Fall Creek Falls state park outsourcing push draws no bidders
Source: Associated Press, May 11, 2017
 
A push by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to outsource hospitality services at a Tennessee state park has drawn no bidders. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Kim Schofinski says that no one bid on the proposal at Fall Creek Falls State Park, located on the Upper Cumberland Plateau in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties. TDEC planned to award the winning bidder $20 million to raze the park’s inn and build a new one. The Tennessee State Employees Association and park workers opposed it. …

Continue reading

Sandoval vetoes proposed ban on private prisons

Source: Yvonne Gonzalez, Las Vegas Sun, June 14, 2017
 
A proposed ban on private prisons in Nevada will not move forward after Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto.   Assembly Bill 303 is among more than two dozen measures to be vetoed.  Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, sponsored the proposed private prison ban, and worked with stakeholders to amend the measure to allow agencies until 2022 to make the transition. …

Related:

North Las Vegas lawmaker wants ban on for-profit prisons
Source: Ben Botkin, Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 22, 2017

No for-profit prison operators run Nevada corrections facilities, and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno wants to keep it that way. The retired North Las Vegas city correctional officer is a primary sponsor of Assembly Bill 303, which would ban local jails and state prisons from contracting with private companies for core services. The Assembly Ways and Means Committee heard the bill on Monday, without taking action…. Kevin Ranft, a lobbyist with AFSME, [sic] the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called the bill “long overdue,” noting that Nevada has tried for-profit prisons before and they’ve failed…

ICE’s Private Detention Centers Keep Data Under Lock and Key

Source: Mia Steinle, Project on Government Oversight, May 3, 2017

Hundreds of thousands of people are held for varying amounts of time in America’s privately run detention centers every year. Want to know how well these private facilities are managed? What about how they treat their detainees? Or how the federal government holds the private companies accountable for mistakes, negligence, or worse? Good luck trying to find the answers in the sparse data the federal government makes public. There are currently 112 federal detention centers in America that house people who are arrested for entering the country illegally, and non-US citizens who are deemed a threat to national security, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that oversees these detention centers. ICE detention centers are either run by the government itself or, in the majority of cases, run by private contractors. The number of privately run facilities is expected to increase under the Trump Administration. … While all ICE detainees face the possibility of deportation, the stakes may be especially high for people sent to private detention centers. … Allegations of abuse may grow given that the Trump Administration is moving to reduce oversight of these private facilities. The New York Times reported that, according to unnamed DHS officials, new contracts with private detention centers will not require that the centers provide translation services or prompt medical care to detainees. Additionally, ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which, among other things, created guidelines to help prevent sexual assault of detainees, is being shuttered.

… Even fundamental information on America’s immigrant detention complex is hard to pin down. … Based on POGO’s analysis, it is clear that even the most basic information about ICE detainees and detention facilities is not available online. … Unlike government agencies, private companies that are contracted by the federal government to run ICE detention centers are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This makes it much more difficult to obtain information about these facilities. … Congress should pass the Private Prison Information Act of 2017 (H.R. 1980) into law, which would expand the Freedom of Information Act to apply to private detention facilities.

Michigan prison food woes drag on

Source: Michael Gerstein, Detroit News, May 10, 2017
 
Food problems continue to plague Michigan prisons in 2017 after Gov. Rick Snyder replaced a previous private vendor over similar issues, state documents show.  Inmates at the Upper Peninsula Kinross Correctional Facility picked through “maggot infested potatoes” to find still-intact spuds for prison meals, according to documents the Lansing-based liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan obtained from the Michigan Department of Corrections through an open records request. … The report shows that the potatoes were discovered less than two months before a costly riot broke out amid prisoners’ complaints about food quality.  “We have had food issues or prisoner complaints at a variety of our prisons. Kinross doesn’t stand out to me as being particularly worse off than any other facilities that have food service there,” said Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections. …

Related:

Prison food vendor in line for $4M contract boost
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, March 30, 2017

Three of the five prison food workers at Cotton Correctional Facility near Jackson walked off the job Wednesday after they were disciplined — the same day a House budget subcommittee approved a $4-million increase for the contractor that hired them, Florida-based Trinity Services Group. Trinity replaced problem-plagued Aramark Correctional Services in September 2015. Though complaints have declined under Trinity, the company has been hit with nearly $2.5 million in contract penalties for inadequate staffing levels and other problems since it took over. … [Corrections Department spokesman Chris] Gautz said that even if the $4 million increase is included in the final 2018 budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, the contract will still be saving the state more than $11 million a year over what it cost to provide the same service with state employees.  But Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director of AFSCME Council 25, which represented the former state prison food workers, said the state’s estimated savings are based, in part, on the cost of unfunded pension liabilities that the state will have to pay, with or without a contractor.  Wednesday’s incident at Cotton is another example of a hidden cost, in which corrections officers have to be taken away from their normal security duties to work in the kitchen, Ciaramitaro said. … Food provided by Trinity — which has not responded to calls or e-mails from the Free Press — was among the complaints cited by inmates at Kinross Correctional Facility in a September disturbance that damaged the Upper Peninsula prison and cost the state nearly $900,000. Gautz said that through the end of December, the Corrections Department had issued 114 “stop orders,” barring from prison property former Trinity employees fired for offenses such as over-familiarity with prisoners or smuggling of contraband. …

Mich. prison contractor fined $2M over service issues
Source: Jonathan Oosting, The Detroit News, January 22, 2017

Michigan has fined its new private prison food service contractor more than $2 million for unplanned meal substitutions, delays, staffing shortages and other contract violations since late 2015, the state Department of Corrections confirmed Friday. Florida-based Trinity Food Services signed a three-year, $158 million contract in July 2015 after the state terminated its initial deal with Aramark Correctional Services over problems, including maggots found in kitchen areas and worker sex acts with prisoners. The Trinity fines include roughly $900,000 for meal substitutions, meaning Trinity was not able to provide food items it promised and instead served alternatives. The company was also fined roughly $357,000 for meal service delays and around $356,000 for staffing vacancies. … Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration had fined Aramark $200,000 before ending the contract about two years after the Republican-led Legislature required the state to privatize prison food service in an attempt to save money. The new deal struck with Trinity includes stricter language requiring fines for various violations. The state deducts the fines from its monthly payments to the company…. But critics say the Trinity fines are the latest evidence that contracting out prison food service to private companies has been a bad deal for Michigan, which laid off state workers in hopes of cutting costs. …

Continue reading

More private prisons to be considered in Louisiana legislative resolution

Source: Julia O’Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 10, 2017
 
Louisiana lawmakers are taking a new look at privatizing management of five more state prisons. The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on Wednesday (May 10) sent the full House a resolution asking for a study of privatization, an option not recommended by a host of other political leaders and analysts who have been pushing prison reform in recent months.  Private operators already are in place at two Louisiana prisons: Allen Correctional Center at Kinder and Winn Correctional Center near Winnfield. House Concurrent Resolution 30 would require the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to look at privatizing five more — all except the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. … Louisiana recently concluded a 10-month task force study on how the state could reduce its highest-in-the-world incarceration rate and save money on incarceration. Privatization was not recommended. Nor has it been promoted by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican legislators who are pushing a criminal justice reform package in the current legislative session. … But Louisiana has had budget shortfalls consistently since 2009. To tighten its belt, the state downgraded the Winn and Allen sites from certified prisons to jails in 2016. No other state has made a similar move, essentially an administrative maneuver that lets a state work around prison regulations and save money. …

Related:

Louisiana considering closing 2 prisons in budget cuts
Source: Kevin Litten, New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 19, 2016

The Louisiana Department of Corrections is considering closing closing two privately operated prisons as it tries to cut $14.1 million in spending to help close the state’s $940 million budget shortfall. Winn Correctional Center and Allen Correctional Center, are operated by two separate companies. The two closures would save an estimated $4.6 million. Another option the Department of Corrections is floating — and the one the department most prefers — is to temporarily reduce the rate the state pays the two companies that operate Winn and Allen prisons, for a savings of $2.6 million. … The proposal for the two private operators of the prisons, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and the GEO Group, sets up a difficult ultimatum: Either accept the lower per-prisoner pay rate or face total shutdown. The department currently pays $31.52 per day; the local rate the department wants to pay is $24.39 per day.

Corrections outlines plans for $14.2 million shortfall, including plans to potentially shut down two privately run prisons, reducing sheriffs’ pay for housing state inmates
Source: Bryn Stole, The Advocate, February 19, 2016

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections may shutter two privately run prisons and reduce the rates it pays parish sheriffs for housing state inmates as it faces a $14.2 million shortfall for the budget that ends June 30. … Shutting the two facilities would cost about 630 jobs, LeBlanc said, but it will allow the corrections department to save an estimated $2.3 million by shuffling the roughly 3,200 inmates to parish jails. Other savings would be made up by reducing overtime pay and slashing the rates that are paid to local jails.

Concerns Raised About Health-Care Contractor at Clarke County Jail

Source: Blake Aued, Flagpole, April 26, 2017

At least one commissioner and activists are raising questions about the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office’s choice of a contractor to provide medical care at the county jail. Sheriff Ira Edwards and Chief Jailer Tommy York have recommended Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. for a five-year contract paying nearly $1.7 million next year, rising each year to $2 million in fiscal 2022. The current contractor, CorrectHealth Athens, lasted just one year, and the contract was opened up for bidding, with five companies responding. Athens for Everyone’s Tim Denson expressed concern about Armor in a letter to the Mayor and Commission, citing “questionable deaths” in New York, Milwaukee, Oklahoma and Florida. …

Gov. Kasich’s budget bill would allow no-bid sale of 6,900 acres of prison farmland

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, April 29, 2017

The state could sell more than 6,900 acres of prison farmland through “negotiated real-estate purchase agreements” rather than competitive bidding or public auctions under the budget bill pending in the Ohio House.  Language permitting an unusual no-bid process for selling nearly 11 square miles of state land is built into the two-year state budget proposed by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. … The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a labor union representing about 30,000 state employees, including prison workers, said in a statement that the proposed no-bid process for selling the land is “troubling.” The union wants it removed from the budget bill.   “The clear pattern of waiving the rules around competitive state bids is troubling,” said union President Chris Mabe.  “Not only are IT (information technology) contracts part of that pattern, it now appears state farmlands could be sold in a back-door deal with zero competition or transparency. For all we know, whoever lobbied to close the farms could walk away with a huge land deal for a fraction of the value. Either way, taxpayers will be the loser here.” …

Related:

An end of an era at prison farm as beef cattle are sold
Source: Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal, October 25, 2016

The beef cattle that graze outside the Mansfield Correctional Institution farm on Ohio 13 were sold Tuesday at auction, ending an era at the prison for inmates raising registered Angus cattle. MANCI cattle manager Bernard Bauer II became emotional, unable to speak for a few seconds as he told the large crowd of farmers who came to bid that he had spent the past 14 years building the registered Angus herd. … The cattle auction Tuesday was held for a complete dispersal of prison’s registered  Angus breeding herd, including registered aged bred cows, registered bred heifers, registered open breeding heifers, commercial open yearling heifers, registered breeding bulls and registered bull calves. This herd had an estimated aggregate value at auction of $535,250. … In April, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections announced the state prison farm operated at Mansfield Correctional Institution was among 10 agricultural operations Ohio is shutting down in a move to raise millions of dollars to fund new rehabilitation and job-training programs for inmates through land sales. … Earlier, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said the move was announced “without much explanation, rationale or plan” in a conference call to the union. Tuesday, roughly 50 members of the union picketed along Ohio 13 North, outside the farm. The union had sought an injunction from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to halt the sale of prison farm assets until a pending grievance was arbitrated. The court denied the union’s request. A grievance filed by the union regarding the closures is still pending. …

The Day The Last Cows Left Prison
Source: Esther Honig, WOSU, October 25, 2016

As the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections prepares to shut down its farming operations, the final auction of black Angus cattle got underway at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. Some 300 buyers came from around the country. But not everyone is pleased to see the cows off. … As cattle were auctioned off, the union representing the Mansfield prison farm employees – the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association – held a protest outside the prison. They’ve organized protests for the other three cattle auctions held by the ODRC earlier this year. Union president Chris Mabe says 50 ODRC employees will lose their jobs due to the closures. He say the program was beneficial for inmates and the local community. … Products from the prison farms, like milk and vegetables, were used to supplement the diets of Ohio inmates. The farms also donated thousands of pound of vegetables to local food banks. Jo Ellen Smith with the Ohio Corrections Department says the farming program is being phased out to make room for, “more meaningful career training opportunities.” …

Continue reading

N.J. Lottery Sales Fall Short Following Privatization

Source: SNJ Today, April 18, 2017

Those hoping to win big in the New Jersey State lottery are spending less on their dreams.  State lottery sales are down for the third year since being privatized.  Lottery operations management firm Northstar New Jersey promised a return of more than $1.4 billion over 15 years when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie moved the games to privatization in 2013.  Since then, Northstar has missed its income projections and spent $20 million in allowance funds to cover financial shortfalls. …

Related:

Privatizing lottery isn’t lucrative deal for New Jersey
Source: Michael Catalini, Associated Press, January 9, 2016

New Jersey might get $1 billion less out of its state lottery as part of an amended 15-year deal with the private company that runs part of it, according to an Associated Press analysis. The deal, unveiled by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on New Year’s Eve, also reduces the amount the company must generate to avoid penalties. The revenue targets that Northstar New Jersey has to meet have been lowered by about $76 million per year over the contract, which was struck in 2013. The total revenue projection was decreased from nearly $16 billion to about $15 billion. … The underperformance — including a $5 million drop in revenue in 2015 — has raised questions from Democrats about the privatization strategy championed by Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who promoted lottery outsourcing as a way to shrink the government’s payroll and bring in more cash. The lottery brought in $960 million in fiscal year 2015, down from initial expectations of a little more than $1 billion.

New Jersey Having Second Thoughts After Privatizing Lottery
Source: John Reitmeyer, NBC Philadelphia, October 8, 2015
Two years after New Jersey turned over some state lottery functions to a private venture under a controversial long-term deal, lawmakers are questioning why revenues have not met expectations and whether the privatization contract is worth it. The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing on October 19 to review New Jersey’s deal with Northstar New Jersey to address concerns raised in recent weeks about fees Northstar is collecting even as it has failed to meet net-revenue targets. An Assembly committee is also scheduling a hearing on the deal. … Gordon, the Senate committee chairman, said the hearing on October 19 will also review the broader privatization issue, and whether the state is up to the task of monitoring such large contracts. He cited problems the state has had with private companies handling some of the recovery efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as another reason to broaden the scope of the hearing.

Continue reading