Tag Archives: Louisiana

Louisiana prison guards indicted in alleged inmate assaults

Source: Associated Press, April 19, 2018

Five former corrections officers at a Louisiana prison have been indicted on charges they conspired to assault handcuffed inmates and submitted false reports on the incident. The former officers at the Richwood Correctional Center in Ouachita (WASH’-ih-tah) Parish were charged in a seven-count federal indictment that was unsealed Thursday. …The March 29 indictment says Loring “stood by” and didn’t intervene when the other guards sprayed a chemical agent into the faces of five handcuffed inmates, who were kneeling on the floor in an area of the prison without surveillance cameras. … The officers tried to cover up the assault on the inmates by filing false reports on the incident to explain why the inmates needed medical treatment, the indictment says. … Richwood Correctional Center is a private prison operated by LaSalle Corrections. Louisiana’s corrections department regularly inspects the facility but doesn’t employ the officers who work there, according to department spokesman Ken Pastorick. …

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.’ ”…

Central chooses contractor to run next five years of privatized government

Source: Andrea Gallo, The Advocate, January 9, 2018

People in Central should expect another five years of their government services coming from private contractor IBTS after the company won praise Tuesday evening from both Mayor Jr. Shelton and the Central City Council. IBTS, the Institute for Building Technology and Safety, has spent the past seven years running government services in Central, where the number of city government employees can be counted on one hand. The not-for-profit, Virginia-based company was one of two that bid for the contract to run services that other City Halls hire government employees to accomplish. IBTS offered its services starting at $3.9 million annually and working up to $4.4 million in the final year of a five-year contract. … One big change Shelton said Central wants from IBTS is to beef up emergency services. The August 2016 floods exposed a weak spot in Central’s privatized system of government — the lack of personnel and resources available on a round-the-clock basis to respond to disasters, he said. … CH2M Hill provided city services before IBTS took over.

New Orleans’ summer of floods revives the threat of privatization

Source: Aviva Shen, ThinkProgress, October 20, 2017
 
This year’s spate of floods prompted sudden scrutiny of the city’s long-neglected infrastructure, but everyone knows the system is not fully prepared to manage the city’s regular downpours. … After the August flooding, the Sewerage and Water Board admitted that at least 14 of the pumps that constantly churn water out of the ground had been offline. Outrage erupted. Several board officials resigned in political sacrifice, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) called for a private company to intervene and potentially take over the agency. … Private firms Veolia and CH2M quickly snapped up no-bid contracts to analyze New Orleans’ systemic failures after the August flood, stoking suspicion that the mayor would quietly transfer power over the water systems to for-profit companies. CH2M and its subcontractors have been tasked with servicing turbines that power the city’s pumps and finding back-up power sources. Veolia, which already manages part of the city’s wastewater system and its entire mass transit system, has been authorized not only to analyze the failings of the stormwater system but to “start taking the right steps to any necessary maintenance efforts.” The cost of fulfilling these contracts is still unclear…..

Consultant: BRF lacks cash, experience to adequately manage hospitals

Source: KTBS, October 10, 2017
 
Biomedical Research Foundation’s lack of cash could cause the state to lose funding for free and low-cost health care at the former public hospitals the foundation operates in Shreveport and Monroe.  Documents obtained by KTBS through an open records request show state officials are concerned the hospitals could lose Medicaid funding. That federal money helps cover the cost of treating poor people without insurance at the hospitals BRF operates as University Health through a wholly-owned subsidiary.  In September, state officials put BRF on notice it had breached its contract to operate the hospitals, in part because BRF has failed to pay doctors at LSU Medical School in Shreveport for treating patients. BRF also owes the state for a lease on the hospital property. …

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$135M boost going to LSU hospital managers under new deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, October 27, 2016

The private operators of LSU’s charity hospitals and clinics are in line for a $135 million boost in their payments as part of new deals struck by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, and the university’s medical schools will benefit from some of the new money. State lawmakers are being asked Friday to increase financing for the privatization deals to nearly $1.3 billion in the current budget year, only four months after lawmakers were told the previous level of funding was sufficient. … The money for the hospital and clinic operators is part of a larger budget adjustment requested by the Louisiana Department of Health at Friday’s meeting of the joint House and Senate budget committee. Jeff Reynolds, chief financial officer for the health department, said $135 million is a financing increase for the private managers that have taken over LSU’s hospitals, clinics and patient services. He said the additional payments are part of the renegotiated deals recently worked out by the Edwards administration. … The renegotiated privatization deals crafted by the Edwards administration included provisions in which some of the hospitals will be paying more money for the services of LSU’s doctors who work at the hospitals. … Henry said he wanted to know why the dollars weren’t available when lawmakers were crafting the budget in June, when they were told the previous level of agreed-upon financing was sufficient for the privatization agreements. …

Negotiating over, Edwards makes offers on LSU hospital deals
Source: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press, September 7, 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will make its offer Thursday to the operator of LSU’s hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe for a renegotiated contract with the state, as the governor pushes to rewrite all the LSU hospital privatization deals. Edwards’ lead negotiator on the contracts, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said Thursday’s presentation to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana is the last offer to be made. … Dardenne wouldn’t provide details about what changes are being sought in the north Louisiana hospitals’ deal — or any others. But he said negotiations are over and hospital operators can either take or leave the reworked arrangements offered. … Former Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and their clinics through no-bid contracts, with the earliest deal starting in April 2013. In most instances, the management company of a nearby hospital took over operations. Three contracts closed an LSU hospital — in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Pineville — and shifted its services to private hospitals. The Edwards administration says the deals were too hastily slapped together, with terms that aren’t favorable to the state. … LSU System President F. King Alexander described the arrangement to have the foundation, known as BRF, run the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals as dysfunctional from its start in October 2013. Alexander said the research foundation, which runs the two hospitals as the University Health System, doesn’t have the resources or experience, isn’t paying bills on time and isn’t providing enough support to the LSU medical school in Shreveport. BRF and University Health leaders say Alexander’s accusations are untrue and LSU’s Shreveport medical school has financial problems of its own making. They say the research foundation’s hospital management has improved health care. …

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Charter Schools Insist: Our Teachers Are Public Employees! Or Private Employees! Whichever Means They Can’t Unionize!

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, American Prospect, September 5, 2017

… In February 2017, the NLRB voted 2-1 against IHS’s challenge, concluding that the teachers are indeed private workers under their purview rather than public employees. Yet IHS, still refusing to bargain, is now taking its case to the Fifth Circuit—the first time a federal appellate court will rule on such a challenge. The outcome of this suit could affect labor law for charter teachers not only at IHS, but throughout all the Fifth Circuit states—Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. …

… But which side of the public-or-private controversy charter schools come down on seems to vary with political geography. While in the IHS case, the state charter associations insist that all charter schools should be considered political subdivisions (and therefore public) under the “Hawkins test,” when charter teachers at the Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy filed for union representation with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in 2010, the school responded by saying its teachers fell under the purview of the NLRB, because their charter was a privately incorporated nonprofit, governed by a corporate board. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the most prominent national charter advocacy organization, filed an amicus brief in support of CSMA’s position, arguing that “charter schools are intended to be and usually are run by corporate entities that are administered independently from the state and local governments in which they operate.” …

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Teachers at a fifth New Orleans charter school seeking a union
Source: Jessica Williams, The Advocate, March 28, 2017

Teachers are unionizing at another of New Orleans’ independent charter schools. And, as usual, things have gotten contentious. This time, the faculty at Mary D. Coghill Charter School is pushing for union representation. It’s the fifth campus in the past few years where staff have sought to link up with the United Teachers of New Orleans, a union that once bargained for wages and benefits on behalf of thousands of employees before it was sidelined by the charter movement in the years after Hurricane Katrina. …

National labor board OKs Lusher, International High unions
Source: Danielle Dreilinger, The Times-Picayune, February 1, 2017

The National Labor Relations Board has shot down challenges to two New Orleans charter school unions. That means Lusher Charter School aides and International High School teachers have the right to collectively bargain employment contracts.
The 2-1 board votes came down Wednesday (Feb. 1). … International High plans to appeal the decision, attorney Brooke Duncan III said. … Charter schools are neither fish nor fowl, publicly funded but run by independent nonprofits. The National Labor Relations Board treats them as private employers, which under federal law must bargain with unionized workers. Elected Louisiana school boards don’t. Both schools argued that they should be considered public agencies. … The board’s majority disagreed, writing, “The employer was not created directly by the state so as to constitute a department or administrative arm of the government nor administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or the general electorate.” …

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More private prisons to be considered in Louisiana legislative resolution

Source: Julia O’Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 10, 2017
 
Louisiana lawmakers are taking a new look at privatizing management of five more state prisons. The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on Wednesday (May 10) sent the full House a resolution asking for a study of privatization, an option not recommended by a host of other political leaders and analysts who have been pushing prison reform in recent months.  Private operators already are in place at two Louisiana prisons: Allen Correctional Center at Kinder and Winn Correctional Center near Winnfield. House Concurrent Resolution 30 would require the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to look at privatizing five more — all except the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. … Louisiana recently concluded a 10-month task force study on how the state could reduce its highest-in-the-world incarceration rate and save money on incarceration. Privatization was not recommended. Nor has it been promoted by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican legislators who are pushing a criminal justice reform package in the current legislative session. … But Louisiana has had budget shortfalls consistently since 2009. To tighten its belt, the state downgraded the Winn and Allen sites from certified prisons to jails in 2016. No other state has made a similar move, essentially an administrative maneuver that lets a state work around prison regulations and save money. …

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Louisiana considering closing 2 prisons in budget cuts
Source: Kevin Litten, New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 19, 2016

The Louisiana Department of Corrections is considering closing closing two privately operated prisons as it tries to cut $14.1 million in spending to help close the state’s $940 million budget shortfall. Winn Correctional Center and Allen Correctional Center, are operated by two separate companies. The two closures would save an estimated $4.6 million. Another option the Department of Corrections is floating — and the one the department most prefers — is to temporarily reduce the rate the state pays the two companies that operate Winn and Allen prisons, for a savings of $2.6 million. … The proposal for the two private operators of the prisons, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and the GEO Group, sets up a difficult ultimatum: Either accept the lower per-prisoner pay rate or face total shutdown. The department currently pays $31.52 per day; the local rate the department wants to pay is $24.39 per day.

Corrections outlines plans for $14.2 million shortfall, including plans to potentially shut down two privately run prisons, reducing sheriffs’ pay for housing state inmates
Source: Bryn Stole, The Advocate, February 19, 2016

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections may shutter two privately run prisons and reduce the rates it pays parish sheriffs for housing state inmates as it faces a $14.2 million shortfall for the budget that ends June 30. … Shutting the two facilities would cost about 630 jobs, LeBlanc said, but it will allow the corrections department to save an estimated $2.3 million by shuffling the roughly 3,200 inmates to parish jails. Other savings would be made up by reducing overtime pay and slashing the rates that are paid to local jails.

School bus driver fired after video shows driver ignoring stop signs

Source: WBRZ, March 22, 2017

A school bus driver has been fired after video surfaced showing the bus driving through stop signs in a suburban area without stopping. Shocking video taken by a driver shows the bus plowing through stop signs in the Woodland Ridge neighborhood. The bus serves the Louisiana School for the Deaf, but the school contracts bus services through a private company called First Student. First Student announced Wednesday that the driver had been fired, one day after our initial report on the video. …

Private water system in Haughton faces audit over billing complaints

Source: Melody Brumble, KTBS 3, March 17, 2017

A private water system in Haughton is in hot water over widespread billing complaints. Auditors will comb the books of Country Place Utilities after the Louisiana Public Service Commission decided to investigate the company. Country Place Utilities serves about 300 homes in Country Place subdivision in Haughton. The company provides water directly to residents and has a contract with the Bossier Parish Police Jury to bill for sewer service. … The PSC ordered the audit after residents complained that bills weren’t mailed for months at a time. Customers also complained of irregularities and discrepancies in usage and charges on bills; and the failure of the system’s staff to communicate with customers. Foster Campbell, the public service commissioner for north Louisiana, said the PSC also tried — without success — to resolve the situation by talking to the system’s operators. … The company could even lose the right to operate the water system, Campbell says. Country Place Utilities also is in hot water with the Bossier Parish Police Jury. In October, the police jury sued, claiming the company owes at least $60,000 in unpaid sewer fees. …

Pinecrest staffers face almost daily patient assaults in wake of cutbacks, officials say

Source: Mark Ballard, The Advocate, March 25, 2017
 
The state’s efforts to privatize and economize health care at the state’s remaining facility for the intellectually impaired have resulted in regular assaults on staff by patients, state officials have discovered.  Almost every day, sometimes several times a day, a mentally impaired resident at Pinecrest punches, bites or otherwise violently lashes out at the mostly middle-aged women who help the individuals dress, eat and function in the world. The sudden and dramatic increase in violent attacks is an unintended consequence of “real quick privatization,” says Louisiana Department of Health Deputy Secretary Michelle Alletto, whose responsibilities include the 95-year-old facility near Pineville. Looking to save money, the state slashed budgets, laid off personnel and in 2013 closed other public facilities, intending to send the bulk of the patients to small, privately-owned group homes in communities around the state where their needs could be addressed on a more individualized basis. Pinecrest Supports and Services Center got the rest. … Budget cuts in other state agencies limited programs that treated these individuals in the past.

… For the 12 months prior to Feb. 28, the staff filed 524 reports, required by workers compensation regulations, for incidents at the facility where three years ago virtually no violence took place. … Perry, an officer in the employees union, says worker’s comp forms are only the tip of the violence iceberg because no publicly available forms are filled out unless the “slap leaves a mark.”  Local 712 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees began collecting statements from its members that provide a little more detail. … Many of the statements collected by the union complained about how they are unprotected by police and, often, are removed from direct patient care. … But the staff has lost its patience, says James Ray, AFSCME field representative and a Methodist minister. “They always say be patient, it’s going to get better. But the state, as an employer, has a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace, which they are not doing,” he said.

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Health firms make privatization pitches
Source: Michelle Millhollon, Advocate, February 14, 2014

In an overheated Holiday Inn banquet room Thursday morning, business leaders made pitches for privatizing a $2 billion slice of the state’s health care business. United Healthcare, Amerigroup Louisiana, Louisiana Healthcare Connections and LifeShare Management Group are interested in managing the long-term care needs of 73,000 Medicaid-eligible people. The companies want to oversee the personal care, doctor’s visits, transportation, hospitalizations and other daily needs of people with disabilities, as well as those with age-related or adult-onset challenges.

DHH Wants More Medicaid Privatization, Stakeholders Hesitant
Source: Ashley Westerman, WRKF, November 5, 2013

The state Department of Health and Hospitals is taking preliminary steps to further privatize Medicaid in Louisiana. In August, DHH released a concept paper about reforms to long-term care for the developmentally disabled and low-income elderly.

In a nutshell, the department wants to bring in a private managed care organization – or MCO – to create a network of healthcare providers to serve those populations. Proponents of private MCOs claim they save money, cut down on fraud and improve the quality of care. The state Dept. of Health and Hospitals is looking to privatize the managed care for Medicaid patients with developmental disabilities and low-income elderly. Other stakeholders and advocates for the disabled and elderly throughout the state, for the most part, welcome reform but skepticism remains….

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