“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

Problems Pile Up at Hutto: Employee Fired for Inappropriate Contact

On top of the protests, the international criticism, and the lawsuits, now Corrections Corporation of America has fired a Hutto employee for "inappropriate contact with a detainee," according to KXAN (they've also posted video). KXAN is provocatively saying that there is "much more to the story," but not saying what that "more" is.

While it is appropriate for CCA to be taking action to protect this prisoner from their staffer, this incident is yet another instance of this prison bringing misery into people's lives. More on this as we learn more. I'm sure this awful incident will come up at the June 23rd protest at Hutto.


Houston-based Cornell Corrections Involved in Corruption Cases in Alaska

Alaska lobbyist Bill Bobrick has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, bribery and money laundering in the service of a "private corrections company" unnamed in the court documents. But an Anchorage Daily News article speculates that the unnamed private prison company is Cornell Companies Inc, based in Houston and already running six halfway houses in Alaska. According to the article, Cornell has faced a slew of rejections for expanding their business in Alaska:

Cornell, along with partners Veco and Allvest founder Bill Weimer, failed in recent years to win public support for private prison proposals in Anchorage, Delta Junction, Kenai and Whittier. It also failed to win state approval for a juvenile psychiatric treatment center in downtown Anchorage.

A lobbyist for the prison company -- who was working as a government informant and who has not been identified in court papers -- paid a total of $24,000 to Bobrick's Pacific Publishing, according to court documents. Bobrick turned over $10,828 to Anderson and kept the rest, the documents say. Anderson later complained he wasn't getting enough and was paid another $2,000 by the government informant, according to the indictment against him. The informant matches the description of Frank Prewitt, a former state corrections commissioner who went to work for Cornell.

The case is part of a widening corruption probe --- Bobrick is the seventh person charged as part of the investigation. Former representative Tom Anderson has been indicted and his case is going to trial in June. Bobrick will not be sentenced until after he cooperates in the prosecution's case against former representative Anderson. No word yet on how this case might affect Cornell's future business prospects in Alaska.

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GEO Group Flings Money and Promises to Laredo

Last week the Laredo Morning Times reported on an apparent largesse by the GEO Group's CEO George Zoley. Zoley promised a cool quarter million dollars each to the City of Laredo and to Webb County at a press conference. It may sound like a lot of money, but for Zoley and the GEO Group, it's a small investment in local goodwill with a huge cash payoff.

GEO has sealed a deal on a new federal jail in Laredo, a smaller version of the project that was being referred to as the "superjail" and has been met with considerable opposition. GEO anticipates this new 1,500-bed prison will pull in $31.5 million per year once it's operational in 2008. It will take the prison less than a week to earn GEO half a million dollars in revenue once it's full of prisoners. GEO was hoping to sweeten the deal for themselves by getting the county to foot the bill for construction, but the county nixed that idea, opting only to pay for the utilities necessary for the prison.. at a cost of approximately $500,000. For those of you doing the math, the county is getting $250,000 and paying $500,000 to help GEO get their prison.

Why pay money to have a prison in your county? GEO Group wasn't just handing out money... GEO is predicting all sorts of tax benefits, jobs galore, and other perks... even though there is plenty of evidence that prisons cost rural communities on several levels and don't deliver on all their promises (see this excellent summary on the false promises of rural prisons by Tracy Huling). Laredo isn't exactly rural, but like a number of rural communities, it's counting on the prison as an economic development tool. And the prison will make money... for GEO Group.

There's big money to be made in private prisons in South Texas. A May 2006 count by the Texas Observer put the number of private prison beds in South Texas alone at approaching 5,000. 5,000 prison beds making money a day... that's a lot of profit, and lot of lives... certainly the sort of profit that will get someone handing out money and promises pretty freely.

Private Prison Guard Arrested for Drug Smuggling

The San Antonio Express News reported this past week that a private prison guard was arrested for smuggling drugs into a private correctional facility.

The private prison guard , 31-year old Hector Almanza, reported smuggling items in to the GEO run facility before, like a cell phone. An WOAI.com article mentions that another guard was arrested for smuggling May 11th.

Almanza is in the Bexar County Jail and will be transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

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