Corrections Corporation of America has scheduled its 2013 4th quarter investor conference call Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10am CT. The investor calls are accessible through CCA's investor website and webcasts are generally made available in the days following the call.
These calls are often important gauges of where the industry thinks its future lies, whether its in expanded immigration detention contracts, out-of-state transfers from states like California, or increased state contracts. It will also be interesting to see if the loss of CCA contracts to operate the Dawson State Jail and Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility - together more than 4,000 prison beds - will impact the company's annual bottom-line.
Last January, Piper revealed the top 5 private prison industry lobbyists in Texas in 2012: Lionel Aguirre, Michael Toomey, Frank R. Santos, Lara Laneri Keel, and Dean McWilliams.
According to the Texas Ethics Commission's records for 2013, several of the aforementioned legislators have continued to lobby for the private prison industry, and several more names have come across our radar as well.
1. Lionel Aguirre
Aguirre received $25,000 from both Correctional Healthcare Companies, a private corrections healthcare company, and Correct Rx Pharmacy Services, which provides institutional pharmacy services. Aguirre also received $50,000 from GEO Group in 2013. Aguirre is registerd as a lobbyist for GEO Care, which claims to provide mental health services. He has served as a lawyer for GEO Group in the past and has and has received fat paychecks from them in recent years.
2. Tied: Lara Laneri Keel and Michael Toomey
Keel and received $50,000 from the Corrections corporation of America (CCA) in 2013. In 2011 and 2012, Keel took $50,000-$100,000 from CCA. Keel is also a member of the Texas Lobby Group and the director of the Texas Conservative Coatlition Research Institute.
4. Michael Toomey
Toomey received $50,000 from CCA in 2012, and is allegedly close to Rick Perry.
5. Frank R. Santos
Santos, who refers to himself as the top Hispanic lobbyist in Texas, received $50,000 from GEO Care, a division of GEO Group that operates state psychiatric hospitals for civil and forensic patients. GEO Group operates seven detention centers and twenty prisons in Texas.
6. Dean R. McWilliams
McWilliams received $25,000-$49,999.99 from Community Education Centers (CEC), the same company that operates the Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, TX. He held a contract with CEC in 2011 and 2012 for $50,000-$100,000, and is the co-founder of McWilliams Governmental Affairs Consultants. He is also proud of his service on the Legislative Budget Board Task Force on Health Care, as well as on the Lieutenant Governor's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding.
7. Allen Place
Place, who is a newcomer to this list, received $25,000-$49,999.99 from Management and Training Corporation (MTC). According to the Texas Tribune Lobbyists Directory, Place has also received money from the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the Texas Land Title Association.
8. William J. Miller
9. Gabriel G. Sepulveda
Sepulveda, a consultant based in Austin, received less than $10,000 from the GEO Group in 2013. Goodman, also a consultant in Austin, also received less than $10,000. Goodman has also received money from the Juvenile Justice Association of Texas.
10. Christie L. Goodman
Goodman, also a consultant in Austin, also received less than $10,000 From GEO Group. Goodman has also received money from the Juvenile Justice Association of Texas, whose website is sponsored by Abraxas, a GEO Group company that operates juvenile facilties.
According to 1200 News Radio, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, has found that 79 percent of Texans support alternatives to incarceration for drug offenders.
TPPF President Chuck DeVore stated that current Texas laws encourage incarceration rather than the use of effective alternatives:
If a local judge sends an offender to the state prison system, that offender accrues no cost to your county system, that offender becomes a state cost and state responsibility. But if the judge sends the offenders to rehabilitation, the local county has to pay for that, and that's unpopular among county leaders
The TPPF study also indicates that the rate at which Texas is incarcerating people is proving to be unsustainable as the state's population grows. DeVore claims that alternatives to detention can only be implemented if people know that crime rates are actually decreasing. Seventy five percent of those who responded to the survey think that the crime rate is holding steady or increasing, but FBI statistics indicate otherwise.
According to the study, the expansion of alternatives to incarceration could save Texas $2 billion in prison costs.
These developments, while laudable, bear further scrutiny. According to the Texas Observer, the TPPF has received $15,000 in donations from the GEO Group, a private prison corporation. GEO is also invested in alternatives to detention, primarily electronic monitoring devices that "monitor offenders as they live and work in the community" (GEO).
Salon Media reports today that New Jersey governor Chris Christie promotes Community Education Centers (CEC), a for-profit prison company. The facility is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrant men who are seeking asylum in the United States ("Chris Christie's Texas Horror: Meet the Scandalous Prison Company he's Long Promoted," 1/24/14).
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, visited Polk in 2012 and 2013 with other activists. Libal claims that "I've visited a bunch of detention facilities in Texas, and that's by far the worst." Libal's sentiments are reflected in a report released by the Detention Watch Network, a coalition comprised of the ACLU, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Grassroots Leadership, and others. The report alleges that those incarcerated at Polk receive inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, are neglected, and do not have access to legal services. An ICE spokesperson claims that these allegations, as well as similar ones reported during Grassroots Leadership's and Texans United for Families' visit to Polk in 2013, are based on "unsubstantiated allegations."
Christie support of CEC harkens back to 2000 and 2001, when Christie was a registered lobbyist for the company. The state of New Jersey has also contributed financially to CEC. Former CEC employees told the New York Times "that the company had kept staffing levels very low" and "did a poor job delivering counseling and other services intended to help inmates make the transition to society." Christie vetoed improvements in New Jersey halfway houses operated by CEC, and is a close friend of Bill Patalucci, a CEC executive. Patalucci later served as chairman of Christie's 2013 re-election committee and he and Christie's brother co-chaired Christie's inaugural committee.
Libal points out that CEC continues to use Christie's support for the company as a public relations tool. Governor Christie spoke at the ten-year anniversary of the Dleaney Hall New Jersey Halfway House two years prior to the facility became the subject of a New York Times investigation. Christie had this to say about the facility:
"Places like this are to be celebrated. A spotlight should be put on them as representing the very best of the human spirit. Because when you walk through here as I've done many times, what you see with your very eyes are miracles happening."