Puerto Rico looks to privatize its prison system

Source: Beryl Lipton, Muckrock, April 24, 2018

As part of efforts to rebuild and restructure Puerto Rico after last fall’s destructive hurricane season, the island territory is actively planning to use private prisons on the mainland to house a third of its current inmate population. The “New Fiscal Plan for Puerto Rico,” approved last month by the Puerto Rico Fiscal Oversight Board, included “externalization of imprisonment services” as a key part of the Department of Corrections Transformation Plan. According to the proposed estimates, the move, if successful, would decrease costs for the affected population by about 15%….No company in particular has yet emerged as a front runner in the current Request for Proposals bidding process. An informational meeting was held today for interested parties, all of whom were expected to bring a 5% “bid bond.” ….

Louisiana prison guards indicted in alleged inmate assaults

Source: Associated Press, April 19, 2018

Five former corrections officers at a Louisiana prison have been indicted on charges they conspired to assault handcuffed inmates and submitted false reports on the incident. The former officers at the Richwood Correctional Center in Ouachita (WASH’-ih-tah) Parish were charged in a seven-count federal indictment that was unsealed Thursday. …The March 29 indictment says Loring “stood by” and didn’t intervene when the other guards sprayed a chemical agent into the faces of five handcuffed inmates, who were kneeling on the floor in an area of the prison without surveillance cameras. … The officers tried to cover up the assault on the inmates by filing false reports on the incident to explain why the inmates needed medical treatment, the indictment says. … Richwood Correctional Center is a private prison operated by LaSalle Corrections. Louisiana’s corrections department regularly inspects the facility but doesn’t employ the officers who work there, according to department spokesman Ken Pastorick. …

Opinion: Do Taxpayers Know They Are Handing Out Billions to Corporations?

Source: Nathan M. Jensen, The New York Times, April 24, 2018
 
Every year, states and local governments give economic-development incentives to companies to the tune of between $45 billion and $80 billion. Why such a wide range? It’s not sloppy research; it’s because many of these subsidies are not public. For the known subsidies, such as Maryland’s recent $8.5 billion incentive bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, the support includes cash grants for company relocations, subsidized land, forgiving company taxes on everything from property taxes to sales taxes and investments in infrastructure for the company. …

… Economic development all across the country is getting less open — and both Democrats and Republicans are doing it. In fact, in many cases, the politicians themselves aren’t even the ones negotiating for the public. How do communities balance the tremendous opportunity of attracting a world-class company against the taxpayer costs, the pressures on our infrastructure and our struggles of providing affordable housing? … Another strategy to avoid transparency in a competition like this is through complexity. The idea is to make economic development so twisted that it’s nearly impossible to figure out who is responsible for it. If governments aren’t submitting these bids, with taxpayers’ money, who is responsible for economic development? In many states, companies are wooed by getting a break on paying local taxes. In some of these cases, local interests get overlooked — in particular, schools. There are school districts where economic developers were empowered to give away the tax revenues without the input of educators. …

Huge federal contractor ‘failed’ to pay workers $100 million in wages, union says

Source: Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, April 23, 2018
 
One of the country’s largest federal contractors has been accused of underpaying about 10,000 workers who run help hotlines for public health insurance programs, including the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, by up to $100 million over the past five years, according to four complaints filed Monday to the Labor Department.  The complaint brought by the Communications Workers of America alleges that General Dynamics Information Technology misclassified employees at call centers in Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and Texas to suppress their wages.  The union, which does not represent the workers, said the contractor hired or promoted workers into roles that require special training but paid them below government-set rates for the jobs they performed. The complaint covers the period since 2013, when GDIT started a $4 billion, 10-year contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. …

Related:

Contractor that handles public’s Medicare queries will do same for Affordable Care Act
Source: Susan Jaffe, Washington Post, June 20, 2013

Within days, the company that handles a daily average of more than 60,000 calls about Medicare will be deluged by new inquiries about health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The six Medicare call centers run by Vangent, a company based in Arlington County, will answer questions about the health-care law from the 34 states that opted out of running their own online health insurance marketplaces or decided to operate them jointly with the federal government. ….. Running the 800-Medicare call centers may provide valuable experience, but Vangent’s track record reveals that it was slow to adapt when changes in the Medicare program caused dramatic spikes in demand. ….. Vangent, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Information Technology, will run both Medicare and the federal health exchange call centers under a contract worth $530 million in its first year.

Florida Moves to Shut Down For-Profit Residence After Finding Horrific Abuse and Neglect

Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, April 19, 2018

After another patient died under suspicious circumstances and reports surfaced of more instances of abuse and neglect, Florida regulators moved this week to shutter a for-profit school and residential campus for children and adults with severe developmental disabilities. The action Tuesday by Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities came after years of complaints that patients at the Carlton Palms Educational Center were violently mistreated by staff and subjected to physical restraints known as “wrap mats,” which resemble full-body straitjackets. Carlton Palms and its owner’s other facilities were the subject of a ProPublica investigation two years ago that chronicled the deaths of three teenaged patients, patterns of abuse and neglect, and company executives’ often-successful efforts to stave off regulation. …

Related:

vFlorida Lawmakers Look to Roll Back Favored Status For For-Profit Group Home
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, February 17, 2016

… The facility has enjoyed a special status — and higher Medicaid payments from the state — because of language embedded in Florida law. Until last year, law said the state should continue to contract with facilities licensed before 1989, when Carlton Palms was already in operation. Instead of needing to prove it offered the highest quality care in the most cost-effective way, Carlton Palms continued to get the state’s business automatically. The only way the state could have stopped doing business with Carlton Palms would have been for public officials to prove the facility had broken state laws or regulations. Last year, the Florida legislature passed a temporary provision to lift the obligation to work with Carlton Palms. But the measure, approved through a budget bill, expires in July.

Unrestrained
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, December 10, 2015

While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability.

Three years ago, it looked like the Florida agency that oversees care for children and adults with disabilities had finally had enough. It filed a legal complaint that outlined horrific abuse at Carlton Palms, a rambling campus of group homes and classrooms near the small town of Mount Dora.

A man called “R.G.” was punched in the stomach, kicked and told “shut your fucking mouth,” the complaint said. “R.T.” was left with a face full of bruises after a worker hit him with a belt wrapped around his fist. A child, “D.K.,” who refused to lie face down so he could be restrained, was kicked in the face and choked until, eyes bulging, he nearly passed out.

State officials wanted to bar Carlton Palms from accepting new residents for a year.

“[A] moratorium on admissions,” wrote a lawyer with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, “is necessary to protect the public interest and to prevent the continuance of conditions that threaten the health, safety and welfare of Carlton Palm’s (sic) residents.”

Two months later, the state backed down…..

What Happened to Adam
Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, December 11, 2015

It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos.

Cobo Center to save $200,000 annually by bringing janitorial services in-house

Source: Kurt Nagl, Crain’s Detroit Business, April 13, 2018

Cobo Center is on track to save around $200,000 annually on housekeeping by bringing those services in-house. The Detroit venue parted ways with The Professional Group, a janitorial services provider based in Detroit, last October and is pleased with the savings and performance of the restructured team, said Claude Molinari, general manager of Cobo. The venue’s budget for housekeeping this year is $1.75 million a year, which would mean a savings of 10 percent compared to the cost last year, Molinari said. Cobo, which is operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and managed by SMG, had contracted with Detroit-based ABM Janitorial Services for several years prior to The Professional Group winning the bid in 2016. The Professional Group terminated the contract after one year. … Molinari said that under the new management structure the average wage of a full-time cleaner is $13.50 plus benefits — up from an average of $11.10 plus benefits before the new arrangement. …

Privatization: P3, SIB, ASD….huh?!

Source: Canadian Union of Public Employees, April 13, 2018

Privatization has many names. This guide cuts through the language that privatization promoters hide behind, to show what’s really at stake for our public services. It also lists some of the key privatization pushers, as well as the processes that governments and employers use to pave the way for privatization. …

Schools sign new janitorial contract

Source: Amelia Harper, Rocky Mount Telegram, April 16, 2018

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools now has a contract with a new janitorial service provider after spending more than a year trying to make the switch. The Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education voted Thursday to approve a nearly $2.5 million contract with Beck Education Services to provide cleaning services for 37 buildings owned by the school district. … According to the the termination document presented by the school board to SSC, several issues led to the contract termination. The document stated that an SSC manager had placed a custodial worker on a school campus without the required and contracted background checks, including criminal check, sex offender registry check or E-verify work authorization check, and was paying the individual “cash under the table.” The document also claims that the custodial company had been the cause of numerous complaints, primarily regarding lack of communication and the “failure to fill custodial staff vacancies within a reasonable time period.” Some school board members said Thursday that they had also heard employees of SSC express concerns over lack of training and the poor quality of cleaning supplies provided. …

Contracted Hospital Workers Win Job Security

Source: Laurel Albina, Labor Notes, April 16, 2018

For the first time in 15 years, 4,000 subcontracted hospital housekeepers and dietary workers in British Columbia have job security. They won that peace of mind by pulling off a series of escalating actions on the job. Between 2002 and 2005 the provincial government, headed by the Liberal Party, fired 10,000 hospital support service workers—mostly women and people of color—and subcontracted their jobs to multinational corporations including Aramark, Compass, Sodexo, and Acciona. In the years that followed, the workers who were hired back—less than half of those who’d lost their jobs—reorganized with the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) and bargained hard to regain what they’d lost. But without job security to protect against another change of contractor, all gains were precarious. … In an agreement bargained between HEU, the Ministry of Health, and the regional health authorities, now when commercial contracts are re-tendered, contracted support service employees in HEU will keep their jobs, their union, and their collective agreement.

Whittier-area schools have new bus provider — it’s the high school district

Source: Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News, April 14, 2018

When Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old special needs Whittier Union High student, died after being left inside a parked, hot school bus in 2015, his death sparked a movement that culminates with what is essentially a new bus provider for seven Whittier-area school districts. Whittier Union High School District has left the Pupil Transportation Cooperative, or PTC, which had been providing bus transportation since 1984. Instead, starting July 1, it will run the buses for all seven PTC member districts — East Whittier City, El Rancho, Little Lake, Los Nietos, South Whittier and Whittier City. … After his death, Lee’s family received $23.5 million in a settlement with the PTC. In turn, the PTC sued the high school district last year for partial compensation of the settlement. That lawsuit since has been dismissed. Now, with the contracts approved Tuesday, the changeover from the PTC to the high school district is nearly ready to go. …

Related:

Bus Company to upgrade safety policies after death of special-needs student in Whittier
Source: Miriam Hernandez, ABC7 Eyewitness News, September 16, 2015

Immediate safety upgrades will be put into place by Pupil Transportation Cooperative following the tragic death of a 19-year-old man with special needs in Whittier, the company announced during a press conference Wednesday. … PTC will be pushing for electronic notification devices to be placed in school buses and two adults will now monitor every bus to ensure no student is left on board. … DeLapp said the substitute driver was a 10-year veteran who may not have known Lee’s limitations. Yet there is evidence the driver ignored what is characterized today as a standard child check procedure, which is spelled out in the bus operator manual. “Walk the entire length of the bus interior, front to rear, and check for students who may still be on board,” the manual states. DeLapp said the procedure was signed off, but yet Lee was still inside the bus. …

Special Needs Student Found Dead on School Bus May Have Been Waiting for Instructions: Family
Source: Hetty Change and William Avila, NBC Los Angelos, September 14, 2015

When family members learned that Lee had been left on a school bus on a hot Friday afternoon, they thought he may have stayed there waiting for a cue. The 19-year-old was found alone and unresponsive. Police could not revive him. Lee, or Paul to those who knew him, had a severe form of autism. Leslie Perez’s mom was his caregiver. She says her mom waited outside for Lee’s bus to drop him off at 3:30 p.m., like she does every afternoon, but it never showed up. Police found the adult school student lying in the aisle near the front of the bus parked in a Whittier school district parking lot. He was declared dead — less than two weeks before his 20th birthday — after lifesaving efforts failed. … It’s also unclear whether drivers with the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative, are required to do head counts. Family members say a different bus driver had picked him up that morning.