Tonight, monitors of the private prison industry will have their TIVOs set to PBS and CNBC for what look like hard-hitting exposés of the for-profit detention industry.
CNBC will air “Billions Behind Bars: Inside the American Prison Industry” at 8pm CST. According to the preview, CNBC reporter Scott Cohn
"travels the country to go inside the big and controversial business of prisons. He investigates the business model behind a private prison in Idaho, dubbed a “gladiator school” by inmates and former prison employees who cite its extraordinary level of violence. We also look at allegations of improper corporate prison industry influence over a tough immigration enforcement law in Arizona, and chronicle what happens when a hard hit town in Montana accepts an enticing sales pitch from private prison developers. In Colorado, we profile a little-known workforce behind bars, and discover that products created by prison labor have seeped into our everyday lives -- even some of the food we eat. We also meet a tough-talking judge in the law-and-order state of Texas who’s actually trying to keep felons out of prison and save taxpayer money, through an innovative and apparently successful program."
And, on PBS's Frontline tonight at 8pm CST, Maria Hinojosa "takes a penetrating look at Obama’s vastly expanded immigration net, explores the controversial Secure Communities enforcement program and goes inside the hidden world of immigration detention." Here's a preview:
As the Occupy Wall Street movement gains steam in several Texas cities (in Austin, Houston, McAllen, for instance), I thought we'd highlight the banking sector's role in the private prison industry. To start, here is a terrific video from Cuentame about the role of Wells Fargo in the private prison industry:
A former Corrections Corporation of America supervisor at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor has pled guilty to federal charges of sexually molesting detained women as they were being transported to the Austin airport. According to the Statesman blog post (Claire Osborn, "Former worker at detention center pleads guilty to molesting women," September 7, 2011) on the story,
"A former residential supervisor at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor pleaded guilty this week to molesting women he was transporting them from the center to the airport or bus terminal.
Donald Dunn pleaded guilty to two federal deprivation of rights charges, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office.
Dunn admitted to touching illegal female immigrants “in a sexual manner” between December 2009 and May 2010, the release said. He said that he would stop the vehicle along the way, order them to get out and convince them he was conducting a legitimate search, it said.
Dunn has not been sentenced but faces up to one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $100,000 for each charge, the release said."
Dunn has already served a year in state prison for the crimes. See our previous coverage of sexual abuse at Hutto:
The Texas Tribune's Brandi Grissom sat down Texas Commission on Jails Standards chief Adan Muñoz for an interview covering jail overcrowding, privatization, and other aspects of Texas' enormous county jail system (Brandi Grissom, "Adan Muñoz: The TT Interview," August 3). It's no wonder that Muñoz is one of our favorite Texas officials. Here's his reponse to a question about privately operated jails:
"They’ll build the facility above and beyond what is projected for the county's needs... so that they can house either federal inmates or out-of-state inmates in order to generate a profit. What we have been seeing lately, over probably the last year and a half to two years, is a diminishing of those select inmates that are out there for profit. So you've got these facilities that are built and financed by local governments... to bring in extra money for their communities at a time where those inmates were out there and available for these facilities. That's not the case anymore. A certain facility just went up for auction last week in this state, where that facility just basically got abandoned by the private vendor who says, "We’re not making any money, we’re moving." They can notify them and give them 60, 90 days, 30 days notification — whatever it is — and they’re gone. So the facility basically has to fall out of compliance or shut down. It’s a risky situation."
Munoz was also skeptical about proposals floated to privatize Harris County's massive jail system:
"If you run a small jail — when I say small jail, that's anywhere from 7 to 25 prisoners — your daily incarceration may be 7 or 8. So, are you better off shipping them off to the county next door rather than carrying the liability? Certainly. But when you have 11,000 prisoners like Harris County, it's real tough to get out of the jail business. For example, I know that Harris County has spoken of privatization. You really don’t have, in my opinion, you don’t have very many privates trying to do business with Harris, because where is their profit margin going to come from? I mean, if you have a $30 million debt of overtime you encumber or you accept as part of the privatization, where is your profit margin going to come from?"
Read the entire interview and watch the video here.