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September 2016

Welcoming new Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger, Jake Crowther

Jake Crowther is the Young Adult Volunteer at Grassroots Leadership and our newest Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger. Originally from Clemson South Carolina, Jake studied Spanish and International Health at Clemson University. During this time, he gained a great appreciation for community development, and the desire to work with individuals who have been marginalized by our society. While at Clemson, he began to explore and learn more of the pain and issues that U.S. policy had caused both in Latin America and among Latino communities in the U.S.

Before coming to Austin, Jake spent a year interning in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. While living on the border, he worked with Frontera de Cristo, a bi-national border ministry.  Their hope is to educate people about U.S. border/immigration policy, its impacts, and the many ways that we can respond to help those directly impacted by these policies. While there, Jake delved deeper into the connection between a broken immigration system and the private prison industry. 

He comes to Grassroots hoping to continue his education, so that he may go out and let others know about these systems that are focusing on making a profit off of human beings. He also hopes to be able to learn ways to use direct action as a mode of helping others wake up and become aware of the issues that are happening in our own backyard.

Stay tuned for more updates from Jake. 

CCA to cut costs amid criticisms

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is set to lay off staff and cut costs as criticism of private prisons continue, reported MarketWatch

On Tuesday, CCA announced a plan to cut costs at their headquarters, while Chief Executive Damon Hininger said he would forfeit $2 million worth of restricted stock that he received in February. He then went on to request the company not reward him any equity-based compensation in 2017. 

CCA shares were falling steadily in after-hours trading and shares have fallen more than 45% since the Dept. of Justice announced they would no longer be using private prisons.

Jail company to work on courthouse in West Texas

Ector County commissioners instructed building maintenance employees to seek help from Community Education Centers Inc. (CEC) on repairs to the sewage system in the courthouse, reported the Odessa American Online. This issue was first reported in March of 2016, when water and raw sewage began leaking from the ceilings underneath the county jail. This put many official documents at risk and created a very unpleasant work environment. 

CEC is the for-profit, private prison company that operates the jail  located in the Ector County courthouse. There is a smell of sewage in the county offices located underneath the jail that CEC operates. The plan to repair the sewage pipes would involve putting smoke inside the pipes and having CEC employees and building maintenance see where the smoke leaked so they could go about repairing the pipes.

CEC said they were willing to spend $15,000 on the project, which is estimated to cost between $3 and $4 million. This would include repairing the pipes and bringing the building up to American with Disabilities Act compliance.  

 

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CCA to cut costs amid criticisms

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is set to lay off staff and cut costs as criticism of private prisons continue, according to MarketWatch.

On Tuesday, CCA announced a plan to cut costs at their headquarters in Tennessee, while Chief Executive Damon Hininger said he would forfeit $2 million worth of restricted stock that he received in February. He told the company not reward him any equity-based compensation in 2017.

CCA shares were falling steadily in after-hours trading and shares have fallen more than 45% since the Dept. of Justice announced they would no longer be using private prisons in August.

Questions raised over new Alvarado immigrant detention center

A single new immigrant detention center south of Dallas has become the focal point of many issues facing immigrant detention centers, reported the Dallas News.

The new Praireland Detention Center, run by for-profit Emerald Correctional Management LLC, will hold up to 707 immigrants, which includes a special wing for three dozen transgender migrants.  Many activists are worried for the transgender migrant population, and hope that the new facility will have security provisions to keep transgender migrants safe from abuse and sexual assult. Nell Gaither, founder of Dallas-based Trans-Pride Initiative, said that a better solution would be alternative-to-detention programs, such as telephone monitoring or the use of ankle monitors. Although Gaither said that "our preference is that they not hold any trans or queer persons." 

In the midst of a presidential election and the public unsure which direction immigrant detention will go, the amount of beds filled at the facility could vary greatly. However, thathat will not impact the payment that Emerald receives. The contract Emerald has guarentees $89.25 per day for a minimum of 525 beds, regardless of if they are filled or not. “It is a guaranteed minimum revenue stream,” said Emerald CEO Steve Afeman. “Otherwise, how would you get a $60 million facility custom-built.” Though the Dept. of Homeland Security is reviewing whether private corporations should run immigration centers, CEO Afeman said he's doubtful contracts for immigrant detention centers are under threat. 

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Questions raised over trans pod at new Alvarado immigrant detention center

A single new immigrant detention center south of Dallas has become the focal point of many issues facing immigrant detention centers, reported the Dallas Morning News.

The new Praireland Detention Center, run by for-profit Emerald Correctional Management LLC, will hold up to 707 immigrants, which includes a special wing for three dozen transgender migrants.  Many activists are worried for the transgender migrant population, and hope that the new facility will have security provisions to keep transgender migrants safe from abuse and sexual assault. Nell Gaither, founder of Dallas-based Trans-Pride Initiative, said that a better solution would be alternative-to-detention programs, such as telephone monitoring or the use of ankle monitors. Although Gaither said that "our preference is that they not hold any trans or queer persons."

In the midst of a presidential election and the public unsure which direction immigrant detention will go, the amount of beds at the facility could change. However, that will not impact the payment that Emerald receives. The contract Emerald has guarantees $89.25 per day for a minimum of 525 beds, regardless of if they are filled or not. “It is a guaranteed minimum revenue stream,” said Emerald CEO Steve Afeman. “Otherwise, how would you get a $60 million facility custom-built.”

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Parents of 20-year old who died in Bi-State jail file suit

According to the Associated Press, and reported by TXKtoday, the parents of a 20-year old Texarkana woman who died in a Bi-state jail this summer have filed a law suit against a nurse who reportedly refused to treat her. The woman's blood sugar level was over 800 when she died on July 1st, according to the law suit. The nurse in question refused to test the woman's blood sugar levels despite multiple high level readings from earlier in the day. The nurse reportedly put glucose (sugar) in the woman's mouth after receiving a reading that said she had high blood sugar levels. 

The law suit said that the investigation by LaSalle Corrections, the private company that operates the Bi-State jail, was inadequately conducted. LaSalle Corrections is in charge of overseeing the medical care at the facility and is involved in the law suit the family has filed. The Bi-state jail is located on the border between Texas and Arkansas, but the lawsuit has been filed in Arkansas, when the family lives. 

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Dept. of Justice urged to investigate ADA violations in Karnes family detention center

 

Grassroots Leadership reports that an Austin-based immigration attorney has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate why the school inside of the Karnes Family Detention Center is inaccessible to students or others with mobility impairments.

In a September 19 press release, Grassroots Leadership writes:

"Attorney Virginia Raymond, in a September 17 letter to the DOJ Civil Rights Division, described how one of her child clients, who had broken her leg while in detention and uses crutches, was unable to attend the charter school at the Karnes facility due to it being on the second story. There is no elevator at the for-profit detention facility.

The letter goes on to explain that the charter school for the children detained in the facility has been operated by the John H. Wood, Jr. Public Charter School District, but it is unclear if the company still operates it.

Raymond says by being inaccessible to those with mobility impairments, the facility is in violation of at least three federal laws: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Individuals with Education Act (IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Austin's Chief Acevedo to help review privately-run prisons

Chief Art Acevedo
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is on the 40-person review board that will review the use of privately-run immigrant detention centers in the US, reports the Statesman.

Chief Acevedo and Annise Danette Parker, former mayor of Houston, are the only Texans on the review board. They have been asked to review the use of for-profit corporations in the detaining of immigrants throughout the country. Chief Acevedo will be on a subcommittee to investigate private detention centers, while for mayor Annise Danette Parker's role is unsure. The review must be completed by the end of November. 

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Private prison bonds downgrade after Dept. of Justice announcement

The Bond Buyer reported that bonds for three privately-owned prisons in Texas had been downgraded to junk-status after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would be phasing out the use of private prisons. The Justice Department's announcement was a major factor in the downgrading of the bonds.

While the DOJ announcement only affects private prisons run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, the announcement has also led Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to order a review of the Department of Homeland Security’s reliance on private prisons. The announcement by Sec. Johnson has added more stress to high-level bonds that are used to build detention centers that detain immigrants.  

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