Category Archives: Corrections

FATAL CORRECTIONS Inside the Deadly Mississippi Riot That Pushed the Justice Department to Rein In Private Prisons

Source: Janosch Delcker, The Intercept, December 17, 2016

FOR NEARLY TWO decades, the Bureau of Prisons has contracted with a handful of private companies to incarcerate thousands of non-U.S. citizens serving time for low-level federal offenses. Held in a dozen so-called “criminal alien requirement” prisons largely concentrated in remote, rural areas, the inmates in private custody are, for the most part, locked up for immigration offenses or drug violations. CAR facilities have been the target of sustained criticism from advocacy organizations, which argue that their existence reflects a two-tiered federal prison system that outsources a select population of inmates to contractors with a track record of abuse and neglect. In August, it seemed that years of pressure had finally paid off, when the Justice Department announced it would begin phasing out private prisons. … As the policies of the president-elect come into focus, it’s worth revisiting one of the incidents that prompted the DOJ’s resolve to cut ties with the industry in the first place — a deadly clash at a low-security, CCA-run facility on the outskirts of Natchez, Mississippi, that reflects how private prisons not only endanger inmates, but can also force low-wage workers from economically depressed communities into perilous circumstances. In May 2012, inmates at Adams County Correctional Center staged a protest over a litany of grievances, including claims that men had died in custody as a result of medical negligence. Though CCA officials were forewarned that dire conditions had bred a sense of desperation in the prison, they failed to prevent the escalation that followed. … CCA, now CoreCivic, runs three of the country’s CAR prisons; seven are run by the GEO Group and another two by Management and Training Corp. Like many of the isolated areas where CAR prisons operate, Adams County had a poverty rate about twice the national average. When CCA hosted its job fair in Natchez, more than 3,000 people lined up for 409 jobs. “We thought it was a federal prison … and we were under the impression that they would pay like $20 an hour,” Temple said when we met last year, in the closed bar of a casino by the Mississippi River. She was hired as a correctional officer in 2010, starting at $12.60 an hour. “Pretty good for here,” she told me. Later, she was promoted to sergeant. …

… According to federal investigations into the Adams riot, a group of Mexican inmates known as the Paisas, or “countrymen,” exercised considerable influence inside the facility, where only a fraction of the employees spoke Spanish. If inmates had complaints, they would consult with their Paisa representatives, who conveyed their concerns to prison management. In the weeks leading up to May 20, tensions had apparently risen within the group. “The Paisas felt their leadership was ineffective at communicating their grievances to prison officials since their complaints had gone unaddressed for so long,” stated an FBI affidavit later filed in cases related to the incident. The Intercept reached out to former Adams inmates who are now serving time on charges of rioting in a federal correctional facility. Responding in letters in Spanish, several described the unrest as primarily the result of conditions they felt had become increasingly dangerous and intolerable, including medical neglect, excessive use of segregation, spoiled food, a lack of interpreters, and mistreatment by staff. The Intercept is not naming the inmates who responded because of concerns about possible retaliation in their present facilities. …

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Federal Officials Ignored Years of Internal Warnings About Deaths at Private Prisons
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, June 15, 2016

The fatal uprising at Adams was one of four riots to explode in the BOP’s private prisons since 2008, all triggered by grievances over medical care. A trove of 20,000 pages of previously unreleased monitoring reports, internal investigations, and other documents obtained through an open-records suit show that the BOP had been warned of substandard care by its own monitors for years but failed to act. … In a striking confirmation of these findings, the new records show that BOP monitors documented, between January 2007 and June 2015, the deaths of 34 inmates who were provided substandard medical care. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in prisons run by CCA. Fifteen were in prisons operated by the GEO Group. The BOP didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment or to written questions before deadline. The records and interviews with former BOP officials reveal a pattern: Despite dire reports from dozens of field monitors, top bureau officials repeatedly failed to enforce the correction of dangerous deficiencies and routinely extended contracts for prisons that failed to provide adequate medical care. …

10 indicted in Adams County prison riot
Source: Associated Press, July 24, 2013

Ten people have been indicted for their roles in a riot at a prison in Natchez that left one guard dead, federal authorities said Wednesday. The indictments, announced Wednesday by FBI Special Agent In Charge Daniel McMullen and U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Daniels, are in addition to nine others previously charged in connection with the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Center. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies….The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally….

Guard killed in prison riot / Several injured in uprising at Adams County facility
Source: Therese Apel, Clarion Ledger, May 21, 2012

An uprising in the Adams County Correctional Facility near Natchez Sunday left at least one unidentified guard dead and several more transported to the hospital, officials said. Adams County Coroner James Lee said one prison guard is dead of blunt force trauma to the head after the incident….The Adams County Correctional Facility is a $128 million, 2,567-bed prison owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The facility houses adult male illegal immigrants for the Federal Bureau of Prisons….The disturbance started Sunday around 2:40 p.m., according to prison officials. It appears to have been the result of a power struggle among the inmates.

Miss. prison riot leaves guard dead, 8 hurt
Source: Holbrook Mohr, Associated Press, May 21, 2012
Fatal Mississippi prison riot quelled, authorities say
Source: Stephanie Gallman, CNN, May 21, 2012
SWAT Teams have entered the Adams County Prison
Source: WLBT, May 20, 2012
Mississippi Prison on Lockdown After Guard Dies
Source: Robbie Brown, New York Times, May 22, 2012

New Youngstown prison contract could put hundreds back to work

Source: WYTV, December 15, 2016

Hundreds of people could be back to work at the private prison on the east side of Youngstown. Mayor John McNally said on Thursday CoreCivic recently let him know of new developments for the facility formerly known as the CCA. The company laid off more than 250 workers at the Youngstown prison in 2015 after federal prison contracts ended. McNally said CoreCivic received a new contract to house up to 600 federal immigration detainees. It will start at the beginning of the year. … Gov. John Kasich just approved a plan to send some state inmates to the private prison. That could take place as soon as next spring. …

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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. …

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. …

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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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.

Justice Dept. announces changes to halfway house system

Source: Associated Press, November 30, 2016

The Justice Department plans to overhaul its system of halfway houses, where most federal prisoners spend the final months of their sentences before being freed from custody, officials announced Wednesday. The goal is to reduce the chances that inmate will commit crimes after their release, and to help ease their return into society, the department said. The initiative is part of the Justice Department’s broader prisoner re-entry effort, which officials see as vital to reducing corrections costs and lowering the federal inmate population. It comes just months after the department announced plans to end its use of private prisons. The halfway houses serve more than 30,000 residents a year. The bureau has agreements with 103 contractors to operate 181 different facilities across the country. … The memo also says the bureau will begin covering the costs of government-issued identification cards, including Social Security cards and birth certificates, that can help inmates arriving at halfway houses find jobs. Officials expect that move to save money by helping inmates get work more easily and speeding their transfers to home. The memo also directs the bureau to expand its oversight and monitoring of halfway house contracts and create a semi-autonomous school district to offer literacy and other programs within the prison system. It also says the bureau should attempt to negotiate a single, nationwide contract for location-monitoring services. Each halfway house is currently responsible for monitoring the whereabouts of its residents when they leave for a job, family purposes or other reasons. …

Another death at Eloy migrant-detention center

Source: Daniel Gonzalez, Arizona Republic, November 28, 2016

Another detainee from the deadliest immigration detention center in the nation died this week. The  detainee, a 36-year-old woman from Guatemala, died Sunday at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. She was being held at the Eloy Detention Center, which an investigation by The Arizona Republic found to have the highest number of deaths in the U.S. … Calderon is the third person in ICE custody to die since the start of fiscal year 2017 on Oct. 1 and the 15th tied to the Eloy Detention Center since 2003. The 15 deaths represent 9 percent of the 165 immigration detainees who have died in ICE custody since 2003, according to ICE statistics. A 2015 analysis of ICE data by The Republic found that there have been more deaths tied to the Eloy Detention Center than any other detention facility in the nation. …

Related:

Guatemalan Detainee Dies In ICE Custody In Arizona
Source: Roque Planas, Huffington Post, November 29, 2016

A 36-year-old Guatamalan woman died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sunday, the third death of a detainee in two months. Raquel Calderón de Hildago died at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center in Arizona after a series of seizures, according to an ICE press release. Border Patrol agents caught her crossing into the U.S. from Mexico illegally on Nov. 17, according to ICE. She did not have a criminal record.   Calderón was sent to Eloy Detention Center on Nov. 23 to await deportation proceedings, but was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after the seizures started, ICE said. Some 15 immigrant detainees have died while confined at Eloy since 2003, according to The Arizona Republic ― the most of any immigrant detention center. Five deaths at Eloy since 2005 have been suicides, Latino USA reports. One was José de Jesús Deniz Sahagún, a 31-year-old Mexican national who was found dead at Eloy three days after being locked up there in May 2015. He was found with a sock stuffed down his throat in solitary confinement in an apparent suicide, according to two-part series by Latino USA. …

Immigration Detention Center in Arizona Failed to Contain Measles Outbreak
Source: Julia Preston, New York Times, July 12, 2016

Health officials in Arizona are pressing federal officials for better cooperation after an outbreak of measles at an immigration detention center was prolonged because some employees were slow to be vaccinated. The outbreak started in late May in the detention center in Eloy, Ariz., and has grown to 22 cases, currently the largest episode in the country of the disease, which was once eradicated in the United States. The cases include nine employees of the facility, which is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency. … The facility, 65 miles southeast of Phoenix, holds about 1,250 immigrants from many countries, both men and women, who are awaiting court proceedings or deportation. They include migrants who have come in recent months from three violence-torn countries in Central America. The center is supervised by the federal agency but operated by a private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, which has more than 300 employees. …

MEASLES: Shots finally on rise
Source: Tri Valley Central, July 8, 2016

Almost 75 Corrections Corporation of America employees stationed at the Eloy Detention Center got vaccinated on Thursday and Friday of last week after an article appeared in the Casa Grande Dispatch detailing the low number of employees who had provided proof of immunity, according to Pinal County Health Director Tom Schryer. … Of the 353 CCA employees, 317 have now gotten vaccinated or provided proof of immunity. …

Largest US measles outbreak in Arizona
Source: Associated Press, July 7, 2016

Health officials in Arizona say the largest current measles outbreak in the United States is in part because some workers at a federal immigration detention center refuse to get vaccinated. Authorities have confirmed 22 measles cases in Arizona since late May. They all stem from the Eloy Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility managed by the private Corrections Corporation of America. … The facility includes about 350 CCA employees and an unknown number of ICE staffers, although Schryer estimates it’s about 100. ICE doesn’t publicly release staffing levels, nor does it require employees to be immunized. There are currently over 1,200 detainees being held at the facility. …

Prison employees risk more cases
Source: Tanner Clinch, TriValley Central, June 30, 2016

Although the entire detainee population at Eloy Detention Center has been inoculated for measles, mumps and rubella, as many as 40 percent of the facility’s employees have not provided proof of immunity to health officials. At the beginning of the measles outbreak that started at the detention center May 26, health officials had the facility’s leadership send an urgent request to all employees to provide proof of immunity. While the majority have provided their paperwork, more than 100 employees have not, according to Tom Schryer, director of Pinal County Public Health. … The facility is owned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, contracted out to be run by Corrections Corporation of America, and there are various subcontractors and federal employees throughout the facility. Other than the federal employees who do health work at the facility, none of the employees are required by law to show proof of immunity in order to work and cannot be barred from working even if there is an active outbreak. …

Health Department Confirms 19th Case of Measles at Eloy Detention Center
Source: Miriam Wasser, Phoenix New Times, June 27, 2016

Despite mitigation efforts, a measles outbreak at the Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County keeps getting worse. Over the weekend, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced the 19th confirmed case and expanded the list of potentially contaminated areas in Pinal and Maricopa counties. (See below for full list.) The facility, located about 60 miles south of Phoenix, is owned by a for-profit company, Corrections Corporation of America, and houses about 1,500 immigrants who are awaiting the outcome of their deportation proceedings. … It’s unclear how many people have been exposed or when the outbreak will be contained, but Pyritz says the detention center is taking precautions to keep sick detainees isolated and to get everyone on the premises vaccinated. Pyritz was unable to say how many people remain unvaccinated. …

CCA irons out agreement to house inmates in Arizona prison
Source: Nashville Business Journal – 12:09 PM CST Friday, February 24, 2006

Corrections Corp. of America has signed a deal with the city of Eloy, Ariz., to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees through an agreement between the federal government and the city. The agreement enables ICE to hold detainees in CCA’s 1,500-bed Eloy Detention Center. As of Feb. 23, that prison had a total population of 920 inmates. In January, the Federal Bureau of Prisons notified Nashville-based CCA (NYSE: CXW) that it would not renew an option to have inmates held at the Eloy facility. Eloy has housed federal inmates as well as immigration detainees. The detainees were held through an agreement between ICE and the Bureau of Prisons. The way this new agreement works, ICE contracts with the city which, in turn, contracts with CCA to house the detainees. The company expects that the facility “will be substantially occupied” by ICE detainees.

CCA operates 63 correctional facilities, including 39 it owns, in 19 states and Washington D.C.

CoreCivic Has Interest In County Judicial Complex

Source: Donald Jaramillo, Cibola Beacon, November 27, 2016

County Commission Chairman Walter Jaramillo has always said the biggest issue that has concerned commissioners the most is the 250-bed Detention Center, the county’s jail. That says a lot coming from Jaramillo, a two-term commissioner and former City of Grants councilman. In short, the challenges are revenue and the risks involved in owning a jail. The Detention Center this year alone could ultimately cost the county an extra $3 million. … The county recently put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) for management of the Detention Center. The only response they received was from CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. However, CoreCivic officials are really interested in purchasing the entire Criminal Justice Complex, not just the Detention Center. The Judicial Complex includes magistrate court and the sheriff’s office. “That would mean that the sheriff’s office and magistrate court would have to move back to the current Cibola County complex where they used to be,” said Jaramillo. “Now understand, nothing is set in stone, these are just talks for now,” he noted. CoreCivic recently sent a team of experts who reviewed the facility and it was at that point they informed Jaramillo and the rest of the commission that they are not necessarily interested in managing it but are very interested in purchasing it. … The county currently owes $7.4 million on the Judicial Complex. It was built in 2003. The bonds for the jail were renegotiated two years ago. In the new deal, according to the county’s accounting department, the expiration date for the bonds went from year 2032 to 2030. And, we got a lesser interest rate,” said Joseph Sanders, director of the county’s accounting department. “In reality, it was a savings – two years less in payments and less interest,” he explained. According to Jaramillo, a price tag has not been set on the jail. However, Jaramillo definitely plans on the amount being enough to pay off the bond debt and some. So, the bottom line is something needs to give – either the Detention Center gains a new big contract or contracts that will stop the bleeding , or the county can sell the Criminal Justic Complex altogether and the Detention Center burden is totally gone. …

CoreCivic renews contract with Bureau of Prisons

Source: Jamie McGee, The Tennessean, November 15, 2016

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend a two-year contract with a CoreCivic prison, the Nashville-based company, formerly named Corrections Corporation of America, announced Tuesday. The contract renewal follows an August announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice in which it said the Bureau of Prisons was instructed to phase out contracts with private prison operators. The renewed contract is for the McRae Correctional Facility in McRae, Ga., a 1,978-bed facility owned by CoreCivic. Monthly payments will be made for 1,633 beds, down from the previous contract that included 1,780 beds. … Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates instructed the Bureau of Prisons to end or reduce contracts with privately run prisons in a memo she described on Aug. 18. She cited a decline in prison population and, in an attached document, concerns about safety and security in privately run facilities. “As each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population,” Yates said in the Aug. 18 statement. “This is the first step in the process of reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” …

East Baton Rouge Parish Prison nurses speak out against Holden’s privatization plan

Source: Sam Karlin, Baton Rouge Business Report, November 9, 2016

A group of nurses is hoping the Metro Council will reject at today’s meeting a plan by Mayor Kip Holden to privatize management of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison’s medical services. They argue the plan would be costly and ineffective, and would put current nurses and technicians out of work or reduce their benefits. Holden is asking the council for authorization to sign a one-year, $5.2 million contract with CorrectHealth, a Georgia-based private health care company that manages medical care for 37 jails and prisons in the Southeastern U.S., including in seven Louisiana parishes. The nurses plan to attend today’s council meeting to make their case. … Of the city-parish’s 30 prison medical workers, nine have worked at the prison for a decade or more. The nurses say the deal will end up costing taxpayers. They also worry CorrectHealth will have the ability to fire them, and they say the benefits and retirement packages offered by the company are not as good as those provided by the city-parish. The nurses also cite reports of poor employee ratings for CorrectHealth, as well as reports that Southern Center for Human Rights—a nonprofit advocacy and criminal justice law firm that represents death penalty clients—challenged CorrectHealth’s importing of the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental. Holden’s administration, however, says contracting with CorrectHealth will actually save a little money. The city-parish is expected to pay $5.4 million this year for prison health care costs, which is $500,000 over budget. The administration also says privatization is needed because the city-parish is ill-equipped to manage health care at the prison, especially after one doctor quit in October. …

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Prison privatization might save Baton Rouge money, but is there a higher cost?
Source: Diana Samuels, Times-Picayune, January 31, 2015

A distinctly awkward silence filled the Baton Rouge Metro Council chambers earlier this month when council member Joel Boe asked how much the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison pays to house its inmates. It might have been the moment when Mayor Kip Holden’s public safety tax plan truly died. …. Several council members say that having an outside, private company build and operate the parish prison is something the city should at least look into, particularly in light of how much money it could save. But the privatization of prisons is controversial: While communities typically want to see fewer citizens imprisoned, the business model of a private prison relies on keeping people locked up. And in East Baton Rouge, where the sheriff has the ultimate say on how the prison is operated, it could be a tough political challenge for the city-parish and sheriff to make a change that drastic and relinquish control over the facility.

Private Prison Operator Sees A Financially Healthy Future

Source: Rui Kaneya, Honolulu Civil Beat, November 3, 2016

Despite forecasts of doom and gloom, Corrections Corporation of America is bullish about the future of the for-profit prison industry. In a conference call with analysts Thursday, CEO Damon Hininger downplayed concerns over the precipitous drop in CCA’s stock price, dismissing it as “an overreaction in the market to the long-term viability of our business.” … The better-than-expected performance came amid an increasing public debate about the use of for-profit facilities, which has surged since the 1980s to cope with soaring populations of prisoners, jail inmates and immigrant detainees around the country. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would phase out the use of for-profit prisons by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a decision that will affect some 20,000 federal inmates. The move was in response to a scathing report by the department’s inspector general that found more safety and security issues at for-profit prisons. CCA’s stock has since plummeted, losing about 50 percent of its value. Still, Hininger said during Thursday’s call that, “despite poorly sourced claims from industry critics and activists to the contrary,” CCA’s future looks strong. … Last week, CCA also announced that it will be changing its name to “CoreCivic” — a rebranding exercise meant to signal that the company has diversified its work into real estate and re-entry programs, instead of just locking up prisoners for profit. Hininger said the move will prove a winning formula. …

Related:

Even After Rebranding, Nashville-Based CCA Says Corrections Will Remain Core To Its Business
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, November 3, 2016

Corrections Corporation of America is rebranding, but officials say they’re not abandoning the company’s core business. Despite heightened criticism of for-profit prison operators, leaders of the Nashville-based firm say they’re as enthusiastic as ever. … CoreCivic Properties will pursue a wide range of government contracts. But company officials also foresee the new division contracting with local sheriffs and state prison systems to help them build, design, finance and maintain prisons — though not staff them with correctional officers. And Hininger says he’s not just trying to put a positive spin on the news. He tells analysts that he’s been increasing his personal holdings in the company and now holds twice as much stock as he’s contractually required to own. That’s even though CCA’s stock has been trading at some of the lowest levels of his seven years in charge. …

At A Crossroads, Nashville Prison Operator CCA Faces Investors — And Critics
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, November 2, 2016

Corrections Corporation of America is attempting to transform. The Nashville-based prison operator is trying out new business lines. It’s shedding senior leaders. And it’s even got a new name. But as the company prepares to release its quarterly earnings Wednesday, it’s still got plenty of critics. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a debate over incarceration. An exposé in Mother Jones magazine questioned conditions in CCA prisons. And authorities have considered ending their contracts with private prison operators. … CCA has been controversial since its founding a little over three decades ago. The very concept of turning prisons over to for-profit companies makes many people uneasy. But recently, criticism of CCA has finally forced the company to consider changing its basic business model. The company hopes to win more contracts for “reentry services” after prisoners are released. It also wants to get into businesses outside the correctional system — like managing government buildings. To those ends, CCA’s laying off 55 senior executives at its Nashville headquarters. And last week it announced a new name: CoreCivic. …

Private Prison Company Frees Itself From Its Old Corporate Identity
Source: Becca Andrews, Mother Jones, October 28, 2016

The Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison company that was the subject of a recent Mother Jones investigation, has announced that it’s rebranding itself in the wake of increased scrutiny of the for-profit prison industry. CCA will now be known as CoreCivic, a “diversified government solutions company.” Don’t let the corporatespeak fool you; it will remain a private prison corporation offering “high quality corrections and detention management.” The makeover comes after a slew of bad news for the company. After Mother Jones published its investigation, the Department of Justice announced it would phase out its use of private prisons. The Department of Homeland Security said it would reevaluate its relationship with private prisons. CCA shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against the company for allegedly failing to disclose that its practices could put its government contracts in jeopardy. Over the past six months, CCA’s stock price has fallen more than 50 percent, and the company announced a round of layoffs last month. … The company formerly known as CCA is also adopting a “new visual identity”:

This includes a bolder, sleeker and more modern typeface, as well as a color palette intended to evoke attributes such as safety, strength, passion, stability, integrity and seriousness. The brand’s symbol, a 13-stripe American flag stylized to also represent a building, speaks to the Company’s commitment to public service, the professionalism of its employees and its expanding government real estate focus. There’s also a nod to the Company’s heritage with the right side of the symbol angled at 19.83°, representing the year that the Company was founded, and the left side of the symbol angled at 20.16° to mark the year the Company rebranded as CoreCivic.

Major US Private Prison Company Rebrands, Sees Stock Plummet
Source: Telesur, October 29, 2016

The world wasn’t fooled by the rebranding of the U.S.’s second largest private prison corporation. The day the U.S.’s most infamous private prison company—the Corrections Corporation of America—rebranded as CoreCivic, its stock plummeted to the lowest rate yet since the financial crash of 2008. … The idea behind the “emotional decision,” CEO Damon Hininger told the Wall Street Journal, was to pump confidence back into the company, which has been struggling since the Department of Justice announced it would not renew contracts with federal facilities and stakeholders filed a class action lawsuit for not disclosing risky policy. The moves came shortly after successive investigations and reports on the horrific conditions in private facilities that federal authorities gloss over and even encourage if the company wants to ensure profit. Last month, CCA fired 12 percent of its corporate workforce to deal with sharply dropping investment—largely thanks to growing pressure campaigns to divest from private prisons. … The new logo pays tribute to the U.S. flag both with its icon and its color palette, “intended to evoke attributes such as safety, strength, passion, stability, integrity and seriousness.” While stock prices may not have reflected that the rebranding was necessarily an immediate boost for business, CoreCivic is not in a dying industry. …

Dozens Protest Outside Community Of Prison Company CEO
Source: Matthew Torres, NewsChannel5, October 29, 2016

One of the largest private prison companies in the country received major backlash from several community groups amid ongoing criticism.  Dozens showed up outside The Governors Club in Brentwood on Saturday to protest against Nashville-based provider Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic following a new rebranding push announcement on Friday.  Southerners In Action led the protest as part of the Day of the Dead celebration. They posted outside the gated community where CEO Damon Hininger lives. … The group also referred to findings from a report by the Detention Watch Network claiming the Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) ignored deaths in detention. ICE has recently extended its contract with CoreCivic which currently has more than 500 ICE officials assigned to its eight contracted facilities.  “They try to re-brand, but dropping the A doesn’t mean CCA/CoreCivic can avoid the atrocities they are committing to upwards of 40,000 people a day,” Charlotte Pate, a Southerners In Action volunteer, said in a news release. …