They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants

Source: Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter, Reveal News, October 4, 2017
 
Across the country, judges increasingly are sending defendants to rehab instead of prison or jail. These diversion courts have become the bedrock of criminal justice reform, aiming to transform lives and ease overcrowded prisons.  But in the rush to spare people from prison, some judges are steering defendants into rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.  The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they’ve turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.  The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.  Perhaps no rehab better exemplifies this allegiance to big business than CAAIR. It was started in 2007 by chicken company executives struggling to find workers. By forming a Christian rehab, they could supply plants with a cheap and captive labor force while helping men overcome their addictions.

… At some rehabs, defendants get to keep their pay. At CAAIR and many others, they do not. Legal experts said forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. That’s why prison labor programs are legal. But many defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed. … CAAIR has become indispensable to the criminal justice system, even though judges appear to be violating Oklahoma’s drug court law by using it in some cases, according to the law’s authors. … The program has become an invaluable labor source. Over the years, Simmons Foods repeatedly has laid off paid employees while expanding its use of CAAIR. …

Ige applauds work in progress at rental car hub

Source: Brian Perry, Maui News, October 6, 2017
 
The governor also expressed support for a Senate bill — now pending before state lawmakers — that would create the Hawaii Airport Corp. as an entity to consolidate the ownership, control and management of the state’s airport system. It would take that responsibility from the state’s Transportation Department, although that department would be administratively attached to the corporation. Senate Bill 658 advanced to a conference committee this year, but lawmakers were unable to achieve final passage of the measure supported by the Department of Transportation. Next year, legislators may pick up where they left off .Referring to the Kahului rental car facility’s construction, Ige said Transportation Department Director Ford Fuchigami and his team “have done a terrific job in moving the project forward, but we are pursuing the airport authority because we believe even with the work that has been done we can do better.” … Funds for construction of the consolidated rental car facility come from a pool of money generated by customers who pay $4.50 a day to rent vehicles in Hawaii. Funds for the airport corporation would come from fees paid by airlines and other airport vendors.Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira submitted testimony opposed to the bill. …  “The bill advances the notion that such a corporation addresses delayed decision-making and inefficiency resulting from multiple agencies involved in the planning, development and operation of Hawaii’s airport infrastructure,” Perreira said. “We assert that multiple agencies, each with their own area of responsibility, are rightly involved to collectively protect the public interest.”

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Effort to establish airports corporation advances
Source: Ivy Ashe, Hawaii Tribune Herald, March 24, 2017

Another attempt to consolidate management and planning for Hawaii’s airports is making its way through the state House of Representatives.  The measure was first brought to the Senate last year by the late Hawaii Island Sen. Gilbert Kahele. That legislation died during conferencing.  This year’s bill, Senate Bill 658, was introduced by Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona, and would establish a Hawaii airport corporation comprised of a governor-appointed board of directors. … The measure has been opposed by labor groups such as the Hawaii Government Employees Association. In written testimony during Senate hearings, executive director Randy Perreira stated having multiple agencies involved in airport management was a way to “collectively protect the public interest.”  “The public benefits from the involvement of the Department of Health with respect to addressing environmental concerns, the Board of Land and Natural Resources with respect to protecting public lands and the Department of Human Resources Development with respect to enforcing the civil service law to render impartial service to the public,” he wrote. …

KOSE demands active shooter training following shooting at Dept of Revenue office

Source: Devon Fasibnder, KWCH, October 5, 2017
 
The Kansas Organization of State Employees is demanding active shooter training for all state employees following the shooting of Cortney Holloway at the Wichita Department of Revenue office.  The letter, written by KOSE President Lisa Ochs, demands a security review of all state government buildings, public or privately owned, to ensure all employees are protected.  “Sadly, all indications are that the private building that houses the Department of Revenue offices where Cortney Holloway was shot lacked security measures that might have prevented this incident,” the letter reads. … Though the shooting at the Department of Revenue office happened less than a month ago, the KOSE Union writes, “Long before this incident, state employees have felt vulnerable and KOSE members have complained to management that they fear for their safety. Nothing was done. Something must be done now.” …

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Privatization Moved State Workers to Unsecured Office
Source: Associated Press, September 21, 2017
 
The head of Kansas’ state employees union and a local lawmaker say a push by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to privatize state office space left employees vulnerable during a shooting this week at a Department of Revenue office in Wichita.  The workers were moved three years ago out of the now-vacant Finney Office building, which had guards and security, to a strip mall office that provided no security, The Wichita Eagle reported. On Tuesday, tax compliance officer Cortney Holloway was shot. … Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the larger Finney building with armed guards likely would have deterred a shooting.  …

Privatization moved state workers to unsecured office where shooting occurred
Source: Dion Lefler, Wichita Eagle, September 20, 2017
 
Workers at the Wichita tax office where an employee was shot Tuesday were moved out of a secured state office building into an unsecured storefront about three years ago, as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s program of privatizing office space.  A state senator and the head of the state employee union said they think Tuesday’s shooting probably would have been avoided had the Department of Revenue tax office still been housed in the now-vacant Finney State Office Building downtown instead of a strip mall at 21st and Amidon. … “I’m sure they would have been more secured at the Finney State Office Building,” said Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. “There were guards, there was protection.”  He said there was no protection Tuesday when tax compliance agent Cortney Holloway was shot at the Revenue Department office. …

Pa. House GOP criticizes liquor sales earnings as price gouging

Source: Katie Meyer, Newsworks, September 28, 2017
 
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has posted this year’s earnings, and they’re higher than ever.  Despite overhead cost increases, the PLCB said the revenues are a sign the industry is healthy.  But House Republicans — who have long wanted to privatize liquor sales — said it just amounts to price gouging.  As lawmakers search under couch cushions for money to balance a stalled state budget, the PLCB’s been chipping in more and more cash. A record-setting $216 million last fiscal year was more than double the previous year’s contribution.  It’s slated to pay a little less this year, but the number is still high. …

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House approves bill to sell state’s liquor wholesale system
Source: Mark Scolforo, Associated Press, April 25, 2017

House Republicans on Tuesday pushed ahead a set of changes to how alcohol is sold in the state, moving to privatize wholesale wine and spirits sales and expand the retail outlets where booze is available. Lawmakers voted 105-84 in favor of the wholesale divestment proposal, sending it with other proposals to the Senate for its consideration. The House voted to allow more grocery stores to seek permits to sell wine, no longer restricting the permits to stores with seating capacity, and retailers would be able to buy wine from brokers in the private sector. …

Pennsylvania Republicans Set Up Push For Liquor Privatization
Source: Katie Meyer, WSKG, April 19, 2017

State House Republicans are attempting to chart a new course for liquor sales in Pennsylvania, pushing a traditionally state-run system further and further toward privatization. The as-yet-unknown revenue from that change is also expected to play a key role in balancing the caucus’s proposed budget.  As of Monday, four different GOP-led proposals are awaiting votes on the House floor.  The House Liquor Control Committee just passed House Bills 975 and 1075. The former would stop Pennsylvania from wine wholesaling, and the latter–which is even broader–would take the commonwealth out of both wine and liquor sales entirely. …

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Lawmakers, union leaders want MBTA privatization reigned in

Source: Metro, October 3, 2017
 
The MBTA privatization debate may change course after lawmakers urged their colleagues Monday to start rolling back the privatization powers they granted the T after the disastrous 2015 winter.  After winter storms suspended the MBTA’s train service more than once, lawmakers gave Gov. Charlie Baker three years to fix the T without the constraints of the Taxpayer’s Protection Act, called the Pacheco law. That law requires private contractors to prove cost savings and no service reduction before any state service can be outsourced.  Since the law’s suspension, the MTA has outsourced cash handling and equipment management operations and is considering privatizing bus maintenance at three garages. …

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Quincy officials to speak against privatization of Quincy T facility
Source: Sean Philip Cotter, The Patriot Ledger, September 22, 2017

As the prospect of privatizing services at the MBTA maintenance garage in Quincy approaches, two Quincy officials plan to speak in a state Senate hearing against the prospect. State Sen. John Keenan and state Rep. Tackey Chan will speak Oct. 4 before a hearing of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, letting their concerns about privatizing the operations of Quincy’s and similar garages. The T’s request for proposals for contractors to take over up to three garage’s operations are due on Wednesday. If the T wishes, the contractors could begin operations around the start of the new year, according to the request for proposals the agency issued in July. …

MBTA union blasts Baker’s privatization plan
Source: Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Times, August 14, 2017
 
Union workers at the MBTA are pushing back against Gov. Charlie Baker’s plans to privatize bus maintenance, saying it will cost jobs and compromise safety.  Hundreds of workers rallied Thursday outside the MBTA’s Lynn garage, where they blasted Baker’s support for hiring private companies to take over bus maintenance.  “Gov. Baker has chosen to gamble with the taxpayers, the safety of riders and the livelihoods of these hardworking men and women,” said Michael Vartabedian, who heads the International Association of Machinists Local 264, a union representing 120 MBTA bus maintenance machinists. “We won’t let core public services like MBTA bus maintenance be dismantled and destroyed.” …

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Future of Frederick County’s mental health clinic in flux as responsibility for services changes

Source: Kate Masters, Frederick News-Post, September 30, 2017
 
When it comes to mental health and substance abuse services at the Frederick County Health Department, one thing is sure: On Oct. 2, the department’s methadone program will be handed off to Concerted Care Group, a private company based in Baltimore that provides addiction treatment services.  What’s less clear is the fate of the department’s mental health clinic, a small group of psychiatrists, social workers and counselors who together provide mental-health care to roughly 1,500 low-income clients, according to a letter drafted by employees at the clinic. … Beavan and two other staff members were also startled, she said, when representatives from their labor unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Federation of Teachers, forwarded them an email from Alex Doring, the chief of labor relations and risk management at the Maryland Department of Health. The message addressed representatives from both unions and referenced a hard shutdown date of Dec. 31, 2017, for the clinic.  “Frederick Co. Health Department has decided to close its mental health clinic on December 31, 2017,” Doring wrote. “… I would like to schedule a teleconference “to discuss 1) ‘the relative merit of a layoff versus a separation for lack of appropriation,’ and 2) ‘in an effort to develop appropriate arrangements for affected employees.’” …

Prisoners at private-run prisons released without IDs

Source: Demetria Kalodimos, WSMV, September 19, 2017

In facilities operated by the state of Tennessee, the Department of Correction commissioner has said no prisoner should be let out without a valid driver’s license or state ID. Without it, they have trouble finding housing or jobs and are more likely to be arrested for something minor. But at some of the state’s largest prisons, the ones run by Core Civic, the ID rule doesn’t yet apply. A Tennessee state senator said that’s just one example of a much larger problem. … In a February 2016 memo, Commissioner Tony Parker wrote a memo addressed to the Tennessee Department of Correction inmate population. “Providing (the) offender with the tools necessary to successfully re-enter society is an important function of our mission,” the memo read. “Your valid DL (driver’s license) or state ID will be issued to you at your time of release. “I should have had a state ID. I should have had a Social Security card. It’s all stated in policy 511-03 and 511-05, effective in 2011 and 2013, but they refused to do it,” said Middleton. The reason for Core Civic’s refusal may be a surprise, especially when you consider the company is under contract with the state of Tennessee, and paid millions of taxpayer dollars, to manage the South Central facility and others. … “South Central Correctional Facility is not a state-run facility, therefore, cannot provide the actual documents that he is requesting.” … “I think there’s a real danger of creating a two-tier system where we have one set of prisons operated by the state that adheres to one set of standards and another set of prisons operated by a private operation that adheres to a different set of standards,” said Tennessee state Sen. Jeff Yarbro. Yarbro has been outspoken about the need for prison oversight. He said the contract the state has with Core Civic needs to be examined and quite possibly re-written. …

Nurse says she was fired for missing work during Hurricane Irma

Source: Lauren Seabrook, WFTV.com, September 21, 2017

Hurricane Irma hit Leesburg, Florida, hard, and resident Ami Honea’s neighborhood has piles of debris to prove it. Just before the storm blew through, Honea said she made a decision that ended up costing her job. … Honea said she told her boss she felt that her only option was to leave and that he never told her she would lose her job for it. … Attorney Kelli Hastings, who spoke to WFTV before the storm, said that because Florida is a right-to-work state, the termination is legal. … WFTV contacted the privately contracted company that fired Honea, Armor Correctional Health Services, and was referred to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Officials with the Sheriff’s Office said they have nothing to do with the hiring or firing of the medical employees at the company.

Possible sale of Berks County’s nursing home raises questions of quality

Source: Nicole C. Brambila and Karen Shuey, Reading Eagle, September 24, 2017
 
While the financial future of county-owned nursing homes might be uncertain, decades of research is fairly clear: a public sale likely means the number of health violations will go up as the quality of resident care goes down. Observed by researchers for roughly two decades, the phenomenon is often the result of the new for-profit owners cutting costs by reducing staff and slashing employee benefits. … These questions loom large as Berks County commissioners are mulling over whether to sell Berks Heim Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bern Township. No decision has been made but the county-owned nursing home faces a projected $3 million deficit. Citing questions of quality and safety, Berks Heim staff and some residents are speaking out against a sale.

… Berks County’s commissioners considered selling Berks Heim two decades ago but opted against it. But then, a public sale in the late 1990s would have been a first in the region. … research also shows that a sale becomes more likely when surrounding counties have divested. Among Berks County’s six contiguous counties, four counties – Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery and Schuylkill – have all sold county-owned nursing homes since 2005. Only officials in two – Chester and Lehigh counties – have held onto their county-owned facilities. … Talk of a potential sale has been met with sharp opposition from residents and staff. … Divesting a county-owned home then will likely disproportionately impact the poor. … And Harrington, a nationally respected expert on nursing home care, has repeatedly found that for-profit facilities receive more deficiencies than nonprofit or government-owned nursing homes. Comparing the 10 largest chains in the U.S. to government-owned facilities, Harrington found in a 2012 study that serious deficiencies in chains were 41 percent higher. A significant reason for the care discrepancy is staffing levels, typically reduced under new ownership to control costs. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract

Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

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Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

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