Source: Sarah Stillman, New Yorker, June 23, 2014
Does the alternatives-to-incarceration industry profit from injustice? …. As we set off beneath loblolly pines, she recounted the events that had led me to her doorstep: her arrest and jailing for a string of traffic tickets that she was unable to pay. It was, in part, a story of poverty and constraint, but it was also a story of the lucrative and fast-growing “alternatives to incarceration” industry…..
….When she was unable to pay her fines, a judge sentenced her to two years of probation with Judicial Correction Services, a for-profit company; she would owe J.C.S. the sum of two hundred dollars a month, with forty of it going toward a “supervision” fee. Cleveland considered the arrangement a reprieve…..
…..With municipal budgets under enormous strain across the country, the industry has also pitched itself as a source of revenue for small courts. “If your municipality is looking to reduce incarceration rates and to increase the collection of fines and court costs in the municipal court, please give our office a call today,” the Georgia-based Freedom Probation Services advertises. In return for an exclusive contract with a municipality, companies like Freedom Probation offer their services to courts for free. The private-probation business has established a presence in such states as Utah, Missouri, Montana, and Colorado, although its home remains in the Cotton Belt. The industry aims to shift the financial burden of probation directly onto probationers. Often, this means charging petty offenders—such as those with traffic debts—for a government service that was once provided for free. These probationers aren’t just paying a court-ordered fine; they’re typically paying an ever-growing share of the court’s administrative expenses, as well as a separate fee to the for-profit company that supervises their probation and enforces a payment schedule—a consolidated weekly or monthly set of charges divided between the court and the company. The system is known as “offender-funded” justice. But legal challenges to it are mounting, amid concerns about abuse, corruption, and the use of state penalties to collect private profits. In a wide range of cases, offender-funded justice may not result in justice at all……
Source: Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 10, 2014
…By Balkan standards, Olivette is flush. Its annual budget is a little more than $10.7 million. It has its own police and fire departments, each with 23 officers. It has five people-parks and one dog-park. That’s a lot of expensive services for 7,700 people, but many of them are the sort of politically engaged citizens who demand quality services. So what better way to pay for those services than to take 29-acre Warson Park and lease most of it to a private developer? BWB Sports would knock down the existing community center and replace it with a 150,000-square-foot complex with three indoor ice rinks, two artificial-turfed soccer/lacrosse fields, 750 parking spaces and oh, by the way, a sports medicine building….
Sports complex, medical building proposed in Olivette’s Warson Park
Source: Doug Moore, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2014
A plan to build a large sports complex featuring three indoor ice rinks, two outdoor lacrosse fields with artificial turf and a medical building to provide “best-in-region physical training and therapy” in Warson Park in Olivette isn’t popular with some residents. A private developer wants to build what is being called St. Louis Sports Centre in the park, which now houses the Olivette Community Center. BWB Sports wants to lease the park land from the city to build a nearly 150,000-square-foot, $25 million sports complex. It would replace the community center, and the main entrance would be off Warson Road….
Source: Stacey Lindsay, Fox 14, May 27, 2014
… The two pastors run the FBC Learning Center, a not-for-profit ministry day care and preschool out of First Baptist Church in Carl Junction that accepts child care subsidy dollars from the state of Missouri. Now, a new bill will require the center to follow stricter rules, including onsighon [sic] sighting and inspections…..
Source: Ryan Gray, School Transportation News, May 15, 2014
A joint venture between Chicago-area school bus contractor Cook-Illinois Corporation and British transport group Go-Ahead is ending this summer after the latter lost a contract bid to renew service in St. Louis, Mo…..
School bus contractor closing St. Louis operations
Source: Jacob Kirn, St. Louis Business Journal, May 9, 2014
Bus service operator Go-Ahead North America is closing its St. Louis operations, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) filed with the state. Go-Ahead is currently under contract with the nonprofit Voluntary Inderdistrict Choice Corp. (VICC) to provide school bus transportation for students participating in the St. Louis metro area’s desegregation program. VICC oversees implementation of the program, including facilitating transfers of students in the city of St. Louis to suburban school districts and suburban students to city magnet schools. … Two other operators, Durham Bus Service and Missouri Central, which also currently provide VICC transportation, will take Go-Ahead’s routes after that date, Glaser said. Glaser said Go-Ahead employs about 90 drivers for its VICC routes but that he hoped some of those drivers would be hired by Durham and Missouri Central. … Glaser said Go-Ahead’s current multiyear contract with VICC was worth $6 million or $7 million per year. He said the company’s bid for the next contract was 10 percent higher, leading VICC to reject it. … Oak Forest, Ill.-based Go-Ahead North America was founded in 2009 as a joint venture between Oak Brook, Illinois-based school bus operator Cook-Illinois Corp. and U.K.-based Go-Ahead Group plc to pursue school bus service contracts. ….
Source: Megan Dillard, FOX 4, May 9, 2014
The Smithville School District said seven students were sent to area hospitals following a school bus crash Friday morning. The district said 11 students from the Primary Elementary School and Upper Elementary School, ages ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade were on the bus. First responders transported three students to Children’s Mercy Hospital, four students to North Kansas City Hospital, and four others were released from the scene and went on to school….The school district says the safety of its students is always the first concern. Officials wouldn’t provide information about the driver because she works for Coulter Bus Service. That’s where FOX 4 found Smithville bus number 2, and workers surveying the damage. The company did not want to go on camera for an on-camera interview, but someone with the company told FOX 4, the driver is “good” and “dependable,” and has worked with the company for about three years. We also learned this is the second school bus accident in the Smithville School District this school year….
Source: Debby Woodin, Joplin Globe, May 6, 2014
A public policy director at a free-market government think-tank in St. Louis talked to the Joplin Kiwanis Club on Tuesday about the privatization of government services. David Stokes, director of the local government policy for the Show-Me Institute, spoke about services that government could contract to private business that Show-Me believes would reduce costs to taxpayers. …. Still, not every service functions as well under private interests, Stokes said. “The No. 1 thing government should always do is the police powers. Nobody has ever outsourced police powers as far as I know in the United States,” he said, adding that “the government itself, the actual passing of laws, the elected and police powers are the primary things that should never be entrusted to the private sector.” The operation of parks is another area where government excels. …. Money for the Show-Me Institute has also come from funds controlled by the Koch Brothers, the Roe Foundation and the Cato Institute…..
Source: Brendan Fischer and Lisa Graves, PR Watch, April 29, 2014
…The jewel in his privatization crown is the Missouri-based Show-Me Institute, a rightwing think tank that receives just shy of $1 million every year from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. Its tag line is a mouthful: “Advancing Liberty with Responsibility by Promoting Market Solutions for Missouri Public Policy.” Rex Sinquefield is the institute’s president, and his daughter is also employed there (and spends her time tweeting rightwing talking points). The institute is currently led by Brenda Talent, the wife of former U.S. Senator Jim Talent. For years, the institute has been laying the groundwork for radical changes to Missouri’s education system, producing reports, testimony, and policy papers purporting to show the benefits of ending teacher tenure and enacting vouchers in the form of “tuition tax credits,” along with other efforts to privatize education and undermine teachers’ unions. The Show-Me Institute does not act alone. It is a member of ALEC, and many of the education initiatives it promotes appear to have their roots in ALEC “model” legislation, such as tuition tax credits, parent trigger legislation, and attacks on union rights. The Speaker of the Missouri House, Tim Jones, is a member of the ALEC Education Task Force and for many years has been the ALEC state chair for Missouri. Sinquefield bankrolled Jones’s 2012 campaign to the tune of $100,000. Not that Jones needed the money; he was running unopposed that year. Jones has made it clear he is an ally of deep-pocketed interests. He is quoted in ALEC’s promotional materials as saying the benefit of ALEC is that “business leaders have a seat at the table.” Together, Jones and the Show-Me Institute—backed with Sinquefield cash, and using ALEC model legislation—have pushed an education privatization agenda in the state. For example, Speaker Jones sponsored “parent trigger” legislation in both 2011 and 2012, bills that reflected the ALEC model “Parent Trigger Act.” Parent triggers allow parents to vote via referendum to seize control of their public schools and fire the teachers and principal or privatize the schools. The Show-Me Institute provided outside support for the legislation, with a group’s representative claiming that the bill “would expand the ability of parents to take an active role in the public education of their children.” ….. It doesn’t end there. In 2008, the Show-Me Institute released a “policy study” titled “The Fiscal Effects of a Tuition Tax Credit Program in Missouri,” and that same year, Jones introduced a tuition tax credit bill titled the “Children’s Education Freedom Act,” which reflected the ALEC “Great Schools Tax Credit Act.” (Despite the Show-Me Institute study claiming to demonstrate that tuition tax credits would save the state money, the bill’s fiscal note estimated the cost at $40 million.) In contrast with traditional vouchers, where the state directly reimburses a private school for tuition costs, these “tuition tax credit” proposals—sometimes called neo-vouchers—offer tax credits to individuals and corporations who donate to a nonprofit “school tuition organization.” The nonprofit then pays for a student’s tuition….
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 6, 2014
Two apologetic vice presidents of First Student transportation presented the Rockwood School Board on Thursday plans for improvements after a winter plagued with bus problems. Among the changes is an accelerated schedule for replacing buses — 73 new buses will be in place by the start of the next school year, said Al Muglach. Rockwood runs 120 bus routes every day. In addition, a new maintenance supervisor has been hired, and technicians will be undergoing more rigorous certifications, Wayne Gensler told the board. The company, which has been under contract with Rockwood since acquiring Laidlaw transportation in 2007, will also conduct a customer satisfaction survey….
Source: David Stokes, Show-Me Institute, Case Study no. 17, February 2014
From the summary:
This is a case study about privatization efforts in Missouri. The goal of this paper is to document the wide variety of ways in which counties, cities, and towns can engage the private sector to effectively provide many public services. Furthermore, the intention is to discuss the many public service areas where privatization is appropriate and potentially beneficial, along with the areas it is not. The aim was not to catalog every single privatization effort at the city, county, and state level in Missouri. The plan has been to document a number of examples throughout the state in a range of public and private responsibilities. It is our aspiration to provide city officials, administrators, and interested citizens with examples of where, how, and why privatization can be expanded in their communities.
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.” …