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May 2008

Clarksville City Council Considers Private Prison

Clarksville City Council, in Red River County, is considering a private prison facility. According to recent reports in The Paris News city officials are competing for Emerald Correctional Management to build the facility in their backyard.

Clarksville City Council gave its approval to the submission at a May 20 meeting. If approved, the facility will be under private contract for 10 years. After bond retirement, the title reverts to the city.

From reports, it seems that Emerald will target its efforts to federal agencies to imprison undocumented immigrants and be the latest site for expanding national detention capacity.

The facility would house 2,500 [undocumented immigrants] and would be considered a medium/minimum security facility.

Officials mistakenly think that building this prison in their backyard would contribute to economic development and increase jobs in the area.

Folks in Clarksville need to learn from the research that debunks that myth. For example the research published by blog contributor Bob Libal and his colleagues at Grassroots Leadership. They developed the report Considering a Private Jail, Prison, or Detention Center as a resource for public officials considering these decisions. The report debunks the myth that prisons contribute to economic growth.

ICE Plans Three New Family Detention Centers

The ever-informative T. Don Hutto blog has documents showing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued a pre-solicitation notice for up to three new family detention centers. UPI has a story on the notice, issued in April and with a response date of June 16th.

The U.S. government is accepting bids for up to three new detention centers that would house as many as 600 men, women and children fighting deportation cases.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a call for proposals last month and set June 16 as the deadline, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

The new facilities are being considered on both coasts and on the southwestern border. There currently are two family facilities -- a former nursing home in Pennsylvania and a former prison in Texas.

The planned minimum-security residential facilities would provide a "least restrictive, non-secure setting" and provide schooling for children, recreational activities and access to religious services, the request for proposals says.

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Three Events Against Family Detention

Three upcoming events from different organizations in the next week will target the policy of family detention and the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. Information below:

Hutto Protest in Taylor

Saturday, May 24th meets at Heritage Park at 11am, march leaves at noon, protest and music at T. Don Hutto

 

GEO Group Convenes First Quarter 2008 Call

Recently, The GEO Group, INC. held a conference call on earnings during the first quarter of 2008. During the call, company officials gave themselves a pat on the back for growing financial interests due in part to an increase in the average per diem rate of incarceration to $59.74 from $53.80 last year.

George Zoley, GEO Chairman & CEO, stated that before the end of 2008, the company will activate 5,300 new beds around the nation, contributing to $92 million in additional operating revenue.

Zoley discussed the company's Texas operations at length. Apparently, the prison profiteers have several projects in the pipeline that will increase Texas private prison beds:

County
Capacity
Facilty Type
Anticipated Customer Projected Open Date
Montgomery County
1,100 Managed Only State or Federal Agency
September 2008
Maverick County
654 Managed Only
State or Federal Agency
September 2008
Laredo 1,500
Company Financed
U.S. Marshalls October 2008

Source: The GEO Group Inc.

These new facilities will increase private prison capacity in Texas to over 3,200.

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Fort Bend Star on Opposition to Transfer of Prisoners to CiviGenics' Dickens Lock-up

This week's Fort Bend Star ("Grass roots group opposes Fort Bend Sheriff's plan" May 14, 2008) has an article about growing opposition to the transfer of Fort Bend County inmates over 500 miles to the Dickens County Correctional Center, a private jail operated by CiviGenics. As we reported last week, there a number of concerns have been raised by local residents, including Sue Ann Lorig, who was quoted in the Star article.

Sue Ann Lorig, the Fort Bend County resident who authored the letter that prompted the response, did research on the Dickens County Correctional Facility and found a number of alarming situations in the past of the previously owned company.

Lorig not only pointed out the problems for families and legal counsel having to go so far away to have contact with the inmate, but voiced fear that Fort Bend County is opening the county up to lawsuits as well.

The Star's article focuses on letters sent by my organization, Grassroots Leadership, and the Texas Jail Project's Diana Claitor. According to Claitor's letter, available in its entirety here,

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Colbert Satirizes Private Prisons

Colbert took on private prisons and Corrections Corporation of America on Thursday night on The Colbert Report. Take a look:

 

 

 

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CivicGenics Guard Pleads Guilty to Drug Smuggling

A CivicGenics guard at the Bowie County Correctional Facility recently plead guilty to drug smuggling. According to reports in the Texarkana Gazette, Marquise Dushan Hunt only worked at the private lock up for two months.

Hunt, 21, had been working as a correctional officer for CiviGenics for about two months when he was caught bringing three sandwich bags full of marijuana into the jail.

This scandal represents some of the systemic problems that plague correctional facilities managed by private prison companies. Typically, they hire inexperienced staff who may contribute to these scandals.  The faults of Mr. Hunt represent the inherent problems of outsourcing corrections to private corporations who care more about their bottom line than public safety.

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School Board Rejects Hutto Contract; CCA Continues to Work on Reputation

According to recent reports in the Taylor Daily Press, the Taylor Independent School Board (TISD) has rejected an agreement with the T. Don Hutto Immigrant Detention Center. The agreement would have permitted immigrant detainees to be housed in the old middle school gymnasium in the event of an emergency.

The Hutto facility is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Hutto officials are trying to lay the groundwork for an eventual agreement to be reached between the private prison company and school officials.

Several board members including President James “Bo” Stiles, Assistant Secretary Kathy Cotner and Anita Volek, along with Superintendent Bruce Scott and Assistant Superintendent David Krueger, were given a private tour of the facility May 1.

Volek said she was impressed with the facility, its school and the children in it.

“It puts us between a rock and a hard place, because we’re all about kids, too,” she said.

Hutto officials are making a case for why it is ok to house detainees at the school. Ironically, its the same argument for why these people should not be incarcerated at all.

[Hutto Facility Adminstrator Evenlyn] Hernandez stressed that the individuals housed in the facility are non-criminals, and that the CCA screens potential occupants with a background check before they are housed there. Those found to have a criminal history are not placed in the facility, she said.

As TISD board members become more familiar with the private prison, I fear that they will become more receptive to contracts with CCA around the Hutto facility. It is certainly something we will be monitoring as developments progress.

What Isn't Going Wrong in GEO Group's Texas Prisons?

Last week's horrendous news that guards have allegedly sexually assaulted female detainees at the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall made me reflect on the scandals that have rocked the company in the past year and half. Consider that in the last year alone the following events have happened in the GEO Group's prisons, jails, and detention center facilities in Texas:

  1. Last week, WOAI reporter Brian Collister reported allegations of widespread sexual abuse of female immigrant detainees at the company's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall. The allegations were varified by a number of former guards at the facility.

  2. The same Pearsall detention center was the subject of a lawsuit last September alleging that a mentally disabled prisoner was proper denied medical care and generally mistreated.

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Private Prisons Featured on PBS's NOW Tonight

PBS's acclaimed series NOW will have a show on private prisons this evening. The show features commentary from Texas Prison Bid'ness founder Judy Greene, and focuses on a fight over a CCA prison proposal in Colorado. Here's a portion of the release from PBS:

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