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Private Prisons Spend Millions On Lobbying To Put More People In Jail

By Balzafire, Feb 17, 2012 | Updated: Feb 17, 2012 | | |
  1. Balzafire

    Yesterday, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released a report chronicling the political strategies of private prison companies “working to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences.”
    The report’s authors note that while the total number of people in prison increased less than 16 percent, the number of people held in private federal and state facilities increased by 120 and 33 percent, correspondingly. Government spending on corrections has soared since 1997 by 72 percent, up to $74 billion in 2007. And the private prison industry has raked in tremendous profits. Last year the two largest private prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — made over $2.9 billion in revenue.

    JPI claims the private industry hasn’t merely responded to the nation’s incarceration woes, it has actively sought to create the market conditions (ie. more prisoners) necessary to expand its business.

    According to JPI, the private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

    The impact that the private prison industry has had is hard to deny. In Arizona, 30 of the 36 legislators who co-sponsored the state’s controversial immigration law that would undoubtedly put more immigrants behind bars received campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists or companies. Private prison businesses been involved in lobbying efforts related to a bill in Florida that would require privatizing all of the prisons in South Florida and have been heavily involved in appropriations bills on the federal level.

    Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI recommends that we “take a hard look at what the cost of this influence is, both to taxpayers and to the community as a whole, in terms of the policies being lobbied for and the outcomes for people put in private prisons.”

    By Andrea Nill Sanchez on Jun 23, 2011


  1. nitehowler
    These private prisons are a real worry to the community in the fact that less prisoners get parole approved due to these money making scams. A lot of money is taken by these companies and it is a conflict of interest and in their interest to keep people in jail that would normally be on parole.
    Giving money to political parties and spending money to lobby government policy should be against the law and should be rated as bribery. this is a terrible situation and is happening in many counties on the hush hush.
    Criminals that are jailed come out as worse hardened criminals and jail rarely produces rehabilitated criminals .
    So the end result is the government is hardening up these people and making our communities even more unsafe to live in.
    I do believe some people need to be punished by means of jail but jailing people for minor crimes and drug crimes is a waist of tax payers money and can usually be dealt with in other ways.
    Ever wondered why were all going into a recession?
    Because of bad government policies and ridiculous government taxes.
  2. Mindless
    It seems that if an organisation has deep enough pockets, it can buy laws that favour it. Insanely harsh drug laws are expensive and are adding to the problem, easing up on the pointless incarceration of drug users might ease the burden on the prison system. Alternatively, given the scale of drug and alcohol use, why not just lock everyone up?
  3. catseye
    Does anyone know what current percentage of the US prison population is held in private prisons? I know this tells us the increase in the population, but it doesn't give a baseline figure as far as I can see.
    I read that in 2009 the US housed just over 7% of its population in privatised prisons so I'm wondering how much that has increased (in real numbers) since that was reported.
    Apparently England and Wales have the highest rate of privatised prisons in Europe - housing around 11% of the prison population (just over 9'000 people).
    The privately run prisons here consistantly score far lower on performance ratings, and significantly higher on the number of complaints upheld.
    How nice to see the industry making its way across the pond, eh? :s
  4. al-k-mist
    Fuck CCA. Fuck them so deep with no lubricant.
    Do you want first hand information? AFOAF served 1 1/2 years of his sentence at a CCA facility.
    People recieved write ups(infractions) for everything they did wrong, many for bullshit. and much worse than "Thirty days in the hole" was the loss of good conduct time for each infraction. CCA intentionally keeps people in there longer based on bullshit.
  5. CaptainTripps
    "What drug is this about? Only post drug-related articles in the Drug News forum"

    This comment really kind of blows my mind. How about all of them. Anything about prisons, especially in the United States has something to do with drugs. Many state prison's have a large percentage of drug offenders. It is even worse with the Fed's. Any kind of lobbying or movement to put more people in prison is obviously going to have a direct and undeniable affect on dealers and even users of drugs. The United States already incarcerates a higher percentage of it's population than any other "civilized" country. I have seen statistics that show about half of the federal prison population is drug offenders.

    In the US we have already had years of three strikes policies and hard time for crimes involving firearms. People who commit violent crimes in the US, especially repeat offenders already get very long prison terms. No need for lobbying there. No the area where there is some discretion is drugs. Many states are reducing penalties or are looking at diversion programs. If you are going to increase the already obscenely bloated US prison population, you are going to have to go after non violent offenders. Where better to look than at the nearly infinite supply of drug dealers and users in the good old USA.

    I personally think that the original post on this thread is very much about drugs. I guess I think that it should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention to the drug war in the US. Just my opinion of course. Also I not commenting on the rep given, just the comment that was made.
  6. talltom
    I agree Captain; drug laws are the most important reason for the increase in the prison population, and especially the rise in private prisons. And here's another article that explains the politics behind this, and how the private prison industry prevents reform of drug laws -- to keep the prison population high.

    America's Gulag: The Money (in Politics) Behind Prison Privatization

    The Huffington Post published an excellent piece yesterday by reporter Chris Kirkham describing how the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) wants to buy up state prisons, all under the guise of helping state governments deal with their budget shortfalls.

    Called the Corrections Investment Initiative (sounds so positive, right?), it's a sickening display of exploitive behavior -- perhaps best underscored by the fact that the CCA stipulates in its "investment" overture that, as part of the deal, the states need to keep the prisons packed. Their language for it: "An assurance by the agency partner [the state] that the agency has sufficient inmate population to maintain a minimum 90 percent occupancy rate over the term of the contract."

    It reminded me of a recent article in the New Yorker by the game-changing journalist Adam Gopnik:

    Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today -- perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850... Over all, there are now more people under "correctional supervision" in America--more than six million -- than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.

    Yet the one major element that is missing from both Gopnik's and Kirkham's coverage of private prisons is the very element that is at the core of the prison industry's power (and so much of our country's dysfunction) -- money's domination of politics.

    Private prisons are a booming business. Over the past ten years, the two largest prison companies (CCA and GEO Group) saw their annual revenue double. The best way to drive up revenue, of course is to keep incarceration rates climbing. From CCA's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

    "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws," the company's most recent annual filing noted. "For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."

    The private prison companies that comprise this new American Gulag thus have a clear economic incentive to maintain the status quo. So how do they keep the demand for their services rising?

    Here are the facts, gleaned from great groups like Public Campaign, the Center for Responsive Politics, and the Sunlight Foundation:


    -Private prison companies spend millions lobbying the government to support policies favorable to them. Since 2001, CCA and others have spent over $22 million lobbying Congress ($17 million was spent by CCA alone during that time period). Last year, CCA was represented by 37 different lobbyists, many of whom once worked on Capitol Hill, including Vic Fazio, a former U.S. congressman from California.

    -What are they lobbying for? One recent effort by CCA and GEO Group was to increase funding to Immigration Customs and Enforcement, which enforces immigration policies that send many undocumented immigrants to jail. CCA has lobbied the U.S. House, Senate, and the U.S. Marshals Service, and joined a diverse spread of groups lobbying the Bureau of Prisons last year, including the High Concrete Group, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

    -Private prison companies work with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), an ideologically conservative organization that unites state lawmakers with corporations, to secure the passage of favorable policies. Through ALEC, they've lobbied for harsher sentencing for nonviolent offenses (often drug-related) and anti-immigrant legislation. Most notoriously, ALEC was involved in passing a controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona in 2010, one that directly benefited private prison corporations.


    -For-profit prison corporations strategically donate to political campaigns both nationally and locally, maintaining political action committees (PACs) as well as donating on an individual level. Nationally, the PACs and executives of private prison companies have given at least $3.3 million to political parties, candidates, and other PACs since 2001, reports Public Campaign.

    -Furthermore, the private prison industry has given more than $7.3 million to state candidates and political parties since 2001, with local donations spiking at $1.9 million in 2010.

    -Campaign contributions really work for these corporations. Taking Arizona, for instance, 30 of the 36 state legislators who co-sponsored the aforementioned anti-immigration law received contributions from for-profit prison lobbyists and corporations. Executives from CCA also donated to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's most recent campaign.


    Like most lobbying efforts by big corporations, the for-profit prison industry benefits not just by sending cash to lobbyists and politicians. It also profits from having friends and former employees in high places.

    John Kasich is one example. He served as a U.S. representative from Ohio for two decades, retiring in 2000 and taking a position in Ohio with Lehman Brothers -- a company with many ties to the private prison industry, including CCA. Kasich won the governorship of Ohio in 2010 and intensified efforts to privatize state prisons, including appointing a former CCA associate as head of the state's Department of Corrections. Kasich was also once a member of ALEC.

    Last year, Ohio became the first state to sell off a prison to a corporation -- and that corporation? You guessed it: CCA.

    Sadly, this list could go on and on. The amount of graft and manipulation that leads to laws favoring America's Gulag is both stunning and sickening.

    But it's no different than what you find in other major industries -- especially industries that work in and around the Big Problems we all seem so incapable of fixing -- energy, finance, housing, public health, manufacturing.

    Combine a powerful industry with the state budget crisis, add the corrupting influence of money in politics, and this is what you get.

    If we are to reform the prison system, and fix the other Big Problems, we must first reform the lobbying and campaign financing systems.

    And to do that, we need to build an all-American (left, right, center) movement that links up these pernicious issues to the cause of democracy reform, put our other differences aside, and strike ferociously at the root of the sources of power that enable the American Gulags, of all sorts, to run our country.

    United Republic's Suzanne Merkelson contributed writing and research to this article.

    Nick Penniman
    Huffington Post
    February 15, 2012

  7. al-k-mist
    Here is an article from a Los Angeles and San Diego Medical Marijuana magazine, Nugmag. From over a year ago, but it IS relevant

    One of the worse things to happen to our freedom
    is the privatization of our prison system. Prisons are
    supposed to be a drain on our society so that we are
    reluctant about taking away freedom from our citizens. Freedom is our most important right as American citizens.
    Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the Civil
    War, many of the freed slaves were put in prison on
    false charges and then put to work on building bridges, picking cotton and working in mines.
    America has 5% of the world’s population, but 25%
    of the world’s prison population. We have a half million more people in prison in the U.S. than communist
    President Nixon wanted to stop protesters of the Vietnam War and thought the best way to do that was to
    outlaw marijuana. Nixon established the Controlled
    Substance Act and made marijuana a Schedule I
    drug in opposition to the Schaffer report he had commissioned to study marijuana.
    Now, a new group of people are taking advantage of
    Nixon’s attacks on American freedoms. The private
    prison system makes a lot of money off marijuana
    users. Private prisons are getting paid by the state
    or federal government to house prisoners. They then
    make the prisoners work for $15 a month. The prisoners work full-time, can’t call in sick, strike or ask
    for raises. If they refuse to work, they are placed in
    isolation cells.
    Some of the corporations using prison labor are: IBM,
    Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas
    Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, HewlettPackard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel,
    Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom, Revlon, Macy’s,
    Pierre Cardin, Target stores, and many more
    (-Bold emphasis by Alchemist)
    [Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix
    recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia
    and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer
    that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re
    offering you competitive prison labor (here).”
    The federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bulletproof vests, ID
    tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along
    with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the
    entire market with equipment assembly services;
    93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and
    21% of office furniture. They also produce airplane
    parts and medical supplies while some prisoners are
    even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
    With the three strikes law, they can put people in prison for life. A man recently received three 25-year sentences for his third offense after stealing a bicycle.
    A private prison’s trade stock is based on the number of persons that are in their prison. They need
    more prisoners to make more profit; they need longer sentences to project the long-term profits. They
    lobby lawmakers to increase mandatory sentencing
    for drug use and possession to keep a steady flow of
    nonviolent prisoners.
    The biggest boom for private prisons is medical marijuana. State and local officials ignore the will of the voters
    and arrest legal medical marijuana users. District attorneys offer plea deals or turn over evidence to the DEA.
    Medical marijuana patients are caught off guard as they were following the law and now find themselves in court
    and facing jail time.
    When a person is sick and thinks they were following the law, they will not attack
    guards and get into fights. They want to do their time and get back to their families
    as soon as they can. Even when a medical marijuana patient takes a plea deal that
    is just probation, they still suffer. How? In this bad economy where jobs are hard to
    come by, a person with a criminal record will not have much of a chance in getting
    a job. When you can’t work, you might break another law and they’ll have you
    back in their private prison.
    Private prisons have insured support for longer mandatory minimums by giving
    $100,000 to the Republican Party and state elections – money that came from
    the suffering of our fellow Americans.
    It is obvious that the level of professionalism in private prisons is far lower
    than what we, the taxpayers, expect. We are getting a lower quality of
    service while the corporation is making the money.
    There is a moral question to be asked here. Is it okay for people to
    make a profit on putting someone in prison? Does that give them
    incentive to keep more people in prison? Do you know that in
    private prisons you are seven times more likely to get your good
    time cancelled? Good time is what will allow you to get out
    early. Getting out early is bad for the corporation that runs
    the prisons.
    As we fight for our rights, we must not forget the people who are profit centers for private prisons. We
    must demand that all prisons be run by the
    government and never for profit.
    You can write to your state and
    federal representative and
    demand that they change
    the law and make the
    government run
    our prisons. Take
    the profit out of

    I wont post a link but its www. nugmag dot com
  8. al-k-mist
    Fuck, based on AFOAF's own post, he has to ditch his computer and buy(GASP) an apple macintosh thing, they are too expensive, but dont use prison labor(Just googled it)
  9. CaptainTripps
    America is becoming economically dependent on the human misery of mass incarceration. This goes well beyond prisons for profit. I have a friend who works for the State of Washington. He is not in law enforcement but is a member of the state employees union. Membership is mandatory for state workers. I have seen the union news letters and their positions on various issues.

    Washington like many states has gone through rough times in this economic crisis that we have been in for what seems like forever. Budget shortfall after budget shortfall. Of course when looking to cut the budget the legislature is going to have to at least look at the possibility of reducing prison populations. The union news letter is always talking about the importance of "protecting the public" from criminals and how bad an idea it would be for the legislature to look at shorter sentences or early release for offenders. It spends the union dues of it's members to lobby for policies that would keep more human beings locked up. While their arguments are based on public policy, the real reason is that fewer inmates, mean fewer guards and other correctional staff.

    County and municipal unions do the same thing regarding jails, and the police and prosecutors needed to fill them. Rural counties that don't have "enough crime" to fill their jails, sell space to larger counties that have over crowding issues. It often costs less for more populous counties and large cities to house their inmates in rural jails. The rural jails actually turn a profit on this. Sort of a "win/win" situation for both the giving and receiving counties. Of course this is a bad situation for the inmates and their families, especially on visiting days.

    State and county jobs often pay reasonably well and their wages pump dollars into the local economies. This leads to the creation of more jobs. Prisons are often located in remote areas of the state and in some places are the main employer. Some rural states actually sell prison space to other states. Although this is not privatization in the strict sense of the word, you still have prisons that are being run for profit, it is just that a state is making money housings another states inmates, rather than a private corporation doing it.

    Of course this is a false economy as this all has to be paid for with tax dollars. Which should mean that we would take a prudent look as to whether everyone in prison, actually needs to be there. This would also be the just and fair thing to do in a "free and civilized' society. It never ceases to amaze me that when sentencing reform does occur, it is almost never because it would be the morally correct thing to do, but rather to save money. You can bet if prisons were free, we would probably have 10 times as many people in them as we do now. Even penny pinching republicans seem to be willing to pay for more prisons. They would just save money by making them more inhumane than they already are or making them into forced labor camps.

    Private prisons are just another way to have more human misery on the cheap.
  10. talltom
    If anything, California prisons are worse. The California prison guards union has prevented the construction of private prisons within the state, although thousands of prisoners are sent to private facilities in other states. But for years there has been massive overcrowding and horrible health care, to the extent that courts have stepped in and ordered the state to cut back on the number of prisoners in each prison. The state is responding by sending "lower-level" prisoners to county prisons. But the counties are also strapped for cash, so this step may not help the situation much.

    About a decade ago, the state passed a "treatment instead of incarceration" law, and this has helped lower somewhat the number of prisoners being held for non-violent drug offenses. But much more needs to be done as is pointed out in another posting in this sub-forum on proposed California legislation to further reform drug offense penalties. It is not at all clear if this legislation will pass, however.
  11. talltom
    Here's another good summary of how private prisons keep the war on drugs and the war on crime going strong.

    Private prisons are back. Outlawed at the beginning of the 20th Century, private corporations are once again owning and operating prisons for profit. A controversial issue which dates back to the days that followed the Emancipation Proclamation, Corrections examines its re-appearance today amidst globalization and the most awesome growth of prisons in all of modern history, painting a complex portrait of what many are calling the "prison industrial complex."


    In the mid-1980's, fifteen years of massive and unprecedented growth within the US prison system hit a snag -- it ran out of money.

    When the state wants to build a new prison, it traditionally asks the voters to approve the cost through a bond issue. But this time, voters throughout the country began to say no.

    So many turned to private investment, to venture capital, both to fund new prison projects and to run the prisons themselves for costs around $30 to $60 per bed, per day. This began what we know today as the for-profit, private prison industry.


    1970 : 280,000 prisoners | 2000 : 2,000,000 prisoners

    In the late 1960's, the US began to expand the powers of law enforcement agencies around the country, generating by the 1970's an unprecedented reliance on incarceration to treat its social, political, economic and mental health problems.

    By calling new acts crimes, and by increasing the severity of sentencing for other acts, US citizens witnessed a "prison boom." Soon, prison overcrowding surpassed prison construction budgets, and politicians that had promised to build new prisons could no longer build them.

    So in 1984, a number of Tennessee investors with close friends in the legislature recognized a business opportunity and formed Correction Corporation of America (CCA). Their plan was to use venture capital to build a new prison and -- like a hotel -- lease their beds to the state in a profit-making endeavor.

    Today, nearly ten percent of US prisons and jails (meaning 200,000 prisoners) have been privatized, the three largest firms being CCA, Wackenhut Corrections Corporation and Cornell Corrections, Inc. The federal government also contracts with them to house a growing number of undocumented immigrants and resident aliens, while some of the companies have facilities in countries outside the USA.

    Correctional Corporations have amassed large political influence through government ties, lobbying power and campaign contributions, while attempting to convert the discourse of justice into the language of the marketplace. In this way, they accuse government agencies as having a monopoly on corrections, espouse the need to downsize and cut through red tape. They claim that they can run prisons more efficiently and cheaper, doing a better job and saving the taxpayers money.


    At the same time, prison privatization has met severe criticism. From human rights activists to criminologists, economists, religious and community leaders and even correctional officers' unions, privatization has been accused of corruption, corrosive incentives, and a resemblance to a historically racist practice of the old confederate U.S. South: Convict Leasing.

    Some claim that private prisons really don't save money, but like any for-profit business, attempt to maximize their own profit. This results in a reduction of essential services within the prison -- from medical care, food and clothing to staff costs and security -- at the endangerment of the public, the inmates and the staff.

    Other critiques are concerned with the power and influence of for-profit prisons. At a time when much of public discourse is questioning the war-on-crime and the war-on-drugs being fought as wars, critics claim that the incentive of profit skews public discourse away from reasoned debate about viable solutions to social problems.

    And finally, grasping the demographic make-up of today's prisons in the US and the history that's produced this make-up (roughly 50% African-American, 35% Latino and 15% White), the privatization of prisons threatens to re-institute a link between race and commerce that has not been seen since the 1800's.


    There are also different ways that those who make the laws profit from the laws they make through prison privatization.

    The most direct are those who own stock in private prisons, such as former Tennessee Governor and his wife, Lamar and Honey Alexander, who owned stock in the early Corrections Corporation of America. There are also those officials who are on the actual payroll of these corporations, such as Manny Aragon, the New Mexico legislator who Wackenhut hired as a lobbyist for New Mexico when they were trying to begin privatization in that state.

    A third way comes from campaign contributions and political action committee moneys, through which the corporations financially reward those officials that allow private prisons in their states or jurisdictions, or who pass laws that will continue prison expansion -- public or private -- thus expanding the resource base of the privatization industry. (These are often the same law makers who are handsomely rewarded by public sector groups such as correctional officers' unions and other law enforcement groups, who also profit from criminalization and mass imprisonment).

    Less directly, the privatization of prisons contributes to and buoys the overall "culture" of law enforcement and criminal justice, one that levels our common sense understanding of the causes of our social problems and puts as their solution responses of violence, force and containment. By expanding the criminal justice system beyond the grasp of elected officials and civil servants, private prisons grow this culture in ways that are both ideological and practice-related.

    The private sector also serves as a "career alternative" for many, hiring bureaucrats and officials from the public sector who are either looking for a raise and stock options, or are looking to come out of retirement. These include people from the FBI, CIA, various state and federal departments of corrections, sheriffs, and even former attorney generals.

    And most importantly, public officials profit from prison privatization as it allows them to act with less accountability to the public, allowing prisons to be built without passing prison bonds for the public to vote on, and not having to worry how one will budget their inflammatory and expensive tough-on-crime rhetoric.

    Louisiana State Secretary of Corrections, Richard Stalder, cuts the ribbon to kick off the burgeoning 1999 American Correctional Association Trade Show.


    Although the predominant myths about privatization (whether of prisons or anything else) claim that privatization means tax savings for the public, it actually costs us more. Even though on paper a private agency or corporation may present a lower figure to do the same job, once that money has been taken out of the public's hands, it no longer remains ours.

    In the public sector, tax money tends to make more of itself, meaning that each public dollar paid through one social service will spend itself four to eight times more elsewhere within the public sector. Once public money goes into private hands however, that money stays there and is gone for good. This is especially true if we consider that privatization corporations are usually given handsome tax breaks and "incentives," in the form of what some people call "corporate welfare," which means we are even less likely to see that money again.

    And finally, if we remember that the people who privatize are generally wealthy, this reminds us of an old story where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer -- where the hard earned tax money from each of us is funneled into the hands of the wealthy few for their own personal gain. While we each like to think we don't live in a society like that, today this is justified to us through the myth that "free markets" are the same thing as democracy; that if everything is privatized and ruled by the law of the dollar then democracy will be ensured.

    Add this to the fact that prisons do not make us safer and are by far the most expensive way of dealing with what we call "crime," we suffer other costs as well. Social costs of broken families and communities -- of both victims and perpetrators; hidden financial costs like paying for the foster care of prisoners' children; what we will only pay again when a prisoner re-emerges more desperate, addicted, uneducated and disenfranchised than they went in; the vengeance our society seeks through prisons and punishment will cost us twice the price of ensuring true equality, opportunity and social health at the roots of our society.

    The privatization of prisons is but one case in which a few people exploit our society's larger problems for their own gain, at a cost we all bare and get little in return.

    Corrections Project
    March 2012

  12. talltom
    Here's more on the subject. While this article is not directly about drugs, it is indicative of conditions for thousands locked up in private prisons for drug offences, especially immigrants and minorities. CCA not only lobbies, but controls the news.

    Did a Private Prison Corporation's Abuse of Inmates Spark a Deadly Riot in Mississippi?

    A Mississippi jail is on lockdown today after a Sunday night riot left one prison guard dead and as many as 20 inmates and guards injured. According to sheriff’s reports, the violence began as a gang feud and soon engulfed the privately operated facility, which holds 2,500 non-citizens incarcerated for reentering the United States after deportation and for other charges. But the fragments of information that have emerged from inmates and advocates suggest that the violence had more to do with a pattern of abuse and neglect that has emerged at privately run, for-profit prisons.

    The Adams County sheriff’s office and the Corrections Corporation of America, the behemoth prison company that operates the facility for the federal Bureau of Prisons, have tightly controlled news of the riot and what caused it. In statements, officials say the violence emerged out of thin air and soon “turned into a mob mentality,” according to Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield.

    “This could have happened anywhere, anytime,” Mayfield told the Associated Press.

    Prison watchdogs say that’s not necessarily true. What little independent information that has emerged from inside Adams County Correctional Center suggests a different story—one of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of guards that may have reached a breaking point.

    At 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, an inmate reportedly phoned a local TV station with a cell phone, sending photos to confirm that he was indeed held inside the facility.

    “They always beat us and hit us,” the prisoner told the local reporter. “We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”

    According to the news report, the prisoner said that nine guards had been taken hostage.

    In an interview with Colorlines.com, Patricia Ice, who directs the legal program at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, said that her organization has heard reports of neglect and abuse inside the Adams County facility. Ice said she received a call last month from a California woman who reported medical neglect of a family member in the jail.

    “I got a complaint from a family member saying that a man had lung cancer and was being ignored,” Ice said. “Three weeks earlier, he was examined by a doctor and diagnosed with lung cancer but had not received any treatment at all.”

    Prisoners' rights advocates say that the accounts of these inmates are consistent with documented conditions in private prison facilities around the country.

    “Private prisons have a financial incentive to spend as little as possible in order to make a greater profit,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. Libal is a longtime advocate for the rights of prisoners held in private facilities. “They skimp on staff salaries and training, which leads to high turnover rates. They spend as little as possible on services in order to maximize profit. This mentality leads to poorly run facilities where abuse, neglect and prisoner uprisings are common.”

    The Corrections Corporation of America operates over 60 jails and detention centers in 20 states with the capacity to hold over 90,000 people. The facilities have a track record of violence.

    The Associated Press reports:

    In 2004, inmates at a different CCA prison in Mississippi set fire to mattresses, clothing and a portable toilet. No injuries were reported. The company announced after that disturbance that it would add about 25 guards at the Tallahatchie County facility.

    In Idaho, violence at a CCA-run prison has prompted federal lawsuits, public scrutiny and increased state oversight. In 2010, Vermont inmates being held at a CCA prison in Tennessee were subdued with chemical grenades after refusing to return to their cells.

    Reports of medical neglect inside Corrections Corp. facilities have piled up in recent years. The New York Times reported in 2010 that federal immigration officials attempted to cover up numerous neglect-related deaths inside CCA jails, which hold immigration detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as thousands of Bureau of Prisons inmates incarcerated on immigration-related charges like “illegal reentry.”

    In increasing numbers, the federal government now prosecutes border crossers who previously would have been quickly deported.

    Patricia Ice said the man whose family member called her is serving a three-year sentence for illegal reentry. Ice told Colorlines.com, “I did try to contact to the jail and I never got anybody on the phone. There was nothing I could do.”

    An ACLU spokesperson wrote in an email that the organization is “engaged in an investigation of a handful of privately run facilities in Mississippi,” including a CCA facility.

    “[C]onditions of confinement are often woefully inadequate and levels of violence can be higher at for-profit facilities,” an ACLU statement said.

    Catlin Carithers, 24, had worked in the prison since 2009. He died from blunt head trauma, according to the county coroner.

    By yesterday afternoon, news reports said all of the 2,500 inmates in the jail were locked inside their cells as officials investigate the guard’s death and identify the perpetrator. Federal and local authorities are working with Corrections Corp. to investigate the violence. The sheriff’s office told the Natchez Democrat that it is on standby waiting for word from the FBI on how to proceed.

    Seth Freed Wessler
    May 22, 2012

    Seth Freed Wessler is a senior research associate at the Applied Research Center and an investigative reporter for Colorlines.com.

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