“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

A Community Conversation on Race, Mass Incarceration, and the Private Prison Industry

Grassroots Leadership, in partnership with Huston-Tillotson University and Pi Gamma Mu, will host a community conversation with Nicole D. Porter and Christopher Petrella on Race, Mass Incarceration, and Private Prisons. We are eager to welcome Nicole and Christopher to Austin, to learn from their research, and to dialogue together about how we organize to address these issues locally. See speakers' bios below. 

Light refreshments will be available. Huston-Tillotson University will host the event in the Dickey-Lawless Auditorium from 6:30 pm until 8:00 pm. For more information please contact Grassroots Leadership at 512-499-8111. 

Nicole Porter co-chairs Grassroots Leadership’s board and is the Director of Advocacy for theNicole: Nicole PorterNicole: Nicole Porter Sentencing Project in Washington, DC, Nicole is the former director of the Texas ACLU's Prison & Jail Accountability Project (PJAP). PJAP's mission was to monitor the conditions of confinement in Texas jails and prisons. Nicole’s policy focus is on mass incarceration and state sentencing policies she and recently published a paper on state prison closures. Her research was instrumental in supporting organizing and advocacy in Texas during the 2013 legislative session to close two privately operated prisons. Porter graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Master's Degree in Public Affairs from the LBJ School. Her master’s thesis addressed exploring self employment as an economic strategy among formerly incarcerated African Americans. Porter received her BA in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. She also studied African Politics at the University of Ghana, West Africa.

Christopher Petrella is a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at the University of Christopher Petrella: Christopher PetrellaChristopher Petrella: Christopher Petrella California, Berkeley currently writing a book-length manuscript entitled Courts, Contracts, and Corporate Corrections: The Paradox of the Private Prison State. He is eager to share the findings of his most recent research on racial disparities in private prisons, which has earned significant press coverage, including on Tavis Smiley’s radio broadcast, NPR, and Mother Jones. He's also co-directing a national campaign aimed at bringing transparency and accountability to the for-profit, private corrections industry. Christopher has collaborated with organizations including the ACLU's National Prison Project, Harvard Law School's Institute for Race & Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Prison Legal News. He holds degrees from Bates College and Harvard University.

Tacoma Hunger Strike spreads to Texas

Inspired by the hunger strike in Tacoma, two days ago immigrants detained at the Joe Corley detention center in Conroe, Texas began a hunger strike. 

An attorney who spoke with the detained men on March 17 confirmed the following demands: that deportations be halted; detainees be treated justly; stop overcrowding in the cells; end to double judgement for old cases; more nutritious food; better medical care; lower calling prices and better prices in the commissary. 

The strikers' demands at both facilities show the sytemic abuse and neglect on the part of GEO Group, which operates both prisons, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They also wish to emphasize the inhumane nature of the industry in which they are trapped, which places profits ahead of human rights and welfare. Those striking at Joe Corley are facing denial of their asylum cases and force feedings. In spite of that, those at Tacoma have issued words of encouragement for their friends in Texas. 

 

CEC Snatches Contract with Burnet County Jail

The Burnet County and those involved with the operation of the Burnet County Jail have entered into a verbal agreement with New Jersey’s Community Education Centers (CEC). CEC will begin operating the facility on April 1. 

County officials, bondholders and the Public Facility Corporation, which provides funding for the jail, and CEC negotiated the contract on Wednesday at the Burnet County Courthouse. The official process of signing contracts could begin on Friday, provided that there is no dissent.

CEC has employees who are observing procedures at the jail. The facility has been run  by Southwest Corrections since 2008. Southwest Corrections’ contract expires on March 31.

Navy Flight School grad dies at Coastal Bend Detention Center

young man’s death  at the LCS-operated Coastal Bend Detention Center is causing quite a stir among law enforcement officials. 26-year old Trevor Nash, who allegedly committed suicide at the facility, had recently graduated from the Navy’s flight school at NAS -Corpus Christi. 

Sheriff Jim Kaelin received a call on Saturday, March 1, from the warden at the LCS facility. The warden reported that an incarcerated man, Nash, attempted suicide by hanging himself with a bedsheet. Nash was then transported to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. Nash was due to transfer to helicopter training school when he was arrested and charged with piracy.The death, currently ruled a suicide, is being investigated by the Nueces County Sheriff’s office. Detectives working for the sheriff’s office were refused entry into the facility by the U.S. Marshals Service, who claimed that the Texas Rangers would investigate the young man’s death.Sheriff Jim Kaelin had this to say:"The private prison LCS is under our charge, and we're responsible for the things that go on out there," Kaelin said. "Meaning that the U.S. Marshals service mandate that we make sure that we comply with rules, regulations and law." The Sheriff contacted the U.S. Marhsals in Houston in an attempt to find out why The Texas Rangers will be leading the investigation and not the sheriff’s office. No response has been received as of yet.

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