Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the first round of investments in rural infrastructure projects through the U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund. Through the Fund and its expanded public-private partnerships, USDA has facilitated the investment of nearly $161 million in private capital 22 critical water and community facilities projects in 14 states… Investments include 11 community facilities projects in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin, including building new nursing homes, constructing new preschool and day care facilities, constructing a new facility for a rural ambulance service that covers a 685 square mile area in South Dakota, and building or upgrading two new critical access hospitals in rural Illinois and North Carolina. In addition, the Fund invested in 11 critical water projects in California, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Projects include upgrades to existing water systems and the construction of a new reservoir. At least 38 additional critical infrastructure projects are in the pipeline for investment. …
From the press release:
A new study finds that inmates in private prisons are likely to serve as many as two to three more months behind bars than those assigned to public prisons and are equally likely to commit more crimes after release, despite industry claims to lower recidivism rates through high-quality and innovative rehabilitation programs.
The study is believed to be the first effort to compare time served in public and private prisons. Anita Mukherjee, an assistant professor of actuarial science, risk management and insurance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business, sought to compare public and private prisons in terms of two key outcomes: time served and recidivism. With private prisons being paid on the basis of each occupied bed, there may be a financial incentive for the operators of those facilities to maximize the number of days served for each prisoner, which may not be in the best interests of the state….
….The research found that prisoners in private facilities had an increase in their sentence of four to seven percent, which equaled 60 to 90 days for the average prisoner. With the average contractual payment to private prison operators in Mississippi being $50 for each bed occupied, an extra 60 days added to a prisoner’s sentence leads to an average additional cost per prisoner of about $3,000. That added expense erodes about half of the projected cost savings offered by private prisons in the state.
Fueling the increase in time served is the widespread use of prison conduct violations in private facilities. Mukherjee found that prisoners in every demographic, offense, and sentence length category accumulated more infractions if they were assigned to a private prison. Overall, inmates in private prisons received twice as many infractions as those in public prisons. In Mississippi, infractions are used by the state parole board in assessing whether a prisoner should be granted early release….
Here’s the Latest Evidence of How Private Prisons Are Exploiting Inmates for Profit
Source: Gabrielle Canon, Mother Jones, June 17, 2015
The for-profit prison industry sells itself as a cost-effective option for cash-strapped states, but according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin, privatized prisons are keeping inmates locked up longer in order to boost profits….
ALEC and the bail bond industry have a new plan to empty prisons—for a price…. Bail is an essential lubricant of American justice, asserted Nicholas Wachinski, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, a trade group for insurance companies that underwrite bail bonds. But now bail agents are under siege by so-called reformers, who argue that the traditional bail system forces poor defendants to choose between paying fees they can’t afford and sitting in jail until they go to trial. A growing number of states—New Jersey, Colorado, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Hawaii, and others—are limiting the use of bail for defendants who don’t pose a threat, or replacing for-profit bail with government supervision. Of course, Wachinski said, the bail bond industry will continue its tireless lobbying to protect its lucrative franchise, but he was there with another message: Innovation! New products! New markets! “A brave new world!” Why should bail bonds be only for defendants who are awaiting trial? How about bail bonds for a whole new class of customers: people who have already been convicted…. Mississippi has been a kind of laboratory for bail industry experiments. The state is the country’s poorest and has the third-highest per-capita incarceration rate. The Mississippi Bail Agents Association exercises strong legislative influence, boasting on its website that “[s]ince 1992, there have only been two years in which the MBAA did not succeed at making changes to the state bail statutes.” The bail industry has given more in campaign contributions per capita to state politicians in Mississippi than anywhere else. Versions of post-conviction bail legislation have also passed in South Dakota and Michigan, a victory celebrated by bail agents but not yet put into widespread practice….
…. But over the three days that they presented their case, attorneys for Walnut Grove prisons did more than argue whether MDOC and Walnut Grove had violated the Eighth Amendment; they put private prisons themselves on trial as well. ….. The strategy of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who presented their case between April 1 and April 3, was to show how MTC’s business practices—namely, a profit motive—create an environment that relegates prisoner and staff safety to the back burner.
Riot at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Leake County
Source: wjtv.com, July 11, 2014
The Leake County Sheriff’s Department confirms to News Channel 12 that a riot has occurred at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Leake County, Thursday evening. Officials say nine inmates were injured, seven of them were taken to the hospital. They say a group of inmates in one of the six housing units began fighting around 10 p.m. Prison officers tried to stop the disturbance but it quickly escalated. The Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Michael Epps said the riot is related to someone attempting to introduce contraband into the facility. One person was arrested in connection with that attempt…. This same prison made headlines on New Year’s Eve, after a gang-related fight occurred at the prison. The facility is operated by Management & Training Corporation, a private company that has a contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections….
After Miss. prison fight, monitors call for change
Source: Jeff Amy, Associated Press, April 21, 2014
Violence is out of control, drugs are being smuggled in and guards are not adequately trained at the privately run Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, a prison with a history of troubles, according to court documents. The documents, filed by monitors who oversee the prison and plaintiffs who sued over conditions there, said a Dec. 31 fight between two gangs in which 16 inmates were hurt shows more improvements are needed at the prison in Leake County. Utah-based Management and Training Corp., which took over the 1,500-bed prison in 2012, disputed most of the findings by the monitors and plaintiffs. MTC said the prison “has made great progress in creating a safer environment for offenders and staff.” Six prison guards and one supervisor were fired or resigned after the December fight, court papers said. Another staff member was placed on administrative leave. The monitor’s report said, among other findings, that contraband was being smuggled into the prison and security personnel were ignoring rules violations and fraternizing with prisoners. Five former employees and three others were indicted by a Leake County grand jury in March, mostly for smuggling marijuana. The prison is under legal scrutiny because of earlier misdeeds. The state removed youth offenders from Walnut Grove after U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves described conditions as “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts” while it was being managed by Florida-based GEO Group. Reeves’ order came after a Justice Department report charged the state was “deliberately indifferent” to sexual abuse, overuse of force and inadequate medical care for young inmates. The state agreed to improve conditions. GEO Group gave up its contract and the Department of Corrections hired MTC to house adult inmates at Walnut Grove. Since then, all parties agree conditions have improved….
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, March 20, 2012
From the press release:
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department announced today its findings that the state of Mississippi violated the constitutional rights of youth detained at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (WGYCF). WGYCF is a 1,500-bed prison that houses young men aged 13-22 who were convicted as adults and are in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. WGYCF is run by the GEO group, a private prison company, under contract with the state….
…The United States conducted an in-depth investigation, including an on-site inspection of WGYCF, accompanied by expert consultants in the areas of corrections, medical care and mental health care. Evidence reveals systematic, egregious and dangerous practices at WGYCF exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls. The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct exists in several areas, including:
– Deliberate indifference to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth;
– Use of excessive use of force by WGYCF staff on youth;
– Inadequate protection of youth from youth-on-youth violence;
– Deliberate indifference to youth at risk of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors; and
– Deliberate indifference to the medical needs of youth.
Groundbreaking Settlement in SPLC Case Protects Incarcerated Children from Abuse in Mississippi
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center blog, February 27, 2012
Town Relies On Troubled Youth Prison For Profits
Source: John Burnett, NPR, All Things Considered, March 25, 2011
First in a two-part series on private prisons
Prisons are filled with stress and violence; without proper supervision they can revert to primitive places. That’s what happened at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, an NPR news investigation has determined. As the nation’s largest juvenile prison, Walnut Grove houses 1,200 boys and young men in a sprawling one-story complex ringed by security fences about an hour’s drive east of Jackson. The State of Mississippi pays a private corrections company to run the prison. NPR’s investigation found that allegations swirling around the prison raise the fundamental question of whether profits have distorted the mission of rehabilitating young inmates. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU National Prison Project have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 13 inmates against the prison operator, GEO Group, the prison administration and state officials. The complaint describes rampant contraband brought in by guards, sex between female guards and male inmates, inadequate medical care, prisoners held inhumanely in isolation, guards brutalizing inmates and inmate-on-inmate violence that was so brutal it led to brain damage. The Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, whose members represent youth facilities in all 50 states, reports that a guard-to-inmate ratio of 1 officer to 10 or 12 juvenile prisoners is common. The state audit of Walnut Grove found the guard-to-inmate ratio to be 1 to 60. Salaries are the largest expense of a correctional budget, and reducing staffing is typically a way to keep costs down. Pablo Paez, vice president for corporate relations for GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., declined repeated requests by NPR to give the company’s side of the story. He cited the pending lawsuit. GEO, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is the nation’s second largest prison corporation and had more than $1 billion in revenue last year.
MuckRock’s September request for complaints made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has so far yielded only four complete responses from OSHA’s ten regional offices. None of them mention interpersonal inmate issues but nonetheless they offer glimpses into what goes on within prison walls…..The largest fine for this group of offenses rang in at $3,675 in Ohio, but as CCA noted in its RFP for another Ohio institution, it makes enough money to cover those, no problem….
New Mexico’s attorney general on Friday sued one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains over inadequate resident care, alleging that thin staffing made it numerically impossible to provide good care. The novel approach in the lawsuit filed by outgoing Democratic Attorney General Gary King could be applied in other states if it succeeds. It targets seven nursing homes run by Preferred Care Partners Management Group L.P. of Plano, Texas, a privately held company with operations in at least 10 states: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Under both the company and a previous owner, Cathedral Rock Management L.P., the attorney general alleged that the nursing homes profited by skimping on staff “at the expense of the physical well-being of vulnerable nursing home residents.”
Facing a federal magistrate judge in Jackson, Chris Epps and Cecil McCrory made a curious pair. Until the news of his indictment on federal corruption charges broke last week, Epps, 53, had been the only African American director of a Mississippi agency, the state Department of Corrections. …. Together, they allegedly had what one federal official called a decade-long “criminal partnership” that involved bribes and kickbacks in exchange for Epps steering business to McCrory’s companies that contracted with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. … The alleged activities outlined in the indictment began seven years ago, in November 2007, when Epps signed a no-bid contract with G.T. Enterprises for commissary services at state prisons.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services is rolling out a pilot program in 17 southwest Mississippi counties to outsource the legal and case-management components of its child-support enforcement program. The Legislature recently voted to privatize child-support collections over objections of state employee groups who believe the move would cost jobs. Through a statement to news media, DHS director Rick Berry said once the pilot project is complete, all child support enforcement offices in the state would be privatized. The switch will “displace approximately 50 full-time employees” whom would “be given all of the proper notifications and rights afforded to them under State Personnel Board rules and regulations.” … Berry added that a request-for-proposals is under development and that the RFP’s language would strongly encourage the successful bidder to hire displaced DHS employees. House Minority Leader Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said privatization would not result in lower taxes. …
An independent strategic review by an financial advisory firm, Lazard, Frères & Co. LLC, has recommended that the federal government not divest the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA said it is pleased the report “supports TVA’s financial and operational plan.” The utility engaged Lazard to assist in analyzing financial data for the Obama administration’s strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of the utility. The Lazard report “concluded that the business model with TVA’s financial and operational plan is the best current option for the citizens of the [Tennessee] Valley and others,” TVA noted….The high level of complexity associated with a possible divestiture “would likely lead to a costly, multi-year process to execute any such strategy, during which time TVA would experience organizational disruption and which would result in an uncertain outcome,” the report said. The complex network of TVA stakeholders would add to the difficulty of divesting TVA “in a manner that creates value for all parties,” Lazard said. …TVA released the Lazard report on June 4 as part of a mandatory Form 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 8-K document is available on the TVA website.
Study findings: TVA should not be sold; analysts reject Obama’s call to privatize utility
Source: Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 5, 2014
Selling TVA wouldn’t yield much for American taxpayers, but it could prove costly for Tennessee Valley residents and the region’s economy and environment, according to an outside financial review of America’s biggest government utility. In $1 million study prepared for White House budget planners, Lazard Freres & Co. said if TVA had to earn the financial returns of private utilities, electricity rates would jump by 13 percent. At the same time, dismantling its power and nonpower programs could hurt TVA’s recreation, economic development and environmental programs.
Unions fear a ‘New Deal’ sell-off
Source: Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, March 11, 2014
Labor unions are going on the attack against a proposal buried deep in President Obama’s budget that they charge is a move to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority …. But while the utility is now self-financing, the government could pocket a hefty profit by selling its stake. Obama proposed studying that option in his last two budgets, angering a trio of major labor unions that have thousands of members at TVA facilities. …… In this year’s budget, the administration said it “continues to believe that reducing or eliminating the federal government’s role in programs such as the TVA, which have achieved their original objectives, can help mitigate risk to taxpayers.” That language was included over the strenuous objections of labor unions, which approved a resolution at the AFL-CIO convention in September urging Washington to reject all efforts to privatize the TVA.
TVA to meet with budget officials over privatization
Source: Eric Snyder, Nashville Business Journal, May 20, 2013
Executives with the Tennessee Valley Authority will meet with officials from President Obama’s administration this week to discuss privatization of the utility, WPLN 90.3 FM reports. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the groups to discuss a possible sale of TVA since the idea was floated in Obama’s budget proposal earlier this year.
Shocker: Republicans Fight Obama Plan to Privatize the Hugely Popular, Cheap Energy Source of the TVA
Source:Gar Alperovitz, Thomas Hanna, AlterNet, May 19, 2013
US electricity giant rejects privatisation plan
Source: Ed Crooks and Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Financial Times, April 29, 2013
The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the US government-owned electric company and a pillar of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, has rejected an Obama administration plan to explore privatisation….But in an interview with the Financial Times, Bill Johnson, who took over as chief executive of the TVA in January, said the authority “isn’t broke” and could fund the investment it needed while staying in the public sector. His comments reflect an upsurge of support, led by typically pro-privatisation Republicans from Tennessee, for retaining government ownership of one of the largest electricity companies in the US…
Politics can obscure history’s reasons
Source: Edward Lotterman, Bismark Tribune, April 28, 2013
If you like irony, the kerfluffle about the Obama administration’s proposal to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority provides plenty… Stalwart congressional Republicans like Richard Shelby of Alabama and Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who are all for small government, free enterprise, and lowering the national debt are decrying this move…
So why are GOP congressmen from the region now all opposed to its sale?
The simplest answer is that under private ownership, without an implicit federal guarantee of its debts and faced with the same requirements to pay state and federal taxes as any other private corporation, electricity rates would go up and TVA employment would go down. That would be politically unpopular. It is a case of “I’m against big government except when big government benefits me and my constituents.” Cynics may say that it also reflects the fact that the guiding principle for the GOP right now is “whatever Obama is for, we are against.”…
The Tennessee Valley Authority: Dammed if you don’t / Barack Obama mulls privatising America’s biggest public utility
Source: Economist, April 27th 2013
Eighty years ago Franklin Roosevelt signed a law creating America’s biggest public utility. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was charged with delivering cheap hydropower to the rural South, which it did by damming the Tennessee river (see map)…. Privatising the TVA would end the perception of an implicit federal debt guarantee. (A similar implicit guarantee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage-financiers, ended up costing taxpayers untold billions.) Divestiture would also free the TVA to raise more capital than the $30 billion debt cap allows—though, as the bond spike earlier this month hinted, it would probably pay steeper interest rates….
Role reversal: GOP attacks Obama plan to sell Tennessee Valley Authority, icon of New Deal
Source: Matthew Daly, Associated Press, April 16, 2013
Source: Clarion-Ledger, May 28, 2014
The Jackson Public School Board voted down a proposal by Superintendent Dr. Cedric Gray to outsource transportation during a special meeting Tuesday, WLBT reported. The company, First Student, reportedly proposed an $11 million plan over four years. Over the last four years JPS spent $12.8 million on transportation according to officials. The measure was voted down six to zero with board member Monica Gilmore Love abstaining. …
JPS board votes not to privatize transportation
Source: Roslyn Anderson, WLBT, May 27, 2014
…Initially no board members would make a motion to vote on privatization. After a second attempt, the measure was voted down six to nothing with Board member Monica Gilmore Love abstaining….Opposition to outsourcing bus driver jobs came from a number of people including State Senator Sollie Norwood and Jackson Councilman De’Keither Stamps. The board did approve Board President Doctor Otha Burton’s proposal of a 2 year internal management period of the transportation department and Doctor Gray’s recommendation of an external consultant for one year to assess and advice the district….