Category Archives: Corrections

Prison Companies’ Bid to Withhold Documents Fails

Source: Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal, February 9, 2017

Two of the nation’s largest private prison companies who handle immigration detention for the federal government have lost their bid to keep proprietary business information from being released.The GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic intervened to appeal a Freedom of Information Act ruling where civil liberties groups are seeking details about immigration detention practices, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found they lacked standing. The Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights sued the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the FOIA seeking a raft of documents on detention policy. The civil liberties groups allege that the government has misinterpreted a funding requirement to provide 34,000 immigration beds at any time by requiring that at least 34,000 beds be filled at any given time. In July, Southern District Judge Lorna Schofield ordered the government to release details of its contracts with private prison corporations. … The government declined to appeal, but Schofield stayed disclosure while allowing The GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corp. of America) to intervene an appeal. … But on Wednesday, Judges Barrington Parker, Reena Raggi and Christopher Droney issued an order dismissing the appeal in Detention Watch Network v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 16-3141. …

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New Report: Aggressive Immigration Enforcement Quotas Also Used to Detain Mothers and Their Children
Source: Center for Constitutional Rights, June 17, 2016

Today, Detention Watch Network (DWN) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released a new report that reveals for the first time that mothers and their children are jailed under guaranteed minimum bed contracts for local jails. The report shows the extent to which ICE grants financial benefits to private and public entities that detain immigrants through government contracts requiring ICE to pay for a set number of beds at detention facilities, rendering immigrants, including children and families, a source of profit for contractors. … The widespread use of local lockup quotas throughout the immigration detention system was exposed in DWN and CCR’s report, Banking on Detention: Local Lockup Quotas and the Immigrant Dragnet, in June 2015. Since then, the government has released additional documents that shed light on the continued use of local lockup quotas, covering at least 24 detention facility contracts. … The new documents reveal that guaranteed minimums account for at least 12,821 of the 34,000 beds funded by the detention bed quota, nearly 40 percent. Of these 12,821 beds, 93 percent exist in facilities that contract with private companies. …

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The Political Economy of Prison Labour: From Penal Welfarism to the Penal State

Source: Anil Shah and Christoph Scherrer, Global Labour Journal, January 2017

Abstract
The article traces the return of prison labour for commercial purposes in the United States. In the age of Fordism, work for commercial purposes was prohibited in prisons; the emphasis was on rehabilitation. This “penal welfarism” gave way to a “penal state” of extremely high incarceration rates and exploitative prison labour. While this shift mirrors the turn to neo-liberalism, it is also the result of specific labour market conditions and racial discrimination.

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Mississippi AG files lawsuits in Epps bribery case

Source: Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger, February 8, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced Wednesday his office has filed 11 civil RICO lawsuits against all corporate and individual conspirators connected to the prison bribery scandal involving former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps. … According to Hood’s lawsuits, multiple corporations, including some of the most prominent private prison contractors, paid millions of dollars in so-called “consulting fees” to individuals who then used those fees to pay bribes and kickbacks to Epps. Based on those bribes and kickbacks, Epps awarded, directed or extended approximately $800 million in public contracts to those private prison contractors. Hood alleges that the defendants violated Mississippi’s public ethics, racketeering and antitrust laws, along with several other claims. The Attorney General is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as forfeiture of all funds received by the individuals and corporations that were involved in these conspiracies. … Hood said through private attorneys his office will seek to recoup as much money as possible from what he called tainted contracts.

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Prison review group examining no-bid contracts
Source: Emily Wagster Pettus, Hattiesburg American, December 12, 2014

A group reviewing Mississippi prison contracts could recommend changes requiring more accountability in how all state agencies purchase goods or hire people to provide services, members said after their first meeting Friday. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed a bipartisan, five-member task force to examine the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ spending practices after former Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and businessman Cecil McCrory were indicted last month on federal corruption charges. The two men have pleaded not guilty to charges they face. Authorities allege that McCrory gave Epps hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Epps steering contracts, some of them without a bidding process, to companies connected to McCrory….

Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons
Source: Richard Fausset, New York Times, November 16, 2014

In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter. By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.

Lawsuit: Understaffing Leads to Insufficient Care for Diabetic Inmates at Private Prison

Source: Steven Hale, Nashville Scene, February 9, 2017

Since it opened a little more than a year ago, Tennessee’s newest and largest prison has been a mess. Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, run by the private prison operator formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, was forced to stop accepting new inmates after just four months of operation. Staffing shortages had created a situation where, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, “the guards were not in control of the housing units, were not counting inmates correctly and were putting inmates in solitary confinement for no documented reason.” … A lawsuit filed last month in federal court on behalf of four inmates at the facility claims that understaffing there has led to insufficient care for some 60 inmates who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The plaintiffs are seeking to bring a class action, representing all such inmates who “who are, who have been, or who in the future may become, housed at Trousdale Turner correctional facility.” … In addition to corrections officers who are inadequately trained, the suit alleges that the medical staff at Trousdale — which has a capacity of 2552 inmates — consists of four nurses and two nurse practitioners, with no nutritionist and no medical doctor on staff following the resignation of a doctor who hasn’t been replaced. …

Paying for success

Source: Jason Axelrod, American City and County, February 6, 2017

Several local and state governments are pioneering a new investment model to finance projects in their areas that uses success as a payment benchmark. Social impact bonds (SIBs) — also known as pay-for-success models — involve public-private partnerships (P3s) in which private entities invest in public projects that are overseen by governments, organized by nonprofit intermediaries, executed by service providers and are ultimately evaluated by independent entities. Such projects generally tackle social issues like homelessness or family welfare, and they aim to reduce government dollars spent on existing measures. Unlike a municipal bond, an SIB has no fixed rate of return for investors. An SIB’s ROI yield depends entirely on the project’s success, based on outcomes defined in the SIB contract. At pre-defined points in the project’s execution, a study of the program’s effectiveness will be carried out, and the government will accordingly pay funders pre-defined amounts based on how certain benchmarks are met. …

… The Denver Social Impact Bond program provides up to five years of supportive housing and Assertive Community Treatment for 250 homeless repeat offenders who cost taxpayers over $7 million per year in legal and health care-related expenses, city documents show. … In 2013, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) sought and obtained technical assistance from the Harvard Kennedy Government Improvement Lab in constructing and executing an SIB project to address its greatest unmet service need at the time— parent and caregiver substance use, according to DCF Chief of Staff Elizabeth Duryea. … In 2015, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, became the first U.S. county to institute an SIB-funded program with a similar mission to Connecticut’s SIB-funded project. The county’s Partnering for Family Success Program seeks to reduce the amount of days children spend in foster care, which was one of the more expensive items in the county’s budget. …

An Input Adjustment Method for Challenging Privatization: A Case from Michigan Prison Health Services

Source: Roland Zullo, Labor Studies Journal, December 17, 2016

Abstract:
I investigate the feasibility of completely privatizing prison physical and mental health service. The study is based on bid documents from Michigan’s 2012 exploration of privatized health care, along with historical documents. Five lessons are reported: (1) Price differences are largely attributable to staffing strategies, with private agents using fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) and less-qualified staff; (2) privatization ushers in personnel practice that is less structured for long-term employee retention; (3) managed competition is impractical due to qualified provider scarcity and desirability of client-patient continuity; (4) tension between best practice medicine and the profit motive is unresolvable, which necessitates diligent monitoring; and (5) privatization ideology is a powerful force that is external to the public interest but one that can be challenged by “good government” coalitions.

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Wisconsin DOC Audit Reveals Contract Violations by Community Corrections Provider

Source: Derek Gilna, Prison Legal News, January 26, 2017

Genesis Behavioral Services, a private company, contracts with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide community corrections services to male offenders at a facility in Kenosha – including certified substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence intervention and cognitive intervention programs. However, a recent audit spurred by complaints from a whistleblower revealed that Genesis routinely violated the terms of its contract. … Beyond the discrepancies in the programs provided to residents by Genesis, the DOC audit cited various maintenance problems, including peeling paint, stained floors, missing tile in a bathroom and a non-working shower. There was also a lack of air conditioning that forced many residents to sleep outside their assigned sleeping areas; they were allowed “to bring their mattresses to the main floor at bedtime so [they] could sleep in the coolest part of the house.” … Interviews with residents found that some had been threatened with strip searches by Genesis staff. The interviews also confirmed that residents were only receiving six to eight hours of programming per day instead of the ten hours required by contract, and that they “were required to sign multiple sign-in sheets at one time for all groups conducted that day or for the week, whether the groups took place or not.” Genesis had no registered nurse at the facility, contrary to what it had stated during the contracting process. Also troubling was the apparent unfamiliarity of staff and residents with Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, which was another contractual requirement. … Genesis was given until February 10, 2017 to submit a response to the audit and provide a corrective action plan, and the DOC indicated a follow-up review would be scheduled six months from the date of the final report to ensure remedial steps were taken to address the problems cited in the audit report.

Following the Money of Mass Incarceration

Source: Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, Prison Policy Initiative, January 25, 2017

In this first-of-its-kind report, we find that the system of mass incarceration costs the government and families of justice-involved people at least $182 billion every year. In this report:

  • we provide the significant costs of our globally unprecedented system of mass incarceration and over-criminalization,
  • we give the relative importance of the various parts, we highlight some of the under-discussed yet costly parts of the system,
  • and then we share all of our sources so that journalists and advocates can build upon our work.
  • Our goal with this report is to give a hint as to how the criminal justice system works by identifying some of the key stakeholders and quantifying their “stake” in the status quo. Our visualization shows how wide and how deep mass incarceration and over-criminalization have spread into our economy. We find:

  • Almost half of the money spent on running the correctional system goes to paying staff. This group is an influential lobby that sometimes prevents reform and whose influence is often protected even when prison populations drop.
  • The criminal justice system is overwhelmingly a public system, with private prison companies acting only as extensions of the public system. The government payroll for corrections employees is over 100 times higher than the private prison industry’s profits.
  • Despite the fact that the Constitution requires counsel to be appointed for defendants unable to afford legal representation, the system only spends $4.5 billion on this right. And over the last decade, states have been reducing this figure even as caseloads have grown.
  • Private companies that supply goods to the prison commissary or provide telephone service for correctional facilities bring in almost as much money ($2.9 billion) as governments pay private companies ($3.9 billion) to operate private prisons.
  • Feeding and providing health care for 2.3 million people — a population larger than that of 15 different states — is expensive.

Walnut Grove (Podcast)

Source: Criminal, January 6, 2017

Walnut Grove was such a violent prison that one Federal Judge called it “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.” Today, we have the story of an especially troubled youth prison, the for-profit corporations that managed it, and the small town that relied on it.

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As prison closes, Mississippi still reckons with debt
Source: Jeff Amy, Clarion Ledger, September 25, 2016

If you’ve got to keep paying for something, you might as well use it. That, more than anything, might be the logic behind the announcement from Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher last week that the state prison system intends to seek new uses for the recently closed Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. Fisher said last week saying the department is considering using the 1,500-bed facility as an alternative to prison, as a facility to house prisoners after parole violations, or to help prisoners prepare to re-enter society. … Grace Simmons Fisher, a department spokeswoman who is not related Marshall Fisher, said the department owes almost $194 million overall on Walnut Grove and three other private prisons — East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, Marshall County Correctional Facility and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. She couldn’t break down exactly how much the state owes for each. But it’s clear from bond documents the debt is largest at Walnut Grove — as much as $91 million. That’s in part because the prison is the newest, having opened in 2001. Walnut Grove and East Mississippi were also more expensive because each has 1,500 beds, while the two older prisons have 1,000 apiece. … Overall, the state is scheduled to be paying $21.8 million a year on the prisons’ debt until 2027. That comes out of money that lawmakers appropriate to the Corrections Department for private prisons — $74.6 million this year. …

Privately Run Mississippi Prison, Called a Scene of Horror, Is Shut Down
Source: Timothy Williams, New York Times, September 15, 2016

A privately operated Mississippi prison that a federal judge once concluded was effectively run by gangs in collusion with corrupt prison guards, closed Thursday, its prisoners transferred to other state facilities, officials said. Conditions at the prison, the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, were deemed so substandard by Judge Carlton Reeves of Federal District Court, that he wrote in a 2012 settlement order that it “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” The move to shutter Walnut Grove, in Leake County, comes one month after the Justice Department announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons to house federal inmates after concluding that such facilities are more dangerous and less effective than prisons run by the government. But the Obama administration decision does not affect states, which have increasingly come to rely on private firms to manage prison populations, including Mississippi. … The Mississippi Department of Corrections said in June that it had decided to shutter Walnut Grove not because of the often-unrestrained violence at the facility, but for budget cuts. Grace Simmons Fisher, a corrections department spokeswoman, declined to comment on Thursday. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for the private prison contractor, said on Thursday in a statement that Management and Training Corporation had “made tremendous improvements to overall operations” at Walnut Grove since it took over management in 2012. But the 1,260-bed facility had been operating since 2012 under a federal consent decree for violating prisoners’ constitutional rights, and in 2014, Walnut Grove was the scene of two major riots. Last year, Judge Reeves extended federal oversight of the prison because of continuing constitutional violations. …

Mississippi closing private prison with history of abuse
Source: Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press, September 14, 2016

A Mississippi private prison with a history of inmate abuse is preparing to shut down, three months after state officials announced their intention to close it because of a tight state budget. Thursday is the final day of operations at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Simmons Fisher said. About 900 inmates have been moved to state-run prisons in the past several weeks, and only a few remained in the Walnut Grove prison late Wednesday. Fisher said they would be moved by Thursday. … Utah-based Management and Training Corp. took over management of the prison in 2012 from Florida-based GEO Group Mississippi has been paying MTC $14.6 million a year to run the Walnut Grove prison, which has been one of the largest employers in a town of about 500 residents. The prison had 215 employees in June and was down to 175 about two weeks ago, MTC spokesman Issa Arnita said Wednesday. …

Walnut Grove: Prison loss ‘devastating’
Source: Mollie Bryant, Clarion Ledger, July 9, 2016

Uncertainty hangs in the air of Walnut Grove, a community bracing itself for the loss of its largest employer this fall. The state’s decision to close the privately run Walnut Grove prison, which under federal oversight since 2012 for its conditions, will leave the tiny town facing a precipitous drop in revenue as many residents look for work. … Citing budget cuts and a declining number of inmates, the Mississippi Department of Corrections announced it would close the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in September and transfer its 900 inmates to state-run prisons. The closure will mean about 200 fewer jobs in a town with a population that hovers around 500, and loss of revenue that will lead to furloughs and pay cuts for city employees. … The revenue loss will force the town’s 12 employees to begin a furlough once a week and police to take a $2-per-hour pay cut. … The state pays Management and Training Corp. $14.6 million per year to operate the prison, which is one of four facilities the company runs in Mississippi. While building the private prisons, the state racked up $195 million in debt. The Walnut Grove prison was presented to the community as an opportunity for jobs after the departure of several manufacturing plants. A shirt manufacturing and a glove maker closed several years ago and moved their operations overseas. It was touted as “recession proof.” The city annexed the land where the prison was built in 1999 and later expanded.

Mississippi to close privately-run prison as inmates dwindle
Source: Jeff Amy, Associated Press, June 10, 2016

Mississippi officials plan to close a privately-run prison in Leake County in September, another sign of Mississippi’s falling prison population after lawmakers cut prison sentences. The Mississippi Department of Corrections announced Friday that it would close the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, which is run by Utah-based Management and Training Corp. Commissioner Marshall Fisher said he made the decision because of lower-than-requested state funding in the budget year beginning July 1, as well as the decreasing number of inmates. … Fisher said MTC’s 215 employees at Walnut Grove could apply for jobs at other state prisons. However, the move could be a financial disaster for the 1,900 resident-town in Leake County, Mayor Brian Gomillion said. … The state pays MTC $14.6 million a year to run Walnut Grove. …

Judge Allows Class-Action Suit Over Mississippi Prison Conditions
Source: Timothy Williams, New York Times, October 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Alex Orlov, Mic, January 12, 2017

In private prisons, where corporate food contractors are paid to provide nourishment and sufficient calories to prisoners, some are allegedly cutting corners.  Activists will march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14 to protest food corporation Aramark, an $8.2 billion company, for allegedly serving subpar food, PBS News Hour reported. Leading the protests will be members of Free Alabama Movement, a group that previously organized a prison labor strike in 2016 to protest the use of free labor in prisons nationwide, a practice they say is akin to slavery. Aramark, their newest target, is a food service provider that serves over 380 million meals in correctional facilities in the U.S. each year. … The crux of the problem is that Aramark and other food contractors have no accountability when it comes to prison food, David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project said in a phone interview on Tuesday night. … It’s no secret that prison food — in private or public correctional facilities — can be borderline inedible. … According to allegations, Aramark’s service is mediocre at best and dangerous at worst. … It’s unclear what demands Free Alabama Movement will make when they take Washington on Saturday, but the fact that the group is bringing attention to the issue of prison food isn’t to be taken lightly.