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Opposition of CCA Executive to Federal Judgeship

A significant amount of opposition has been registered against Gustavus A. Puryear IV, general counsel since 2001 for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA is the nation's largest for-profit private prison company. As many of you know, several of the private prisons in Texas are operated by CCA. We recently posted information on CCA's latest investor phone call.

Puryear was nominated by President Bush in June of 2007 for a federal judgeship for U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee (the same jurisdiction where CCA's corporate headquarters is located).

An effort in Tennesse has developed that has worked hard to oppose the Puryear nomination. Tennesseans Against Puryear opposes the nomination for several reasons including:

  • Because as CCA's general counsel, Puryear, would hold a judgeship in the same district where CCA's corporate office is located, where numerous lawsuits against CCA are filed;
  • He has little trial experience in federal court; during his time at CCA he has worked to conceal damaging information about the company and has belittled prisoner litigation; and
  • As the top lawyer for the nation's largest private prison company is particularly ill suited to serve as a federal judge.

We find it encouraging that community groups are working the process to hold the President accountable for his nominations. Puryear's appointment could significantly impact the ability of the judicary to oversee private prison corporations and the various government agencies that contract with them. As the nomination process continues we will keep y'all posted.

Laredo ISD Challenges Sale of Webb County Juvenile Detention Center

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:

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Community Opposes Expansion of Half Way House

The Beaumont Enterprise recently reported opposition to the expansion of the Gulf Street halfway house, a private facility owned by Cornell Cos, a Houston-based private prison corporation. The change would have added 50-beds to the 180-bed Beaumont Transitional Treatment Center.

It appears that one of the primary reasons for opposition was the belief that expansion of the center would undermine the land value in the area.

Robert Reyna, Beaumont Housing Authority director, was opposed to the expansion because of the potentially detrimental impact on a $20 million Hope IV housing development that would bring 170 apartments and 83 single-family homes to the former South Texas State Fairgrounds.

Company represenatives stated they withdrew the propsal for expansion after hearing from residents.

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The New Yorker features Hutto

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:

  • electronic monitoring bracelets;
  • curefews; and
  • regular contact with a caseworker.

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.

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