Jail Privatization Issue Draws Continued Debate

Source: ANDY MEEK, The Memphis Daily News(TN), Dec 19, 2005

He’s a corrections officer who has worked at the Shelby County Penal Farm for 16 years, a career that, until recently, has been mostly spent out of the limelight and away from the public eye. But in the last three years, Jeff Woodard – who has become one of Shelby County government’s most outspoken, persistent critics – figures he’s missed only five public meetings of the full County Commission. Protesting privatization. With most appearances, Woodard protests the notion that a private company could ever smoothly manage the county’s jail and prison facilities, something county leaders have been studying with particular interest over the past year. ……. But Woodard’s nonappearance wasn’t the most significant absence from the meeting that day. Also missing were the new jail proposals themselves, which are tweaked versions of packages submitted to the county earlier this year by two leading companies in the private prison industry. Only a few people in county government have actually seen the proposals that Corrections Corp. of America and The GEO Group redelivered to county leaders about one month ago.

Security for Sale: The Department of Homeland Security has a section on its Web site labeled “Open for Business.” It certainly is

Source: Sarah Posner. American Prospect, 01.18.06

…… Some of the country’s largest government contractors, already fat on Pentagon pork, have retained well-connected lobbyists to win their slice of the DHS budget. Lobbyists who double as Bush Rangers and Pioneers, raising hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars, now represent some of the biggest DHS contractors. These lobbyists and their clients — through both individual donations and those of their political action committees — have poured still more hundreds of thousands into the campaigns and PACs of powerful Republican members of Congress who control DHS appropriations and oversight. In the age of terror and natural catastrophe, knowing the right people is still the right way to get rich. ……. Another eager client signed up by former Ridge staffers at Blank Rome was the Homeland Security Corporation (HSC), a company started in 2001 by a Tennessee businessman named Doctor R. Crants. The politically connected Crants had once headed the country’s largest privatized prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which he established in 1983 with a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party and modeled on the Frist family’s Hospital Corporation of America, creating an industry based on incarceration-for-profit. ….. Today CCA, HSC, and CCA’s closest competitor in the private prison industry, Wackenhut — brandishing lobbyists, political connections, and lavish contributions — have all won DHS contracts to train and supply security guards and screeners and to build, manage, and maintain detention facilities.

Hospital contract draws union suit / Group seeks to block privatization of Fort Wayne site.

Source: MARTIN DeAGOSTINO, South BendTribune (IN), December 13. 2005 6:59AM

A government-employees union has asked a judge to block the state from turning over management and operations of a troubled Fort Wayne health care facility to private operators. The lawsuit, filed in Allen Superior Court, says the state failed to solicit proposals before signing the contract with Liberty of Indiana Corp., a division of Pennsylvania-based Liberty Healthcare Corp. “The law is clear,” said David Warrick, executive director of Council 62 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “The state has to bid this work before it can award millions of taxpayer dollars to a private company. The reason for this law is to ensure that the state is promoting competition and working to get the best deal it can for taxpayers.”

Ex-state workers file complaint over firing

Source: MIKE DENNISON, Helena Independent Record (MT), 12/14/05

A half-dozen computer experts who lost their jobs on a state Justice Department project are taking legal action, saying the state deceived them about the length and nature of the job. …… They lost their jobs in May after the Justice Department shifted gears on its $22.5 million project to computerize motor-vehicle records, deciding to hand it over to a private company in what became a $15.9 million contract. “They gave the work they promised to us to the contractor, BearingPoint, without any explanation other than it was a business decision,” said Katherin Clemmence, the lead plaintiff in the case. …… The six workers said they left good-paying jobs, some in other states, to move to Helena and work on the Justice Department project, which is one of the largest computer projects in state government.

Lakeview votes to outsource custodial services

Source: Katie Oliveri, The Battle Creek Enquirer (MI), Dec 13, 2005

Despite a show of overwhelming opposition from community members, Lakeview’s board of education approved 5-1 outsourcing custodial services at the new high school as a cost-saving measure for the district Monday…….. The district now will enter into an 18-month custodial services agreement with Hi-Tec Building Services for $285,948, including benefits, for 10 custodians at the new high school, effective Dec. 27. …. Bill Farmer, union representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representing Lakeview’s custodial staff, said he was disappointed at Monday’s outcome since he estimated a potential $198,000 savings from the union’s proposal. (UB)

Wayne Co. deputies to police Detroit public housing units

Source: ZACHARY GORCHOW, Detroit FREE PRESS (MI), December 13, 2005

Wayne County sheriff’s deputies are expected to take over policing Detroit’s public housing facilities, replacing a private corporation that has been providing security. Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which still has to be approved by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and county commissioners, the sheriff’s department would be responsible for policing the city’s 19 public housing complexes. ….. If approved as expected, the sheriff’s department will replace Wackenhut Corp., a private company that now handles security for public housing. Five months ago, HUD took over the Detroit Housing Commission, which runs public housing in the city, after decades of complaints about fiscal mismanagement and dilapidated buildings. Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans said his department could better police housing units because, unlike Wackenhut’s personnel, his deputies can make arrests and have the resources to pinpoint crime trends. When Wackenhut responds to a situation, its personnel have to contact Detroit police to make an arrest.

District subsidizes school lunches

Source: CAROLYN NORTON, The Herald-Sun (NC), Dec 12, 2005

Faced with the $400,000 subsidy this fall, the school board asked for an independent financial review of Sodexho’s program. The review, done by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, found that per-hour labor costs are too high. School district food service employees start at $10.14 an hour, higher than surrounding districts because of the higher cost of living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. However, the employees also average 15 years of service, raising the average wages to $12.73. In an effort to lower labor costs, the district is making new food service workers employees of Sodexho, which starts at $8.50 an hour, instead of hiring them directly. However, officials say, the process has been slow because food services has a turnover rate of less than 10 percent a year. Since 2003, when the board decided to switch new employees to Sodexho, 19 positions have been moved to the corporation, which could save the district $100,000 this year, officials say.

Houston controller investigating garbage contract

Source: MATT STILES, Houston Chronicle, Dec 9, 2005

City Controller Annise Parker said today that she has launched an audit into allegations that a contractor billed the city of Houston for collection and disposal of tons of garbage collected in neighboring municipalities. A second phase of the probe will look at the city’s Solid Waste Management department to ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent fraud and to “identify ways to make the department more effective and efficient,” Parker said. ….. Officials at the company under audit, Florida-based Republic Services, Inc., could not be reached for comment this morning. Parker, who said the company has agreed to pay $150,000 to fund the audit, also plans to look at whether the company ought to pay restitution.

'Brain drain' feared in job shift / State turning contracted positions over to in-house union workers

Source: Mary Massingale, Copley News Service (IL), Friday, December 9, 2005

As state government prepares to shift hundreds of contracted positions to union jobs by the end of the month, some contractors are warning a “brain drain” could cripple state programs serving the poor and disabled. ….. As part of an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state is eliminating 913 “personal-services” contract workers by Dec. 31 and replacing about 600 of them with current and newly hired union employees. Of those 913, 308 are computer contractors and 280 will be replaced. The remaining contract positions are primarily clerical jobs.