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December 2011

Big Stories of 2011 - #1 - CCA Take-over Could Make Harris County Jail Largest Private Prison

To round out 2011, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top five private prison stories of the year. Looking forward to the new year, our #1 story of 2011 is the current proposal to privatize the entire Harris County Jail system.

Over the summer, Nicole reported that Harris County issued a request for pr

oposals in June seeking proposals for the management of the entire jail system of approximately 10,000 beds. At the time, the Houston Chronicle ("Harris County leaders consider privatizing the jail," April 18) speculated that the proposal was merely political sparring between County Commissioner Steve Radack, a privatization proponent, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who opposes privatization.  

However, recent reports indicate that the proposal may be much more serious.  As our friend Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast reported last week, Corrections Corporation of America has already submitted a bid to manage the entire Harris County Jail system.  (Scott also kindly posted the RFP that he obtained from and Open Records Request). Scott asks some tough questions about the process thus far:

Big Stories of 2011 - #2 - Resistance to Private Immigrant Detention Centers Grows

Over the next several days, Texas Prison Bid'ness will be highlighting the top five private prison stories of 2011, and looking forward to the new year.   Our #2 story is the growing resistance amongst immigrant rights organizations and media to the for-profit private detention system.

In October of 2010, NPR reported that through its membership in ALEC, private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America was able to help draft model anti-immigrant legislation like Arizona's noxious SB 1070.  The story would be a precursor to a host of organizing efforts, research initiatives, and media campaigns by immigrant rights groups around the country to expose the private prison industry's role in immigration detention policy.  Here are some of the highlights:

1) In May, the Detention Watch Network (with the support of Grassroots Leadership, my organization) published data outlining that 47% of all immigration detention beds are operated by private prison corporations and that CCA and GEO Group have poured millions of dollars into federal lobbying expenditures over the last several years.

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Big Stories of 2011 - #3 - ALEC and Private Prison Lobbying Exposed

Over the next several days, Texas Prison Bid'ness will be highlighting the top five private prison stories of 2011, and looking forward to the new year.   Our #3 story is the increased exposure of the American Legislative Exchange Council and the role of private prison lobbyists in influencing legislation.

Earlier this year, The Nation and The Center for Media and Democracy released ALEC Exposed.  ALEC Exposed brought to light the actions of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that unites corporations with state legislators to “discuss” public policy and draft model legislation.  One of the most concerning areas of this public/private partnership is in the realm of criminal justice and prisons.  In fact, criminal injustice may be a more appropriate phrase.  Thanks to ALEC, the for-profit prison industry has a lot to be thankful for during this holiday season.

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GEO lands ICE contract renewal for Pearsall detention center

The GEO Group has landed a contract renewa

l for its massive South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, according to a story at Government Security News ("GEO Group lands $236 million contract to house 1,800 ICE detainees in South Texas," December 27):

"The ICE unit of DHS has issued a $236.2 million contract to The GEO Group to provide detention services for 1,800 male detainees who have been taken into custody pending removal proceedings at the company-owned and company-operated South Texas Detention Center (STDC) in Pearsall, TX."

According to GEO investment calls that I've listened to in recent months, the bid for this contract was essentially non-competitive because it required an existing facility within a geographic area that essentially precluded other facilities from wining the re-bid.  That said, one wonders if ICE paid much attention to the problems GEO has had operating this facility, including alleged sexual assaults, poor mental health care, and ongoing labor issues at the facility.

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Big Stories of 2011 - #4 - ICE's "Detention Reforms" Benefit Private Prison Corporations

Over the next several days, Texas Prison Bid'ness will be highlighting the top five Texas private prison stories of 2011, and looking forward to the new year.   Our #4 story of the year is Immigration and Customs Enforcement's "detention reforms" and their benefit to private prison corporations.

Back in 2009, many immigration reform

advocates - including this author - were heartened when the Obama administration announced widespread reforms to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system.  Those reforms were kicked off with the end of family detention at the T. Don Hutto detention center.  In fact, that change was our #1 story of 2009.
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Big Stories of 2011 - #5 - Lawmakers Attempt to Privatize State Jails

Over the next several days, Texas Prison Bid'ness will be highlighting the top 5 private prison stories of 2011, and looking forward to the new year.   The 2011 Texas legislature's attempt to increase privatization of state jails and prisons is our #5 story of the year.  

Texas lawmakers met in 2011 and considered legislation that had major implications for private prisons in the state.  According to the Texas Tribune, one such measure could have privatized all of Texas' state jails for low-level felony offenders. While ulitmately rescinded, the proposal was representative of bad policies that may be seen again in Texas in the future.

Nationwide there has been some success in moving state law makers to reconsider policies that have contributed to mass incarceration.  This year, conservative stakeholders led by the Texas-based Right on Crime coalition, cemented a foundation of support among lawmakers in Texas and around the country to support criminal justice reforms.

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CCA Holds 2011 Third Quarter Conference Call -- Reports Excess Bed Capacity

The Corrections Corporation of America held its third quarter inv

CCA Logo
CCA Logo
estor call in early November.  The company reported an increase in revenue primarily due to an increase in federal contracts with various agencies.

"revenue for the third quarter of 2011 increased 1.9% to $433.5 million from $425.3 million during the third quarter of 2010, primarily driven by a 2.3% increase in average daily inmate populations... The increase in federal revenue primarily resulted from per diem increases associated with certain management contracts, higher populations primarily from the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) as well as the commencement in October 2010 of a new contract with the USMS at [the] Nevada Southern Detention Center. These increases were partially offset by the September 30, 2010 expiration of the contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at [the] California City facility, which contained a 95% guarantee through the expiration date."

The company is adding capacity to it’s overall system -- none in Texas -- at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution (Ohio), Jenkins Correctional Center (Georgia), and is expanding capacity under its McRae Correctional Facility (Georgia) with the BOP.  The prison profiteers reported an increase in  daily compensated population by 2.3% to 80,851 in the third quarter of 2011 from 79,053 during the same time last year. 

Cuentame video highlights conditions at CCA's T. Don Hutto detention center for Human Rights Day

Cuentame's Immigrants for Sale program has been putting out damning videos highlighting the private prison industry's role in the immigration detention and enforcement system.  For International Human Rights Day on Saturday, they issued this short video featuring one woman's experience at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, Texas.  Check it out:

 

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TX Prison Capacity Continues to Grow. Private Contract Authority Remains Strong.

Earlier this week, Mike Ward with the Austin American Statesman reported that state prison capacity had grown in recent years despite reforms.  The reporting emphasizes that continued prison growth is a policy choice that results in Texas being one of the world's biggest jailers. 

Earlier this year, Texas closed it's first state run prison but added capacity in other facilities.  Reports left open the option open for contracts with private companies.

"Instead of closing the other two prisons, Madden said budget writers agreed to leave them open and to set aside about $15 million for prison officials to lease additional beds if needed over the next two years." (Mike Ward, "Budget writers agree to shut old prison" Statesman, May 17, 2011)