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October 2010

NPR on ALEC and State Legislature Influence

On Friday,

NPR's Laura Sullivan followed up on Thursday's investigative piece with more intel into how the American Legislative Exchange Council influences state policymakers

According to NPR:

ALEC is a membership organization. State legislators pay $50 a year to belong. Private corporations can join, too. The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members. They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year.

As we reported in our post Thursday several state policymakers have current relationships with ALEC and are looking to introduce legislation similar to Arizona's SB 1070 in addition to other measures.   Those lawmakers include:

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Which Texas campaigns are receiving money from the private prison industry?

As Nicole posted earlie

r today, the private prison industry's backing of the controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona received scrutiny from NPR and other sources today.

We thought I'd take a look to see which campaigns the private prison companies were donating to this campaign cycle.  Interestingly, over at the Texas Ethics Commission site, I could find no record of Corrections Corporation of America, the big giver in Arizona, donating any money Texas candidates this year. However, The GEO Group, perhaps the most troubled private prison corporation in Texas in recent years, donated plenty and spread its money around. The company has spent $23,000 total on Texas races, and $18,750 or more than 80% of that spending on Republican candidates.  Here's a breakdown:

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NPR: Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

NPR In the aftermath of Arizona's racist immigration law SB 1070, NPR has exposed links between private prison companies and Arizona lawmakers.  This story is the latest from mainstream news organizations working to document connections between the for-profit prison industry and policymaking.  Earlier this year, Rachel Maddow and a local news organization in Arizona ran a similar story.

This report has implications for Texas since it highlights the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to ALEC's website, several state lawmakers participate in ALEC public sector committees. State Reps Joe Driver and Jerry Madden sit on the Public Safety and Elections committee while company officials from the American Bail Coalition and prison profiteer Corrections Corporation of America sit on the committee's private sector counter part. 

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Nominee for U.S. Marshals director has ties to GEO


hile I'm admittedly not a regular Washington Times reader by any measure, this story ("Marshals Service nominee may have a client conflict," October 25) did jump out at me.  According to the story,

Between leaving her post as federal detention trustee and her recent nomination as the next U.S. marshal, Justice Department veteran Stacia Hylton got a consulting contract with one of the largest private correctional companies in the country, records show.

The arrangement with the Florida-based GEO Group Inc., which has carried out tens of millions of dollars in contracts for the U.S. Marshals Service, was disclosed in a recent financial report obtained by The Washington Times through the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

One prominent prison industry observer said the ties raise concerns about conflicts of interest.

"The massive conflicts of interest with Ms. Hylton having been employed by GEO Group typify the revolving door of corporate lobbyists and government employees that President Obama promised to end if elected," said Paul Wright, editor and co-founder of Prison Legal News, which covers the prison industry.

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America's Program covers rise of private immigrant detention system

Peter Cervantes-Gautschi at the America's Program ("Wall Street and the Criminalization of Immigrants," October 6) has an in-depth look at the way that criminalization of immigration is benefiting the private prison industry.  Here's an exceprt:

Over the past four years roughly a million immigrants have been incarcerated in dangerous detention facilities in our taxpayer-financed private prison system. A growing number of news reports and investigations confirm that for many of the people funneled into this system, it is a living nightmare. Children were abused, women were raped, and men died from lack of basic medical attention.

These facilities are run by two Wall Street-backed companies that actively promote the criminalization and incarceration of immigrants in the United States -the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

The article also traces the rise of the well-connected private prison lobby in Washington:

GEO CEO, George Zoley, was a Bush “Pioneer” who bundled more than $100,000 in contributions for the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, GEO was successful in securing the contract to run the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Harris County to Study Privatizating Entire Jail System

Harris County
Harris County
The Harris County Commission has voted to open study on privatizing the entirity of that county's massive jail system (Kevin Reece, "Harris County to study privatizing Harris County Jail", KHOU, September 28,)

In a budget debate that included discussion of possibly raising Harris County taxes by 2012, ending take-home car privileges for county employees and closing county parks one day each week, Harris County Commissioners agreed to study the idea of handing over the Harris County Detention System to a private company.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack proposed the jail privatization idea as one of several ways for the county to trim its budget. The county’s budget officer told commissioners that, at the present mid-year review, the county has $34 million less to work with than expected and could have as much as $51 million less by the end of the fiscal year.

Harris County's jail system, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, had 9,074 pre-trial detainees as of September 1st and a capacity of 11,006.  Privatization of that system would make it the largest private jail or prison in the nation.  Harris already sends 1,500 inmates to private jails.