A new autopsy report shows Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez may have been beaten prior to her death. …. A transgender woman held at a privately operated Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center was likely beaten before her death, according to private autopsy results obtained by The Daily Beast. Both the private prison company that owns the facility and the detention center itself have faced allegations of misconduct and neglect in the past. …. Hernández Rodriguez was detained by immigration authorities at the border in early May and died on the 25th of that month, just nine days after being transferred to dedicated unit for transgender women at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. As ThinkProgress previously reported, Hernández Rodriguez was the sixth person to die in ICE custody since October 2017. …. The Cibola County Correctional Center where Hernández Rodriguez was being held at the time of her death is operated by CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country. In the past, it has faced allegations of medical neglect, “including operating for months on end without a medical doctor and failing to provide basic care and screening for infectious diseases,” and come under scrutiny for a series of questionable deaths, The Nation reported in 2016. ….
The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department has revoked the license of a not-for-profit that places high-risk children with foster families after discovering the business continued to house young girls with a family that was accused multiple times of sexual abuse and misconduct spanning nearly two decades. In the past few months, CYFD investigators found that since 2000 at least eight girls, ranging in age from 6 to 16, had accused the foster father of some sort of sexual misconduct. And, investigators say, Familyworks had been aware of the allegations and continued to contract with the family. … Law enforcement agencies are now investigating both the foster family and the not-for-profit Familyworks. …
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. …
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.’ ”…
Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch have teamed up in support of a bill to better protect children in foster care. This bill is both badly needed and long overdue. The Senate Finance committee launched an investigation in April 2015 into the increasing practice of states giving the responsibility for some of their most vulnerable children over to private, for-profit companies. … Governors in 33 states responded to the committee’s request for information about the consequences of privatizing foster care, as did one of the largest providers in the country, the MENTOR Network. The results of the two-year investigation were both unsettling and, sadly, unsurprising.
The Senate found there were flaws in data collection and oversight when it came to for-profit foster care, at both the state and federal levels. Procedures set up by states to monitor providers’ performance and outcomes weren’t followed. Children under the authority of the state who received services from private, for-profit agencies were abused, neglected and denied services. Profits were prioritized over children’s well-being. High staff turnover sometimes made it impossible to monitor how children were doing, and foster parents with questionable backgrounds were given licenses to care for children, who were inadequately monitored by the state. …
Senate Finds 86 Children Died In Care Of Giant For-Profit Foster Care Firm, Citing BuzzFeed News
Source: Aram Roston and Jeremy Singer-Vine, Buzzfeed News, October 18, 2017
At least 86 children died in a 10-year period while in the custody of a giant for-profit foster care company, according to an investigation by the US Senate Committee on Finance. In only 13 of those deaths did the company, The Mentor Network, conduct an internal investigation, the committee found. The Senate committee said the company “falsely” claimed that its child death rate was in line with the fatality rates in the overall foster care system.
The Senate probe started in part because of a series by BuzzFeed News that profiled problems at the company, which was the largest for-profit foster care provider in the country. In one case a 2-year-old girl who was placed at a home run by Mentor was murdered by her foster mother. In another case, a series of boys were sexually abused by a Mentor foster father, whom Mentor paid as a foster parent for years despite a series of red flags. He had requested that he be sent boys who were “male, white, any age.” Though Mentor denied the claim, employees told BuzzFeed News that the pursuit of profits sometimes took priority over child welfare. (The company is owned by Civitas Solutions, Inc., which recorded $1.4 billion in revenue last year and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.)
… As a result of the committee’s investigation, the chairman, Orrin Hatch, and its ranking member, Ron Wyden, introduced legislation Monday to require states to disclose the contractors they use in privatized foster care, and to report to the federal government how those contractors perform. …
The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill
Source: Brian Joseph, Mother Jones, February 26, 2015
When the government took her from her family, it outsourced her safety to a for-profit corporation. Nine months later she was dead…..
….What happened in Rockdale that night would be the subject of a weeklong trial in the fall of 2014, focusing on the care of Alexandria. But it also opened a window into the vast and opaque world of private foster care agencies—for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that are increasingly taking on the role of monitoring the nation’s most vulnerable children. The agency involved in Small’s case was the Lone Star branch of the Mentor Network, a $1.2 billion company headquartered in Boston that specializes in finding caretakers, or “mentors,” for a range of populations, from adults with brain injuries to foster children. With 4,000 children in its care in 14 states, Mentor is one of the largest players in the business of private foster care, a fragmented industry of mostly local and regional providers that collect hundreds of millions in tax dollars annually while receiving little scrutiny from government authorities. Squeezed by high caseloads and tight budgets, state and local child welfare agencies are increasingly leaving the task of recruiting, screening, training, and monitoring foster parents to these private agencies. In many places, this arrangement has created a troubling reality in which the government can seize your children, but then outsource the duty of keeping them safe—and duck responsibility when something goes wrong…..
….Mentor and other private foster care agencies say they are committed to children’s well-being, and that nothing can prevent the occasional tragic incident. But in my investigation, I found evidence of widespread problems in the industry—failed monitoring, missed warning signs, and, in some cases, horrific abuse. In Los Angeles, a two-year-old girl was beaten to death by her foster mother, who was cleared by a private agency despite a criminal record and seven prior child abuse and neglect complaints filed against her. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, prosecutors alleged that foster parents screened by a private agency beat their foster son so badly that he suffered brain damage and went blind. (A grand jury refused to return an indictment in the case.) In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a foster father vetted by a private agency induced his 16-year-old foster daughter to have sex with him and a neighbor. In Riverview, Florida, a 10-year-old girl with autism drowned in a pond behind a foster home. The private agency that inspected the home had previously identified the pond as a safety hazard but had not required a fence. In Duluth, Minnesota, a private agency failed to discover that a foster mother’s adult son had moved back into her home. The son, who had a criminal record for burglary that would have disqualified him from being around foster children, went on to sexually abuse a 10-year-old foster girl. In Texas, at least nine children living in private agency homes died of abuse or neglect between 2011 and 2013…..
With school choice efforts stalled in Washington, the billionaire Koch brothers’ network is engaged in state-by-state battles with teachers’ unions, politicians and parent groups to push for public funding of private and charter schools. One of the newest campaigns is the Libre Initiative, a grassroots drive targeting Hispanic families in 11 states so far, under the umbrella of the Charles and David Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, a powerful conservative and libertarian advocacy group. … The group has had some initial success — for instance, helping to thwart a moratorium on charter school expansion in New Mexico. But it’s also created bitter divisions in the Latino community and led to accusations the Kochs are trying to undermine public education — and even in some cases, to subvert the Democratic process.
… Despite such criticism, the group is hunkering down for the long haul in states it views as ripe for change even as it eyes new states for expansion. Lima says it’s on track to make contact with more than 100,000 Hispanic households this year on school choice. Besides Nevada and New Mexico, Libre is organizing in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Its recent efforts, with other Koch-backed groups, include:
- A planned “six-figure” spend in Nevada on “deep canvassing” in Hispanic neighborhoods to build support for educational savings accounts, which enable families to use state tax dollars to pay for private school. …
- A lawsuit brought by Americans for Prosperity, among others, aimed at stopping a 2018 Arizona referendum asking voters whether they want to keep a school choice law passed earlier this year. …
- A “six-figure” Libre and Americans for Prosperity campaign in Colorado this summer to promote charter schools and education savings accounts and another ahead of a Nov. 7 school board race by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation to push choice-friendly issues.
- A seven-figure investment In Virginia’s gubernatorial race by Americans for Prosperity that includes a video criticizing Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, for his opposition to education savings accounts.
- Mailings in Spanish and English supporting a Florida law that encourages charter schools in communities with low-performing schools. After Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed it into law, the state Democratic Party said he’d “declared war on our public schools.” …
Nuclear Negligence examines safety weaknesses at U.S. nuclear weapon sites operated by corporate contractors. The Center’s probe, based on contractor and government reports and officials involved in bomb-related work, revealed unpublicized accidents at nuclear weapons facilities, including some that caused avoidable radiation exposures. It also discovered that the penalties imposed by the government for these errors were typically small, relative to the tens of millions of dollars the NNSA gives to each of the contractors annually in pure profit.
- A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal: Repeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads
- Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production: A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks
- Light penalties and lax oversight encourage weak safety culture at nuclear weapons labs: Explosions, fires, and radioactive exposures are among the workplace hazards that fail to make a serious dent in private contractor profits
- More than 30 nuclear experts inhale uranium after radiation alarms at a weapons site are switched off: Most were not told about it until months later, and other mishaps at the Nevada nuclear test site followed
- Repeated radiation warnings go unheeded at sensitive Idaho nuclear plant: The inhalation of plutonium by 16 workers is preceded and followed by other contamination incidents but the private contractor in charge suffers only a light penalty
- Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials: Los Alamos laboratory’s recent mistakes in shipping plutonium were among dozens of incidents involving mislabeled or wrongly shipped materials associated with the nuclear weapons program
Source: Andrew Oxford, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 6, 2017
Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have prohibited state prisons and local jails from locking minors and pregnant women in solitary confinement, a practice that prison reformers say can cause lasting psychological damage but that jail officials say is key to maintaining order among inmates. … Advocates for criminal justice reform have pushed in past legislative sessions to curb the practice of solitary confinement, defined as locking an inmate alone in a cell for at least 22 hours a day. … But following pushback from Corrections Department officials and jail administrators who argued the stricter bill would lead to unrest among inmates, House Bill 175’s sponsor argued that this year’s narrower proposal would have at least ended some of the most egregious uses of solitary confinement, cases that have led to scandals and millions of dollars in legal settlements.… The bill called for county jails to regularly report on the use of solitary confinement, and for private jails to disclose every three months how much money was paid to settle any lawsuits filed by former inmates. The New Mexico Association of Counties dropped its opposition to the bill after changes that would have given detention facilities more flexibility. And representatives from the union representing corrections officers — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — spoke in favor of the bill. …
A state district judge has ruled that Corizon Health, which formerly oversaw medical care for New Mexico prison inmates, must pay legal fees for violating the state public-records law. Corizon has refused to release to two newspapers and an advocacy group the settlement agreements it made with prisoners who had sued the company. Judge Raymond Ortiz said in his decision this month that Corizon must pay $37,535 to attorneys who represented the organizations that sought the records. Ortiz wrote that the petitioners — the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Albuquerque Journal and the Foundation for Open Government — were denied written requests for public records. They successfully sued Corizon to obtain the records, and under state law they are entitled to attorneys’ fees, the judge said. He also said that awarding reasonable legal fees encourages attorneys to take the cases of private citizens who file lawsuits seeking to enforce the Open Records Act. Ortiz last August ruled on the merits of the case, finding that “the settlement agreements are public records subject to disclosure.” Corizon is appealing that ruling and the one regarding attorneys’ fees to the state Court of Appeals. It has yet to produce the documents.
… Until the state replaced Corizon last year, it held a $37.5 million a year contract to provide health care to state inmates. Corizon paid about $4.5 million to settle lawsuits brought by inmates in its nine years as the medical provider. The bulk of those settlements were with inmates who claimed they were sexually assaulted by a doctor employed by Corizon. Both Corizon and the state Corrections Department have refused to release the settlement agreements in response to public-records requests, citing language in the company’s contract. … Corizon, the nation’s largest for-profit provider of inmate care, faced more than 150 lawsuits filed by some 200 inmates in the nine years it had the contract. That was a sharp increase in the rate of lawsuits by inmates during the 2004-07 tenure of the previous provider, Wexford Health Sources. The state fired Wexford over concerns about the quality of its medical care. And the Department of Corrections chose not to renew its contract with Corizon last spring after a six-month investigation by The New Mexican, published in April 2016, revealed deep problems with inmate care provided by the company and with the state’s lax oversight of Corizon. Even so, the state’s contract with new provider Centurion also allows the company to keep settlement agreements confidential. …
State mum on inmate health care oversight
Source: Justin Horvath, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 19, 2016
Gov. Susana Martinez was silent Monday when asked through a spokesman for reaction to the findings of Santa Fe New Mexican investigation into the lack of oversight of medical care delivered to state prison inmates by Corizon Health, a Tennessee company that has faced over 150 lawsuits by more than 200 inmates in the state since 2007 over allegations of negligent care, civil rights violations and sexual abuse. … Those warnings came internally from department employees about the lack of auditing of the contract as well as from the inmates themselves, who claim in lawsuits that Corizon denied or delayed care for health issues ranging from a hand crushed by a prison door to breast cancer that went untreated, even as the inmate’s breast turned purple, swelling to twice its size. … Corizon’s contract ends at the end of May. It is among the companies bidding to win a new contract to provide medical care for approximately 7,000 inmates in state custody. Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel also did not respond to requests for comment Monday on whether the new contract would contain similar litigation provisions.
Contract with state allows Corizon to keep its settlements secret
Source: Phaedra Haywood and Justin Horwath, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 17, 2016
Massive settlements and jury awards in other states over the years provide a dismal view of the medical care provided to inmates by Corizon Health and other for-profit prison health care companies. … But in New Mexico, Corizon has been allowed to operate almost entirely in the shadows, even as more than 200 inmates have filed lawsuits against the company since it took over medical services for most of the state’s prisons in 2007. That’s because not one of the lawsuits has gone to a jury, and Corizon has kept all records of settlements secret. The Corrections Department says the company can do that because under the terms of its contract with the state, it is responsible for defending itself in lawsuits and does so even when the state is named as a co-defendant. … Susan Boe, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said New Mexico “cannot contract away the state’s obligation under the Inspection of Public Records Act.” “If the state or its employees have been named as parties in those lawsuits, they should have a copy of the settlement documents, which therefore should be subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act,” she said. … In response to public records requests by The New Mexican, the Corrections Department said it had no record of settlements and referred questions to Corizon. The state Risk Management Division had no record of Corizon settlements either. Corizon told the newspaper: “Copies of medical malpractice settlements are bound by confidentiality restrictions between parties and we are not able to disclose the terms of those settlements.”
Source: EcoWatch, March 17, 2017
…Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America’s public lands and only want more. In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of “Public Lands Enemies” that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
1. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
2. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st District)
3. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
4. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz., 4th District)
5. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
6. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah, 2nd District)
7. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, At Large)
8. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
9. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho, 1st District)
10. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, 3rd District)
11. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev., 2nd District)
12. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
13. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M., 2nd District)
14. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif., 4th District)
15. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign To Sell Off America’s Public Lands
Source: Matt Lee-Ashley, ThinkProgress, June 18, 2014
…According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website. Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions….
A committee voted along party lines Saturday to temporarily halt the creation of any new charter schools, sending the moratorium to a vote in the full House of Representatives. Backers, including teachers unions, argue House Bill 46 would allow time to develop better oversight of charter schools and prevent new schools from drawing funding at a time when the budget for public education is already tight. But opponents, including the Public Education Department, business groups and parents with children on waiting lists for existing charter schools, argue the measure would limit options for students. … Sponsored by Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, the bill is only one sentence long, stating simply that no new applications for charter schools would be accepted or approved between June 1, 2017, and Jan. 1, 2020. The bill follows a report last year by the Legislative Finance Committee that recommended additional guidelines for authorizing charter schools and a new system for funding those schools. The report found inconsistent oversight of charter schools, with charters rarely revoked, despite poor performance. … The number of charter schools around New Mexico has grown from 63 in fiscal year 2008 to 99 in fiscal year 2016, though about five are expected to soon close, according to the Legislative Finance Committee. The committee found charter schools, when compared to traditional public schools, serve a lower percentage of students who are Hispanic or economically disadvantaged. … Even if the full House of Representatives and the Senate pass Trujillo’s moratorium, it would still require the approval of Gov. Susana Martinez, whose own Public Education Department has opposed the measure.
Study: Unclear laws give New Mexico charter schools funding edge over public schools
Source: Robert Nott, Santa Fe New Mexican, July 15, 2016
Charter schools in New Mexico receive more funding per student than traditional public schools, in part because of unclear laws that give them an edge in squeezing out dollars from the state, a new study says. The report by the Legislative Education Study Committee and Legislative Finance Committee says charter schools on average receive about 15 percent more funding per student than regular public schools. In Albuquerque, for example, traditional public schools receive about $7,400 for each student while that city’s charter schools get about $8,700 per student. The reasons include statutory language that allows charter schools to take advantage of the state’s small-school funding formula — designed to give rural school districts adequate money to operate — and a law that lets charter schools begin new programs with funding that doesn’t require legislative approval. … Earlier this year, for example, a state audit of 55 state-chartered schools in New Mexico found many of them deficient in internal financial controls and out of compliance with some provisions of state law. Some of those problems were minor and others have already been corrected. In addition, a Legislative Finance Report earlier this year stated that while New Mexico’s charter schools only serve 7 percent of the student population, they have received 46 percent of public-school funding increases in the past seven years. National studies on charter schools say that for the most part they do not out-perform more traditional public schools in academics. Sallee told the committee that the Legislature has yet to authorize an in-depth study on this issue in New Mexico. …
Report: New Mexico charter schools cost more, perform same
Source: Morgan Lee, Albuquerque Journal, January 18, 2016
Rapidly expanding charter schools in New Mexico are spending more per student with similar academic results to traditional public schools, state program analysts told lawmakers on Monday. … The study found that charter school students received $8,663 per student, while traditional district schools received $7,597, during the budget year ending June 2015. New Mexico’s charter schools have received nearly half of school funding increases since mid-2007, while serving about 7 percent of all students, the report said. … New Mexico had 97 charter schools serving about 22,000 students last year, up from 59 in 2010 and just two in 2000. That steady growth mimics the growth of nationwide attendance at charter schools, which surpasses 2.5 million students. The state evaluation raised specific concerns about costs and performance at so-called virtual charter schools that provide remote online courses. New Mexico has two virtual schools — New Mexico Connections Academy and New Mexico Virtual Academy — that both have ties to for-profit organizations.