“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

Mineral Wells Still on Lockdown Two Days After Disturbance

The lockdown of the minimum-sercurity Mineral Wells pre-pareole prison continues days after a disturbance involving hundreds of prisoners. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has not said yet when the lockdown will be lifted, although they are saying that state officials are "interviewing" hundreds of prisoners. I think the word she actually means is "interrogating" --- I'm sure that prisoners won't have the option of declining to be "interviewed" as part of this investigation.

CCA is reporting that 36 prisoners have been transferred to other prisons because they are believed to have been involved in some of the violence. These prisoners are probably facing longer sentences even though they were assigned to Mineral Wells because they were approaching release.

CCA's spokesperson pointed out that Mineral Wells is a minimum-security facility:

"These inmates are placed there because they have clean disciplinary records, and they are generally cooperative." -- Rose Thompson, CCA spokesperson

Right, because CCA, who operates the lock-up, counts on getting prisoners that are fairly easy to manage. That helps keep the cost of operation of this particular prison down while actually leaving the more difficult-to-manage prisoners for the state-run prisons. An interesting way of keeping costs down and profits up.

No reports yet on the costs associated with the violence Monday night: the expense of bringing 30 local police to surround the prison, staff time for all these investigations, transportation costs for abruptly transferring prisoners, and which of these costs CCA will pick up and which will be picked up by the state.

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GEO Group Reports on Strong Financial Quarter

GEO Group's second quarter financial statements came out last week, and according to George Zoley:

"We are very pleased with our earnings results which reflect strong performance from our three business units as a result of better-than-expected performance by a number of our facilities and new contract wins. Our organic growth pipeline remains strong with projects totaling more than 11,000 beds under development, including projects we activated in the first half of the year, representing more than $198 million in combined annual operating revenues."

GEO Group reported over $258 million in revenue for the second quarter, roughly a 25% increase over the same period last year. That brings their revenue to almost $500 million for a six-month period, including their US prisons, prisons in other countries, and the GEO Care business. You can check out the latest up to date information about their stock thanks to Google finance.

Apparently no amount of scandal can slow GEO Group down. At the end of last month, GEO announced a new contract for a prison in Maverick County. I'll let this post from Bob explain all the scandals that immediately preceded this announcement. And now this week, the CDC is being summoned to Texas to investigate the mysterious illness of the prisoners in GEO Group's Val Verde lockup just as Idaho plans to move prisoners there. But hard to say if that will put a dent in GEO Group's bottom line either. We'll just have to wait for the third quarter report to see what effect all these problems will have on their profitability.

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Parker County Privatizing Jail

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the story that Parker County is privatizing its county jail, turning over operations to CiviGenics.

Grits for Breakfast raises great questions about the purported "cost-savings" that county officials are touting in conjunction with the privatization move:

"I'm highly skeptical of claims that CiviGenics can supply the same services as the county for $17 less - that's a 30% reduction from what the county says it spends now. So is it really possible CiviGenics can perform the same function for 30% less money and actually turn a profit? I find that hard to believe.

Instead, I think taxpayers will likely continue to subsidize the jail beyond the $39 per inmate. Of course, for starters there's the cost of the monitor. And I wonder if that $39 includes all healthcare costs? If CiviGenics cuts corners there, one lawsuit could more than wipe out any short-term savings the county enjoys.

Certainly taxpayers are still liable for any extant bond debt and maintenance costs. What expenditures go into that which aren't included in the $39 figure, I wonder?

What's more, this won't really save taxpayers money. The Sheriff doesn't plan on eliminating deputies' positions by turning the jail over to CiviGenics, but "increasing the number of deputies who patrol county roads." Taxpayers will still foot the bill for their salaries, which are a major portion of of jail costs (plus new patrol-related equipment costs) on top of the salaries for the privatized jailers. So let's be clear: In the end, taxpayers will pay more."

Considering a Private Prison, Jail or Detention Center: A Resource Guide for Public Officials (PDF) has more reasons why a private jail or detention center can do more harm than good for a county's bottom-line.

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Disturbance at CCA's Mineral Wells Private Prison

Hundreds of prisoners caused a disturbance by refusing to leave the yard at Mineral Wells Monday night, and two workers at the prison were later treated for injuries according to the Associated Press. The minimum-security lockup is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, as a 2,100-bed pre-parole facility.

Dallas Morning News reported that the Mineral Wells police were summoned to the prison at 9:15 PM.  Another AP story reports that fires were visible in the yard, and that the prison is now on lockdown. The article quotes CCA spokesperson Louise Grant:

It took about 3 1/2 hours and the use of "approved, non-lethal chemical agents" to bring the situation under control and begin processing the inmates back into their housing units, Grant said.

"At this time, no indication has been provided for the cause of the participants' actions," Grant said.

It could have to do the prisoners' frustration with the pre-parole system, which we've written about and Scott Henson has also covered in Grits for Breakfast. Problems that led one prisoner to describe Mineral Wells as "the abyss." In fairness to CCA, they haven't set up the pre-parole system, they just profit from it.

Although the story reports that a chemical agent was used against the prisoners, there are no reports at this time of the prisoners receiving medical treatment for any injuries.

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