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Corrections Corporation of America just got bigger in Texas

On October 29, 2015, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) sealed a $157.5 million deal on a major expansion with its acquistion of Avalon Correctional Services, Inc., a private community corrections company.

Now the nation's oldest and largest for-profit prison corporation will own or operate seven community correctional facilities in Texas: Austin Residential Reentry, Austin Transitional Center, Corpus Christi Transitional Center, Dallas Transitional Center, El Paso Multi-Use Facility, El Paso Transitional Center, and Fort Worth Transitional Center.

The acquistion adds 3,157 re-entry beds in Texas and is expected to boost revenue by $35-$45 million.  We'll be updating our map to note that the former Avalon facilities are now operated by CCA. 

TX highlights from Corrections Corporation of America's 3rd quarter earnings announcement

On November 5, 2015, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) executives announced their 3rd quarter earnings results, including updates on the company's business in Texas. Check out the latest Texas updates from CCA below. You can find the full transcript here.

  • In October 2015, CCA closed the deal on the acquisition of Avalon Correctional Services, Inc. (Avalon), a for-profit community corrections company. As a result of the deal, CCA now owns or operates 17 re-entry facilities around the country, totaling 4,365 beds. Of the facilities acquired from Avalon, seven are located in Texas — a significant expansion of the company's control of private residential re-entry beds in the state. 
  • CCA hoping for contract renewal at the 1,400 bed Eden Detention Center under Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) CAR-16 procurement. Announcement anticipated 2017.
  • After a federal judge ruled that family detention violates the 1997 Flores Agreement, CCA currently awaits outcome of appeal process. In the meantime, in order to comply with the federal ruling, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX must operate as a "short term processing center" resulting in a reduction of the average length of stay for immigrant families at the facility. However, CCA is hopeful, stating: "... our government partner [ICE] continues to highlight the need for this facility and praises the high quality services and the open, safe and appropriate environment we provide to our residents at the facility."

 

CCA’s sneaky attempt to stay in Dallas for the next 40 years

Last month, Dallas County Commissioners had a tough decision on their hands. After CCA was  expelled in 2013 with the closure of Dawson State Jail in downtown Dallas, the private prison company swooped in to take over a contract that could keep them in town for the next 40 years.

 

Last year, Dallas County entered into a contract with Lifestyles Management of Avalon Correctional Services to lease ten acres of land and build a 300-bed halfway house. CCA is now taking that contract over in spite of serious concerns raised by Dallas leaders. According to the Dallas Morning News, Commissioner John Wiley Price was “concerned about CCA’s record of prison abuse, riots and poor employee pay.” Unfortunately, Price also felt the county had no way to block it.

 

The decision was on the agenda at the Dallas County Commissioners meeting on Oct. 20th, but commissioners postponed the vote until Nov. 3rd to further research the deal. In testimony to the commissioners, local advocate, Josh Gravens, expressed concern about the well-being of halfway house residents. Knowing CCA’s history, he questioned whether the company is more interested in helping former inmates or turning a profit. Unfortunately, Dallas County commissioners felt they had no choice, and approved the lease take-over.

 

In a letter responding to advocates concerns, Commissioner Price revealed how CCA’s tactics backed them into a corner. According to Price, the Dallas County Commissioners, “have no legal means to stop [the contract]” and he encouraged the community to, “let us join in acknowledging the need being filled and lend our voices to the chorus calling on CCA to do better.” His response left many questions unanswered.


Although county commissioners approved the lease, local advocates worked with members of the commission to insert important safeguards into the contract. CCA will be required to provide transportation for residents of the halfway house, CCA cannot expand the facility to more than the originally proposed 300 beds, and CCA is prohibited from using the leased property as anything but a halfway house. Although these provisions are considered a win, close monitoring of CCA’s lease will be required.

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Small Arizona town profits from family detention in Dilley

On August 5th, in the midst of the legal battle concerning the fate of immigrant families currently locked up awaiting their asylum hearings, News 4 Tucson investigators shined a spotlight on how a small Arizona town is cashing in on the detention of immigrant women and children in Dilley, TX.

CCA's Family Detention Camp in Dilley, TX
CCA's Family Detention Camp in Dilley, TX

The report broke down the agreement between the City of Eloy, AZ, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). 

After the surge of Central American immigrants arrived at the Texas border last year, CCA rushed to build the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. According to ICE spokesperson, Adelina Pruneda, 

"The contracting process for the Dilley facility was necessarily accelerated in response to the 2014 humanitarian crisis of families entering through the Texas Rio Grande Valley from Central America.  To accelerate the lengthy contracting process, ICE modified an existing contract with the City of Eloy, Arizona, to operate the Dilley facility. Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) has been contracted by the City of Eloy to provide day-to-day operation of the residential facility."

There was no bidding process and the city of Eloy gets fifty cents per bed per day to be the “fiscal agent”, amounting to around $438,000. 

Meanwhile, at ICE’s Phoenix office, activists held a protest calling for justice for immigrant detainees who have died in ICE custody at the Eloy Detention Center. 

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Lindsey State Jail official invites teens looking for summer work to consider CCA


Google Maps shows the Country Club next door to the Lindsey State Jail
Google Maps shows the Country Club next door to the Lindsey State Jail
There are several job openings at the Lindsey State Jail in North Texas as a result of a "rough year." And Security Chief Jim Cochran thinks local teenagers should apply. 

Jacksboro Newspapers reports: 

Cochran said it has been a rough year for the facility, with three correctional officers being lost for various reasons. Correctional officers are needed at the facility right now, which Cochran said would be a perfect job for those teenagers needing a job. The facility is also in need of a horticulture instructor and substitute teachers.

“Most teenagers won’t be making $10 an hour and that’s what we start at,” Cochran said. “We also offer health benefits for under $100 a month to our employees, which are pretty good.”

The Lindsey State Jail is run by the for-profit, private prison company Corrections Corporation of America. Anyone looking to work for CCA would do well to read up on the company's history. A report released by Grassroots Leadership in 2013 details CCA's track record of "Keeping Costs Low and Profits High Through Employee Mistreatment."

The report explains that CCA's cost-cutting initatives include low pay, little benefits, forcing employees to work without pay, and underpaying female staff. Perhaps the nearby Jackboro Country Club is hiring caddies. 

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Congressional delegation to visit Texas family detention centers

Congressional Democrats announce their tour of two Texas family detention centers
Congressional Democrats announce their tour of two Texas family detention centers
On Monday June 22 and Tuesday June 23, eight Democratic House members will visit two Texas family detention centers, the GEO-operated Karnes County Residential Center outside of San Antonio, and CCA-operated South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. The House members announced their trip and expressed concern over the Obama Administration's family detention policy in a press conference held last Thursday.

"It is not illegal to apply for asylum. It is the law of the land," said Rep. Gutierrez.

"Detaining children puts them at risk of mental and developmental problems," said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. "The people in these detention centers are...the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free of which Emma Lazarus spoke and which is emblazoned on our Statue of Liberty."

 

The members who will be touring the detention centers are: Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40). They are among the 136 House Democrats who signed a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an end to family detention. 

 

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Negotiations extended in Flores settlement, which could impact family detention policy

Negotiations based on this 1997 settlement are still underway.
Negotiations based on this 1997 settlement are still underway.

Negotiations between immigrant rights and government attorneys have been extended for another week in what been known as "the Flores case" after parties were unable to reach an agreement based on Judge Dolly Gee's preliminary decision.

As previously reported, some advocates believe that this litigation could cause dramatic changes to, or even end, the government's current policy of detaining asylum-seeking mothers and children while their cases proceed through immigration courts.

The outcome of these negotiations could determine the future of three family detention facilities, which together have the capacity to detain more than 3,000 individuals. These include two for-profit facilities in Texas: the Karnes County Residential Center run by the GEO Group, and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley run by Corrections Corporation of America.

The new deadline set for reporting on the Flores Settlement negotiations is July 3.

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Report reveals local quotas in South Texas immigrant detention facilities

Texas local quotas, image by Detention Watch Network
Texas local quotas, image by Detention Watch Network

A recent Detention Watch Network report uncovered local quotas at immigrant detention facilities in South Texas, according to The Associated Press. These local quotas are found in contracts with local governments and the private corporations that manage facilities for ICE.

In total, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is contractually obligated to pay for the detention of 3,255 immigrants daily at five facilities in Texas. Three of these are for-profit facilities operated by either Corrections Corporation of America or the GEO Group. These facilities are the Houston Processing Center, South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, and Karnes County Correctional Center. The highest guaranteed minimum at one of these for-profit facilities is 750 at Houston Processing Center, with South Texas Detention Complex falling close behind at 725. It is unclear whether the Karnes detention center, which has been converted into a family detention facility, is still operating under a 450-bed quota for its current population.

ICE officials say that these local minimums are a way to ensure that they meet the national quota mandating that 34,000 beds be available to detain immigrants each day. In all of the Texas facilities, the local quotas have been exceeded.

CCA's Dilley family detention center opens amid criticism

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was in South Texas this week to open what is slated to become the nation's largest immigrant detention center in Dilley. 

Sitting on a former "man camp" for oil field workers, it will become the site of a new family detention camp for women and children who have recently come to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the first 480 women and children are expected to arrive this week in Dilley and temporary housing under construction nearby could hold an additional 2,400. They will be held in portable buildings that can hold up to 8 women and children each.

The privately contracted facility sits on 51 acres and will have 2,400 beds at a cost of $260 million per year to taxpayers.

Johnson promoted the facility as a deterrant to others who might flee violence in Central America and come to the border seeking asylum. In a statement at the opening of the detention center, Johnson said the facility is part of "the border security aspects of the executive actions President Obama announced on Nov. 20."

The ACLU agreed and has sued the Obama Administration claiming that family detention is being used to intimidate others fleeing violence in from Central America from seeking asylum legally in the U.S. 

Johnson said that funding for the centers will expire in late February 2015 if Congress fails to act on a DHS request for supplemental funding for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
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"No Sanctuary: Big Business and Family Detention" premiered in Austin

The newest film by Austin-based filmmaker Matthew Gossage about family detention, "No Sanctuary: Big Business and Family Detention" premiered to an audience of over 80 people in Austin, TX last Friday.

The film, a short documentary running about 30 minutes, gives a brief history of family detention and the coalition that brought it to an end at the T. Don Hutto family detention center. It also follows a mother, Sara, who together with her 7-year-old daughter was detained in the newly opened Karnes Family Detention Center. Sara and her daughter, Nayely, won freedom from Karnes after their lawyer took their story to Grassroots Leadership and the media. Nayely has brain cancer and was not receiving medical inside the Karnes County family detention center, which is operated by the GEO Group.

The film is available for advocacy and organizing groups around the country who want to learn more about family detention and what they can do to bring this practice to an end, once and for all.

Watch the trailer below. If you would like to show the film in your commnunity, email tuff@grassrootsleadership.org

 

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