“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

CCA Spent $2.5 million on Lobbying Federal Government in 2007

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.

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.

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.

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.

"Hutto: America's Family Prison" Screening Tonight in Taylor

Hutto: America's Family Prison, the short film by Lily Keber and Matthew Gossage, will screen tonight at the Taylor's downtown Howard Theatre at 7:00pm. The film will be part of a series sponsored by the East Williamson County Democrats. This months subject is immigration issues and will include Los Trabajadores, a film about day laborers in Austin. A discussion after the film will be moderated by Taylor resident Jose Orta.  More information at the Hutto blog.

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