“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

Advocates and County Judge at Odds Over New Detention Center

Duval County officials are still pushing for a new family detention center despite immigrant rights advocates and others saying that the centers have many problems, according to Public Radio International (PRI).

As we reported earlier, Duval County Judge Ricardo Carrillo submitted a proposal in July for a new family detention center in San Diego, hoping that the new facility will bring economic opportunities to the county. However, advocates and former employees of Karnes County Residential Facility, have different opinions on the matter.

Dr. Olivia Lopez, a former social worker at Karnes and whistleblower who exposed what she called “torture” inside, said that the environment at the detention center created high levels of anxiety for both the mothers and their children. "They were being lorded over at all times with the threat of removal of children or deportation all the time," Lopez said.

Immigrant rights advocates are also concerned about the detention center being run by Serco, a private UK-based corporation, which has been accused of abusive practices in their detention centers in both Britain and Australia. Justin Tullius, the managing attorney with RAICES at Corpus Christi, said "we're continuing our campaign to raise awareness about family detention, as it already exists in Karnes and Dilley. And to let them know that that's what it would look like here."

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Largest chapter of Texas prison guard union supports closing private prisons

The president of the largest chapter of the state Texas prison guard union said that the Texas prison system should close all private prisons, according to a report from Fusion on Aug. 25.

Lance Lowry, President of the Huntsville AFSCME Texas Correctional Employees chapter, said in a blog post that closing private prisons is necessary with the state prison system facing millions of dollars in budget cuts. Lowry said that the state should move low-level, nonviolent inmates out of prisons and to parole, probation, or electronic monitoring.

If private prisons are not closed or prisoners moved from those facilities, the budget cuts would stretch correctional officers even thinner without support in overcrowded prisons, he argued.

Lowry said “We’re not running our criminal justice system efficiently. A lot of inmates could be better managed under community supervision.”  

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Texas communities brace for private prison elimination

The Dept. of Justic's (DOJ) announcement to phase out private prisons has left communities in Texas, including Eden and Big Spring, worried about how it will impact their communities, reported the Standard-Times

Though the closure of the detention center would affect Eden the most, many employees at the detention center commute from surrounding areas. According to the Big Spring Economic Development page, the Big Spring Correctional Center employs about 550 people, thought it is not clear if they are commuters or live in Big Spring. 

The DOJ announcement said that privately run prisons "compare poorly" to government-run institutions. 

The Eden Detention Center has had several riots during its time of operation, including a protest over treatment of inmates in July. The Big Spring facility had a riot during 2008, which caused around $1 million in damagaes, and also unrest in 2011, when inmates attacked staff. 

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Stocks in Private Prisons Drop After DOJ announcement

After a statement released by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) about phasing out the use of private prisons, stocks plummeted for both Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the two largest private prison corporations, reported Bloomberg

CCA dropped 35% on the day, the highest since their initial public offering in 1997. Shares in GEO Group dropped 40%, which is the largest drop in the company's history. However, both companies stock did see a slight rebound as it was found out that facilities under contract with the Bureau of Prisons only account for about 7% of the company's business. 

This decision has no affect over contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. Contracts with ICE accounted for 24% of revenue in 2015 for CCA.

In regards to the DOJ announcement, Issaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point Reseach & Trading LLC wrote, "This policy shift is clearly a negative for the publicly traded for-profit prison companies, but it is far from a death sentence". 




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