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New Report on Thirty Years of Corrections Corporation of America

In honor of Corrections Corporation of America's thirtieth anniversary, Grassroots Leadership and the Public Safety and Justice Campaign hava released a new report "CCA's Dirty Thirty: Thirty Years of Nothing to Celebrate about Private Prisons."  Along with examples of violence, deaths, lawsuits, scandals, and lobbying, three Texas stories made the list: the beginnings of CCA and the modern for-profit prison industry in Houston, sexual abuse at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, and the tragic conditions at the Dawson State Jail.

Auspicious Beginnings: "Just Like Selling Hamburgers," CCA Opens First Detention Center in Houston, TX: In 1983, CCA won a its first contract with Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and converted an old hotel into the Houston Processing Center.  According to co-founder Tom Beasley, the company was founded on the principle that you could sell prisons “just like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers.” Another co-founder, T. Don Hutto -- who would eventually lend his name to an infamous family detention center -- was the only one with corrections experience, from his tenure as head of the Arkansas Department of Corrections where the Supreme Court ruled horrific conditions were pervasive.

Family Detention and Sexual Abuse at Hutto: From 2006 to 2009, the T. Don Hutto Detention Center was contracted by ICE to hold immigrant families.  Children detained with their mothers were forced into prison-like conditions that clearly violated their rights as outlined in a 1997 settlement, leading to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on the childrens' behalf.  While the Obama administration ended family detention in 2009, it stopped short of closing Hutto altogether and instead began using it to hold women seeking asylum.  In the following years, multiple allegations of sexual assault by guards on detained women emerged. As a result, Hutto has been the subject of two federal investigations and a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

"No baby should be born in a toilet in prison": Indifference Leads to Death at Dawson State Jail in Texas: Before the Texas Department of Justice caved to pressure to close the facility, poor medical care allegedly led to the premature deaths of several women and an infant.  Shebaa Green and Ashleigh Shae Parks both passed away from pneumonia, while Pam Weatherby's untreated diabetes eventually took her life.   Most tragically, the newborn girl of a woman who was refused a pregnancy test and prenatal care died after being born into a prison toilet while no medical personel were present.  CCA is facing suits from the deceaseds' families, as well as s the Texas Civil Rights Project for refusing to release information about medical care and deaths at the prison and by Prison Legal News for "unconscionable and unconstitutional conditions" at the prison.  Along with also CCA-run Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, Dawson State Jail will close on August 31.

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