Tag Archives: Georgia

Legislators try to help charters

Source: Wayne Washington, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 28, 2014
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Getting the money to start a charter school in Georgia could be a bit easier if a bill recently passed by the Georgia House of Representatives becomes law. House Bill 897, sponsored by Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek, would allow the State Charter Schools Commission to set up a nonprofit foundation to assist charter schools. Some school districts and individual traditional public schools already have such foundations to accept charitable contributions. Money for facilities and to complete the paperwork associated with applying for a charter is a major roadblock for those who want to start a charter school. If HB 897 becomes law — it passed the House by a vote of 120-51 and is likely to find a receptive audience in the Senate — the State Charter Schools Commission would be able to set up a foundation that would use private contributions to give charter schools start-up grants….

Chipping Away at the Ideology of Privatization / The Logic of Public Services

Source: Pete Dolack, Counterpunch, February 21-23, 2014

… Shareholders expect maximum profits from investments, and utilities that provide basics like electricity and water are not excepted. Many a local government has learned the hard way that even water is a commodity from which to squeeze a profit once privatized, with human need an afterthought. Decades of ideology have attempted to instill the idea that the private sector is always superior to government; that government can only mismanage what is in its hands. Although attempting to flip this discredited, self-serving phantasmagoria by arguing the complete opposite would not stand up to scrutiny, either, the realm of facts and data firmly contradict the standard corporate ideology. Government after government has found that privatization was a mistake in what has become a wave of “re-municipalization” — the return of public services to public management. …

The Color of Corporate Corrections, Part II: Contractual Exemptions and the Overrepresentation of People of Color in Private Prisons

Source: Christopher Petrella, Radical Criminology, no. 3, 2014

My previous study published in Radical Criminology, (Issue 2, Fall 2013) demonstrates that people of color-though historically overrepresented in public prisons relative to their share of state and national populations-are further overrepresented in private prisons contracted by departments of correction in Arizona, California, and Texas.

My current research on the relationship between U.S. racial formation and prison privatization enlarges my previous work by foregrounding the question of why. That is, why is it that people of color are overrepresented in private versus public facilities in select states even in the absence of explicit racially discriminatory correctional placement or classification policies?

In order to explain why people of color tend to be overrepresented in private relative to public facilities around the country this study draws on data from nine (9) states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. These states were selected on the basis of their reliably large sample size. Each of the nine states considered currently houses at least 3,000 prisoners in private minimum and/or medium security facilities. Additionally, this study controls for differences in facility population profile. Therefore, only public and private facilities/units with a minimum and/or medium security designation are included in this comparison. And finally, as in my previous work, in order to avoid artificially inflating the over-incarceration of people of color in for-profit prisons this examination intentionally excludes figures from federal detention centers controlled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Marshals Service, and detention facilities managed at the local level. For similar reasons, it strategically excludes data from transfer centers, work release centers, community corrections facilities, and reception centers. ….
Related:
Why There’s an Even Larger Racial Disparity in Private Prisons Than in Public Ones
Source: Katie Rose Quandt, Mother Jones, February 17, 2014

The Color of Corporate Corrections: The Overrepresentation of People of Color in the For-Profit Corrections Industry
Source: Christopher Petrella, Josh Begley, Radical Criminology, no. 2, 2013

Three More States Seek to Curb Reckless Outsourcing of Public Services, Protect Taxpayers

Source: In the Public Interest, Press Release, February 5, 2014

Legislators in California, Georgia, and Oklahoma are joining a national movement to reign in reckless outsourcing of public services to for-profit corporations and private entities, introducing bills that would keep taxpayers in control of their public services by increasing transparency and accountability standards for outsourcing deals. … In California, Assemblymember Richard Pan has introduced three bills to strengthen protections for Golden State taxpayers. AB 1574 would ban language in contracts that guarantees payment for services not provided. … Assemblymember Pan also introduced ABs 1575 and 1578, which would increase transparency and accountability…. In Georgia, Representatives David Wilkerson and Dewey McClain are proposing a measure that would require outsourcing bids to guarantee 10 percent cost savings. Similarly, Reps. Scott Holcomb and Brian Prince are proposing a measure that would make it easier for taxpayers to cancel contracts if outsourcing deals do not deliver on promises of quality and cost savings. Reps. James Beverly and Wayne Howard have proposed a measure that requires any company receiving tax dollars for outsourced services to comply with the same open records and meeting laws as public agencies. In Oklahoma, a state that has also seen extensive use of “lockup quotas” in prison contracts, Senator Connie Johnson has introduced three bills (SBs 1640, 1641 and 1642) which increase transparency and accountability. Just as in Georgia, Sen. Johnson’s proposals require companies that receive tax dollars to run public services to open their books and meetings to the public, just as government does. Sen. Johnson’s bills also require the hiring of adequate oversight personnel for new contracts, as well as a full online database so that taxpayers can track whether outsourcing deals really are saving them money. …

Error made by Waste Management could cost the City of Canton

Source: Jill Richstone, Cherokee Ledger-News, January 8, 2014

The City of Canton could end up paying almost $115,000 for an error made by Waste Management. The council agreed, 3-2, with former Ward I Councilman Bob Rush and former Ward III Councilman John Beresford opposing, and with Ward I Councilman Hooky Huffman absent, to postpone a decision to reimburse Waste Management for three years worth of fees it claims were miscalculated….Former City Manager Scott Wood suggested that if the council plans to reimburse Waste Management for more than one year, then an audit should be considered….

How Private Probation Companies Make Money From the Those They Trap in the Justice System

Source: Aaron Cantú, AlterNet, January 20, 2014

Governments still award services to companies with moneyed interest in jailing ever more people. … Since the 1970s, the private probation industry has expanded into at least 20 states—most concentrated in the South—and nearly all of its companies are entirely supported by the fees paid to them by the probationers they “serve.” In the last few years, many of these businesses have been given more power to pursue and imprison probationers, playing a starring role in what one federal judge called a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” … With privatized supervision, the offenders are required to report monthly to a contractor acting in the same capacity as a probation officer, and they must also pay a monthly fee to the company on top of the fines they owe the court. The distinction between fee and fine is important because, as noted by the Economist, it is through fees that private probation companies can afford to pay the salaries of their staff. A report from the Criminal Justice Review explained that “Private agencies…rely on the probationer’s paying a supervision fee to remain solvent.” Solvency, however, is hardly a concern for many of these corporations, some of which have amassed tens of millions of dollars annually off the fees they charge probationers. One such company is Sentinel Offender Services, whose combined operations in four different states brought in $30 million in 2009, according to an investigation by NBC. The company has faced many legal challenges on the grounds that its employees demand payment for fees from poor probationers and then issue arrest warrants when they cannot pay, without consideration for their financial situation. …. Some courts have actually been complicit in the racket. A circuit court in Alabama ruled in 2012 that the local municipal judiciary in Harpersville, Alabama had operated “debtor’s prisons” together with the private probation firm Judicial Correctional Services by turning over poor misdemeanor defendants to JCS and then allowing the company to fleece them for every cent they had. …That same year in Tennessee, a group of former probationer’s filed a successful lawsuit against the owner of a company called Providence Community Corrections for having “forced them to overpay” and holding them on probation “longer than necessary.” …

School contractor benefits up for committee’s vote in Georgia

Source: Walter C. Jones, Florida Times-Union, January 24, 2014

A House committee votes Monday on legislation that would prevent the employees of school contractors from collecting unemployment benefits during Christmas and summer holidays. House Bill 714 is sponsored by the chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee that is considering it, Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming. He also happens to be the founder of a temporary-staffing agency….

Hospital Chain Said to Scheme to Inflate Bills

Source: Julie Creswell, Reed Ableson, New York Times, January 23, 2014

Every day the scorecards went up, where they could be seen by all of the hospital’s emergency room doctors.

Physicians hitting the target to admit at least half of the patients over 65 years old who entered the emergency department were color-coded green. The names of doctors who were close were yellow. Failing physicians were red.

The scorecards, according to one whistle-blower lawsuit, were just one of the many ways that Health Management Associates, a for-profit hospital chain based in Naples, Fla., kept tabs on an internal strategy that regulators and others say was intended to increase admissions, regardless of whether a patient needed hospital care, and pressure the doctors who worked at the hospital.

This month, the Justice Department said it had joined eight separate whistle-blower lawsuits against H.M.A. in six states. The lawsuits describe a wide-ranging strategy that is said to have relied on a mix of sophisticated software systems, financial incentives and threats in an attempt to inflate the company’s payments from Medicare and Medicaid by admitting patients like an infant whose temperature was a normal 98.7 degrees for a “fever.” …

….For H.M.A., the timing could not be worse. Shareholders recently approved the planned $7.6 billion acquisition of the company by Community Health Systems, which will create the nation’s second-largest for-profit hospital chain by revenue, with more than 200 facilities. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the month. ….

…When Jacqueline Meyer, a regional administrator for EmCare, a company that provided emergency room physicians to a number of H.M.A. hospitals, refused to follow H.M.A.’s directives and fire doctors who admitted fewer patients than H.M.A. wanted, she was fired, according to the lawsuit she filed with Mr. Cowling. The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to join her lawsuit against EmCare, which declined to comment….

Fields of dreams / A closer look at publicly financed stadiums

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, January 21, 2014

…Publicly funded stadiums are a contentious issue, with proponents harping on the positive economic impact sports stadiums can bring, while critics say public funding can be better spent.

Santa Clara was lambasted recently in the media for the deal on the 49ers new stadium, which will cost around $1.3 billion. The city will kick in $116 million in public funds, but the “private” funding will come from a new entity, the Santa Clara Stadium authority, borrowing $950 million. Should something go wrong, the taxpayers will likely take the hit….

When the Cincinnati Bengals, who for decades shared a stadium with the Cincinnati Reds, put pressure on the county to build a new stadium, the county agreed to pick up the $400 million tab. But after a decade of belt tightening and budget slashing, the deal was labeled “one of the worst professional sports deals every struck by a local government,” by The Wall Street Journal….

…Long found that by 2001, the public sector, including local, state and federal governments had paid approximately $16 billion to participate in the construction of the 100 major league ballparks, stadiums and arenas currently in use. Long warns that publicly financed stadiums can be financially treacherous, and even those where private interests share in the funding, costs can quickly spiral out of control due to complex development and leasing agreements….

Faulty Websites Confront Needy in Search of Aid

Source: Frances Robles, New York Times, January 7, 2014

Three months after the disastrous rollout of a new $63 million website for unemployment claims, Florida is hiring hundreds of employees to deal with technical problems that left tens of thousands of people without their checks while penalties mount against the vendor who set up the site.

Efforts at modernizing the systems for unemployment compensation in California, Massachusetts and Nevada have also largely backfired in recent months, causing enormous cost overruns and delays.

While the nation’s attention was focused on the troubled rollout of the federal health care site under the Affordable Care Act, the problems with the unemployment sites have pointed to something much broader: how a lack of funding in many states and a shortage of information technology specialists in public service jobs routinely lead to higher costs, botched systems and infuriating technical problems that fall hardest on the poor, the jobless and the neediest.

As a result, the old stereotype of applicants standing in long lines to speak to surly civil servants at government unemployment offices is quickly being replaced. Now those seeking work or government assistance are often spending countless hours in front of buggy websites, then getting a busy signal when they try to get through by phone. …

…Deloitte defended its work, saying that most jobless people have been able to file for benefits without trouble. It blamed the department for the latest setbacks because, the company said, it changed requirements that strained Deloitte’s resources. The company has already made more than 1,000 fixes and successfully processed at least 300,000 claims, Deloitte said in response to the latest fine.

Deloitte said a 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office showed that states were struggling to modernize their unemployment insurance programs, because governments lacked the budgets and the trained staff to make the updated systems work. Most of the issues that continue to dog the project, the company said, are beyond its control or have nothing to do with the software. …