‘Foster Shock’ documentary takes Florida’s privatized child welfare system to task

Source: Les Neuhaus, SaintPetersBlog, March 13, 2017

A documentary film about Florida’s privatized child welfare and fostering programs — made by a Guardian ad Litem and filmmaker from Palm Beach — casts a draconian look at what happens to children when they are taken from abusive situations at home and become dependents of the state, at taxpayer expense, often to their peril. “Foster Shock,” which is currently being screened around the state at community viewings and nationally film festivals, was directed and produced by Mari Frankel, who has also served as a Guardian ad Litem (person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child) for the last several years. … Her film paints the picture of a bleak and broken system funded to the tune of roughly $3 billion per year of Florida taxpayer money. The film also argues that a sizable chunk of that money often goes to the six-figure salaries of the executives running the so-called “community-based care” agencies (CBCs), like Eckerd Kids, whose own executive director, David Dennis, earned $708,028 in the fiscal year 2015, according to publicly-available IRS 990 statements. But the children sometimes wind up in group homes, or foster homes, where they are abused or even killed – maliciously or by neglect. There have been a string of widely-publicized incidents the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has had to ultimately deal with in recent years, but the CBCs keep getting their contracts – typically worth tens of millions of dollars per county – renewed by the state. … The CBCs – routinely staffed by personnel who are not licensed social workers, certified master social workers or licensed clinical social workers and are packed into cubical-farm office spaces – subcontract out much of the case management work to other agencies. The case management workers who actually check on the children’s welfare are not licensed clinic social workers either and have demanding caseloads hovering around 20-30 families, depending on the county. …

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Family: Teen suicides evidence of failure of privatized foster care
Source: John Pacenti, Palm Beach Post, March 13, 2017

A lawyer representing the biological family of a teenager in foster care who broadcast her suicide on Facebook live says the tragic death is just the latest evidence that the state’s move to privatize foster care is not working. WLRN-FM reports the death of 14-year-old Naika Venant in January was the second teen suicide in a Miami Gardens foster care home overseen by the agency Our Kids in the two months. In December, 16-year-old Lauryn Martin hanged herself with a scarf in her room at the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter on Plantation Key. Howard Talenfeld, a lawyer representing Naika Venant’s biological family, said it is the Department of Children and Families that gives the job to a contractor like Our Kids. … Talenfeld says it’s been 40 days since his firm requested relevant records from DCF and Our Kids, and it hasn’t gotten anything yet. …

Florida’s child-protection system needs major overhaul, report says
Source: Orlando Sentinel, February 3, 2015

A new report from the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, created last year as part of a wide-ranging reform law, calls for state leaders to go well beyond their previous efforts to fix the state’s troubled child-protection system. The 50-page report, submitted Friday to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, focused on “the need for a statewide, system-wide child welfare strategic plan” that pulls together the disparate parts of Florida’s response to the abuse and neglect of children. ….. Following a scathing review by the non-profit Casey Family Programs of 40 child deaths in Florida, lawmakers last year sought to fix problems that have repeatedly occurred in the state’s programs to protect children from abuse and neglect. Lawmakers concluded, in part, that Florida needed its own research arm to better advise the Department of Children and Families and privatized community-based care organizations that provide adoption, foster care and case-management services. As part of a major reform bill, the Legislature established the Florida Institute for Child Welfare at Florida State University’s College of Social Work. In the new report, Patricia Babcock, the institute’s interim director, and Nicholas Mazza, dean of the university’s College of Social Work, wrote that “Florida’s child welfare system is unique in that its case management services have been privatized.” ….

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These For-Profit Schools Are ‘Like a Prison’

Source: Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, Zoë Kirsch and Stephen Smiley, ProPublica, March 8, 2017

… Over six months in 2013 and 2014, about a half-dozen parents, students and community members at Paramount Academy — billed as a “therapeutic” day program — complained of abusive behavior by the school’s staff. … Thirteen Camelot students have alleged in interviews or documents that they were shoved, beaten, or thrown — assaults almost always referred to as “slamming” — by Camelot staff members, usually for the sin of talking back, in separate incidents that span 10 years and three states. … Two additional students, and five Camelot staff members, say they have personally witnessed beatings or physical aggression by staff. The abuse allegedly occurred in Camelot programs in Reading; Lancaster; Philadelphia; New Orleans; and Pensacola, Florida. … Despite such allegations, Camelot has continued to expand. It contracts with traditional school districts to run about 40 schools across the country — schools that serve kids who have gotten into trouble, have emotional or behavioral issues, or have fallen far behind academically. In 2015, Camelot reported more than $77 million in revenue, more than a third from contracts with the school districts of Philadelphia, Houston, and Chicago. … About half a million students in the United States attend alternative schools, which are publicly funded but often managed by private, for-profit companies such as Camelot. Camelot’s story illustrates the risk that for-profit schools, which are favored by the Trump administration and new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may put earnings ahead of student welfare. It also exposes the dismal educational options available to some students that traditional high schools don’t want to serve, because they are disruptive, severely disabled, years behind in school, or have criminal backgrounds.

… Add it all up, skeptics say, and the Camelot experience starts to resemble the nation’s incarceration system: racially biased, isolated, punitive, unnecessarily violent and designed, above all else, to maintain obedience and control. … Public school districts typically contract with Camelot to run one of three types of programs: “transitional schools” for kids with behavior issues; “therapeutic programs” for those with special behavioral and emotional needs; and “accelerated programs” for students who have fallen far behind. … Most Camelot students share two characteristics. They are nearly all poor. And they are overwhelmingly peopleof color. … The incidents at Camelot tended to follow a similar pattern, according to multiple accounts from students and staff members. Nonacademic staff members (usually the behavioral specialists and team leaders but sometimes higher-level employees) were permitted by administrators and school leaders to manhandle students as a form of intimidation — whether the teenagers had acted out or not. They preyed most often on students who had the least recourse to complain: social pariahs whose parents were disengaged or unable to advocate effectively, because they didn’t speak English, for instance. School leaders condoned the abuse and in some cases even encouraged it, according to Jandy Rivera and others. … In most middle- and upper-income communities, parents provide an informal yet crucial form of accountability for schools — protesting, and even suing over, mistreatment of their children. But this safety net is largely missing in the Camelot schools, where parents lack the knowledge, confidence, resources or language skills to complain. Those who have come forward say that few people in positions of power, including school officials, lawyers and police officers, take them seriously — if they listen at all. …

Can a Private Company Teach Troubled Kids?
Source: Alexia Fernandez Campbell, The Atlantic, August 27, 2016

Disruptive students are a headache for public schools. They distract from lessons, skip class, and often bring down the graduation rates. That’s why school districts across the country have resorted to opening alternative schools in recent decades, with hopes that smaller classes and individual attention might help these students get their diplomas. But even these alternative schools (which differ from charter schools in that they are still part of school districts and thus answer to superintendents) can be a burden: They’re expensive to run, and their graduation rates are still pretty low. Desperate for help, many school districts are now hiring private companies to manage these alternative schools and educate their most troublesome students. … Richmond is one of the latest cities to experiment with outsourcing education. In July, the city hired a Texas-based company called Camelot Education to run the Richmond Alternative School, which last year served 223 students from across the city in grades 6 through 11. Nearly all of the students at Richmond Alternative are black (97 percent) and most are poor (87 percent qualify for free lunches). Some black parents once dubbed it the “colored children’s prison” and it has been criticized for contributing to what’s called the school-to-prison pipeline—Virginia is the state that refers the most students to law enforcement. …

… The turn to the private sector is not new for Richmond. In 2004, the city hired a private company to run a previous iteration of its alternative school, which was then called the Capital City Program. The $4.6 million agreement with a Tennessee-based company called Community Education Partners was the school district’s most expensive contract that year. … The quality of the education provided by Community Education Partners turned out to be substandard, according to a Richmond Magazine investigation, which found that a third of the school’s teachers were not credentialed. Elsewhere, schools run by Community Education Partners were not faring much better. The American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia sued the company in 2008 for allegedly providing “fundamentally inferior” education to students at an alternative school in Atlanta—an environment “so violent and intimidating that learning is all but impossible.” Atlanta canceled its contract with the company, and a year later, so did the city of Philadelphia. …

… The teachers who have been working at Richmond Alternative the past few years will have an opportunity to interview for teaching positions with Camelot, Bock says, but, if hired, they will be required to undergo the company’s de-escalation and behavior modification training. Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union. … This may be the first time that Richmond will work with Camelot, but data on the company’s presence in Philadelphia provides a fuller picture of its track record. Camelot was one of half a dozen companies running Philadelphia’s alternative schools in the past decade, the largest experiment in privatizing alternative education to date. …

Student Login Records at Ohio E-Schools Spark $80 Million Dispute

Source: Benjamin Herold and Alex Harwin, Education Week, March 7, 2017

The Ohio education department could seek repayment of more than $80 million from nine full-time online schools, based on audits of software-login records that led state officials to determine the schools had overstated their student enrollment. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, for example, was paid for 15,322 full-time students during the 2015-16 school year. But state officials said they could document just 41 percent of that total. An Education Week analysis of both the login records submitted by ECOT and the results of the state’s audit for that year further demonstrates the scope of the discrepancy: Under Ohio law, schools are expected to offer students 920 hours of learning. But for the average ECOT student, state officials were able to document just 227 hours spent using the school’s learning software, Education Week’s review found. …

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Online charter school loses state attendance audit appeal
Source: Associated Press, December 15, 2016

A judge will allow Ohio’s education department to review attendance records that could force Ohio’s largest online charter to return millions of its funding. Franklin County Judge Jenifer French on Thursday finalized a ruling against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT. The decision rejects a request by ECOT to block the state from requiring the school provide log-in durations as a way of measuring how many students attend the school. The state said has said that ECOT’s enrollment is nearly 60 percent lower than originally reported, potentially jeopardizing about $60 million in state funding from last year. …

ECOT online charter school appeals two rulings that threaten $60 million in funding
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 11, 2016 (Appeal available at bottom of article)

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has filed appeals with both the Ohio Department of Education and an appeals court to challenge rulings that threaten more than $60 million of its state funding. Neither appeal offers much detail of the online charter school’s case, but they start procedures to block the state from recovering money paid to the school last year because it cannot document how much time its students spent on their classes.

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Nevada National Guard security will be privatized

Source: Sean Whaley, Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 8, 2017

A panel of lawmakers on Wednesday approved funding of nearly $400,000 to provide contracted security for the state’s National Guard facilities, although some committee members expressed concern about the move to privatization. The Nevada Office of the Military learned in October 2016 that it was improperly allowing its Army Military Security Officers to use privately owned firearms on duty, contrary to an Army security agreement. As a result, the office was forced to disarm its security officers, which it said is an unacceptable security risk for the guard bases. The $392,000 contract approved by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee will transfer funds from a different military account to allow the guard bases to use private armed security. While some lawmakers expressed concern with the move, the office said the use of contractors for such services is common for the military. …

Govt Watchdog Finds Flaws in Implementation of Contractor Whistleblower Law

Source: Daniel Van Schooten, Project On Government Oversight, March 7, 2017

Advocates of whistleblower rights achieved a victory in December when then-President Obama signed whistleblower protections permanently into law for employees of companies working on civilian federal contracts (Defense Department contractor employees were already covered by a permanent program). Previously the protections were part of a four-year pilot program that began in 2013. While making these legal protections permanent was an important step forward in contractor and government accountability, the track record for employees filing complaints over the pilot program’s first few years hasn’t been encouraging, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week. The GAO report indicates that IGs and agencies have not always implemented all of the pilot program’s requirements. … The GAO report states that 127 whistleblower retaliation complaints were submitted by contractor employees during the first two and a half years of the program. Of those, 44 were investigated by the involved agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). … None of the 27 completed investigations at the time resulted in findings that substantiated whistleblower reprisal against the employee.

While that sample size is relatively small and every case has to be individually reviewed on its merits, it is concerning that in the first two and a half years of the law, not a single claim of retaliation was substantiated. While it is clearly possible that there was in fact no retaliation in any of these cases, there are a number of other reasons that may also contribute to the lack of any substantiated complaints. For example, when reviewing another whistleblower protection law, the Project On Government Oversight observed at the Defense Department OIG an overly narrow legal interpretation of protections regarding defense contractor employees. … The GAO also found inconsistent implementation of some portions of the law, which could impact the final outcome of complaints and whether or not complaints are filed. … Even when an OIG does not find that reprisal occurred, the agency head must, by law, make a final determination—a step that did not properly occur in most of the cases. … Of the 27 investigations that were completed, one IG, responsible for 15 of them, reported that it had not sent any to the agency head for final determination. Of the remaining 12, all IGs said they referred their findings to the agency heads, but it is unclear how often the agency head made a final ruling. … The now-permanent protections provided to contractors and subcontractors is a big win for whistleblowers. We hope agencies and IGs take these GAO findings to heart and make sure that people who stand up to report waste, fraud, or abuse are given all the protections provided for in the law.

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Lawmakers Hear Testimony Concerning Privatizing DDS Care

Source: Todd Piro, NBC Connecticut, March 8, 2017

Beverly Laporte of East Hartford worries about what will happen to her son Robbie if he is moved from his group home in South Windsor to private care. Laporte joined others at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Tuesday, testifying in front of the Public Health Committee against privatizing Department of Developmental Services care for their relatives. … At issue, of course, is money. Non-profit providers, through The Alliance, which provides a voice for community non-profits, say they can provide the highest quality of care at a fraction of the cost, saving the cash-strapped state $150 million dollars per year in residential care alone. … Some like Laporte are not convinced, arguing that because many private employees in the caregiving field are paid less than their public counterparts, there is a high turnover rate that hurts continuity of care. … Wednesday’s testimony was just one part of the larger battle that will be going on throughout the session.

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Connecticut unions say state needs to negotiate privatization
Source: Christine Stuart, New Haven Register, October 13, 2016

Two state unions representing workers at the Department of Developmental Services filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging the state can’t move forward with privatizing group homes without negotiating first with the unions. The Connecticut State Employees Association, SEIU Local 2011 and New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199 sought an injunction in Hartford Superior Court to stop the privatization from moving forward until negotiations are completed. Department of Development Services Commission Morna Murray announced in August that the state was moving forward with a plan to convert 30 group homes to private operation by Jan. 1, 2017. The agency also closed two regional centers in Meriden and Stratford. The plan is expected to save the agency $42 million in 2017 and $70 million in 2018. …

State employee unions suing to block group home privatization
Source: Arielle Levin Becker and Keith Phaneuf, CT Mirror, October 13, 2016

State employee unions plan to ask a judge to block the privatization of group homes for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, saying the layoffs caused by those changes violate Connecticut law and will eventually be blocked by the state labor board. If that happens, the unions say in their request for an injunction, clients would have their lives upended twice – first by having to go through a change in staff in state-run group homes where they have developed relationships with caregivers, and then again if the labor board orders the laid-off state employees to be reinstated. … The unions, CSEA-SEIU Local 2001 and SEIU 1199, New England, represent nearly 500 workers who are expected to be laid off because of the Department of Developmental Services’ plans to privatize the services they provide. The workers include staff at state-run group homes and institutions, and those who provide job support, education, physical and speech therapy, health care and other services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Both unions filed a complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations earlier this week, alleging that DDS broke the law by failing to bargain with them over the decision to outsource the work. … The Malloy administration plans to privatize 40 group homes, as well as services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities – moves aimed at saving the state nearly $70 million per year by next fiscal year. Overall, the plan is expected to eliminate 605 state jobs. In an August memo detailing the plans, budget director Benjamin Barnes wrote that the state was requesting that the private providers give hiring preferences, when possible, to state employees who lose their jobs because of the changes. …

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Florida to Examine Whether Alternative Charter Schools Underreport Dropouts

Source: Heather Vogell, ProPublica, March 6, 2017

Florida’s Department of Education is expanding an inquiry into how schools classify students who leave without graduating, in response to a ProPublica report that the state may have thousands more dropouts than it acknowledges. Also in reaction to the ProPublica article, the school board chairman in Orlando is asking the district superintendent for a formal report regarding concerns that low-achieving students have been pressured to transfer from traditional to alternative high schools. … Fifteen students at schools run by for-profit Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS) in Orlando’s district said that, because of their academic performance, they had been denied admission to regular public high schools or told they had to transfer from them to alternative programs, according to our Feb. 21 article, which was co-published by USA Today. Some were pulled from class for surprise assemblies where ALS representatives gave a pitch to attend their schools.

… Several traditional schools improved their graduation rates by dispatching students unlikely to earn diplomas on time to ALS schools, the article reported. Enrollment in alternative schools in Orlando’s district, Orange County, has tripled in recent years, swelling to 3,900 in 2014. District officials say transfers for academic reasons are voluntary. ProPublica also found that these alternative schools could be significantly undercounting dropouts by coding students who leave as withdrawing to enter adult education, such as GED classes. State rules don’t label withdrawals for adult education as dropping out. … The state education department, which was already reviewing graduation-rate data, will broaden its examination in light of ProPublica’s findings, a department spokeswoman wrote in an email. The state board of education will consider the matter at its March 22 meeting. …

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‘Alternative’ Education: Using Charter Schools to Hide Dropouts and Game the System
Source: Heather Vogell and Hannah Fresques, ProPublica, February 21, 2017

… Sunshine collects enough school district money to cover costs and pay its management firm, Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS), a more than $1.5 million-a-year “management fee,” 2015 financial records show — more than what the school spends on instruction. But students lose out, a ProPublica investigation found. Once enrolled at Sunshine, hundreds of them exit quickly with no degree and limited prospects. The departures expose a practice in which officials in the nation’s tenth-largest school district have for years quietly funneled thousands of disadvantaged students — some say against their wishes — into alternative charter schools that allow them to disappear without counting as dropouts. … The Orlando schools illustrate a national pattern. Alternative schools have long served as placements for students who violated disciplinary codes. But since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 refashioned the yardstick for judging schools, alternative education has taken on another role: A silent release valve for high schools like Olympia that are straining under the pressure of accountability reform. As a result, alternative schools at times become warehouses where regular schools stow poor performers to avoid being held accountable. Traditional high schools in many states are free to use alternative programs to rid themselves of weak students whose test scores, truancy and risk of dropping out threaten their standing, a ProPublica survey of state policies found.

… Concerns that schools artificially boosted test scores by dumping low achievers into alternative programs have surfaced in connection with ongoing litigation in Louisiana and Pennsylvania, and echo findings from a legislative report a decade ago in California. The phenomenon is borne out by national data: While the number of students in alternative schools grew moderately over the past 15 years, upticks occurred as new national mandates kicked in on standardized testing and graduation rates. The role of charter alternative schools like Sunshine — publicly funded but managed by for-profit companies — is likely to grow under the new U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, an ardent supporter of school choice. … The charters exploit a loophole in state regulations: By coding hundreds of students who leave as withdrawing to enter adult education, such as GED classes, Sunshine claims virtually no dropouts. State rules don’t label withdrawals for that reason as dropping out. But ALS officials cannot say where Sunshine students actually went — or if they even took GED classes at all. …

House votes to abolish one of Gov. Rick Scott’s prized agencies, Enterprise Florida

Source: Jeremy Wallace, Miami Herald, March 10, 2017

The Florida House shrugged off political threats from Gov. Rick Scott and stuck a dagger into the heart of his political legacy on Friday. By an 87-28 vote, the House voted to kill Enterprise Florida, the agency Scott has relied on to hand out tax breaks to businesses in exchange for them creating jobs — a central promise in his two campaigns for governor. … With 87 votes backing the Enterprise bill, the House would be in a position to override a Scott veto because the bill passed by more than a two-thirds majority. … But the Senate still needs to pass its own bill. So far, it hasn’t. … It’s a remarkably bad week for Enterprise Florida. On Monday, the agency’s CEO, Chris Hart IV, quit abruptly without much explanation. He was only on the job since January. It’s the second time in nine months that its CEO has left. … Eliminating Enterprise Florida — a quasi-private government agency created in the 1990s to serve as a commerce department — has a long way to go. Both chambers have to pass identical bills for it to pass the Legislature and end up on the governor’s desk. Even then Scott would seemingly have the last say in vetoing the idea. … Jenne said even if the Senate doesn’t take up the bill, Enterprise Florida is vulnerable. He said in a few weeks the House and Senate will start working on a 2017 budget and the House is almost certain to put no money in the budget for Enterprise Florida, regardless of whether Renner’s bill moves forward. That will set up a budget showdown that could still put a spending plan on Scott’s desk that would de-fund what Jenne called Scott’s “policy baby.” …

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Another Scandal at Florida’s Privatized Development Agency
Source: Kasia Tarczynska, Clawback blog, February 28, 2014

For the followers of Enterprise Florida (EFI), another scandal at the organization should not come as a surprise. Television station CBS12 in Palm Beach discovered this week that EFI, the privatized “public-private partnership” responsible for recruiting companies to the state, has spent thousands of dollars on entertaining site selection consultants.

State-run agency accused of abusing tax payer dollars
Source: Michael Buczyner, CBS 12 NEWS, February 25 2014

CBS 12 News spent hours reviewing 20 months worth of spending at Enterprise Florida and uncovered thousands of dollars spent on sky boxes, steakhouses and at fancy hotels. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on credit cards. We weren’t provided the detail on what was purchased. Our investigation found leaders at Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development machine, spent more than $21,000 at Yankee Stadium in New York. They also paid a visit to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX where they dropped more than $7,100. The stadium tour also stopped off in Atlanta, GA for a cost of $4,400.

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ICE detainees are asking to be put in solitary confinement for their own safety

Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, March 10, 2017

… Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts out many of its detention facilities to private prison corporations like CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — and the GEO Group, which have seen significant increases in their stock prices since Donald Trump’s election. Hundreds of logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act Request detailing the use of solitary confinement at three of these privately run ICE facilities provide a window into the conditions of desperation and violence that immigrants, including those diagnosed with mental illness, can face inside such detention centers. The logs show that life inside the facilities can be so dangerous and hostile that numerous detainees have voluntarily admitted themselves to solitary confinement just to seek refuge from the general population. In other cases documented in the logs, detainees were disciplined with isolation for perpetrating acts of violence, sexual assault, or disruption; yet others were placed in solitary for more minor infractions, such as charging detainees for haircuts or “horse-playing.” In dozens of instances at a Georgia facility, detainees were placed in solitary confinement for hunger striking; in one case, an detainee with a mental illness was placed in isolation at the request of ICE for reasons that facility officials writing the log readily admitted they did not understand.

Encompassing the entirety of 2016, the logs cover two CoreCivic facilities in Lumpkin, Georgia; Eloy, Arizona; and a third center in Pearsall, Texas, operated by the GEO Group. The logs were generated for ICE headquarters to detail two categories of detainees: those placed in isolation for more than two weeks, and those who had a range of “special vulnerabilities,” including physical or mental health diagnoses, detainees who had been the victims of sexual assault or those at risk for suicide. In total, the logs list more than 300 instances of this sort of confinement being used last year at the three facilities, with the Lumpkin facility deploying the use of this confinement at a significantly higher rate than the other two detention centers. …

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EXCLUSIVE: ICE PUT DETAINED IMMIGRANTS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR HUNGER STRIKING
Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, February 27, 2017

Beginning last April, and picking up in the weeks following the November election, dozens of detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in rural Georgia went on hunger strike in protest of their detention. The private prison corporation that runs the facility, CoreCivic — formerly Corrections Corporation of America — responded swiftly to the expanding demonstration: as immigrant detainees refused to eat, CoreCivic staff began immediately locking them in solitary confinement for their participation in the non-violent protest. According to ICE detainment logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act request, more than two dozen detainees were put in solitary confinement for hunger striking — some simply for declaring they would refuse to eat, even if they hadn’t yet skipped a meal. The logs also show that CoreCivic may have attempted to gather information on hunger strike organizers through cultivating detainee informants, who were later locked in solitary confinement themselves for protection. …

KEY FINDINGS

  • Dozens of immigrant detainees were locked in solitary confinement after going on hunger strike
  • Immigrants were simply demanding to have access to their deportation officers
  • ICE has previously been accused of using solitary confinement to punish hunger strikes
  • Private prison firms like CoreCivic are set to benefit from President Trump’s policies
  • Steal Another City’s Study

    Source: Rachel Dovey, Next City, March 13, 2017

    With more than 90,000 governments — think state, county, city — making up the U.S. government, it makes no sense that so many of them operate as silos. A new project wants to address this where issues of operational efficiency are concerned. The Operational Excellence in Government project, from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center, “identifies operational efficiency themes across state and local governments” by pulling from over 200 state and local reports on efficiency — and allowing officials to see them side-by-side, or search them by topic. According to the project’s website, it aims to pinpoint cost saving opportunities, recommend proven efficiencies and provide implementation guidance. In short, it’s a kind of meta-report — about a bunch of reports. On the front end, though, it also provides a searchable database, where officials can use keywords to see research that’s been done on any given topic, or search umbrella topics. Click on “Operations,” for example, and you’ll see related research about federal procurement and contractor team formation. …

    Read full report.

    (Ed. note: The Operations topic includes subtopics such as privatization, shared services, and public-private partnerships.)