Tag Archives: Georgia

Children poisoned by lead on U.S. Army bases as hazards go ignored

Source: Reuters, August 16, 2018

Like most family housing on U.S. bases today, the home wasn’t owned and operated by the military. It was managed by Villages of Benning, a partnership between two private companies and the U.S. Army, whose website beckons families to “enjoy the luxuries of on-post living.” … The results: At least 113 spots in the home had lead paint, including several peeling or crumbling patches, requiring $26,150 in lead abatement. Villages of Benning moved the Browns into another old house next door. The heavy metal had stunted JC’s brain, medical records reviewed by Reuters show. At age two, he was diagnosed with a developmental disorder caused by lead. Now eight, JC has undergone years of costly therapy. … The Browns’ story and others, told publicly for the first time here, reveal a toxic scourge inside homes on military bases. Previously undisclosed military and state health records, and testing by Reuters for lead in soldiers’ homes, show problems at some of America’s largest military installations.

… Reuters tested five homes at Benning, using a methodology designed with a Columbia University geochemist. All five contained hazardous levels of deteriorating lead paint within reach of children, in one case exceeding the federal threshold by a factor of 58. Testing turned up problems elsewhere as well. At West Point, New York, home of the United States Military Academy, paint chips falling from a family’s front door contained lead at 19 times the federal threshold. At Kentucky’s Fort Knox, whose vaults hold much of America’s gold reserves, Reuters found paint peeling from a covered porch where small kids play. It contained 50 percent lead by weight, or 100 times the threshold. … These homes put military kids at risk. Reuters obtained medical data from the Army showing that at least 31 small children tested high for lead at a Fort Benning hospital over a recent six-year period. …

DeKalb ambulance provider will pay for poor service, county says

Source: Joshua Sharpe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 7, 2018

DeKalb commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a settlement with the county’s ambulance provider after a long history of complaints. Under the agreement, American Medical Response will resolve $1.9 million in contract penalties for allegedly providing poor service — though only $600,000 will be paid in cash. The company, which has been subject to complaints of slow response time such as one in Dunwoody that took 58 minutes, previously declined to settle the fees but agreed to increase performance. Tuesday’s agreement gives $1.3 million credit to AMR for boosting staffing and adding ambulances at two DeKalb fire stations, one in Dunwoody, the other in Stonecrest. …

Private Prison Company Made Detainees Work For Toilet Paper, Lawsuit Alleges

Source: Betsy Woodruff, Daily Beast, April 18, 2018

A private prison company forced immigrant detainees to work for as little as $1 per day if they wanted toilet paper, toothpaste, and safe lodging, according to a new lawsuit filed on Tuesday. The class action suit, filed in federal court for the Middle District of Georgia, pits three plaintiffs––Wilhen Hill Barrientos, Margarito Velazquez Galicia, and Shoahib Ahmed––against CoreCivic, the nation’s largest private prison company. Barrientos and Velazquez Galicia are both currently detained in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. Ahmed was previously detained there before giving up his asylum claim. The three allege that CoreCivic is violating a federal anti-human trafficking law with the work program that it oversees. …

… This isn’t the only suit targeting private prison companies over work programs, and CoreCivic isn’t the only company facing this kind of litigation. Last year, a federal judge in Colorado granted class certification to a similar lawsuit, letting thousands of current and former detainees join on to a lawsuit against GEO Group, the country’s second biggest private prison company. These lawsuits have drawn the attention of lawmakers. Earlier this year, 18 Republican members of Congress wrote a letter defending forced labor practices under the justification that work programs are good for morale.

Republican congressmen defend $1 a day wage for immigrant detainees who work in private prisons

Source: Tracy Jan, Washington Post, March 16, 2018
 
A group of 18 Republican congressmen is urging the Trump administration to defend private prisons against lawsuits alleging immigrant detainees are forced to work for a wage of $1 a day.  The members say that Congress in 1978 had explicitly set the daily reimbursement rate for voluntary work by detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, and that the same rate should apply in government-contracted private prisons. … In the March 7 letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, the congressmen argue that the detainees are not employees of private prisons, so they should not be able to file lawsuits seeking to be paid for their work. … At least five lawsuits have been filed against private prisons, including GEO and CoreCivic, over detainee pay and other issues. The lawsuits allege that the private prison giants use voluntary work programs to violate state minimum wage laws, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, unjust enrichment and other labor statutes. The state of Washington sued GEO last year for violating its minimum wage of $11 an hour and sought to force the company to give up profits made through detainee labor. … Inmates in Colorado and California have also sued the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, alleging that they were forced to work for $1 per day to pay for necessities like food, water and hygiene products. …

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Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor
Source: Ian Urbina, New York Times, May 24, 2014

… As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities. … The federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force. … Officials at private prison companies declined to speak about their use of immigrant detainees, except to say that it was legal. Federal officials said the work helped with morale and discipline and cut expenses in a detention system that costs more than $2 billion a year. … The compensation rules at detention facilities are remnants of a bygone era. A 1950 law created the federal Voluntary Work Program and set the pay rate at a time when $1 went much further. (The equivalent would be about $9.80 today.) Congress last reviewed the rate in 1979 and opted not to raise it. It was later challenged in a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets workplace rules, but in 1990 an appellate court upheld the rate, saying that “alien detainees are not government ‘employees.’ ”…

Brother: Cuban was healthy before dying of pneumonia in ICE custody

Source: Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 20, 2018

The family of a Cuban man who died last month from pneumonia while in the custody of federal immigration authorities has hired an Atlanta attorney and a local immigrant rights group to investigate what happened to him. Yulio Castro Garrido, 33, is the third U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee to die in less than a year after being held in detention centers in Georgia. The questions surrounding his death come as the Trump administration is proposing adding hundreds of additional immigration detention center beds nationwide amid its crackdown on illegal immigration. … The detention center was the subject of a stinging report released last year by the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Office of Inspector General, which cited long waits for medical care and other issues that “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” … CoreCivic, a Nashville, Tenn.-based corrections company that manages Stewart through agreements with ICE and Stewart County, referred questions about Castro to ICE. Castro is the third ICE detainee held in Georgia to die since May. On May 15, Jean Jimenez-Joseph, 27, a Panamanian national with a history of mental illness, hanged himself with a sheet in his solitary confinement cell at Stewart. …

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Immigrant dies after being held at Georgia detention center accused of poor medical care
Source: Esther Yu Hsi Lee, Think Progress, February 1, 2018

A Cuban immigrant held at a federal immigration detention center in Georgia died Tuesday, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press release, making him the third immigrant detainee death in Georgia since last May. …

Private Prison Continues to Send Ice Detainees to Solitary Confinement for Refusing Voluntary Labor
Source: Spencer Woodman, The Intercept, January 11, 2018

Officials at a privately run Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in rural Georgia locked an immigrant detainee in solitary confinement last November as punishment for encouraging fellow detainees to stop working in a labor program that ICE says is strictly voluntary. Shoaib Ahmed, a 24-year-old who immigrated to America to escape political persecution in Bangladesh, told The Intercept that the privately run detention center placed him in isolation for 10 days after an officer overheard him simply saying “no work tomorrow.” Ahmed said he was expressing frustration over the detention center — run by prison contractor CoreCivic — having delayed his weekly paycheck of $20 for work in the facility’s kitchen…..

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. …