Columbia University this month became the first college in the U.S. to divest from private prisons, as the result of the student organizing campaign, Columbia Prison Divest.
Could the University of Texas be next for a divestment campaign? It's possible.
According to their publicly available filings, the UT Investment Management Corporation indirectly invests in the two largest private prison companies through its more than 18,000 shares in the Vanguard REIT Exchange Traded Fund. (REIT stands for Real Estate Investment Trust.) In turn, this fund in has nearly $300 million invested in the Corrections Corporation of America and more than $200 million invested in the GEO Group.
This wouldn't be the first time the University of Texas has been at the center of controversy over university ties to private prison companies. UT students, faculty, and alumni called out the McCombs School of Business in December over namesake Red McCombs' deal with CCA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to open the nation's largest family detention camp since Japanese internment. The family detention camp in Dilley, Texas, was leased to CCA and ICE by his real estate firm, Koontz McCombs.
Students, alumni and their supporters staged a sit-in at the off of the dean of the McCombs School of Busness demanding a meeting. About 50 UT faculty members also signed a letter to University President William Powers asking him to put pressue on McCombs to reconsider the deal.
In December, news broke that McCombcs had sold his stake in the firm.
There are several job openings at the Lindsey State Jail in North Texas as a result of a "rough year." And Security Chief Jim Cochran thinks local teenagers should apply.
Cochran said it has been a rough year for the facility, with three correctional officers being lost for various reasons. Correctional officers are needed at the facility right now, which Cochran said would be a perfect job for those teenagers needing a job. The facility is also in need of a horticulture instructor and substitute teachers.
“Most teenagers won’t be making $10 an hour and that’s what we start at,” Cochran said. “We also offer health benefits for under $100 a month to our employees, which are pretty good.”
The Lindsey State Jail is run by the for-profit, private prison company Corrections Corporation of America. Anyone looking to work for CCA would do well to read up on the company's history. A report released by Grassroots Leadership in 2013 details CCA's track record of "Keeping Costs Low and Profits High Through Employee Mistreatment."
The report explains that CCA's cost-cutting initatives include low pay, little benefits, forcing employees to work without pay, and underpaying female staff. Perhaps the nearby Jackboro Country Club is hiring caddies.
A recent Detention Watch Network report uncovered local quotas at immigrant detention facilities in South Texas, according to The Associated Press. These local quotas are found in contracts with local governments and the private corporations that manage facilities for ICE.
In total, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is contractually obligated to pay for the detention of 3,255 immigrants daily at five facilities in Texas. Three of these are for-profit facilities operated by either Corrections Corporation of America or the GEO Group. These facilities are the Houston Processing Center, South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, and Karnes County Correctional Center. The highest guaranteed minimum at one of these for-profit facilities is 750 at Houston Processing Center, with South Texas Detention Complex falling close behind at 725. It is unclear whether the Karnes detention center, which has been converted into a family detention facility, is still operating under a 450-bed quota for its current population.
ICE officials say that these local minimums are a way to ensure that they meet the national quota mandating that 34,000 beds be available to detain immigrants each day. In all of the Texas facilities, the local quotas have been exceeded.
Parker County has dumped private jail operater Community Education Centers in favor of of the Louisiana-based private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. According to a story in the Weatherford Democrat (Parker County Jail to get new management), the jail will change hands in October:
Ousting the current jail operator, Community Education Centers, Parker County commissioners voted to award the 5-year contract to the Louisiana-based company due to the difference in price.
The county has the option to renew the contract twice for two-year periods, according to information presented to the commissioners.
As we reported way back in 2007, Parker County privatized its jail at the time citing cost savings. At the time we quoted a Grits for Breakfast article questioning whether CEC could provide the same services at a discounted price and still make a profit.
It's unclear if, this time around, the Parker County Commissioners addressed any other factors than price in determining the new operator of the jail. We'd note that when Ellis County Commissioners rated bids for taking over that county's jail in 2013, LaSalle only received a 53 out of 100 rating while CEC got a 65. In 2013, both Ellis County and nearby Kaufman County rejected jail privatization with opposition from conservative forces.