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December 2012

Big Stories of 2012 - #3 - CCA Offers To Buy State Prisons in Return for 90% Occupancy Guarantee, Gets Rejected

To round out 2012, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered by our blog.  Our number three story of the year is Corrections Corporation of America's bold offer to buy prisons from 48 cash-strapped states, including Texas, in exchange for long-term guarantees to keep the prisons 90% full.  

TPB Big Story #3 - CCA Offers To Buy State Prisons in Return for 90% Occupancy Guarantee, Gets Rejected

First reported in the Huffington Post in February, Corrections Corporation of Ame

rica wrote a letter to 48 governors offering to buy state prisons and give states an infusion of quick cash.  What was the catch?  In exchange, CCA wanted a 20 year management contract and guarantee that the prison will remain at least 90% full.  As Frank wrote at the time, the deal highlighted one of the fundamental flaws of the for-profit prison model: the need to maintain high numbers of incarcerated individuals regardless of the impact on our tax base and our communities. 

broad coalition of advocacy groups, including the ACLU and The Sentencing Project and many faith organizations, urged state governors to reject Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) offer to purchase state and local jails. The groups were joined by Texas State Senator John Whitmire, long-time chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee who told USA Today:

"You don't want a prison system operating with the goal of maximizing profits," says Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and advocate for reducing prison populations through less costly diversion programs. "The only thing worse is that this seeks to take advantage of some states' troubled financial position."

Thankfully, it appears that no one has taken up CCA on the offer thus far.  We'll be monitoring the situation over the next year, as bed-guarantee offers will undoubtedly be a continuing story for some time. 

Big Stories of 2012 - #4 - Conditions at Two Texas Detention Centers Highlighted In "Expose and Close" Campaign

To round out 2012, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered by our blog.  Our number four story are the two private immigrant detention centers - the Corrections Corporation of America's Houston Processing Center and Community Education Centers' Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center - highlighted as amongst the worst detention centers in the country by a national report issued by Detention Watch Network.  

TPB Big Story #4 - Conditions at Two Texas Detention Centers Highlighted In "Expose and Close" Campaign 

Texas immigration advocates (including Grassroots Leadership, a sponsor of this blog) have

Polk protest
Polk protest
 joined a national effort to "Expose and Close" some of the nation's worst immigrant detention facilities.  As part of that effort, two private detention centers in Texas - the Community Education Center's Polk County Detention Center and Corrections Corporation of America's Houston Processing Center - have come under fire for a range of human rights violations.

According to the reports, the Polk facility in particular had egregious conditions.  According to the groups' press release:

"At Polk, detained men eat, sleep, and use the bathroom all in one room. The cells are dreary, lack natural lighting, and do not offer privacy. Neither meaningful programming nor legal services exist at Polk. One man detained at Polk told members of Texans United for Families, “This isn’t a good place; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

In December, over a hundred protestors from a diverse coalition of Austin and Houston-based human rights group gathered to for a Human Rights Day vigil to call for the closure of the detention center and denounced profiteering from the detention of immigrants in the US.

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Big Stories of 2012 - #5 - Momentum Grows Against Private Prisons Nationally

To round out 2012, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered by our blog.  Our number five story is the growth in the national movement against private prisons and subsequent victories.   

Private Prison Story #5 - Momentum Grows Against Private Prisons Nationally

2012 saw the movement against for-profit private prisons grow dramatically across the United States.  In perhaps one of the biggest victory for anti-privatization activists, the Florida legislature rejected what was considered a "slam-dunk" proposal to privatize 29 prisons.  Similar mass privatization proposals were defeated in Louisiana and have thus far been staved off New Hampshire and Michigan.  What's more, immigrant detention centers proposed by Corrections Corporation of America outside of Miami and Chicago were both defeated with help from anti-privatization activists, immigrant rights organizations, and community groups.   

The year also saw increased activity from faith and community organizations calling for divestment from for-profit private prisons corporations.  A national prison divestment campaign, coordianted by worker organization Enlace, gained momentum.  In January, the United Methodist Church announced it would divest from the private prison industry and a screen against future investments in private prisons.  The Presbyterian Church USA followed suit by passing a resolution encouraging its members and congregations to divest from the private prisons.

Finally, pressure on board members of private prison corporations ramped up, as seen in this flash mob action against Corrections Corporation of America board member and former Senator Dennis DeConcini:

Big Stories of 2012 - #6 - The Ballad of Liberty County

To round out 2012, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered on our blog.  Our number six story of the year is the Ballad of Liberty County.

 TPB Big Story #6 - Liberty County Debates Ending Private Prison Contract 

Earlier this year, we brought you the Ballad of Liberty County. With the goal of lowering the operating

costs of the Liberty County Jail, 253rd District Court Judge Chap B. Cain initiated a plan to reduce the number of non-violent individuals housed in the jail.  The plan was successful, reducing the number of non-violent offenders in the jail dramatically.  

As we wrote back in March - 75th District Court Judge Mark Morefield, who supports the inmate reduction plan, stated: “’One (private prison) bid said that if the inmate population goes below 200, the cost per inmate goes from $63 to $68 per day. If we work really hard to decrease the inmate population, the cost will go up to $70 per day, … [t]hey are taking all the incentive out of it.’” 

Unfortunately, in April, the county renewed its contract with CEC for two years, though it is continuing to study the issue of de-privatization.  In October, a study by Texas A&M researcher Lynn Greenwood for Liberty County found that de-privatization of the Liberty County Jail would help the county to manage its jail costs as it continues efforts to reduce the population in its jail. According to a story in the Liberty County Vindicator

"The county instituted a bond supervision program and successfully reduced the jail population, “undermined by the increased cost of housing inmates”, says Greenwood. The current management company, Correctional Education Centers (CEC) increased their per person per day (PPPD) with lower jail population. In Tuesday’s court meeting, commissioners approved a payment for September 2012 to CEC for $333,972, a cost of $72 PPPD. The study determined the appropriate PPPD cost for Liberty County should be $43.70."

We will keep you posted on developments to this story in 2013.

 

Private prison contracts now available through Texas Prison Bid'ness

For the last few months, Texas Prison Bid’ness has been in

the process of making available private prison contracts in the state of Texas.  To find a contract, visit our map, where you can search by operating company and contracting agency or explore geographically; underneath the map you can choose to see a list of the facilities operated by a company.  

You can also use the search function on the left of our page to look for a specific facility. available contracts and other official documents for each of the private prison facilities in ourstate.   Through Texas public information laws, we’ve been able to compile contracts from nearly every state and county facility; thanks to our allies, we also have access to a number of federal contracts.  We will continue to update the site as more contracts come in.

Audits and evaluations available for some facilities, such as the Dawson State Jail.  Larger files, like the contract for Reeves County Detention Complex, are split into two parts.  Many federal facilities are under multiple agreements between a county, a federal agency, and a company; check out Newton County Correctional Facility and IAH (Polk) Secure Adult Detention Facility for some examples.

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Welcoming a new blogger at Texas Prison Bid'ness - Piper Madison

We are pleased to welcome Piper Madison
as our newest Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger. Piper is working this year in the Grassroots Leadership's Austin office, coming to us through the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Program, which matches young adults with non-profits for a year of service.
Piper graduated in May from the University of Alabama in Birmingham with a degree in North African Studies, which involved studying not only French and Arabic language but also the effects of political and economic colonialism on non-dominant ethnicities. Piper has served the PCUSA in various functions, most recently as an advisory delegate to the 220th General Assembly, where she advocated for queer rights and inclusivity.