Tag Archives: Georgia

Why is a Private Prison Corporation Doing Business with the IRS?

Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, December 8, 2017

… CoreCivic now owns what appear to be its first buildings that have nothing to do with incarceration. In September, the publicly traded corporation that owns and operates prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and halfway houses bought properties in North Carolina and Georgia that are leased to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA). In their words, the deals are part of a plan to make “additional investment via acquisition in mission-critical government real estate asset classes outside of our traditional correctional detention residential reentry facilities.” In other words, CoreCivic wants to be a landlord of all types of government buildings. … We shouldn’t be surprised. If you recall, CoreCivic used to be Corrections Corporation of America, which rebranded last October not only to outrun bad PR but also to provide a “wider range of government solutions” and “better the public good.” And several years ago, along with primary competitor GEO Group, they changed their corporate legal status to a real estate company—technically, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)—to score a massive tax break. In 2015 alone, the corporations used their REIT status and other avenues to avoid a combined $113 million in federal income taxes. … But CoreCivic’s latest move highlights the newest private prison trend, towards building, owning, and leasing real estate—and they’re selling it hard. …

Federal Labor Lawsuit Accuses LAZ of Failing to Pay Overtime

Source: Robert Storace, The Connecticut Law Tribune, September 15, 2017

A Georgia man has filed a prospective collective action lawsuit claiming Connecticut-based LAZ Parking company violated federal labor laws when it failed to pay for overtime. The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. district court claims Hartford-based LAZ Parking regularly does not pay assistant managers overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. …

… The company has been the target of several lawsuits including at least one class action. Most recently, LAZ agreed to pay $5.6 million to settle a lawsuit with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. LAZ was accused of failing to detect and stop the theft of millions of dollars in cash belonging to the MBTA. Separately, the parking company agreed to pay $1.1 million to Massachusetts to settle allegations it failed to implement contractually-required revenue controls and auditing tools at 13 MBTA parking lots. LAZ is also a defendant in a February 2017 class action claiming the ParkChicago app resulted in false parking tickets. That suit is still pending. And, in 2010, LAZ paid $46,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission religious discrimination lawsuit. …

In Georgia, Citizens Can Redirect Their Taxes to Private Schools

Source: Ty Tagami, Tribune News Service, June 26, 2017
 
Georgia’s highest court has determined that a state law allowing taxpayers to steer some of what they owe the state to private schools instead does not violate the state constitution. The unanimous ruling Monday by the Georgia Supreme Court strikes a blow against the claim by Raymond Gaddy and other taxpayers that the state law establishing tax credit student scholarships is unconstitutional. … Taxpayers pledge money — up to $1,000 for an individual, $2,500 per married couple and $10,000 for shareholders or owners of businesses (except “C” corporations, which can contribute up to three quarters of their state tax debt) — to specific private schools and get a tax credit off what they owe the state for the same amount. The money passes through nonprofit scholarship organizations that assign it as scholarships to students and keep up to 10 percent as fees.

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Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools
Source: Stephanie Saul, New York Times, May 21, 2012

When the Georgia legislature passed a private school scholarship program in 2008, lawmakers promoted it as a way to give poor children the same education choices as the wealthy. …A handout circulated at the meeting instructed families to donate, qualify for a tax credit and then apply for a scholarship for their own children, many of whom were already attending the school. … The exchange at Gwinnett Christian Academy, a recording of which was obtained by The New York Times, is just one example of how scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children. Spreading at a time of deep cutbacks in public schools, the programs are operating in eight states and represent one of the fastest-growing components of the school choice movement. This school year alone, the programs redirected nearly $350 million that would have gone into public budgets to pay for private school scholarships for 129,000 students, according to the Alliance for School Choice, an advocacy organization. Legislators in at least nine other states are considering the programs. …. One big proponent of the tax-credit programs is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a coalition of conservative lawmakers and corporations that strongly influences many state legislatures. The council became a flash point in the Trayvon Martin case because it had championed the controversial Stand Your Ground gun laws.

For some cities, promises of privatization fall short

Source: Mark Niesse and Arielle Kas, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 18, 2017

In the beginning, the gospel of privatization was as if etched in stone. It was handed down from Sandy Springs, the first new city, to generations of descendants: Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Brookhaven and Tucker. … Sandy Springs is still an adherent of the outsourcing theory. But privatization has gradually given way to more traditional government in many of the nine cities that followed. … While Brookhaven, founded in 2012, started in the Sandy Springs mold, the city brought once-outsourced programs in-house, including community planning, human resources and government technology systems. It still contracts for road paving, park maintenance, permitting and code enforcement. Even those that have backed away from blind faith in privatization still see it as the best way to start a new city. … In Sandy Springs, faith in the model remains unshaken, though it has evolved. … Jason Lary, the mayor of the new city of Stonecrest … [plans] to learn from other municipalities that outsource, and is contracting out city administration, planning and zoning, attorneys and building permitting. The Stonecrest City Council voted Monday to hire CH2M as its primary service provider. … South Fulton is taking the opposite tack. Leaders there want to assume control of the services currently under the county’s umbrella and the employees who provide them. They are negotiating agreements with the county to transfer those departments to South Fulton. …

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Is the ‘Sandy Springs model’ of government changing?
Source: John Ruch, Reporter Newspapers, July 8, 2016

Since its founding in 2005, Sandy Springs has drawn national notice for outsourcing most city government operations to competitively bidding private contractors. But last month, the city approved three-year, no-bid contract extensions due to fears of government disruption during a planning and development boom. The City Council approved the no-bid extensions only after voicing caution about not shifting to an “in-house,” public-sector government. But new local cities inspired by Sandy Springs, like Brookhaven and Dunwoody, already have brought more jobs and departments in-house. … But the model has changed. In 2011, the city dumped CH2M’s single deal to bid out multiple contracts, saying that saved $7 million. …

Georgia city shows pros, cons of going private
Source: Stanley Dunlap, barrowcountynews.com, April 27, 2014

While Barrow County leaders mull privatization, one Georgia city provides an example of both sides of the equation. Milton is one of three Fulton County cities that have undergone privatization in the last decade. The majority of operations in Milton, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek were contracted out when they incorporated in 2006, however two of them have since scaled back privatization in an effort to save money. ….. The majority of operations in Milton, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek were contracted out when they incorporated in 2006, however two of them have since scaled back privatization in an effort to save money. In 2008 the economy led to Milton officials renegotiating their contracts in order to save money. The city now has 144 employees and only contracts out a few departments. “What they figured out was that by ending the contract with CH2M Hill, and going with a more traditional model for most departments, Milton saved $1.2 million in 2010 and another $1 million in 2011,” said Milton Communications Manager Jason Wright. …. If Barrow officials decide to privatize on a large scale, then it would become the first county in Georgia to do so….

Concerns Raised About Health-Care Contractor at Clarke County Jail

Source: Blake Aued, Flagpole, April 26, 2017

At least one commissioner and activists are raising questions about the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office’s choice of a contractor to provide medical care at the county jail. Sheriff Ira Edwards and Chief Jailer Tommy York have recommended Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. for a five-year contract paying nearly $1.7 million next year, rising each year to $2 million in fiscal 2022. The current contractor, CorrectHealth Athens, lasted just one year, and the contract was opened up for bidding, with five companies responding. Athens for Everyone’s Tim Denson expressed concern about Armor in a letter to the Mayor and Commission, citing “questionable deaths” in New York, Milwaukee, Oklahoma and Florida. …

Atlanta bribery scandal leads to more checks on emergency contracts

Source: Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 8, 2017

In the wake of the ongoing City Hall bribery probe and scandal and revelations that “pay-to-play” cost Atlanta millions after the 2014 ice storm, the Atlanta City Council is putting in new controls to hold those responsible for issuing emergency contracts accountable. Atlanta department heads who sign off on contracts costing more than $100,000 or 20 percent above market rates during emergencies will now have to explain the spending to council, including why a particular contractor was chosen and any connections the contractor have to City Hall officials. The moves by the council come two weeks after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News reported that a contractor at the center of the City Hall bribery investigation made millions on emergency contracts during 2011 and 2014 winter storms. … The new rules — adopted earlier this week — are part of numerous pieces of legislation Council has introduced to bring more transparency to City Hall since the federal probe was revealed in late January. …

Unease Spreads in Atlanta as a City Contracting Scandal Brews
Source: Richard Fausett, The New York Times, February 21, 2017

The brick, adorned with a threatening message, crashed through the window of a prominent contractor’s dining room here in September 2015, apparently sometime between dusk and dawn. For some time, news of the incident failed to reverberate much beyond the home itself. The same went for the dead rodents that had been simultaneously placed on the doorstep of the contractor, Elvin R. Mitchell Jr., and the message: “ER, keep your mouth shut!!! Shut up.” … But in recent weeks, the brick, the rodents and the threat have become troubling symbols of a widening federal bribery and corruption investigation revolving around the granting of city contracts. The inquiry has already resulted in Mr. Mitchell and a second contractor pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, and it is spreading unease through the civic culture of Atlanta. Municipal contracting here has served a historically important role in the effort to spread wealth to minority businesses, but it has also, at times, been a source of explosive scandal. None of the evidence has implicated the city’s term-limited Democratic mayor, Kasim Reed, one of the South’s most prominent African-American politicians. But the situation has prompted Mr. Reed to defend his legacy, and to make a forceful, and disarmingly personal, proclamation of innocence.

… In January, Mr. Mitchell, 63, the owner of several Atlanta-area construction companies, was arraigned on conspiratorial bribery and money laundering charges of paying more than $1 million to win city contracts. As part of a guilty plea, Mr. Mitchell agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. On Feb. 8, the second contractor, Charles P. Richards Jr., 64, was arraigned on charges of paying $185,000 in bribes. The authorities said Mr. Richards conspired with Mr. Mitchell in the pay-to-play scheme from 2010 to August 2015. Last week, Mr. Richards also pleaded guilty in federal court and is cooperating with investigators. In both cases, the authorities said, the men gave money to an unidentified individual on the belief that it would get them city contracts. City contracting here has long been both a source of civic pride and lingering suspicion. … But high-profile contracting scandals have also resulted in prison terms for several Atlanta politicians and business executives. … It is unclear where the evidence will lead, but court documents suggest that investigators have been paying attention to a woman named Mitzi Bickers, a pastor, political consultant and former president of the Atlanta school board. … A subpoena that was discovered among the 406 boxes of City Hall documents showed that federal officials have asked the city to turn over all correspondence to and from Ms. Bickers. Ms. Bickers has not been charged with any crime. … At his news conference, Mr. Reed said he expects wrongdoers to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. …

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
  • CoreCivic renews contract with Bureau of Prisons

    Source: Jamie McGee, The Tennessean, November 15, 2016

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend a two-year contract with a CoreCivic prison, the Nashville-based company, formerly named Corrections Corporation of America, announced Tuesday. The contract renewal follows an August announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice in which it said the Bureau of Prisons was instructed to phase out contracts with private prison operators. The renewed contract is for the McRae Correctional Facility in McRae, Ga., a 1,978-bed facility owned by CoreCivic. Monthly payments will be made for 1,633 beds, down from the previous contract that included 1,780 beds. … Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates instructed the Bureau of Prisons to end or reduce contracts with privately run prisons in a memo she described on Aug. 18. She cited a decline in prison population and, in an attached document, concerns about safety and security in privately run facilities. “As each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population,” Yates said in the Aug. 18 statement. “This is the first step in the process of reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” …

    Georgia voters soundly defeat school takeover proposal

    Source: Mark Rice, Ledger-Enquirer, November 9, 2016

    The governor and more than two-thirds of the legislators supported the proposal, enabling it to be on the ballot, but Georgia’s voters soundly defeated Tuesday’s referendum that would have empowered the state to take over chronically failing schools or convert them to charters or even close them. With all 159 counties reporting, Amendment 1 failed 60 percent (2,400,312 votes) to 40 percent (1,599,649 votes) statewide, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Locally, however, the majority of voters in Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties favored the proposal while the majority of voters in Harris County rejected it. … If voters approved Amendment 1, the state would have created an Opportunity School District, which Gov. Nathan Deal proposed based on similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee. The proposal would have allowed Georgia’s governor to appoint an OSD superintendent, separate from the Georgia Department of Education superintendent, who is elected by voters. The OSD superintendent could have taken over as many as 20 eligible schools each year and could have controlled no more than 100 such schools at any time. The OSD superintendent could have waived Georgia Board of Education rules, reorganized or fired staff and changed school budgets and curriculum. The state also could have converted OSD schools to nonprofit or for-profit charter schools or closed them if they didn’t have full enrollment. …

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    What’s at stake in Atlanta’s experiment in outsourcing public schools
    Source: Molly Bloom, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 27, 2016

    If everything goes as planned, the reopening of Thomasville Heights Elementary School this week will be the start of the most ambitious outsourcing of public education in Georgia. This winter, after calling out Thomasville as one of the worst schools in the state, Atlanta school Superintendent Meria Carstarphen hired Purpose Built Schools to run the school. Purpose Built is a nonprofit affiliated with Drew Charter School, a well-regarded east Atlanta charter school. … It’s also an attempt to avoid the state potentially taking over Thomasville. If voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District plan this fall, the state could take over low-performing schools like Thomasville and close them, turn them over to charter school groups or run them itself. Carstarphen has said showing the state she’s making dramatic changes could help shield the school from takeover. Her plan is for Purpose Built to run a cluster of three schools in south Atlanta feeding into Carver High School, and eventually Carver itself. …

    APS test about to begin: Can new team transform struggling school?
    Source: Molly Bloom, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 25, 2016

    By 2018, as many as 2,000 Atlanta students could attend public schools managed by Purpose Built. Another nonprofit, Kindezi, will manage a fifth school. The schools aren’t technically charter schools — Carstarphen has pledged they’ll accept all students in their attendance zones — but they’ll have much of the same flexibility in how they operate. … Most of the Thomasville’s new staff are veteran teachers from Atlanta, nearby districts or charter schools, including Drew. They include some of Thomasville’s old staff who won their jobs back. … Thomasville’s new model will borrow extensively from Drew Charter School, which opened 16 years ago in a former Atlanta Public Schools elementary school. Today, the state rates Drew’s elementary school higher than nearly 80 percent of schools in Georgia. Like Drew, Thomasville will focus on teaching through class projects. Students will get extra help through reading and math tutoring. And after-school programs followed by dinner will keep kids at school until at least 6 p.m. …

    Boca-based prison operator gets contract renewal despite Justice Department’s goal to end private management

    Source: Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun-Sentinel, September 30, 2016

    Despite the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement in August that it would end private contractor management of federal prisons, Boca Raton-based prison operator The Geo Group announced Friday it has received a two-year contract renewal for D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Georgia. D. Ray James in Folkston, Ga., was among the three prisons that had the most incidents per capita, according to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General report, which was cited in the decision to reduce and eventually end private management of federal prisons. Geo said the Federal Bureau of Prisons has extended its contract for the prison, which houses up to 1,900 inmates, through Sept. 30, 2018. … On Friday, the Justice Department referred calls to the Bureau of Prisons. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long said Friday that the decision is “consistent with the memo from the Deputy Attorney General on phasing out our reliance on private prison facilities.” He said the Bureau of Prisons has renegotiated the contract for D. Ray James prison, reducing costs by $4.2 million. Geo was among three private contractors whose prison management was analyzed during fiscal years 2011-2014. The others were Corrections Corp. of America, and Management and Training Corp. The three contractors managed 12 percent of the nation’s prison population at a cost of $639 million in fiscal 2014. The report said disturbances at the prisons resulted in “extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer.” …

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    BUREAU OF PRISONS RENEWS PRIVATE PRISON CONTRACT IN GEORGIA
    Source: Brian Sonenstein, ShadowProof, September 30, 2016

    The federal Bureau of Prisons is extending its two year contract for the D. Ray James Correctional Facility, a Geo Group-operated private prison in Folkson, Georgia, according to a company press release.  The announcement is the second about-face this prison’s contract has seen since the Obama administration announced it would begin to draw down BOP contracts to operate private prisons in August. Under the terms of the renewed agreement, GEO Group will house up to 1,900 federal inmates while receiving a fixed payment from the government for 1,800 beds through September 30, 2018. GEO Group’s previous contract with BOP included a fixed payment for 1,962 beds. … Today, GEO Group’s Chairman and CEO George Zoley said, “We are very appreciative of the continued confidence placed in our company by the Federal Bureau of Prisons with this important contract renewal.” “We are pleased to have been able to accommodate the BOP’s need for fewer beds at the D. Ray James Correctional Facility with no disruption to the facility’s operations or the level of rehabilitation programming,” he added. The company says it “does not expect to revise its previously issued guidance as a result of this renewal.” According to that guidance, last updated on April 28, 2016, the company expects 2016 revenues to be between $2.18-2.20 billion. …