Via the T. Don Hutto blog, Forbes has an article detailing that Corrections Corporation of America, operator of many private prisons in Texas including the T. Don Hutto family prison, spent a whopping $2.5 million lobbying the federal government in 2007. This amount is on top of the $180,000-$235,000 that CCA spent lobbying in Texas in 2007.
According to the article, the lobbying came in three major areas: 1) lobbying to privatize the Bureau of Indian Affairs prison system, 2) lobbying against the Public Safety Act which would outlaw private prisons, and 3) lobbying against the Private Prison Information Act which would give the public the same access to private prison information as public prisons.
In addition to lobbying Congress, CCA lobbied the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. Homeland Security and DOJ are big targets for private prison corporations because they hand out lucrative federal detention contracts, which have become a boom industry for private prisons as the immigration law becomes more punitive.
The article goes on to list some of CCA's lobbyists who include such well-heeled folks as:
- Bart VerHulst, previously chief of staff for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.;
- Mike Quinlan, former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; and
- Gus Puryear, previously counsel to Frist and an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Followers of private prison news may know that Gus Puryear, in addition to being a former CCA lawyer and lobbyist and aid to Frist and Cheney, is a current nominee for the federal judgeship in Nashville. His nomination has drawn considerable opposition.
One of the ironies of the private prison industry is that, because the company's profit is all garnered through government contracts, all $2.5 million spent by CCA on lobbying was originally government money that CCA made off previous government contracts. We'll keep you updated on further news about private prison corporations lobbying.
The New Yorker magazine features the T. Don Hutton facility its latest edition. The article entitled "The Lost Children," by Margaret Talbot offers a comprehensive analysis of the policy issues that led to family detention at Hutto. The article is available in the March 3rd edition of the magazine and should be available online over the next few weeks.
The article charts the flawed policy changes undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, Talbot mentions that immigrant detention increased by 79% in 2006 from the previous year due to the end of "catch-and-release" in 2005.
Yet, the article also mentions that the government recommended several alternatives to incarceration for undocumented immigrants and their children including the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program which allows people waiting for their cases to be decided to be released to the community provided they are tracked by:
The government established several pilot programs and determined the community supervision of undocumented immigrants is effective; 90% of the people enrolled in these programs show up for their court dates.
The article also features a comments by our Judy Greene who emphasizes that clear problems with private prison facilities include their ability to circumvent the release of information regarding their facilties such as use of force against prisoners.
The article provides a wealth of information regarding Hutto and the policy changes that created it. We invite you to obtain the last copy of the New Yorker to add to your library. We will update the post with the link when it becomes available.
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Texas Youth Commission (TYC) conservator, Richard Nedelkoff, resigned from Florida-based Eckered Youth Alternatives -- a private, youth correctional agency. Nedelkoff's resignation came after being questioned by lawmakers during a legislative hearing.
Lawmakers questioned whether his personal business relationships with national experts he's brought in to assess the agency presented a conflict of interest.
According to lawmakers, several of the national experts had relationships to private prison agencies. Despite, denial that the private prison officials consulted by Nedelkoff contributed to bad decision making, he resigned soon after being quizzed by public officials.
In a statement, ... Nedelkoff said he was resigning his position as chief operating officer with the Florida-based Eckerd Youth Alternatives Inc. "to avoid any appearance of impropriety."
This is was an interesting development in the reforms being undertaken by TYC officials. We will keep you posted regarding on any relationships between the agency and private prison contractors.
The Statesman reported today that a forthcoming Legislative Budget Board (LBB) report will state that Texas prison growth has slowed resulting in the need for fewer prison beds.
That's the conclusion of a Legislative Budget Board study to be made public Monday. It attributes the slowdown to a decrease in the number of new felons, a slightly increased parole rate, fewer revocations of probation and parole that send violators to prison, and the projected effects of treatment and rehabilitation programs approved by the Legislature last year.
The report predicts that Texas' incarcerated population will average 156,364 this year and rise to 158,470 in 2012.
That is good news. During the 80th Legislature lawmakers authorized the construction of new prison beds pending the approval of the LBB. We continue to be unsure of how many of these beds may be private. We will continue to monitor these developments and increases in private state capacity in Texas.
Previous coverage on the Legislature: