Laredo Independent School District trustee Jose A. Valdez expressed concern about the proposed sale of Webb County Juvenile Detention Center to Cornell Companies last week, citing the accompanying change in makeup of the facility from juveniles to adults as cause for concern due to the close proximity of the detention center to two elementary schools.
The Laredo Morning Times Reports:
"The detention center's location, in the 4100 block of Juarez Avenue, is too close to nearby schools and raises safety issues, Jose Valdez said."Our concern is that one block to the south is an elementary school, Santa Maria. On Chicago (Street), one block to the west is Farias Elementary," he said. "We don't want a prison there."
The proposed contract stipulates that the facility be used for re-entry of adult prisoners under jurisdiction of the United States Bureau of Prisons. Webb has been trying to sell its County Juvenile Detention Center for more than a year in order to pay for operation of a new juvenile detention center-- the Webb County Youth Village Complex.
On a slightly encouraging note, the issue of prison privatization seems to be getting a critical look in Webb County. Bob wrote earlier this month about the County Commissioner races going on in Webb, where some candidates are making opposition to Geo Group an important piece of their platforms. And this was in the LMT article:
"Martinez said the recent political climate and the controversysurrounding the GEO Group's new detention facility in south Laredo ishelping to fuel to the issue"
LISD trustee George M. Beckelhymer said it is always good to examine intent with respect to contracts, especially if one entity is a for-profit business.
The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest prison provider, held its 2007 4th Quarter conference call earlier this year. During the call, CCA updated investors regarding capacity and addressed new beds the company was bringing online as a result of increased demand for new prison beds. Company representatives emphasized that while the country is an economic downturn, the prison system is not impacted by negative economic cycles.
As of February 2008, CCA 41 owned facilities with 50,909 beds and 24 managed only facilities with 26,751 beds. The company managed contracts with 20 states, all three federal agencies, and the District of Columbia. Further, of the beds that CCA owned or managed in 2007 about 6.64% were in Texas.
CCA likes to emphasize its strong presence in the private prison industry; controlling approximately 47% of the private prison and jail beds in the nation. The company acknowledged it's own contributions to the growth of the private prison industry where staff mentioned that in 1990 private prisons numbered 10,973 and in 2007 that number increased to over 164,000 beds.
| U.S. Market |
| Owned and|
|The Geo Group Inc.||43,402||26.4%||19,902|
|Management & Training Corp.||11,945||7.3%||506|
|TOTAL ||164,612 ||100.0% |
Source: CCA Q4 2007 Investor Presentation
CCA officials stated that new reports relating to a reduction in Texas prison capacity will not impact CCA contracts since the the private prison company was not planning any local expansion. However, CCA staff emphasized that the state continues to operate its prison -- public and private -- at capacity.
The call also addressed trends at the federal level, including those that would facilitate capacity expansion and benefit CCA's bottom line. Specifically, the recently passed federal FY 2008 budget supports an increase of the immigrant detention population of 32,000 prison beds up from 27,000 beds from FY 2007 and an increase from the President’s previous budget. Further, the budget authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue future budget requests for additional capacity if needed and requires the agency to update Congress monthly on immigrant detention capacity.
Additionally, the President recently released his FY 2009 budget that increases detention population beds to 33,000. In 2005, funding for detention beds numbered only 19,000. As a result, there will be an addtional 1,000 to 1,500 new immigrant detention beds that will come online by 2009.
The call highlighted trends at the state and federal level and painted an overall picture of the direction of CCA. As advocates working to address the problem of mass incarceration and how private prison operators contribute to that growth it is truly disturbing to observe the comments of CCA represenatives who relish the nation's projected prison prison growth.
Tracie McMillan over at the Huffington Post has profiled Superdelegate Joseph F. Johnson, a former Corrections Corporation of America board member. He is a member-at-large of the Democratic National Committee from Chantilliy, Virginia - a suburb of Washington D.C.
Reports indicate that he is supporting Senator Hillary Clinton. However, he has not publicly committed to either Clinton nor Senator Barack Obama. In fact, Johnson has donated to both campaigns:
Johnson was appointed to the board of Corrections Corporation of America, the largest operator of private prisons in the country. While serving in that position from 1996 to 1999, Johnson earned accolades and handsome rewards from CCA for convincing Washington, D.C. to send prisoners to CCA's Youngstown, Ohio prison. Johnson also has a history of lobbying for private prison companies in Texas and around the nation.
The private prison in Ohio had a notorious reputation for violence and escapes. By 1998, there had been two fatal stabbings, 44 assaults, and six escapes at the prison. Despite the egregiousness of the incidents, Johnson claims that no one's was to blame. According to McMillan's article:
Mr. Johnson nonetheless profited from the deal, receiving $2.6 million in stock options for his work linking CCA with officials in Washington, D.C. Calling his work "instrumental" to their receipt of the contract, CCA said that Mr. Johnson had "exceeded his duties and obligations" to the company and also paid him $382,000 for his "consulting services" in helping to arrange the deal, and $991,000 for NCRC's services in another CCA prison in Texas.
What an interesting development in the presidential campaign that keeps on going. As potential president-makers, the Superdelegates continue to face scrutiny. It will be interesting to see if any others are linked to private prison companies.
"We are working on three separate projects in Texas. In Montgomery County, we are awaiting the county’s completion of a 1100-bed non-recourse bond financed detention facility which we expect will be used by other state or federal agencies. We expect to open this managed [unclear] facility in September and estimate it will generate $14 million in annual operating revenues.
In Laredo, we are building the 1500-bed Rio Grande Detention Center for the US Marshals Service under contract for the office of the federal detention trustee. This facility will cost approximately $86 million when completed and is being company-financed. We expect the contract to generate approximately $36 million in annual revenues when the facility is available to open by October of this year. Our contract with OFDT provides for a fixed monthly payment with an occupancy guarantee of 50% enabling us, again, to recover all of our fixed costs in desired economics at the guaranteed occupancy level. We receive a nominal per-diem for population levels in excess of the 50% guarantee.
In Maverick County, we are constructing a 654-bed detention facility which is being financed through the issuance of non-recourse project revenue bonds. We anticipate the project will be completed and ready for occupancy by the federal or county detention agencies in September. At full occupancy this managed-only facility will generate approximately $10 million in annualized operating revenue exclusive of debt service."
Also of Note
Geo Group may bid on the sale of the Coke County facility that was shut down last October because of unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
"Our guidance also does not take into account our possible reactivation of the Coke County Texas Facility, which is currently the subject of a public auction by its owners—the County."
"...I don’t think they’ve placed any kind of limitations, per se, on which prisoners can come in there"
Geo Group will likely bid on new immigrant detention contracts funded in the 2008 federal budget
"Congress has approved a budget for 2008 fiscal year, and has provided funding that supports a 4,500-bed increase in the immigration detention beds to 32,000 beds from the prior year’s 27,500."
Geo Group is finalizing the renewal terms of a 5-year Bexar County Facility Agreement
“On December 20th, we were selected by Bexar County to negotiate a 5-year contract to continue to operate the 688-bed central Texas detention facility in downtown San Antonio. We are currently working with the county to finalize terms to renew our 5-year agreement.”