“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

Superdelegate Has Ties to CCA

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:

  • Records show that he and Sharron Johnson (of the same address) each donated a legal maximum of $2300 to Senator Clinton's campaign in late 2007; and
  • In the summer of 2007, Johnson gave $1,000 to Senator Obama.

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.

Odessa CiviGenics Inmate Took His Own Life

21-year old Luis Chavez-Chavez was pronounced dead earlier this month after his body was discovered hanging in the CiviGenics-managed Ector County Correctional Center. CBS 7 is reporting that a preliminary autopsy indicates the prisoner committed suicide.

Current news reports do not mention conditions or staff-levels at the the Civigenics facility during Chavez-Chavez's death, but I was able to locate six immediate full-time job openings for the facility posted online at the beginning of the month. CiviGenics seems to have been searching for three guards and three medical professionals to staff the 223-bed jail very recently.

One reader believes CiviGenics' management of the facility was shoddy:

"While it is difficult to keep inmates from commiting suicide, when jails and prisons are run professionally, these tragic incidents can be kept to a minimum. This reduction requires proactive measures that include screening, observation, suicide watches, special cells that reduce the possiblity of self-harm, etc."

Mr. Chavez-Chavez was being detained for the charge of illegal entry by the U.S. Marshal Service, which has a contract with the Civigenics-managed Ector County Correctional Center.

MTV Video Explores Private Prisons, Power, and Politics

Think MTV has an excellent new video short up by a Tennessee independent journalist on over-incarceration, the private prison industry, and the Puryear nomination. Take a look:

 

 

Pretty good, eh? We'll post the next episode when it comes out.

Two Briefly Escape MTC's Kyle Unit

The Austin American Statesman's blog is reporting that two prisoners at MTC's Kyle Unit, a TDCJ-contracted facility in Hays County, briefly escaped this weekend. According to the article:

Two men who escaped from a Kyle private prison were apprehended this afternoon, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The two men were apprehended while walking on County Road 158 about three miles east of the facility, according to Jason Clark, a public information officer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
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