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American Legislative Exchange Council
Lobbyists, Guns and Money: March 25, 2012, NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman takes them on.
Private prison company’s growth went hand-in-hand with political influence: Jon Collins September 26, 2011 Minnesota Independent
"Publicopoly: ALEC and the bid to make private all that is public." An exhaustive DBA Press analysis of thousands of pages of documents obtained through public records requests over the past several months has revealed the source of many suddenly-wildly-popular bills aimed at weakening public employee unions to be ‘model legislation’ disseminated primarily through one entity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). July 11, 2011
NPR expose on the for-profits role in the AZ immigration law

November 28, 2011 Arizona Republic
Arizona's state lawmakers are especially receptive to corporate money and influence, according to a new report from two liberal-leaning advocacy groups. The 100-page report strives to show how the American Legislative Exchange Council uses "its resources to shepherd legislation from the corporate boardroom to the governor's desk," said Marge Baker, executive vice president at the Washington D.C,-based People for the American Way Foundation. ALEC describes itself as a nonpartisan national association of state legislators. Critics, however, say it is a conservative-based partisan organization that brings together about 300 large corporations and 2,000 predominately Republican legislators on task forces to produce model bills. Lawmakers then take those bills back to their state legislatures in hopes of passing them into law. The groups released the report, "ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona's Legislature," as ALEC prepares to hold its "States and Nation Policy Summit" in Scottsdale, beginning Wednesday. More than 50 Arizona lawmakers are members of the group. Arizona corporations that provide financial support to ALEC include the Salt River Project, Taser International, and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Services Co., the state's largest utility company. "There's no way ordinary citizens can match the level of access and influence that ALEC provides to these corporations," Baker said. "So Arizonans are subjected to laws that serve the interests of the rich and powerful." But Kaitlyn Buss, an ALEC spokeswoman, said the organization is merely a "resource" for lawmakers. "Our main goal and focus is to promote free market, limited government and federalism (ideals)," Buss said. "We do have model legislation. It's a main part of what we do, but that doesn't give it priority over anything else that might be introduced at the Legislature." The report includes side-by-side comparisons of dozens of "model bills" generated at ALEC conferences, and those introduced at the Arizona Legislature. In Arizona, lawmakers passed 19 of the 36 model bills introduced in 2010, ALEC officials said. Typically, ALEC model legislation -- including those highlighted in the report -- focus on anti-immigration, anti-union, and anti-federal health-care reform initiatives.

September 16, 2010 Think Progress
In December 2009, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a powerful front group that helps corporate representatives craft template legislation for state lawmakers, funded partially by the private prison industry — hosted Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and began debate on legislation that would provide broad powers to local police to arrest anyone who might look like an immigrant. ALEC then distributed the template legislation to its members. The January/February 2010 edition of ALEC’s magazine highlights the draft version of SB1070 — the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” — as model legislation. In April of this year, Pearce then introduced ALEC’s template as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law included Laurie Shanblum, a lobbyist from the mega-private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which previously played a role in privatizing many of Texas’ prisons. An investigation from Arizona’s KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Gov. Janet Brewer’s (R-AZ) deputy chief of staff was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA) and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA. In These Times reporter Beau Hodai, who also reported much of SB1070’s connections to the private prison industry, has a chart to explain the relationship. CCA is set to receive well over $74 million in tax dollars in FY2010 for running immigration detention centers. In a presentation given earlier this year, Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund with a large financial stake in CCA, suggested that CCA’s profitability depends on increasing numbers of immigrants sent to prison. Many of the legislators helping to earn CCA more profits with radical anti-immigrant bills mirroring SB1070 have been recipients of private prison industry cash or have worked closely with the CCA-funded ALEC organization: – TENNESSEE: Earlier this year, legislators in Tennessee passed an immigration bill with provisions “similar to, but less harsh than, those of SB 1070, including requiring city and county jails in the state to report any person who may be in violation of immigration laws to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” But that wasn’t enough: right-wing local lawmakers also passed a resolution honoring Arizona’s SB1070, and a delegation of state lawmakers promised to introduce an anti-immigrant bill even “broader” than SB1070 in 2011. Many of the leading local lawmakers who voted for the anti-immigrant bill and resolution received thousands of dollars from CCA’s political action committee in the past two years, including State Reps. Gerald McCormick ($250), Barrett Rich ($500), Eric Watson ($250) and State Sens. Bill Ketron ($1,000), Jim Tracy ($500), Dolores Gresham ($1,000), Bo Watson ($500), and Jack Johnson ($500). Tracy, who sponsored the resolution honoring Arizona’s SB1070, also received $2,000 directly from CCA founder Tom Beasley, reports the Nashville City Paper. CCA retains five lobbyists in the state and spent at least $50,000 this year to lobby on immigration and other issues. – OKLAHOMA: Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK), who won her party’s nomination to run for governor this year, received the maximum donation permitted by law from CCA. State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-OK), who announced that he was planning an “Arizona-Plus” immigration bill that would be harsher than SB1070, is a proud member of the CCA-funded American Legislative Exchange Council. – COLORADO: A group of Republican lawmakers in Colorado, after a research trip to Arizona this summer, have stated that they plan on passing a SB1070 law in Colorado next year. CCA’s lobbyists in Colorado have raised funds for many of the lawmakers in the group. CCA lobbyist Margy Christiansen raised $400 State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, one of the leaders of Colorado’s Arizona expedition, and CCA lobbyist Jason Dunn raised $150 for State Sen. Mike Kopp, the Republican minority leader who is promising to promote an SB1070 bill next session. – FLORIDA: During the gubernatorial primary campaign between disgraced businessman Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum (R-FL), the prospect of importing Arizona’s SB1070 became a prominent issue in the race, with both candidates promising to bring a version of the law to the state. While many Florida Republicans recoiled at the idea, which stands to alienate many Hispanic voters, a cadre of state lawmakers and candidates for the state legislature, most funded by the prison industry, announced their support for an SB1070-type law. State Rep. Bill Snyder, who has received $500 from CCA, pledged to introduce a bill more draconian than SB1070. State House candidate Ben Albritton, another outspoken supporter of SB1070, took $500 from CCA, and State Rep. Joe Negron, who has been working with Snyder to sponsor the bill, received $1,000 from the Geo Group, another major private prison contractor which operates immigrant detention centers. Overall, the Republican Party of Florida has been the biggest recipient of prison industry cash in the past two years: $37,000 from CCA and $145,000 from the Geo Group. – PENNSYLVANIA: In the Key State, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA) introduced the ALEC-drafted “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” one month before State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) introduced his version of the bill in Arizona. Metcalfe is a highly active member of ALEC. He was paid $1,500 by ALEC just to attend its meetings with CCA lobbyists on how to draft the law. In Tennessee, the average daily number of immigration detainees sank to 40 in FY2009, down from 95 in FY2008. This may change with CCA’s aggressive lobbying for more laws encouraging aggressive arrests of immigrants or people who look like immigrants. Charles Maldonado, who has reported on CCA’s corrupting influence at the Nashville City Paper, notes that CCA may see new business at its West Tennessee Detention Facility with the passage of more SB1070-related laws. ALEC, with funds from several private prison companies, helped sponsor “truth-in-sentencing” and “three-strikes-you’re-out” laws all over the country for the past two decades. These laws have greatly increased incarceration rates, and have contributed to America’s distinction of having the largest prison population in the world.

October 29, 2007 Governing
In recent years, the American Legislative Exchange Council has been one of the most formidable actors on the state policy stage, crafting and helping to enact new laws by the hundreds. But massive staff turnover and managerial complaints have led to questions about whether the effectiveness of ALEC, as the group is commonly known, may diminish. Twenty-two members of the staff, plus one part-timer and two consultants, have left since the beginning of last year, when ALEC hired Lori Roman as its new executive director. That's a considerable percentage of ALEC's total staff, which at press time numbered 29, with three vacancies. Some of the ALEC activists out in the country are beginning to raise questions about all this. "What the hell's going on?" asks Mississippi state Rep. Bill Denny, an ALEC state chair. "We just lost all of those people, and they couldn't all have been bad." Numerous former staff members describe a work environment that grew hostile and "toxic" over the past 18 months. ALEC recently settled a lawsuit brought by one former staffer and faces two pending complaints lodged with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Roman says the departures were neither surprising nor alarming, noting that a change in management, particularly when the new leader comes in with a different style, is often unsettling. Some people in such a situation are bound to leave, she suggests. Roman, who previously ran faith-based programs in the federal Department of Education, declined to speak to many of the complaints on the record. She handed Governing a statement that says, "ALEC's new management team carries out the mission of ALEC with a focus on ethics, accountability and high performance. Some people may not like that style of management, but the facts show that it has made ALEC stronger. In 2006, we went from a $6 million organization to a $7 million organization, with no increase in turnover." Published staff reports appear to contradict the turnover claim. They show that the organization lost only five staff members in 2005 and just three in 2004, compared with the more than 20 who have left since the start of 2006. ALEC's staff serves as the conduit between legislators and representatives from private-sector companies, who meet together on eight task forces that draft model legislation and policy statements. ALEC's conservative policies have been widely translated into actual legislation. In recent years, the group has averaged 1,500 bill introductions per year, with about 200 of those bills becoming law. ALEC's influence has been felt across a wide range of issues, from environmental and prison policy to gun owners' rights and digital-rights management. Turmoil on the inside is bound to limit this kind of influence, and in a few of ALEC's strongest states, affect the dynamics of the legislative process. Perhaps for this reason, not all the top ALEC officials are willing to acknowledge that serious turmoil exists. "I can assure you the supermajority of the board is very excited about where ALEC is going," says Kansas state Sen. Susan Wagle, the organization's immediate past chair. Georgia state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, who chaired ALEC's board when it hired Roman, calls the complaints "lying, crying garbage without any facts to back up what they say." But based on a series of interviews conducted by Governing, these defenders appear to be in the minority. "I have deep concerns about it," says Iowa state Rep. Dolores Mertz, ALEC's national chair. "Right now, it's going through a trying timse." Other legislators, some speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, have made complaints about arbitrariness, sloppy mistakes and a lack of responsiveness. Some private-sector members, who are the group's financial mainstay, also have expressed concern, with members from the oil and pharmaceutical industries, for example, saying they are reconsidering their contributions. Even if some of the most serious allegations prove false, the loss of so much institutional knowledge is bound to have an effect on ALEC, if only in the near term. "It's always jarring if there's new staff, because they have to start from scratch," says Iowa state Sen. Jeff Angelo, a member of ALEC's criminal-justice task force. "Most of the model legislation you're working on, it takes time."

December 9, 2006 Arizona Republic
Hundreds of state lawmakers from around the country will work with industry lobbyists in the Valley today to craft model legislation on tort reform, corporate tax policy and industry regulations. The task force meetings cap the three-day States & Nation Policy Summit at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that wields significant influence on state legislation but is virtually unknown to average citizens. Dozens of Arizona legislators belong to ALEC, at a rate that the state chairman says is higher than in most states. And its influence in Arizona has been seen in recent years on legislation ranging from private prisons and school choice to tax policy and environmental regulations. Model legislation and policy positions adopted at the local summit could lead to new laws proposed in Arizona and statehouses across the country. Nationwide ALEC boasts membership from about one-third of all state legislators in the nation and bills itself as a non-partisan but conservative group that promotes Jeffersonian principles of individual liberty, free markets and limited government. But it is the group's connections to corporate America and its strategy of developing industry-approved model legislation for its members around the country that distinguish it from other legislative groups. That also has generated a lot of criticism, especially from environmental organizations. Sen. Bob Burns, R-Peoria, Arizona's state chairman for ALEC, says the criticism of corporations' role in the organization is unfounded. "Are we supposed to lock the private sector out of the legislative process?" he asked. But critics believe many in the public would be concerned if they knew the role that corporate interests play in developing ALEC's model legislation and policy positions. Last year, ALEC says, more than 1,000 ALEC bills were introduced in state legislatures, including Arizona's. About 20 percent of the total went into law. "If you are all for corporate America controlling the agenda in America's statehouses, there is nothing wrong with it," says Adam Schafer, executive director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. "But if you think elected officials should be the ones writing the laws, you may find problems with the way they do their model legislation." Corporations and industry groups almost completely finance the group's activities through membership dues and donations, and pay for sometimes extravagant trips for many legislators and their families to conference destinations at resorts around the country. Companies spend thousands of additional dollars to buy seats at the table during task force meetings where the group's model legislation is crafted. ALEC officials say industry representatives pay the task force dues starting at around $2,500 annually to gain a seat on each task force in their areas of interest. The dues for some task forces are higher, but ALEC officials wouldn't say how high the dues for industry members can go. The task forces are structured with two chambers: one consisting of legislators, the other of industry representatives, ALEC officials say. In task force meetings, which are not open to the media, industry lobbyists can push their own pet legislation or block bills they oppose. To become model legislation, both the public sector and private sector sides must approve the bill. Lori Roman, ALEC's executive director, points out that task force legislation must be approved by legislative board members before it becomes model legislation. And Michael Bowman, director of policy and strategic initiatives, says it would be "almost criminal" not to consult industry representatives and notes that companies sometimes have competing interests anyway. "We have so many special-interest groups or so many business interests or corporations here that they don't even agree," he said. "You can't pass something that favors your own company because another company is going to say, 'We're not going to vote for that.' " Russell Smoldon, a lobbyist for SRP and ALEC's private-sector chairman in Arizona, says corporate influence on public policy shouldn't be viewed any differently than union influence or the influence of environmental groups. But critics say that the industry lobbyists may have huge economic incentives to push legislation they favor that may not be in the public good. A representative for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is the co-chair of the tax and fiscal policy task force, for example, and the group has pushed model legislation and policy papers critical of tobacco taxes. Robert Dewey, a vice president for Defenders of Wildlife, which has issued a scathing report on the group, calls ALEC a "Trojan horse" that allows "corporate America to exercise significant influence over state legislation in almost every statehouse around the country." Others, like Tim Delaney of the Phoenix-based Center for Leadership, Ethics & Public Service, question how close they adhere to Jeffersonian principles. "I'm not sure Thomas Jefferson wanted to have Big Tobacco or Big Pharmacy companies in the backroom writing legislation," he said.

August 14, 2006 In These Times
While New Mexico’s landscape may make the state the Land of Enchantment, its rapidly growing rates of incarceration have been utterly disenchanting. What’s worse, New Mexico is at the top of the nation’s list for privatizing prisons; nearly one-half of the state’s prisons and jails are run by corporations. Supposedly, states turn to private companies to cope better with chronic overcrowding and for low-cost management. However, a closer look suggests a different rationale. A recent report from the Montana-based Institute on Money in State Politics reveals that during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, private prison companies, directors, executives and lobbyists gave $3.3 million to candidates and state political parties across 44 states. According to Edwin Bender, executive director of the Institute on Money in State Politics, private prison companies strongly favor giving to states with the toughest sentencing laws—in essence, the ones that are more likely to come up with the bodies to fill prison beds. Those states, adds Bender, are also the ones most likely to have passed “three-strikes” laws. Those laws, first passed by Washington state voters in 1993 and then California voters in 1994, quickly swept the nation. They were largely based on “cookie-cutter legislation” pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), some of whose members come from the ranks of private prison companies. Florida leads the pack in terms of private prison dollars, with its candidates and political parties receiving almost 20 percent of their total contributions from private prison companies and their affiliates. Florida already has five privately owned and operated prisons, with a sixth on the way. It’s also privatized the bulk of its juvenile detention system. Texas and New Jersey are close behind. But in Florida, some of the influence peddling finally seems to be backfiring. Florida State Corrections Secretary James McDonough alarmed private prison companies with a comment during an Aug. 2 morning call-in radio show. “I actually think the state is better at running the prisons,” McDonough told an interviewer. His comments followed an internal audit last year by the state’s Department of Management Services, which demonstrated that Florida overpaid private prison operators by $1.3 million. Things may no longer be quite as sunny as they once were in Florida for the likes of Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the former Wackenhut, now known as the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla. But with a little bit of spiel-tinkering—and a shift of attention to other states—the prison privatizers are likely to keep going. The key shift, Bender explains, is that “the prison industry has gone from a we-can-save-you-money pitch to an economic-development model pitch.” In other words, says Bender, “you need [their] prisons for jobs.” If political donations are any measure, economically challenged and poverty-stricken states like New Mexico are a great target. In this campaign cycle, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson has already received more contributions from a private prison company than any other politician campaigning for state office in the United States. The Institute of Money in State Politics, which traced the donations, reported that GEO has contributed $42,750 to Richardson since 2005—and another $8,000 to his running mate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. Another $30,000 went from GEO to the Richardson-headed Democratic Governors Association this past March. Richardson’s PAC, Moving America Forward, was another prominent recipient of GEO donations. Now, its former head, prominent state capitol lobbyist Joe Velasquez, is a registered lobbyist for GEO Care Inc., a healthcare subsidiary that runs a hospital in New Mexico. But don’t get the idea that GEO has any particular love for Democrats: $95,000 from the corporation went to the Republican Governors Association last year alone. What companies like GEO do love are the millions of dollars rolling in from lucrative New Mexico contracts to run the Lea County Correctional Facility (operating budget: $25 million/year), and the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility ($13 million/year), among others. CCA also owns and operates the state’s only women’s facility in Grants ($11 million per year). To make sure that those dollars keep flowing, GEO and CCA have perfected the art of the “very tight revolving door,” says Bender, which involves snapping up former corrections administrators, PAC lobbyists and state officials to serve as consultants to private prison companies. In fact, the current New Mexico Corrections Department Secretary Joe Williams was once on GEO’s payroll as their warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility. Earlier this year, Williams was placed on unpaid administrative leave after accusations surfaced that he spent state travel and phone funds to pursue a very close relationship with Ann Casey. Casey is a registered lobbyist in New Mexico for Wexford Health Sources, which provides health care for prisoners at Grants, and Aramark, which provides most of the state’s inmate meals. In her non-lobbying hours, it turns out that Casey is also an assistant warden at a state prison in Centralia, Ill. It appears that even for a prison industry enchanted by public-private partnership, Williams and Casey may have gone too far.

May 2, 2006 Progressive State Network
The Institute on Money in State Politics, a tireless group of people who compile campaign finance data for all fifty states and regularly report national trends, have a new report "Policy Lock-Down: Prison Interests Court Political Players" looking at the $3.3 million private prison companies have donated to state-level actors in the last two election cycles. The report specifically notes: Analysis of campaign contributions made to state-level candidates and political parties also reveals that private-prison interests: Concentrated their giving on legislative candidates who, if elected, act on state budgets and sentencing laws. These candidates received almost half of the money given to candidates — slightly more than $1 million. So the priority is budgets and people who determine sentencing? This will come as no shock to anyone who has studied the origin of strict sentencing laws in America. As Nathan Newman noted in "Governing the Nation From the Statehouses: ": For two decades, ALEC has been a driving force in lobbying for legislation to hand over prisons to corporate management, with 95,000 inmates in at least 31 states or 6.5% of all prisoners in private prisons, two-thirds of them in prisons run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), one of ALEC's leading corporate sponsors. Seven states place more than one-fifth of their prison population in corporate-run prisons. A 2000 report by the Western States Center, "The Prison Payoff: The Role of Politics and Private Prisons in the Incarceration Boom," traced the rise of private prisons to "tough on crime" legislation sponsored by ALEC and its allies that extended sentences and pushed prison populations beyond the capacities of existing state facilities. And conservatives who pushed budget-busting sentencing laws then turned around and blamed guard salaries for the resulting funding crisis. With tight fiscal budgets, privatization was sold as the solution. State prison guards, who had often supported many of the tougher sentencing laws, have found their jobs disappearing to privatization through this two-step process. In Wisconsin, for example, more than 3000 inmates are sent out of state to CCA facilities, leaving the remaining state guards in overcrowded prisons subject to riots and other threats. CCA isn't just one of ALEC's leading sponsors. For a time, they chaired the task force that authors model legislation on sentencing issues for ALEC. Humorously, when Wyoming's Casper Star-Tribune reported on this fact, they drew a quick response from CCA, claiming that CCA does not believe that mandatory sentencing laws help their business. No word yet on how private prison companies are responding to the new Institute report.

Bureau of Prisons
Dec 2, 2022  abcnews.go.com

BOP finalizes moving inmates from private prisons. President Joe Biden ordered the move shortly after taking office.

All federal inmates housed in private prisons have been moved to Bureau of Prisons facilities and the agency has ended all contracts with private facilities, officials said. Last year, in one of his first actions in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing BOP to move all inmates to federal facilities, rather than have them housed in private facilities. "We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives," Biden said just before signing the actions in January 2021. "And it's time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do. Because if we do, we'll all be better off." "This is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarcerated -- incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning, in my view, to my administration's plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system," Biden said. Advocates, including the ACLU, have said that private prisons reap lucrative financial rewards while taking advantage of people who are behind bars. On Nov. 30, the McRae Correctional Facility in McRae, Georgia, was closed, making it the final facility to shutter its doors. Biden signed an order directing the attorney general to not renew contracts the Department of Justice has with privately-operated criminal detention facilities. As expected it took about a year to complete the transition. "BOP and privately managed facilities remained positive, while maintaining transparency and accountability," a release from BOP said. "BOP inmates housed in these private prisons have been transferred to BOP facilities. In the mid-1980s, the BOP began designating low security inmates with specialized needs, such as sentenced criminal aliens, to privately managed facilities to better manage the increasing population. Over time, the BOP maintained contracts for 15 facilities, housing approximately 29,164 inmates. The overall BOP population peaked in 2013, with over 219,000 inmates." The head of the Bureau of Prisons union told ABC News that the prison population has declined to a point where private prisons aren't needed, and has said previously the agency supports the president's decision to shutter private prisons. "The fact remains that our population has declined to the point where we can safely return offenders who were temporarily housed in private prisons to vacant BOP facilities," Shane Fausey, president of the Council of Prison told ABC News through a text message."The reality is additional beds are no longer needed and the most cost effective measure is not to renew or further private prison contracts at this time."

Aug 31, 2018 govexec.com
Federal Official Boosted Use of Private Prisons; Now He Has a Top Job at One
A former federal official who earlier this year instructed the Bureau of Prisons to identify inmates to be transferred to private detention centers has left his government job for a position with one of the largest contractors housing federal prisoners. In January, Government Executive reported that Frank Lara, then the bureau’s assistant director for correctional programs, sent a memorandum with the subject line “increasing population levels in private contract facilities” to agency leaders. In it, Lara tasked facility leaders with identifying inmates for transfer to private facilities, saying it would “alleviate the overcrowding at Bureau of Prisons’ institutions and maximize the effectiveness of private contracts.” A few months later, Lara announced his retirement. Earlier this month, he began working at the GEO Group as its director of operations. The company is one of the largest contractors housing federal inmates. In fiscal 2018, for example, GEO Group has received $147 million in awards from the bureau, according to federal spending data. While Lara’s memo went out to all bureau leaders, it mentioned only one facility by name: Rivers Correctional Institution in Winton, N.C., which is owned and operated by the GEO Group. The GEO Group did not respond to several emails, and when asked about the hiring over the phone, a company official hung up. Government Executive was unable to reach Lara directly. Eric Young, president of the union local that represents bureau correctional officers, called Lara’s move, “The biggest damn conflict of interest that I’ve ever seen.” Just prior to the memo’s release, dozens of bureau officials, including Lara, attended a conference hosted by the American Correctional Association. The conference was sponsored by the GEO Group, among others. The bureau said it spent $153,000 on travel costs associated with the conference. The Washington Post reported last year that GEO held its own annual conference at a Trump resort in Florida, and that it donated $225,000 to a pro-Trump super-PAC in the run up to the 2016 election and an additional $250,000 to his inauguration. GEO Group has been one of the largest clients of the lobbying firm Ballard Partners since Trump took office, registering as a client in February of 2017 and since spending $850,000 with the group, according to lobbying disclosures. Politico deemed Ballard “the most powerful lobbyist in Trump’s Washington.” According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets database, Ballard has held 355 meetings with White House officials and 56 with representatives of the Justice Department, the Bureau of Prisons’ parent agency. The revolving door at the Bureau of Prisons is not new. CoreCivic, for example, GEO Group’s main competitor in the contract prison space, has frequently hired ex-federal officials for leadership positions. Harley Lappin served as the bureau’s director before transitioning to becoming CoreCivic’s executive vice president and chief corrections officer. William Dalius worked at the bureau for 30 years, most recently as the administrative division assistant director and chief financial officer. He is now the vice president for operations at CoreCivic. Kim White was a regional director at the bureau and later the assistant director for human resources. She is now CoreCivic’s assistant director of human resources. John Baxter spent 24 years at the bureau before joining CoreCivic and is now its vice president for mental health services. Charles Cox spent 23 years at the bureau, during which, according to his résumé, he played an “instrumental” role in developing the agency’s “private secure and community corrections procurement strategies.” After his retirement, Cox went to work for Corrections Corporation of America, CoreCivic’s predecessor. After a stint back in public service at the county level in North Carolina, Cox finished his career as a vice president at GEO Group. Rodney King, a spokesman for CoreCivic, said experts in corrections overwhelmingly come from the public sector and therefore the company must recruit from former public officials. “Our goal is to recruit and retain the best people from the biggest pool of talent, whether that means developing and promoting from within our organization or recruiting experienced professionals from outside CoreCivic,” King said. “We of course recruit from the public sector for a wide range of roles at our company. Not doing so would severely limit the pool of qualified candidates for jobs with our company. That applies not just to positions in our leadership ranks, but also our teachers, treatment specialists and corrections officers.” Nick Schwellenbach, the director of investigations at the Project on Government Oversight, said the revolving door creates ethical issues. “It raises some severe questions about who these senior executive branch officials are working for,” he said. On Lara specifically, he added the transition “definitely flunks” the smell test. Lara's memo followed guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year that reversed an Obama administration policy to phase out the use of private prisons. In 2016, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memo instructing the bureau to either end private facility contracts when their terms expired or “substantially reduce [their] scope” to correspond with declining inmate populations. Sessions said Feb. 23, 2017, that Yates' decision “changed long-standing policy” of the bureau and impaired its “ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” Many lawmakers expressed outrage at the time, accusing Trump of rewarding his campaign donors. “This is how our corrupt political and campaign finance system works,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said after Sessions' announcement last year. “Private prison companies invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and today they got their reward.” The bureau began contracting with private prisons in 1997 to address overcrowding. Contract facilities currently house about 18,000 federal inmates, or 11 percent of the total population. A 2016 inspector general report found the contract prisons “incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions and that the BOP needs to improve how it monitors contract prisons in several areas.” The private facilities confiscated eight times as many contraband cell phones, had higher rates of assaults (both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-officer) and were placing inmates’ rights and needs at risk. Lara’s memo came just days after the bureau held a conference call with facility administrators, instructing them to prepare for a 12 percent to 14 percent reduction in their authorized staffing levels. Such cuts would result in shedding 5,000-6,000 jobs, at least some of which are currently vacant. Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposed a cut of about 6,000 bureau positions, more than 1,800 of which were correctional officers. The bureau has faced increasing pressure from Capitol Hill as it has continued efforts to eliminate the positions, with lawmakers ramping up pressure on the agency to add to its workforce. The federal prisons overseers have so far not backed down from the scheduled elimination of around 6,000 vacant positions, as well as additional vacancies that have arisen during an extended hiring freeze at the agency. The bureau has increasingly depended on a process known as “augmentation,” in which non-correction officers are reassigned to guard duties. The fiscal 2018 omnibus spending measure President Trump signed into law in March provided a $106 million increase to the Bureau of Prisons budget. A Senate report on the omnibus directed the bureau to “curtail its over-reliance on augmentation and instead hire additional full-time correctional staff before continuing to augment existing staff.” A bipartisan group of lawmakers, however, have raised concerns that the bureau had no plans to implement the changes mandated by Congress, and multiple sources told Government Executive earlier this year that the agency had not backtracked from its planned staffing cuts. Bureau Director Mark Inch resigned abruptly in May, just nine months after taking office. The New York Times subsequently reported that Inch had become frustrated by the administration flouting “departmental norms” and Sessions leaving him out of meetings on “major staffing, budget and policy decisions.”

and the White House
Briefing Remarks by Alex Friedmann on HR 2450 January 25, 2010
Briefing Remarks by Judy Greene on HR 2450 January 25, 2010
Freedom Forum CEO Tied to For-Profit Prisons An advocate for--and against--freedom of information
ACA: Link to Sen Warren report

Mar 1, 2022 jayapal.house.gov 

National: More than 100 Representatives sign on to resolution ending private immigration prisons

Jayapal Leads Members in Urging Secretary Mayorkas, Acting Director Johnson to End the Use of For-Profit Immigration Detention Centers The letter comes after multiple investigations into private detention facilities revealed substandard living conditions for detained people, under-staffing, and deaths of people in U.S. custody

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) led more than 100 members of Congress in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) calling on ICE to stop its use of for-profit prisons, conduct a review of its facilities, and suspend its detention expansion. Multiple investigations into these private prisons found substandard living conditions for detained people, crowding, under-staffing, and even deaths of people in custody. And while President Biden issued an Executive Order ending the Department of Justice’s use of for-profit prisons, it does not apply to immigration detention facilities. “Studies consistently show that most people are best equipped to successfully complete their removal proceedings when they have full access to the support of their families and communities and legal representation,” said the lawmakers. “As you review the detention system, we ask that you halt the expansion of ICE detention and urge you to embrace community-based alternatives to detention.” The immigration detention system is one that has consistently lacked accountability and transparency. Multiple studies and accounts have uncovered the poor conditions detained people have had to endure. A detention center in Irwin County, Georgia came under fire for their reported unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures performed on women. Jayapal co-led a letter to DHS calling on them to immediately investigate and respond to these accounts. She had also visited the facility in September 2020 before returning to Congress to successfully pass her resolution condemning the unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures performed on women without their full, informed consent. Despite all these reports, ICE continues to expand its detention system at taxpayers’ expense, including its use of for-profit prisons. The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jason Crow, Alma S. Adams, Ph.D., Nanette Diaz Barragán, Karen Bass, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Anthony G. Brown, Julia Brownley, Cori Bush, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Joaquin Castro, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Judy Chu, David N. Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Steve Cohen, Gerald E. Connolly, Jim Cooper, J. Luis Correa, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Suzan DelBene, Mark DeSaulnier, Debbie Dingell, Lloyd Doggett, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, John Garamendi, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Sylvia R. Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, Jahana Hayes, Steven Horsford, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Hakeem Jeffries, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Mondaire Jones, Kaiali‘i Kahele, Robin L. Kelly, Ro Khanna, Derek Kilmer, Ann Kirkpatrick, Rick Larsen, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, Doris Matsui, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Frank Pallone Jr., Donald M. Payne, Jr., Mark Pocan, Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley, David Price, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, Raul Ruiz, M.D. , Bobby L. Rush, Linda T. Sánchez, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Terri A. Sewell, Elissa Slotkin, Adam Smith, Melanie Stansbury, Marilyn Strickland, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul D. Tonko, Norma J. Torres, Ritchie Torres, Lori Trahan, Juan Vargas, Nydia M. Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Nikema Williams, Frederica S. Wilson, and John Yarmuth. Jayapal has been a champion for ending the use of private, for-profit prisons, leading the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to end the use of for-profit immigration detention, repeal mandatory detention, stop family detention, and prohibit solitary confinement. American Immigration Lawyers Association, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Detention Watch Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, and National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) endorsed the letter.

Nov 5, 2021 raskin.house.gov
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) today introduced legislation to require that government agencies comply with Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) requests relating to private prisons, jails or detention facilities, including immigration detention facilities. The Private Prison Information Act (S. 3164/H.R. 5853) is essential for holding detention facilities accountable. “The PPIA would create a baseline of accountability for private companies entrusted with the responsibility of caring for federal prisoners, inmates and detainees,” said Senator Cardin. “The reliance on private, for-profit facilities has increased rapidly in recent years, and it is essential that our transparency requirements keep up with that shift. The need for this legislation is made all the more clear by the difficulty of obtaining information on how private facilities have handled the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the devastating effects it has had on this population.” “More and more of our government functions are being outsourced to private contractors who are currently not subject to our nation’s premier transparency law, the Freedom of Information Act.  This has created a glaring blind spot in the American public’s ability to scrutinize the government’s activities, to shine a spotlight on abuses, and to hold officials accountable,” said Senator Leahy. “The PPIA would help address this blind spot by ensuring that private contractors entrusted to house and care for prisoners and immigrant detainees are subject to FOIA. Our legislation would help bring much-needed transparency into our government, and deserves the support of all senators.” “While detention facilities run by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons are far from pristine, what little we know about privately run detention facilities is that they are even worse. Despite the fact these private, for-profit detention facilities receive federal funding, they are not subject to even the most basic transparency requirements,” said Rep. Raskin. "We are introducing the Private Prison Information Act to promote accountability in our justice system, shine a light on abuses taking place in private prisons and respect prisoners’ civil rights. Allowing members of the public to file Freedom of Information Act requests to private prisons, as they can with government facilities, will serve to educate the public about what is happening and support President Biden’s ultimate mission to end all contracts with privately owned and operated detention facilities. I thank Senator Cardin for introducing the Senate companion bill and for his continued advocacy on prison reform.” Joining as original Senate cosponsors are U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Joining as original House cosponsors are Representatives Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (D-Ga.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.). Private prisons, jails, and detention centers housed 15.7 percent of all federal inmates in 2019 and about 81 percent of all immigration detainees in 2020. Operators of private prisons are paid by the federal government – the taxpayer – to house federal inmates, but their status as private entities allows them to avoid the reach of our public records laws, including FOIA. The Justice Department’s Inspector General has found that prisons run by private companies are substantially less safe and secure than those run by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. President Biden took an important step on January 26, 2021, by issuing an executive order directing the Attorney General to not renew the Department of Justice’s contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. However, the PPIA remains essential to hold detention facilities accountable until this order is fully implemented and in case a future administration reverses course. Importantly, this bill also ensures that privately run immigration detention facilities that contract with the Department of Homeland Security are subject to FOIA. “Private prisons perform a fundamental government function and should be required to comply with the same public access and information laws as their federal counterparts. The Private Prison Information Act will check waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars by strengthening oversight of contractors and holding them accountable for their contractual obligations to the federal government,” said Lisa Rosenberg, executive director, Open The Government. “Despite their enormous cost to taxpayers and amid serious, longstanding concerns regarding their safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, private prisons are currently exempt from information access laws like the Freedom of Information Act, leaving taxpayers completely in the dark and powerless to be informed and hold their government accountable for these contractors. The Private Prison Information Act would address these transparency loopholes and bring accountability mechanisms for privately operated facilities in line with their government-run counterparts. As long as our government continues to rely on profit-driven contractors to incarcerate and detain people, this legislation is urgently needed,” said Noah Bookbinder, president, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Immigration detention is plagued with secrecy that shields ICE and their contractors from accountability for the grave abuses that occur in ICE facilities,” said Jesse Franzblau, Senior Policy Analyst with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). “Subjecting companies that profit off detention to FOIA is a key measure in the broader efforts towards ending the impunity for atrocities and misuse of funds that is widespread throughout the ICE detention system.” This legislation is endorsed by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Campaign for Accountability, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Defending Rights & Dissent, Government Information Watch, Government Accountability Project, Human Rights Defense Center, Human Rights First, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), National Freedom of Information Coalition, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, News Leaders Association, Open The Government, Project On Government Oversight, The Rutherford Institute, Sentencing Project. A letter of endorsement from these organizations is available here.

Aug 11, 2021 abajournal.com

Private prisons are a failed experiment with 'perverse and immoral incentives,' ABA House says in calling for their

The ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution Tuesday opposing private prisons and juvenile detention centers. Co-sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section, National Bar Association, and the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Resolution 507 opposes the use of private jails, prison and juvenile detention centers to detain people before they stand trial and after they are convicted. It passed in a 273-33 vote. Stephen A. Saltzburg of the Criminal Justice Section introduced the resolution Tuesday morning at the ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting. He noted that the ABA had adopted Resolution 115B in 1990 warning governments to proceed with caution before entering into contracts with private prison companies. "We've had 31 years to take a look at private prisons and jails and juvenile detention centers, and what have we learned? We've learned that they do more harm than good," Saltzburg said. "They have a tendency to cut staff, they have a tendency to cut programs, and that probably shouldn't surprise anybody because that's how you make a profit." GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Management and Training Corp. are among the companies that run prisons in the United States. In response to a request for an interview, GEO Group referred the ABA Journal to Day 1 Alliance, a trade association representing the three companies. Ahead of the resolution's passage on Tuesday, Day 1 Alliance spokeswoman Alexandra Wilkes called the resolution "politically motivated" and "ill-informed." "If the sponsors of this proposed resolution had any idea what they were talking about, they'd know that private sector contractors have been part of the solution to some of the toughest challenges facing America's criminal justice system-including helping alleviate unsafe overcrowding and unconstitutional conditions in government-run prisons while providing greater access to recidivism-reducing programs that help returning citizens rejoin their communities," Wilkes wrote in an emailed statement. The private prison industry gained a foothold in the 1980s, ostensibly as a way to ease surging prison populations, the Marshall Project reports.Operators of private prisons say they help ease the burden on taxpayers by reducing public spending on government-run facilities. But Resolution 507's report says private prisons have fueled incarceration. The industry lobbies to impose stricter laws and penalties and opposes sentencing reforms, the report says. "Today, private prison corporations are driven by perverse and immoral incentives whereby an increase in crime and an increase in the number of human beings placed into America's prisons is good business news for that industry," the report states. A March report by The Sentencing Project found that as of 2019, private prisons incarcerated 115,428 people and that the private prison population had increased 32% since 2000. "However, the private prison population has declined 16% since reaching its peak in 2012 with 137,220 people. Declines in private prisons' use make these latest overall population numbers the lowest since 2006, when the population was 113,791," the report states. President Joe Biden addressed the use of for-profit facilities for federal detainees in a Jan. 26 executive order. The order bars the Justice Department from renewing contracts with private criminal detention facilities. In 2016, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General found that for-profit detention facilities "do not maintain the same levels of safety and security for people in the federal criminal justice system or for correctional staff. We have a duty to provide these individuals with safe working and living conditions," the order states.


Jul 10, 2021 azcentral.com

Biden administration to end arrest and detention of most pregnant migrant women

Rubia Mabel Morales-Alfaro, an asylum seeker from El Salvador, miscarried In January 2018 after being placed behind bars in a privately run immigration detention center in California while in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Morales-Alfaro was one of several dozen women who miscarried after being placed in immigration detention centers under a Trump-era policy that critics said was aimed at deterring undocumented pregnant women from coming to the U.S. But under a new Biden administration policy, ICE will for the most part no longer arrest and detain pregnant women, postpartum women and women who are nursing. The policy also calls for pregnant women currently being held in immigration detention to be released while they await the outcome of asylum or immigration cases. The change, which is the latest reversal of several of the Trump administration's restrictive immigration and border policies, was quickly applauded by immigrant advocates. "This policy change will have a direct impact on saving lives" because federal immigration detention centers are not equipped to provide care to pregnant women, said Joy Bertrand, a Phoenix lawyer. She filed a lawsuit in April on behalf of Morales-Alfaro against the United States and CoreCivic, the Nashville-based private prison contractor that runs the Otay Mesa, California, facility where Morales-Alfaro was detained. U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., also praised the Biden administration's new policy, which states that pregnant women should only be held in detention under extraordinary circumstances and requires they be housed in facilities where they can receive the specific care they need. “Pregnant and nursing women do not belong in detention, and I’m pleased the Biden Administration has taken this first step to prevent their unnecessary detention and reverse a terrible Trump-era policy,” Grijalva said in a written statement. “This is an extremely vulnerable population, and we must do everything possible to avoid the stressors and negligent treatment associated with incarceration. The accounts we received of the treatment of pregnant women in custody were horrific, and we must ensure the changes made with this directive are permanent and not easily undone by future administrations.” In 2016, under the Obama administration ICE issued a policy advising against the detention of pregnant women, "with the rationale that incarceration creates serious health risks for expectant mothers, and detention facilities are not equipped to serve those unique needs," according to the lawsuit. But in December 2017, ICE acting director Thomas Homan ended the policy advising against detaining pregnant women to comply with Trump’s executive order calling for stricter immigration enforcement. The number of times federal immigration authorities detained pregnant women jumped 80% the year after the Trump administration ended the Obama-era ICE policy against detaining pregnant migrants, a 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office found. The GAO inquiry was requested by Grijalva and other Democratic members of Congress after a  24-year-old Honduran woman in ICE custody went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn baby in February 2019 at the Port Isabel immigration detention center in Texas. In fiscal year 2017, there were at least 28 miscarriages by pregnant women in ICE custody, according to the lawsuit citing data from a Human Rights First 2019 report. Bertrand said the actual number is likely higher because ICE does not report statistics of miscarriages or stillbirths involving women in custody that happen at hospitals. Morales-Alfaro learned she was pregnant while traveling from El Salvador to the United States. After entering the U.S. near San Diego, she was apprehended by the Border Patrol and placed in a Customs and Border Protection facility, according to the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, an unidentified CBP officer kicked Morales-Alfaro in the belly and back. When she told the officer she was pregnant, the officer replied, "That's not my problem." After two or three days at the CBP facility, where the temperature was kept very cold, Morales-Alfaro was transferred to the Otay Mesa Detention Center in December 2017, according to the lawsuit. She miscarried around Jan. 15, 2015. The lawsuit cited inadequate conditions at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, including inadequate medical care, nutritionless and inedible food and cold temperatures, which made sleep impossible.  ICE officials did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the policy change or the lawsuit. Amanda Gilchrist, a CoreCivic spokesperson, disputed the lawsuit's claims. "While CoreCivic did not provide healthcare at the time Morales-Alfaro was at Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC), the company vehemently denies the allegations in this complaint and denies that anything that occurred when she was housed at the facility had anything to do with issues relating to her health," Gilchrist said in a statement. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, Bertrand said. She called the Biden administration's policy change advising against detaining pregnant women a good step, "but it does not undo the damage that has already been done."

Apr 30, 2021 newsweek.com

Joe Biden Says 'Give Me Five Days' to Hecklers Calling for Closure of Detention Centers

President Joe Biden responded to protesters who demanded that he shut down detention centers by asking for "another five days" and vowing to close all private prisons during a speech in Georgia. The president traveled to the Peach State on Thursday and visited with former President Jimmy Carter before attending a drive-in rally to mark his first 100 days in office and promote the $4 trillion spending proposals that he outlined one day earlier during an address to Congress. Minutes after Biden's speech began, a small group of protesters interrupted it by shouting demands that he "end detention now" and "abolish" Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "I agree with you. I'm working on it, man," Biden said. "Give me another five days." The president said that he believed the group was referring to "private prisons" moments later, while promising that he was working on the issue. "Folks, you all know what they're talking about," said Biden. "There should be no private prisons, period... none, period. That's what they're talking about, private detention centers. They should not exist and we are working to close all of them... I promise you." Not long after Biden took office, he signed an executive order aimed at closing all privately-run federal prisons. Most private prisons in the U.S. were unaffected by the order because they are run at the state level. The order also did not apply to immigration detention centers, many of which continue to be run privately. Biden's 2020 campaign platform insisted that the future president would "make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants." Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment. Biden's immigration policies have received considerable criticism in the months since he took office. A number of Republicans blamed a surge of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly unaccompanied minors, on Biden rolling back the policies of former President Donald Trump. Although temporary holding facilities at the Southern border have been packed, ICE is currently detaining far fewer undocumented immigrants overall than during the Trump administration—an average of less than 15,000 per day, down from a peak of more than 56,000 in 2019. Regardless, some progressives have expressed outrage that any detentions continue and called for an end to both ICE and the detention centers.

Feb 12, 2021 kyma.com

Rep. Raúl Grijalva wants end to privately owned prisons, immigrant detention centers

The Latino Democrat said private companies "have benefited from lucrative government contracts and taxpayer dollars to profit off the pain and suffering of others" A Latino Democratic lawmaker from Arizona has drafted legislation that would end federal contracts with private companies and remove federal prisoners and immigrant detainees from the facilities within two years. Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona plans to reintroduce the Justice is Not For Sale Act on Thursday. It would bar the Justice Department from contracting with private entities to provide or operate prisons and immigration detention facilities, as well as move its prisoners and detainees out of those facilities. "For too long, private prisons and detention centers have benefited from lucrative government contracts and taxpayer dollars to profit off the pain and suffering of others," Grijalva said in a statement to NBC News. Grijalva's legislation would go further than President Joe Biden's Jan. 26 executive order, which phases out private prison contracts and instructs the Justice Department to decline to renew private prison contracts. Biden's order does not address privately operated immigration detention centers as Grijalva's bill does. While only about 8 percent of imprisoned people were held in private prisons, 81 percent of people in immigration custody were held in privately run or -operated detention centers, according to a report last year by the American Civil Liberties Union. The bill also seeks to end contracts with private companies for other criminal justice entities, such as halfway houses, re-entry programs and community treatment centers, among others. Grijalva's office said private companies have extended into those areas as the movement against the private prison industry has grown. 'Perverse profit incentives' Immigration and civil rights advocates have pressed Biden to eliminate private contracts for immigration detention. Grijalva called Biden's executive order "an important step to address the mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately impacts immigrants and communities of color." But he said the federal government must stop using state and local prisons and immigration detention centers that contract with private companies and "account for a large slice of the U.S. prison population." "My bill ends family detention and reinstates case management programs while removing the perverse profit incentives that allow private prison companies to flourish," he said. He said the private prison companies have lobbied through the American Legislative Exchange Council for harsher laws that have helped increase the prison population they are paid to house. The bill would also increase oversight of how much inmates and families are charged for services like banking and phone calls, and it increase inspection and oversight of immigration detention centers. A 2016 Justice Department report found that private prisons had a 28 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults compared to federal prisons, Grijalva said in the letter. Grijalva has sponsored legislation since 2015 to address the private prison industry, having begun the work as co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.


Jan 27, 2021 motherjones.com

Biden Will End the Justice Department’s Use of Private Prisons

For four years, the Trump administration embraced private prisons, signing contracts with corporations to incarcerate detainees, immigrants, and people serving federal sentences. Now, that era is coming to a close as President Joe Biden signs an executive order Tuesday afternoon instructing the Department of Justice to allow its contracts with for-profit prison companies to expire. The executive order “will ultimately end the Justice Department’s use of private prisons, an industry that houses pretrial detainees and federal prisoners,” Biden said Tuesday in a speech on his racial equity policy agenda.  The decision means the gradual end for a dozen private prisons that currently incarcerate about 14,000 people—about 9 percent of the federal prison population. Most of those are men without US citizenship serving short federal sentences under low security. It could also affect for-profit jails run by private prison companies under contract with US Marshals Service, a DOJ division that holds pretrial detainees. “Private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners and are proven to be—or are found to be by the Department of Justice Inspector General— to be less safe for correctional officers and for prisoners,” domestic policy advisor Susan Rice said at a White House briefing today. “President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer. That starts with ending federal government’s reliance on private prisons.” The order will restore a policy first implemented under President Barack Obama, when then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released a memo announcing that the Justice Department would phase out its contracts with private prison companies to lock up people convicted of federal crimes—responding both to a declining federal prison population and to a damning Office of the Inspector General report showing that federal prisons run by for-profit companies were more violent and less secure than publicly operated ones. But before the change could have much effect, Trump won the presidency and Attorney General Jeff Sessions swiftly reversed the policy, kicking off a new era of growth for private prison companies fueled largely by federal contacts.  Biden’s executive order will have major implications for the private prison industry’s top players, including the GEO Group, Management and Training Corporation, and CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America. In 2019, Bureau of Prisons and Marshals Service contracts accounted for about 23 percent of the GEO Group’s revenue, and 22 percent of CoreCivic’s revenue. Stocks for CoreCivic and GEO fell 18 percent and 12 percent respectively following the news of the executive order on Tuesday. While Biden’s move fulfills a campaign promise to end the federal use of private prisons, it stops short of a second pledge to end for-profit immigration detention centers. It remains unclear how quickly private immigration detention centers—which make up the majority of the ICE detention system and account for about a third of GEO’s and CoreCivic’s revenue—could be closed and what would replace them.  Yet today’s order is a sign of the Democratic Party’s decisive shift against private prisons over the last several years. Public outcry against private prisons intensified during the Trump administration, as outrage over hardline immigration policies, including family separation, drew attention to ICE’s detention apparatus and the corporations that profited from it. In 2019, under pressure from activists, major US banks announced they would no longer finance the private prison industry. Meanwhile, states have been weighing and passing their own private prison bans. Silky Shah, the executive director of the Detention Watch Network, welcomed the new policy while calling for a renewed focus on ending private immigration detention. “We are encouraged that the Biden administration’s Department of Justice is prioritizing phasing out the use of private prisons—a decision that was made too late in the Obama administration and was immediately reversed by Trump,” she said in a statement. “The Biden administration must now address the private prison industry’s toxic relationship with the Department of Homeland Security.”

Jan 26, 2021 marketwatch.com
Biden’s policies will hurt prison stocks, analysts say

‘We have begun the countdown to a “whole of government” shift in policy that will have a materially adverse impact on private prison companies’ President Joe Biden’s pledge during the 2020 campaign to “end the federal government’s use of private prisons” has analysts predicting trouble for publicly traded companies that run those facilities. “With President Biden’s team falling into place at agencies across the federal government and his most senior nominees undergoing Senate confirmation, we have begun the countdown to a ‘whole of government’ shift in policy that will have a materially adverse impact on private prison companies, particularly CoreCivic (CXW) and GEO Group (GEO),” said Beacon Policy Advisors analysts in a note last week. CoreCivic’s stock CXW, -1.77% has lost 59% over the past 12 months, while GEO shares GEO, -3.83% have shed 50%. The broad S&P 500 index SPX, +0.36% has gained 17% over the same period. Recent months have delivered a big change in fortunes for the companies from the situation four years ago, when a Canaccord Genuity analyst said former President Donald Trump’s inauguration was highlighting the most compelling opportunity in years to buy prison stocks. Beacon’s analysts also said that with the House and Senate both now under Democratic control, there is less opportunity for Congress to interfere with a change on private prisons. “Skeptics of the ability of the Biden administration to fulfill this campaign promise typically point to the protests that will be likely from the USMS and ICE career staff, who have come to rely on these companies,” Beacon’s team added, referring to the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “To get around these complaints with ICE, we expect that the Biden administration will likely release a substantial number of detainees and dramatically scale back the number of undocumented immigrants that are detained and deported in the future. … For the USMS, the decision is trickier, but we expect that the first step will be to redouble efforts to house federal detainees in state and local prisons.” Mizuho analysts have sounded downbeat on prison stocks as well, saying in a November note that they expect “REITs involved in prisons/detention centers to be negatively impacted.”

Jan 12, 2021 marketplace.org

Biden’s immigration policy could affect the private prison industry

The campaign of President-elect Joe Biden promised to end for-profit detention centers.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the Texas-Mexico border Tuesday to highlight the partial construction of a wall that was a big promise throughout his presidency. Something else that happened under his watch: the expansion of private prison companies’ involvement in housing detained immigrants at the border. A study from the Marshall Project found that the portion of prison company CoreCivic’s revenue from immigration detention more than doubled between 2014 and 2019. Denise Gilman studies immigration law at the University of Texas at Austin. Under Trump, she said, “the private prison industry just changed its focus to the federal government and specifically to immigration detention and began engaging in much heavier lobbying and campaign contributions.” The campaign of President-elect Joe Biden promised to end for-profit detention centers. And David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said things could change quickly once Biden takes office. “The administration could make various policy changes that would simply reduce the number of detained immigrants, thereby reducing demand,” he said. The stock prices of two of the country’s largest prison companies, Geo Group and CoreCivic, fell dramatically when it became clear that Biden had won the presidency.

Dec 15, 2020 motherjones.com
Exclusive: Read Elizabeth Warren’s Scathing Report on “Corrupt” Prison Audits

  “The result has been the rubber-stamping of dangerous facilities and the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters. The organization responsible for accrediting US prisons, jails, and detention centers runs a “corrupt” process that puts a “rubber stamp” on dangerous facilities while taking in millions from the private prison industry, according to a scathing report from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), shared exclusively with Mother Jones. The report, the result of a nearly 19-month investigation by the senator’s office, examined the American Correctional Association (ACA), a nongovernmental organization that acts simultaneously as a professional association and an oversight body for prison and detention systems. Federal, state, and local governments pay the ACA to audit the facilities where they keep people incarcerated and issue its stamp of approval on their operations. Qualifying facilities must meet the standards ACA spells out in its published manuals, covering everything from fire code compliance to officer gun training. Private prisons and detention centers, meanwhile, are often required to get accredited by the ACA to access lucrative government contracts, according to Warren’s report—and when scrutinized, they point to their accreditation status as a defense. After all, the ACA’s website says, accreditation is awarded to the “best of the best.” The problem, Warren’s report found, is that the “best of the best” includes virtually every facility that pays its accreditation fees. The ACA currently counts over 1,200 accredited facilities; since 2007, only four have been denied accreditation. The groups provides three months’ notice and preparation tools for audits, “essentially providing the answers to the test in advance,” as the report puts it. And the ACA’s seal of approval lasts three years, with facilities conducting “self-reporting” in the interim. “A review of available evidence suggests that that accreditation has little to no correlation with detention facility conditions and practices, and therefore little to no value whatsoever,” the report states. “The result has been the rubber-stamping of dangerous facilities and the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.” Warren recommends that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security stop paying the ACA for accreditation and instead establish a “rigorous, independent, and transparent” oversight process. In a letter responding to initial questions from Warren’s office, ACA executive director James Gondles wrote that there was “nothing nefarious” in helping facilities prepare for audits—though the group is “currently in the process of considering” unannounced audits. The group did not respond to a request for comment on the findings of her investigation. Warren’s report points to examples of private prisons and detention centers that maintained their ACA accreditation despite “critical failures” like riots, staffing problems, poor living conditions. It also cites the Adelanto Detention Center, operated by the for-profit GEO Group. Adelanto was accredited by the ACA in 2014 and again in 2017 with a score of 99.6 percent. But when a government watchdog agency conducted a surprise inspection in May 2018, inspectors found that detained immigrants were inappropriately forced into shackles and punished with solitary confinement before they were found to have broken any rules. Some detainees had to wait weeks or months for medical care, even when they were acutely ill, and there was a months-long waitlist for dental work. (The dentist, who invariably chose to pull teeth over filling cavities, “suggested detainees could use string from their socks to floss if they were dedicated to dental hygiene,” according to the inspectors’ report.) And despite a history of suicide attempts in the facility, immigrants were allowed to freely hang knotted bedsheets referred to “nooses” in their cells. “The ACA’s private prison accreditation system is riddled with conflicts of interest, lacks transparency, and is subject to zero accountability even though millions in taxpayer dollars…flow to the ACA and private prison companies,” Warren’s report states. “These problems put the health and wellbeing of incarcerated and detained individuals, the staff and employees who work in those facilities, and our communities at risk.” (In his letter, Gondles wrote that criticizing the ACA for problems at accredited facilities “misunderstands” the purpose of its accreditation program: “ACA accreditation does not mean that there will never be an incident of violence, or that there will never be noncompliance with a health-related, safety, or other ACA standard,” he said.) The report’s description of a lax ACA auditing process lines up with what my colleague Shane Bauer observed in 2015 while working undercover as a guard in a prison run by CoreCivic, then known as the Corrections Corporation of America: Two well-dressed white men enter Ash unit and do a slow lap around the floor. The only questions they ask Bacle and me are what our names are and how we’re doing. They do not examine our logbook, nor do they check our entries against the camera footage. If they did, they would find that some of the cameras don’t work. They do not check the doors. If they did, they would see they need to be yanked open by hand because most of the switches don’t work. They don’t check the fire alarm, which automatically closes smoke doors over the tiers, some of which must be jimmied back open by two guards. They do not ask to go on a tier. They do not interview any inmates. They do a single loop and they leave. These issues have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which turned prisons, jails, and detention centers into some of the country’s largest coronavirus hot spots, infecting nearly a quarter million prisoners. In response to the pandemic, the ACA has reduced its auditing and refused to adopt new health and safety standards, the Warren investigation found—missing an opportunity to protect the health of incarcerated people, who are significantly more likely than the general population both to be infected by COVID-19 and to die from it. But why is the system so broken? Warren’s report suggests that it all comes down to money. In addition to being “the closest thing we have to a national regulatory body for prisons,” as Bauer put it, it’s also a professional association that lobbies Congress on criminal justice issues and serves as a “voice for corrections.” That dual role presents an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” when the time comes to evaluate conditions inside prisons and detention centers, Warren’s report argues. For one thing, the ACA gets nearly half its revenue from accreditation fees paid by the very entities it audits, including top private prison companies, her investigation found. Over a five-year period from 2014 to 2018, the GEO Group spent $1,429,599 on ACA accreditations, while CoreCivic spent $867,580, according to the report. The Management and Training Corporation, a smaller competitor, paid $501,850. The companies pay the ACA tens of thousands more in conference costs, certification fees, training, and for other services. Meanwhile, current or former private prison employees sit on each of the ACA’s governing boards and committees. (“The fact that one representative of a private correctional company sits on ACA’s Executive committee and two such representatives sit on the ACA’s Board of Governors and Delegate Assembly could not even begin to suggest that ACA is somehow beholden to those private interests or that the decisions of ACA’s governing bodies are driven by persons with conflicts of interest,” Gondles wrote in his letter to Warren, adding that the organization was governed by volunteers.) “Incarcerating and detaining millions of people for profit perverts our criminal and immigration systems and disproportionately harms Black and Brown people,” Warren said in a statement to Mother Jones. “This investigation shows that the American Correctional Association, the nation’s largest accreditor of federal prisons and detention facilities, is rife with corruption and that the federal government should end its reliance on ACA’s deeply-flawed accreditation process and ban private prisons.” Warren is no friend to private prisons; during her presidential campaign, she issued a plan to end their use on both the federal and state levels. She and other Congressional Democrats have been investigating private prison and detention center oversight since at least 2018, following a series of alarming reports on ICE detention centers from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, a watchdog agency, including the report on Adelanto. Inspections at other private detention centers found delays in medical care, problems with mold and food handling, or a lack of basic hygiene supplies like toothpaste and toilet paper. ICE was ostensibly keeping tabs on these facilities using an oversight system involving yet another private auditor, the Nakamoto Group, but that system led to neither “sustained compliance” nor “systemic improvements,” according to yet another OIG report. When Warren and other Senate Democrats sent letters to GEO and CoreCivic expressing “deep concern” over the findings, both companies defended themselves in part by saying they were regularly audited. GEO’s response touted the ACA accreditation scores of its Adelanto facility—kicking off the senator’s investigation.

Sep 25, 2020 wapt.com

Immigrants in US custody died after 'inadequate' medical care, congressional investigation reports

Immigrants in U.S. custody faced widespread failures in medical care, including some issues that resulted in death, according to a new congressional investigation released Thursday. At U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities operated by for-profit contractors, detainees "often do not receive critical treatment or face delays," the inquiry found. Additionally, the review found that many of the for-profit facilities lack sufficient medical staff and failed to provide necessary care for chronic medical conditions. In some cases, there were delays in emergency care, staffing shortages and poor sanitation, according to the investigation led by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York and subcommitee chairman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Last summer, the House Oversight committee announced it was investigating the Trump administration's "rapidly increasing" use of for-profit contractors to detain immigrants after reports of health and safety violations. For its investigation, the committee requested documents from ICE and two for-profit contractors, CoreCivic and GEO Group. The two companies operate facilities with more than 80% of all people in ICE detention. Committee staff also inspected 22 Department of Homeland Security facilities in six states, including ICE detention centers, as well as Customs and Border Protection facilities. Issues of inadequate care at ICE facilities have been an ongoing issue. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general found expired food and dilapidated bathrooms during unannounced visits to four immigrant detention facilities in 2018. The findings of the new investigation comes a week after a whistleblower who previously worked at an ICE facility in Georgia detailed a high rate of hysterectomies and alleged medical neglect in a complaint filed to the DHS inspector general. Ken Cuccinelli, the DHS senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary, called the allegations "shocking" on Thursday, saying he had dispatched a team from outside of ICE to investigate. During the course of the congressional investigation, detainees reported that when facility personnel did not deem medical issues to be emergencies, they did not take them seriously. "Individuals suffering from migraine headaches, hernias, and high blood pressure reported that their conditions went untreated," the report reads. For example, a detainee in Texas reportedly remained in medical quarantine for nine days with facial swelling before he was diagnosed with mumps. He permanently lost hearing in one ear. ICE Director of Public Affairs Stacey Daniels told CNN in a statement that the agency is "fully committed to the health and safety of those in our care and will review the committee's report." "However, it is clear this one-sided review of our facilities was done to tarnish our agency's reputation, as opposed to actually reviewing the care detainees receive while in our custody. Improvements to civil detention are based on concrete recommendations from the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) and an aggressive inspections program, which includes formal facility inspections, independent third-party compliance reviews, daily on-site compliance reviews and targeted site visits," Daniels added. The committee detailed the deaths of several detainees in custody. In 2018, Huy Chi Tran, 47, died of a sudden cardiac arrest after eight days in detention. He was placed in solitary confinement at CoreCivic's Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. According to the report, a guard failed to monitor him and then falsified logs. CoreCivic does not provide medical or mental health services at Eloy Detention Center, according to Amanda Gilchrist, the company's director of public affairs. ICE is "solely responsible for contracting, staffing and oversight of any medical and mental health services provided at Eloy," she said. "CoreCivic is committed to the safety and health of every individual in our care. We don't provide the health care in the majority of our immigration facilities. In most cases, comprehensive medical, mental health and dental care is provided for by the ICE Health Services Corps," said CoreCivic Director of Public Affairs Amanda Gilchrist in a statement. "Where we do provide care, our clinics are staffed with licensed, credentialed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals who contractually meet the highest standards of care," she added in part. GEO Group spokesperson Christopher V. Ferreira said in a statement, "We strongly reject these baseless allegations, which are part of another politically driven report that ignores more than three decades of providing high-quality services to those in our care." Ferreira said the GEO Group's Adelanto ICE Processing Center — one of the facilities in the report — "provides safe and humane residential care and high quality 24/7 medical services." In May 2017 after being detained for nine days at the California facility, Vicente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46, died of an enlarged heart and liver. At least five other immigrants have died at Adelanto since 2012, according to the investigation. "Internal documents obtained by the Committee show that the issues that led to Mr. Caceres-Maradiaga's death were systemic at Adelanto," the report reads. According to GEO Group, there are approximately 79 health services professionals at the center. In 2019, the health services team provided more than 54,000 medical encounters, Ferreira said. "For more than thirty years, we have provided high-quality services to the federal government under both Democrat and Republican administrations and we have always complied with the Performance-Based National Detention Standards, which were first established under President Barack Obama's administration. Furthermore, the Center is highly rated by independent accreditation entities, including the American Correctional Association and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care," he added. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has "compounded" the problems in the facilities, according to the report, which found that detainees face deficient sanitation practices and poor handling of infectious diseases. At least four detainees have died after contracting the coronavirus in ICE custody and more than 6,000 detainees and ICE staff have contracted the virus as of Sept. 23.

Oct 13, 2019 wbur.org

Sen. Warren Asks DOJ Inspector General To Investigate Private Prison Transport Companies

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is asking the Department of Justice's inspector general to investigate private prisoner transport companies, and examine whether the DOJ is doing its job to oversee an industry frequently under fire over abuse allegations. Companies like Prisoner Transportation Services of America, or PTS, have been the subject of harrowing stories of alleged prisoner abuse, neglect and sexual assault. That includes the alleged sexual assault of a Massachusetts woman. As WBUR reported in May, the woman, Smith, said she was raped by a PTS guard during a two-week trip in a van from California to Massachusetts. (WBUR only identified Smith by her surname as the station doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault without their consent.) Warren and other lawmakers brought their requests to the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General after an attempt to get information from the companies directly earlier this year. The Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate initially sent a letter to PTS in February asking how the company keeps detainees safe, as federally required. The letter was also signed by fellow 2020 hopeful New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, as well as Florida U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. The Democrats also asked how many detainees in PTS custody have died, or been injured or sexually abused. Get news from the Capitol and the campaign trail sent to your inbox each week by WBUR’s Kimberly Atkins. Sign up now. PTS was able to say how many people died in its custody (five), and how many people reported a sexual assault (six). But the company said it couldn't report how many people suffered a medical emergency or needed medical attention. PTS president Joel Brasfield called it "impractical" to gather that data going back more than 10 years, as the lawmakers requested. PTS also didn't identify any audits or evaluations conducted by the DOJ, the agency responsible for making sure minimum standards protecting people being transported as well as the public are followed. The lawmakers called it an "alarming omission." "The information we have obtained from our request to PTS suggests that, despite numerous reports of problems that endanger prisoners and the public, DOJ may be failing to provide critical oversight of private prisoner transportation companies," the lawmakers wrote in their letter sent Friday to the inspector general. In that notice, Warren and her colleagues asked the IG's office to examine the DOJ's oversight of the private prison transport industry dating back to 2003, spanning three presidential administrations. PTS did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Neither did the DOJ. The Massachusetts Probation Service has tapped PTS to move more than 460 adults since 2015. PTS and its subsidiaries collected more than $1.3 million in the last 10 years from Massachusetts, mostly from the probation and parole departments. In Smith's case, she was put into PTS custody in January 2016 after she was picked up on a probation violation while attending a drug rehabilitation program in California. A guard, Jermaine Taylor, was charged with three counts of sexual assault for allegedly putting his hands under her pants while she was handcuffed and shackled during a stop in New Jersey. Taylor pleaded guilty in August — not to sexual assault, but third-degree aggravated assault causing significant bodily injury. He admitted only to securing the woman's handcuffs too tightly, causing "impairment of functions." Smith told WBUR she was angry with the plea, and wasn't informed by Atlantic County, New Jersey prosecutors about the specifics to which Taylor was pleading. Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced next month. As part of the plea deal, he is expected to receive no jail time beyond the nearly five months he's already served.

Sep 26, 2019 newsweek.com 

Under the Donald Trump administration, the U.S. has more than doubled its spending on services from one of the biggest private prison companies in the world, with the majority of that spending going towards the detention of immigrants across the country. In the first 11 months of fiscal year 2019 alone, the U.S. has seen more than $595 million in obligated spending dedicated to The GEO Group, a Florida-based for-profit correctional institutions company operating prisons around the world, according to the U.S. government's federal spending website. The total is more than double the nearly $260 million that the U.S. government obligated to The GEO Group under the Barack Obama administration in 2014, five years ago, with the amount dedicated to the private prison company seeing a sharp spike in President Donald Trump's first year in office, 2017, and steadily increasing over the following two years. The surge in funding for The GEO Group, which has faced international scrutiny over its treatment of inmates—and in particular, of immigrant detainees—comes as the incarceration rate in the U.S. continues to fall. In April, reports released by the Department of Justice revealed that the imprisonment rate in relation to the U.S. population had fallen to its lowest point since 1997, sinking to just 440 inmates per 100,000 residents in 2017. That decrease has come "despite [the Trump administration's] best efforts," however, Kara Gotsch, the director of strategic initiatives at The Sentencing Project, an organization advocating for prison reform, told Newsweek. "At the end of the Obama administration, the Department of Justice had announced a phasing out of private prisons," she noted. "But, with the Trump administration, he appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general and they quickly reversed that phase-out." While Sessions has long since been ousted at the White House, his efforts to undo the Obama-era order to roll back federal reliance on private prisons have persevered. A January 2018 memo leaked last year showed the Justice Department had even gone so far as to seek to identify inmates to transfer out of government facilities and into privately run prisons. Still, Gotsch said, the number of inmates held in federal prisons across the U.S. has been on the decline. Where is the money going? So, why the boost in spending on a for-profit prison company like The GEO Group? Immigrant detention appears to be the answer. Of the $595 million the U.S. has obligated to The GEO Group in fiscal year 2019, in excess of $323 million, or more than 53 percent, was money obligated from the budget of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which oversees the detention of immigrants held under federal custody. "Most of that money is going to ICE detention, which isn't surprising," Gotsch said. While rates of federal imprisonment are going down overall, under the Trump administration, communities across the country have seen widespread "targeted enforcement operations," with some raids leading to the arrests of hundreds of people at a time. "When the Trump campaign came into office on a wave of nativism and xenophobia and a war on immigration, the [private prison] market was revived," Judy Greene, a criminal justice policy analyst and the founder of Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research organization focused on cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration reform, told Newsweek. However, Greene warned, companies like The GEO Group could suffer in the long-run due to their role in helping the Trump administration enforce its hardline immigration policies. "Their participation with this extraordinarily harsh immigration enforcement regime has tarnished their image with the public to a [significant] extent," Greene said. This past year, Greene noted, a number of major banks have sought to distance themselves from the private prison industry, including firms like The GEO Group, with banks including Wells Fargo and SunTrust refusing to provide future financing to private prison giants. "They are now pulling back from financing these companies and so it's a very troubling picture for [firms like The GEO Group]," she said. "I should think they are quite worried." And with a number of 2020 Democratic candidates, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, throwing their support behind calls to end private prisons and "exploitation for profit." In a June Medium post, Warren said that, if elected, she would bring the practice of "private profiteering off cruelty" to an end. "The government has a basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe—not to use their punishment as an opportunity for profit," Warren wrote. "If we have, you might call it a regime change," Greene said, adding that companies like The GEO Group could be "looking at the end of the federal market." For Gotsch's part, however, even if a newly elected leader were to bring about an end to the use of private prisons, that would not solve the U.S.'s "mass incarceration problem." "I feel like people are missing the boat if they think that...if you get rid of the private prisons, you won't have a mass incarceration problem," she said. "I'm opposed to the use of private prisons because I don't think anybody should be profiting off of incarceration," she said. But, even if the government's reliance on them were to come to an end, "we would still have racial disparity... we would still have unfair systems from policing to the courts...All that is still in place...All of that still has to be reckoned with."

Jul 12, 2019 cbsnews.com

House Oversight Committee seeks documents from for-profit immigrant detention companies
The House Oversight Committee is demanding documents related to government contracts with companies that detain or house thousands of immigrants. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent letters to two for-profit contractors operating Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, as well as another company that runs the nation's largest holding facility for unaccompanied migrant children. The congressmen also sent letters seeking similar information from ICE and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees care for unaccompanied migrant children. The move comes amid a groundswell of public outrage following reports of abuse and a rash of migrant deaths in government custody. "The Committee is investigating the Trump Administration's rapidly increasing use of for-profit contractors to detain tens of thousands of immigrants, including a troubling series of reports of health and safety violations and the dramatically escalating and seemingly unchecked costs to U.S. taxpayers for these contracts," Cummings and Raskin wrote in their letters. The lawmakers cited claims of abuse and inadequate living conditions in their letters to the chief executives of CoreCivic, Geo Group, Inc., and DC Capital Partners, LLC. CoreCivic and Geo Group are each paid hundreds of millions of dollars to operate detention centers for ICE. DC Capital Partners is an investment firm that owns Caliburn International, the parent corporation of the company that operates a massive unaccompanied children shelter in Homestead, Florida. The letters to DC Capital President Thomas Campbell and HHS Secretary Alexander Azar note that the company running the Homestead location has received government contracts totaling more than $545 million. The letters point to a series of sexual abuse complaints at the facility and cite a CBS News report documenting the rapid hiring of employees who were granted a government waiver allowing them to bypass Florida's child abuse and neglect background check system.  Another CBS News report, revealing that former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined Caliburn's Board of Directors, is also cited. Before joining the White House, Kelly was also on DC Capital's board. The investment firm bought the company operating the Homestead facility in 2018 while Kelly worked at the White House, and its unaccompanied children operation tripled in size before he left. The House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for Kelly Thursday, related to his both his work for Caliburn and his role in determining federal immigration policy. A spokesperson for Caliburn said in a statement to CBS News that the company welcomes the investigation "as a chance to tell our story and dispel misapprehensions about the critical work we do taking care of the teenagers at the Homestead temporary emergency care shelter until they can be placed in a safe home during this unprecedented surge of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S." The letters to CoreCivic, Geo Group and ICE note that the companies are being paid substantial sums to run facilities that have been repeatedly criticized by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General for dangerous conditions. The letters point to at least 25 deaths in ICE facilities since 2017. Both companies said in statements emailed to CBS News that they are reviewing the letters. Geo Group noted in its statement that "for more than 30 years, GEO's processing centers have been subject to independent oversight, including full-time, on-site government monitors." "We are committed to transparency, and providing the safest and most humane care possible for those in our 14 ICE processing centers is our top priority," the company said. "It's critical to understand that CoreCivic has a 35-year track record of working with both Democrat and Republican administrations to help solve the very types of crises we are now seeing on our southern border," said CoreCivic spokesperson Amanda Gilchrist. The statement included a bullet-pointed set of "key facts about our company" that included a claim that it has never housed unaccompanied migrant children. CoreCivic was previously known as Corrections Corporation of America until changing its name in 2016. In the 1980s, Corrections Corporation of America operated an immigration detention center in Texas that was included in a landmark court case about unaccompanied migrant children. The case included allegations by a 16-year-old girl of strip and vaginal searches by guards at the facility. That case led to the Flores Agreement, which set the nation's laws governing how unaccompanied children must be treated by the government. The company said in statements to CBS News that it has never contracted to house unaccompanied migrant children. "It's unlikely that (federal immigration officials were) able to properly ascertain her age" at the time, the company said. The Flores case "was about INS practices at the time" and not specifically about the Texas detention center, the company said. "CoreCivic does not operate facilities for the purpose of housing unaccompanied minors," Gilchrist said. Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the complaints against Corrections Corporation of America in a 1985 lawsuit were allegations and not proven in court.

Jun 21, 2019 medium.com

National: Elizabeth Warren wants to ban private prisons

Last month Caliburn International — a for-profit company whose subsidiary operates Homestead, the largest detention center for unaccompanied migrant children — hired John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff. Caliburn has profited directly off of the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies — while children at Homestead are reportedly kept in unsanitary, prison-like conditions, often for months. Now John Kelly is cashing in, too. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and I have demanded answers. But this is just the latest example of private prison companies wringing billions out of federal taxpayers. I’ve been after these companies to come clean about their practices and human rights abuses. Every answer just raises more questions. We didn’t get here by chance. Washington works hand-in-hand with private prison companies, who spend millions on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and revolving-door hires — all to turn our criminal and immigration policies into ones that prioritize making them rich instead of keeping us safe. From 2000 to 2016, the private prison population grew five times as quickly as the overall prison population. And the profiteers multiplied, too: today, nearly 4,000 corporations make money off mass incarceration. President Obama took steps to lower the incarceration rate and wind down private prisons, but these companies got their biggest break yet when Donald Trump landed in the White House. With Trump, private prison companies saw their chance to run the same playbook for our immigration system. They poured money into lobbying for “alternatives” to ICE detention centers. And boy, did it pay off. Private detention centers have made millions implementing Trump’s cruel immigration policies, as the number of detained children quintupled in just a single year. Today 73% of detained immigrants are held in private detention facilities. The companies running prisons and detention centers regularly sacrifice safety to boost their bottom line. Private facilities have higher rates of assaults than federal prisons. They violate federal rules by putting incarcerated people into solitary  confinement to fit more bodies in the building. They impose forced labor on immigrants just to make a buck. Multiple detainees have committed suicide. And now, under Trump, babies are getting sick and dying from their detention centers. The government has also stood silently by while private contractors providing services in both public and private centers come up with extortive schemes to make millions off of the backs of incarcerated people. Prison phone companies charge as much as $25 for a 15-minute call, forcing families into debt just to stay connected to loved ones. Commissary contractors mark up prices, and companies coerce detainees to work for as little as a dollar a day just to afford basic necessities like toothpaste. While contractors getting paid taxpayer dollars cut corners to maximize margins, the government has turned a blind eye. Food companies make millions but serve bug-infested food to save cash. An investigation into a prison transport company that allowed at least five deaths and a sexual assault to occur under their watch has gone nowhere. And today, the exploitation doesn’t end when individuals emerge from prison or detention. Current law pushes money into the hands of for-profit supervision companies, many of which are run by the same private prison corporations. These companies get rich by making people just getting out of prison — often with huge debts — pay outrageous fees for monitoring and supervision services like ankle monitors. Some have gone so far as to threaten individuals with reincarceration. This is exploitation, plain and simple. Our criminal and immigration systems are tearing apart communities of color and devastating the poor, including children. Women — especially women of color — are particularly saddled with the financial burden. We need significant reform in both criminal justice and in immigration, to end mass incarceration and all of the unnecessary, cruel, and punitive forms of immigration detention that have taken root in the Trump Administration. The first step is to end this private profiteering off cruelty. The government has a basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe — not to use their punishment as an opportunity for profit. That’s why today, I’m proposing my plan to root out once and for all the profit incentives perverting our criminal and immigration systems. Here’s what I’ll do: Ban private prisons and detention facilities. There should be no place in America for profiting off putting more people behind bars or in detention. That’s why I will shut down the use of federal private detention facilities by ending all contracts that the Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshals Service have with private detention providers. And I will extend these bans to states and localities by conditioning their receipt of federal public safety funding on their use of public facilities. Stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services. Companies shouldn’t be able to treat incarcerated individuals as captive profit centers. We should prohibit contractors from charging incarcerated and detained people for basic services they need, like phone calls, bank transfers, and healthcare. I’ll also keep contractors from imposing exploitative price markups on other services they provide, like commissary or package services. And I’ll prohibit companies from charging for re-entry, supervision, and probation services, too — because no one should have to pay for their own incarceration, whether it’s inside a facility or outside of one. Hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement. It’s time to shine sunlight on the black box of private services that receive taxpayer dollars. I’ll close the ridiculous FOIA loophole that lets private prison subcontractors operate in the shadows. I will put in place an independent Prison Conditions Monitor within the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. The Monitor will keep contractors from cutting corners to make a quick buck by setting enforceable quality standards, regularly auditing and investigating contractors, and terminating their contracts if they fall short. I’ll direct the Department of Justice to prosecute companies that blatantly violate the law. And I’ll make sure companies are held accountable no matter who’s in the White House by allowing people to bring a lawsuit against abusive contractors who violate their rights. Washington hands billions over to corporations profiting off of inhumane detention and incarceration policies while ignoring the families that are destroyed in the process. We need to call that out for what it is: corruption. Incarcerating and detaining millions for profit doesn’t keep us safe. It’s time to do better.

Mar 13, 2019 observer.com
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Grills Wells Fargo CEO Over Financing ‘Caging of Children’
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) grilled Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan on Tuesday over the bank’s financing of private prisons. “I’m interested in the human rights abuses and environmental disasters that some say are financed by your bank, Wells Fargo,” said the freshman lawmaker during Tuesday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing, pointing to Wells Fargo’s financial involvement with private prison companies GEO Group and CoreCivic. “We made a decision two years ago to exit two relationships we had with two private prison firms. One has been exited and when the credit agreement with the other matures, we will no longer have a relationship,” responded Sloan, adding that he could not recall which of the two companies Wells Fargo had ended its business dealings with. After highlighting three reports documenting CoreCivic and GEO Group’s construction of family detention centers, Ocasio-Cortez asked the Wells Fargo CEO why his bank was “involved in the caging of children.” “I don’t know how to answer that question because we weren’t,” answered Sloan. “For a period of time, we were involved in financing one of the firms. We aren’t anymore. I’m not familiar with the specific assertions that you’re making, but we weren’t directly involved in that.” Following the Trump administration’s crackdown of the controversial ‘zero tolerance’ policy, banks involved in the financing of family detention centers came under heavy criticism by immigration activist groups. Last week, JPMorgan Chase announced it would “no longer bank the private prison industry.” “This is a deliberate lie driven by an agenda aimed at abolishing ICE, knowing that we have nothing to do with passing, setting, or advocating for or against immigration laws or policies. Our company has never managed facilities that house unaccompanied minors, and we have played no role with policies related to the separation of families,” a spokesperson for GEO Group told Observer in response to Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning. “The contractual services we provide for ICE today are no different than the services we provided for eight years under the Obama Administration.”

Mar 14, 2019 truthout.org
As Bankers Back Away, For-Profit Prison Companies Step Up Political Spending
The U.S. for-profit prison industry, already facing organized opposition from human rights and justice reform advocates, got some bad news recently from its bankers. JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank measured by assets, last week announced its intention to stop financing private operators of prisons and immigrant detention centers after an evaluation of costs and benefits. The move follows banking giant Wells Fargo’s recent decision to scale back its involvement with the private prison industry as part of its risk management efforts. The decisions are a blow to an industry with a business model that relies on debt financing in the form of credit, loans, and bonds for day-to-day operations as well as for buying smaller companies. The banks’ announcements come amid a years-long campaign by advocacy groups that targeted the industry’s bankers. For example, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo were among the six Wall Street firms identified in a 2016 report by California-based privatization watchdog In the Public interest (ITPI) as financing the debt of the two biggest U.S. for-profit prison companies: Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), which at the time had total debt of about $1.5 billion, and The GEO Group of Boca Raton, Florida, with debt of about $1.9 billion. In 2017, after release of the ITPI report, the national progressive advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy launched the “Corporate Backers of Hate” campaign to target “some of the companies which most egregiously prioritize profits over people,” including JPMorgan and Wells Fargo. Activists kicked off the campaign with civil disobedience at JPMorgan’s Manhattan headquarters, followed by rallies outside of shareholder meetings in Texas and Delaware. Last July, activists working with the campaign held a protest outside the New York City home of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon that led to eight arrests. Meanwhile, more than 80 organizations from immigrant rights groups to social investing firms came together last year as part of the Families Belong Together campaign to create a corporate accountability committee targeting big banks through strategies aimed at both industry insiders and consumers. At the same time, activists intensified scrutiny of the industry’s other financing. For example, a national initiative called Real Money Moves is calling on athletes, actors, artists, and activists to keep their money out of private prison companies, and a growing number of public pension funds are divesting from the industry, whose stock prices have soared under the Trump administration and its punitive immigration policies. Then last month, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called for hearings on banks’ funding of private prisons that hold undocumented immigrants. “We’re going to hold oversight hearings to make these banks accountable for investing in and making money off of the detention of immigrants,” she said at an event hosted by an immigrants’ rights advocacy group in New York City. “Because it’s wrong.” While just over 8 percent of all U.S. prisoners are held in private facilities, over 60 percent of those in U.S. immigrant detention are, with CoreCivic and The GEO Group together holding about 15,000 people in immigrant detention each day. Under mounting pressure from critics, private-prison firms are stepping up their already-considerable political influence operations. The industry spent over $3.8 million on lobbying at the federal level in 2018 alone, and over $1.9 million on campaign contributions during the 2018 campaign cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org. That’s a significant increase over the industry’s spending of $2.1 million on lobbying and $522,000 on campaign contributions in the 2014 cycle. CoreCivic, the second-largest U.S. private-prison company after The GEO Group, last month retained the lobbying services of The Vogel Group, an influential bipartisan lobbying firm headquartered in Washington, D.C, as ITPI reported in its latest weekly privatization report. The issue code on the lobbying registration paperwork? Banking. The move expands CoreCivic’s already-considerable lobbying operation. In 2018 alone, the company spent over $1.2 million lobbying at the federal level, with that money split between six prominent firms: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the largest U.S. lobbying firm by revenue; Gephardt Group, the Atlanta-based labor consultancy of former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri; Greenberg Traurig, another of the largest U.S. lobbying firms; Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures, whose partners include the son of former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle; Miller Strategies, whose CEO previously worked for former Texas governor and current U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry; and Simmons & Russell Group, whose principals have served as chiefs of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The Vogel Group lobbyists who’ll be working with CoreCivic are CEO Alex Vogel, who previously lobbied for the company from 2010 to 2014, and principal Brian M. Johnson. The two men bring a wealth of conservative political connections and experience. Vogel served as chief counsel for U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, a Republican who represented Tennessee from 1995 to 2007. He also served as general counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and deputy counsel for the Republican National Committee, according to LittleSis, a database that tracks power networks. Vogel is married to Virginia state senator and former Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jill Holtzman Vogel and is a partnerin her law firm, Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky, which is currently embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit over its role in wrongly accusing Democratic voters of felony voter fraud in the 2016 North Carolina gubernatorial election. Johnson previously headed federal relations for the American Petroleum Institute, a leading oil and gas lobby, and for Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax advocacy group founded and led by Grover Norquist, a prominent Republican political operative who has said his goal is to bring America back to what it was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.” Johnson also used to direct the Alliance for Worker Freedom, now called the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF), a project of Norquist’s group that opposes labor unions. In 2014, for example, CWF led a public relations effort against the United Auto Workers (UAW) effort to organize a Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, using tactics that included billboards claiming the UAW is a cover for the “United Obama Workers.” The union lost that vote, but the following year a group of skilled trades workers at the plant voted to form a micro-union, though the company has refused to bargain with it. A union foe like Johnson would likely feel at home working on behalf of the private prison industry, where few workers belong to unions and typically make much less than workers in public prisons. The statement CoreCivic released in response to JPMorgan’s announcement offers a hint of what the industry’s messaging strategy might look like as the political fight over private prisons continues. The company said that it is “disappointed” with the bank’s decision, as Bloomberg reported, which it claimed had played “an important role in creating better conditions for inmates entrusted in our care.”

Mar 8, 2019 motherjones.com
The Private Prison Industry Just Suffered a Major Blow. And It Could Just Be the Beginning.

An expert breaks down JP Morgan’s latest move.
Last month on Valentine’s Day, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Upper East Side apartment of Jamie Dimon with a mariachi band and signs urging the JP Morgan Chase CEO to “break up with” private prisons. This week, he did. The largest US bank confirmed to Reuters and Bloomberg on Tuesday that it would no longer underwrite loans and bonds for private prison companies. JP Morgan Chase has long been one of several major financiers of the industry, whose two leaders—CoreCivic and GEO Group—brought in a combined $4.16 billion in revenue last year. (Mother Jones has reported extensively on both companies in the past.) The bank’s decision follows nearly a decade of activism pushing for divestment from the US prison industry and marks the first divestment by a major US bank at a time when some competitors, including Wells Fargo, are also signaling their discomfort with private prisons. It also comes a little more than a week after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, called for oversight hearings for major US banks over their ongoing investments in the private prison industry.  In addition to their longtime complaints about human rights in for-profit lockups, protesters and activist shareholders had been pressuring JP Morgan executives for months over CoreCivic and GEO’s association with the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southwest border. (In statements to Reuters, both companies complained that the role of their company in family separations had been mischaracterized; CoreCivic and GEO’s immigration detention centers did not hold children separated from their families but did lock up separated parents, as well as immigrant families detained together.) Steve Owen, spokesman for CoreCivic, called the bank’s decision “disappointing,” but what does the news actually mean for private prison companies now and for the future of the industry? To find out, I called up Lauren-Brooke Eisen, author of Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration and a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. Here are the key takeaways: It’s a big deal: JP Morgan and other big banks are vital to the industry’s expansion.  Back in 2013, CoreCivic and GEO restructured to become Real Estate Investment Trusts, meaning the Internal Revenue Service considers them real estate companies rather than traditional corporations. The arrangement comes with huge tax breaks, but also certain rules—including that they must pass 90 percent of their real estate income to shareholders. “They can’t keep a lot of cash on hand,” Eisen explains. “That has pushed them into relying on the big banks.” Without a “war chest” of amassed income, prison companies have to go to banks like JP Morgan any time they want money to grow their business—to build a new prison, for instance, or to acquire smaller companies, like drug treatment centers and electronic monitoring businesses, as the companies attempt to diversify. As of 2016, Eisen says, CoreCivic had borrowed $63 million from JP Morgan on a more than $132 million line of revolving credit. But on its own, JP Morgan’s decision won’t cripple the industry. The next time CoreCivic and GEO need a loan, they will likely still have a lot of friends on Wall Street, including major lenders US Bankcorp, SunTrust, BNP Paribus, and Bank of America, according to Eisen. Wells Fargo is another, though the bank has been rolling back its involvement with the industry as well, reportedly because of an “environmental and social risk management” process. Staying involved with the prison industry carries some business risk for these banks, who may alienate investors with moral objections to private prisons (like the celebrities associated with Real Money Moves) or those who feel like the politically entangled industry is too risky an investment. But at this point, “other banks may just say, ‘Well, we’ll increase our line of credit,'” Eisen notes. “That’s what happens with divestment: One company divests and another company invests.” It could start a domino effect. Past campaigns to get companies, local governments, and university boards to take their money out of private prisons have set off a chain reaction. Prison divestment activism traces back to at least 2011, when Enlace, a racial and economic justice group, successfully pressured the Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund to offload an estimated $196 million worth of shares in CoreCivic, which was then known as the Corrections Corporation of America. Companies like General Electric followed, along with government pension funds and colleges like Columbia University, whose 2015 divestment decision preceded the University of California system’s. Eisen argues that if history is any indication, the announcement from JP Morgan could have repercussions at other banks. “Jamie Dimon has a lot of influence with other CEOs and the business community,” she says. “It is likely that other investors will follow suit.” If enough do, that could lead to serious financial consequences for prison companies. In the meantime, it’s a potent symbol of changing attitudes. “[Divestment] isn’t just something that university students and graduate students are clamoring for,” Eisen says. “We’re seeing this not only on university campuses, but in city councils. We’re seeing this with small money management firms, big money management firms. Now we’re starting to see this with the big Wall Street banks who have not, so far, staked this ground.”

Mar 6, 2019 newschannel5.com
U.S. Senators question Brentwood-based prison transportation company
United States Senators Cory Booker (D) New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts sent a scathing letter to the head of Prisoner Transportation Services of America which is located in Brentwood. The letter requested specific information from the company and raised questions about the company's safety record. Congressman Ted Deutch (D) Florida joined the Senators in signing the letter which was sent last week. The lawmakers noted the for-profit company has a moral obligation to avoid harming individuals in custody. According to the letter, "At least 5 individuals have died while in PTS custody since 2012, one man was allegedly beaten to death by other prisoners as PTSA guards looked on." But their concerns go well beyond the deaths. "Public reports have documented inhumane and unsafe conditions in your transportation vehicles, including unsanitary practices, gross negligence, physical and sexual abuse...." adding that one PTSA employee was indicted last June "for sexually assaulting a female prisoner in his custody." The letter went on to state "The desire to slash costs in order to increase profit margins may create perverse incentives for your company to jeopardize the health and safety of your employees and the prisoners in your care."  The lawmakers asked the company to provide information on all deaths that have occurred involving inmates in their custody as well as all allegations of sexual assault against its employees. In addition they asked for copies of all contracts the company has to transport prisoners for both public and private jails and prisons. NewsChannel 5 Investigates called the company for comment, but the company has not responded.

Mar 1, 2019 themarshallproject.org

Members of Congress Seek Answers From Prisoner Transport Company
Three members of Congress are demanding information about abuse and deaths aboard the private vans that transport prisoners around the country. The written request was sent Wednesday from senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and Rep. Ted Deutch, all Democrats, to Joel Brasfield, the president of the nation’s largest private prisoner transportation firm, Prisoner Transportation Services LLC. PTS is paid on a per-prisoner-per-mile basis, and its drivers travel in vans packed with passengers, some of whom are on board for days or even weeks. Some have medical issues. At least five people have died aboard PTS vehicles since 2012, according to reporting by The Marshall Project in a follow-up to an earlier investigation of problems in the industry. Every year, tens of thousands of people are driven to face criminal charges in faraway jurisdictions by for-profit prison transportation companies, which are supposed to be regulated by the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency has penalized one prisoner transport company—not PTS—after an inmate fled an unlocked van and was found in a cornfield in 2011. The Congressional letter cites reports of “inhumane and unsafe conditions” aboard PTS's vans, “including unsanitary practices, gross negligence, physical and sexual abuse, and a disturbing inattentiveness to the basic and urgent medical needs of incarcerated persons in your custody.”  PTS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The letter also requested PTS demonstrate compliance with federal regulations, provide contracts with the governments it does business with, as well as furnish documents and details regarding medical emergencies, deaths and reports of sexual abuse. It requests a response by March 13. The letter to PTS represents the latest call by lawmakers for increased scrutiny of the industry. The initial Marshall Project story prompted then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to promise an investigation, but the status of that inquiry is not clear. Both Deutch, D-Fla., and Booker, D-N.J., have previously called on Justice to probe whether the companies have violated the law.

Feb 5, 2019 uk.reuters.com

National: JPMorgan pulls out of private prison financing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co has decided to stop financing private operators of prisons and detention centres, which have become targets of protests over Trump administration immigration policies. “We will no longer bank the private prison industry,” a company spokesman told Reuters. The decision is a result of the bank’s ongoing evaluations of the costs and benefits of serving different industries, he said. JPMorgan is one of several banks that have underwritten bonds or syndicated loans for CoreCivic Inc and GEO Group Inc, the two major private prison operators in the United States. In 2018, banks, including Bank of America Corp and Wells Fargo & Co, raised roughly $1.8 billion in debt over three deals for CoreCivic and GEO Group, according to Refinitiv data. Wells Fargo said in January it was reducing its relationship with the prison industry as part of its “environmental and social risk management” process. “Our credit exposure to private prison companies has significantly decreased and is expected to continue to decline, and we are not actively marketing to that sector,” Wells Fargo said in its “Business Standards Report” for 2018. Prison finance is a small business for JPMorgan, the biggest bank in the United States by assets. JPMorgan was a leader in 1,153 loan deals worth $354 billion across all industries, according to Refinitiv data. Prison companies account for about 10 percent of federal and state prison beds, according to Moody’s Investors Service. But about two-thirds of people held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are in private detention centres, S&P Global Ratings estimated last year. Moody's and S&P Global have speculative grade, or junk, credit ratings on CoreCivic and GEO Group partly because their revenues are at risk to changes in government policy and public scrutiny of companies profiting from detention. (reut.rs/2H4JOf5) After the Obama administration in August 2016 directed the Bureau of Prisons to phase out federal use of private prisons, shares of both companies plunged more than 40 percent. One month after Donald Trump became president, the order was rescinded and the stocks rebounded. Activism against the financing of private prisons heated up after revelations that undocumented minors were being separated from their adult parents. The Trump administration reversed its separation policy after a public outcry. CoreCivic spokesman Steven Owen called JPMorgan’s decision “disappointing.” He said in an email that “decisions like this are being based on false information spread by politically motivated special interests, who completely mischaracterize our company.” None of CoreCivic’s immigration facilities house children who are not under the supervision of a parent, Owen said. A GEO Group spokesman said in an email that the company “has never managed facilities that house unaccompanied minors.” He added, “We welcome the opportunity to have an open dialogue with all financial institutions to address the common mischaracterisations of our company’s role and record as a government services provider.” CoreCivic changed its name from Corrections Corporation of America in October 2016. It said the rebranding was to highlight its strategy to transform its business “from largely corrections and detentions centres to a wider range of government services.” In 2018 prisons and detention centres still accounted for 87 percent of CoreCivic’s net operating income, according to a recent presentation from the company to investors. It had 72,833 beds in prisons and detention centres. JPMorgan’s move away from the industry comes after activists have challenged Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon at the bank’s last two annual meetings over its financing of prison companies. Protest groups have also appeared regularly outside of Dimon’s Manhattan apartment. On Valentine’s Day, a group appeared with a mariachi band and signs that begged the executive to “break up with prisons.” At the May 2017 annual meeting, Dimon promised to look in to prison finance. In June, Dimon and the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs that he chairs, issued public statements calling for immigration reform and an end to the Trump administration policy of separating minors from their parents. JPMorgan’s move could prove mostly symbolic if other lenders or investors in prison companies do not take similar steps. Activists learned that lesson last year after they pressured financiers of gunmakers in the wake of a shooting at a Florida high school. Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, last year said they were limiting business with gunmakers in various ways. But others, including Wells Fargo, declined to follow suit and filings show firearms companies retain access to a wide range of financing options. (reut.rs/2Evd3nn)

Nov 18, 2018 warren.senate.gov         
National: Sen Warren and others go after private prisons
Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), today sent letters to GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two largest private immigration detention contractors in the United States, to request information about the companies’ compliance with federal immigration detention standards following a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report about unsafe conditions and mistreatment of immigrants at a number of privately-run immigration detention centers.  The senators also wrote separately to Nakamoto Group, a private company responsible for auditing immigration detention facilities, about the company’s questionable record of reviewing conditions at those facilities. U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) currently detains around 40,000 immigrants in 211 detention facilities across the United States.  GEO Group and CoreCivic together house the vast majority of immigrants held in privately-operated detention facilities—and their role continues to grow under the Trump Administration, which reversed an Obama-era policy to phase out the federal government’s reliance on private prisons. In their letters to GEO Group and CoreCivic, the senators outlined how the companies’ aggressive lobbying efforts to promote immigration policies that boost their profits have largely paid off, noting that the Trump Administration’s immigration agenda has filled private facilities with migrant adults and children. The senators also pointed out that GEO Group has received $560 million in federal contracts in the last two fiscal years, while CoreCivic has received contracts worth $225 million to manage ICE immigration detention facilities since 2017. “The President’s harmful and destructive immigration agenda has done immeasurable damage to immigrants, their communities, and America’s standing in the world as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers, but it has been lucrative for private prison corporations that operate immigration detention facilities,” the senators wrote. The senators also expressed deep concern with the findings of a DHS OIG investigation into ICE’s oversight of immigration detention facilities, which revealed that the private prison facilities it visited “undermine[d] the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.”   The OIG report also found that inspections conducted by Nakamoto Group are potentially misrepresenting conditions in these facilities or underreporting violations. “These reports and the results of the OIG investigations indicate that the perverse profit incentive at the core of the private prison business model has resulted in GEO Group and CoreCivic boosting profits by cutting costs on expenditures including food, health care, and sufficient pay and training for guards and prison staff,” the senators continued. In a series of questions, the senators requested information about each immigration detention facility operated by GEO Group and CoreCivic, their inspection records and results of audits, information about deficiencies cited in the reviews, as well as evidence that they have been or are being addressed.  The senators’ letter to Nakamoto Group asked several questions about the company’s compliance with its government contract and the effectiveness of its inspections. The senators requested the information be provided no later than November 30, 2018.

Jan 31, 2018 newsweek.com
The Trump administration has ordered the transfer of more inmates from government-run facilities to private lockups, a leaked memo from the Bureau of Prisons has shown. The move marks the latest boost given to the private prison industry, which donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the president's election campaign and his inauguration. The memo, published by Government Executive on Thursday, orders federal prisons to submit “eligible inmates” to move to private contract facilities. Eligibility is determined as those prisoners who are low-security male non-United States citizens with 90 months or less remaining on their sentences. The transfers are intended to ”alleviate overcrowding” and “maximize the effectiveness of the private contracts,” the memo states. Currently, there are 11 private prisons in contract with the Bureau of Prisons, with most housing immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. Of those, nine are operated by CoreCivic and GEO Group, who gave $250,000 and $475,000 to President Donald Trump's campaign and inauguration, respectively. In February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance in scrapping an Obama administration policy to phase out private prisons. The lockups have been shown to be more dangerous than government-operated facilities. A 2016 inspector general report found that private prisons had higher rates of assaults, confiscated eight times as many contraband cell phones and endangered inmates’ security and rights. The same year, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates ordered the Bureau to either end its contracts with private operators once they expired or reduce their use to match the declining inmate population. But Sessions reversed that move just weeks after Trump took office, charging that Yates had changed course on a long-standing Bureau policy and declaring that private prisons are needed in the federal correctional system to meet “future needs.” The American prison population has been on the decline, falling for the third year in a row in 2016, a Bureau report showed. But Sessions and Trump have vowed to be "tough on crime," a policy that typically lands more people behind bars as they are locked up for low-level crimes. Under their contracts with the government, private prisons receive the same amount of money no matter how many inmates are housed in the facilities, in part to ensure that more people aren’t being locked up to increase profits. The Department of Homeland Security relies on the prisons to detain undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Also on Thursday, the Bureau instructed facility administrators in a conference call to prepare to cut 12 to 14 percent of their staff or 5,000-6,000 jobs, some of which are currently vacant. In the past, the federal lockup unit has only staffed as many people as it needs to operate its prisons safely. Low staff levels have been shown to leave both inmates and guards more vulnerable to assaults.

Dec 19, 2017 grijalva.house.gov
Representatives sent a letter over sexual assault in immigration detention.
Today, 73 Congressional representatives sent a letter to DHS and DOJ demanding accountability over sexual assault in immigration detention.  Please see CIVIC’s joint press release with Congresswoman Chu and Congressman Grijalva below. Warm regards, Christina M. Fialho Co-Founder/Executive Director Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

Oct 17, 2017 .thestranger.com
Reps. Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal Are Back in Seattle to Talk About Ending Private Immigration Prisons
The House of Representatives isn't in session this week, so Reps. Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal are back in Seattle today to talk about a major piece of legislation introduced at the top of the month. The "Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act" would phase out the use of private prisons for immigrant detainees. The bill, introduced by Congressman Adam Smith on October 3, does much more than that, too. It promises an overhaul of the nation's immigration detention system. For example, the bill ends the policy of mandatory detention, whereby immigrants are automatically taken into custody if they have a criminal conviction—as are asylum seekers if they arrive without the proper paperwork. The American Civil Liberties Union has repeatedly challenged the practice of mandatory detention, which they say has greatly expanded immigrant detention and often sweeps up legal residents who have successfully been living in the US for decades after already serving sentences for offenses like drug possession. While immigrants today are subject to long periods of detention while awaiting bond hearings as a matter of policy (see the case of formerly detained DACA Dreamer Daniel Ramirez Medina in Seattle earlier this year), Smith's bill would institute a practice of immediate custody determinations in court, based on probable cause. The bill also sets up inspections for private facilities that contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), like private prison company GEO Group's Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The Northwest Detention Center has long been the focus of hunger strikes from immigrant detainees and their supporters aiming to improve access to medical care and adequate nutrition. Reps. Smith and Jayapal will be speaking about the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act at 1 p.m., and we'll have more details this afternoon. Watch this space for more.

Mar 4, 2017 charlotteobserver.com
Did companies’ donations buy a Trump change in private prison policy?
What does hundreds of thousands of dollars buy in Washington these days? Potentially a lot of private detention centers by the Trump administration. That’s the accusation two members of Congress have laid at the doorstep of President Donald Trump and two of the nation’s biggest private prison companies after newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismissed extensive research into the problems of the private prison industry and – with the swipe of a pen – overturned an Obama administration decision to phase out its use. “That connection seems suspiciously evil,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. The swift action by Sessions after his confirmation and the rapid blowback from Cleaver and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., highlight the sensitive concerns about the influence of money in Washington and help explain why government contractors are not allowed to contribute to presidential campaigns. The White House blasted the Democrats for implying any kind of “pay-to-play” scheme. “This is just more partisan politics by Democrats who have made clear they intend to ignore the priorities of the American people and launch meritless attacks against this administration at every turn,” said White House spokesman Michael Short. Steve Owen, a spokesman for one of the companies, now known as CoreCivic Co., said the company did not contribute to any presidential candidate or campaign. He acknowledged that his company had contributed to this year’s inaugural events but said it was consistent with past practice. He pointed out that the company doesn’t lobby or take positions on proposals or policies that would affect the duration of an individual’s detention. Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations for the other company, GEO Group, which is based in Boca Raton, Florida, defended his company’s $225,000 donation to a pro-Trump political action committee, saying it was legal because it had been made by a subsidiary, GEO Corrections Holdings Inc., that has no contracts with any governmental agency. “Our contribution was fully compliant with all applicable federal election laws,” Paez said. "THAT CONNECTION SEEMS SUSPICIOUSLY EVIL." -- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. Private prisons became an important part of America’s corrections system starting in the 1980s, as tough sentencing guidelines were adopted to address the drug wars. The population has since dropped, and private facilities are largely used to detain immigrants. Forty-six of the roughly 180 facilities in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds detainees are privately run, according to ICE. About 60 percent of its 400,000 annual detainees are held in privately operated facilities. They’re being held for alleged crimes, while awaiting deportation or while fighting asylum cases to remain in the country. The Justice Department announced last August that it was phasing out its use of corporate-run prisons because of cost and safety concerns for inmates. According to a report by the department’s Office of Inspector General, inmates in several private facilities received bad food and poor medical care. Staffing levels were inadequate. The conditions contributed to security problems. The private prisons saw 28 percent more inmate-on-inmate assaults. Eighty-six percent of the private facilities had lock-downs, in which inmates had to be confined to their cells, compared with 43 percent of government-run prisons, the report found. CoreCivic, then known as Corrections Corp. of America, and GEO Group saw their stock shares plummet when the inspector general’s report was published. Advocates hailed the Obama’s administration’s decision to move away from private prisons as a positive step toward ending mass incarceration. But that was six months ago, an eternity in a political landscape that changed dramatically with Trump’s election. Trump made campaign statements supporting private prisons, and the companies’ stock shot back up after he was elected. Trump then signed an executive order authorizing the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico, the hiring of 15,000 more immigration agents and the detention of everyone who could not be immediately deported. Then, soon after Sessions was confirmed, the attorney general signed a new memorandum ending the Obama administration’s initiative to phase out the use of private prisons. Trump had received little support from major corporations when he was running for the White House, but the GEO Group was a rare publicly traded corporation that made contributions to a pro-Trump super political action committee, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission reports by Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Florida’s Stetson University who’s a fellow at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Spelliscy noted that 45 percent of GEO’s revenue came from operating 26 prison centers for the federal government. “From the outside, what you see is what looks like some pay-to-play behavior, where you have spending by someone who is a federal contractor who is interested in a particular policy outcome, spending money in an election and then after the election their winning candidate does the policy that they wanted all along all,” Spelliscy said. “It certainly looks suspicious.” Damon Hininger, president and CEO of CoreCivic, noted in an earnings call that Trump’s order immediately allocated resources to the construction, operation and control of additional detention facilities. “When coupled with the above-average rate crossings along the Southwest border, these executive orders appear likely to significantly increase the need for safe, humane and appropriate detention bed capacity that we have available in our existing real estate portfolio, as well as an increased demand for our detention facility design, development and facility maintenance expertise,” Hininger said. GEO Group, which operates 64 correctional facilities in the United States, was named in a complaint to the FEC as violating a prohibition on campaign contributions from government contractors over its $225,000 contribution to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America. Cleaver said he didn’t have a problem with CoreCivic and Geo making money. But he said it was unseemly how the government appeared to be partnering with the companies so they could profit by building more detention centers. Cleaver and Gutiérrez accused the companies of advocating policies that “deprive people of their liberty” to increase profits. “With the massive increase in deportations and criminalizing people planned by Trump, prisons are looking at a fat windfall from the sorrow of others,” Gutiérrez said. “We just wanted to put these companies on notice that the American people are watching and that profiting from incarceration has moral consequences.” Paez said the company welcomed the opportunity to meet with Cleaver and Gutiérrez “to dispel the myths” about it. He said his company’s focus was on helping reduce “recidivism and helping individuals successfully re-enter society.” While the Justice Department conducted an extensive investigation last year before announcing the changes, Sessions didn’t give much information about why he was reversing course. In four sentences, he said the Obama policy had changed long-standing policy and practice and had impaired the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ ability to meet future needs. That led groups like Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit campaign-finance watchdog group, to ask questions and ultimately file the FEC complaint against GEO. “There is no indication that the reversal of the prior policy was similarly based in any sort of research,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “A reasonable person might then start to look at what other factors might have influenced this decision. And $225,000 to a super PAC and additional contributions to the inaugural committee certainly could be factors in that decision.”

Aug 24, 2016 tampabay.com
Behind Marco Rubio, a powerful ally: Private prison operator Geo Group
The federal government’s decision to stop using private prisons puts a spotlight on one of Geo Group’s favorite politicians: Marco Rubio. Few candidates in the country have gotten more help from the Boca Raton based company, including $80,400 in the last month alone. Geo Group employees and political action committee contributed $30,400 to Rubio’s Senate campaign while the PAC gave $50,000 to the super PAC supporting Rubio, records show. That’s on top of nearly $190,000 in support Rubio has received dating to his time as speaker of the Florda House, when Geo Group landed a major contract with the state, to his presidential run. Rubio said Monday that he hadn’t read the Justice Department report citing cost and safety concerns at private prisons. Geo Group stock plunged but was on the rise Monday as company officials downplayed any significant harm to their bottom line. “I’ll look at the report and what they found and if the findings are such that justify their decision, then it will be justified,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday while campaigning in Tallahassee. “At the end of the day, contractors are supposed to save us money, not cost us money.” The campaign declined to answer a follow-up question about why Rubio has gotten so much attention from the country’s second-largest private prison operator. Geo Group runs a federal immigration detention center in Broward County that has been the subject of protests and six Florida state prisons. As the Times/Herald recently reported, it is poised to benefit from expansions of state contracts relating to inmate mental health treatment, juvenile detention and electronic monitoring. The company and other private prison operators have long been major political players, using contributions and lobbying heft to expand its footprint. Since 2004, Geo Group has given about $1.7 million to federal candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It has spent $4.7 million on lobbying in the same time, including hiring Navigators Global, which employs founding partner Cesar Conda, Rubio one-time chief of staff. Conda has said he did not lobby on Geo Group matters. Florida candidates are among the most frequent recipients of Geo Group money. Rubio’s Democratic rival in the Senate race, Patrick Murphy, got $1,000 in 2014. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has taken money. Geo Group gave $100,000 to Right to Rise USA, the super PAC that supported Jeb Bush’s presidential bid. It has invested heavily in the political careers of Florida Republicans Rebecca and Joe Negron, some $288,000 in all. But Rubio stands out, and Geo Group has been quick to support his 2016 Senate run, with employees giving $30,400. It also gave $50,000 to Florida First Project, the super PAC backing Rubio. When Rubio was running for president, Geo Group gave $100,000 to Conservative Solutions super PAC. Geo Group also supported Rubio in his House days, pouring $50,000 into Floridians for Property Tax Reform, the committee Rubio used to push his proposals and travel the state, gaining key exposure that helped him in the 2010 Senate run. While Rubio was House speaker, Geo Group gave more than $100,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. His connections to Geo Group have come up in recent years. Last year in Iowa, a writer for the watchdog blog, Governing Under the Influence, asked Rubio about the largess. “I don’t invest in other people’s agenda,” Rubio replied, “they invest in my agenda.”

Aug 9, 2016 cnsnews.com
Clinton: 'I Have Proposed an Office of Immigrant Affairs for the White House'
(CNSNews.com) - Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says she would create a new office of Immigrant Affairs in the White House to help her achieve her goal of comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Speaking to a joint gathering of black and hispanic journalists on Friday, Clinton said she would start working on immigration reform "immediately" if she wins in November. "I will defend DACA and DAPA while I work vigorously for immigration reform," Clinton said. "I have proposed an Office of Immigrant Affairs for the White House so that we are able to answer questions and provide information and help people. "I will take a very hard look at the deportation priorities. My priorities are violent criminals, people suspected of any kind of connection to terrorism, not hard-working mothers and fathers and people who go to work, help support this economy, pay $12 billion a year into Social Security, so we will take a hard look at that. "We will close private detention centers, just like I want to end private prisons. We're going to close private detention centers. So, I have a very active agenda and we're going to be moving on it and I believe -- and you know, obviously it depends upon the outcome of this election - which is why it's so important to register more voters." Clinton described the upcoming election as a referendum on immigration: "I am hoping that the outcome of the election, which I am working hard to ensure a victory, will send a clear message to our Republican friends that it's time for them to quit standing in the way of immigration reform," she said. "If you remember, after the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee did what they called an autopsy of their loss and concluded that they could not continue to deny the importance of immigration reform, and they urged Republicans running for office to get on board. Now, that hasn't turned out the way that they seemed to have hoped. We have, instead, a Republican nominee who has been virulently anti-immigrant. "But there's nothing like winning to change minds." Clinton said if the U.S. Senate returns to Democratic control and Democrats pick up seats in the House, she views the "political landscape as increasingly favorable" to passing immigration legislation that will make it legal for millions of foreigners to stay in the country. "So, I have a very active agenda and we're going to be moving on it and I believe - and you know, obviously it depends upon the outcome of this election - which is why it's so important to register more voters. "My campaign is trying to register 3 million more voters, convince people to turn out, because we're going to start early and we're going to be tenacious and absolutely committed to getting a positive result. I think the chances, once we win, will improve dramatically."

Aug 4, 2016 politico.com
CCA: Could this be the beginning of the end?
Immigration authorities are looking at possible changes to family detention practices following a federal appeals court ruling clarifying the government's options, according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a key part of the Obama administration's interpretation of a long-standing settlement regarding immigration detention for minors. The Justice Department argued that the nearly-two-decade-old deal requiring quick release of children in most circumstances only applied to children traveling across the border alone and had no impact on those crossing illegally with relatives, usually their mothers. However, the appeals court found the 1997 settlement in Flores v. Reno does apply to accompanied minors, forcing immigration officials to find a way to get such children out of immigration detention quickly. "On an operational level....we're looking now at what impact that has," Johnson told reporters Wednesday at a breakfast discussion organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "We are looking at whether to change the practice in any way in light of the 9th Circuit ruling." Johnson defended his agency's creation of "family residential centers" for family border crossers, saying the facilities are necessary to handle increased numbers of families illegally crossing the U.S. border from Mexico since 2014. "The practice has reformed considerably since 2 years ago when we first opened these things up, but I think that we need to continue the practice, so we’re not just engaging in catch-and-release on the border," Johnson said. While the appeals court said most minors have to be released quickly, the judges clarified that the 1997 agreement does not apply to the detention of parents or other adult family members. So, in theory, the Department of Homeland Security could seek to release kids to relatives other than the one they crossed into the U.S. with. However, one immigrant rights advocate said he doesn't expect much change because so many of the families crossing the border illegally are passing the government's initial test for claiming asylum and being promptly released at that point. "There's now about an 80-percent approval rate on the credible fear determination," said Peter Schey, who's leading the effort to enforce the Flores settlement. "Detention has gone from an average of 60-plus days to an average of about 10 days." Schey said the high release rate and short stays for most families left him puzzled by Johnson's claim that the family detention centers were needed to prevent a "catch-and-release" policy. "The notion that this is a deterrent is a complete joke," the advocate said. "They've modified the program to the point I think it's a magnet......What's the point?" Schey said he and other lawyers are still pursuing some complaints under the settlement, including claims that conditions in Border Patrol stations where kids and families stay up to three days are inadequate and require some children to sleep on concrete floors. He also said that detention is too long for children not found to have a "credible fear" of persecution in their homeland, with authorities making little effort to get those children released. Beyond Johnson's comments, there are other indications federal authorities are rethinking family detention efforts, while not giving up on the concept. In March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought new proposals for "family residential servcies." And on Wednesday, the same day Johnson discussed the issue with reporters, the for-profit prison company running the ICE family facility in Dilley, Texas warned investors that it could make less money on that contract or lose it altogether. "ICE engaged us to consider modifying the scale and cost of services currently performed at the South Texas Family Residential Center for the purpose of achieving a more cost-effective solution in light of various policy changes that have occurred since the commencement of the contract,"' Corrections Corporation of America said in a quarterly earnings release. "We have submitted a proposal to ICE for our South Texas Family Residential Center in response to its request with respect to family unit detention reflecting a lower cost to ICE. Further, we continue to engage ICE in discussions regarding our scale and cost of services, but can provide no assurance that we will be awarded a new contract for family unit detention, will successfully renegotiate our existing contract with ICE, or will be able to maintain the margins we currently generate under the contract," the company said.

Jul 19, 2016 truth-out.org
Senate Bill Would End Tax Breaks for Private Prison Companies
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced legislation last week that would make it tougher for private prison companies to take advantage of federal rules that provide massive tax breaks for special real estate firms, a move that racial justice and prison divestment activists say is an important step toward confronting the corporations that control around 8 percent of the nation's prisons and immigrant jails. As Truthout has reported, the nation's two largest prison firms, GEO Group and Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), avoided a combined $113 million in federal taxes in 2015 alone. Large portions of the companies are allowed to file with the IRS as Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, which enjoy a special tax status designed to encourage real estate investment. The bulk of CCA and GEO Group's multibillion-dollar revenue stream comes from taxpayers, but both companies have seen their corporate tax rate plummet by 30 percent or more since they secured REIT status in 2012, according to annual financial reports. CCA, which owns 66 jails and prisons nationwide and runs an additional 11 facilities on behalf of the government, reported a net income tax benefit of nearly $138 million in 2013 alone. Federal law requires the bulk of these tax benefits to be paid out to shareholders in the form of dividends, so the extra cash is not reinvested into programs and resources for prisoners and jailed immigrants, or to pad the salaries of private prison guards, who can earn wages as low as $15 per hour. Activists also say these dividends encourage wealthy investors to profit from mass incarceration and lobby for the racist policies that drive it. "Private prisons are one part of a larger system of mass criminalization that has to be fought on many fronts," said Amanda Aguilar Shank, an organizer with the racial and economic justice group, Enlace. "Part of dismantling this system is recognizing the huge economic investment we are making in criminalizing and locking up enormous sectors of our community, and finding ways to divest and reinvest those resources into life-giving services like housing, education and health care." Established as a special tax status more than 50 years ago, REITs were originally intended to be passive investment vehicles, allowing groups of investors to put money into real estate properties without actually buying and servicing them, much like mutual funds. REITs are required to distribute 90 percent of their taxable income back to shareholders annually in the form of cash or stock dividends, which in turn are tax-deductible for the REIT. REITs are supposed to stick to the real estate business, but CCA and Geo Group provide dozens of (non-real-estate-related) services and products to jails, prisons, immigrant jails and the people held captive in them. Both companies also run entire facilities. The IRS has allowed companies to break themselves up in order to meet REIT requirements and enjoy the tax breaks, so CCA and GEO Group spun off sections of their companies that provided services, such as education and health care, or incorporated them as "subsidiaries" of the REIT. These spin-offs are supposed to pay federal taxes, but both companies have convinced the IRS that the bulk of their business is essentially renting space out to the federal and state governments to house prisoners, so the majority of their income is now tax-exempt. Wyden's legislation would close this loophole by preventing "active business activities" from filing as REIT subsidiaries. "This legislation would significantly weaken the for-profit prison industry," Shank said, "and it would divest resources from tax subsidies for private prisons, freeing up millions of dollars that could be reinvested in services that actually keep our communities safe." Wyden blamed a "broken-down tax code" for allowing private prison firms to take advantage of REIT status, but he made it clear that the bill is not just about taxes. With the nation roiling over racist police violence, Wyden noted that the bill is part of a broader effort to reform a criminal legal system that has disproportionately negative impacts on immigrants and people of color. "As part of rethinking our criminal justice system, particularly as it results in the mass incarceration of low-income and minority individuals, the tax rules for REITs must be changed so that we are not encouraging companies to unjustly profit from prison detention services," Wyden said in a statement. Meanwhile, prison corporations are not happy about the bill. CCA spokesman Steve Owen told Truthout that the "rationale for this bill is deeply misguided" and Congress has better things to do "than legislating winners and losers in an independent, IRS-driven REIT qualification process that is already time-tested, rigorous and fair." "The fact is, we provide problem-solving alternatives that help our government partners address some of their biggest corrections challenges, such as dangerous overcrowding and skyrocketing costs," Owen said. "Our company has made significant public commitments to help inmates successfully re-enter society, including helping thousands of people earn a GED." Critics of the industry, however, say prisons run by private companies are more violent than public prisons and have higher rates of recidivism among prisoners. Plus, private companies that provide telecommunications and other services to prisoners make business decisions that increase the likelihood that incarcerated people will become returning customers, such as banning in-person visits with family members despite research showing that maintaining family ties reduces recidivism. "Because private prison profits come from people spending time behind bars, it's no surprise the companies make business decisions resulting in higher recidivism," said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, a watchdog group that recently published a brief on the subject. It's unclear at this point whether Wyden's bill will make it out of committee, but Shank said that grassroots pressure to reform the criminal legal system and abolish private prison is only building, so lawmakers should decide whether they want to be on the right side of history, or not. "We are living in an era of mass incarceration, immigration detention and police brutality," Shank said. "Grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter and Not1More deportation have exposed this violence and provided a unified direction for a growing number of people of all races that are committed to fighting criminalization in all of its forms." The push to end the REIT tax breaks is just one part of the National Prison Divestment Campaign, an effort spearheaded by Enlace, community groups, and unions seeking to divest public resources from prisons and reinvest them into services that prevent poverty and violence, such as housing, health care, education and community-based safety strategies.

Jul 16, 2016 yubanet.com
Details of Private Prison Corporation Immigration Contracts Not Exempt from Freedom of Information Act, Judge Rules
NEW YORK, NY, July 15, 2016 - Last night, in a case seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the detention bed quota in immigration detention facilities, a federal judge ruled that the details of government contracts with private prison corporations are not exempt from public release under FOIA. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had argued that the contracts were “confidential commercial information” and releasing them would harm the competitive advantage of the private prison companies, claims roundly rejected by the court. At a time when medical neglect and deaths in immigration detention are receiving increasing attention, the Court also rejected the government’s attempts to keep secret the staffing levels of medical and social service personnel. “ICE has increasingly utilized private prisons over the years, making the system less transparent to the public and unaccountable to immigrants whose lives are impacted by detention,” said Silky Shah, Co-Director of Detention Watch Network, which brought the lawsuit. “However, with this ruling it is clear that ICE’s tactics to keep the detention system secret and hidden have failed. Rather than wasting advocates’ time and energy on lengthy FOIA litigation, ICE should immediately make all information pertaining to detention contracts publicly accessible and transparent.” “Today’s ruling is important both for the freedom of information and for efforts to curb the undue influence of private prison corporations on immigration detention practices,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Ghita Schwarz. “The Court has made clear that ICE and private prison contractors may not keep their contractual arrangements secret. The Freedom of Information Act obligates the government to inform the public of the details of its immigration detention system, and ICE can’t hide behind private prison corporations to evade its public reporting obligations.” Attorneys praised the Court for holding ICE accountable to the public. Professor Jenny-Brooke Condon, Director of the Seton Hall Law School Equal Justice Clinic and co-counsel in the litigation said, “The ruling is a resounding victory for democratic transparency and accountability: it preserves the public’s essential role in checking government abuse, waste and dysfunction in an era of increasing privatization.” Detention Watch Network and CCR filed the FOIA litigation to obtain information about the workings of the detention bed quota, which requires the funding of 34,000 immigration beds at any given time. The information ICE sought to keep secret is crucial for illuminating the financial incentives behind prison contracting as well as the social and medical resources available to immigrants detained within the system. In June, Detention Watch Network (DWN) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released a report, Banking on Detention 2016 Update, showing the extent to which ICE grants financial benefits to private and public entities that detain immigrants through government contracts requiring ICE to pay for guaranteed minimums at detention facilities. The report argued that this has rendered immigrants, including children and families, a source of profit for contractors. The case is Detention Watch Network et al. v. ICE et al. Read today’s ruling here. The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.Industry: Court rules in favor of transparency 

Jul 12, 2016 themarshallproject.org
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Will Probe Private Prisoner Transport Industry
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers Tuesday her office would investigate apparent lapses in federal oversight of private prisoner transportation companies, the subject of a recent Marshall Project investigation that revealed a pattern of deaths and abuses in the industry. Under questioning by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee that she was unfamiliar with the industry, which the Justice Department is tasked with monitoring under a 2000 law that has been enforced only once. At a key moment in the questioning, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) interrupted to insist that Lynch “look into this in depth, and report back to the committee.”“We would very much require that,” he added. Also on Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urged Lynch in a letter to probe possible abuses on for-profit transportation vans, which carry tens of thousands of people every year across millions of miles. “It is critical that the Justice Department uncover whether abuse of prisoners and conditions of confinement violations by private prison transport companies and their officials violated laws and regulations within the Department’s jurisdiction,” Booker wrote. The Marshall Project story, published July 6 with The New York Times, was the result of a seven-month investigation into private transport companies used by 26 states and countless localities to extradite suspects and fugitives.A review of thousands of court documents, federal records and local news articles and interviews with guards and executives revealed a pattern of deaths, neglect, escapes and accidents in the industry. Four people have died since 2012 on vans run by the largest company in the business, Prisoner Transportation Services. Among them was Steven Galack, whose story Deutch recounted during the committee hearing. Galack was living in Florida when he was arrested for failing to pay child support and placed on a private van for extradition to Ohio. He grew agitated on the trip, and two prisoners said a guard on the van directed the other prisoners to beat him. Mr. Galack was found dead in Tennessee. His cause of death was undetermined. Deutch asked why a 2000 law intended to regulate the industry has been enforced by the Justice Department only once in 16 years.“General Lynch,” he said, “I’d just ask what else can be done for us to focus on an issue that we were so concerned about here in Congress 16 years ago that we passed legislation, but that legislation seemingly goes unnoticed or certainly unenforced.”Lynch responded that all prisoners should be treated humanely and fairly and offered to review the issue, which she said was new to her. At that point, Goodlatte interrupted. Reached later by phone, Deutch called the chairman’s intervention pivotal. “The chairman going on record to ask that the Attorney General provide a report to us — that elevates this issue into a priority for the House Judiciary Committee,” Deutch said. The committee hearing focused primarily on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Deutch’s office plans to send follow-up questions to Lynch’s office, including examining the four deaths. Steven Galack’s brother Robert said he was struck by news of the hearing.“Who would ever imagine something positive would come of this?” he said. “For a guy who died penniless on a prisoner transport van to be mentioned before Congress, that is almost vindication.”

Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton Accepted Almost the Same Amount of Prison Lobbyist Donations
One little-known fact this year is that Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio have benefited from prison lobbyist money. In fact, they've taken almost the same amount of contributions from major prison lobbyists. Clinton's campaign has received $133,246 while Rubio's campaign accepted $133,450 from the prison lobby. According to a Vice News piece titled How Private Prisons Are Profiting From Locking Up US Immigrants, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio have taken virtually the same amount of donations from the two most influential prison lobbyists in the U.S.: VICE reviewed federal campaign disclosures and found that lobbying firms linked to GEO and CCA have already contributed more than $288,300 to three of the leading candidates. Clinton's Ready for Hillary PAC received $133,246 from lobbying firms linked to GEO and CCA. Rubio's PACs and campaign have taken a total of $133,450 from private prison companies or groups that lobby on their behalf. Bush's campaign and his Right to Rise Super PAC have received $21,700 from lobbying groups affiliated with GEO and CCA. "These companies are investing their money for a reason," said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a group that fights to end for-profit incarceration. "That reason is to maintain policies that benefit them." Rubio's home state of Florida has recently faced a crisis with its corrections system and has the 11th highest incarceration rate in the nation. While Hillary Clinton expects to receive the majority of the African American vote among Democrats, mass incarceration has targeted African Americans at a higher rate than any other demographic. Thus, Clinton's willingness to accept money from the prison lobby runs contrary to the interests of a core constituency. According to the NAACP, national statistics show black citizens targeted at alarming rates by the prison system: African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today's prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
. One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime 1 in 100 African American women are in prison. Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice). 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense. What's most startling is that African Americans on average vote around 90% Democrat in presidential elections, yet Hillary Clinton accepted money from major prison lobbyists, even as "African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites." As for the reaction from Latino and African American civil rights organizations, these groups pressured Clinton to stop taking the prison lobby's money, as illustrated in a Huffington Post article titled Hillary Clinton Says She'll End Private Prisons, Stop Accepting Their Money: Lobbying firms that work for two major private prison giants, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, gave $133,246 to the Ready for Hillary PAC,according to Vice. Those companies operate a number of criminal and immigrant detention facilities, some of which have been plagued by allegations of abuse and poor treatment of detainees. Immigrant and civil rights groups have urged Clinton to stop accepting contributions from donors with ties to GEO and CCA. Earlier Thursday, in announcing its co-founder Cesar Vargas was moving to the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the advocacy group Dream Action Coalition singled out Clinton for accepting those contributions. Sanders recently introduced a bill to ban government contracts for private prisons, including immigrant detention centers. It's unknown if Clinton would have still accepted prison lobbyist contributions had these groups not pressured the former Secretary of State. What's also surprising is that Jeb Bush actually received less money ($21,700) than Clinton, from the same interests that target a key voter base among Democrats. In contrast to Clinton, Rubio, and Bush, Senator Bernie Sanders has been outspoken in his desire to ban private prisons, as stated in a USA Today piece titled Bernie Sanders seeks to ban private prisons: Sen. Bernie Sanders said he hopes to end the "private, for-profit prison racket" with the introduction Thursday of bills to ban private prisons, reinstate the federal parole system and eliminate quotas for the number of immigrants held in detention. The Vermont independent, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, introduced the "Justice is not for Sale Act" with Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Bobby Rush of Illinois. It would bar the federal government from contracting with private incarceration companies starting two years after passage. "The profit motivation of private companies running prisons works at cross purposes with the goals of criminal justice," Sanders said. "Criminal justice and public safety are without a doubt the responsibility of the citizens of our country, not private corporations. They should be carried out by those who answer to voters, not those who answer to investors." In 2016, Bernie Sanders has been the leading voice among presidential candidates on the issue of banning private prisons. With the Democratic race heating up and both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton close in the polls, the issue of prison lobbyist donations will factor into the Democratic primaries. Bernie Sanders has never taken money from the prison lobby, while The Intercept wrote last year that Private Prison Lobbyists Are Raising Cash for Hillary Clinton. In addition, Bill Clinton's recent apology for his role in making mass incarceration "worse" will also be a key issue in the 2016 Democratic Primary. The Los Angeles Times writes that "The federal and state prison populations rose more under former President Bill Clinton than under any other president." This year, Hillary Clinton could be linked not only to her acceptance of prison lobbyist money, but also Bill Clinton's role in mass incarceration.

October 23, 2015 correctionsone.com

Hillary Clinton stops accepting donations from private prisons

Says she wants to "end the era of mass incarceration"

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton, currently running for the democratic presidential nomination, announced Thursday that she would no longer be accepting campaign contributions from private prison companies in an effort to back up her pledge to end the practice. The Huffington Post reports that Clinton said all previous donations would be given to charity. Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for Clinton, said that Clinton promised to end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers when she is president. “She believes we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute – or have the appearance of contributing – to over-incarceration,” Hinojosa said in a statement Thursday. GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America donated $133,246 to Hillary PAC. Both operate a number of criminal and immigrant detention facilities, some of which have been plagued by allegations of abuse and poor treatment of detainees.

Jun 25, 2015 politicalnews.me
Federal: Powerful Sen Chairman calls for investigation in overbilling

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is calling on the Bureau of Prisons to explain how approximately $2 million in questionable spending was allowed in one of its largest prison management contracts. A recent Justice Department Inspector General audit of a Bureau contract for management of the Reeves County Detention Center uncovered that the Bureau improperly paid $1.95 million in fringe benefits at the contractor’s request. The inspector general was reviewing the Bureau’s contract with Reeves County, Texas, and its subcontractors for compliance with terms relating to billing and staffing requirements as well as oversight and monitoring. Both the Bureau’s and the contractor’s failure to understand the applicable law led to the improper use of funds, according to the inspector general’s audit. The audit further determined that the Bureau should reduce the monthly payout to the contractor by $41,088 to prevent additional waste of $945,024 throughout the remainder of the contract. The improper spending was compounded by findings that the prison consistently failed to meet minimum contractual standards and received too many notices of concern. Further, one of the subcontractors, the GEO Group, did not adequately respond to the inspector general’s inquiries. In a letter to the Bureau, Grassley is asking for a detailed explanation of its oversight practices as well as whether the Bureau has taken steps to remedy the concerns raised by the inspector general’s audit. A signed copy of Grassley’s letter can be found here. Full text of the letter is below.


June 12, 2015

The Honorable Charles E. Samuels, Jr.


Federal Bureau of Prisons

320 First Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20534


Dear Director Samuels:

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has contracted with counties and private contractors to manage 14 prisons that house criminal aliens. One of those contracts was awarded to Reeves County, Texas to operate the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC). This contract has an estimated value of $493 million and is BOP’s second largest contract. Reeves County subcontracted with the GEO Group (GEO), a corporation that is also a primary contractor in four federal correctional facilities. Reeves County also subcontracted to Correct Care Solutions, LLC (CCS), to provide comprehensive health care services. In April of 2015, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited BOP’s contract with Reeves County for compliance with contract terms and conditions relating to billings, staffing requirements, and contract oversight and monitoring. OIG found substantial waste and abuse. Specifically, OIG found that “Reeves County improperly requested and the BOP improperly paid $1.95 million in fringe benefits it was not entitled to receive, including $175,436 in payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance[.]” In addition, CCS improperly requested $74,765 in fringe benefits that were unsupported by payroll documentation. OIG further noted that the unallowable reimbursements have “a compounding effect over time” and therefore in addition to the aforementioned unallowable reimbursements, BOP “should reduce the contract’s monthly price by $41,088 to ensure the contractor will not improperly charge BOP an additional $945,024” through the life of the contract. OIG concluded that the unallowable reimbursements were able to occur because both the BOP and the contractors failed to understand the requirements of the Service Contract Act. In addition, between February 2007 and December 2014, the RCDC was rated “deficient” or “unsatisfactory” in 6 of 12 award fee evaluation periods. According to OIG, RCDC struggled immensely to adequately perform under the contract, including: “[RCDC] consistently struggled to meet or exceed baseline contractual standards, received an unacceptable number of deficiencies and notices of concern; was unresponsive to BOP inquiries; struggled with staffing issues in health services and correctional services; and frequently submitted inaccurate routine paperwork, including erroneous disciplinary hearing records and monthly invoices. In addition, the BOP reports repeatedly described RCDC I/II’s quality control program as minimally or marginally effective.” This is concerning. As the oversight authority, BOP ought to have more control over entities that it contracts with so as to ensure adequate performance. According to the OIG, it appears that RCDC was often totally unresponsive to BOP inquiries all while BOP was paying for unallowable reimbursements valued in the millions of dollars. According to the OIG, $2,028,847 in BOP expenditures under the contract were “Questioned Costs” which are defined as “expenditures that do not comply with legal, regulatory, or contractual requirements, or are not supported by adequate documentation at the time of the audit, or are unnecessary or unreasonable.” If BOP does not reduce the contract’s price to recoup the unallowable costs, $945,024 will be spent unnecessarily bringing the total amount of unnecessary expenditures to just under $3 million dollars. BOP’s apparent lack of command, control and oversight over the legal requirements of contracts awarded to private entities to manage prisons is cause for serious concern. One must wonder what degree of mismanagement is occurring, or has already occurred, at other prisons.To ensure that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently, please answer the following:

1. OIG noted, “[t]hroughout the course of this audit, the OIG has on several occasions requested the GEO Group provide documentation on its interpretation so we could review and consider its position, but GEO Group officials did not provide us with documentation.” What role does BOP play in ensuring that parties to a BOP contract are sufficiently cooperating with an OIG audit? Was that role fulfilled with the current audit? Please explain.

2. BOP’s Privatization Management Branch (PMB) is responsible for managing and overseeing the operation of secure contract facilities. The PMB maintains at a minimum two full time staff at each private facility including the Senior Secure Institution Manager (SSIM) and Secure Oversight Manager (SOM). Do you believe the SSIM and SOM at RCDC performed up to the standards expected of them by the taxpayer? Please explain.

3. Please describe the oversight and accountability mechanisms in place that BOP uses to ensure that SSIM’s and SOM’s within the PMB are properly managed to reduce contract waste and abuse at privately contracted prisons.

4. Has BOP remedied the $1,954,082 in net unallowable costs that Reeves County incorrectly claimed for Health & Welfare benefit-related price adjustments and the $175,436 in incorrectly claimed price adjustments for payroll taxes and workers’ compensation? If so, has BOP provided OIG with that documentation? If it has not been remedied, why not?

5. Has BOP remedied the $74,765 in unsupported costs for CCS since they were unable to provide records supporting the cost of providing benefits to employees from 2007-2009? If so, has BOP provided OIG with that documentation? If it has not been remedied, why not?

6. GEO is a subcontractor for RCDC and is a contractor for Criminal Alien Requirement Privately-Managed Contract Facilities as of February 19, 2015. The OIG report indicates that GEO, in conjunction with BOP, did not properly comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Service Contract Act. In light of these troublesome claims, has BOP taken steps to ensure that similar improprieties are not occurring at other privately managed facilities, including those managed by GEO? If so, please explain the steps taken. If not, why not?

7. Has BOP removed the $41,088 in unallowable and unsupported costs from the Monthly Operating Plan to remedy the $954,024 for Funds Put to Better Use?

8. Has BOP performed a review to identify unallowable questioned costs related to price adjustments that Reeves County was not entitled to receive for RCDC III (Contract No. DJB1PC003)?

9. Has BOP created and implemented policies and procedures that strengthen responsible officials’ understanding of Service Contract Act rules and regulations? If so, please explain. If not, why not?

10. Has Reeves County updated its quality control policies and procedures requiring the retention of all records related to the contract? If so, please explain. If not, why not?

11. What, if anything, has BOP done to remedy the problem RCDC had with frequently submitting inaccurate routine paperwork, including erroneous disciplinary hearing records and monthly invoices? If nothing has been done, why not?

Mar 19, 2015 nashvillescene.com
Earlier this month, 55 organizations focused on criminal justice and civil rights submitted a letter asking U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act. The Texas Democrat introduced the bill last year, but only at the end of the year when legislators were fighting over how to keep the government running and go home for the holidays. The legislation — the PPIA — would extend the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act to private prison corporations, like Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, who hold federal prisoners in their facilities. Currently, companies like CCA or GEO Group are not covered by the FOIA. In 2013, private prisons held 19 percent of the entire federal prison population, according to a report by Mother Jones. That same report noted that CCA, the nation's largest for-profit prison operator, collected more than $584 million from the federal government. The private prison industry has lobbied heavily against versions of the PPIA in the past. The letter, signed by organizations like The Sentencing Project and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (of which the Scene is a member), makes the case that private prisons which can only exist through public funding should be subject to the same standards of transparency as government agencies. If private prison companies like CCA and GEO would like to continue to enjoy taxpayer-funded federal contracts, then they must be required to adhere to the same disclosure laws applicable to their public counterparts, including FOIA. Why should private prison firms, which are funded exclusively with taxpayer dollars, be any less accountable to the public than federal corrections agencies such as the Bureau of Prisons or ICE? We contend that because the for-profit private prison industry relies almost entirely on taxpayer support, and performs the inherently governmental function of incarceration—depriving people of their liberty—the public has a right to access information related to private prison operations. In short, the government should not be allowed to contract away the public’s right to know with respect to housing federal prisoners and detainees in privately-operated facilities. You can read the whole letter, along with an accompanying press release from the Human Rights Defense Center, here. Pith asked Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper if he would support the legislation were it to be reintroduced. He sent along this statement: “We need transparency in our prisons to be sure they’re running properly. Better oversight will take time and cooperation from all levels of government, but it’s an achievable goal. If this bill is reintroduced, I will review whether it’s part of the solution.”

Dec 17, 2014 themarshallproject.org

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Private Prisons......is none of your damn business. Last week, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, tried yet again to shine some light on the opaque system of private prisons that house over 31,500 federal inmates. For the sixth time, she introduced the Private Prison Information Act to make private correctional facilities subject to the same federal public records laws as government-run prisons. It will not have an easy run, given the fierce resistance of private prison companies. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison company, has spent at least $7 million lobbying against the bill since 2005, according to a tally by disclosure advocates. Others who oppose the proposal say it would set a “dangerous precedent” of applying public record law to private companies, and raise the cost of private contractors by increasing legal fees and record-keeping staff. In an email, CCA spokesperson Steve Owen said the bill was unnecessary. “The Department of Justice, the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Homeland Security already have in place explicit procedures for making applicable information available to the public,” he wrote. “The result could be a breakdown in the now collaborative process between private sector contractors and the federal government to determine what information is appropriate for release.”There has been a bit more transparency on the state level, where several state courts have ruled that private prisons accepting public money should comply with disclosure requests. In September, a district court judge in Texas found that CCA prisons counted as a “government body” and would have to comply with the state Public Information Act. Judges in Vermont, Tennessee and Florida have issued similar decisions. But the federally funded private prisons, holding mostly immigrants awaiting deportation, remain a black box. Lawyers, advocates and investigators have tried to piece together a picture of how they run, but large swaths of the industry remain a mystery. Here are a few of the big questions about private federal prisons, that might be answered if Rep. Jackson Lee’s bill ever got out of limbo:Do they actually save money?The main argument in favor of private prisons housing federal inmates is that they can save taxpayer dollars. But without detailed data on exactly how private facilities spend public money, it is impossible to know whether they are in fact cheaper or more efficient. A 2007 report from the Government Accountability Office found that “without comparable data, [the Bureau Of Prisons] is not able to evaluate and justify whether confining inmates in private facilities is more cost-effective than other confinement alternatives such as building new BOP facilities.” The BOP rejected their recommendation to collect more detailed data.How safe are they?We cannot say how many people detained in private facilities file complaints or grievances and how many of them are sustained. That data is hard to procure and incomplete for public prisons. But for private prisons, it is nonexistent. Incident reports that detail fights between detainees or attacks on officers are also secret. What research has been done on this subject has been inconclusive. A 2012 study in Mississippi found privately-run prisons in the state had assault rates three to five times higher than the public facilities. But a 2005 study from the Bureau of Prisons found “being an inmate at the private prison seemed to reduce the probability of violent misconduct.” Without legal action, it is also hard to track how inmates are treated inside specific facilities. A recent string of lawsuits against private state prisons uncovered conditions that a federal judge described as “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.”How do they use solitary confinement?Private facilities do not have to report how many inmates they hold in isolation or provide to the public policies dictating who gets put there. The use of isolation was largely a mystery until the ACLU interviewed hundreds of immigrants detained in private prisons for a 2014 report. “We found people were being put in solitary confinement on intake and kept there for days or weeks because there were beds available in the solitary confinement units but not in general population,” said staff attorney Carl Takei of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “It required going in and interviewing scores of prisoners that were able to speak about their experiences. [The Bureau of Prisons] didn’t produce any documents in response to our FOIA request.” The interviews also found inmates were sent to solitary for reasons ranging from filing a complaint to asking for new shoes. “The combination of inadequate BOP oversight and the lack of transparency created by this FOIL loophole make it essentially impossible for the public to know what’s going on,” Takei said. This post has been updated to include a comment from CCA.

Dec. 16, 2014 motherjones.com

Will Private Prisons Finally Be Subject to the Freedom of Information Act? Anyone can use the federal Freedom of Information Act to request records about prisons owned and operated by the government. Information about prisoner demographics, violent incidents, and prison budgets are all obtainable. But privately run facilities—even those that hold federal prisoners—are exempt from the law. Last week, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) introduced legislation to change that. On December 10, she introduced a new bill, the Private Prison Information Act. If passed, it would force any nonfederal prison holding federal prisoners to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. In 2013, 41,200 federal convicts—19 percent of the entire federal prison population—were housed in private facilities. That year, Corrections Corporation of America, the largest prison contractor in the United States, collected more than $584 million from the federal government. Passing Lee's bill will be difficult, if not impossible. From 2005 to 2012, Democrats (including Lee) introduced five separate bills that aimed to apply FOIA to private prisons. All of them failed. With the GOP—which has been generally friendly to the prison industry—controlling both houses of Congress beginning next year, the new bill will likely meet a similar end. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of prisoners are locked up in facilities that are legally immune to open-records requests. From 2000 to 2009, the number of people locked up in private facilities at every level of the justice system increased 37 percent, to 129,336, according to the Department of Justice. By the end of 2013, 133,000 inmates—about 8 percent of the entire US prison population—were housed in private prisons. The figure is on par with the entire California prison population at that time.

July 29, 2013 abcnews.go.com

On a recent day at a migrant shelter in the Mexican border town of Nogales, Luis* was waiting for a call from his guide informing him they would be crossing the desert into the United States. The 34-year-old had been in the city, just an hour's drive south of Tucson, Arizona, for nearly two weeks and said he missed his family, especially his two young daughters. Luis had worked at a farm in Arizona and was the primary provider in his household. He was determined to go back and care for his children. "I don't want to undo the life that they have," he said. See Also: Immigrants Get Assembly-Line Justice in Federal Court. This was Luis' third deportation. The first time was four years ago when he was caught by Border Patrol and imprisoned for a month and a half through a program known as Operation Streamline. The program sends as many as 70 migrants before a judge at one time, and has an almost mechanical conviction rate of 99 percent, according to a study by the Warren Institute. Defendants are given up to six months in a federal prison, often privately run. The threat of jail time lay heavy on his mind, but Luis said he was prepared to risk incarceration to return to his children. "If I cross back over they can give me time," he said. "But, no matter what, I will return." Luis isn't the only one. Many other deportees are struggling to reunite with their families, according a University of Arizona report. The drive for family reunification not only means people like Luis end up in prison, it means that the companies that run those prisons will profit. If an immigration reform bill passes in Congress this year, it could increase those profits even more. For example, a comprehensive bill that passed in the Senate in late June would authorize funding to triple the number of Streamline prosecutions in the Tucson district, the southern border's busiest Border Patrol sector. When you combine the powerful draw of family reunification with a criminal justice program like Streamline, you get a renewable source of income for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company with facilities in Florence, Arizona. Under current laws, Streamline defendants charged with a felony for reentry receive a maximum of six months in a federal prison. But in an additional boon for private prisons, the new bill would double that maximum sentence from six months to one year. Subsequent reentry prosecutions would constitute two to three years in prison. All that could translate into more profits for prison companies like the CCA and GEO Group. Both companies run prisons in Arizona where many migrants like Luis are held. In addition, CCA owns around 60 facilities in the U.S. and earned $1.7 billion 2012, according to The Nation. Nearly a quarter of the company's profits are from Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts. A spokesperson for CCA responded in an email stating, the CCA "does not take positions on, lobby for or in any way promote policies that determine the basis for an individual's detention." Meanwhile GEO Group owns 56 facilities and brought in $1.4 billion in revenue. Both companies have grown significantly with the increase in incarceration of migrants. GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment. Some of the senators who drafted the immigration bill -- John McCain (R-Ariz.) Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- have received donations from some of the largest private prison companies in the U.S. McCain is among the top recipients, having received over $127,000 in contributions from private prisons since he was elected, according to The Nation. A request for comment from McCain's office was not returned at the time of publication. CCA and GEO Group combined have spent more than $45 million to influence state and federal government, The Nation found. Not everyone in the criminal justice system supports Operation Streamline, however. Isabel García was a former federal public defender and is currently a Pima County legal defender in Tucson. She has long been an outspoken opponent of the program, and now its expansion. García said Operation Streamline erodes the faith people had in U.S. courts. "I oppose not only the expansion," she said in a recent phone interview, "but the existence of Operation Streamline as a total mockery of our criminal justice system." Within the program, "there is a lack of any real humanity, and any meaningful process," García said. "Most federal public defenders see that this is really an outrageous expenditure of money." *We only used Luis' first name due to the sensitivity of his U.S. legal status.

July 5, 2013,

Congressional efforts to rewrite the nation's immigration laws represent a potential payday for an industry already getting a boost from the current crackdown on illegal immigration: privately operated prisons. The two biggest companies, Corrections Corp. of America and the GEO Group Inc., GEO +0.67%owe a big chunk of their recent growth to a drive by the federal government to lock up people who are in the U.S illegally. Legislation approved by the Senate would increase the federal prison population further, by 14,000 inmates annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The price tag would be $1.6 billion over the next decade. "The private sector would stand to benefit the most because the feds have turned to them to meet their immigration needs," said Kevin Campbell, a senior research analyst at investment firm Avondale Partners, who is recommending CCA and GEO Group. He thinks private contractors could snag 80% of the additional inmates. This boon represents just one example of how business and the economy could be changed by the first major rewrite of the country's immigration laws since the 1980s. Technology companies stand to get more visas for high-skilled foreign workers. Farmers would have more access to immigrant labor through an expanded visa program and new protections for farm workers already in the country illegally. Congress is a long way from passing an immigration overhaul, and the prospects for a bill are dimmer in the House than the Senate. If the House succeeds, however, most observers expect its legislation to focus even more than the Senate's on clamping down on illegal immigration. "Any compromise bill will need to throw additional spending at border security, " said Stephen Myrow, managing director of ACG Analytics, Inc., an investment research firm that advised clients that immigration reform will boost revenue at privately operated prisons. This would more than overcome a challenge to the prison business embedded in the legislation. By granting temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the country, the legislation would decriminalize a population that represents a growing share of the federal prison system. Company executives have been cautious about the impact of an eventual bill. In February, GEO Group Chief Executive George Zoley told Wall Street analysts he didn't expect any measure to change the number of beds filled each day by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Congress currently requires ICE to keep 34,000 beds filled at all times. CCA Chief Executive Damon Hininger said the same month that ICE officials believe "there's always going to be demand for beds." The two companies have spent millions lobbying Congress and the administration on prison-related issues, according to the Senate disclosure database. In the 2012 election season, CCA and its executives contributed more than $950,000 in campaign donations to governors, candidates for federal office and the two main political parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The GEO Group and its executives contributed $418,500. Spokesmen for CCA and the GEO Group said the companies don't lobby Congress to influence immigration policy; rather, they promote their services. "One of the most important benefits we provide our government partners is the flexibility to manage their changing needs," said CCA spokesman Steve Owen. For years, critics argued that privately operated prisons don't save money and often house prisoners in substandard facilities. Many of these opponents are pushing lawmakers to limit detentions to illegal immigrants who also commit serious crimes. Immigration cases accounted for the largest share of federal criminal convictions in each of the past four years, making up 32% of all convictions last year, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In 2000, roughly 13,000 people served more than a year in federal prison for immigration-related offenses, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. By 2011, that number had jumped to 22,100. ICE contracts have caused a jump in revenue for both companies since 2005 after the US started bringing criminal charges against far more illegal immigrants. GEO Group generated roughly a quarter of its revenue from federal contracts in 2005, with just 5% coming from ICE, according to its annual report. Last year, that number rose to 40% of $1.4 billion in revenue from federal contracts, with 14% from ICE. At CCA, ICE contracts provided $206 million of its $1.7 billion in total revenue last year, according to its 2012 annual report. Both companies are opening new facilities and offering additional services. GEO Group in 2011 acquired a company with an exclusive ICE contract to monitor immigrants who face deportation but not criminal charges. The company successfully lobbied to include that alternative detention program in the Senate bill.

June 4, 2013 thenation.com

Detainees inside a holding cell at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. The facility is operated by The GEO Group Inc. under contract from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and houses people whose immigration status is in question or who are waiting for deportation or deportation hearings. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Earlier this year, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country sent out a statement to reporters claiming that it would not lobby in any way over the immigration reform debate. A new disclosure shows that the company, the Boca Raton–based Geo Group, has in fact paid an “elite team of federal lobbyists” to influence the comprehensive immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress. The Geo Group currently manages several immigrant detention facilities for the federal government, and has faced questions about its role in shaping policies that may lead to more incarceration. In February and March, Pablo Paez, the Geo Group’s vice president of corporate relations, told media outlets, including the Financial Times and The Nation, that his firm would steer clear of immigration reform politics. See statement below (emphasis added): “The GEO Group has never directly or indirectly lobbied to influence immigration policy. We have not discussed any immigration reform related matters with any members of Congress, and we will not participate in the current immigration reform debate.” Geo Group’s quarterly lobbying disclosure tells a different story. A disclosure filed in April shows that the company turned to Navigators Global to lobby both houses of Congress on “issues related to comprehensive immigration reform.” Navigators Global, a corporate government affairs firm founded by several Republican aides, has been retained by the Geo Group since 2011, though previous lobbying disclosures show the firm primarily worked on federal appropriations. The latest disclosure, however, shows that their scope of work on Capitol Hill shifted in the first three months of this year to include the immigration bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May. See screenshot of the disclosure below: The private prison industry has developed close ties to leading members of Congress, including those in the so-called Gang of Eight leading the immigration reform discussions. Senator Marco Rubio, who is perhaps the most visible Republican on the issue, has received generous campaign donations from the industry, including from Geo Group. The new disclosure suggests an even greater bind to the company because Cesar Conda, Rubio’s chief of staff, was the founding partner of Navigators Global. As we reported, he has continued to receive payments from the firm through a stock buy-out agreement reached after Conda entered work for Rubio. Demands for an “enforcement-first” approach to immigration reform could dramatically benefit private prison operators. Conservative lawmakers have called for new criminal penalties for immigrants, mandates to local law enforcement to check the status of those suspected of being undocumented, and an expansion of current guidelines classifying undocumented immigrants as “criminal aliens”—all policies that could lead to more people being detained in private prisons, thus more profit for the industry. It’s no wonder Geo Group is now directly lobbying on the bill.

Feb 8, 2013 forbes.com

It can be difficult to obtain information about how prisons operate. Prison administrators often have legitimate security reasons for withholding, say, a map of a prison’s inner sanctum, or the home addresses of correctional officers working in solitary confinement units, or information about a murder behind bars that hasn’t yet been solved. But since prisons operate in service of the justice system — and thus in service of U.S. citizens — there are also legitimate reasons why someone might like to know, say, the number of abuses reported against prisoners over a certain period of time at a certain prison, or the context of civil rights lawsuits filed against certain staff members or, as in this Idaho case, the number of hours COs work in a row without a break. To accommodate these legitimate reasons for withholding and/or disclosing information, each state and the U.S. federal government have systems in place to evaluate whether a requested piece of information should be viewable to the public or not. As it turns out, the federal disclosure system — the federal Freedom of Information Act — doesn’t apply to private prisons. So if a private prison company doesn’t explicitly reveal information, FOIA won’t force them to. In other words, if serious questions arise about the 27,970 or so prisoners in privately managed federal lockups or the approximately 16,500 federal immigration detainees held in privately-operated facilities under contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there’s no legal remedy in place forcing those questions to be answered. There is a movement of prisoner rights advocates and nonprofits, however, who would like to change that. They have rallied around Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D.-Houston.) to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act, a bill that died  in Congress two years ago. Put simply, this bill would, ensure that “[e]ach applicable entity shall be subject to … the Freedom of Information Act … in the same manner as a Federal agency operating a Federal prison or other Federal correctional facility would be subject to [FOIA].” Those advocates — most actively, Alex Friedmann of Prison Legal News, and Christopher Petrella, a doctoral student in U.C. Berkeley — hope that Rep. Jackson Lee will reintroduce the bill again this year. They outline their reasons in this open letter, released late last year: We are deeply troubled by the secrecy with which the private corrections industry presently operates. Whereas the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and state departments of corrections are subject to disclosure statutes under the Freedom of Information Act and state-level public records laws, private prison firms that contract with public agencies generally are not,” the joint letter submitted to Rep. Jackson Lee noted. “This lack of public transparency is indefensible in light of the nearly $8 billion in federal contracts that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO) – the nation’s two largest private prisons firms – have been awarded since 2007.” Read an interview with Friedmann and Petrella here. Rep. Jackson Lee has yet to announce if she’ll reintroduce the bill. UPDATE: The Blog of Legal Times has some information about CCA’s lobbying efforts. From the post: CCA spent $970,000 on federal lobbying in 2012, according to congressional records. For its advocacy efforts, the company used its own staffers, as well as lobbyists at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, McBee Strategic Consulting and Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. The company operates 67 facilities, 47 of which it owns, according to its website. The facilities, which have more than 90,000 beds, are located in D.C. and 20 states. For the first nine months of 2012, CCA received $570.2 million from the U.S. government, the company’s most recent quarterly financial report shows.

January 9, 2012 Salon
The Obama campaign is keeping mum on the role senior advisor Broderick Johnson played in lobbying for the 2008 Wall Street bailout when he worked as a hired gun for the country’s largest financial services companies. Johnson’s past work as a lobbyist was noted in the press when he was appointed a top Obama surrogate in late October, but not the details of his extensive and lucrative work for the financial services industry. Johnson’s hiring despite his recent work for Wall Street strikes a dissonant note in view of the Obama camp’s reported strategy of “channeling anti-Wall Street anger” as a way to take on the Republicans. Records show that in 2008, as an employee at Washington law firm Bryan Cave, Johnson lobbied for the $700 billion TARP bailout on behalf of the Financial Services Forum, which is composed of the CEOs of the 20 biggest financial institutions doing business in the United States. Forum members include big names like Goldman Sachs, UBS, AIG, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. From 2007 through the first quarter of 2011, Johnson and a handful of other Bryan Cave lobbyists were paid $450,000 by the Financial Services Forum, records show. Johnson and a small number of colleagues brought in a total of $1.3 million to Bryan Cave from the financial services industry over the past five years. That includes work he did for Fannie Mae, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, the Electronic Payments Coalition and the investment firm J.C. Flowers. Asked for details about Johnson’s work on the bailout, an Obama campaign spokesperson responded only that “Broderick is no longer a lobbyist — he deregistered in April — and he will not discuss any matters related to his clients with the campaign or administration.” Because of the campaign’s reticence, we don’t know many of the details of Johnson’s work for the Financial Services Forum beyond the fact that at the height of the fall 2008 crisis, he lobbied on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which created the $700 billion TARP program. After the House narrowly defeated the first version of the bill in late September 2008, Financial Services Forum executive Rob Nichols sounded the alarm. “Just as the cardiovascular system is the essential, life-sustaining system of the body, the financial system is the essential basis upon which the growth and vitality of all other sectors of the economy depend,” Nichols said. “We believe this legislation is critically important and should be enacted into law at the earliest possible time in order restore market stability and increase credit availability for Americans.” Resentment over the bailouts lingers across the political spectrum, from the Tea Party to the Occupy movement. Supporters of the program point to the fact that much of the money has been paid back with interest; critics argue that it failed Main Street and that, in the words of Elizabeth Warren, the money given to banks had “no strings attached, no accountability, no transparency.” The Obama campaign declined to comment when asked whether the hiring of a former bailout lobbyist undercuts Obama’s critical message on Wall Street. Johnson is known as an extremely well-connected Democratic operative. The husband of NPR’s Michele Norris, he has been through the revolving door a few times, working variously as a Capitol Hill staffer, lobbyist and Clinton administration official. Mary Beth Cahill, campaign manager for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid, told the Hill in 2008 that in his work for that campaign Johnson possessed a “smooth and adept way of managing crises” and “knew everybody.” In February 2009, just as the new administration was getting underway and with Johnson fresh off his stint as an informal advisor to the Obama campaign, he touted his connections with the White House in an interview with Roll Call. “We are seeing growth across the board,” he said. “Health care, energy and financial services are key issues in 2009 where we have both expertise and strong relationships on the Hill and in the new administration.” Johnson has lobbied for a lengthy roster of large corporate clients. His work for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, has already been explored in the media. In the past five years, he has also worked for Shell; Verizon; Anheuser Busch; Microsoft; Comcast; the Biotechnology Industry Organization; the trade group for the cable TV industry; private prison giant the GEO Group; and the Talx Corp., which specializes in helping employers fight unemployment claims and which has been criticized for shoddy and unfair practices.

October 25, 2011 Open Secrets
OBAMA CAMPAIGN'S REVOLVING DOOR ADDITION: K Street and Capitol Hill veteran Broderick Johnson is joining the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama as a senior adviser. Johnson clocked more than a decade of experience in the U.S. House of Representatives, as an attorney, during the 1980s and 1990s. Between 1998 and 2000, he served in senior roles in the Clinton White House, including acting as the president's principal liaison to the House. And after working for President Bill Clinton, Johnson became a top lobbyist for BellSouth Corp. and AT&T. During his time in the private sector in Washington, Johnson has also worked for Wiley, Rein & Fielding, the Oliver Group, Bryan Cave Strategies, Bryan Cave LLP and the Collins-Johnson Group, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. In addition to AT&T, Johnson's clients over the years have included numerous political heavy weights, federal lobbying records show, such as Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Comcast, Fannie Mae, FedEx, Ford, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Shell Oil, Time Warner and Verizon. Federal records indicate that he has also lobbied on behalf of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the GEO Group (the private prison industry giant) and TransCanada Corp. -- although TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha told Politico Monday that the company's "government relations operation did not look to and receive lobbying support from Broderick Johnson," despite what lobbying records show, as the energy company has sought Obama administration approval for its controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

September 1, 2010 AP
Prison operator Corrections Corp. of America spent $240,000 lobbying federal officials in the second quarter. That's down slightly from the $250,000 it spent on lobbying in the first quarter of 2010 and the $260,000 it spent lobbying in the second quarter of last year. The company said it lobbied on issues related to the private prison industry and on all provisions of the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 and the Private Prison Information Act of 2009, among other topics. Aside from Congress, Corrections Corp. also lobbied the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement in the April-to-June quarter, according to a report filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives on July 20.

March 27, 2010 Texas Observer
Henry Arroliga lives in South Texas' Port Isabel Detention Center, one of the nation's largest immigration detention facilities. After 17 years of living illegally in the United States, he's bracing himself to return to his native Nicaragua. Although Arroliga could very well be deported within the next month, the 2010 U.S. Census will count him as a resident of Los Fresnos, in Cameron County. His short stint at Port Isabel will pay dividends to the city, county, and state for the next decade. Arroliga is one of more than 30,000 immigrant detainees who will be counted in this year's census. Four hundred billion dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years will be distributed based on the count, making detainees worth thousands of dollars to cities, counties, and states where they are briefly detained. The government will allocate more than $100 million in additional funds to places where immigrants are detained. More than funding is at stake: The composition of legislative districts, county board districts, and city council districts could be skewed by soon-to-be-deported prisoners. Census data are used on the state and national levels to determine the sizes and shapes of these districts. The inclusion of detainees in the count means fewer eligible voters per elected official in places like Cameron County. It also violates the principle of "proportional representation." For decades, the government has included prisoners in the census, regardless of their immigration status. In the past, the impact of immigrant detainees has been slight. This is the first decennial census since the re-organization of immigrantion agencies and the subsequent boom in immigration detention. Immigration prisons have expanded from 7,500 beds in 1995 to more than 30,000 in 2010. About one-third of the nation's immigrant detainees are held in Texas. That doesn't count undocumented immigrants in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service awaiting deportation proceedings--thousands in Texas alone. Carl Caulk, the U.S. Marshals assistant director for prisoner operations, says that recent Border Patrol crackdowns like Operation Streamline have sent the number of immigrants in Marshals' custody through the roof. Operation Streamline mandated that charges be filed against virtually every person caught crossing the border illegally. Like ICE detainees, these immigrants will be counted in the 2010 census. The Census Bureau's inclusion of immigrant detainees has received little notice. It comes at a tense time in the immigration debate, with reform advocates facing a challenging political climate. This year's population count points to an often ignored irony: The country's detention facilities are concentrated in districts represented by some of Congress' most outspoken advocates of reform--including several South Texas congressmen who will benefit from counting immigrant detainees. U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Corpus Christi Democrat, introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House this spring. Yet with about 5,000 beds for immigrant detainees, his South Texas district stands to see millions of additional tax dollars allocated on the basis of the census. In response to questions from the Observer, Ortiz issued a statement reading: "The U.S. Census Bureau is mandated by the United States Constitution to count every resident regardless of citizenship status. I can assure you that it is in everybody's best interest to get as many people as possible counted." Until this census, the count had never identified exactly where "group quarters" like prisons are and how many people occupy them. For the first time, this census will let states decide whether to count detainees in local populations. By excluding prisoners, states would get a more accurate population count and would ensure that funds are not distributed according to locations of large detention centers. The amount of federal funding directed to the state would not change. Counting prisoners--residents or immigrants--is against Texas state law. "A person who is an inmate in a penal institution or who is an involuntary inmate in a hospital or eleemosynary institution does not, while an inmate, acquire residence at the place where the institution is located," reads Texas Election Code Section 1.015. Nevertheless, the census counts them as residents. "There's a clear discrepancy between state law and the Census Bureau's methodology," said Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts-based research group. Congressman Ortiz had no comment on how detainees could affect federal funding and redistricting. Some of his former supporters see his willingness to profit from his district's immigrant detainees as evidence of hypocrisy. "I can't think of anything more two-faced," said the Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, and an advocate for immigration reform. To the Census Bureau's dismay, Rivera has urged undocumented immigrants not to fill out the census forms. "It's our greatest bargaining chip," he said. "The states and counties want the funding, and we want the legalization." Rivera's campaign has received considerable attention, and while many Latino leaders disagree with his approach, he is convinced that threatening to withhold the instruments of federal funding is the way to attract politicians to the table. Within facilities like Port Isabel, detainees likely won't be able to opt out of the census. According to Census Bureau officials, for the last month detention center employees have been completing census forms on behalf of inmates like Henry Arroliga. "They're using them to secure federal funding and political power, and then they're shipping them out of the country," Rivera said. "It's an insult." The issue has made Rivera and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, unlikely bedfellows. Vitter, along with several other conservatives in Congress, supported an unsuccessful effort last fall to exclude noncitizens from apportionment and redistricting counts. "I don't believe noncitizens should be counted in congressional reapportionment," Vitter told Congress last fall. "I don't think states which have particularly large noncitizen populations should have more say and more clout in Congress, and that states like Louisiana that don't should be penalized." Or, if you follow the logic, that states like Texas should be rewarded. In Raymondville, a rural city 100 miles south of Corpus Christi, the census count is buzzing along. The Census Bureau has a booth outside City Hall. Local TV stations are advertising the importance of filling out the forms. People have been hired to distribute forms, part of a 1.2 million temporary work force nationwide that will make up the largest civilian mobilization of Americans in history. In Raymondville, the conversation isn't about the scale of the government's undertaking. It's about the Willacy Detention Center, the country's largest detention facility, holding up to 3,000 prisoners. When the census came up at the last City Council meeting, a councilman asked city secretary Eleazar Garcia: "What about the detainees? Do we get to count them?" If its population exceeds 10,000 in the census, Raymondville would be in the running for a panoply of state grants. The only way that could happen is if the city's immigrant detainees are included in the count. "Overall, we would benefit if we could hit that mark," Garcia said. So would La Villa, just north of McAllen. The 2000 census found its population to be 1,305. Just a year later, the Louisiana-based private prison company LCS Corrections Services Inc. opened the East Hidalgo Detention Center, which houses up to 990 immigrant detainees. According to its warden, the facility is almost always full. After the 2010 Census is tallied, the detention center will nearly double La Villa's population on paper, potentially doubling its federal funding allocation distributed by the state according to population. (The facility, run by the U.S. Marshals, is already a boon to the local government, which receives $2 per prisoner per day.) The distribution of funds based on immigrant detainee populations "points to a flaw in the way the population counts are used," said Audrey Singer, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. "The fact that ICE detainees are geographically concentrated will have an effect on the count." In Washington, there appears to be confusion about the inclusion of immigrant detainees in the census. Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, represents a district that includes the 1,900-bed South Texas Detention Center and the 450-bed Laredo Contract Detention Facility. He defended the inclusion of immigrant detainees: "Vitally important funding that supports these facilities relies, in part, on census data." Experts say Cuellar is wrong. "Immigration prisons are funded by the Department of Homeland Security, not formula grants" based on census data, said Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative. Like Rep. Ortiz, Cuellar is a longstanding advocate of immigration reform. His attitude about immigrant detainees in the census has disturbed immigration-reform advocates in his district. One reason Texas' congressmen and state representatives might be looking the other way is that 375,000 Texans were not counted in 2000, according to a Census Bureau study. That cost the state a huge amount of federal dollars. The main culprit, experts agree, was the difficulty of getting undocumented immigrants--including an estimated 150,000 in the Rio Grande Valley alone--to participate. This year, the Census Bureau has spent millions on a campaign to convince minorities, including undocumented immigrants, to get themselves counted. Still, community organizers and activists along the border say the effort faces considerable challenges. "The census worker shows up and expects people to be compliant," said Michael Seifert of the Equal Voice for America's Families Network. "Much laughter is heard in the cantina around that idea." During the 2000 census, Seifert said some immigrants distrusted and feared the government--a fear then inspired by President Bill Clinton's 1996 immigration enforcement bills. "I find it so sweetly ironic that those who have been caught up in the biggest dragnet of a civilian population in American history--the detainees--will be included in the census count, and therefore serve as a 'corrective' to all of those people who will ignore the census request," Seifert said. The issue could be resolved if Texas decides to remove immigrant detainees from the count before distributing state funds and addressing redistricting. The Census Bureau has agreed to release data on inmate populations earlier than usual to let states and localities consider it in apportioning districts for 2011 and 2012 races. It's an issue that could be broached in the 2011 legislative session. Bills to make such adjustments are already pending in New York, Maryland, Illinois, Florida and Wisconsin. So far, including immigrant detainees in Texas' census count has been a non-issue. "It's hard to believe that the victims of our inhumane immigration detention system are being used like this," Rivera said, "like pawns in a game of state and national politics." Kevin Sieff lives in Washington, D.C. and is a contributing writer for The Texas Observer, where this originally appeared.

January 29, 2010 TPMMuckraker
The four conservative activists arrested for tampering with the phones of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu earlier this week have been linked to the Pelican Institute, a conservative New Orleans think tank. Pelican is a relatively new organization, but it appears to have strong ties to members of the state's Republican elite, most notably Representative Charles Boustany. Though only one of the tamperers is from Louisiana, Pelican appears to have been the group's home base there. The apparent ringleader, James O'Keefe -- also the activist behind last September's ACORN videotape -- spoke at a Pelican Institute luncheon last week. Another one of the four, Robert Flanagan, is a paid blogger for Pelican (Flanagan is the son of the acting US attorney in Shreveport, Bill Flanagan). Pelican's founder, Kevin Kane, blogs at BigGovernment, the site where O'Keefe first posted the ACORN video. TPMMuckraker has found that Pelican "enjoys a prominent voice in Louisiana political circles." A close look at its board of directors helps explain why this is the case. Pelican listed three board members on its 2008 990 (available from Guidestar): founder Kevin Kane, lawyer Stephen Gele, and one "J LeBlanc." A LinkedIn page reveals that the listing refers to Jennifer LeBlanc, a Republican fundraiser who chaired the Louisiana finance committee of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani in 2008. LeBlanc is extremely tightly linked to Representative Charles Boustany, who was a close friend of her late husband, Patrick LeBlanc, before he died in a 2008 plane crash. LeBlanc was a top Boustany donor, as well, and he and Jennifer hosted a high-profile fundraiser for his Congressional campaign in 2005. Vice president Dick Cheney was the featured guest. The LeBlancs, Boustany, and Senator David Vitter all endorsed Rudy Giuliani's campaign for president in 2007. Boustany and Cheney. Boustany also endorsed LeBlanc during his unsuccessful run for state representative that year. That bid was undone by ongoing scandals related to LeBlanc's prison operation and construction business, LCS Corrections. The company operates private prisons throughout the southeast and Texas, and has been investigated by the FBI for "contracting irregularities" related to possible bribery schemes. Boustany's brother-in-law, Christopher Edwards, was LeBlanc's attorney during his campaign, and threatened to sue LeBlanc's opponent over a negative ad. Edwards is the nephew of disgraced Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. When Patrick LeBlanc died, Boustany released the following statement: "Pat was my dear friend, a loving family man and a leader in the Lafayette community. It is a terrible loss, and my thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer and his children. Bridget and I will miss him greatly." Boustany and Pelican were both out in front of the ACORN scandal in August and September. Boustany was one of the first members of Congress to react to news of the ACORN videotape last September. The day after the news broke, on September 11, 2009, he called for a House Oversight investigation of the group's tax prep activities. TPM has reported that Pelican published an investigative report on ACORN in August 2009, one month before the O'Keefe videotape was released. The report alleged that ACORN had evaded federal taxes on a number of occasions. Was there coordination between Boustany, BigGovernment, Pelican, and O'Keefe? What role does Jennifer LeBlanc play at the Pelican Institute? Who funds the organization? There's still a lot more to learn here, but this is shaping up to be a very interesting scandal.Leia and WileECoyote have done awesome work updating information on the various networks behind O'Keefe and Pelican. Pelican appears to have strong ties to the Reason Foundation, and Pelican founder Kevin Kane and Breitbart's relationship deserves closer examination, among other things. Let me know if you want to get deep into the Louisiana muck.

January 26, 2010 Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Proposed legislation that would apply existing public records laws to all prisons housing federal inmates was discussed during a congressional briefing on Monday. The bill, H.R. 2450, was crafted to extend the Freedom of Information Act to private prisons that contract with government agencies. If the bill is passed, publicly financed private prisons, which house more than 100,000 federal inmates, would be subject to the same reporting standards as the Bureau of Prisons. The companies that run private prisons say they are not required to disclose basic information about the facilities or the inmates -- except for reports issued upon an inmate's death -- under existing FOIA law because while they receive taxpayer money, they are not public agencies. A panel of specialists at the briefing spoke about the need for more transparency. "If they do answer the requests, all the documents are redacted and they cite 'trade secrets' as the reason they can't disclose," said Tom Barry, senior analyst at the Center for International Policy, of his experiences getting information about inmates in private facilities from the Bureau of Prisons. David Shapiro, an attorney for the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, put the scope of the issue in perspective, noting "over 70 percent of the prisoners we represent are in for-profit prisons."

December 11, 2009 TPM Muckraker
A party planning side business run by three current and former congressional staffers raked in over $20,000 last year from lobbyists holding events to honor Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) -- whose own communications director is co-founder of the firm. The apparent arrangement between Thompson and the business, Chic Productions, at once allows private interests to get closer to the congressman's office and gives the staffers a way to dip a straw into the river of outside money flowing through Capitol Hill. Chic Productions offers "high style events with simple elegance" and advertises its previous work executing "congressional events and fundraising parties." One of Chic's principals was quoted in 2007 saying congressional events make up roughly 90 percent of the firm's business. The three women who run Chic are: Dena Graziano, Thompson's communications director since 2006; Michone Johnson, chief counsel for the House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee; and Michelle Persaud, formerly of the House Judiciary Committee, now corporate counsel at T-Mobile. Graziano's bio on Chic's Web site says she has "straddled the fine line between politics and entertainment as an event and communications strategist to some of the nation's most well known personalities." Johnson's boasts that, "As a lawyer, Michone has honed her planning skills by executing everything from intense negotiations and member briefings to happy hours birthday parties, and staff retirement parties." A Chic floral display with the congressional seal at '07 Thompson eventThe extent of the business Chic has done for Thompson remains unclear because lobbyist disclosure statements that reveal the arrangement have only recently been required, and comprehensive data is available only for 2008. But besides the lobbyist receptions, Chic has put on at least six other Thompson-linked events. Lobbyists spend millions of dollars each year wining and dining lawmakers at receptions held in their honor. The events serve many purposes, among them gaining valuable access to members of Congress and staffers, and building good will in a relaxed social format. But actually paying staffers to organize events to honor their bosses is a new twist on the old practice. As chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, Thompson is among the most powerful Democrats in the House. He has been under an ethical cloud since last week when the Washington Post reported on allegations by Homeland Security Committee staffers that he held a hearing on credit cards to squeeze donations out of industry lobbyists. One committee staffer said she was fired for raising objections to "inappropriate lobbyist requests." Thompson denies the allegations, which are under investigation by the House ethics panel. Thompson at Chic "Chairman Reception" in 2007In a six-week period in late 2008, four companies paid Chic $22,500 to plan events to honor Thompson, according to lobbying disclosures reviewed by TPMmuckraker. The companies were private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America ($10,000), lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs ($5,000), Pepsico ($5,000), and software giant Oracle ($2,500).

March 30, 2009 Nashville Post
Nashville attorney Gregg Ramos has been interviewed by members of President Barack Obama's administration for vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, according to NashvillePost.com sources. The vacancies on the courts were created when 6th Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey took senior judge status on Jan. 1 and when Memphis based Judge Robert L. Echols took senior judge status in 2007. Echols' slot had been the focus of much controversy when then-President George W. Bush nominated Nashvillian Gus Puryear to fill the seat in June of 2007. Puryear, general counsel for Corrections Corp. of America, was the subject of an intense lobbying effort that eventually doomed his nomination.

November 14, 2008 Nashville City Paper
Tennessee Democrats had a losing record this election season in the state, but they are likely about to see a pack of federal appointments in the legal system roll their way. With the changing of the guard from President George W. Bush’s administration President-elect Barack Obama’s in 2009, appointments for a federal judgeship in the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee and the positions of U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshall for the same region are on the table. Currently filling those posts are U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough and U.S. Marshall Denny King. The spot that is open on the U.S. District Court has been publicized not because who was once in the seat, but who was nominated for it — Gus Puryear. Puryear, who is the executive vice president and general counsel for Nashville based Corrections Corporation of America, was nominated for the bench by President George W. Bush in June of 2007. Although Puryear did get a nomination hearing, the U.S. Senate, which has final say on these lifetime appointments, never voted on his appointment. Puryear’s nomination suffered from negative press reports about his ties to Belle Meade Country Club as well as the alleged practices of CCA in its prisons. Puryear was also targeted by an organization opposed to prison privatization. The Florida group had ties to organized labor that represents state corrections officers. Traditionally, when openings for a federal judgeship occur, the U.S. Senators from that state tell the president whom they want and he nominates them. When the Senators are from an opposing party, as is the case of Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, that courtesy falls to Democratic members of the U.S. Congress, in this case primarily Congressmen Jim Cooper and Bart Gordon. Because Cooper was such an early and strident supporter of Obama’s, he likely will have the upper hand. Protocol would dictate that Alexander and Corker would be given advance notice of the nomination and as a courtesy they would say if they had any major objections to the nomination.

September 24, 2008 Nashville Scene
Yesterday, Lamar Alexander, the lead water-carrier for judicial nominee Gus Puryear, read the campaign its last rites. Alexander's statements are the last nail in the coffin for Puryear, lead counsel for private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America. They're also an unofficial acknowledgment of the power of the one-man campaign. No matter where your loyalties lie, it's tough to argue that anyone deserves more of the credit (or blame) for Puryear's failed nomination than Alex Friedmann. Getting the locals to care about who swings a gavel in Middle Tennessee is one thing. Getting pub from national outlets is another. Now with the campaign over, Friedmann is a stick without a spoke. He says he'll continue working on the humdrum elements of vigilanteism and may even aim his scope at larger targets. "There's always Palin," he jokes. We here at Pith, however, think Friedmann's bandwagon should be steered elsewhere. Trudging through the muck of rancorous politics during this election season has left us exhausted. It's time all of Nashville had a cause worth championing. Something fun and family-friendly that makes us forget about the world while alternately making us worry about the cleanliness of our undergarments.

September 24, 2008 Tennessean
Nominations of two Tennesseans — Gus Puryear of Nashville to be a federal judge and Susan Williams of Knoxville to be a TVA board member — have been derailed by political squabbles. Several prison rights and civil rights groups have objected to the nomination of Puryear, general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison giant based in Nashville. CCA had been hammered by allegations of underplaying serious incidents in its jails and misrepresenting the circumstances of in-custody deaths. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, said Tuesday that neither nomination would be approved before the end of the year. That means the nomination process for both slots will begin again after a new president takes office in January. "That's another example of the Democratic Congress not approving a qualified nominee," Alexander said of Puryear's choice by President Bush to be a judge in the Middle District of Tennessee. Democrats opposed both -- Puryear was caught in an election-year political fight. Republicans have tried to gain approval for as many of Bush's nominees as possible before the end of his term. Reasons cited by opponents as to why Puryear should not be confirmed include: a lack of trial and judicial experience, his role as chief lawyer for the country's largest private prison company, and the company's handling of the 2004 death of Estelle Richardson while she was in the Metro Detention Facility in Nashville. Democrats, who control the Senate, say they have treated the president's nominees as well as Republicans did near the end of Bill Clinton's presidency. But they have slowed the process, hoping they will be able to fill the vacancies if their nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, wins the presidency. Williams' nomination to the TVA board was a casualty of a battle between Alexander and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid held up her nomination and that of Bishop William Graves of Memphis because he wants a Democratic representative on the TVA board. In June, Reid let Graves' nomination go through after Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker blocked a nomination Reid wanted. In response to Alexander's comments, Puryear released a written statement through CCA. "I was honored to be nominated and understand fully how election-year politics works in Washington. I am very happy in my current job and look forward to continuing to work with my friends in Nashville to make our city and state a better place." Alex Friedmann, vice president of Private Corrections Institute, coordinated much of the opposition to the Puryear nomination, which Bush made in June 2007. "Mr. Puryear was an unqualified, inexperienced, conflicted and controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. The citizens of Middle Tennessee deserve better and hopefully will receive a more qualified candidate during the next administration," Friedmann said in a statement.

September 23, 2008 Tennessean
The nominations of Gus Puryear of Nashville to be a federal judge and Susan Williams of Knoxville to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority are dead for this year, Sen. Lamar Alexander said this morning. "That's not going to happen," Alexander said at a briefing with Tennessee reporters, referring to the nomination of Puryear for a federal judgeship in the Middle District of Tennessee. "That's another example of the Democratic Congress not approving a qualified nominee." The nomination by President Bush of Puryear, general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America, had been criticized by prison rights and civil rights organizations because of his role in representing the largest private prison company in the country. Williams' nomination has been stalled because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, wants a Democratic representative on the TVA board. Puryear issued a statement through CCA. "I was honored to be nominated and understand fully how election-year politics works in Washington. I am very happy in my current job and look forward to continuing to work with my friends in Nashville to make our city and state a better place."

August 31, 2008 Murfreesboro Post
Four years ago, Estelle Richardson, 34, was murdered in a Nashville jail run by Corrections Corporation of America. That's a tangential issue in the legal career of Gustavus A. Puryear IV, just one of the things that has caught the attention of Alex Friedmann, an ex-con gone good and now an editor of Prison Legal News, an organization devoted to digging out mistreatment and maltreatment of prisoners. Charges were filed against four guards who were accused of beating Richardson to death. But their conviction foundered on a technical matter involving time of death. It is one of the things that troubles Friedmann (once a convict himself) about Puryear's nomination for a lifetime appointment to the federal district court in Middle Tennessee. Puryear is chief lawyer of Corrections Corporation of America that is headquartered in Nashville. "CCA is the defendant in scores and scores of lawsuits each year. It is difficult to see how Puryear could ever serve as presiding judge in a trial involving his old bosses." The nomination---presented before the Senate Judiciary Committee by Republican Senators Corker and Alexander---came about the way most do: Puryear has been a worker in the vineyards for Tennessee and national Republicans. He gave important money to Corker and Alexander and coached up Dick Cheney for the '00 vice presidential debates. He worked for Fred Thompson. He's been named a "Republican heavyweight" by a Nashville newspaper. Unhappily, his qualifications for a federal judgeship are wanting. Friedmann says Puryear has been personally involved in only five federal cases and two trials over his entire legal career, and lost one of those. "He has not served as a practicing attorney for years," Friedmann says. Republicans answer that Puryear has been rated as "qualified" by the American Bar Association. "Well," Friedmann says, deconstructing the classification methodology. "ABA rates lawyers Qualified, Unqualified, or Well Qualified. Seventy-five percent of all lawyers get the Well Qualified classification. Puryear, therefore, is in the bottom 25 percent." But Friedmann's great objection to Puryear's appointment remains his conflicted position. He's a CCA man and has been their chief lawyer for years. He says he'll recuse himself from their cases for five years. "Well, CCA's in the courts all the time. And what about after five years? He doesn't say what he'll do after that." In typical Republican fashion of the past seven years, Puryear's record was great from a political standpoint but wanting for professional creds. Today, the nomination is being held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which indicates it failed to get pro forma approval, a bad indicator for the state's Republican senators and party. There is a chance that Puryear won't be approved in the Senate committee. This would, in effect, kill the nomination.

August 15, 2008 AP
Private prison company Corrections Corp. of America spent $240,000 lobbying the federal government on legislation dealing with prison spending and policy, according to a recent disclosure form. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company lobbied on legislation dealing with private prisons and public safety, as well as on issues involving immigration, labor and more. Besides Congress, Corrections lobbied the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, Office of Management and Budget, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to a report filed July 18 with the House clerk's office.

August 14, 2008 AP
Had this been like most nominations for federal judgeships, the chief lawyer with Corrections Corporation of America might have been packing up his office and heading for the courthouse by now. But a determined opponent — a former prisoner at a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Clifton, Tenn. — has worked tirelessly to see that would not happen. And he may have succeeded. More than a year after President Bush nominated Gustavus A. Puryear IV to become a U.S. district judge in Nashville, the 40-year-old's appointment appears to be in serious trouble, thanks in no small part to Alex Friedmann, a convicted armed robber turned inmate advocate. Friedmann, 39, contends Puryear is unqualified because he lacks experience in federal courts — he's been involved in only two federal trials — and might have a potential conflict of interest in hearing cases that involve CCA. On his Web site, http://www.againstpuryear.org, Friedmann also has detailed Puryear's ties to powerful Republicans like Dick Cheney, whom he helped prep for a 2000 debate, and portrayed Puryear as someone who got the nomination because of his connections rather than his qualifications. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Puryear's nomination in February but has yet to vote on whether to send his name to the full Senate. Erica Chabot, the press secretary for committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, said Puryear is one of only three people who have been nominated for district judgeships since January 2007 and have had hearings before the committee but have not had their nominations voted on. Leahy, D-Vt., has said the panel will not consider any more nominees this session without the consent of leaders from both parties. "I understand they have put Puryear in the 'controversial' category," said Brian Fitzpatrick, who once worked for Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas defending Bush's Supreme Court nominees and is now an assistant law professor at Vanderbilt University. "It's very rare for a district court nominee to become controversial. Usually they just fly through." The Senate typically defers heavily to the senators from the nominee's home state, and Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee solidly support Puryear. But the opposition has been unusually committed. Multiple organizations, including the left-leaning Alliance for Justice and the National Lawyer's Guild, have challenged Puryear's nomination, all of them using research that originated with Friedmann, occasionally quoting it verbatim. Friedmann says he learned of the nomination because he keeps track of Nashville-based CCA, which manages 66 facilities around the country. He looked through dockets and court cases, contacted former co-workers and made Freedom of Information Act requests. To get the word out, he relied on the nonprofit Private Corrections Institute, for which he serves as vice president, and a group he formed called Tennesseans Against Puryear. Puryear did not return calls from The Associated Press for this story. White House spokesman Blair Jones said the White House suggests that nominees not speak to the media, prior to confirmation, out of respect for the deliberative process of the Senate. "Groups can attack a nominee, but you'll never see (the nominee) respond to anything except at hearings," said Puryear's friend Ed Haden, an attorney in Birmingham, Ala. Haden said the obstacles to Puryear's nomination are political, and don't mean he is not qualified for the job. "As far as his qualifications go, he was at the top of his class in law school, he clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals, he has legislative experience in the U.S. Senate, he manages litigation for a big Fortune 500 company, and the ABA (American Bar Association) rated him as qualified," Haden said. "Gus realizes this is a lame duck year in politics," he added. "It's true for all nominees — whether you're in the deal or not is beyond your control." Puryear's nomination remains active until Congress adjourns, and he could still be confirmed. The most likely scenario for that would be a deal struck between senators. "At the end of the session, it's, 'Who wants a bridge in Vermont?'" said Haden, who has worked with two U.S. senators on judicial nominations. Meanwhile, Friedmann is continuing his opposition campaign in the hopes of making a last-minute deal less likely. "I'm glad the Judiciary Committee is taking a closer look at Mr. Puryear as a candidate because the issues we raised are legitimate issues," he said. "But," he added, "I'm definitely not claiming victory."

July 21, 2008 First Amendment Center
A bill before Congress would extend the Freedom of Information Act to require private prisons contracted by the federal government to release records under the same standards as federal prisons. The Private Prison Information Act of 2007 (H.R. 1889), introduced by Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., would require private prisons and other correctional facilities under contract with federal agencies to house federal prisoners to make their records accessible under the same FOIA requirements that govern federal prisons. An identical bill was introduced in the Senate (S. 2010) by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. Prison privatization has increased rapidly in the face of growing concerns over overcrowding, safety and poor health care in public institutions. Desire to control costs has also led to an increase in privatization. However, privately owned and operated facilities are not subject to the same FOIA scrutiny as public agencies. Although the press and public can retrieve information about privately run prisons from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other government agencies, private prisons remain largely outside the scope of FOI laws. Of the almost 1.6 million prisoners in the United States in June 2007, 7.4% of them were held in privately operated correctional facilities, according to the June 2008 Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin. At last count, in 2000, the BJS reported 264 private facilities under state and federal contracts used to house prisoners. And there were 5.4% more prisoners in private facilities in June 2007 than in June 2006, according to BJS. Private detention centers are also used to house immigrant detainees. Two lawsuits filed in the last two months aim to force private prisons to release records, including one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union investigating the deaths of immigrant detainees in federal custody. In May 2008, The Washington Post ran a four-day series investigating medical conditions in immigrant prisons. "Careless Detention" explored the deaths of 83 prisoners and detainees in custody between March 2003 and May 2008. "Our correctional system is broken. It is overcrowded and unsafe," said Mike Flynn, director of government affairs for the Reason Foundation. "Contracting with private prisons gives us an ability to better manage outcomes. I think contracts should require certain benchmarks, like treatment programs, continuing education and job training." The Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank that promotes "libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law," according to its Web site. The largest private corrections-management service in the U.S. is Corrections Corporation of America, which is headquartered in Nashville. CCA posted $35 million in profits during the first quarter of 2008, according to a company press release. CCA and other private corrections companies have seen rapid growth from contracts with states and the federal government. The Los Angeles Times reported in August 2007 that California state officials had signed a contract with CCA to hold about 4,000 prisoners for $63 per prisoner, per day. It would cost the state an average of $123 per prisoner, per day in a state prison. As private corrections companies grow, so do questions about their methods, success and profitability. The recent lawsuits seek answers to some of those questions. The ACLU filed an FOI lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after DHS failed to turn over documents related to the deaths of immigrants held in public and private detention centers. The lawsuit also named Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Office of the Inspector General for DHS. "DHS must not be allowed to keep information about in-custody deaths secret," said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, in a press release. "It is imperative that ICE be held publicly accountable." Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that covers prison issues, filed a lawsuit against CCA in a Tennessee court on May 19 after CCA did not respond to a public-records request. The lawsuit, Friedmann v. CCA, argues that CCA performs a public function, and its records should be public. In 2002, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a private company performing a public function must make its records available to the public under the Tennessee Public Records Act. In Memphis Publishing Company v. Cherokee Children & Family Services, the court ruled that a nonprofit social service agency under state contract had to turn its records over to the Memphis Commercial Appeal because it was the "functional equivalent" of a government agency. "Public agencies cannot contract away the public's ability to review records that otherwise would be publicly accessibly under the state's open records law," said Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, in a press release. "The public's right to know is not delegable to private corporations." One FOI expert applauded the congressional bills that would make private-prison companies accountable to the federal FOIA. "I think that is a long-overdue fix," Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information coalition, said of the Private Prison Information Act of 2007. "This is a problem on the state level. This would fix it at the federal level in a way that would bring a whole lot of otherwise private operations into public scrutiny. We've seen lots of anecdotal evidence over the past decade for the need for public oversight and scrutiny." Some aspects of private-prison contracts are already accessible under FOIA, however. Flynn of the Reason Foundation argued that those provisions provide enough information. "The federal agencies that manage the contract with the private company are subject to the FOIA process. The agencies engage in regular and ongoing oversight of the contract, usually having [their] own employees in the facility full-time. All reports and studies from these monitors are subject to the FOIA process. Terms of the contract with the private company are subject to FOIA. Their progress in meeting any benchmarks detailed in the contract are subject to FOIA," said Flynn. "If there is relevant information that isn't available, it can be [added to] terms of the contract and then be subject to FOIA. There is no limit to what can be required to be disclosed to the agency, which would then be subject to FOIA." Davis agreed that FOIA's coverage of contracts between the government and private-prison companies was important, but said it didn't go far enough. "The contract piece is important and FOIA does do a good job with that," he said. "The contract data is just a sliver of the overall picture of what people should rightly have access to … . The vast majority of the information isn't covered." Davis mentioned "inspection reports, incident reports involving inmate violence, and just about any narrative report documenting inmate treatment." If the ACLU's or Prison Legal News' lawsuit succeeds in extracting records from private-prison corporations or if Congress passes the Private Prison Information Act, an increase in information from these prisons could bring light to a host of new issues. Some of these may well involve the First Amendment. U.S. courts frequently address issues related to access to publications, religious material, special diets and other claims of First Amendment violations from prisoners. "I think you could get better protections," said Flynn when asked about the First Amendment rights of prisoners in private facilities, "because they can be detailed in a contract with the private company. These protections can be mandated into the contract rather than litigated later." "The best part about having this information is that we would be able to act on it. Private companies can be fired. Public facilities cannot," Flynn said. Said Davis, "When you start getting the human narrative of incident reports, what's going on in these prisons on a day to day basis, they could be rife with corruption or running like a Swiss cruise ship."

July 15, 2008 The Daily Cougar
As Sen. Barack Obama wages his presidential campaign across the United States with political gusto, he's attracted names such as Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Edwards. University of Houston Associate Professor of Law Tony Chase has also temporarily shifted his duties as a professor to become a member of the National Finance Committee of Obama's campaign. "I've known (Obama) for quite some time, and I was one of the people he asked whether if he should run," Chase said. "Because of that, this is very personal, and I genuinely believe he is best for this country." Aside from teaching, Chase is chairman and CEO of ChaseCom L.P. and Chase Radio Partners. He is also chairman and co-founder, together with SBC Communications Inc., of The Telecom Opportunity Institute, an organization that provides technical literacy training at no cost to at-risk communities. He serves as a director of Leap Wireless International Inc. and Cornell Companies Inc., and is chairman of the Houston Zoo Development Board. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves as a director of the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast and Houston Parks. Chase began teaching communications law and contracts at the UH Law Center in 1990 and received the Edith Baker Faculty Award in 1994. On July 8, he stepped down as the director of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank to dedicate more time to the campaign. "I can't pick out a certain experience, but teaching graduate law and undergraduate classes has been particularly helpful in preparing me, because students are the future and full of ideas that in turn help me think about today's issues," Chase said. "My experience at the University helps me by being part of the excitement and interest among young and potential voters." As for his motives, he believes that the nation, in its current state, needs Obama as president. "I've known Barack and Michelle for a long time, and based on that, I believe he is a transcendent political figure," Chase said. "I know him well and his integrity and how he responds to pressure, but also how he will be an excellent leader." As the member of the National Finance Committee for the campaign, he helps make decisions on how the campaign will utilize its funds and how the fundraising will be run. He also performs special projects such as arranging meetings with constituents and senior advisors. "The experience I gain from the campaign will only help the way I try to bring practical experience to the classroom, and this is actually quite relevant to what I teach at the University," Chase said. Chase will return to teach in the fall and resume his usual duties for his organizations. "I will still do what I can to accommodate my teaching responsibilities and campaign duties and continue to voice my support for Barack Obama," Chase said.

June 13, 2008 Tennessean
A year ago today, Gustavus "Gus" Puryear IV was nominated for a federal judgeship in Nashville and appeared headed to an easy confirmation. Now Puryear's confirmation seems unlikely. In addition to questions raised about his qualifications and actions as general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America, Puryear's fate is now caught in intense election-year battles between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate over lifetime judicial appointments. Senate Democrats are looking to approve as few of Republican President Bush's appointments as they can before his term expires, hoping Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wins the presidency. Republicans did the same during the final months of the Democratic Clinton administration. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which vets nominees, said at a committee hearing Thursday that this practice is simply the "fact of the matter." "It is legitimate," Biden said. "These are lifetime appointments." Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said at the end of the hearing, which included approval of three judicial nominees, that no more judges would be confirmed unless there is agreement among him and ranking committee Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate. Even Tennessee's two Republican senators, who signed off on Puryear's nomination, acknowledge his confirmation is in trouble. "Gus Puryear is a qualified nominee who deserves an up-or-down vote in the Senate, and we're continuing to pursue every option to that end," Sen. Bob Corker said in a written statement. "The current atmosphere in the Senate makes his confirmation more difficult — not impossible, just increasingly more difficult as we approach the fall elections." Sen. Lamar Alexander said he was still hopeful. "But the Democrats have slowed confirmation of President Bush's nominees to a ridiculous extent," Alexander said in a recent interview. CCA spokesman Steve Owen, responding to a request for Puryear to comment, said the company has "no way of knowing what the outcome of the confirmation process will be. We continue to believe that Mr. Puryear would make an excellent federal judge. He has served the company admirably and with great integrity as general counsel." The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Puryear's nomination in February but has not scheduled a vote on whether to send his name to the full Senate for a vote. Reasons cited by opponents as to why Puryear should not be confirmed include: a lack of trial and judicial experience, his role as chief lawyer for the country's largest private prison company, and the company's handling of the 2004 death of Estelle Richardson while she was in the Metro Detention Facility in Nashville. Among those opposing Puryear's confirmation are: The Alliance for Justice, an umbrella group of national civil rights and other organizations, Private Corrections Institute Inc., which opposes prison privatization and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

May 7, 2008 Nashville Post
A series of articles by the New York Times have Washington, D.C. insiders saying that Gus Puryear should keep his day job. Puryear, executive vice president and general counsel for Nashville based Corrections Corporation of America, was nominated by President George W. Bush last year to serve on the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee. Since the nomination, Puryear has been attacked here and in Washington for everything from his handling of CCA legal matters, his membership in the Belle Meade Country Club, to his lack of experience outside of corporate law. While the nomination of Puryear has not moved due to objections of U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and Diane Feinstein, he still has had hope of being confirmed to the bench. Now, a number of NashvillePost.com sources are saying that hope is even in more jeopardy. Democratic insiders in Washington contacted by NashvillePost.com say that what hope Puryear had was effectively killed by a series of articles published this week by the New York Times. Republican insiders acknowledge that the articles have made Puryear's bid "more complicated" and there is no momentum to push him forward at this time. While the articles don't mention Puryear by name, CCA is sharply criticized for their handling of the death of Boubacar Bah and the labeling of his inmate file as "proprietary information - not for distribution." Bah was 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who had overstayed a tourist visa. While incarcerated, Bah had fallen and hit his head and became incoherent. According to the NYT, "documents detail how he was treated by guards and government employees: shackled and pinned to the floor of the medical unit as he moaned and vomited, then left in a disciplinary cell for more than 13 hours, despite repeated notations that he was unresponsive and intermittently foaming at the mouth." He was eventually transported to a hospital, but his family was not notified of his whereabouts for five days. He died four months later. The Times also ran an editorial on this matter yesterday.

April 25, 2008 Nashville Scene
State Rep. Mike Turner has fired off a missive to Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner George Little about the spate of questionable practices and incidents that have landed Corrections Corporation of America in the news. CCA, as you'll recall, contracts with Tennessee (along with many other state and federal authorities) to run their prisons and jails. In his April 16 letter, which Pith obtained this morning, Turner mentions the Time magazine story that alleges CCA counsel Gus Puryear allegedly whitewashed incident reports on escapes and unnatural deaths, so as not to alarm the company's clients. He also cites The Tennessean piece on an inmate at a Metro-controlled, CCA-run correctional facility who went nine months without a shower, as well as the recent Nashville Scene article that reported how guards at that same facility falsely claimed a jail-cell surveillance camera wasn't working—just one day after an inmate was found in her cell with a broken skull, according to the detective who wanted to review the footage. In other words, it's just another day in the life of CCA and Gus Puryear—who, we should add, is called out in the upcoming issue of the National Law Journal for being one of Bush's most controversial judicial appointees.

March 26, 2008 Tennessean
Add women’s rights groups to the list opposing the federal judicial nomination of Gus Puryear IV, the embattled general counsel for the Corrections Corporation of America. Puryear’s membership to Nashville’s Belle Meade County Club is under fire by the women’s rights organization who say women are unable to vote or hold office at the private golf club. National Organization of Women, the National Council for Women’s Organizations and the Women’s Equal rights Legal Defense and Education Fund have sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Puryear’s nomination ignited a debate whether the general counsel of CCA, the for-profit prison giant, is suited for the bench in light of allegations that he encouraged misleading incident reports. Private Corrections Institute, an advocacy group that opposes prison privatization, has been an outspoken critic of Puryear's nomination. The Alliance for Justice and the National Lawyers Guild are among the opposition. There’s also a website, www.againstpuryear.org, is part of the opposition campaign. The hearings were held last month and the committee has not voted on his nomination. President Bush nominated Puryear last June to serve as a federal judge for the Middle District of Tennessee.

March 21, 2008 Nashville Scene
Yesterday I talked with Rob McGuire, the local prosecutor who brought charges against four CCA guards in the death of inmate Estelle Richardson, who in 2004 was found in her solitary cell with a broken skull and four cracked ribs. McGuire ultimately dropped the case, after doctors for both CCA and Richardson's family determined that her head injuries might have been sustained before she was placed in solitary confinement. Now, though, the Richardson case has taken center stage in the nomination hearings of Gus Puryear, the CCA general counsel who was nominated by President George W. Bush to a federal judgeship in Tennessee's Middle District. The Senate Judiciary Committee has grilled Puryear about his statements about the case—he falsely claimed the guards were “exonerated”—and how his company handled the investigation. On that count, McGuire has a rather interesting story to share. And now we're going to have to jump. McGuire says that when a Metro homicide detective began to investigate Richardson's death, he asked to see videotape of the extractions—i.e., those times when an inmate is ushered in and out of her cell. Instead, guards told him the camera had mysteriously malfunctioned. Wouldn't you know it, the detective was told, there's no footage available—which is not much different than when the suspect tells Lennie Briscoe he doesn't remember what he was doing the night of the murder. At that point, the detective examined the camera and could find nothing wrong with it. “He turns it on and it appears to be working just fine,” McGuire says. “That was a significant problem for us; it did not help their cause.” Of course, McGuire ultimately had to drop the case when it appeared that any number of different people—from inmates to guards—could have caused Richardson's head injuries. And because she was heavily medicated at the time, it was certainly possible that the inmate could have endured a serious injury without realizing until it was too late. But none of this lets CCA off the hook. First, there's the issue that, no matter how you look at it, Richardson was almost certainly killed in a CCA facility, which Puryear glosses over in his correspondence with members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. In fact, Puryear makes her death out to be a veritable mystery, even though it's ludicrous to imagine how someone could break their skull and crack their ribs by simply slipping on the floor. So if—and we're using the word “if” lightly here—she was killed in jail, that doesn't reflect well on CCA. Then, of course, there's McGuire's fresh anecdote about the supposedly malfunctioning camera, which makes you wonder if CCA took an awkward stab at a cover-up. CCA and Puryear are already under fire for last week's Time.com report, in which a former prison manager accused the company of lying to its government clients about the safety of its prisons. Is there a pattern here? It's next to impossible to gleam objective data from CCA, even though it manages public facilities across the country. But with Puryear likely to face additional additional questions from the members of the judiciary committee about the Richardson case and other CCA matters, a little more transparency might be in order. Developing....

March 14, 2008 Nashville Scene
Once thought to be a sure thing, Gus Puryear's nomination to the federal bench is now in serious trouble. A devastating story published on Time magazine's website yesterday alleged that the young attorney whitewashed company reports in his role as corporate counsel for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The story revolves around Ronald T. Jones, a former CCA prison manager described as a loyal Republican like the judicial nominee himself. Jones claims Puryear oversaw a reporting system in which the company basically lied to its public-sector clients, minimizing outbreaks of prison disturbances in the jails it operates. In theory at least, CCA is supposed to provide thorough and objective reports to the government agencies who have outsourced the management of its jails to the private company. But Jones says his ex-boss Puryear masked or omitted details that could result in litigation, fines or bad press. That aside, he behaved admirably. “When Puryear felt there was highly sensitive or potentially damaging information to CCA, I would then be directed to remove that information from an audit report,” Jones told Time.com. Today, The Tennessean published a well-reported front-page story that included additional details, including how in 2005 a CCA official once had the temerity to issue a memo with potentially damaging information about a prison incident. That led to a change in company policy—in which any reports to be made public had to be cleared by the office of the general counsel. The Private Corrections Institute, which has led the charge against Puryear, issued a press release calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to summon the nominee back to Washington for yet another hearing. The group may well get its wish. It's been a dismal week for Puryear—right as he tries to explain his membership in the historically discriminatory Belle Meade Country Club, he now will likely have to defend himself against serious charges of turning CCA’s cold, hard facts into creative fiction. It's still possible for Puryear to survive this latest onslaught of bad press and go on to become a good judge. But considering how much trouble he's had so far convincing people he's up for the job, couldn't the Bush administration have just plucked someone else? There are plenty of intelligent Republican attorneys in Nashville. How many of them have Puryear's baggage?

March 14, 2008 Tennessean
A former Corrections Corporation of America manager is accusing the company's general counsel and federal judicial nominee Gus Puryear IV of overseeing a practice that produced misleading reports about safety incidents at its prisons. Ronald T. Jones, who until last year worked as a senior manager in quality assurance at the Nashville-based prison operator, said that Puryear directed him and other staff to classify incidents such as escapes, unnatural deaths and disturbances as less serious to make its performance look better in reports to government agency clients. Reports prepared for internal use, meanwhile, included more details about the specific incidents, Jones said. Private Corrections Institute, an advocacy group that opposes prison privatization and has been an outspoken critic of Puryear's nomination, Thursday urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold another round of hearings at which Jones could testify and Puryear be asked more questions about his actions. "Alternatively, we support the position of not bringing Mr. Puryear's judicial nomination forward for a committee vote," said Alex Friedmann, a former inmate at a CCA prison and the group's vice president. At a Feb. 12 hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Puryear faced tough questions on the 2004 death of a woman at the Metro Detention Facility, possible conflict of interest with cases involving CCA and its executives that are often filed in Middle Tennessee District, where he would serve, and his membership in the exclusive Belle Meade Country Club. In response, Puryear said that he would recuse himself for at least five years from all cases involving CCA and its executives: said there were disagreements among medical experts about what happened in the death of Estelle Richardson at the detention facility; and promised to resign from Belle Meade if he found its membership policies violated the code of judicial ethics. Committee staff said any action on Puryear's nomination is unlikely until April at the earliest. The committee has no more business meetings this week and Congress is on Easter break for the next two weeks. The Judiciary Committee usually does not hold additional hearings with the nominee and other witnesses. Instead, the senators rely on written responses to questions and the transcript of the original hearing when discussing and voting on a nominee. Puryear couldn't be reached last night for comment. CCA denies allegations -- Louise Grant, a CCA spokeswoman, called Jones' allegations inaccurate and added that it paints a false picture of CCA's quality assurance process and of Puryear's role. "We question the motives of this former employee, who was not in a leadership position in quality assurance and resigned in lieu of termination," Grant added. "If our interest was in under-reporting or not finding quality issues, we simply would not have created this (quality assurance) department or its programs in the first place." Jones denies that he faced termination at CCA. He now lives in Detroit and said he left CCA to pursue a legal career. He said in his job he was responsible for tracking information on events such as unusual deaths, disturbances and audit findings and that the misleading practices began in early 2005, when the quality assurance department was put under Puryear as general counsel. A CCA staff member in 2005 provided a report containing potentially damaging information about an incident at a prison to a government client without corporate approval, Jones said. That incident, according to Jones, led to a new policy in which any reports that could be made public needed to be cleared by the office of the general counsel. "Mr. Puryear then directed me, and other quality assurance department staff who process audit report finding, to create two reports for distribution of audit findings," Jones wrote in a statement sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I would prepare one report with all of the audit findings and auditor comments in it for "internal purposes only" and a separate more generic report that contained only general information about audit results as a whole." In a separate interview with The Tennessean, Jones added that the more information that could potentially damage the company if it was released publicly, the more that its operations and financial status could be affected. In the corrections industry, the number of incidents such as prison escapes, riots, and sexual assaults are among variables often used to determine bonuses for employees from wardens to chief executives, industry observers said. If a prison contract provides for a bonus, such incidents also would be taken into account by a client government agency in determining the award. CCA is required to file reports with the state on incidents such as inmate-on-inmate assaults or inmate-on-staff assaults, disturbances and a daily census of inmates at its prisons that house state inmates, said Dorinda Carter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The department has onsite contract monitors and other designated employees at the prisons that report daily on incidents and another division that conducts annual audits of the CCA prisons, she said. "We feel pretty sure that we're finding out about incidents as they happen," Carter said. She added that CCA is required to follow the same policies as the 13 prisons run by the state and that officials are confident in their monitoring of the company.

March 13, 2008 Mother Jones
Most ambitious lawyers know that if they want to become a federal judge, they have to fulfill several key requirements. First, they must schmooze the right people, sit on the right bar committees, and make the requisite political contributions. Then, above all, they must 1) pay nanny taxes, and 2) wait until after securing a lifetime appointment to join an exclusive, discriminatory country club. Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV, Bush's choice for a trial court seat in the middle district of Tennessee, had ticked off most of the items on the list by the time he was nominated last summer. He'd given money, befriended Dick Cheney's son-in-law, and even prepped Cheney for the vice-presidential debates in 2000 and 2004. But he forgot about rule number 2, an oversight that might be his undoing. As a prison company lawyer with virtually no litigation experience, Puryear's resume offers any number of reasons why he shouldn't be confirmed. But inexperience has never stopped the politically connected from ascending to the bench. Country club memberships, however, are a different matter. And Puryear happens to be a member of the exclusive Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, a club whose racist history is so well known that even former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had the good sense to quit the club before running for office. After Puryear's surprisingly contentious confirmation hearing last month, several senators asked him to provide additional written answers to their questions. According to the Nashville Scene, Puryear's responses aren't likely to win him any friends with the Democrats on the committee, particularly Ted Kennedy, who sent Puryear four sets of questions regarding the club, including one about its racial diversity. Puryear replied in legalese, writing, “I am advised that the club does not track its members based on race, nor does it respond to such requests. I am personally aware that there are minority members, but I do not myself know the number,” he wrote. The number of black members of the Belle Meade Country Club is an open secret in Nashville, largely because the number is exactly one. Belle Meade didn't allow black members until 1994, when they admitted one guy, a lawyer from Atlanta. Today, that same guy remains the only black member of the club. So either Puryear is being incredibly disingenuous, or he is a lot dumber than his supporters claim. (The Nashville Scene had no trouble figuring out how many black members the club had, after all, so it's hard to believe Puryear, who's actually a member, couldn't do the same.) It's rare for the Senate to see confirmation fights over trial court judges, but Puryear could be the exception. His country club membership has caught the attention of women's groups, who are mounting some opposition. Feminist lawyer Gloria Allred has written a letter to the Judiciary Committee raising questions about Puryear's nomination. She, too, doesn't buy his claim of ignorance about the club's discriminatory practices, noting that the club's "entire voting membership is male, "Lady members" are not allowed to vote, and no women have been proposed for Resident Member status that would afford voting privileges." As a trial court judge, Puryear would preside over a fair number of sexual and racial discrimination trials, which is another reason women's groups are worried about his nomination. If Puryear can't see the blatant, longstanding discrimination going on in his own country club, can you imagine what he'd be like in the courtroom? Egads!

March 13, 2008 TIME
As the top lawyer for America's biggest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Gus Puryear IV, is known to sport well-pressed preppy pink shirts, and his brownish mop of hair stands out among most of President Bush's graying nominees to the federal bench. A favorite of G.O.P. hardliners, Puryear, 39, prepped Dick Cheney for the vice presidential debates — both in 2000 and 2004 — and served as a senior aide to two former senators and onetime presidential hopefuls, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson. Political connections, though, may not be enough to get Puryear a lifetime post as a federal district judge in Tennessee. Puryear recently confronted tough questions about his conduct, experience and potential conflicts of interest from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve him before a full Senate vote. Now, a former CCA manager tells TIME that Puryear oversaw a reporting system in which accounts of major, sometimes violent prison disturbances and other significant events were often masked or minimized in accounts provided to government agencies with oversight over prison contracts. Ronald T. Jones, the former CCA manager, alleges that the company even began keeping two sets of books — one for internal use that described prison deficiencies in telling detail, and a second set that Jones describes as "doctored" for public consumption, to limit bad publicity, litigation or fines that could derail CCA's multimillion dollar contracts with federal, state or local agencies. CCA owns or operates 65 prisons, housing some 70,000 inmates across the U.S. According to the company's website, it has a greater than 50% share of the booming private prison market. CCA is also a major contributor to Republican candidates and causes, and spends millions of dollars each year lobbying for government contracts. (Puryear enjoys a friendship with Cheney's son-in-law, Philip Perry, who lobbied for CCA in Washington before serving as general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, which has millions of dollars in contracts with CCA, from 2005 to 2007.) The company has likewise given financial support to tax-exempt policy groups that support tough sentencing laws that help put more people behind bars. Like other prison companies, CCA has faced numerous lawsuits that stem from allegedly inadequate staff levels that can be a cause of high levels of violence in the prisons. Though hundreds of such lawsuits are often pending at any given time, many brought by inmates in its own facilities, CCA under Puryear has mounted an especially vigorous defense against them, refusing to settle all but the most damaging. Jones knows CCA intimately. Until last summer, the longtime Republican was in charge of "quality assurance" records for CCA prisons across the U.S. He says that in 2005, after CCA found itself embarrassed on several occasions by the public release of internal records to government agencies, Puryear mandated that detailed, raw reports on prison shortcomings carry a blanket assertion of "attorney client privilege," thus forbidding their release without his written consent. From then on, Jones says, the audits delivered to agencies were filled with increasingly vague performance measures. "If the wrong party found out that a facility's operations scored low in an audit, then CCA could be subject to litigation, fines or worse," explains Jones. "When Mr. Puryear felt there was highly sensitive or potentially damaging information to CCA, I would then be directed to remove that information from an audit report." Puryear would not comment on the allegations. Jones resigned from CCA last summer to pursue a legal career. According to Jones, Puryear was most concerned about what CCA described as "zero tolerance" events, or ZT's — including unnatural deaths, major disturbances, escapes and sexual assaults. According to Jones, bonuses and job security at the company were tied to reporting low ZT numbers. Low numbers also pleased CCA's government clients, as well as the company's board, which received a regular tally, and Wall Street analysts concerned about potentially costly lawsuits that CCA might face. In 2006, for example, Jones says CCA had to lock down a prison in Texas to control rioting by as many as 60 inmates. Despite clear internal guidelines defining the incident as a ZT, Jones says he was ordered not to label it that way. Instead it was logged as, "Altered facility schedule due to inmate action". And this was not unusual, says Jones: "Information was misrepresented in a very disturbing way concerning the company's most important performance indicators, which included escapes, suicides, violent outbreaks and sexual assaults." Companies often try to show their best face to customers, and safeguard internal records with "attorney-client privilege." But according to Stephen Gillers, a leading expert on legal ethics at New York University, CCA's use of that privilege seems like "a wholesale, possibly overreaching claim," similiar to the blanket assertions of major tobacco companies that tried to keep damaging internal documents from public view. Those assertions of privilege have been rejected by federal judges as an attempt to improperly conceal their internal data on the dangers of smoking from customers, the courts and legal adversaries. CCA could also be in legal trouble if it minimized the tally of serious prison incidents and, by implication, its possible financial liability. As chief legal counsel, Puryear would have also had an obligation to ensure his board had all the information it needed, good or bad, to make decisions. If Puryear's reporting system had the effect of withholding information relevant to official prison oversight, that could bear on his suitability as a federal judge by suggesting his "disdain for the proper operation of an important function of government," notes Gillers. Contacted by TIME, CCA says that Puryear, "has served the company well and honorably as general counsel and will be an outstanding judge." The company denies allegations that it keeps two sets of books, saying: "A final audit report is made available to our customers. Appropriate information gathered in the audits is separately provided to our legal department." The company adds that "CCA has produced all relevant, non-privileged documents in litigation," that its board is regularly apprised of the most serious prison incidents, and that "all appropriate" information is given to the financial community. President Bush recently called Puryear and his 27 other judicial nominees facing Senate confirmation "highly qualified." Whether or not the Senate agrees on Puryear, Bush is likely to leave the White House with fewer judges approved than Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, both two-term chief executives.

March 5, 2008 Tennessean
The accuracy of testimony by Gustavus "Gus'' Puryear IV at his confirmation hearing to be a federal judge is being questioned by four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Puryear is general counsel of Nashville-based private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America and was nominated by Republican President Bush. After the February hearing, he provided written answers to additional questions about the company's handling of the death of an inmate at a company-run facility in Nashville, potential conflicts of interest he would face as a judge and his membership in the Belle Meade Country Club. The sometimes-pointed questions and Puryear's responses again raise the stakes in his confirmation. Once thought to be routine, Puryear's nomination is being fought by a coalition of civil rights, labor and other groups spearheaded by the Private Corrections Institute, which opposes prison privatization. Puryear's responses were released Thursday. Inmate death testimony -- Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, along with Sens. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin questioned the testimony Puryear gave last month about the 2004 death of Estelle Richardson. Richardson died at the Metro Detention Facility after she was forcibly removed from her solitary confinement cell by four guards. She had a fractured skull, broken ribs and liver damage. The state's medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and the four guards were charged, but the indictments eventually were dropped. Later, a civil suit brought by Richardson's family was settled out of court when experts representing the family and the CCA concluded the skull fracture occurred before she was extracted from her cell. At his Feb. 12 hearing, Puryear testified it was not clear how Richardson received her head injuries and that they could have been self-inflicted. He said CPR done in an attempt to revive Richardson could have caused her broken ribs and liver damage. All four senators questioned that testimony, citing a letter sent to the committee from Dr. Bruce Levy, Tennessee's chief medical examiner, who conducted the autopsy on Richardson. He reiterated that the death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma that was not self-inflicted. Levy called "misleading at best'' Puryear's comment about CPR causing injuries. Puryear responded by citing a letter to the committee from David Smith, attorney for the Richardson family, who wrote that the "the circumstances and causes of Ms. Richardson's tragic death were complex and debated ... our own experts attributed the death to a seizure.'' "There were also issues on whether CPR may have caused the liver and rib injuries,'' Smith wrote. Puryear said the company's expert, Dr. William McCormick, former deputy chief medical examiner for Tennessee, wrote that the rib and liver injuries were "almost certainly'' caused by CPR and cited medical research to back his claim. Promises made -- Puryear expanded on a promise made during testimony that he would recuse himself for at least five years from CCA cases and would also not take on personal cases involving company executives. He said at the hearing he also would sell all of his CCA stock. Puryear also wrote that he would resign from the Belle Meade Country Club if he discovered that the club's membership practices violated the judicial code of conduct. Kennedy wrote that the club did not allow blacks to join until 1994 and does not give women the right to vote on club business. Puryear said there are no women who are "resident members,'' the class allowed to vote, but that he knows of no policy that restricts women from being recommended for that category. "I am not aware ... that any woman has been proposed or has sought to be proposed as a 'resident member,' " he said. Judiciary Committee spokesman Erica Chabot said the committee would likely not deal with the nomination until April at the earliest because members may want to ask follow-up questions and Congress is out of session the last two weeks of March. The full Senate must confirm the nomination once it is out of committee.

February 25, 2008 Tennessean
Gustavus "Gus" Puryear IV is the top attorney for Corrections Corporation of America, the Nashville-based private prison giant. He graduated with honors from law school, is a deacon in his church and serves on the boards of numerous community organizations. Now President Bush has nominated him to be a federal judge for the Middle District of Tennessee. But Puryear has never been a judge, has little trial experience, and works for and holds stock in a company enmeshed with the federal government through campaign donations, lobbying and huge contracts. And the company he represents gets sued a lot, many times in federal court in Nashville. Civil rights and prison rights advocates and others say those and other concerns make Puryear a poor choice to be a judge in the very court where his company is often a defendant. And his answers at his confirmation hearing earlier this month are raising questions among some senators and the state's top medical examiner. What appeared to be a routine confirmation process has suddenly become complicated. "During that hearing, a lot of red flags were raised," said Erica Chabot, spokeswoman for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "You can bet there are some follow-ups." Senators on the committee were given two weeks to submit additional questions that will be sent to Puryear for written responses. Puryear, 39, declined to comment on questions about his fitness for the bench while the confirmation process is ongoing, said Steve Owen, spokesman for CCA. Trial experience lacking -- Letters opposing Puryear were sent to the committee by Private Corrections Institute Inc., which opposes prison privatization; the Alliance for Justice, an umbrella group of dozens of national civil rights and other organizations; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Among their arguments: Puryear doesn't have the proper legal qualifications. Puryear spent less than three years in private practice in Nashville before signing on as counsel for the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, headed by then-Sen. Fred Thompson. Next, he served as legislative director for former Sen. Bill Frist for about three years before becoming general counsel and vice president at CCA in January 2001. Puryear's lack of trial experience is a greater concern than his role as a corporate lawyer and his lack of judicial service, said Douglas Laycock, a professor of the University of Michigan Law School. "District court judges have to run a trial and run it efficiently. It's just a different skill set," Laycock said. An analysis of a database of the nearly 1,200 sitting and senior federal judges shows slightly more than one-third served as judges prior to their appointment. Only 18 served as general counsels or assistant or associate general counsels for private companies. Puryear's lack of trial experience is probably why he received a "qualified" rating by the American Bar Association, instead of the higher "well qualified," Laycock said. Of the 67 judges nominated by President Bush since January 2007, 14 received a unanimous or majority "qualified" rating. The rest had unanimous or majority "well-qualified" ratings. Alex Friedman, vice president of Private Corrections Institute, said conflict of interest is a major reason not to confirm Puryear because lawsuits against the company and its executives are often filed in the court on which he would serve. Friedman served six years in a CCA-run facility in Tennessee. Puryear told the committee he would sell off all his CCA stock and recuse himself from cases involving the company. Laycock said "that CCA gets sued a lot is not a problem" because the number of cases would be relatively small and could be picked up by other judges. CCA and Puryear have strong connections to the federal government. Puryear gave $3,000 to Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker's campaign in 2005-06 and $1,000 to Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2005. CCA executives and its political action committee have given $48,950 to Alexander since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Corker has received $27,250 from CCA and its executives. Puryear is a registered lobbyist for CCA and the company spent more than $3 million in 2007 lobbying the federal government, according to lobbying reports. It has received nearly $1.2 billion in federal contracts since 2004, according to a database of federal contracts compiled by the Office of Management and Budget. Nashville death cited -- Another complaint is the company's handling of the 2004 death of Estelle Richardson in the Metro Detention Facility in Nashville. Puryear testified at his confirmation hearing that her broken ribs and liver injuries could have been caused by CPR attempts to revive her. Tennessee's Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Bruce Levy, who conducted the autopsy on Richardson, said in an e-mail that Puryear's "statement that the rib fractures and liver damage could have been caused by CPR is in error and is not based on sound forensic medicine." Levy has contacted the judiciary committee. But Dr. William McCormick, the state's former deputy chief medical examiner, concluded in a report prepared for attorneys defending the company in a civil lawsuit that the injuries were "almost certainly" caused by the CPR, said Joe Welborn, one of the attorneys. Four CCA guards were charged, but the charges were dropped and Richardson's family ultimately settled a lawsuit against the company. Both Tennessee Republican senators, Alexander and Corker, released written statements last week repeating their support for Puryear. "The American Bar Association investigated all allegations raised by liberal interest groups, but still concluded that Mr. Puryear was qualified to serve on the federal bench," Alexander said. The Senate Judiciary Committee is not likely to hold a second hearing on the nomination, said Chabot, spokeswoman for chairman Leahy. The committee will rely on the record of the first hearing and answers to written questions to vote. It is not clear when that vote will take place.

February 22, 2008 National Lawyers Guild PR
On June 13, 2007, President Bush nominated Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV for a position on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Mr. Puryear currently serves as vice president and general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit private prison company. If appointed he would serve as a federal judge in the same jurisdiction where CCA is headquartered. Since 2000, at least 260 federal lawsuits naming CCA, company subsidiaries or CCA employees have been filed in the Middle District of Tennessee. Such cases would constitute a conflict of interest for Mr. Puryear, and assigning them to other judges would not be an effective use of judicial resources. Of greater concern is that Mr. Puryear lacks familiarity with the federal courts and has little trial or litigation experience. By his own admission he has tried only two cases to verdict; he has been personally involved in only five federal cases, most recently a decade ago. He is not admitted to practice before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is over the Middle District of Tennessee, and received only a "qualified" rating from the American Bar Association rather than a "highly qualified" rating. Both Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker strongly support Mr. Puryear's nomination. Neither Senator has acknowledged the substantial financial contributions received from Mr. Puryear and his employer, CCA – which include over $80,000 to Senator Alexander and $27,000 to Senator Corker since 2004. Further, Mr. Puryear mentioned in disclosure statements that he is a member of the Nashville-based Belle Meade Country Club. The fact that Mr. Puryear maintains membership in an exclusive, predominately white club that did not admit its first minority member until 1994, and reportedly does not afford voting privileges to female members but only to male members, is a matter of significant concern for a federal judicial nominee. In an Associated Press national wire article concerning Mr. Puryear's nomination, Vanderbilt Professor Stefanie Lindquist was quoted as saying his judicial appointment "might slide through as a compromise." The National Lawyers Guild does not believe the people of Tennessee should have to compromise or settle for a less-than-qualified federal judge to represent their interests in U.S. District Court. The National Lawyers Guild calls on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to vote down this unqualified, conflicted and controversial judicial candidate.

February 21, 2008 AP
A private prison company executive nominated to become a federal judge has run into a determined opponent — a former inmate. President Bush in June nominated Gustavus A. Puryear IV, chief lawyer with Corrections Corporation of America, to become a U.S. district judge in Nashville. That led Alex Friedmann, who spent six years at the company's prison in Clifton, Tenn., to investigate Puryear's qualifications. He looked up every case where Puryear was listed on the docket as counsel. The prisoner-turned-inmate advocate found only five instances where Puryear was the attorney of record. By his count and Puryear's, the judicial nominee has been involved in only two federal court trials during his career. That's just one more case than Friedmann himself has handled in federal court. Convinced that the well-connected Puryear was unqualified to be a federal judge and might face a conflict of interest overseeing litigation involving his former employer, Friedmann began a public relations campaign against the nomination that led all the way to the Senate. He formed the group Tennesseans Against Puryear and enlisted the help of the liberal Washington-based Alliance for Justice and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, both of which sent letters opposing the appointment. Puryear, a 1993 graduate of the University of North Carolina law school, didn't respond to several phone and e-mail requests left at his home and office for an interview with The Associated Press. At a Feb. 12 hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., questioned Puryear about several issues originally raised by Friedmann and the nonprofit Private Corrections Institute, a group opposing private prisons that Friedmann helps run. Puryear told the Senate committee he already was selling off his stock in the company, according to reports in The Tennessean newspaper. He owned CCA shares valued at just under $1.3 million as of Feb. 1, according to Lionshares.com, an online database of stock ownership. He also pledged to recuse himself from cases involving CCA even after he no longer holds a financial interest. The committee also questioned Puryear about whether the volume of lawsuits against Nashville-based CCA — the nation's largest for-profit private prison company — would burden other judges who would have to hear the cases when Puryear recused himself. Puryear said it would not be a significant burden. Friedmann's campaign against Puryear continues. He plans to send a letter to the Committee on the Judiciary pointing out what he contends are inaccuracies in Puryear's answers. The two men have never met. Although Friedmann learned of the nomination because he keeps tabs on CCA, he insists his crusade is based on Puryear's lack of qualification and not because he's a CCA executive. Friedmann sued CCA and several employees in 1996 while incarcerated for six years for armed robbery. Serving as his own lawyer, Friedmann eventually won a $6,000 judgment against a former prison unit manager for a civil rights violation. Puryear's legal resume includes significant political work — serving as counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and junior counsel during the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigation of campaign finance abuse led by former Sen. Fred Thompson. He also was a debate adviser for Dick Cheney in 2000. Stefanie Lindquist, an associate professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, said courtroom experience is good but not essential for federal judge nominees. She sees more significance in the American Bar Association rating of Puryear as "qualified," instead of "well qualified" to be a judge. "A 'qualified' rating is relatively weak. That's going to hurt him," Lindquist said. Lindquist said Friedmann's efforts are unusual for even temporarily disrupting what should be a routine confirmation. There are about 180 Bush nominations pending as the administration and Democratic-controlled Senate tangle over some sharply contested nominees. Of the Puryear nomination, Lindquist said: "If there are other, more controversial nominees, this might slide through as a compromise."

February 20, 2008 Mother Jones
In October 2000, Dick Cheney faced off for a debate with Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman. The 60-year-old Cheney appeared comfortable discussing the ins and outs of policy and made good-natured jokes about Lieberman's singing abilities, or lack thereof. Cheney's smooth performance reflected his many years in public service. But the aspiring vice president also had a strong debate-preparation team made up of longtime friends and GOP loyalists. Among them was Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV, a legislative director for Tennessee senator Bill Frist, who was on contract with the Bush/Cheney campaign. Puryear apparently did such a good job prepping Cheney that he was called in again in 2004 to help him gear up for his debate with Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards. Puryear's efforts on behalf of the Bush administration paid off last June when the president nominated him to be a federal trial court judge for the Middle District of Tennessee. Puryear certainly isn't the first judicial nominee selected primarily for his political service, but still, his resume is remarkably thin on the practice of law, a basic prerequisite even for the best-connected political hacks. Puryear got his start in politics in the mid-1990s working as counsel to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, then chaired by Fred Thompson, as it investigated the Clinton fundraising scandals. From there he went to work for Frist. Beyond a brief stint in private practice for a corporate law firm when he was fresh out of law school, Puryear has spent more time inside an executive suite than a courtroom. And it's that corporate work that makes him an especially questionable candidate for the federal bench. Puryear was in Washington last week for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Senators Arlen Specter (D.-Pa,) and Dianne Feinstein (D.-Ca.) both put his resume under a microscope, noting his conspicuous lack of trial experience. At one point Specter asked him point blank, "How many cases have you actually tried?" To which Puryear answered: Two. Indeed, according to his written questionnaire for the committee, of the two cases he has tried in the entirety of his legal career, he was lead counsel on one of them. The last time he litigated a case in federal court was more than a decade ago. Puryear has spent the bulk of his legal career at the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company. As its general counsel since 2001, Puryear has made millions of dollars working for a company that profits from the country's incarceration boom, particularly through his recent sale of more than $3 million worth of the company's stock. (His financial disclosure form shows a net worth of more than $13 million.) His employer creates enormous conflicts for Puryear as a potential federal judge, as the CCA gets sued all the time, often in the very district where he hopes to preside as judge. Since 2000, roughly 260 cases have been filed in that court against the CCA, its officers, and subsidiaries. In addition, Puryear's current job involves overseeing the CCA's defense against inmate litigation, a prison staple that he has publicly dismissed as a nuisance, even though such litigation has led to significant verdicts and settlements against the company. For instance, in 2000, a South Carolina jury hit the CCA with a $3 million verdict for abusing juveniles. Other successful suits have alleged that the company's employees abused inmates and provided negligent medical care. Yet in a quote he no doubt now regrets, in 2004 Puryear said that, "Litigation is an outlet for inmates. It's something they can do in their spare time." Inmate lawsuits typically account for more than 10 percent of the docket in Tennessee's Middle District, meaning that Puryear will see his share of them if he gets confirmed. During his confirmation hearing last week, Puryear told the committee that he would recuse himself from any cases involving the CCA—at least, he said, for some time after he's divested all of his stock in the company. He dismissed concerns about his conflict of interest by noting that the CCA cases make up a small part of the court's workload and that his recusals would not create problems for the other judges. But his promises to recuse still don't get to the heart of a fundamental conflict: To the CCA, inmates are a revenue stream warehoused at the cheapest price. This not exactly the view of the criminal justice system you want from a judge if you are a defendant. A trial court judge in Tennessee's Middle District can expect to handle more than 60 criminal cases a year. Every person Puryear sends to prison is a potential money-maker for his former employer, which contracts with the federal government to manage 15 detention facilities, and also holds federal prisoners in other CCA institutions that house state and local prisoners when the need arises, according to Steve Owen, the company's director of marketing and communications. The number of inmates coming from Tennessee may be relatively small, but still, it seems fair to ask whether Puryear's conflict of interest runs so deep that he might have to recuse himself from criminal cases entirely. Thus far, Puryear has largely escaped media scrutiny, as the activist groups that monitor the federal courts tend to focus mostly on appellate courts and the occasional Supreme Court battle rather than on trial court nominees. Puryear's CV also doesn't signal fights on many of the hot-button social issues that usually set off a confirmation battle. He doesn't sound—or look—like Robert Bork. He's young, patrician, a model member of the exclusive Belle Meade Country Club, and director of the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville. But for his deep voice he could be Niles on "Frasier." Nonetheless, Puryear might be in for an unexpected fight, due in part to his decision to publicly dis jailhouse lawyers. Alex Friedmann was one of those jailhouse lawyers. He spent six years inside one of the CCA's prisons in Tennessee for attempted murder and armed robbery. Friedmann actually sued the CCA while incarcerated for retaliating against him for his comments to a reporter for The Nation. Representing himself, he took another case all the way to a jury trial, where he mostly lost, though he won a default judgment against a former unit manager. He also appealed a different case against the state, over censorship, that went all the way to the Sixth Circuit court of appeals where he won. "In that regard, I'm more qualified than [Puryear] is," he observes, noting that Puryear isn't even admitted to practice in the Sixth Circuit. Now out of prison nine years, Friedmann is an editor for Prison Legal News, which is how he first learned about Puryear's nomination. After doing a little checking on him, Friedmann ran across Puryear's quote about inmate litigation, which didn't sit too well with him, and he set out to torpedo Puryear's nomination. As a former CCA inmate and a board member of a Florida nonprofit group that opposes prison privatization, Friedmann readily admits that he's not a disinterested party in the nomination battle. Nonetheless, his political instincts are sound. He is cobbling together a coalition to oppose Puryear's nomination, including the American Federal State and Municipal Employees Union, which opposes private prisons for their anti-labor positions. Friedmann's currently at work trying to enlist the real powerhouse of liberal judicial activists to join the coalition: women's groups. Friedmann has compiled stats from the federal court docket on the CCA's lawsuit history in order to highlight the potential conflicts of interest Puryear might face, and he picked apart Puryear's resume and his responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee's questions last week. For instance, when pressed on his view of criminal defendants and prison inmates, Puryear pointed to his service as a commissioner on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Skeptical, Friedmann checked out Puryear's attendance record with the commission. He says the commission held eight public hearings between 2005 and 2007—and Puryear missed at least four of them. "If the gentleman does have a genuine concern about inmates, why did he miss half the meetings?" he asks. Friedmann is also raising significant questions about Puryear's response to questions about the death of a female inmate at the CCA's facility in Nashville. The medical examiner ruled that 34-year-old Estelle Richardson was beaten to death while in the company's custody. She suffered a skull fracture, broken ribs, and liver damage. Prosecutors indicted four CCA guards in 2005, but later dropped the charges after being unable to determine the time of death. So far, no one has been held responsible for Richardson's death, although the CCA settled a private lawsuit filed by her family. When Sen. Feinstein asked Puryear about the case, Puryear disputed the medical examiner's findings and claimed that Richardson's death might not have been a homicide at all. He suggested that the broken ribs and liver injury may have been caused by CPR. It's "common" for people to suffer such injuries from CPR, Puryear said, to which a dumbfounded Feinstein exclaimed, "Common?" Apparently not satisfied with Puryear's answers, Feinstein asked him to provide the committee with further written information about the case. Meanwhile, after the hearing, Friedmann called the Tennessee medical examiner who worked the case, who he says reaffirmed the original finding that Robinson's death was a homicide and that there was nothing to suggest her injuries were caused by resuscitation efforts. Friedmann also spoke with the lawyers who represented Richardson's family and he says that they told him that the CCA never raised CPR injuries as a defense in the litigation. Puryear's comments to the committee, says Freidmann, are "not supported by the medical record," which makes him skeptical about Puryear's judgment as a lawyer—and his credibility. Friedmann seems to recognize that prison inmates are not the stuff of judicial confirmation fights, so he has also homed in on another issue that might provide more traction, not to mention the interest of powerful women's groups: Puryear's country club. The tony Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville is so exclusive that you have to be a member just to access its website. It didn’t admit a single black member until 1994, a racist history so potent that even Puryear's mentor, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, quit the club in 1993 when he first ran for office. While Belle Meade admits women, Friedmann has heard that it still won't give "lady members" voting rights. (Troy Cunningham, the controller of the club for the past 17 years, wouldn’t respond to questions about women's voting rights, saying that "all questions flow through the members," meaning that someone will have to put the question to Puryear himself.) But if Friedmann can stir up controversy over Puryear's country club membership, he might actually have a shot at scuttling his nomination.

February 20, 2008 AP
Corrections Corp. of America spent almost $2.5 million in 2007 to lobby on legislation and regulations related to the private prison industry. The prison management company spent more than $1.1 million in the second half of 2007 to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form posted online Thursday by the Senate's public records office. The company lobbied on the privatization of Bureau of Indian Affairs prisons and on the Public Safety Act, which would outlaw private prisons, as well as the Private Prison Information Act, which would force private prisons to make public the same information government jails must provide. Corrections Corp. spent more than $1.3 million in the first six months of 2007 to lobby on similar issues. In addition to lobbying Congress, the company also lobbied the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Labor and Office of Management and Budget. Corrections Corp. lobbyists included Bart VerHulst, previously chief of staff for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Mike Quinlan, former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; and Gus Puryear, previously counsel to Frist and an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches, under a federal law enacted in 1995.

December 12, 2007 All American Patriots
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today co-sponsored the Private Prison Information Act of 2007, legislation introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman to increase transparency and accountability at private prisons. The Private Prison Information Act of 2007 will help to prevent abuse and neglect at private prisons by requiring public disclosure of information about their operations. “As the federal government continues to contract out the incarceration of federal prisoners, it is essential that there be public disclosure about the operation of these private prisons,” Senator Clinton said. “Right now, the public does not have the same right of access to information about private prisons as it has for federal prisons. There is a lack of accountability into how tax dollars are being spent, which can place the safety of correctional officers, surrounding communities, and prisoners at risk. This legislation will help to ensure that citizens and elected officials can properly assess the performance of private prisons and, if necessary, hold them accountable for misconduct.” Currently, federal law does not require private prisons that house federal prisoners to disclose information to the public about the daily operation of their facilities, and many private prisons do not submit reports to the federal government. This legislation will require private prisons that house federal prisoners to provide the same information available to the public that federal prisons are required to provide under the Freedom of Information Act. Approximately 27,000 federal criminal prisoners are serving time in private prison facilities. Additionally, more than 40,000 of the immigrants and asylum seekers that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains each year are held in private detention centers. Studies have shown that correctional officers at privately run prisons are paid less, receive less training, and experience higher turnover rates than those at prisons run by government agencies. These differences can lead to greater rates of assaults on staff, inmate on inmate assaults, and escape attempts. The bill is supported by a broad coalition of associations representing correctional officers and law enforcement officers and public interest and advocacy groups, including Corrections USA; the Sheriff Officers Association of Nassau County, NY.; the Suffolk County Correctional Officers Association, N.Y.; the Westchester County Correctional Superior Officers Association, N.Y.; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); Amnesty International USA, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

November 12, 2007 AP
Private prison operator Corrections Corp. of America paid Sisco Consulting Inc. $140,000 in the first half of 2007 to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form. The form, which was posted online Nov. 7 by the Senate's public records office, did not indicate any specific initiatives the lobbying firm worked on. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company, which designs, builds and manages prisons, jails and detention facilities, previously indicated it spent $1.3 million lobbying so far this year on issues related to prison privatization. The company owns 40 facilities, but also operates in another 25 facilities across the nation. Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches, under a federal law enacted in 1995. They must register with Congress within 45 days of being hired or engaging in lobbying.

November 11, 2007 The Morning Call
For seven years before coming to Congress, Rep. Tim Holden was a Schuylkill County sheriff. Here, he may be more of a warden. Holden last week testified on behalf of one of four prison-related measures that he has introduced since the start of the year. The Private Prison Information Act would require private prisons that are awarded federal contracts to disclose the same information as public prisons. ''Private prisons right now have no reporting obligations,'' Holden, D-17th District, said in an interview. ''There is an awful lot of information that we cannot find out.'' Holden argues that without information about how private prisons are staffed, how much training guards receive and how many incidents occur, there's no way to hold them accountable. Private prisons counter that they provide all necessary information to the agencies that contract with them. Holden's district -- which includes parts of Schuylkill and Berks counties -- is home to two state prisons and one federal prison. They employ several hundred prison guards. But so far there is only one private prison with a federal contract in Pennsylvania: Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Centre County. And Holden, who opposes private prisons, wants to keep it that way. Without having to disclose the same information as public facilities, Holden argues, private prisons aren't playing by the same rules when they compete for federal contracts. ''It is a concern that they'd expand [private prisons] anywhere in the country,'' Holden said. ''It is only going to put the public safety at risk.'' Corrections officers have a keen interest in keeping the industry public: Salaries and benefits are considered to be better at state and federal-run prisons than at private prisons. But privately run prisons have become increasingly common in recent years as the federal government tries to meet the demands placed on it by a growing prison population. The largest private prison provider, Corrections Corporation of America, now has 65 facilities throughout the country. It opposes Holden's measure, arguing that it already provides information necessary to the agencies administering the contracts, if not the public. ''We have very comprehensive and detailed standards which we meet with our public partners in terms of information that is provided to them,'' said Louise Grant, Corrections Corporation's spokeswoman. ''Transparency and accountability already exist with the public-private partnership.''

November 9, 2007 Harrisburg Patriot News
Private prisons and other facilities hold about 25,000 federal prisoners. They don’t have to tell the public how many guards they have per inmate or whether serious crimes such as assaults or rape occur. U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, a former Schuylkill County sheriff and probation officer, would shut them down if he could. But there’s no support in Congress for that step. Instead, Holden, D-Schuylkill, sponsored the Private Prison Information Act, which would require the 12 private prisons operated nationwide that hold federal prisoners to comply with the federal Freedom of Information Act. The Moshannon Valley Correctional Center at Philipsburg, a 1,300-bed low-security facility that houses mostly criminal aliens and offenders from the Washington, D.C. area, is one of 12 facilities nationwide. There are five in Texas, two in California, and one each in North Carolina, New Mexico, Georgia and Ohio. Houston, Texas-based Cornell Companies, which operates the center in Philipsburg, operates other state facilities for juvenile offenders in the state. Holden’s legislation would only apply to facilities with federal contracts. “As the federal government increases its use of private, for-profit facilities for incarceration of federal prisoners, it is imperative that we ensure that information about the operation of these prisons is readily available,” Holden testified Thursday before a House Judiciary subcommittee. “The veil of secrecy surrounding private facilities needs to be lifted.” Holden has two federal prisons and one state prison in his district. He told the panel, whose members voiced no criticism of the proposal, about the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio. Members of a state panel found 44 inmate-on-inmate assaults there during a one-year period, compared with 305 combined assaults recorded by Ohio’s 32 correctional facilities. The facility did not respond to state officials’ and media requests for additional details, he said. “Most daunting of all, private prisons are not required to provide incident reports detailing health care oversight, rape or assault, weapons attacks, death, or escape at the facility,” Holden said. Corrections Corp. of America, a company that manages about 70,000 prisoners, opposes the measure, said Louise Grant, vice president of communications and marketing. “We believe the current system works very well” and provides an elaborate system for making information available, said Grant. Rep. Robert Scott, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, called Holden’s proposal a “good government bill,” but no other members commented. The full House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the bill later this month or in December.

October 11, 2007 Arizona Republic
A Phoenix man and other parents whose children died at boot camps for troubled youths gave wrenching testimony before Congress on Wednesday, urging other families to avoid enrolling teens in such programs until there is more oversight of them. Bob Bacon of Phoenix recounted how his 16-year-old son, Aaron, died at a wilderness camp in Utah in the 1990s. "We were conned by their (the camp's) fraudulent claims and will go to our graves regretting our gullibility," Bacon told members of a House committee. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also announced it has identified thousands of allegations of abuse, some involving death, at boot camps since the early 1990s. It cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005. "Buyer, beware," said Greg Kutz, who led the GAO investigation. "You really don't know what you're getting." Kutz said the GAO closely examined 10 closed cases where juveniles died at residential treatment camps. In half of those cases, the teens died of dehydration or heat exhaustion. Other factors were untrained staff, inadequate food or reckless operations, the GAO said. Five of the 10 camps are still operating, some in different locations or under new names. "Ineffective program management played a key role in most of these deaths," Kutz testified before the House Education and Labor Committee. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the committee and requested the investigation, has sponsored a bill designed to encourage states to enact regulations. "This nightmare has remained an open secret for years," Miller said in a statement. "Congress must act, and it must act swiftly." The death of Bacon's son was one of the 10 cases studied by the GAO, but not the only one with an Arizona connection. The sample cases did not include names, but some were identifiable through news reports. One was the death of Anthony Haynes, 14, at the American Buffalo Soldiers boot camp in Arizona in 2001. One of the state's most high-profile camp deaths was that of Nicholas Contreraz, a 16-year-old Sacramento youth who died in 1998 while being subjected to discipline at the Arizona Boys Ranch near Queen Creek. Bob Bacon's account was among those Wednesday that outraged House committee members. Bacon said Aaron was sent to the camp because of minor drug use and poor grades. The father said he was fooled by the owners of the Utah facility into believing his son would be well cared for. Instead, Aaron was forced to hike eight to 10 miles a day with inadequate nutrition and was not given protective gear to withstand freezing temperatures, Bacon said. When Aaron complained of severe stomach pains and asked for a doctor, his pleas were ignored even though he had dramatically lost weight and suffered from other serious symptoms, Bacon testified. According to court documents, the boy's condition was ignored for 20 days, until he collapsed. The autopsy showed he died of an acute infection related to a perforated ulcer. Five camp employees pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, and another was convicted of child abuse. All were sentenced to probation and community service. Kutz testified that camp employees studied by the GAO were often poorly trained. He said kids weren't properly fed and were exposed to dangerous conditions, their cries for medical assistance ignored. He said that in only one of the 10 sample cases was anyone found criminally liable and sentenced to prison. The residential programs, designed to instill discipline and character, can be privately run or state-sponsored programs and sometimes include an educational or school-like component. They are loosely regulated by states. There are no federal laws that define and regulate them. The programs are marketed to parents who are at a loss as to how to help emotionally troubled teens, Kutz said. Jan Moss, executive director of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, a trade group, said many kids have been helped by the treatment programs. She said the industry is taking steps to improve, but she added, "Clearly we still have a very long way to go." Kutz said there is no comprehensive nationwide data on deaths and injuries in residential treatment programs. Auditors found thousands of allegations in lawsuits, Web sites and state records. "Examples of abuse include youth being forced to eat their own vomit, denied adequate food, being forced to lie in urine or feces, being kicked, beaten and thrown to the ground," Kutz said, adding that one teen was reportedly "forced to use a toothbrush to clean a toilet, then forced to use that toothbrush on their own teeth." At the boot camp where Anthony Haynes died, children were fed an apple for breakfast, a carrot for lunch and a bowl of beans for dinner, the GAO said. Haynes became dehydrated in 113-degree heat and vomited dirt, according to witnesses. The program closed, and the director, Charles Long, was sentenced in 2005 to six years in prison for manslaughter. The autopsy on Nicholas Contreraz showed that after Boys Ranch staffers punished and humiliated the teen for days, he suffered from a severe infection in the lining of his lungs. Five employees were charged criminally, but all counts were dropped. The ranch now operates under the name Canyon State Academy. Julie Vega, Contreraz's mother, recently told The Arizona Republic, "I feel like he was sacrificed, and some good things changed for the better because of him. But nobody really paid a price for his death."

Correctional Treatment Facility
Washington, DC 
January 18, 2017 curenational.org
A coalition of criminal justice reform organizations and D.C. corrections stakeholders announced today that they will hold an event to celebrate the return of D.C.'s city jail, the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), to public control. The event will be held on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, from 4 PM - 6 PM ET at the Harrington Hotel, Ave. E and 11th St. NW. For the past 20 years, CTF has been operated by CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the U.S. In March, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the city would resume operation of CTF when CoreCivic's contract expired at the end of January 2017. Since forming nearly three years ago, the ReThink Justice-DC coalition has advocated to end D.C.'s contract with CoreCivic, and to stop the city from signing contracts with other for-profit corrections corporations. "Profit is the worst possible motive to run a jail," said Charlie Sullivan of CURE, and one of the coalition's leaders. "I feel like D.C. is finally being released from a 20 year sentence." Besides rejecting "celling for profit", another leader, John Rosser, also said that "a prisoner will now be treated as a citizen and not as a commodity." Finally, the coalition stressed CTF's place in the growth of private prisons nationally. "Private prison companies claim they'll incarcerate people for cheaper and in better conditions, but across the country the evidence shows just the opposite," said coalition member Jeremy Mohler of In the Public Interest. "CoreCivic's track record is littered with deadly riots, escapes, terrible conditions, and inadequate healthcare, which has cost the public more in the long run." The coalition stresses that, while research and advocacy certainly helped create a climate for reform, in the end, only the Mayor and the City Council could bring about this historic day. "Hats off to the Mayor and Council for removing the private profit from CTF. It was the right thing to do," said coalition leader Ann Keep. The coalition especially invites these progressive public officials to the celebration and plan to publicly express their gratitude.

Mar 25, 2016 washingtontimes.com
DC: Mayor’s budget includes taking over CCA jail
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser presented to city lawmakers her $13.4 billion spending plan for fiscal 2017 that includes nearly $29 million for Emergency Medical Services, $2.5 million to add 60 police officers to the force, and a promise to take over the D.C. Jail. About 10 percent of the budget — $1.3 billion — is directed toward public safety. It would provide $2.5 million to train and hire 30 additional 911 call takers, and $12 million for a third-party ambulance initiative that would put more emergency units on the streets during peak times and allow EMTs to train without disrupting service. “It’s a good time in D.C., but you can’t sit on your laurels and go back to bad habits,” Ms. Bowser said of writing the budget while the city holds a General Fund balance of about $2.17 billion that has grown by $300 million under her watch. The budget must be approved by the D.C. Council, and Thursday was the first time lawmakers had a chance to examine details of the mayor’s spending plan.
"At first blush, it looks very sound,” said council Chairman Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. The money for Emergency Medical Services comes on the heels of the former director of emergency medical services, Dr. Jullette Saussy, blasting the fire department for its unwillingness to let her access data she needed to assess medics’ performance. On the police side, the fiscal 2017 budget would provide $8 million for the District’s DNA crime lab and $3.5 million for additional crime fighting technology. The budget includes Ms. Bowser’s initiative to take over the D.C. Jail’s Correctional Treatment Facility. Currently, that part of the jail is run by the private contractor Corrections Corporation of America. The annex of the main jail holds about 500 inmates, but has a capacity of 1,300.  The space would be used to house inmates in the federal correctional system who are at the end of their sentences as a way to make sure they have a smooth re-entry into society. About 130 people every month return to the District from the federal prison system. Ms. Bowser said the federal Bureau of Prisons re-entry services have been widely criticized, so spending the last few months in the D.C. Jail as opposed to a federal jail somewhere else in the country will help inmates reconnect with family and services in the city before they get out of prison. In total, the budget proposal comes in as a 3.5 percent increase over the fiscal 2016 budget, which is relatively low compared to previous years. Over the last four fiscal years, the budget grew each year by more than 5 percent, peaking in 2012 at 6.86 percent. And though it’s a smaller increase than past budgets, Ms. Bowser said the budget still funds the programs that will help residents including $386.6 million for Metro, $4.8 million for the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program and $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund. “This budget will reflect the needs of a growing city,” Ms. Bowser said. “In a city as prosperous as ours, every resident deserves a fair shot — no matter who you are, or what ward you live in.”

Sep 12, 2015 nbcwashington.com

Deaf Man Jailed Without Sign Language Translator Wins Case Against D.C. Jail

A deaf man who was jailed for 51 days without a sign language translator -- left unable to communicate with prison doctors, his counselor, his teachers and other inmates -- has won a discrimination case against the District of Columbia. William Pierce is profoundly deaf and communicates with sign language. After he pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge stemming from a domestic dispute, he was sentenced to the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The jail assumed that "lip-reading and exchanging written notes would suffice," and did not provide a translator, the court found. "They figuratively shrugged and effectively sat on their hands," the court's decision read. Pierce felt isolated and confused by what was happening in jail, he said in court filings. The court found that the District and CCA had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. “I am very pleased with Judge Jackson’s decision to find that the District of Columbia violated my rights as a deaf man and a human being,” Pierce said, through an interpreter, in an American Civil Liberties Union press release. “Video phones and interpreters are critical for the deaf and hard of hearing inmates to have access to the same opportunities as other inmates," Pierce said. "Unfortunately, even with this decision, the denial of service and adequate access continues.” A jury will decide Pierce's compensation.

Aug 26, 2015 solitarywatch.com
A recent report recommends replacing DC’s jail with a new facility.

Much has been written of late about the emergence of a bipartisan consensus on the need for criminal justice reform, encompassing both the White House and Congress. If this is true, the President and members of Congress would do well to start their reform efforts close to home, at the District of Columbia jail. The DC jail sits less than two miles east of Capitol Hill, out of sight of the Mall and its sparkling monuments. This complex of buildings warehouses mostly poor people of color, many of whom are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime. A scathing report on the jail system was produced recently by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in conjunction with the firm of Covington and Burling: D.C. Prisoners: Conditions of Confinement in the District of Columbia. The report found a crumbling infrastructure, poor mental health services, a high suicide rate, shamefully inadequate youth facilities, and an excessive use of solitary confinement. Washington’s jail system is  a complex comprised of two main sections: the Central Detention Facility (CDF), a deteriorating building dating to  the 1970s where most adults are held, and a smaller facility called the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF) that houses men, women, and children in individual cells, effectively in solitary confinement. The CDF and the CTF house pretrial detainees who cannot make bail, those awaiting transfer, and those convicted of misdemeanors. People convicted of a felony are transferred to a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility, where the District no longer has jurisdiction over them. While the DC jail is operated by the D.C. Department of Corrections (DCDOC), the CTF is run on a long-term contract by the Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison operation which in has come under increasing attack for its poorly run facilities. The report describes in some detail just how bad the overall system is. DC inspectors found holes in the jail’s walls, water leaking in through cracks in the roofs, mold, and cracked concrete. The report also states that children were largely mistreated and kept in solitary confinement, allegedly for their own safety, for extended periods of time. Additionally, between November 2012 and August 2013, four people at the D.C. jail committed suicide, bring the DCDOC suicide rate to three times the national average. The report attributes the high rate to the failure of guards and jail staff to follow existing mental health policies. The authors of the report also make clear that there is little in the way of oversight within the jail, either by the DC City Council or any other city agency. In fact, the authors were initially denied a copy of the contract between the DCDOC and CCA and obtained one only after lengthy efforts. In addition, when seeking one report from the city’s Department of Health, the authors were initially told that no such report existed, and had to prove that it did by obtaining the report through other means. The CCA operation poses additional problems. The CTF originally belonged to the District, but in 1997 the cash-strapped city sold part of its jail system to CCA for $52 million and then leased it back for $2.8 million a year to the company in a contract that ends in 2017. Through this deal, CCA made a 31 percent profit on its management fee alone. While CCA may be a leader in profits margins, they are clearly unfit to run a criminal rehabilitation program. The report highlights a case of a deaf man with HIV who filed a suit in federal district court against the District claiming CCA jailers wouldn’t give him the medical care he required. The man had been sentenced to 60 days in jail for a domestic dispute and when he inquired about medical care during his incarceration, jailers place him in solitary confinement. When not in solitary confinement, the man was kept in handcuffs and denied the ability to speak to lawyers, his family, or his partner in sign language. A spokesperson for the CCA told the Washington Post that the company took the case of the deaf man “very seriously” and were working “diligently to accommodate any special needs” of people held at their facilities. The report also found the youth facilities severely wanting, with an almost complete lack of any programming for juveniles held in the jail, and an excessive use of solitary confinement. A Solitary Watch investigation in 2013 also found that children charged as adults and held in the DC jails often spent months on end locked down 23 hours a day in barren cells, most often for “their own protection.” Children are further isolated from their families by often being forced to visit via video stream, rather than in person. In order to address these inadequacies, the authors propose a series of recommendations. The most dramatic of these is to demolish both the CDF and the CTF, which are physically beyond repair and no longer meet what the report calls “the District’s true correctional needs.” A new facility could be designed to address the prisoner population the District expects to have, and provide for the different prisoner populations, including men and women, those awaiting trial, those post-conviction awaiting transfer to the BOP, parole violators, juveniles of both sexes, individuals within each population who have special physical or mental health needs (including suicide monitoring), and individuals of all ages and gender who could benefit from substance abuse programming such as the SRTP [Secure Residential Treatment Program]. People involved in the project say the immediate aim is to get the DC City Council to order a study, and then use that study to figure out who actually is in the jail system, what they did to get there and for how long. They then hope to see new rules written that would increase the number of people who get released on their own recognizance, reducing the number who are held in jail for not being able to raise relatively small amounts of bail. The information from the study might also help advocates argue for sentencing reform, and reduce the length of time people stay in jail. The first step toward these goals has now been taken, as the D.C. City Council recently voted to spend $150,000 studying the future of the jail system. There have been several prior studies, however, none of them bearing results nearly as dramatic as the Washington Lawyers’ Committee recommends. Another report recommendation is that the District allow its contract with CCA, which expires in 2017, to lapse, and kick the company out of the D.C. prison business. The company is a tough, adroit political infighter that spends millions a year lobbying at the federal, state, and local levels, and has made contributions to District mayoral and City Council races. If CCA goes, it likely will not go quietly.

Nov 13, 2014 fbi.gov

Former Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Bribery, Admits Taking Cash to Smuggle Contraband into Facility

WASHINGTON—Lenard Fleming, 34, a former corrections officer who worked for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), pled guilty today to a bribery charge for accepting money to smuggle contraband into the District of Columbia’s Correctional Treatment Facility. The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.; Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Thomas N. Faust, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. Fleming, of District Heights, Md., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of bribery. The Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson scheduled sentencing for Feb. 12, 2015. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Fleming faces a likely range of 24 to 37 months of incarceration, as well as a fine of up to $60,000. Fleming is subject to forfeiture money judgment for money taken in the bribery scheme. According to the government’s evidence, Fleming had worked for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as a corrections officer at the Correctional Treatment Facility. CCA, a private company, has a contract to provide services to the D.C. Jail. During the investigation, the FBI recovered contraband from an inmate at the Correctional Treatment Facility in January 2014. Fleming admitted that he smuggled items for the same inmate through that inmate’s contacts outside of the Correctional Treatment Facility. Fleming received cash payments in exchange for smuggling cigarettes and, on one occasion, an iPhone, into the Correctional Treatment Facility for delivery to the inmate. Fleming was terminated by CCA in February 2014 following a complaint that he was smuggling contraband into the facility for another inmate. CCA was presented with allegations that Fleming met several times with the wife of another inmate. On each occasion, the inmate’s wife provided Fleming cash in exchange for Fleming smuggling cigarettes and synthetic marijuana into the facility and delivering it to the inmate. Fleming was arrested April 30, 2014. In a related investigation, another former corrections officer at the Correctional Treatment Facility, Darren Malry, 52, pled guilty on Oct. 17, 2014, to a bribery charge. According to the government’s evidence, on March 11, 2014, Malry smuggled contraband into the facility for an inmate. Malry was arrested that day. Malry is to be sentenced Feb. 6, 2015. In announcing today’s plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge McCabe, and Director Faust commended the work of those who jointly worked the case, including agents from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, investigators from the District of Columbia Department of Corrections Office of Investigative Services, and investigators from the Corrections Corporation of America. They also commended the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Donna Galindo, Corinne Kleinman, and Angela Lawrence; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melinda Williams, Todd Gee, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Dillon, who assisted in the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Catherine K. Connelly, Allessandra Stewart, and Arvind Lal, who assisted with forfeiture issues. Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard DiZinno, who prosecuted the case.

Apr 22, 2014 washingtonpost.com

A D.C. corrections officer was charged in federal court this week with accepting bribes to smuggle cigarettes, a cellphone and other contraband to an inmate. Darren Malry, 51, was arrested Monday after he allegedly took cash from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for delivering contraband to an inmate at the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility. Malry, a Laurel resident employed by the private firm Corrections Corporation of America, pleaded not guilty during an appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday. According to charging documents, Malry met twice with an undercover agent in a Greenbelt shopping center. At their first meeting, court papers say the agent handed Malry a cellphone, cigarettes and rolling papers, in addition to $750 in cash. The FBI recovered the items from the inmate soon after Malry delivered them to the jail cell, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. At their next meeting, Malry was arrested after the agent handed him cash, cigarettes and packages with a substance that resembled marijuana. Malry’s attorney was not immediately available to comment.

Feb. 4, 2013 Washington City Paper

As if being imprisoned wasn't bad enough, a new lawsuit from a former Washington inmate alleges there's another threat lurking in Washington's correctional facilities: the showers. Robert Morris was imprisoned at the Correctional Treatment Facility, a building  located next to the D.C. Jail that's run by the private Corrections Corporation of America, on Sept. 20, 2012. When he got in the shower, he alleged got a surprise: According to his lawsuit, the temperature spiked. "There was a sudden, very rapid, and quite extreme temperature change and it burned him in the genital area," says Geoffrey D. Allen, Morris's attorney. The lawsuit alleges that Corrections Corporation of America employees already knew about the showers' tendency to shoot out scalding water, which Allen likens to the changes in temperature when multiple showers in one house are turned on, but much worse. In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in January, Morris sued the Corrections Corporation of America for $1 million for the injuries he suffered in the shower. The company declined to comment on the case, saying in a statement that inmate safety at the CTF is a top priority. Allen, who wasn't sure what his client was imprisoned for, says Morris didn't suffer permanent damage from the shower's alleged burst on his most sensitive areas. "It was certainly uncomfortable, as you can imagine," Allen says.

September 20, 2012 The Washington Times
Corrections officers working at a D.C. jail facility worry about their safety on a daily basis due to a lack of adequate staffing after recent layoffs, employees testified Thursday at a D.C. Council hearing on the facility’s management. Corrections Corporation of America has run the District’s Correctional Treatment Facility since it took over operations from the District in 1997, but workers said problems that include faulty radios, inadequate staffing and high levels of contraband found inside the jail have been exacerbated since 77 employees — approximately one-third of the workforce — were laid off in April. “They are putting us in danger as well as the inmates,” said Dana Bushrod, a corrections officer of 10 years and leader with the union that represents employees at the facility. Ms. Bushrod went on to describe how units at the medium security facility, which is run separately from the higher security D.C. Jail that is still overseen by the District, are now commonly staffed with one corrections officer when they should be overseen by two or three officers. “We have a mental health unit that should have three staff members but have had one,” Ms. Bushrod said. “We have had an incident where an officer was attacked because she was by herself and a mental health patient attacked her and another mental health inmate had to help her.” Faulty radios and telephones also often leave officers without a way to communicate with staff in other units, she said. “It’s pretty shocking, and the public should be very worried about some of these instances,” said John Rosser, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Corrections Labor Committee that represents officers at the jail. No representative from CCA attended the hearing before the council’s Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday morning or could be reached for comment. D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson, who oversaw the hearing, said that despite CCA’s absence from the hearing he believes officials are listening to their concern. “The value of this hearing is it gives employes a way on the record to voice their concerns,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, adding that a number of the concerns mentioned had been raised before. “Now the whole world is watching, so the views are out on the table.” Several who attended the hearing spoke out against a continuation of CCA’s contract with the District to oversee operations at the facility. The contract is in force until 2017, according to information provided by Department of Corrections officials. “The FOP union strongly opposed privatizing in the 1990s and nothing has happened in the intervening years to convince us we were wrong,” Mr. Rosser said. “Profit has no place being in the equation. Making money on the incarceration of citizens is ugly business.” Others also raised concern about current conditions inside the jail. A representative from the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital spoke about two deaf inmates who were not provided sign language interpreters. Advocates said some inmates were subject to inhumane treatment, as they were not let outside for months or their pleas for medical attention were ignored. Corrections officers also expressed frustration that management provides written warning of contraband searches before they are conducted, giving inmates time to dispose of or hide weapons or other illegal items before the sweeps.

July 23, 2010 WTOP
Former correctional officer Quincy Hayes was sentenced Friday to 12 months and one day in prison for accepting bribes. At his guilty plea on March 18, 2010, Hayes, 32, of Alexandria admitted that he accepted a $300 cash payment from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for agreeing to smuggle an iPod into the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF) for an inmate. Hayes also admitted to having smuggled cigarettes into the CTF, located in the District, for another inmate in exchange for a $100 bribe. Hayes will also undergo a two-year period of supervised release following the prison sentence, where he will perform 100 hours of community service. The CTF is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America under contract with the District of Columbia Department of Corrections.

May 27, 2010 Washington Post
Jail is supposed to be no frills, a place where the only the basic amenities of food, clothing and shelter exist. But according to prosecutors, one D.C. jail officer helped an inmate get some creature comforts -- a cell phone, an iPod, and even a charger for the devices. Thomas Ford, 35, of the District, was sentenced Thursday to 12 months and one day in prison on a charge of bribery of a public official, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District announced. Ford admitted in February that he accepted cash payments in exchange for agreeing to smuggle cell phones, an iPod and a charger to a cooperating inmate in the Correctional Treatment Facility, which is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America under contract with the D. C. Department of Corrections. The FBI launched an undercover sting in 2008, after getting a tip that corrections officers were smuggling contraband to inmates. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen said in a statement that as a law enforcement officer, Ford abused the public trust, and he pledged, "“whenever anyone violates the public trust and breaks the law, we will prosecute them vigorously.”

March 11, 2010 AP
D.C. police are searching for an inmate who escaped while being transported to United Medical Center for treatment. The Corrections Corporation of America says 28-year-old Terrence Moore fled when he arrived at the southeast D.C. hospital around 9 a.m. Thursday. The company says after officers opened the vehicle doors, Moore escaped and jumped into a burgundy colored Cadillac and got away with an unknown driver. Officials are investigating how Moore was able to remove his restraints. The CCA runs the Correctional Treatment Facility where Moore, who is from Washington, was a pretrial inmate facing charges of assault with intent to kill. The facility is under lockdown.

February 23, 2010 Courthouse News
Two former inmates of a Corrections Corporation of America prison say CCA employees preyed on them sexually and banished them to solitary lockdown when they complained. One woman claims a CCA guard paid her "sugar daddy" on the outside, then demanded, and received, sex in prison. Jessica Rubio and Serbennia Chase filed separate, $20 million federal lawsuits against the private prison contractor, alleging civil rights violations at the company's Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF) at the District of Columbia Jail. Rubio, who was arrested and sentenced in 2008 for sexual solicitation, says CTF employee "Sgt. Powell" paid her for sex four times when he should have been helping her "turn her life around." Rubio says that in an effort to go straight rather then spending "the rest of her life going in and out of prison," she signed up for a private counseling session with Powell, who ran a group session called "Life Without a Crutch." Rubio says she thought Powell was "uniquely qualified to assist her in dealing with her problems and counsel her on how to become a law abiding and productive member of society." During a private session, she says she told Powell she was a prostitute and drug addict. She said she worked as a prostitute because of a "love of money," and because there was no other job at which she could make "$1,200 to $1,800 a day." After the session, Rubio says, Powell paid $50 to her "sugar daddy" to have sex with her. Rubio says that despite the "receipt" for her services, she did not think Powell would "use her to satisfy his sexual urges because she went to him to turn her life around, not to facilitate the life she had on the streets." She says Powell took her to the prison's "satellite kitchen" four times and had sex with her, each time paying her "sugar daddy" beforehand. Afterward, Rubio says, "She felt cheap, used and abused." "It reminded her of the life she had on the street, that she wanted to put behind her, but it had apparently followed her to CTF," the lawsuit states. After she told investigators about Powell's actions and agreed to testify to a grand jury, Rubio says she was denied phone calls and other privileges, and eventually was moved to another prison, where her attorney had trouble visiting her. She was kept in solitary and kept on near-constant lockdown, she says. In the other complaint, Chase, who was arrested in 2008 for aggravated assault, says she was sexually harassed at least three times by a "Lt. Harris" while incarcerated at CTF. On a number of occasions Harris escorted her to meetings with her attorney. Two times he grabbed her buttocks or her vagina and said, "I'll see you later," according to the complaint. Another time he cornered her in a stairway, grabbed her vagina and said, "When are you going to let me put this dick in you?" Chase says. Chase adds that the 5th District Police Precinct violated her privacy when it videotaped her undressing in an interrogation room. She says the police then circulated a video of her without underwear "exposing her vagina and buttocks." She says she found out about the video when detectives sent a copy to her lawyer. She says she was "shocked, embarrassed and felt shame that her attorneys and other people saw her naked body." After she reported the harassment, Chase says she was transferred to a jail more than 2 hours away and kept in a solitary cell on 24-hour lockdown. Both women sued the District of Columbia, the Office of the Attorney General, and Corrections Corporation of America for civil rights violations. Chase also sued for invasion of privacy. They both seek a jury trial, $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Both are represented by Wendell Robinson. Officials at the Correctional Treatment Facility did not return a phone call requesting comment.

December 2, 2009 Washington Post
Two D.C. corrections officers and a Maryland woman were arrested Tuesday on federal bribery charges on suspicion of accepting cash to smuggle cellphones and iPods to inmates in the District's jail complex. The officers, Thomas Ford, 35, and Quincy Hayes, 32, have been placed on administrative leave and were released on personal recognizance after a brief hearing in the District's federal court. They are officers at the District's Correction Treatment Facility (CTF), which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Renee Braxton, 44, a security guard at a museum, was also released on personal recognizance, court records show. Authorities said that an inmate approached the FBI in October 2008 to report that guards were smuggling contraband into the facility. An undercover FBI employee, pretending to be the brother of an inmate, met with Braxton and Ford in 2008 and early this year and gave them several hundred dollars to smuggle a phone, an iPod and a charger to inmates at the CTF. Ford passed the items to the inmates, the FBI said. Hayes is accused of accepting a $300 bribe payment in June 2009 to smuggle in an iPod to a CTF inmate, the FBI said in court papers.

September 28, 2009 Washington Examiner
A D.C. Jail sergeant has been suspended while corrections officials probe allegations that he had sex with an inmate after paying for it through her pimp, according to officials and court documents. The investigation has also led to the forced leave of two other corrections officers, one of whom was later fired over an unrelated issue, officials said. The three were removed from the D.C. Jail property, "after allegations of inappropriate behavior arose with an inmate," according to Walter Fulton, facility program manager at the Correctional Treatment Center. Authorities said they would not further discuss the allegations because of an ongoing law enforcement investigation, but some details were outlined in a lawsuit filed in D.C. federal court this month. Jessica Rubio, 32, who described herself in court documents as a prostitute with a drug problem, was an inmate at the Correctional Treatment Facility, which is an annex of the D.C. Jail. She was in custody on a prostitution charge. She charged in her lawsuit that she had sex with correctional counselor Sgt. Aundra Powell after he paid $50 to her "Sugar Daddy" for her to satisfy his sexual urges. She claims Powell paid for her sexual services on four occasions. The sexual encounters began last year when Rubio received a receipt for the promised sex from her pimp and showed it to Powell after a group counseling session, she charged in the suit. "I see you received it," Powell replied, according to the lawsuit. Rubio's attorney, Wendell Robinson, said he did not know what form the receipt was in and would not comment further than what was in the lawsuit. In order to have sex with Rubio, the lawsuit alleges, Powell removed Rubio from her jail cell during the 2 p.m. "quiet time" and had her follow him to a satellite kitchen. Powell walked her to a window and told her to look outside while he put on a condom and had sex with her, according to the lawsuit. Rubio was released after serving her time, but was rearrested in April and convicted for prostitution in June 2009. It was then, she said, that Department of Corrections detectives questioned her about what happened between her and Powell. Rubio has since been transferred to the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford, Va. Walter Fulton, facility program manager at the Correctional Treatment Center, said Powell and two lieutenants were placed on paid leave as soon as the allegations surfaced. Jail detectives are investigating, he said. Powell and a substance abuse counselor remain on administrative leave. Lt. Ricardo Rich, an assistant shift supervisor, was fired in June for unrelated reasons, Fulton said. The Correctional Treatment Facility, at 19th and E streets Southeast, is managed by the Corrections Corp. of America and is staffed by employees of the District.

December 3, 2008 Washington Post
The mother of a quadriplegic inmate who died in 2004 after suffering breathing problems at the D.C. jail has reached financial settlements with the District government and his care providers, her attorneys disclosed yesterday. The settlements were reached in the controversial death of Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old Maryland man who was paralyzed from the neck down and used a mouth-operated wheelchair. Magbie died four days into a 10-day jail sentence for possessing marijuana, which he said he used to ease the discomfort caused by his disability. The jail infirmary, where he was housed for several days, wasn't equipped with the ventilator he needed to breathe at night. His death sparked several government investigations, which exposed major lapses in Magbie's care at the D.C. jail and Greater Southeast Hospital. Attorneys for his mother, Mary R. Scott, declined to provide details of the financial settlement, which she reached with the city, private contractors and the insurance company that covered doctors at the hospital. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Scott, called the settlement "substantial" in a news release. As part of the settlement, the District government changed the way officials screen and handle inmates with medical problems and disabilities, Scott's attorneys said. "The family's concern was to make certain that, to the extent anyone can prevent it, that this terrible type of event never happens again," said Elizabeth Alexander, an ACLU lawyer who represented Scott. "A series of people dealt with this young man, and every single place where something could go wrong, it did go wrong." Scott declined to comment through her attorneys. She filed a federal lawsuit in 2005 that accused the District government, Greater Southeast, three contractors and more than a dozen corrections officers, doctors and nurses of negligence in Magbie's death. A spokeswoman from the D.C. government said she could not comment until looking into the matter. Greater Southeast is under new ownership and has been renamed United Medical Center. A spokeswoman for Corrections Corporation of America, which runs a portion of the D.C. jail where Magbie was held, declined to comment. Representatives of two other contractors did not return phone messages seeking comment. Magbie's ordeal began Sept. 20, 2004, when D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin sentenced him to jail after he pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana. D.C. police found a gun and marijuana in Magbie's pockets in April 2003 after stopping a vehicle driven by a cousin of his. Magbie admitted buying the marijuana, records show. Magbie's mother was furious that the judge did not give her son probation, the typical punishment for first-time offenders. Magbie, paralyzed since being hit by a drunk driver at age 4, had no criminal record. Retchin told a judicial commission that she sentenced Magbie to jail because he said he would continue to smoke marijuana to alleviate his pain. She also told the commission that she was unaware that he needed a ventilator to breathe at night. The commission cleared Retchin of wrongdoing. Because of his condition, Magbie was supposed to be housed in the jail's infirmary, according to an investigation by the D.C. inspector general. Magbie was taken to a hospital for "respiratory distress" and returned to the jail infirmary, which didn't have a ventilator, the report said. Jail doctors did not perform a follow-up examination and did not always conduct daily rounds to check on patients, including Magbie, the report said. Magbie ate and drank very little during the next few days, the report stated. On Sept. 24, 2004, he was having respiratory problems, and paramedics were called, the report said. They found him to be "unresponsive and very sweaty," and his undergarment was "saturated with urine," the report said. Paramedics told investigators that the trip to the hospital was delayed by about 30 minutes because the jail staff would not allow them to leave without the proper paperwork and without a blood sugar test, the report said. At the hospital, Magbie was "acutely ill," according to the report. He died that night.

March 18, 2008 The Huffington Report
At a moment when Democratic Party officials are urging voters to trust unelected superdelegates to act in the country's best interests, HuffPost's OffTheBus investigation into the background of DNC superdelegates reveals at least one appointed superdelegate who is as likely to use his political connections for personal profit as for the greater good. Take the case of Joseph F. Johnson, a member-at-large of the Democratic National Committee from Chantilliy, Virginia -a suburb of Washington D.C. -- and a superdelegate currently tilting toward Hillary Clinton. Using his web of connections, Johnson successfully lobbied for the construction of a private prison linked to a company on whose board he sat; he managed to have that prison contract with other companies he was linked to; and though the prison became a notorious and dangerous failure, Johnson benefited personally, pulling in millions of dollars in stock options and fees. Johnson first rose through the ranks of the Democratic machine in the early 1990s, as executive director of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition. He brought with him strong ties to D.C. government that he'd built after his first job in the nation's capital, as chief of staff for the city of Washington DC's city council head. He also managed Douglas Wilder's successful campaign to become Virginia's first African-American governor in 1991. And Johnson advised Mark Warner on his successful 2001 gubernatorial bid in Virginia. Johnson's reputation as a mover and shaker in D.C. Democratic politics helped pave the way for his appointment to the board of Corrections Corporation of America, the largest operator of private prisons in the country. While serving in that position from 1996 to 1999, Johnson was instrumental in convincing the local government in Washington, DC to pay CCA to run a prison in Youngstown, Ohio for DC inmates, according to SEC filings for the company. Meanwhile, two of Johnson's own companies, National Corrections and Rehabilitation (NCRC) and MedCorr, were contracted to provide employment rehabilitation and health services in the same prison he helped establish. The private Ohio prison which Johnson helped establish was, according to Youngstown's then-mayor, "a nightmare." By 1998, there had been two fatal stabbings, 44 assaults, and six escapes at the prison. A Department of Justice report found that under CCA, the prison had "failed to accomplish the basic mission of correctional safety;" and prisoners eventually collected $1.65 million in damages and legal costs for their treatment under CCA. News reports traced the problems at the prison to both CCA's management and D.C. Corrections' practice of sending high-security inmates to the medium-security facility. The problems, Johnson told the Washington Post at the time, weren't "anyone's fault, it was just one of those things." Mr. Johnson nonetheless profited from the deal, receiving $2.6 million in stock options for his work linking CCA with officials in Washington, D.C. Calling his work "instrumental" to their receipt of the contract, CCA said that Mr. Johnson had "exceeded his duties and obligations" to the company and also paid him $382,000 for his "consulting services" in helping to arrange the deal, and $991,000 for NCRC's services in another CCA prison in Texas. Johnson had also helped arrange for Washington, D.C. to sell one of its local prisons to CCA in 1996. Local activists complained that procurement rules had been skipped over to hand the bid to CCA, but the deal ultimately went through, and CCA then managed the facility and used NCRC to provide services to inmates. When the Washington Post asked Johnson if he considered his dual roles as a conflict of interest, he replied, "Not in my mind." Two years later, the Washington Post reported that CCA faced $1.3 million in fines for failing to provide services to inmates, including $536,000 in fines for failing to properly administer medications and another $77,400 for failing to provide vision services. The city's Department of Corrections, despite being $8.8 million in the red, suspended most of the fines, according to Post reports from the time. Johnson has over time expanded his list of companies; NCRC is technically a subsidiary of his firm, the Johnson Companies [www.jcmps.com]. Under that umbrella, Mr. Johnson also houses the Houston-based Satellite Tracking of People, LLC (STOP), which deals in GPS tracking devices for inmates and parolees; the Nashville-based ConnectGov, Inc, which coordinates distance learning; and the National Preparedness Training Center, which trains first responders to disasters.

February 15, 2008 Washington City Paper
With so many millions of dollars walking out the door in Jimmy Choos, etc., courtesy of the tax scandal, you’d figure D.C. Gov would be totally into recovering millions of other dollars it’s rightfully owed by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). You’d figure that. But you’d be wrong. In a classic case of buck-passing between the Office of Property Management (OPM) and the Department of Corrections (DOC), the utility bill for steam used to heat the Correctional Treatment Facility—located right next to the D.C. Jail and privately operated by the Nashville-based CCA—has gone unpaid for years. What’s owed is up for negotiation. Last March, former OPM director Lars Etzkorn (who has since lost his job over that unfortunate police department relocation fiasco) testified before the Council that OPM was “collecting monies owed.” To wit: “For example, last month OPM presented to the Department of Corrections the analysis for it to recover $5.7 million from the Corrections Corporation of America…” OPM didn’t take over collecting the money, mind you, it presented an analysis of how to collect the money. And this was after At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson figured out in the 2006 budget process that DOC was actually being billed for the steam rather than being paid for it. A year after OPM was informed of that, a year after Etzkorn’s testimony throwing around “$5.7 million,” none of the money has been collected. And $5.7 million could be way underselling it. To be fair to the CCA, the folks in Nashville didn’t know how much steam they were using in D.C. until OPM installed a meter last March; a bill didn’t even go out until a few months later, in June. According to the bill, the meter shows that in six months—from June to December of 2007—the Correctional Treatment Facility used more than $450,000 in steam. When you do the math, and take into account that the CCA, according to its lease, has been responsible for paying utilities on the facility since 1997…. well that’s somewhere around $10 million to $11 million in danger of—poof!—evaporating. The DOC, by nature of its relationship with the the jail, the next-door Correctional Treatment Facility, and the CCA, has been the agency ostensibly in charge of the lease with the CCA. But—and you’ll have to try and follow this alphabet soup—the DOC thinks it’s the OPM’s job to get the CCA on board. Beverly Young, spokesperson for DOC, e-mailed that succinct response to me this week: “The Department of Corrections is not responsible for the collections. The matter is ultimately an issue between OPM and CCA.” Mendelson agrees. The DOC, he says, never should have been in charge of the lease in the first place. “The only agency that should administer a lease is OPM,” he says, and further: “They (OPM) screwed around last year with invoicing and not getting payment….They’re very slow to act and we're talking about millions of public dollars.” At a hearing last Friday, OPM’s interim director Robin-Eve Jasper (after being jousted by Vincent Gray) faced Mendelson on this front: Mendo: “We should get answers without having to think of every angle to ask the question. So I get the bills, but it turns out we’re not getting the payment…” Jasper: “I’m going to have to get back to you. We are billing currently, but the first bill didn’t go out that long ago…and I don’t believe it was as high as $11 million….I will get back to you with a detailed response.” Mendo: “What I was last told at our last hearing on this was that the Office of Property Management was talking to the Department of Corrections. I’m not sure why that makes sense. Why doesn’t the OPM talk to CCA or to the CFO’s office?” Jasper: “I can’t answer that question…I can’t answer why we were in discussion with the DOC rather than sending out a demand note and just proceeding on that basis.” Mendo: “When you get back to me, can you also go into what was going on prior to June 2007?” Jasper: “Yes, I believe we’re trying to establish a baseline of a full year at this point and…establish prior payments.” Mendo: “I’ve yet to receive any evidence that anyone has talked to CCA, so this would all be a surprise to them when we send them a bill. That would kind of help, I think, to talk to them.” Hey, it’s a start. OPM’s spokesman, Bill Rice, did not return three phone calls. Stay tuned!

December 14, 2006 Washington Post
Two former female inmates at the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility sued the District and jail officials last week, claiming that male guards took them to isolated parts of the jail and raped them. The women are suing under the anonymous names Jane Doe and Jane Roe. They say the District and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the private contractor the city hired to run the jail, are responsible for the alleged rapes because of their failure to supervise and train guards and properly investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. The suit is also filed against the two jail guards whom the women allege raped them: Elry McKnight and John Gant. The two women are alleging violations of their civil rights, emotional distress and battery, and are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Doe, a Maryland woman in her late 30s, alleges that McKnight raped her twice in April 2002 in a staff bathroom -- first while escorting her alone to her cell as she returned from a court hearing, and next when he pretended that he needed to take her to obtain a new identification badge. She was serving time for selling heroin. Roe, a D.C. resident, alleges that Gant forced her to perform oral sex on him in a jail broom closet in December 2003. Roe said Gant was able to easily separate her from others by asking a female corrections officer to let him speak with Roe privately in the hallway. Roe, who was serving time on drug possession charges, was released in January 2004. Doe, who has seven children and three grandchildren whom she hasn't told about the incident, said in an interview that she struggled over whether to sue the city. She said she worried about having to come forward and revisit an episode that has caused her panic attacks ever since, but decided to do so because her initial complaint was ignored. In the lawsuit, she alleges that she called 911 twice to get a police officer to come to the jail, but no one came. "It's like they want to hide everything that happened," Doe said. "If you hide something, it will happen to a lot of people." Beverly Young, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Corrections, said the city agency and its personnel cannot comment on pending litigation. A spokesman for CCA said the company was not aware of the suit and could not comment. The suit claims that the corrections department and CCA treated the two women poorly in investigating their claims. Doe was taken to see CTF Warden Fred Figueroa, and McKnight was eventually suspended with pay during an investigation, according to the suit. Doe was given no information about the investigation for three months, until she complained in June 2002 to her sentencing judge that she had been raped in the detention facility, the suit alleges. The suit also alleges that McKnight eventually was fired for smuggling contraband to inmates. "I couldn't believe they [paid] no mind to me. They thought I was going to be deported," said Doe, who grew up in the Dominican Republic but is a U.S. citizen. "They just didn't care. They thought I was a criminal. " Doe said she has stayed away from drugs since her release and is trying to get a job as a construction apprentice. She said she knows she was guilty of her crime and had to pay by doing time. "I'm not mad that I was put in jail. But I was so shocked. I didn't know you had to give them sex, too," she said. Roe was not available to be interviewed, but her part of the suit claims that Gant told her she had to do what he said or he could use his power in the records office to lengthen her stay in jail. CTF officers offered to put Roe in a kind of solitary confinement when she asked for protection from Gant, the suit says, but he ultimately resigned from CCA rather than give a statement regarding the alleged rape. Deborah M. Golden, a lawyer with Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, who is a lead attorney on the suit, said the District and CCA had a duty to set up procedures to reduce the risk that inmates at the CTF would be sexually harassed or raped and to take substantive action when inmates made rape allegations. Golden, who is working on the case with pro bono counsel Thomas C. Hill, a partner at the Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman law firm, said the women's claims weren't treated with the seriousness they deserved. "You can't train someone not to be a rapist," Golden said. "But you can set up procedures whereby lone women can't be taken out of their cells by a lone officer. You can stop officers from taking advantage of people who are incarcerated. You can train people to be alert to signs of trauma in the population." The legal team said it hopes to get top-level officials to take action to address sexual exploitation, a problem that has long plagued jails and prisons around the country. "Neither woman disputes their crime," Golden said. "But that doesn't mean rape was part of their sentence."

June 9, 2006 Washington Blade
Two transgender women said they plan to file a discrimination complaint against the District’s Department of Corrections after officials at the D.C. Jail refused to allow them to visit inmates because of their personal appearance. Gigi Thomas, a client advocate for the local group HIPS, which provides services to local sex workers, and Tiffany Everlasting, a HIPS volunteer, said jail officials told them they could not enter the jail because they wore women’s clothes but lacked identification classifying them as biological females. The two women said they appeared separately and at different times on May 30 at the visitor’s reception desk of the Correctional Treatment Facility at 19th and D streets, S.E. The facility, known as the CTF, is operated privately under a Department of Corrections contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, a firm that operates prisons throughout the country. An official with the D.C. Office of Human Rights said the action by the jail appears to violate the city’s Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination against transgender people. The act covers city government agencies as well as the private sector, including private employers. Walter Fulton, program manager at the command center for the Correctional Treatment Facility, said the facility has a dress code policy that prevented “cross-dressers” from being admitted as visitors. He said the policy, which was under review, was based on concerns about how jail employees could conduct a “pat down” search of a transgender person as part of routine searches of all jail visitors. He said the searches were aimed at preventing visitors from bringing contraband, including illegal drugs, into city correctional facilities. “It’s likely that accommodations will be made to allow cross dressers to visit,” he said. Guard convicted of sexual assault. The refusal by CTF officials to allow Thomas and Everlasting visitation rights came less than three months after a D.C. Superior Court jury convicted a guard at the same facility of sexually assaulting a transgender inmate. Court records show that Robert Ali White, 37, was convicted of a single count of first-degree sexual abuse of a ward for allegedly forcing a transgender inmate to perform oral sex on him in December 2004. He was scheduled for sentencing on July 21. D.C. police arrested White on Dec. 29, 2004, at the CTF facility after an inmate reported that the corrections officer allegedly forced the inmate to engage in a sexual act with him, according to court records.

August 14, 2003
The union for D.C. corrections officers yesterday again publicly criticized the private company that runs an annex to the D.C. jail, alleging a host of problems from forced overtime to inadequate pay and calling for the city to cancel its contract with the firm.  But this time, the corrections officers were joined by two D.C. Council members, who bring a new level of influence to the long-standing complaints.  At-Large Democrats Harold Brazil and Phil Mendelson stood outside the District's Correctional Treatment Facility at 1901 E St. SE along with union members, who called for the end of the contract the city has with Corrections Corp. of America.  The company runs a low- to medium-security annex of the D.C. jail intended to house D.C. inmates with substance-abuse problems and other medical needs.  Brazil and Mendelson issued ultimatums, saying that if the Nashville company does not address numerous concerns outlined in an 18-page report by the council's subcommittee on public interest, they will ask the mayor to end the 20-year contract signed with the company in 1997.  In November, the dispute between union members and the company escalated after the union said poor working conditions may have contributed to the death of an inmate in August 2002.  They said staffing shortages, faulty radios and trouble with the institution's telephone system apparently hampered efforts to help the inmate.  (Washington Post)

December 18, 2002
One inmate was killed and a second was wounded in separate stabbings over the weekend at the D.C. jail, just days after another detainee was slain in a similar attack, corrections officials and prisoner advocates said yesterday.  The inmate-on-inmate attacks took place over a 70-hour period in different cellblocks.  Officials with the D.C. Department of Corrections said they put the jail on an indefinite lockdown after the latest incident Saturday, restricting movements and activities of inmates, while D.C. police and the agency's internal affairs unit investigate.  The violence raised new concerns among jail watchdogs about whether the detention center can operate safely above a court-ordered population cap of 1,674 that was lifted in June after 17 years.  Yesterday's inmate count was 2,369.  (Washington Post-Staff Writer)

December 16, 2002
Givon Pedelton was behind bars awaiting trial on a drug charge, but he never made it to D.C. Superior Court.  Someone stabbed him to death at the D.C. jail last Wednesday evening.  Mr. Pedleton is the latest inmate to be slain while int he city's custody.  An inmate was also murdered last August in the Correctional Treatment Facility, located near the jail.  And life behind locked gates isn't exactly safe and secure for members of the corrections staff either:  Between April and august of this year, they suffered about 15 assaults.  The victims' injuries included a broken hand, temporary sight loss in one eye, a broken nose and 36 stitches to one officer's face.  (Washington Post.com)

November 17, 2002
A long-simmering dispute between union members and the company that runs an annex to the D.C. jail escalated yesterday after the union alleged that poor working conditions may have contributed to the death of an inmate in August.   Union members at the District's Correctional Treatment Facility at 1901 E St. SE said that staffing shortages, faulty radios and trouble with the institution's phone system apparently hampered efforts to help inmate Benjamin Brown, who died Aug. 20. They made the allegation and detailed other work-related complaints during a news conference outside the facility, run by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.   The public quarrel about such a sensitive case underscored how relations have deteriorated between the company and union leaders. Against this backdrop, other problems have surfaced: Four corrections officers were indicted this month on charges that they smuggled drugs, pagers and cash to inmates in exchange for bribes.   Littlejohn alleged that the company has been trying to break up the union   for about a year and that managers routinely harass officers and threaten to fire them. He cited the firing in June of corrections officer Jimmie D. Allen, a church deacon, for organizing a prayer meeting just outside the annex.

November 9, 2002
AND YOU THOUGHT that once someone was convicted and sent to jail it meant saying goodbye to drugs, pagers and means of doing business with the outside world.   This week, prosecutors indicted four guards at the privately run Correctional Treatment Facility, a D.C. jail annex, on charges of smuggling drugs, pagers and cash to prisoners in exchange for bribes offered by undercover FBI agents. Three of them were working at the facility when they allegedly took the bribes. The fourth, a former employee, allegedly served as a go-between. The Corrections Department brass would have you believe that the smuggling has nothing to do with them because the Correctional Treatment Facility is run by the Corrections Corp. of America, a private concern that operates about 60 prisons elsewhere in the nation.   Don't buy it. The city pays the Nashville-based CCA about $20 million a year for handling the Corrections Treatment Facility, which, as far as we can tell, is not being run any better than when the city was operating prisons.   None of this is the least bit amusing. It is a disgrace. Last year, 10 corrections officers, including nine from CCA, were indicted on bribery charges stemming from a similar investigation. All 10 were convicted. But the corruption, nonetheless, goes on. What does that say about the competence and efficiency of the private firm that is pocketing millions of taxpayer dollars -- or about the agency that is supposed to be overseeing that operation? What does it say about a city government that apparently tolerates such a scandal?

November 8, 2002
Four corrections officers at a privately run annex to the D.C. jail have been indicted on charges that they smuggled drugs, pagers and cash to inmates in exchange for bribes offered by undercover FBI agents, prosecutors said yesterday.
  Three of the four were employees of the Corrections Corp. of America, which runs the Correctional Treatment Facility in Southeast Washington under a contract with the city, when they allegedly took the bribes. The fourth, whom prosecutors described as a former CCA employee at the facility, allegedly served as a go-between for one of the others in his dealings with an FBI agent posing as an inmate's girlfriend.   All were arrested by the FBI yesterday morning, prosecutors said. They were indicted on charges of bribery and introducing contraband into a penal institution. All pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court and were released on personal recognizance.   In a similar investigation at the Correctional Treatment Facility last year, 10 corrections officers were indicted on bribery charges, including nine from CCA. All 10 were convicted of various charges, prosecutors said.  (The Washington Post)

June 29, 2001
Six former D.C. corrections officers pleaded guilty this week to federal bribery charges after an FBI sting operation in which they accepted money in return for smuggling cash and pagers to inmates, prosecutors announced yesterday.  The six men were indicted in U.S. District Court last month on charges that they brought cash and pagers to inmates at the District's Correctional Treatment Facility after accepting hundreds of dollars from a man who said he was acting on behalf of inmates.  The man turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, prosecutors said.  All have either resigned or been fired from the Corrections Corp. of America, the private contractor that operates the jail facility in Southeast Washington.  (The Washington Post)

June 1, 2001
Ten D.C. corrections officers have been indicted on federal bribery charges after an undercover FBI investigation in which they allegedly accepted money in return for smuggling cash and two-way pagers to inmates, prosecutors said yesterday.  D.C. inmates are not supposed to have money or communications devices, prosecutors said.  But the corrections officers brought both into the District's Correctional Treatment Facility after accepting hundreds of dollars from a man who said he was acting on behalf of the inmates, they said.  The man turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.  The indictments followed a two-year investigation and were returned under seal on Wednesday.  Nine of those indicted worked for the Corrections Corp. of America, a private contractor that operates the Correctional Treatment Facility in Southeast Washington.  (The Washington Post)

July 29, 1999 Washington Post
 Two maximum-security DC inmates who were serving time for murder escaped from two guards who were driving them back to a Virginia prison. The guards left the door to the van unlocked and the inmates were somehow able to remove their leg irons and flee.

March 14, 1999
A convicted killer, confined to a wheelchair cut through the bars on the window of his eighth-floor cell, tied bedsheets into a rope and climbed out of the prison undetected. The sheets unraveled and he plunged to the pavement below. An unidentified woman picked him up and took him to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later. (The Washington Post, March 16, 1999)

Department of Corrections
May 12, 2016 washingtonpost.com
U.S. jury orders D.C. Corrections to pay $70,000 to deaf inmate in ADA claim
A deaf former inmate whose rights were violated by the D.C. Department of Corrections was awarded $70,000 in damages by a federal jury Wednesday under the Americans with Disabilities Act. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson castigated D.C. jail officials in a blistering, 60-page opinion in September that found the department liable for failing to assess what accommodations were needed by William Pierce, 47, of the District and mismanaging his care during his incarceration in 2012. Jackson wrote that despite written policies in place, officials at the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility “effectively sat on their hands.” “The District’s willful blindness . . . and its half-hearted attempt to provide Pierce with a random assortment of auxiliary aids — and only after he specifically requested them — fell far short of what the law requires,” Jackson wrote. An eight-person D.C. federal jury deliberated less than day after a six-day damages trial for Pierce. Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, said the organization and Pierce were pleased by the verdict and hoped it would lead prison and jail operators across the country to provide qualified sign-language interpreters to deaf inmates and to accommodate other disabled inmates. Spitzer said evidence indicated jailers balked at a quoted $155-per-hour rate for an interpreter, which he said “certainly doesn’t come to $70,000. I hope that’s a lesson CCA and others have learned.”

Jun 12, 2015 dcist.com
As it approaches its 40th anniversary, the D.C. Jail is showing its age. Crumbling infrastructure, active vermin infestations, a leaking roof, moldy walls, and broken plumbing are among the problems plaguing the city's prison population, according to a new report. Put out by the Washington Lawyers' Committee and Covington & Burling, “D.C. Prisoners: Conditions of Confinement in the District of Columbia” details a litany of issues with the facility. Conditions are so bad, they say, that many of them "cannot realistically be fixed" in the current facility. Their first recommendation is to close the D.C. Jail and the Correctional Treatment Facility and "construct a new, safer, more effective facility." The Department of Correction's response, which was included with the report, noted that many of the issues that were highlighted have already been fixed. "In the most recent March 2015 DOH inspection, 87 percent of the identified items have already been abated to date," they wrote. "The remaining items are either currently being corrected or, due to the age and deterioration of the physical structure, are outside of DOC’s control." The report also details issues with suicide prevention efforts and how youth are treated at the facilities. There was a rash of suicides in 2012 and 2013 that prompted the DOC to commission a study by an outside consultant, make changes, and create a suicide prevention task force. While the report noted improvements, the authors said that "much work should still be done" and recommended an outside evaluation to see if the recommended changes had been fully addressed. Issues confronting youth that are housed at the CTF include inadequate space and a lack of dedicated programming, the authors of the report say. They also found that youth are excessively subjected to solitary confinement and generally are only allowed video visitation rather than in-person visits. The report also recommends that the city stop contracting management of the CTF out to the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America when their contract expires in 2017. Among the downsides, they cite both safety and quality issues, as well as the fact that CCA isn't subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws.

Apr 18, 2015 washingtontimes.com
The D.C. Council narrowly voted down a $66 million contract that would have placed for-profit company Corizon Health in charge of providing healthcare at the city jail. The 6-5 vote pitted those who had concerns about the company’s history of providing medical care at other facilities against members who grimaced at getting involved in contracting matters already vetted by the city’s procurement experts. “We shouldn’t be in this business. If we are going to be in the business, then we ought to respect the process,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, who voted for approval of the contract. But others questioned the thoroughness of a procurement process that awarded the contract to Corizon without making mention of numerous lawsuits filed against the company in other states as well as those that have dropped contracts with the company over recent years. Council Member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, said the council’s job in this circumstance was to “serve as a backstop” for contracting decisions. “We’re supposed to be here to catch what I would call manifest mistakes. This is such a case,” Ms. Cheh said before voting against the contract award. The contract would have put Corizon in charge of providing medical, mental health, pharmacy and dental services for at least three years to the roughly 2,200 inmates in the District’s Department of Corrections. The District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement recommended awarding the contract to Corizon at a cost of 7 percent, or $4.4 million, more than the bid received from Unity Health Care, which has overseen health care at the jail since 2006. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said payouts from lawsuits filed against the District in regard to healthcare issues at the jail have seen “a breathtaking drop” during the time Unity has had the contract with the city. From 2006 through the present, he said there have been $59,000 in judgments against the District on account of lawsuits regarding healthcare at the jail compared to $1.2 million in judgments from 2002 through 2006 under a different provider, he said. Along with Ms. Cheh and Mr. Mendelson, council members Charles Allen, David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau, and Elissa Silverman voted against the contract award. The rejection of the Corizon contract ends an 18-month procurement and review process that will now likely have to be restarted so that the city can select a new healthcare provider. In the interim, Unity will continue to provide healthcare at the jail under an extended contract. But a spokesman for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who supported the Corizon award, said the city will be overpaying in the short term on that contract because it is based on a fixed number of inmates that is higher than the jail’s current population. “The Council’s action will extend overpayment for care, which does not fully meet the health needs of a vulnerable population, until a new contract can be awarded,” spokesman Mike Czin said. Corizon officials were disappointed with the decision. “It’s unfortunate that the D.C. Council did not approve their peers’ recommendations,” said Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., chief executive officer of Corizon. “The company wishes the D.C. Department of Corrections and its residents well.”

Mar 19, 2015 washingtoncitypaper.com
Can Muriel Bowser succeed where Vince Gray failed? In the last days of his lame duck mayoral term, Gray tried to earn D.C. Council approval for a new D.C. Jail health contract, only to drop the $66 million contract award when it foundered at the Council. Now Bowser, who submitted the contract to the Council yesterday, is trying again. Bowser's problem is that Corizon Health Inc., the Tennessee-based company that won the contract, doesn't exactly have a sterling reputation with prison advocates. Corizon's care in other prisons has inspired a long line of lawsuits, raising the threat of more lawsuits against the District, according to critics. In December, the ACLU's District chapter urged councilmembers to oppose the contract. “Their reputation in the field of people who care about prisoner’s health and prisoner’s well-being is pretty abysmal," says Alex Friedmann, the managing editor of Prison Legal News. That reputation didn't stop the District from awarding the contract to Corizon over the jail's current provider, Unity Health Care. "The simple fact is that Corizon submitted the highest value package with a higher level of care," Bowser spokesman Michael Czin writes in an email. It's not clear whether Bowser has built more support for the contractor than her predecessor. The last time the contract came up, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson worried that Corizon "has a reputation for attracting a lot of lawsuits." In the run-up to Bowser's new push, At-Large Councilmember David Grosso and Corizon CEO Woodrow Augustus Myers Jr. battled it out over the contract in dueling letters. In Grosso's letter, he listed a number of lawsuits against Corizon. Myers' letter to Grosso disputed his claims and pointed out that Grosso usually isn't so eager to interfere in contract approvals.

Dec 20, 2014 washingtontimes.com

D.C. Jail health care contract pulled to give Corizon time to ‘get the facts out’ D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray withdrew from the council’s Wednesday legislative agenda a controversial measure that would place a for-profit corporation in charge of health care at the D.C. Jail. A spokeswoman for his office said the $66 million, three-year contract to Corizon Health Inc. was delayed and not dead, and that the administration hoped to see it come up for a vote next year after the company had more time to address the concerns of activists. “We agreed to withdraw it to give Corizon more time to get the facts out,” said Mr. Gray’s spokeswoman Doxie McCoy. “They were getting unfairly smeared. It will likely be resubmitted next year.” The District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement recommended awarding the contract to provide medical, mental health, pharmacy and dental services to inmates at the Department of Corrections to Corizon Health Inc. instead of renewing a current contract with nonprofit Unity Health Care Inc, which has overseen health care at the jail since 2006. The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital and inmate advocates protested the award, pointing to a long list of lawsuits filed against Corizon as well as some of their own personal experiences representing inmates at other facilities who received poor treatment from Corizon. The D.C. Council would have to vote in favor of the contract by January 22 in order for it to be approved. Without a vote, the contract would be considered denied. Wednesday was the D.C. Council’s last legislative meeting of the year, and the final one that would occur under the administration of Mr. Gray. Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser will be sworn in on Jan. 2, but on Wednesday she offered little indication how she might side on the matter. “This is an important issue in the District. We will give it the attention it deserves and review the contract and process in a timely manner,” Ms. Bowser’s spokesman Joaquin McPeek said. The Gray administration maintains that the old contract with Unity was not a good choice for the city. “We believe the current Unity contact is too expensive to continue due to the reduction in the corrections population,” Ms. McCoy said. However, a copy of the council contract summary submitted to the D.C. Council states that Corizon’s bid to provide services for three years, with the ability to renew for two additional years, would cost 7 percent or $4.4 million more than the bid received by Unity Health Care, Inc. “The prices proposed are within market reasonable for the direct labor staffing proposed, and the total proposed amount is within available budget for the Department of Corrections,” the summary reads. “The innovations proposed in their proposal plus the confidence in their ability to perform at the proposed price warrant award at the additional 7%.” Jail spokeswoman Sylvia Lane declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to the city’s Office of Contracting and Procurement. Corizon officials said the contract was being offered after a fair assessment process. “We are confident that the significant misinformation being circulated regarding Corizon Health’s performance history and experience will not stand against the facts that support our competence and effectiveness in providing quality healthcare to inmates across the country,” a company statement issued Wednesday said. “We look forward to a vote that affirms the independent selection of Corizon Health to deliver quality correctional healthcare in the District.”

Department of Homeland Security
(ICE) US Marshals Service
Washington, DC
CCA, Emerald, GEO Group, MTC, Wackenhut (AKA Group 4)
Immigrants prove big business for prison companies: August 2, 2012 By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ and GARANCE BURKE Associated Press. Must read on immigration $$$.
ICE paints bleak picture of detention system Abuses continue despite agency's documentation: Susan Carroll, October 10, 2011, Houston Chronicle. ICE continues to use troubled detention facilities despite flagrant violations of their own detention standards, including poor medical care and mistreatment of detainees, new internal records show.
Private prison company’s growth went hand-in-hand with political influence: Jon Collins September 26, 2011 Minnesota Independent
The Shadow Prison Industry and Its Government Enablers by Tom Barry January 29, 2010 Center for International Policy
Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail by Nina Bernstein January 9, 2010 New York Times

Jul 17, 2020 thehill.com

GOP lawmaker raises concern over lobbyist gaining unauthorized access to online hearing platform

A former House Democratic aide who was fired in 2017 after two criminal convictions gained unauthorized access to a virtual Homeland Security subcommittee hearing this week, according to a top GOP lawmaker. Isaac Lanier Avant, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) who is now a lobbyist, was on the WebEx platform designated for lawmakers and witnesses for an hour during Monday’s hearing, Homeland Security ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.) wrote in a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). Rogers said the incident raises questions about the security of remote House hearings, which are opposed by many Republicans who argue lawmakers should be conducting the proceedings in person during the pandemic. “[Avant’s] presence on the platform for Members was noted for over an hour and he was only removed once the Minority informed the Majority,” Rogers wrote in his letter to McGovern. “His presence on the Members’ platform raises serious concerns about security issues related to remote Proceedings.” Rogers asked McGovern to explain how he would “prevent future lapses in security during remote hearings.” According to Rogers, Avant was not on the list of authorized users that was distributed to lawmakers before the meeting. House rules on virtual hearings stipulate that access to the WebEx platform be limited to lawmakers, witnesses, and staff who are on the pre-distributed list. Congressional filings show Avant is a registered lobbyist for private prison company GEO Group, whose chairman and CEO George Zoley was testifying at Monday’s hearing, hosted by the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, to discuss how Immigration and Customs Enforcement contractors are responding to COVID-19. A Homeland Security Committee spokesperson told The Hill on Thursday that, as the witness’s designee, Avant received an automatically generated email with the WebEx login information that was “intended for the witness only.” A spokesperson for GEO Group denied providing access to Avant, writing in an email that the company did not provide access to anyone beyond Zoley. When reached by phone, Avant said he did not have “any knowledge of the matter,” and declined to comment further. The WebEx software allows users to speak and be seen in the hearing, while members of the public are limited to viewing the proceedings through an online streaming platform or C-SPAN. McGovern was largely dismissive of the concerns raised by Rogers. “While your letter equates this as raising ‘serious concerns about security issues,’ this episode would be more akin to an audience member sitting in the wrong area during a public hearing,” McGovern wrote to Rogers on Thursday. “When the attendance of this individual on the remote platform was discovered, they were removed and at no time during this public and unclassified hearing was the security of the platform threatened.” Avant pleaded guilty in 2016 to failing to file income tax returns for five years and was sentenced to four months in prison. The next year, he pleaded guilty to falsifying a standard House security clearance form by stating he had filed income taxes in the years he had failed to. Thompson fired Avant after the second conviction, in 2017, after 15 years as his chief of staff and a decade as Democratic staff director for the Homeland Security Committee, according to the Clarion-Ledger. Avant set up a lobbying firm last year and GEO Group hired him in May 2019, congressional filings show. Avant also lobbied last year for another group that has business with Thompson’s committee, the Seafarers International Union’s political wing. The House authorized remote voting and committee work by videoconference by a party-line vote in May. Republicans have criticized the temporary measures, arguing they undermine their ability to represent constituents. They have also pointed to technical difficulties that have marred some hearings.

July 14, 2020 motherjones

Prison CEOs Say They Had No Clue Guards Pepper-Sprayed Hundreds of Immigration Detainees

There have been more than a dozen pepper-spraying incidents since the start of the pandemic. Private prison executives claimed at a congressional hearing Monday to be unaware of any recent instances of guards pepper-spraying immigration detainees at the facilities they run. It was a shocking claim: Detainees have been pepper-sprayed on more than a dozen occasions since late March, and Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s own press office has confirmed many of the incidents the CEOs say they know nothing about. Monday’s hearing focused on the often abysmal conditions in for-profit immigration detention centers during the coronavirus pandemic. One question from Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) to four executives testifying virtually was hard to misinterpret. “So no one is aware of any time that rubber bullets, or pepper spray, or tear gas has been used by officers at your facilities against detainees since the COVID-19 pandemic?” he asked. “Are you all categorically denying it?” In response, CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger, Management and Training Corporation CEO Scott Marquardt, and LaSalle Corrections executive director Rodney Cooper said they were aware of no such incidents. GEO Group CEO George Zoley said he was aware of one incident in California. In reality, people at CoreCivic facilities have been pepper-sprayed on at least four occasions. At LaSalle, it’s happened on at least five occasions. And at GEO Group detention centers, the total is also at least five. Hundreds of immigrants and asylum seekers have been exposed to pepper spray during those uses of force. There have been no recent documented cases of pepper spray at Management and Training Corporation centers. (All of these companies have contracts with ICE, which pays them to house immigration detainees at their facilities.) I’ve broken the news of several uses of pepper spray at for-profit ICE detention centers in recent months. In one case, guards at a GEO Group detention center in Louisiana left nearly 80 women trapped in a pepper spray-filled dorm after a COVID-19 briefing. Later in the hearing, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), the chair of a border security subcommittee, asked Hininger of CoreCivic to address the fact that one of his own spokespeople confirmed that pepper spray was used against detainees at a CoreCivic detention center in New Mexico. Hininger said he misunderstood Payne’s question and confirmed that pepper spray was used at the Torrance detention center. He didn’t mention other incidents in Arizona and Georgia.

May 1, 2020 courthousenews.com

Report Details Abuse and Medical Neglect at Immigrant Detention Centers

(CN) – A report released Thursday by immigration watchdogs shines an unflattering light on the Trump administration’s treatment of asylum seekers and detainees, finding a lack of adequate medical care and oversight at detention centers as the number of facilities and detainees grows. Researchers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and National Immigrant Justice Center compiled interviews with 150 detainees, notes from visits to five new detention sites and public records for their report titled, “Justice-Free Zones: U.S. Immigration Detention Under the Trump Administration.”  The total number of detention facilities in the U.S. has climbed to 220 as Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened more than 40 new sites since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, most of which are hours-long drives from nearby cities. Asylum seekers’ access to legal counsel has suffered as a result, according to the civil rights groups. “When comparing immigration detention facilities operating before 2017 to those opened after 2017, there are four times as many immigration attorneys available within a 100-mile radius of pre-existing facilities versus new ones,” the report states. Though detainees may apply for release on parole, few have been able to convince judges that they have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries. ICE’s New Orleans field office, which has control over 70% of people held in the new detention centers, denied 99.1% of asylum seekers’ applications for release on parole between March and December 2019, according to the report. The Southern facilities were not outliers. The researchers note that immigration courts across the nation deny asylum in 76% of detainees’ cases – at half of the 20 largest new facilities, that number jumps to over 90%. Interviewees told the researchers that facility officers lied to them about the availability of parole, for instance by saying it was only granted to detainees who were dying or that receiving parole was simply not a possibility. Four-fifths of detainees in the U.S. are held in privately owned or operated facilities as of January, the report notes, with CoreCivic and the GEO Group together holding more than half of ICE’s detention contracts. These private contractors allegedly often require detainees to clean and maintain facilities for no pay, or for as low as $1 per day, though the report cites multiple interviews with detainees who say they have worked for weeks or months without receiving any promised pay. GEO has previously donated nearly a quarter of a million dollars to pro-Trump super PACs. With more than 50,000 people detained in U.S. immigration facilities on any given day, the centers have implemented cost-cutting measures that undermine the health and safety of detainees, according to the report. Interviewees accused the facilities of acting slowly on necessary treatments, such as taking as long as a week to set broken bones or failing to offer inhalers for asthma and other life-saving medicine. At one Louisiana facility, detainees said there was no soap in the showers or cleaning supplies for detainees’ cells. Medical staff at another center in Louisiana took several minutes to locate their defibrillator, which was in a hallway instead of the emergency room, which “held only a stretcher,” according to the report. The report notes that 39 adults have died in ICE custody or soon after release since 2017, highlighting that 12 of these were suicides in detention. There were no mental health professionals on site at two of the five detention sites, the report states, and immigrants reported guards yelling at physically handicapped detainees instead of helping them. Researchers also detailed accusations of abuse from immigration officers, who would withhold food from detainees, slam immigrants against the wall and call them “rats.” Interviewers heard multiple reports of detainees being locked in solitary confinement for as long as nearly three months. The Covid-19 pandemic has shut out watchdogs’ access to information from immigration officials, according to Eunice Cho, a senior ACLU staff attorney. “ICE is not known for its transparency during ‘normal’ circumstances, but the limited access we had for this report — to detention facilities, to detained people — no longer exists,” Cho said in a statement. Grace Meng, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, urged lawmakers to push back against the administration’s treatment of immigrants. “The Trump administration and its callous indifference to immigrants’ rights and their humanity have allowed already bad conditions in the detention system to deteriorate even further,” Meng said in a statement. “But the administration is not the only one responsible for this abusive system — Congress should push back on the administration’s demands and reduce funding for immigration detention and enforcement.”  The report recommends a number of solutions for Congress, executive offices and departments, and state and local governments. The groups call for an end to mandatory immigrant detention, banning solitary confinement, allowing Freedom of Information Act requests for records held by private detention facility operators, and permitting the release of asylum seekers to community sponsors. “We need Congress to take notice and stop spending our tax dollars to fund these human rights abuses,” said Tara Cullen, communications director of the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Aug 20, 2019 wlrn.org

ICE And Its Contractor Geo Group Failed To Treat Immigrants Humanely, Lawsuit Claims

A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that immigration detention authorities have failed to ensure that tens of thousands of immigrants are held in safe and humane conditions as required by federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 55,000 detainees and future detainees in 160 ICE detention centers across the country. Many of the larger detention centers are under contract with Geo Group, based in Boca Raton, or CoreCivic, another private contractor based in Nashville. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the Department of Homeland Security by three organizations: the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit group in Montgomery, Ala., that works on behalf of immigrant justice; the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center in Denver, Colo.; and Disability Rights Advocates in California and New York.

Jul 17, 2019 thedailybeast.com

Private Prison Bosses Beg Taxpayers to Pay Human-Trafficking Lawsuit Bills

In a series of emails, prison execs pleaded with ICE to pick up their multimillion-dollar tab. At the same time, they argued to shareholders that the suits were no big deal. Early last year, a senior executive in the nation’s second-largest private prison company went to Immigration and Customs Enforcement with a desperate plea: to pick up their multimillion-dollar legal bills. Over the last five years, a series of people formerly held in GEO Group’s private immigration detention centers have sued the company over a work program. They allege that the company forces detainees to do manual labor for $1 a day (sometimes less) and has punished detainees who refuse with solitary confinement. Half a dozen suits are challenging the work programs and seeking damages for detainees from GEO and CoreCivic, another private prison company. They allege that the programs break a landmark law against human trafficking. So GEO’s legal bills have piled up. And while the company has publicly downplayed the challenge the lawsuits pose, private correspondence between its top executives and senior officials at ICE indicates GEO views the litigation as cause for major concern. The communications—which Northwestern University Political Science Professor Jacqueline Stevens obtained by FOIA and shared with The Daily Beast—paint a picture of deep distress within the company regarding its legal bills. GEO’s senior vice president of business development sent the first letter on Feb. 14, 2018. The exec’s name is redacted, but an archived page from the company’s website shows Dave Venturella held the post at the time (and still does). Before joining the private prison giant, Venturella was director of the arm of ICE responsible for arresting and detaining undocumented immigrants. Venturella’s letter sounded urgent. “GEO cannot bear the costs of this defense on its own,” he wrote, discussing the lawsuits. He then detailed litigation in Colorado, California, and Washington against the company. The Colorado litigation alone was proving to be massively costly, he wrote. “The legal discovery costs could total several millions of dollars and potential damages could be in the tens of millions,” he wrote. At that point, just in the Colorado suit, GEO had racked up $1.6 million in legal bills. In Washington, their legal bills had topped $440,000. Venturella then all but blamed ICE for getting them sued. “To the extent that plaintiffs allege that disciplinary segregation [solitary confinement] is an unlawful threat for refusal to work, this sanction comes directly from ICE policies, which ICE should assist in defending,” he wrote. “GEO’s contracts with ICE require that GEO administer the VWP [Voluntary Work Program] at the Aurora and Tacoma facilities, and set the reimbursable rate for that participation at $1 per detainee per day, an amount that cannot be increased without ICE’s authorization,” he added. Venturella asked for an “equitable adjustment”—government contractor-speak for extra money to offset unexpected costs of fulfilling a contract. In other words, GEO Group hoped taxpayer dollars would cover the legal bills they racked up for allegedly violating human trafficking laws. Several months later, GEO’s CEO, George Zoley, echoed Venturella’s plea. In a letter to ICE’s acting deputy director on May 30, he begged for money. “We are deeply alarmed at the rapidly increasing costs in defending these lawsuits without reimbursement from ICE, or assistance in their defense by the Department of Justice,” he wrote. Continued defense against the litigation would be “likely to cost $15-$20 million,” with tens of millions more if they lost and a court awarded damages to the plaintiffs. “We urgently implore DOJ to take over the defense of these lawsuits and reimburse GEO for its costs,” he concluded. But ICE rejected them—and it appears the Justice Department has, too. On July 9, 2018, ICE sent Zoley a short letter informing him that its contracting officers had decided against picking up the company’s legal bills. Meanwhile, the office of the U.S. Solicitor General—the top appellate lawyer in the Justice Department—filed an amicus brief in federal court on April 1 of this year saying the dispute should be over the facts of the detainees’ treatment rather than whether the law against human trafficking applies to the companies. GEO had argued the human trafficking law didn’t apply to its treatments of detainees. But the S.G. didn’t bite, and DOJ refused to take a side in the litigation—a setback for the private prison firm. “The private prisons act as though decades of labor law violations entitle them to exploit people in perpetuity,” said Stevens, the professor who obtained the letters through FOIA. “It’s about time they start following the rule of law and it’s ridiculous that they expect taxpayer reimbursements for unlawful profits.” GEO’s letters to the feds took a markedly different tone from how they later described the litigation to shareholders. Their 2018 shareholder letter, dated Feb. 25, 2019, sounded sanguine about the topic and said defeat in court did not seem “probable nor reasonably estimable.”  “The Company does not expect the outcome of any pending claims or legal proceedings to have a material adverse effect on its financial condition, results of operations or cash flows,” it concluded. Pablo Paez, a spokesperson for GEO Group, told The Daily Beast that the letters to ICE and the shareholder statement are consistent. “Seeking reimbursement for legal expenses that are out of the ordinary is not inconsistent with the disclosure that the litigation in question is not expected to have a material adverse effect,” he said in a statement. “Contrary to the baseless allegations made in these lawsuits, this is a strictly voluntary program, and the implementation of the program is stipulated in standards set by the federal government.” “In accordance with ICE’s National Detention Standards, detainees shall be able to volunteer for work assignments but otherwise shall not be required to work, except to do personal housekeeping. ICE is authorized to pay an allowance to detainees who participate in its voluntary work program, and ICE ensures detainees who chose to participate in the voluntary work program receive the pay owed to them,” an ICE spokesperson told The Daily Beast. Plaintiffs fiercely contest that the program is voluntary. They allege that prison officials used fear of solitary confinement to coerce them into doing janitorial and maintenance work at the detention centers for just $1 a day–saving the prison company millions it would have had to spent if it paid them the minimum wage. In separate litigation, detainees have alleged that CoreCivic would only provide them toilet paper if they worked at the meager wages to earn money to pay for it. But private prison companies have friends in high places. Last year, a group of Congressional Republicans sent a letter to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions making a curious defense of the labor programs: forcing detainees to work for little or no money, they argued, was good for morale.

Feb 5, 2019 thedenverchannel.com
Report: Few consequences for sexual assault and safety violations at ICE detention centers
DENVER — A new report says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement isn’t holding contractors accountable for detainee safety and instead is giving them waivers when they are not meeting standards. The Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report found in 14,000 cases of deficiency, ICE only fined the contractor twice, even in cases of sexual assault, employee misconduct and use of tear gas on detainees. The report found contractors consistently were not fined by the agency and were given waivers instead. “Another waiver allows a facility to commingle high-custody detainees, who have histories of serious criminal offenses, with low-custody detainees, who have minor, nonviolent criminal histories or only immigration violations, which is a practice the standards prohibit in order to protect detainees who may be at risk of victimization or assault,” the report detailed. The Denver Ice Detention Facility operated by Geo Group Inc in Aurora is just one of those facilities spread across the country. Activist say Geo Group does not provide adequate health care there. “There have been two deaths at this facility and the problem is there is not adequate health care,” said Gabriela Flora with American Friends Service Committee. Flora says there is just one doctor for 1,300 people in the facility. Jeanette Vizguerra was detained at the Aurora facility twice. She describes the experience as slavery. “They require all of us inside to clean everything and take care of the place and many of us they don’t pay us and many of us who volunteer to do it they pay us a dollar a day,” Vizguerra said. “If we refuse to do the work we get put into solitary confinement. This is a violation of our human rights.”

Feb 2, 2019 publicintegrity.org
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, failed to take action against detention facilities the agency contracted with after discovering thousands of violations that jeopardized the safety and rights of detainees, according to a federal Inspector General report. “Between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2018, ICE imposed financial penalties on only two occasions, despite documenting thousands of instances of the facilities’ failures to comply with detention standards,” inspectors found, based on a review of contracts governing 106 facilities holding an average of 25,000 detainees in 2017. “Instead of holding facilities accountable through financial penalties,” inspectors reported, “ICE issued waivers to facilities with deficient conditions, seeking to exempt them from complying with certain standards.” The more than 14,000 “deficiencies” identified included facilities failing to notify ICE about sexual assaults and failing to forward allegations of staff misconduct to ICE investigators, according to inspectors. The immigrant lockups consist of a mix of privately-run detention centers owned by ICE or private companies, as well as local and county jails and facilities provided through contracts held by the U.S. Marshals Service or other government agencies. Waivers issued by ICE allowed the facilities to use a gas—if guards felt they needed to subdue detainees—that’s 10 times more toxic than pepper spray.  Waivers also allowed guards to “commingle” detainees with serious criminal histories with detainees with only minor criminal records or who were accused only of immigration violations.  Further, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report dated Jan. 29 also asserts that inspectors found that ICE had no formal policy to govern waivers and that organizational problems “impede” monitoring of contracts. Only 28 out of 106 contracts inspectors reviewed required use of a quality-assurance tool that’s useful for holding facilities accountable for deficiencies. The two penalties ICE did impose totaled less than half of 1 percent of the $3 billion in contracts these 106 facilities received from ICE since the beginning of fiscal 2016, inspectors said. One of the two penalties imposed, inspectors found, was the deduction of funds from one facility with repeat violations of health care and mental-health care standards. The report didn’t identify facilities where violations were found. Data supplied to the Center for Public Integrity shows that in 2018 ICE was holding more than 41,800 detainees on average every day. The Inspector General report found that more than 35,400 immigrant detainees were held on average every day inside 211 contract facilities in 2017. The Center for Public Integrity reported last year on allegations of abuses alleged at privately-run immigrant lockups. GEO Group and CoreCivic are the two largest U.S. private-prison companies. The two companies’ stock value rose after President Donald J. Trump won the 2016 election, promising more aggressive immigration enforcement. The companies, both of which have received contracts recently, contributed $250,000 each to support Trump’s inauguration festivities. Affiliates of both companies have donated to Republican political groups and candidates, the Center reported. The Center’s investigation reported that a federal review of the 2012 death of a detainee from cardiac arrest found that a nurse at a GEO Group facility wasn’t trained on the use of an EKG. She also waited an hour to call 911, the review found, because “she needed to get the paperwork” completed concerning the detainee’s condition before making the call. CoreCivic, too, is facing scrutiny after a 1-year-old girl became ill inside a Texas family detention center last year and later died after being released with her mother. Another Center story last year reported that a DHS Inspector General report issued in October found shocking medical neglect at a GEO Group facility in Adelanto, California. Inspectors concluded: “ICE’s detainee death reviews for three Adelanto center detainees who have died since fiscal year 2015 also cited medical care deficiencies related to providing necessary and adequate care in a timely manner. ICE must take these continuing violations seriously and address them immediately.” Correction, Feb. 1, 2019: An earlier version of this story misstated the period of violations as 20 months. It was a 32-month period between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2018.

Jan 10, 2019 buzzfeednews.com
ICE Might Be Violating Federal Law By Keeping Immigrants Detained During The Shutdown
A lengthy government shutdown over border wall funding has potentially put Immigration and Customs Enforcement at risk of violating a more than 100-year-old law that could not only require the release of “non-dangerous” individuals in the agency’s custody but also stop it from continuing to arrest and detain certain people, according to former senior ICE officials and experts. The potential violation could complicate ICE’s operations at a time when President Donald Trump has argued that the shutdown is necessary to force Democrats to implement tougher immigration policies, such as building a wall on the US–Mexico border. ICE contracts with nonfederal detention facilities, like county jails and private detention contractors, across the country to hold individuals detained by immigration agents. The agency pays for the bed space in various ways, including monthly payments or, in some cases, in advance. As of Jan. 1, the agency was detaining more than 48,000 individuals, which is 8,000 more than the levels that had been provided for by the now-expired congressional funding. But nearly three weeks after its funding lapsed because of the shutdown, ICE has likely run out of money to pay contractors for the detention space it uses. And while ICE has some non-appropriated funds it can lean on, those are not enough to pay for the overall detention space for more than a few weeks, said Kevin Landy, who was appointed during the Obama administration to run ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, a position he held for more than six years, up until 2017. “It's just a matter of time before ICE runs out of money to pay for detention beds, if it hasn't already,” Landy said. Already, some county governments, like in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have told BuzzFeed News that ICE has notified them that its monthly payment for the individuals in their custody will not be made on time. Private detention companies, like CoreCivic, have also been notified by ICE that payment will be delayed until the government reopens. Both CoreCivic and some county governments, like in Tulsa; Glades, Florida; and York, Pennsylvania, have maintained that they can continue to hold ICE detainees without payment because they know the government will eventually pay. But continuing to keep certain individuals in their custody may be a violation of a law first enacted in the 1980s known as the Antideficiency Act. The law makes it illegal for a contractor to provide the government free services in anticipation of future payments, unless the services are necessary to protect human life or property, according to Landy. “ICE cannot legally ask detention facilities to hold nondangerous individuals it has arrested if ICE has no funds to pay the facilities for doing so,” he said. Tracey Valerio, the former head of budget at ICE until April 2018 and current senior counsel at Frontier Solutions, said it’s unclear whether the agency can house people without paying. “It’s not clear that ICE can continue to incur new obligations with third parties if it runs out of funding,” she said. CoreCivic has been told by the federal immigration agency that its work is considered “essential” during the shutdown, a spokesperson for the company said. For its part, an ICE official who declined to be named maintained that the agency’s law enforcement activities are necessary for the safety of human life or protection of property, therefore qualifying for an exception during appropriation lapses. “This includes detention center operations,” the official told BuzzFeed News. ICE, however, does not operate its own detention facilities but instead rents beds, a number that fluctuates based on its needs, according to Landy. In the early days of the Trump administration, officials eliminated Obama-era priorities for arrests during ICE operations, in effect making nearly every undocumented immigrant a priority for removal. “Many thousands of those arrested and currently detained by ICE have no criminal record, and would not even have been arrested during the Obama administration,” Landy said. “Releasing them would not cause a risk to public safety.” Whether ICE could be forced to release individuals is another matter, according to Landy. The Antideficiency Act includes criminal and administrative penalties but given that the decision to continue ICE’s operations was made at the highest levels, it’s unlikely the administration will invoke it. There are, however, other parties that can get involved. “Congress could investigate the legal violation, or ask the US Government Accountability Office to conduct an audit,” he said. “And the appropriations committees could then impose more severe restrictions on the agency's use of its detention funds in future legislation.” Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore Law School professor and expert on the Antideficiency Act, said that he believed ICE would be in violation of the law for housing nondangerous individuals. “It’s in the gray zone,” he said. “On the one hand, ICE would say it is not formally obligating itself to pay anything. It is not writing a letter promising ‘we will pay the bills.’ On the other hand, ICE is fostering an understanding by the contractor that it will be paid.” But Tiefer said he believed it was a violation of the act because “the government will be pressured, and rightly so, to pay the bills later, and the government is ... fostering the understanding that it will pay the bills. As the old saying goes, a wink is as good as a nod.” Even without the potential violations of the law, should the shutdown continue, the agency could run into issues with jurisdictions not receiving payments for months on end. In Tulsa County, Casey Roebuck, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said that while the department had some “wiggle room” to maintain detentions for ICE should funds not be received in the near future, that could become an issue as time goes on. “You’re looking at anywhere from $300,000 to $150,000 a month that we bill,” she said. “That’s a lot money for the county to absorb and to carry until we start getting payments again. We are hoping it gets worked out before it becomes a problem.”

Jan 14, 2018 houstonchronicle.com
Immigration detention deaths reach the highest total since 2009
A Mexican immigrant's death near Houston after he was evacuated from the path of Hurricane Irma in September marked the end of the deadliest year for immigrants held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in nearly a decade. Felipe Almazan-Ruiz, 51, was taken to a hospital days after being booked into an immigration contract detention facility in Livingston, according to ICE. Almazan-Ruiz had initially been arrested by ICE in Miami in July, but ended up in Texas after hurricanes struck both states. He died Sept. 17 from cardiac arrest. Around the country, 12 immigrants died in detention in the 2017 fiscal year, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the most since fiscal year 2009. Ten immigration detainees perished in government custody the year before. Nationwide, more than 30,000 immigrants are held at any one time in ICE detention facilities. The number of deaths in 2017 has alarmed immigration activists, who have long accused immigration officials and detention center operators of providing delayed or substandard medical care and ignoring complaints of illness. "Simply put, detention and deportation are a deadly business," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. Libal, whose group monitors civil rights conditions, said the "high-profile failings of the detention system in Texas" make him worried about plans to further increase the number of detainees held at privately owned facilities here. A 1000-bed for-profit detention center is planned to open in 2018 in Conroe, already home to another detention facility. ICE defends its record of overseeing immigration detention centers that are run by private and government entities. "ICE has made substantial progress on implementing reforms across its detention system, and that important work is ongoing," said spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said in an email. Zamarripa said among other changes, the agency has simplified the process for detainees to get outside medical care and designated coordinators to monitor detainees with complicated cases. Older statistics and ICE records show that deaths have declined from the levels reported during first three years after ICE was founded. In fiscal year 2004, a total of 28 deaths were reported. Many of the 2017 deaths remain under investigation by ICE, so limited information is available. Reports on detention fatalities often are released years after they occur in response to Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. May 2017 was a particularly deadly month. Two people died a day apart in Georgia detention centers, and on May 31, Vicente Caceres-Maradiaga, a 44-year-old Honduran immigrant, collapsed while playing soccer at the privately owned Adelanto Detention Facility in southern California and died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital. He was the third immigrant to die at Adelanto in 2017 and the sixth death at the privately owned GEO Group facility since 2011. Since ICE was created in 2003, 85 detention centers nationwide have reported a total of 176 deaths. Seventeen facilities have had three or more deaths, including eight at the CoreCivic detention center in Houston and 15 at the CoreCivic-owned Eloy Correctional Center in Arizona. For more than a decade, various civil rights groups have released reports on detention deaths, repeatedly identifying persistent problems with medical care and suicide prevention. Last year, the human rights group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and Human Rights Watch filed a formal complaint and published a report documenting failures in medical care in 12 detainee deaths from late 2012 to mid-2015, citing ICE's own death investigations as well as independent medical experts who reviewed those reports. Other immigrants' rights groups previously identified another eight deaths as potentially preventable. Five of the deaths flagged in those reports occurred at the Eloy facility in Arizona. Adelanto in California and the Houston Detention Center each had two deaths identified by advocates as preventable or related to neglectful medical care. In December, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a report in response to concerns raised by immigration rights groups and complaints to a hotline about ICE detainee treatment and care. Inspectors made unannounced visits to six facilities, including the Laredo processing center in Texas. Their report found inadequate complaint procedures, situations in which detainees held only on immigration violations were improperly mixed with detainees with violent criminal histories and other potentially unsafe conditions. "Overall, the problems we identified undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment," inspectors said in their report. Among other criticisms, the OIG report said that some facilities it visited appeared to have delayed medical care and misused solitary confinement – factors that non-profit immigration groups have described as a contributing factor in recent immigrant deaths attributed to natural causes such as cancer, heart attacks and high blood pressure as well as suicides. In the agency's 14-year history, approximately 27 detainees have died by suicide, apparent suicide or self-inflicted injuries, most often caused by choking or hanging. In one case, Clemente Mponda appears to have hoarded and taken a fatal dosage of medications while detained in Houston in 2013, according to the ICE review of his death. Mponda, who had a history of mental illness, was held in solitary confinement eight months during his detention before he killed himself in an isolation cell with his own medicine. Deaths last year at the Adelanto facility in California also have led to increased public scrutiny of the treatment of medical and psychological conditions. In March, Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba was found hanging in his cell in Adelanto – one of three deaths reported there in FY 2017. Another six attempted suicides occurred at that facility in a year-long period ending in August 2017, according to 911 call logs obtained from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Pablo Paez, vice president for corporate relations for the GEO Group, which owns the Adelanto detention center as well as detention centers in Texas, said in an emailed statement that the company meets detention standards set by ICE and corrections industry groups and that medical care is often provided by the government. "GEO has a long-standing record providing high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe, secure, and humane environments that meet the needs of the individuals in the care and custody of federal immigration authorities," Paez wrote. A spokesman for CoreCivic, the owners of the Houston Detention Center and Eloy, also has defended its large detention centers that had multiple deaths, saying medical care is provided by other contractors and deaths are few compared to the number of detainees processed. Another man died in ICE detention last month - the first death of the 2018 fiscal year. Kamyar Samimi, a 64-year-old Iranian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. as a student in 1976, "fell ill" at a GEO Group-owned detention facility in Aurora, Colorado, according to ICE. Samimi, who had legal permanent residency status, died after being taken to the hospital. The preliminary cause of death was cardiac arrest, ICE said.

Dec 19, 2017 grijalva.house.gov

Today, 73 Congressional representatives sent a letter to DHS and DOJ demanding accountability over sexual assault in immigration detention.  Please see CIVIC’s joint press release with Congresswoman Chu and Congressman Grijalva below. Warm regards, Christina M. Fialho Co-Founder/Executive Director Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

Dec 15, 2017 npr.org
'Significant Issues' At Immigrant Detention Centers
Immigrants detained at four large centers used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are subject to inhumane treatment, given insufficient hygiene supplies and medical care, and provided potentially unsafe food, according to a federal report. The "concerns" about the treatment of detained immigrants in facilities in California, Georgia, New Jersey and New Mexico is summarized in a report issued by the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Homeland Security. "The findings are similar to those of outside groups that have alleged 'extensive' human rights abuses at ICE detention centers. "The inspector general's report comes as the Trump administration is asking Congress for funding to expand the immigration detention system. "ICE says some of its existing facilities are short-staffed. And the acting director has agreed to the report's recommendations." The report was based on inspections of five detention facilities, four of which failed to meet certain federal standards, although "not every problem was present in all of them." The report summarized the results of the inspections: "Upon entering some facilities, detainees were housed incorrectly based on their criminal history. Further, in violation of standards, all detainees entering one facility were strip searched. Available language services were not always used to facilitate communication with detainees. Some facility staff reportedly deterred detainees from filing grievances and did not thoroughly document resolution of grievances. Staff did not always treat detainees respectfully and professionally, and some facilities may have misused segregation. Finally, we observed potentially unsafe and unhealthy detention conditions. Detainees ... reported long waits for provision of medical care, poor conditions in bathrooms and insufficient hygiene supplies. OIG inspectors also observed expired, moldy, and spoiled foods in the kitchen in four facilities." The report also recommends that ICE improve its oversight of detention facility management and operations. In an official response, ICE concurred with the findings and promised to strengthen oversight and improve overall conditions. Critics of President Trump's immigration policies say the findings are not new as they predate the current administration. A 2015 report by the National Immigrant Justice Center questioned ICE's ability to oversee the detention centers it uses. In a statement on the 2017 report, the Center's Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy said: "ICE's inability to provide for the safety and health of the tens of thousands of immigrants in its custody has been documented for years. Today, we are calling on Congress to demand accountability and drastically reduce ICE's detention budget. "While the Inspector General's report provides documentation of extensive abuses, its remedy is incredibly insufficient: it directs ICE field office directors to review the areas of concern. We know from earlier directives that ICE's internal review processes fail to generate meaningful change." The Women's Refugee Commission said the report is consistent with what the organization and its partners have "documented for years" from visits to ICE detention facilities as well as with research it has conducted over 20 years. Katharina Obser, senior program officer at WRC said in a statement: "This week's OIG report spells out what WRC and our partners have documented for years, making clear the critical need for greater oversight and reform. Instead, the  Trump administration is intent on lowering or eliminating standards for immigration detention – putting detainees' lives at risk – all while promising to ramp up detention on a grand scale. As Congress continues to debate DHS FY 18 appropriations, the OIG's findings show that now is not the time to expand a detention system that ICE is not capable of effectively and safely running. Detention must be reduced and, where needed, humane alternatives to detention, implemented in its place." Three years ago, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's office reported on a series of unannounced visits to detention centers for unaccompanied children. The inquiry found evidence of inadequate food, temperature control problems and inconsistent employee-to-detainee ratios.

May 26, 2017 nydailynews.com
Civil rights group sues in U.S. court over immigration detention
(Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in federal court on Thursday, seeking records the civil rights group contends provide accounts of hunger strikes at immigration detention facilities. The ACLU said in its filing that in recent weeks there have been a new series of hunger strikes at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers in Georgia, Oregon and Washington, adding hunger strikes have previously hit detention centers in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The suit comes as U.S. Republican President Donald Trump has promised a crackdown on illegal immigration and the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress this month agreed to fund an additional 5,300 detention beds for those suspected of illegally entering the country. "The Trump administration's plans to expand detention and strip away existing structures for oversight of detention are likely to produce more protests both inside and outside the walls of detention facilities," the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said in an email: "ICE is unable to comment on pending litigation." The lawsuit said detention center inmates have launched the hunger strikes over the past few years as a non-violent way to bring attention to what they see as a lack of access to bond hearings and inhumane conditions of confinement. The suit also said that some inmates who have previously launched hunger strikes were met with extraordinarily punitive responses. From April 1-22, an average of 36,235 immigrants were in detention per day, according to the most recent statistics provided by ICE. The White House in March requested bringing the total number of beds up to 45,700, saying the additional capacity was necessary to achieve the president's goal of "enhancing interior enforcement efforts and ending 'catch and release' for those apprehended at the border." The agreement reached in Congress would increase the number of immigration detention beds to 39,324 from 34,000 currently, according to a summary provided by the House Appropriations Committee. In April, hundreds of detainees at an immigration detention center in Washington state began refusing meals in a hunger strike to protest conditions at the facility and delayed immigration hearings, activists said. The Geo Group Inc, the company that operates the Washington state facility and other detention centers around the United States, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Sep 4, 2016 thenation.com
The Obama Administration Continues Pulling Away From Private Prison Companies
The private prison industry is having a very bad month. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said it will reexamine its use of private contractor to hold immigration detainees. The plan to conduct a review of private immigration-detention centers comes on the heels of a separate Department of Justice order on August 18 that will force the Bureau of Prisons to fully end its reliance on private prisons, which have been used solely to house noncitizen inmates. “The Department of Justice announced that the Bureau of Prisons will reduce and ultimately end its use of private prisons,” Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson said in a statement. “I directed our Homeland Security Advisory Council…to evaluate whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement should move in the same direction.” Correction Corporation of America and Geo Group, the two publicly traded private prison companies that operate ICE detention centers, saw their stocks slide after the announcement Monday. The declines punctuate a disastrous month for the contractors. Immediately following the DOJ’s August 18 announcement, CCA and Geo stock both plummeted by about 40 percent. The Department of Justice’s move away from private prisons two weeks ago comes after an investigation by The Nation and the Investigative Fund that uncovered widespread and longstanding medical neglect in the BOP’s subsystem of private prisons, including dozens of deaths involving substandard medical care. Tens of thousands of pages of previously unreleased federal records, buttressed by interviews with federal officials and prison workers, also revealed BOP officials repeatedly renewed contracts with the private prison companies despite consistent indications from its own internal monitors that the facilities were in crisis. The facilities currently hold more than 22,000 prisoners, almost all immigrants convicted of federal crimes. The prisons will begin closing later this year. The DHS review announced on Monday pertains to a wholly separate system, composed of civil immigration-detention centers that house 25,000 noncitizens facing deportation. Advocates and watchdogs have for years documented conditions in these immigration detention facilities similar to those we uncovered in our probe of BOP facilities. And in the wake of the Justice Department’s announcement about the BOP prisons, immigrant-rights advocates stepped up pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to follow the DOJ’s lead. “The priority for these companies is profit and not care, which has led to a number of deaths of immigrants in detention, some of which have been proven to be due to inadequate medical care,” said Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network. The organization, along with the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and other advocacy groups have released a series of reports in recent years documenting deadly neglect. Some advocates called on the Obama administration to act immediately to close private detention facilities. “There is nothing to review,” Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer’s Organizing Network, said in a statement. “No one should ever profit from other people’s pain, and the use of private contractors is a practice that frankly should have been ended by the Obama Administration 7 years ago.” A move to close private detention centers would amount to a dramatic shift in ICE policy. Eliminating private beds would force ICE, which detainees 400,000 men, woman, and children each year, to build new government-run facilities—or to significantly shrink the number of immigrants held in detention at any given time. In a statement, Geo Group’s CEO said the company is “confident that this independent review will show that GEO has provided needed, cost effective services that have resulted in significantly improved safety outcomes for the men and women in ICE’s care and custody.” But an evaluation by the Justice Department’s inspector general released two weeks ago found that, at least for the Bureau of Prisons sites that Geo Group and CCA run, the private facilities do not save meaningfully on costs and degrade the quality of prison operation. The facilities, said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, in her memo ordering the closure of federal private prisons, “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources” and “do not save substantially on costs.”

Aug 29, 2016 reuters.com
U.S. immigration agency to review private prison deals; shares slide
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Monday that he directed his advisory council to evaluate whether the agency should continue to contract with private prisons, news that hit shares of private prison operators. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of DHS, currently uses private prison groups like Corrections Corp of America (CXW.N) and The GEO Group (GEO.N) to run some detention facilities for migrants. Corrections Corp of America's stock slid 9.4 percent and The GEO Group's stock fell 6 percent immediately after news of the review broke. The announcement followed the U.S. Justice Department's decision to phase out the Bureau of Prison's contracts with private prisons on Aug. 18. Johnson said he directed DHS's Homeland Security Advisory Council on Friday "to evaluate whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement should move in the same direction" as the Bureau of Prisons. Corrections Corp of America gained $689 million from ICE contracts since, 23 percent of its total revenue from federal contracts, according to the website SmartProcure that tracks government contracts. The company currently manages a facility for Central American women and children in Dilley, Texas. The GEO Group has earned $1.18 billion from contracts with ICE since 2008, about 60 percent of its total revenue from federal contracts, according SmartProcure data. Both companies also contract with state and local prison systems. The GEO Group said in a statement that it welcomed the review by DHS. "GEO's facilities under contract with ICE are highly rated and provide high-quality, cost-effective services in safe, secure, and humane residential environments pursuant to strict contractual requirements and the federal government's national standards," the statement said. Corrections Corp of America could not immediately be reached for comment.

Aug 22, 2015
Judge rules U.S. government must swiftly release immigrant children in detention

A U.S. federal judge on Friday ordered the government to swiftly release immigrant children held at detention centers, affirming a July ruling that said some minors who crossed the border illegally were being detained in violation of a long-standing settlement. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles gave the administration of President Barack Obama until Oct. 23 to comply with her order to release hundreds of unauthorized immigrant children, and in some cases their mothers, "without unnecessary delay." Gee's ruling comes amid debate by U.S. presidential candidates over illegal immigration and follows an influx of immigrants from Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Aug 8, 2015 triblive.com
Feds ask judge to rethink freeing immigrant children

SAN ANTONIO — The government has asked a federal judge to reconsider her ruling calling for the immediate release of children and their mothers caught entering the United States illegally from Mexico, saying recent changes mean federal authorities are no longer violating a ban on holding immigrant children in secure facilities. In late July, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the release of all children from immigrant family detention centers “without unnecessary delay,” along with any mothers not deemed a flight or national security risk. Justice Department lawyers late Thursday filed documents at the California Central District Court urging Gee not to implement her decision, saying the Department of Homeland Security intends to turn the centers into short-term processing facilities that her ruling “addressed practices and policies that no longer exist.” The government says detention time has been reduced to only a few weeks for most families, and that reducing it further would hinder processing asylum claims and could force the separation of mothers from their children in the event of another wave of migration. Moreover, further limits on detention “would heighten the risk of another surge in illegal migration,” the filing said, “by incentivizing adults to bring children with them on their dangerous journey as a means to avoid detention and gain access to the interior of the United States.” The government asked for another chance to argue its case before the judge, citing the “potentially far-reaching scope of the remedies proposed,” and the short time — 90 days — it would have to put them in place. Laura Lichter, a Denver immigration lawyer working with detained families, said the government had “doubled down” on family detention and is “enamored of it as a tool, even though a judge has called it both illegal and ineffective.” Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said the agency has asked the judge to reconsider, “taking into account the current legal landscape and considerable changes we have already made to address the situation.” The government poured millions of dollars into two large detention centers in Texas for women and children after tens of thousands of immigrant families, mostly from Central America, crossed the Rio Grande into the United States last summer. Many have petitioned for asylum after fleeing gang and domestic violence back home. The centers in Karnes City and Dilley, both south of San Antonio, hold some 1,400 women and children combined, down from more than 2,000 in June. A third, smaller facility is located in Berks County, Pa. All three are overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement but managed by private prison operators. In her ruling, Gee found that detaining children violated parts of a 1997 settlement in another case barring immigrant children from being held in secure facilities. She said the settlement covered all children in the custody of immigration officials, even those who entered the country illegally with a parent, and that the facilities were not properly licensed to care for children.

February 15, 2013 grassrootsleadership.org

Today's USA Today carried a disturbing article highlighting Immigration and Customs Enforcement's effort to increase the number of deportations through aggressive enforcement mechanisms. Internal emails at the agency showed that ICE agents "were trolling state driver's license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses."  The former official whose emails are heavily quoted in the article is David Venturella, former assistant director at ICE.  Guess where Mr. Venturella ended up after his term at ICE?  Mr. Venturella is now the Executive Vice President for Corporate Development at GEO Group, according to his LinkedIn profile.  GEO Group is a private prison corporation that heavily depends on federal immigration contracts to ensure a steady profit stream and employees a stream of heavily connected lobbyists in DC. GEO knows that immigration reform that moves away from mass detention and crimanalization of migrants would be really bad for business.  Business Insider reported on February 2nd that in 2011, GEO Group CEO George Zoley told investors: "At the federal level, initiatives related to border enforcement and immigration detention with an emphasis on criminal alien populations as well as the consolidation of existing detainee populations have continued to create demand for larger-scale, cost efficient facilities." Undoubtedly, Mr. Venturella's history at ICE is proving valuable for his new company.

September 1, 2012 AP
A senior Obama administration political appointee and longtime aide to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano resigned Saturday amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior lodged by at least three Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees. Suzanne Barr, chief of staff to ICE Director John Morton, said in her resignation letter that the allegations against her are "unfounded." But she said she was stepping down anyway to end distractions within the agency. ICE, a division of the Homeland Security Department, confirmed Barr had resigned. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Barr's letter. Barr is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior toward employees. The complaints are related to a sexual discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a senior ICE agent in May. In her letter to Morton, Barr said she has been the subject of "unfounded allegations designed to destroy my reputation" and is resigning "with great regret." "Of greater concern however, is the threat these allegations represent to the reputation of this agency and the men and women who proudly serve their country by advancing ICE's mission," Barr wrote. "As such, I feel it is incumbent upon me to take every step necessary to prevent further harm to the agency and to prevent this from further distracting from our critical work." Barr went on leave last month after the New York Post reported on the lawsuit filed by James T. Hayes Jr., ICE's special agent in charge in New York. Additional employees came forward with their allegations around the same time. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., said in a statement Saturday that Barr's resignation "raises the most serious questions about management practices and personnel policies at the Department of Homeland Security." He said his committee will continue to review the case and personnel practices at DHS. In one complaint, Barr is accused of telling a male subordinate he was "sexy" and asking a personal question about his anatomy during an office party. In a separate complaint, she is accused of offering to perform a sex act with a male subordinate during a business trip in Bogota, Colombia. She's also accused of calling a male subordinate from her hotel room and offering to perform a sex act. The names of two of Barr's accusers were censored in affidavits reviewed by AP. Homeland Security's office of professional responsibility and inspector general have been investigating the allegations. Prior to the lawsuit, there were no complaints about Barr, according to a homeland security official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. In the lawsuit, Hayes described a "frat house" atmosphere at ICE designed to humiliate male employees under Barr's leadership. Hayes, who was transferred to New York from ICE headquarters in Washington, is asking for more than $4 million that, among other things, would cover compensation he believes he is owed for relocation expenses and financial losses associated with his transfer. Hayes' lawyer, Morris Fischer of Silver Spring, Md., has declined to comment. The Justice Department is seeking to dismiss Hayes' lawsuit on the basis that he did not state a claim for retaliation. Barr, a 1995 graduate of the University of Arizona, was among Napolitano's first appointments after she became secretary in 2009. Barr started working for Napolitano in 2004, while Napolitano was governor of Arizona. Prior to that, Barr worked for Arizona Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain.

May 17, 2012 Huffington Post
Immigrant detainees will no longer be treated differently under the law than prison inmates for purposes of rape prevention, the Obama administration announced on Thursday. The White House plans to release a presidential memorandum later in the day that extends the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which now only applies to the Department of Justice, to all other federal agencies within the next 240 days. "These regulations will build upon the substantial improvements we have made to agency policy and procedures to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in immigration detention," Department of Homeland Security Spokesperson Peter Boogaard said in a statement. "DHS will move swiftly to promulgate these regulations and will work with the Attorney General and others to ensure that the regulations satisfy the requirements of the statute.” DHS has its own rules to protect inmates against rape, but lawmakers and advocates have called for congressionally mandated standards to be imposed government-wide to prevent abuse within detention facilities. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed unanimously in 2003, and the Justice Department released its final rule on Thursday. The rule will expand trainings of prison personnel to detect sexual abuse, increase screenings of inmates and guards and broaden opportunities for those in custody to report rape. Trainings and screening protocols will also cover the unique vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming inmates. That rule applies only to the Justice Department because, officials said last year, other detention agencies are under the purview of other government agencies. Those agencies include the DHS, which houses immigrants slated for deportation, and Health and Human Services, which runs facilities that hold unaccompanied undocumented children. Now, under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, other agencies will be required to draft their own rules within 120 days, followed by a public comment period and then enact them within 240 days, officials said. "As the administration, our job is to make sure that each of these agencies fully applies the law, and so that's why we're moving it forward in this way," the White House official said. Advocates who argued for the inclusion of those agencies under the Prison Rape Elimination Act said undocumented immigrants are especially susceptible to rape because they fear reporting abusers who could control their deportation. Advocates also say immigrants can be hurt by a lack of information on reporting crime and possible language barriers. Some undocumented men and women have claimed they were sexually assaulted on the way to airports as they were being deported, which gave them little to no chance to report the crime before being put on a plane. A guard at the private detention center T. Don Hutto Facility in Taylor, Texas, was charged in 2010 for sexual assault after reports that he raped several women while driving them to the airport to be deported. A senior White House official told reporters on a press call that the Department of Homeland Security's rule will be applied to all detention facilities, including private ones such as the T. Don Hutto Facility, which is run by detention center giant Corrections Corporation for America. More than 180 cases of sexual abuse in immigrant detention centers were reported between 2007 and mid-2011, according to government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union last year.

March 29, 2012 Miami Herald
The news was shocking and unexpected. It was also wrong. A series of telephone calls to Pembroke Pines city officials and residents from the office of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz on Wednesday quickly spread the word that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement no longer intended to build a new detention center in neighboring Southwest Ranches. But the calls were soon followed by a retraction — much to the chagrin of those who are opposed to the detention center being built on an island of Southwest Ranches surrounded by thousands of homes and several schools in Pembroke Pines. “I was crying,’’ said Ryann Greenberg, a Pembroke Pines resident opposed to the facility. Jonathan Beeton, communications director for Rep. Wasserman Schultz, said the error was due to conflicting information received from ICE. “We were notified Wednesday by ICE’s Office of Congressional Relations that ICE had decided not to move forward with the detention facility and we asked whether we could convey this information to individuals and organizations who had previously contacted our office on this issue,” Beeton said. “ICE said that it was fine for us to convey this information and we spoke with local leaders informing them of ICE’s decision,’’ he said. “Within hours of this ICE once again contacted our office, this time to state that no final decision had been made regarding their proposed detention facility in Southwest Ranches. We share our community’s frustration over the conflicting information from ICE.”

January 12, 2012 Wall Street Journal
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that an inmate injured in a privately run federal prison may not sue its employees in federal court, holding that state court was the proper venue for his claim. Under high-court precedents, inmates in federal institutions can file federal lawsuits against prison employees for mistreatment that violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments." By an 8-1 vote, however, the court refused to extend that right to inmates held in private prisons operated under contract to the U.S. government. In an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court observed that in contrast to federal employees, whom prisoners generally can't sue in state court, employees of the private company enjoy no such immunity. "State law remedies provide roughly similar incentives [for prison employees] to comply with the Eighth Amendment while also providing roughly similar compensation to victims of violations," Justice Breyer wrote. So, there was no need for the court to expand liability to federal court, he said.

January 9, 2012 Westword
Colorado Congressman Jared Polis has called for a government investigation into alleged abuse suffered by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender immigrants detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "Here we have people who are at their most vulnerable -- many without access to any legal assistance -- who are being preyed upon and assaulted," Polis said in a statement. "LGBT immigrants appear to be special targets for abuse." That abuse, according to a complaint filed last year by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance National Immigration Justice Center, includes allegations of sexual assault, long-term solitary confinement and denial of medical care.

November 1, 2011 Messenger Post
The U.S. Marshals Service has declined to investigate allegations by activists that immigrants at a private New York City detention center have been abused. A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service says the Queens Detention Facility passed its September inspection. Spokesman Jeff Carter says the center adheres to federal regulations. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and immigrant rights groups called for an investigation of the center last month saying they had received reports of mistreatment of detainees and lack of medical care. The center is operated by the Florida-based GEO Group Inc., under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to hold about 200 people accused of crimes. The company’s spokesman, Pablo Paez, says the firm cannot respond to accusations from “third parties,” referring to the immigrant rights groups.

October 20, 2011 Chicago Homeland Security Examiner
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) posed difficult questions and concerns to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano, at this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Of particular concern for Durbin, was the state of immigration detention facilities, especially the Willacy Detention facility in Texas. According to documents obtained by the ACLU more than 180 sexual abuse complaints have been reported in immigration detention centers since 2007, nearly a third of which came from Texas. According to the Huffington Post, “other states had far lower reports of detainee sexual abuse, with the next highest reports coming from California (17), Arizona (16) and Florida (12). (10/21/2011). Senator Durbin sought further information and assurances from Secretary Napolitano regarding this issue. Senator Durbin, the second highest ranking member in the Senate Democratic leadership, remarked that detainee centers have become a huge industry in which DHS spends more than $1.7 billion dollars yearly. Yet, the issue of sexual abuse at the immigration centers has barely reached public attention. Much of Senator Durbin’s framing of the issue stemmed from a recent “Frontline” television expose. Durbin noted at the Senate Judiciary hearing, that “there was an aspect of this program that was particularly troubling. Maria Hinojosa in part of that program described a woman who was a victim at this Willacy facility. She had been raped and her identity was hidden from the camera. She told her story about how it was virtually impossible for her to even seek justice in this circumstance because she was totally at the mercy of the guards in this privatized facility.” (Transcript of Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, October 20, 2011) According to the Huffington Post, the ACLU obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act documenting that “detention officers broke a rule that detainees must not be transported without a same-sex officer present. Detention officers are also instructed to call supervisors with their departure and arrival times when transporting detainees, according to a 2007Immigration and Customs Enforcement document.” Senator Durbin underscored his concern by noting that some 85 to 90 percent of those who were detained under civil charges, not criminal charges, but people with civil charges do not have benefits of counsel. Durbin further noted, “That the due process requirements are very limited on their behalf, and that many times they’re in facilities that are privatized… As a group immigration detainees are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, and its effect on the detainees due to social, cultural, language isolation, poor understanding of U.S. culture and the subculture of U.S. prisons and the often traumatic experiences they’re endured in their culture of origin. The commission (i.e., The National Rape Elimination Commission) issued proposed standards. The Department of Justice is now finalizing its national standards to prevent, detect, and respond to prison rape. In April of this year I wrote a letter to Attorney General Holder emphasizing the importance of strong standards.” In addition Senator Durbin mentioned the bipartisan support he received from Senator Sessions (R-Alabama) and others in passion the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 which aimed at eliminating sexual abuse while in custody in the U.S. We want zero tolerance on this.” (Transcript of Senate Judiciary Committee, 10/20/2011) At this point in the hearing Senator Durbin asked DHS Secretary Napolitano “What is the Department of Homeland Security doing to ensure that immigration detainees are safe from sexual abuse, whether they’re ICE facilities or contract facilities? Secretary Napolitano’s response was not reassuring for immigrants or Senator Durbin. She replied, “When I took over as Secretary, we found that there were little or no standards being applied uniformly across all the many detention facilities that we use in –in the ICE context…Others are privatized, companies like Correction Corporations of America. We have to have beds, and in particular given our priorities and how we are managing the system, we need beds that are near the southern border…As part of the process I brought in someone to actually look at the standards and we redid our contracts with some of the private providers.” (Transcript, Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 10/20/2011) Secretary Napolitano tried to explain the process she instituted since coming to DHS. She said, “We do have a process by which we are regularly auditing and overseeing what is happening there. But that is not to say there aren’t cases that are particularly horrific.” She further mentioned that she was not familiar with the “Frontline” documentary focusing on sexual abuses at immigrant detention centers but would review it and get back to the Senator Durbin. Earlier this year the ACLU sued the Department of Homeland Security regarding sexual abuses at immigration detention centers. The ACLU of Texas has filed a suit in behalf of three women who say they were assaulted by detention guards and officers. The victims say they were abused on the way to the airport after posting bond to be released from detention facilities. According to theHuffington Post, “The three women were held for a time in the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor ,Texas. The 512 bed facility, is privately run on a government contract by private prison giant Corrections Corporations of America.”

October 19, 2011 American Independent
Amid a national push to expose incidents of sexual abuse at immigrant detention facilities across the country, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a federal suit Wednesday on behalf of three women who say they were sexually abused at a Central Texas facility with a history of abuse. The suit names Donald Dunn, a former employee at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, just east of Austin, who pled guilty last fall to charges he abused women he was driving to the airport and Greyhound stations. Allegations by one victim prompted his arrest and a nationwide search for more victims, the Taylor Daily Press reported last year. “Eight female victims were discovered, and during the investigation, Dunn admitted to abusing them during transports,” the Press said. Along with Dunn, though, the suit also names U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement and the Corrections Corporation of America — the country’s largest private prison operator, which runs the Hutto facility, for ignoring regulations that should have kept Dunn from driving the women on his own. “The lawsuit alleges that ICE, Williamson County and CCA were deliberately indifferent and willfully blind to the fact that Dunn and other employees regularly violated the rule that detainees not be transported without another escort officer of the same gender present,” the ACLU said in a statement. According to the suit, each of the three anonymous women — asylum seekers from Brazil, Guatemala and Eritrea — were being released from the facility after passing “credible fear” interviews, to await a hearing on their cases, when they were assaulted. The women say Dunn pulled over on the way to drop them off at the airport or bus station, groped them, told them to undress and exposed himself to them. Between October 2009 and May 2010, the suit claims, Dunn assaulted six other women too. A CCA spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the complaint. “The long history of rampant sexual abuse at ICE detention centers, coupled with the availability of the same opportunity Dunn exploited in the form of at least 22 documented failures of other male officers to comply with the same policy, supports a reasonable inference that other male escort officers at Hutto engaged in similar abuse,” the suit claims. The Hutto Detention Center, once a residential center for holding whole families of immigrants, has been plagued by complaints about poor conditions and family separation, and has been an ACLU target in the past. Separate allegations of sexual abuse at the facility even prompted an ICE investigation in 2007. Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership — a group that promotes accountability for private prison operators and runs a visitation program to the Hutto facility — said the fact that CCA continues to operate the facility shows what light consequences the country’s largest private prison operators face. “This is the second time that there’s been an inappropriate sexual event at Hutto, and ICE didn’t cut the contract,” Libal said. “There’s no impact for the company that allowed this to happen.” After years of campaigning by the ACLU, Grassroots Leadership and other groups, the Hutto facility was converted from a family detention center to a 500-bed facility for women who’ve come to the U.S. seeking asylum. The suit filed Wednesday in Austin is part of a nationwide effort by the ACLU to uncover records of sexual abuse and call for accountability. The group found more than 200 allegations of sexual abuse in immigrant detention centers across the country from 2007 to 2010 returned from a public records request. “It is clear there is an urgent need for the government to recognize just how pervasive a problem the sexual abuse of immigration detainees is and take immediate steps to fix the problem and ensure that everyone in the government’s care is protected,” said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “The detainees in immigration detention are a particularly vulnerable population. Even one incident of sexual abuse is one too many.” The group found 56 allegations of sexual abuse in Texas, far more than the next-highest total, 17 complaints in California. “It’s pretty disturbing, and pretty telling, that such a high percentage of the sexual assaults happen here in Texas,” Libal said.

October 11, 2011 Broward Palm Beach New Times
Here in Florida, we have a broad array of sunshine laws designed to promote open government. Local governments routinely have to disclose information simply because citizens ask for it. But apparently there's one thing that can clamp the mouths of local officials for good: a private prison contractor asking nicely. Bill Di Scipio is a Southwest Ranches resident who has vocally opposed the planned construction of a new 1,800-bed immigrant detention facility that would be run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison contractor. At a town council meeting on September 22, he asked why town council members had told him they weren't allowed to discuss the facility. (Read about another council member's unusual response to his request.) After the public comment period, Vice-Mayor Freddy Fisikelli asked the town's longtime lawyer, Keith Poliakoff, for an explanation. Fisikelli: Keith... explain to him why we're doing the cone of silence? Poliakoff: To answer your question, the request for the council to not get into anything until something is, uh, known was requested by a combination of CCA and Homeland Security. At this point, there's nothing new, there's no contract proposal, there's no formal award, there's no IGA (intergovernmental agreement), there's nothing. There's nothing new on that, one iota. Fisikelli: So it's not the town that the cone of silence, it's the people we're dealing with. Poliakoff: We've been asked by Homeland Security and CCA. Fiskielli: That's what I think we need to let the people know. Poliakoff: But there's nothing new. Well, we wouldn't be able to confirm that, since the request of a notoriously secretive government agency and a publicly traded corporation is enough to make a town's lawyer to advise council members not to speak. That was the end of CCA discussion for the evening. We have a call out to Poliakoff for more information on the nature and legal weight of this "request," and will update if he responds.

September 29, 2011 Los Angles Times
Arrests of federal prison guards soared nearly 90% over the last decade, possibly because of poor hiring practices during a 25% increase in prison growth, the Justice Department's inspector general reported. Misconduct investigations doubled, and more than half of the offenses were committed during the officers' first two years on the job. The inspector general recommended that the Federal Bureau of Prisons improve its background investigation of job applicants and find better ways to assess rookie officers. But other factors have contributed to the problem, including private prisons and increasing numbers of female prisoners and young offenders in federal facilities, the inspector general found. The report did not specify how many misconduct cases came out of private federal prisons, which have increased their populations by 120% in the last decade, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington prison issues think tank. "Private prisons aren't always held to the same standards as public ones," said Joe Baumann, a corrections officer at the state California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. "That's where so much of the stuff I come across is from, the private contractors."

May 24, 2011
PORTLAND, OR - A federal judge today strongly rejected the U.S. government's ongoing attempts to shroud its network of privatized immigrant prisons in a far-reaching veil of secrecy. The ruling arises out of a lawsuit filed two years ago, seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The plaintiff, Stephen Raher, sought documents concerning a series of contracts between the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and several private prison companies. The government has repeatedly claimed that it does not have to release information showing how many prison beds it has contracted for, and how much it pays under the contracts. In addition, the government fought against releasing the proposals that bidders submitted when seeking the contracts. In November 2010, The GEO Group, the largest private prison operator in the world, intervened in the suit (with the government's acquiescence), claiming that it wanted to protect its proprietary commercial information. The BOP and GEO vigorously objected to the release of any information that would provide a meaningful picture of how the network of privately-run "criminal alien" prisons are run. "Our government is paying substantial amounts of money in exchange for services of questionable value," said Raher. "The fact that the government does not want to allow public scrutiny of these transactions is an affront to the spirit of public disclosure embodied in FOIA." The ruling by Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart rejects most of the Bureau of Prison's arguments, noting that the government had failed to provide evidence to support many of its claims. The court called the government's justification for withholding portions of the contractors' bid proposals "hopelessly vague" and characterized its description of some of the withheld information as "baffling." The court also criticized GEO for advancing "meritless" arguments and relying on legal theories that are "nothing more than an unsupported conclusion." The court did reserve judgment on the question of whether contract prices must be released, saying that a trial is necessary on that issue. "There is still more work to be done in this case, and that work is extremely important," said Raher. "I am confident that the government's argument would not hold up at trial, and that the primary motivation of BOP and GEO is to avoid revealing the inflated prices paid under these contracts." As the court noted in its opinion, Raher has articulated a plausible theory that prison operators use the lucrative federal contracts to cross-subsidize money-losing contracts with state and local governments, thus allowing the companies to boast of inflated cost "savings" when lobbying state legislatures. The case is Raher v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, Case Number CV-09-526-ST. The court's opinion is available at http://www.tidx.org/pdf/BOP_FOIA/SJ-Opinion-May2011.pdf

May 11, 2011 Detention Watch Network
As the largest for-profit prison company in the country, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prepares for its annual shareholders meeting, new data released today by the Detention Watch Network (DWN) sheds light on the growing influence of the private prison industry on the immigration detention system. Drawn from a variety of sources, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reading Room, and the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, the data reveals the companies most heavily invested in the business of immigration detention – CCA, The GEO Group Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation – and suggests increased lobbying activity over the last decade, both in terms of dollars spent and government entities targeted. “For years, private prison firms have played a critical role in shaping public policy around immigration detention, pursuing the bottom line at the expense of basic civil rights and tax payer dollars,” said Emily Tucker, Director of Policy and Advocacy at DWN. “This data highlights deep corporate investment in the detention business, raising concerns about how the corporate profit-motive is fueling the expansion of the detention system as a whole.” According to research by DWN, corporations have increasingly devoted resources over the last decade to lobbying for policies and programs that will increase their opportunities to do business with the government. Of the five corporations with ICE contracts for which official federal lobbying records are currently available, the total expenditure on lobbying for 1999-2009 was $20,432,000, with CCA ($18,002,000) and GEO ($2,065,000) as the top two spenders. Lobbying efforts targeted a wide range of government entities, indicating a comprehensive strategy for influencing policy and legislation. Both CCA and GEO have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as a lack of transparency and accountability has led to multiple cases of abuse and mismanagement in their facilities, resulting in the termination of contracts in a few recent cases. “ICE has called for sweeping changes in the immigration detention system,” said Tucker. “Yet they continue to partner with private prison firms that are part of the problem. We hope this research inspires further exploration into the relationship between prison corporations and the government at all levels. We need to reduce our dependence on detention and begin putting human rights over profits.” For the full collection of data, visit: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons

December 23, 2010 Washington Post
The Senate has confirmed President Obama's pick for U.S. marshal despite opposition from criminal justice and watchdog groups upset about the nominee's ties to the private prison industry. Retiring U.S. Marshal John F. Clark said he welcomed Justice Department veteran Stacia M. Hylton's appointment late Wednesday and called her a "dedicated public servant with 29 years of law enforcement in the Department of Justice." "In addition to serving as our nation's federal detention trustee, she was a deputy U.S. marshal for 24 years and served in a variety of assignments, which gave her profound insight into the service's operations," he said in a statement after the confirmation by unanimous consent. But Ms. Hylton ran into sharp opposition from watchdog groups who said her consulting work this year for the GEO Group, one of the nation's largest private prison companies, posed a conflict of interest. The GEO Group has held tens of millions of dollars in contracts with the Marshals Service. "The opposition coalition is disappointed, of course, that the Obama administration nominated Hylton despite her obvious conflicts of interest involving the private prison industry, which she will be overseeing as director of the U.S. Marshals and in contradiction to the president's own ethics guidelines," said Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, one of the groups opposing the nomination. "We continue to hope for change, but see only the same revolving door and conflicts of interest between public officials and private industry that benefits from federal contracts under the Obama administration," he said. Others critical of the Hylton nomination included the 1.6-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Alliance for Justice; the National Lawyers Guild; the Detention Watch Network; Grassroots Leadership; the Human Rights Defense Center; International CURE; the Justice Policy Institute; Public Citizen; and the Private Corrections Working Group. Ms. Hylton was backed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the National Sheriffs' Association. During her confirmation hearing, Ms. Hylton said she had recused herself from conversations about the private prison industry and that federal ethics officials had cleared her recent consulting work for the GEO Group. "I did follow all ethics requirements and regulations and worked closely with the ethics office," she said.

December 8, 2010 ACLU
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and El Paso co-counsel Mike Torres and Leon Schydlower today announced the filing of a lawsuit against the federal government and administrators of a West Texas for-profit prison on behalf of the survivors of Jesus Manuel Galindo. Mr. Galindo, 32, died on December 12, 2008, after suffering a seizure in solitary confinement where he had been placed for complaining about the facility’s failure to provide him medication to control his epileptic seizures. For a copy of Galindo, et al. v. Reeves County, et al. (W.D. Tex. Dec. 7, 2010), go to http://www.aclutx.org/galindo The suit names as defendants individual employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, The GEO Group (which operates the for-profit prison), Reeves County and the facility’s contracted medical provider, Physicians Network Association (PNA). “The Galindo family has suffered a terrible loss, a loss that could have been prevented if Reeves County Detention Center officials had responded to Jesus Manuel Galindo’s repeated pleas for care as well as requests on Galindo’s behalf from fellow inmates and his mother, Graciela Galindo,” said Mike Torres. “A prison sentence should not be a death sentence because officials are unwilling to provide basic medical care,” added Schydlower. Mr. Galindo’s death came after repeated attempts by Galindo, his family and others to persuade prison and medical staff to move him out of isolation and provide effective medication to control his seizures. “U.S. taxpayer dollars were used to pay a for-profit medical provider with a documented record of providing constitutionally inadequate care, and federal officials looked the other way while inmates like Mr. Galindo were denied access to the most basic medical necessities,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. “A prisoner’s citizenship status does not matter when it comes to medical care – federal inmates are entitled to equal protection of the law, and no inmate held in a United States prison should be subject to the deliberate denial of life-saving medication, then left in solitary to die.” In recent years, the federal government has increasingly relied on private firms like The GEO Group, which operates the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) in Pecos, to manage prisons where immigrant prisoners serve criminal sentences, mostly for non-violent crimes like illegal entry. Gouri Bhat, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said, “Prisoners at RCDC face an impossible situation. Private prison officials cut costs and provide deficient care, and the Bureau of Prisons won’t hear grievances about private prisons. That is a Catch-22 with deadly consequences.”

December 1, 2010 Washington Times
Critics of President Obama's nominee for director of the U.S. Marshals Service vowed to take their fight to the full Senate after a key committee Wednesday backed Justice Department veteran Stacia M. Hylton for the job despite concerns from watchdog groups about her ties to the private prison industry. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Ms. Hylton's nomination to the full Senate amid increasing opposition from criminal-justice and union groups that say her recent consulting work for a private prison company poses a conflict of interest. The committee approved the nomination by voice vote. Ms. Hylton earned at least $110,000 as a private consultant earlier this year for the Florida-based GEO Group, which has held tens of millions of dollars in prison contracts with the Marshals Service. Ms. Hylton previously worked for the government as federal detention trustee and has held several Justice Department posts. "We're disappointed the Judiciary Committee didn't seem to take these concerns to heart," said Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, one of the groups opposing the nomination along with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). On Monday, AFSCME's director of legislation, Charles M. Loveless, told the Judiciary Committee in a letter that Ms. Hylton's acceptance of consulting fees from the GEO Group "is a clear conflict of interest." "This is a revolving door that needs to be shut," he wrote.

November 18, 2010 Washington Times
The nation's largest federal employees union is railing against President Obama's choice to lead the U.S. Marshals Service, saying Justice Department veteran Stacia Hylton's recent six-figure consulting deal with a private prison company makes her "ill-suited" for the job. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which backed Mr. Obama throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter this week that Ms. Hylton's ties to the GEO Group "pose a serious conflict of interest that should preclude her nomination." The letter was signed by John Gage, president of the 600,000-member national union, which represents government employees at nearly every federal agency, including the Marshals Service. A copy of the letter was obtained Thursday by The Washington Times, which first reported in October on Ms. Hylton's work with the GEO Group. The union, like at least nine other criminal justice and watchdog groups now opposing the nomination, is upset that Ms. Hylton accepted $112,500 in consulting fees from the GEO Group shortly after resigning as the federal detention trustee at Justice in February and before her recent nomination as the U.S. Marshal. The Office of Federal Detention manages and regulates the federal detention programs and the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System. "While the public record does not disclose the extent to which the $112,500 consulting job with the GEO Group was discussed prior to Ms. Hylton's retirement, we believe this creates a clear conflict of interest," Mr. Gage wrote.

November 17, 2010 Main Justice
Stacia A. Hylton, the nominee to lead the U.S. Marshals Service, rejected allegations at a Senate hearing Wednesday that her previous consulting job would create a conflict of interest if she is confirmed to the agency’s top post. Earlier this month, prison and human rights watchdog organizations blasted Hylton, claiming her work as a consultant in the prison industry would present a conflict of interest. After retiring from her post as Federal Detention Trustee in March, Hylton received $112,500 in consulting fees from The GEO Group Inc., which contracted with her Virginia-based firm Hylton Kirk & Associates. The GEO Group, one of the largest prison private businesses, receives millions of dollars from U.S Marshal contracts. In response to a question from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Hylton dismissed the charges and affirmed that she followed the legal procedure. “I’d like to assure the entire members of the committee that I did follow all ethics requirements and that I worked closely with the ethics office before retirement and subsequently after,” she said. Hylton previously worked for the U.S. Marshals Services from 1980 until 2004, where she held several high-ranking positions. She was nominated by President Barack Obama on Sept. 20 to become the new director of the U.S. Marshals.

November 10, 2010 Washington Times
Eight prominent human rights and prison industry watchdog groups Tuesday announced their opposition to U.S. Marshal nominee Stacia Hylton, a longtime Justice Department veteran who recently worked as a consultant to one of the nation's largest private prison companies. The organizations raised conflict of interest charges concerning Ms. Hylton's consulting work earlier this year for the Florida-based GEO Group, which has held of millions of dollars in contracts with the Marshals Service. "It is extremely worrisome that Ms. Hylton is nominated for a position where she would be directly involved in overseeing contracts with private prison companies to house federal detainees, given her cozy relationship with the private prison industry and her acceptance of funding from the GEO Group through her consulting work," said Ken Kopczynski, director of the Private Corrections Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog group. Citing a report last month by The Washington Times, the groups pointed out Ms. Hylton's acceptance of $112,500 in consulting fees from the GEO Group after leaving her post earlier this year as federal detention trustee. "This is a prime example of the revolving door between the public and for-profit private sectors turning full circle," said Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center that reports on criminal justice issues. "After cashing in on her experience in public law enforcement by taking a consulting job with GEO Group, Ms. Hylton has now been nominated for a high-level federal position where she will oversee detention services for the U.S. marshals, including services provided by private prison firms such as GEO," he said. The organizations plan to discuss their concerns with the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee. They said neither the White House nor the GEO Group responded to their questions about Ms. Hylton's relationship with the company. Among the organizations opposing the nomination are the Alliance for Justice, the National Lawyers Guild, International Cure, the Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership and the Justice Policy Institute. Last month, a White House official said Ms. Hylton would not require a waiver from Mr. Obama's ethics rules, which bar appointees for two years from working on matters involving recent clients. So far, more than two dozen high-level appointees have been given full or partial waivers. "After review, it was determined ... she could easily be recused from participating in particular matters in which that client was a party," said the official. "This recusal, along with the Obama administration's ethics pledge and other ethics restrictions, will ensure that she can serve ably and effectively as director of the U.S. Marshals Service." Ms. Hylton wasn't working as an employee of the company, but provided services to GEO Group through her consulting company, Virginia-based Hylton Kirk & Associates. GEO Group was the only client on her financial disclosure form, for whom she said she did "consulting services for detention matters, federal relations and acquisitions and mergers" from March through July of this year. Marshals Service contracts generate an important source of revenue for the GEO Group. Ms. Hylton has supporters, including the National Sheriff's Association, which told the Judiciary Committee of her "extraordinary qualifications, experience and expertise." Ms. Hylton said if she is confirmed, her consulting firm would remain dormant except to comply with any legal and tax requirements while it's inactive. She also said $105,000 in annual retirement pay would end upon her appointment.

October 25, 2010 The Washington Times
Between leaving her post as federal detention trustee and her recent nomination as the next U.S. marshal, Justice Department veteran Stacia Hylton got a consulting contract with one of the largest private correctional companies in the country, records show. The arrangement with the Florida-based GEO Group Inc., which has carried out tens of millions of dollars in contracts for the U.S. Marshals Service, was disclosed in a recent financial report obtained by The Washington Times through the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. One prominent prison industry observer said the ties raise concerns about conflicts of interest. "The massive conflicts of interest with Ms. Hylton having been employed by GEO Group typify the revolving door of corporate lobbyists and government employees that President Obama promised to end if elected," said Paul Wright, editor and co-founder of Prison Legal News, which covers the prison industry. Mr. Wright said he was concerned that Ms. Hylton would "be in a position to further reward the GEO Group with taxpayer money and little accountability or oversight." "The real and apparent conflict of interest is as massive as it is obvious," he said. While Ms. Hylton is not a registered lobbyist, the publicly traded GEO Group, which did not respond to messages seeking comment, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress and the Justice Department on prison and budget issues in recent years. Under Mr. Obama's ethics rules, appointees are prohibited for two years from working on specific matters involving recent clients unless they obtain special waivers. So far, more than two dozen high-level appointees have been given full or partial waivers from the ethics rules. Ms. Hylton could not be reached for comment, and the U.S. Marshals Service and the Justice Department did not respond to messages about her nomination. A White House official reached on the matter Monday said Ms. Hylton would not require a waiver. "After review, it was determined that Ms. Hylton did not need a waiver for her consulting client, the GEO Group, as she could easily be recused from participating in particular matters in which that client was a party," said the official. "This recusal, along with the Obama administration's ethics pledge and other ethics restrictions, will ensure that she can serve ably and effectively as director of the U.S. Marshals Service." Ms. Hylton wasn't working as an employee of the company, but provided services to GEO Group through her consulting company, Virginia-based Hylton Kirk & Associates. The GEO Group is listed as the only client on Ms. Hylton's financial disclosure form, though government ethics rules require nominees to report only clients who pay at least $5,000. She listed $112,500 in income from her company through "consulting services for detention matters, federal relations and acquisitions and mergers" from March through July of this year. But Ms. Hylton also noted that pursuant to a contract, she will receive funds from the GEO Group for services sometime prior to joining the government. Contracts with the Marshals Service generate an important source of revenue for the GEO Group. During an earnings conference call earlier this year, GEO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer George Zoley noted that among federal contracts, "the primary driver for growth continues to be the incarceration of criminal aliens" with the U.S. marshals and federal Bureau of Prisons housing aliens facing criminal charges or those serving time as a result of a conviction. In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company noted that about 13 percent of its consolidated revenues for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 3 came from U.S. marshals. The company reported consolidated revenues for the year of $1.1 billion. While not referring to the GEO Group by name, Ms. Hylton told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a questionnaire that any potential conflicts of interest will be resolved under the terms of an ethics agreement with the government. "In connection with the nomination process, I have consulted with the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice's designated agency ethics official to identify any potential conflicts of interest," she wrote. In addition, Ms. Hylton said upon her confirmation, her consulting company would remain dormant except to comply with any legal and tax requirements while it's inactive. She also said her $105,000 annual federal retirement pay would cease upon her appointment. Ms. Hylton has held numerous high-ranking positions at the Justice Department over the years, including acting deputy director and assistant director at the U.S. Marshals Service. She worked as chief of judicial security during the first World Trade Center bombing trials. From 1990 to 1993, she was a witness security inspector. More recently, as federal detention trustee from 2004 to earlier this year, she oversaw a $1.5 billion budget.

September 29, 2010 Houston Chronicle
Immigration officials plan to require detention centers holding the majority of the nation's immigration detainees to provide access to 24-hour, emergency medical and mental health care and expand access to legal resources and visitation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's long-awaited, revised national detention standards aim to address vexing, long-term problems within the hodgepodge of detention centers, prisons and jails that house about 400,000 immigration detainees annually. A draft copy of the nearly 350-page standards obtained by the Houston Chronicle shows ICE officials have taken steps to address some of the most critical problems identified in the agency's internal reports and detention facility inspections, from access to quality medical care to outdoor recreation time. But immigrant advocates, who had high hopes for the revised standards since ICE announced plans to overhaul its detention system last year, said the changes fell far short of their expectations. "I really do feel it's a far cry from what we'd hoped for," said Lory D. Rosenberg, policy director for Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA. "This doesn't read like guidelines for a civil facility... or any kind of institutional setting. This reads to me like a prison manual." And ICE union officials plan to challenge several of the proposed changes at the bargaining table, saying they pose serious safety concerns for officers, contractors and detainees. Chris Crane, president of the national ICE Council, said officers were particularly concerned about changes to search procedures and plans to mix non-violent, aggravated felons, including drug dealers, in with the general detainee population. "This thing just stinks of politics," Crane said. "It's about satisfying, publicly, the special interest groups but not really addressing the real issues, the real problems we have in the facilities." ICE spokesman Brian Hale said the standards, last updated in 2008, are under review by non-governmental agencies and the ICE union. Hale said that once ICE management finishes negotiations with union leaders, the revised standards will be implemented at 22 facilities nationwide that house about 17,000 detainees on a daily basis, roughly 55 percent of the agency's daily detained population. The list of 22 facilities includes the Houston Contract Detention facility on the city's north side and several detention centers scattered across Texas. Hale said he did not have a timeline for the union negotiations, and could not predict when ICE would expand the standards to cover the rest of ICE's detained population. Last August, top Obama administration officials announced plans for a major overhaul of the nation's immigration detention system, which includes more than 250 government-run detention centers, private prisons and local jails operated largely by private contractors or county sheriffs. Under pressure to address reports of substandard medical care and lax oversight, ICE pledged to design a ``new civil detention system" specifically to meet the needs of immigration detainees, who largely are detained for administrative, not criminal, violations. In an Aug. 18 draft letter explaining the revisions to detention standards, ICE Secretary John Morton wrote that the standards were crafted to increase recreation time, visitation, access to legal services, libraries and religious opportunities. Other changes include: All facilities would be required to provide "comprehensive, routine and preventative health care." -- All detainees would receive medical and mental health screenings to determine if they are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. -- Detainees will have no less than 15 hours per week access to law libraries. -- Searches and pat-downs will be conducted by guards of the same gender, if someone of that gender is at the facility at the time. -- Transgendered detainees will have access to continued hormone therapy, mental health care and necessary medication. Linton Joaquin, who has investigated detention centers' compliance with ICE's standards as general counsel with the National Immigration Law Center, said ICE should get credit for making major improvements to its standards. "But at the same time, it's not really addressing the fundamental defect they identified last year, that the whole detention system is modeled after the criminal justice system rather than taking into account that this is civil detention." Rosenberg also said immigrant and human rights advocates had hoped for more substantive changes, such as those agreed upon by ICE officials and representatives from Corrections Corporation of America in May. The CCA had planned to "soften" detention conditions for detainees at nine ICE centers, including eliminating lockdowns and minimizing searches. Hale said changes have been on hold pending ICE union negotiations. Human rights advocates and union officials raised concerns about ICE's plans to change the way it rates facilities' compliance with the standards. With the revised standards, ICE created a new system that allows contractors to achieve a "range of compliance" - from "minimal" to "optimal." Rosenberg said that change allows contractors to do the bare minimum and still continue to house ICE detainees.

September 1, 2010 AP
Prison operator Corrections Corp. of America spent $240,000 lobbying federal officials in the second quarter. That's down slightly from the $250,000 it spent on lobbying in the first quarter of 2010 and the $260,000 it spent lobbying in the second quarter of last year. The company said it lobbied on issues related to the private prison industry and on all provisions of the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 and the Private Prison Information Act of 2009, among other topics. Aside from Congress, Corrections Corp. also lobbied the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement in the April-to-June quarter, according to a report filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives on July 20.

August 25, 2010 Washington Independent
Days after the ACLU called for additional protections against sexual abuse of immigrant detainees, Human Rights Watch issued a report today demanding Congressional action to improve detention center conditions. The calls come after the Aug. 19 arrest of a former guard at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas, who was accused in May of groping three women on their way to deportation. Sexual abuse allegations at Hutto were particularly disturbing because the facility was lauded as a symbol of ICE’s year-long detention reform effort, as The Texas Independent pointed out last week. But Human Rights Watch argued they were not an isolated incident, claiming the problem is more widespread than officials realize because detainees are often deported or otherwise unable to report abuse. ICE already made some steps toward preventing sexual abuse in detention centers after Hutto abuse allegations surfaced in May. Officials plan to publish revised standards for dealing with sexual assault. ICE will also prohibit guards from searching or transporting detainees of the opposite gender. Official policy already bans male staffers from being alone with female immigration detainees — a rule contract guards at Hutto, a Corrections Corporation of America facility, were allegedly breaking. In May, ICE ordered the prison contractor to stop allowing male guards to be alone with female immigrant detainees.

June 25, 2010 Tennessean
Eight Corrections Corporation of America detention centers that house asylum seekers and immigrants awaiting deportation may be line for makeovers to create a less prison-like feel. The move by Nashville-based CCA to spruce up eight facilities – half of them in California and Texas – drew sharp reactions from both sides of the debate over U.S. immigration policies. “We’re coddling lawbreakers,” said Theresa Harmon, co-founder of the advocacy group Tennesseans for Responsible Immigration Policies. “We have no teeth in our enforcement and that’s the reason this whole problem continues.” Plants, flower baskets, fresh colors of paint on prison walls, and more framed pictures were proposed by private prison operator CCA to soften the look of several detention centers as part of reform initiatives within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is evaluating the changes, said agency spokeswoman Gillian Brigham. Changes suggested by CCA wouldn’t apply to any detainees with criminal backgrounds or those considered a threat. Low-risk detainees would be allowed extended visiting hours up to 12 hours a day, movie and bingo nights, exercise classes, self-serve continental breakfast on holidays and weekends, better access to legal resources, free Internet-based phone service and the right to wear their own clothes. Advocates of better treatment think the proposed changes are cosmetic and superficial, avoiding the real problems within federal immigration centers. Judy Greene, criminal justice policy analyst for the New York-based policy research group Justice Strategies, remains skeptical. “Bingo nights is one thing, but still having personnel that can’t figure out how to comport themselves around women detainees or women in state custody shows that (CCA) doesn’t learn from its mistakes,” Greene said. The federal immigration agency is CCA’s fourth-largest customer after the federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service and the state of California prison system. On a typical day, there are 30,000 people in immigration confinement at 256 detention centers run by the federal government, private firms such as CCA and local jailers. Today, CCA houses roughly 6,400 detainees for ICE. Nearly a year ago, ICE announced plans to implement revised policies and standards to make the immigration detention system less penal and more humane.

June 8, 2010 Houston Chronicle
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are preparing to roll out a series of changes at several privately owned immigration detention centers, including relaxing some security measures for low-risk detainees and offering art classes, bingo and continental breakfast on the weekends. The changes, detailed in an internal ICE e-mail obtained by the Houston Chronicle, were welcomed by immigrant advocates who have been waiting for the Obama administration to deliver on a promise made in August to overhaul the nation's immigration detention system. The 28 changes identified in the e-mail range from the superficial to the substantive. In addition to “softening the look of the facility” with hanging plants and offering fresh carrot sticks, ICE will allow for the “free movement” of low-risk detainees, expand visiting hours and provide unmonitored phone lines. ICE officials said the changes are part of broader efforts to make the immigration detention system less penal and more humane. But the plans are prompting protests by ICE's union leaders, who say they will jeopardize the safety of agents, guards and detainees and increase the bottom line for taxpayers. Tre Rebstock, president for Local 3332, the ICE union in Houston, likened the changes to creating “an all-inclusive resort” for immigration detainees. “Our biggest concern is that someone is going to get hurt,” he said, taking particular issue with plans to relax restrictions on the movement of low-risk detainees and efforts to reduce and eliminate pat-down searches. The changes outlined in the ICE e-mail are planned for nine detention centers owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, including the 900-bed Houston Contract Detention Facility on the city's north side. Some of the changes will be implemented within 30 days; others may take up to six months, said Beth Gibson, ICE's senior counselor to Assistant Secretary John Morton and a leader of the detention reform effort. Other major changes include: • Eliminating lockdowns and lights-out for low-risk detainees. • Allowing visitors to stay as long as they like in a 12-hour period. • Providing a unit manger so detainees have someone to report problems to other than the guard. • Allowing low-risk detainees to wear their own clothing or other non-penal attire. • Providing e-mail access and Internet-based free phone service. Not about punishment Gibson said the improvements are part of ICE's efforts to detain immigrants in the least restrictive manner possible while ensuring they leave the country if ordered to do so. “When people come to our custody, we're detaining them to effect their removal,” Gibson said. “It's about deportation. It's not about punishing people for a crime they committed.” ICE officials have faced pressure from immigrant advocates and some members of Congress to improve the detention conditions for the roughly 400,000 immigrants it houses annually. The agency has relied on a hodgepodge of more than 250 government-run detention centers, private prisons and local jails to accommodate its growing population — with roughly one in four detainees held in Texas. At the CCA facilities that have agreed to ICE's changes, detainees will see more variety in their dining hall menus and have self-serve beverage and fresh vegetable bars. CCA also plans to offer movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance and cooking classes, tutoring and computer training, the e-mail states. Detainees also will be allowed four hours or more of recreation “in a natural setting, allowing for robust aerobic exercise.” CCA also committed to improving the look of the facilities, such as requiring plants, fresh paint and new bedding in lower-risk units. Advocates pleased Some of the improvements offered at the CCA facilities counted as hard-fought victories for immigrant advocates, including plans to improve visitor and attorney access. “A lot of these measures are what we've been advocating for,” said Lory Rosenberg, policy and advocacy director for Refugee and Migrants' Rights for Amnesty International. “Many of these points are very important to changing the system from a penal system, which is inappropriate in an immigration context, to a civil detention system.” Union members said they have concerns about the plans, primarily focusing on safety. Rebstock said some detainees may be classified as low-risk because they have no serious criminal history but still may be gang members that “haven't been caught doing anything wrong yet.” He also said eliminating lockdowns will make it more difficult to protect detainees from one another. He said reducing or eliminating pat-down searches could allow contraband into the facilities, including weapons. Gibson, with ICE, said the agency is developing a sophisticated classification system and will make sure “that our detainees are still safe and sound.” “As a general matter, it will be the non-criminals who don't present a danger to anyone else who are benefitting from the lowest level of custody,” Gibson said. ‘On the taxpayers' dime' Rebstock also questioned the cost to taxpayers for the changes. “My grandparents would have loved to have bingo night and a dance class at the retirement home they were in when they passed away, but that was something we would have had to pay for,” he said. “And yet these guys are getting it on the taxpayers' dime.” Gibson said CCA is making the improvements at no additional cost to ICE. The agency's contract with CCA for the Houston detention center requires that ICE pay $99 per bed daily for each detainee, slightly lower than the $102 average daily rate ICE pays nationally .

May 26, 2010 Government Executive
The Homeland Security Department this week announced that it will replace the head of the Federal Protective Service after several critical investigative reports found major gaps in the security of government facilities. Gary Schenkel, who has served as director of FPS since March 2007, told his staff on Tuesday that in early June he will move to a DHS policy office where he will serve as acting deputy assistant secretary for state and local law enforcement. "It is with great sadness that I announce my departure from the Federal Protective Service," Schenkel wrote in an e-mail to FPS employees. "For the past three-plus years I have been privileged and honored to lead this outstanding organization through many challenges and triumphs." A retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, Schenkel previously served as assistant federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Chicago Midway Airport. In his new role, Schenkel will support "a key initiative of the secretary's to bolster relationships with our critical partners in law enforcement," said Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. FPS Deputy Director Paul Durette will serve as the agency's acting director until a permanent leader is hired. An open executive search to fill the position began immediately, Kudwa said. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urged the department to move swiftly to find a new director. "FPS needs assertive leadership to overcome its well-documented shortcomings and to ensure that federal buildings are secure, and the senator will soon introduce legislation to strengthen the agency's capabilities," Lieberman's office said in a statement. The federal labor union that represents FPS employees said it was anxious to begin a new chapter at the agency. "There is much work that lies ahead and strong, positive and effective leadership is essential at this critical time for FPS," said David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918. The union urged DHS to "select a well-qualified law enforcement professional who can balance the equally important law enforcement and protection missions of FPS." Lawmakers stressed that Schenkel's departure does not solve several unresolved issues at FPS. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thomson, D-Miss., said he wants more information on the estimated completion date for the new Risk Assessment and Management Program to monitor the performance, training and certification of contract guards; the lack of a strategic plan at FPS and the cost of relying on a private sector guard force. "Until these issues are resolved our federal buildings and the federal employees who work in them remain vulnerable," Thompson said. "As the department looks for a new FPS director, it must continue to move forward with renewal and reform at this beleaguered agency." Schenkel's management of FPS has come under intense scrutiny in recent months after a series of Government Accountability Office reports questioned whether the agency's contract guard force was capable of securing federal buildings. In April, GAO reported that undercover agents were able to slip fake guns, knives and bombs past guards in federal facilities. A July 2009 GAO report found similar failures with FPS contract guards. In response, FPS increased its number of unannounced inspections, required additional magnetometer training and conducted more thorough reviews of contract guard qualifications. FPS currently is conducting an internal staffing analysis to determine the feasibility of insourcing some or all of the contract guard workforce. The agency has an annual budget of roughly $1 billion, and employs 1,225 full-time workers and 15,000 contract security guards at more than 2,300 federal facilities nationwide.

March 3, 2010 New York Times
When the Obama administration vowed to overhaul immigration detention last year, its promise of more humane treatment and accountability was spurred in part by the harrowing treatment of two detainees who died in the Bush years. In one case, captured by security cameras in 2008, a Chinese computer engineer was dragged from a Rhode Island immigration jail and mocked by guards as he screamed in pain from undiagnosed cancer and a broken spine. In the other, a Salvadoran detainee held for two years in a California detention center was denied a biopsy for a painful penile lesion, though government doctors suspected the cancer that eventually required amputation of his penis. But on Wednesday, the administration argued in federal court that the government had no liability for neglect or abuse by private contractors running the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., where the computer engineer was held. And in oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday, federal lawyers maintained that government doctors responsible for the Salvadoran’s care in detention were immune from being personally sued for medical negligence. In both cases, the arguments were made against lawsuits brought by the families of the men who died, Hiu Lui Ng, 34, and Francisco Castaneda, 36. In the Ng case, the government sought to be dropped as a defendant, and in the other, it tried to sharply limit potential monetary damages. But critics of the sprawling immigration detention system, which relies mainly on privately run jails to hold noncitizens facing deportation, said those arguments had broader and more disturbing implications. “The government’s positions both in Castaneda and in the Ng case fly in the face of the stated commitment to overhauling the immigration detention system and bringing to it more transparency and accountability,” said Vanita Gupta, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief in the Castaneda case and through its Rhode Island affiliate supported the lawsuit brought by Mr. Ng’s widow, Lin Li Qu, and two children, all United States citizens who live in New York. “Real reform wouldn’t be about pointing the finger elsewhere,” Ms. Gupta said. “It would be about promulgating legally binding standards and making individualized determinations about whether someone like Ng needs to be detained in the first place.” Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reiterated the agency’s commitment to an overhaul. “This administration takes any allegation of inadequate medical care or ill treatment seriously and will not accept or tolerate any willful misconduct,” he wrote. “We have taken important initial steps to change this system and are committed to finishing the job.” Oral arguments in the Ng case, in Federal District Court in Providence, centered on the federal agency’s role in ordering that the gravely ill man be taken in shackles to a federal office in Hartford and returned the same day to the Wyatt detention center. For that trip, Mr. Ng was dragged from his cell. The government’s lawyer, Helene Kazanjian, argued that it was “completely unfair” to expect an agency “that has no contact with the detainee on a regular basis,” to know that Mr. Ng was in dire condition. But Fidelma L. Fitzpatrick, arguing the other side, pointed out that the agency had been repeatedly notified that Mr. Ng was in terrible pain and unable to walk, and that he had been denied a wheelchair and outside medical care by the detention center, run for profit by a municipal corporation in Central Falls. “The U.S. government cannot just hire someone and then close the file,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “The government must take responsibility for the actions of ICE.” Judge William E. Smith said he would rule later, but his questions took up the plaintiffs’ theme. “If you know about the severity of the detainee’s condition, isn’t there an obligation to give him special treatment, to put him on an ambulance?” he asked. Ms. Kazanjian contended that when the agency learned how sick Mr. Ng was, it sent him to the hospital where he died six days later. But the judge corrected her. “I ordered him hospitalized,” he said, referring to his unusual intervention at a habeas corpus hearing the day after the Hartford trip. “I don’t think ICE can take credit for that.” In the Castaneda case, the government has admitted to medical negligence, and a federal judge has said “the word ‘cruel’ is an understatement” for the treatment described in the lawsuit. But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court seemed receptive to the government’s argument that Public Health Service doctors were immune from suit under a 1970 federal law. A government lawyer argued that that immunity reflected “a balance of evils,” adding, “Congress has decided that it would rather protect the P.H.S., make sure that causes of action and liability aren’t hanging over the heads of P.H,S. officers, even if that means some individuals don’t get recovery against certain specific P.H.S. personnel.” Lawyers representing Mr. Castaneda’s teenage daughter have said a ruling for the government would preclude a jury trial in the case and cap any damages at $250,000, which they called insufficient deterrence to the negligence that has been widely documented.

February 24, 2010 Government Executive
Leaders of a Senate government oversight committee on Wednesday said they were "astounded" to learn that contractors outnumber civilian employees at the Homeland Security Department, and expressed concern that contractors could be performing inherently governmental work. Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, thanked DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for responding to requests that the department quantify its reliance on contractors. But they said they were disturbed to learn DHS employs more than 200,000 contractors, compared with just 188,000 federal employees, excluding uniformed members of the Coast Guard. "The sheer number of DHS contractors currently on board again raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors," Lieberman and Collins said in a letter to Napolitano. The senators asked for a unit-by-unit breakdown of contractors within the department, but warned that regardless of that breakdown, the challenge of overseeing so many contractors is likely to strain the ongoing transformation of DHS into an agency with strong, central management. "We believe that the current balance between federal employees and contractors at DHS is unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable," they wrote. DHS officials are aware of the problem and are taking steps to properly balance the department's workforce, the senators noted. Homeland Security's fiscal 2011 budget reflects cost savings from the conversion of contractor positions to federal jobs. Lieberman and Collins said that while cost should not be the only factor in determining who should perform work, savings are beneficial. "The fundamental question in deciding whether a federal employee should perform a task, or whether the task may appropriately be assigned to a contractor, should not simply be which option is cheapest, but rather whether or not the government's interests are best served by having the work performed by federal employees," the senators said. "Nonetheless it is notable that the shift to a more appropriate employee-to-contractor ratio may well also save the department and the taxpayers money."

February 9, 2010 National Law Review
John Morton makes no apology for locking up 380,000 people a year. They haven't been charged with crimes. Rather, they're immigrants, confined to a sprawling network of more than 270 jails and prisons for weeks or months while proceedings to determine whether they'll be allowed to remain in the country are pending. "This isn't a question of whether or not we will detain people. We will detain people, and we will detain them on a grand scale," said Morton, who is head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security. "It's a necessary power." The key question for Morton, whose 19,000-employee agency has faced stinging criticism over conditions in the detention facilities including substandard medical care and limited access to counsel, is "how we detain people -- and in my view, the system is run haphazardly." A career federal lawyer with experience in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Department of Justice, Morton, 43, came to the job nine months ago vowing to give the detention system "a very, very hard look, essentially an overhaul." His goal, he said in a lengthy interview in his spacious 11th floor office at ICE's headquarters in Southwest Washington, D.C., is to create a detention program managed directly by agency employees, not contracted out to public and private jails. "My whole vision for the system is to reduce the number of facilities that we have, to have those facilities be designed and run solely from the immigration enforcement perspective, and to have strong, direct federal oversight," he said. Immigration advocates are encouraged by Morton's proposals, but say the plans don't go far enough. "He's building a better mousetrap," said Andrea Black, network coordinator of Washington-based advocacy coalition Detention Watch Network. "We welcome the initial steps. However, they've got a lot of work to do, and we're very concerned they're not going to be able to enact fundamental reforms needed to truly transform the system." FEW LAWYERS -- Recent watchdog and media reports detail many of the ongoing problems inside the facilities. Last week, the American Bar Association released a comprehensive report urging major changes to the entire immigration legal system. The ABA described the current detention system as "costly, extremely difficult to manage, and overburdened." One of the most acute problems is medical care. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there have been 104 in-custody deaths since 2003. The group says that deficient medical care is believed to be the leading cause of death and is the No. 1 complaint it receives from detainees. Newspapers including The New York Times have reported shocking accounts of individual detainees denied treatment, such a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea. He died in 2007 after suffering a skull fracture in the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey and being locked in an isolation cell for more than 13 hours. The reports have apparently hit home. When Morton was asked to describe his vision for a model detention facility, his immediate response was, "First-rate, uniform medical care." This year, ICE will solicit bids to build at least two new centers designed specifically for housing detainees -- one in Texas, the other in the Northeast. Morton envisions a combination of dormitories and cells, an outdoor exercise area, good food and easy access for families and lawyers. He thinks it can even be done in a budget-neutral manner. "The present system is incredibly expensive," he said. "We can actually save some money with these new facilities over the long run ... and provide a better standard of care." In the meantime, the existing system is under strain. Since 1996, the number of noncitizens held each day by ICE has increased threefold. On any given day, an average of 32,000 people are in ICE custody. Some of those held are legal residents who have previously been convicted of a crime -- in some cases, even a misdemeanor. Others are felons who go straight to ICE custody after serving prison sentences. Still others are undocumented aliens or asylum seekers or people who overstayed their visas. Regardless, all are detained by ICE for a civil, not a criminal, offense. The only reason people are kept in custody, said Morton, is because "They'll either run away and wouldn't show up for their detention hearing, or because they're a danger to the community." That is an assertion that advocates dispute. "There will always be people who need to be detained, but that number is a lot smaller than the number of people they hold," said Denyse Sabagh, a Washington-based partner at Duane Morris who heads the firm's immigration practice. "They really should look at who they're putting in detention. Some are lawful permanent residents who have been in the country for many years, with roots and family. Why do those people need to be in jail?" Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, applauded December 2009 ICE guidelines that allow more asylum seekers to be released on parole but said "the crux of reform is how things will improve on the local level." One of the top concerns for her group and others is detainee access to counsel. According to last week's ABA report, 84 percent of detainees have no lawyer to guide them through the complex removal process. "The need is so huge. They beg you, 'Please help me get me a lawyer,'" said Karina Wilkinson, co-founder of the Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights, who is not a lawyer but works with immigrants in detention centers in New Jersey.

February 5, 2010 Houston Chronicle
Luis Dubegel-Paez, a 60-year-old Cuban immigrant, lay on the floor of Rolling Plains Detention Center with no pulse, his face flushed, his pupils dilated. For months before he collapsed at the detention center near Abilene, he had been complaining to nurses about chest pain and heart problems, asking to see a doctor. “Can't stand the pain,” Dubegel-Paez wrote on a sick call slip on Jan. 1, 2008. In response, he was treated by a nurse at the center's medical clinic and given cold medicine. As the weeks passed, he filed more urgent requests to see a doctor — only to be given more cough medicine and Tylenol by nurses, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement records. While Dubegel-Paez waited to see a doctor, inspectors working for ICE toured the facility Feb. 26, 2008, to check that it complied with ICE's own detention standards. The inspectors rated the center “acceptable,” noting no deficiencies in its medical care. It was only after Dubegel-Paez collapsed and died in March 2008 that ICE's inspectors noted in a report that medical care for about 500 detainees at the facility was being provided only by eight vocational nurses with minimal nursing or physician supervision. The case highlights what critics have called pervasive problems with ICE's enforcement of detention standards. A review of more than 800 pages of inspection reports obtained by the Houston Chronicle through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that inspectors have, in some instances, given positive reviews to facilities with serious problems — ranging from inadequate medical care to poor grievance procedures. In many cases, ICE has required facilities with deficiencies to make improvements, though inspectors often failed to note in subsequent reports whether changes were made. After Dubegel-Paez's death, inspectors noted that the Rolling Plains facility failed to meet a number of ICE's detention standards, including care for chronic illness and responding to sick call requests. But ICE officials still did not downgrade the center's rating because of staffing problems in the medical unit, records show, and continue to place a growing number of detainees there. ICE officials said they are in the process of overhauling the nation's immigration detention system, including its monitoring procedures, and plan to improve oversight of medical care. “The problems that occurred in 2007 and 2008 are terrible problems, and as an institution and an agency we have to address them and take them extraordinarily seriously,” said Brian Hale, ICE's public affairs director in Washington, D.C. “But I also do have to point out that was something that occurred in the past, and this new administration ... is committed to ensuring that doesn't happen again. We take it very seriously.” Are changes enough? ICE officials said they plan to announce changes this spring to strengthen their detention standards, which are designed to ensure that detainees have basic protections while in custody. The agency has relied on 300-plus detention centers, private prisons and local jails to house about 400,000 immigrants annually — with roughly one in four detained in Texas. Hale said ICE is reducing the number of facilities to improve oversight. The agency also plans to station government monitors at the centers and jails that house the largest numbers of ICE detainees, he added. Linton Joaquin, who has investigated detention centers' compliance with ICE's standards as general counsel with the National Immigration Law Center, said ICE's planned measures are positive, but “they are so inadequate in comparison to the scope of the problem.” ICE officials have reported that the majority of inspected facilities complied with the agency's detention standards, though a 2008 Inspector General audit found reviewers had not been effective in identifying certain serious problems at facilities. Locally, the Houston Contract Detention Facility has received high marks in reviews. Inspection reports obtained by the Chronicle, which date from early 2007 through February 2009, show ICE has placed detainees in facilities that have failed to meet some minimum requirements outlined under its own standards for detainee care, with violations ranging from failure to accommodate religious diets to lack of formal disciplinary procedures. Access to adequate medical care continues to be one of the most difficult and controversial issues for ICE, which has recorded 107 detainee deaths since 2003, including more than a dozen in Texas. ICE's records documented a wide range of medical care problems at facilities rated as acceptable, including a complete lack of on-site medical care at one Dallas-area jail approved for housing short-term detainees, and chronic staffing problems at larger facilities. An inspection report for the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall documented a severe staffing shortage in 2007 in the medical unit, with 19 vacancies out of 46 positions. The reviewer wrote that the facility, which at the time held about 1,250 detainees, was meeting ICE's standard for medical access at an “acceptable” level, though he noted that employees were staying after hours to complete basic duties. When inspectors returned a year later, in April 2008, ICE had increased the number of detainees held at the facility to 1,547 — despite continuing problems with the medical unit. Hiring a key issue -- The inspector noted the facility, which is owned and operated by the GEO Group, was having trouble meeting a standard ICE requirement that all detainees have a medical exam within 14 days of admission. The medical unit had 10 vacancies at the time of inspection. “These positions are critical to the delivery of health care and compliance with all ICE standards,” the inspector wrote, giving the facility a “good” rating. The center continues to suffer from staffing shortages, with 24 vacancies out of 69 authorized positions in its medical unit, though ICE officials noted that the government is actively recruiting and hiring for those spots. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez declined comment. On March 14, the day that Dubegel-Paez died, he filled out a final sick call slip and complained to his cell mate about chest pains before being seen by a nurse. He was being held while ICE officials tried to arrange his deportation to Cuba. “I have an emergency to see the doctor about my heart problems that I been having for the last couple days, and I have been getting dizzy a lot,” he wrote on the sick call slip. According to ICE's report, the nurse gave him two Tylenol pills and scheduled him for a sick call appointment the following Monday. An autopsy ruled his cause of death was heart disease. Still, weeks after Dubegel-Paez's death, the acting chief of ICE's Detention Standards Compliance unit affirmed the center's “acceptable” rating without any requirement to improve medical treatment. Arthur Anderson, the warden of Rolling Plains center, operated by Emerald Companies, did not return phone calls seeking comment. The facility now has an on-site physician only six to 10 hours a week and eight full-time nurses, ICE reported. ICE has continued to increase the number of detainees housed there, averaging 537 a day last year.

October 7, 2009 San Antonio Express-News
In a move that could affect the revenues of private prison firms and county jails, the Obama administration said Tuesday it will review, renegotiate and possibly terminate some of its more than 300 contracts for detaining unauthorized immigrants. The announcement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is part of an overhaul aimed at ending the reliance on penal institutions for detainees with noncriminal immigration violations or valid asylum claims. The overhaul, first announced in August, followed scathing reports and lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups alleging inhumane conditions, denial of medical care, and isolation in remote areas with limited access to pro-bono legal aid. Napolitano, in a news conference with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton, said she inherited a scattered “nonsystem” of government and privately run facilities that needed to be monitored. “It's a huge range of detainees,” she said, “from those who have criminal records who need to be in a very prisonlike setting to those who have no record at all and indeed have come seeking asylum.” The system has ballooned from 5,000 beds in 1994 to more than 32,000 beds in 2008, used by about 380,000 detainees that year. Napolitano said the capacity to detain people would remain, but the standards of “health and safety, law, and indeed human decency” needed to be enforced. Plans include centralizing operations, doubling the personnel involved in detention center oversight, building new facilities in urban locations near immigration service providers, and housing detainees in converted hotels, nursing homes, or other residential facilities. Detainees would be classified by risk, with nonviolent, noncriminal populations such as recently arrived asylum seekers sent to less prisonlike environments. Detainees with criminal convictions would remain in jails. There are also plans for an online system to locate detainees, something family members and even attorneys are not always able to do. The practice of detaining families at the T. Don Hutto Family Residence Center in Taylor, which drew criticism because of its cells and barbed wire, has already ended. The facility is now being used to house female detainees. It was unclear what effect the changes will have on private firms or communities that draw revenue from jailing detainees, but Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said the reduced population at the Willacy Detention Center in Raymondville — at 3,000 beds the nation's largest — has been apparent and may cause problems for a county that counts on jobs, taxes, and revenue from it. “I know the numbers are down from what they used to be,” he said. “It means the county hasn't had the same amount of money coming in.” The county subcontracts with Utah-based Management & Training Corp., a private prison management firm. Kathleen Walker, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she expected quite a few disappointed contractors. “I would imagine that in the state of Texas, where we have so many different county facilities and independent facilities run by contractors, that they are not going to like seeing a potential dip in revenues to retirement centers or abandoned hotels,” she said. “But to put people in on civil violations with people that have felony exposure is really just not acceptable.”

October 6, 2009 New York Times
The Obama administration is looking to convert hotels and nursing homes into immigration detention centers and to build two model detention centers from scratch as it tries to transform the way the government holds people it is seeking to deport. These and other initiatives, described in an interview on Monday by Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, are part of the administration’s effort to revamp the much-criticized detention system, even as it expands the enforcement programs that send most people accused of immigration violations to jails and private prisons. The cost, she said, would be covered by greater efficiencies in the detention and removal system, which costs $2.4 billion annually to operate and holds about 380,000 people a year. “The paradigm was wrong,” Ms. Napolitano said of the nation’s patchwork of rented jail space, which has more than tripled in size since 1995, largely through Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts for cells more restrictive, and expensive, than required for a population that is largely not dangerous. Among those in detention on Sept. 1, 51 percent were considered felons, and of those, 11 percent had committed violent crimes. “Serious felons deserve to be in the prison model,” Ms. Napolitano said, “but there are others. There are women. There are children.” These and other nonviolent people should be sorted and detained or supervised in ways appropriate to their level of danger or flight risk, she said. Her goal, she said, is “to make immigration detention more cohesive, accountable and relevant to the entire spectrum of detainees we are dealing with.”

September 11, 2009 New America Media
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may not be collecting enough data about its own operations to meet legal and humanitarian standards for detention. This was the principle finding of a report released Thursday by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). The study, "Immigrant Detention: Can ICE Meet Its Legal Imperatives and Case Management Responsibilities?" analyzes data for all 32,000 detainees held in ICE custody during a single night in January 2009. Without the ability to track its detainees adequately, the report warns, the agency will be unable to adhere to legal mandates, administer review processes or abide by its national detention standards. “The report underscores what advocates have seen for years: that we don’t know who’s detained or why, that they don’t have a release process, that they don’t track family ties or make legal immigrants available for alternatives to detention,” said Andrea Black, network coordinator for Detention Watch Network. The results were released on the heels of ICE’s announcement that it plans to revamp its detention system. ICE intends to address concerns related to health conditions of its detainees, centralize its detention system, and depend less on local jails and private prisons. "This report provides a roadmap for meeting the data needs essential for the new ICE detention initiative to succeed as it attempts to move from a criminal incarceration model to a civil detention system," said MPI Vice President for Programs Donald Kerwin, co-author of the report. Researchers found that the diversity of the imprisoned population may make it harder to gather data and track cases. The 286 facilities hold a population of men (90 percent), women, families, unaccompanied children, unauthorized immigrants, asylum seekers, torture survivors, lawful permanent residents and persons claiming to be U.S. citizens. The detainees come from 177 countries. Thirty-eight percent come from Mexico, followed by 13 percent from countries in Central America. They are most commonly held in facilities in southern and U.S.-Mexico border states, with 68 percent of the total in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The report also revealed key information about how long detainees remain at ICE facilities. “The data confirms that people are detained for much longer than ICE reports,” Black said. The average length of detention was 81 days, but some have been detained for much longer. Thirteen percent of detainees were held for three to six months, 10 percent for six months to one year, and three percent for more than one year. “To me, it’s still startling to see how fast the detainee population has grown,” said Kerwin. Sixty percent of the detention centers in use today, he said, were created since 2004. ICE’s ability to manage detainees is also compromised by the presence of private contractors who run the country’s large-scale facilities. Half of the detained population is held in 17 centers, which each houses more than 500 detainees. Three-quarters of these are operated by private contractors. “As a result, ICE has limited control over facilities and detainees,” Black argued. The report also found that more than half of ICE detainees (58 percent) do not have criminal records, even though mandatory detention laws primarily apply to criminals. This is one of the consequences of untargeted detentions, according to Black, and has led to an overcrowded detention system. In order to reform the detention system, the Department of Homeland Security has focused on population management, learning who is in the system, analyzing conditions of detention centers and alternatives to detention. Dora Schriro, special advisor to DHS on ICE, Detention and Removal and, since last month, director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, said the agency is launching various programs to address access to health care, courts, recreation, family visits and tailor the system to the special needs population. “Accountability is the chore of government responsibility, not just oversight and data gathering,” Schriro said. “We are committed to continue the improvements.” But immigrant rights advocates expressed skepticism over the lack of transparency. “We are pleased to see the changes in process, but we are skeptical and concerned,” said Black. “Data has been extremely difficult to access. ICE denied basic information, even to know how many detention centers they work with.” Schriro noted that the administration is attempting to address some of these concerns. DHS is engaged in conversations to create systems that will track detainees, report medical requirements, and discern eligibility for alternatives to detention. It is also conducting a study to learn the costs of these processes. The administration, however, is struggling with the same problems advocates and organizations have been dealing with for years, Schriro said. In their efforts, she said, they have to look back, to analyze what didn’t work, and ahead, to implement the necessary changes. Regarding alternatives to detention, for example, she said, they aren’t optimistic. “The more we scrub, the more we see it is not usable,” Schriro stated.

August 17, 2009 New York Times
More than one in 10 deaths in immigration detention in the last six years have been overlooked and were omitted from an official list of detainee fatalities issued to Congress in March, the Obama administration said Monday. The administration added 10 previously unreported deaths to the official roster and disclosed an 11th, which occurred Friday: that of Huluf Guangule Negusse, a 24-year-old Ethiopian. Mr. Negusse died from the effects of an Aug. 3 suicide attempt in the Wakulla County correctional facility near Tallahassee, Fla. What Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials call “the death roster” stands at 104 since October 2003, up from the 90 that were on the list the agency gave to Congress this spring. The latest search for records began late last month, officials said, when Freedom of Information litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union uncovered one of the 10 deaths that had gone unreported — that of Felix Franklin Rodriguez-Torres, 36, an Ecuadorean who settled in New York and died of testicular cancer on Jan. 18, 2007, after being detained two months at an immigration jail run for profit by the Corrections Corporation of America in Eloy, Ariz. On Saturday, after inquiries about that case by The New York Times, the new chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, issued a directive for field offices to make sure that other deaths had not been overlooked, a spokesman said. David Shapiro, staff lawyer with the A.C.L.U. National Prison Project, said: “Today’s announcement is a tragic confirmation of our worst fears. Our nation’s immigration detention system has been plagued by a total lack of transparency and accountability, and even with today’s announcement there is no way we can be fully confident that there are not still more deaths that somehow have gone unaccounted for.”

August 7, 2009 LA Times
Pledging more oversight and accountability, the Obama administration announced plans Thursday to transform the nation's immigration detention system from one reliant on a scattered network of local jails and private prisons to a centralized one designed specifically for civil detainees. The reforms are aimed at establishing greater control over a system that houses about 33,000 detainees a day and that has been sharply criticized as having unsafe and inhumane conditions and as lacking the medical care that may have prevented many of the 90 deaths that have occurred since 2003. "With these reforms, ICE will move away from our present, decentralized jail-oriented approach to a system that is wholly designed for and based on our civil detention needs," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton told reporters. "The population that we detain is different than the traditional population that is detained in a prison or a jail setting." The federal immigration agency plans to review the use of 350 local jails, state prisons and private facilities, including more than a dozen in California. Within five years, officials said, detainees without criminal records probably would be held in fewer, less-restrictive locations with more federal oversight. Morton also announced that the agency would stop sending families to the controversial T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Texas and instead hold them in the agency's only other family facility, which is in Pennsylvania. The Texas facility, which will continue to house women, opened in 2006 and faced lawsuits over substandard living conditions. A settlement resulted in changes to how children were treated. Immigrant rights advocates welcomed the changes but said there was still no clear policy on how detention facilities would be penalized if problems were found. "We are encouraged that the administration is taking a hard look at what has traditionally been a dark spot in our immigration system," said Karen Tumlin, a staff attorney at the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center. "However, only time will tell if the reforms announced today amount to lasting change or simply creative repackaging of prior policies." Tumlin and others said the detention standards needed to be made legally binding to guarantee immigrants access to counseling, family visits, legal materials and recreation time. Legislation has been introduced aimed at accomplishing this. Advocates also said that the government should use less punitive and less costly alternatives to detention, such as ankle bracelets or intensive supervision, for certain immigrants. "We are very disappointed by the failure to discuss alternatives to detention in the proposal," said Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "The system now detains thousands of people who are not a danger and not a flight risk." To increase oversight, the immigration agency would place federal monitors in 23 large facilities, which house more than 40% of the detainees. The agency also plans to hire experts in healthcare administration and detention management, and someone to review medical complaints.

July 31, 2009 Gainesville Times
Attorney David Kennedy says clients of his who have been held in immigration detention centers in South Georgia and eastern Alabama routinely are denied fundamental rights. "I have had clients who have had no access to phones for extended periods of time. I have had clients being questioned and induced into signing things they did not understand," said Kennedy, a Gainesville immigration lawyer. "I have had clients complain they were stuck in their cells for 23 hours a day. There’s definitely a problem with immigration detention in this country." On the eve of a new immigration detention center opening in Gainesville, a report issued this week by National Immigration Law Center appears to validate Kennedy’s complaints. The report, based on confidential Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents obtained in litigation, alleges there are pervasive problems throughout the country’s immigration detention facilities, many of which are operated by private contractors. Detainees are routinely denied visitation with family members, access to legal materials and regular recreation, according to the report. Many never get an explanation of their rights while being detained, the report claims. "The conditions are much more harsh than they ought to be," said the report’s co-author, Ranjana Natarajan. "This is a civil detention, and these folks are being treated like hardened criminals." The Corrections Corporation of America could begin boarding immigration detainees at its new North Georgia Detention Center on Main Street as soon as next week. The site of the old county jail adjoining the Hall County Sheriff’s office underwent $4 million in renovations and is being leased from Hall County for $2 million a year. CCA operates the detention center through an agreement with ICE and the county. This week, ICE officials did not deny the allegations contained in the report, vowing to continue to improve conditions. But Department of Homeland Security officials recently decided against creating uniform detention center standards that the National Immigration Law Center wants. ICE is supposed to conduct yearly evaluations of every detention center, but has no enforceable, binding legal rules on how inmates are treated, according to the report. "It creates a lot of gray area," Natarajan said. "Because (detention centers) are not expected to follow the rules, they’re all over the map." ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said agency officials "feel the NILC put together a very thoughtful report, and we will carefully review and take seriously this report, as we would any report. We are committed to continuously improving our immigration detention system." Gonzalez noted that within 10 days of taking office, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ordered all immigration enforcement policies to undergo a review, "including detention." In February, Napolitano appointed former Arizona Department of Corrections director Dora Schriro as a special advisor for detention and removal. "Her position was created to focus exclusively on the significant growth in detention and detainment in the last few years," Gonzalez said. On any given day, ICE holds about 33,000 immigration detainees in facilities across the country, and supervises another 17,000 people facing deportation through electronic monitoring and other means. The National Immigration Law Center estimates that in 2008 about 220,000 people were held in detention centers prior to deportation. The typical stay is 30 to 90 days. The Gainesville facility operated by CCA is expected to hold about 500 low- and medium-security immigration detainees, many of them from North Carolina. CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant referred questions on this week’s report to ICE officials, but noted that "CCA does adhere in every one of our ICE detention facilities to the detention standards set by our customer." The company also has ICE officials on site for detainee access, Grant said. This week’s report prompted two U.S. senators to call for a change to the system. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Thursday introduced the "Strong Standards Act," a proposed bill that would set minimum detention standards and require the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that laws concerning the treatment of detainees are enforced. "These legislative initiatives will help reinforce what our great country has always stood for: liberty, the rule of law and basic human rights," Menendez said in a statement. To Kennedy, anything would be an improvement. "If we’re comparing these (detention centers) to their Turkish counterparts, they’re pretty good," Kennedy said. "But by U.S. standards, they’re pretty poor."

July 29, 2009 AP
Immigrant advocates say the federal government has failed to meet its own standards for detaining immigrants, making it unduly difficult for immigrants to defend themselves in court and fight to remain in the country. A report released Tuesday says detainees face limited access to phones, mail and law libraries in violation of federal standards. The authors based their findings on more than 18,000 pages of documents that showed facilities across the country limited detainees' access to legal materials and transferred them without proper notice. "Our concern is we have this deep belief in the American justice system that the truth will eventually come out and those individuals who have meritorious cases will be granted relief," said Karen Tumlin, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center who co-authored the report. "We can't have any faith that that proposition will actually hold true in this monstrous immigration system." The study was based on inspection reports of dozens of facilities by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the American Bar Association and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees between 2001 and 2005. It comes after criticism over medical care in facilities and long-standing complaints by immigration attorneys that their clients are transferred too often, making it hard to represent them. The authors recommended that detention standards should be legally binding. They urged the government to make reviews public and make it easier for relatives and attorneys to track detainees' whereabouts. They also encouraged the government to promote alternatives to detention, such as the use of electronic ankle bracelets. ICE created new performance-based detention standards in 2008. It also hired outside companies to carry out inspections. Tumlin said detainees continue to report the same problems today as those outlined in the inspection reports.

July 8, 2009 Government Executive
The Federal Protective Service is failing to properly oversee its 13,000-strong contract guard force, causing grave security gaps at federal buildings nationwide, Government Accountability Office officials told senators on Wednesday. As part of a recent review, investigators from the watchdog agency successfully entered 10 high-security federal buildings carrying components for a bomb through doors being monitored by contract guards. Once inside, the investigators assembled an improvised explosive device and walked freely around the buildings and into various legislative and executive branch offices with the IED in a briefcase, GAO said in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Lawmakers called GAO's findings disturbing, shocking and outrageous, and asked urgently and repeatedly what they could do to help FPS gain control of the situation. "In this post-9/11 world that we're now living in, I cannot fathom how security breaches of this magnitude were allowed to occur," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the committee. Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said that in all his years of reading GAO reports, this one represented "about the broadest indictment of an agency in the federal government I've heard." Mark Goldstein, GAO's director of physical infrastructure issues and author of the report, told lawmakers the review revealed significant shortcomings in FPS' ability to monitor and verify contract guard training and firearms certifications. In reviewing 663 randomly selected guards, GAO found that 62 percent had at least one expired certification. Goldstein said a lack of funding has hindered the agency's ability to reach appropriate staffing levels and provide the technological tools necessary to protect federal buildings. But a number of the problems with the contract guard program are unrelated to budgetary constraints, he said. "Not having national standards and guidance for inspecting the guards, [and] better standards for knowing when certifications have expired -- things like that, are not resource-based," Goldstein said. "I think there has been a lack of attention to this part of the protective requirements for federal buildings." Lieberman said he and Collins are aware of management problems at FPS and that is one reason why they have not pressed to increase the agency's budget. "We didn't want to just throw more money at the problem until we fix the agency," he said. FPS Director Gary Schenkel did not dispute GAO's findings and said he takes full responsibility for the failures as head of the agency. He assured the committee that FPS officials have been making progress in addressing deficiencies and are working even faster now that they are aware of GAO's findings.

April 3, 2009 New York Times
The document that follows, “List of Detainee Deaths since October 2003,” is the government’s latest account of deaths in immigration detention, through Feb. 7, 2009. Compiled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, it lists the names of 90 people who died, their dates of birth and death, their nationality, where they died or were last held, whether an autopsy report or death certificate was secured, and the cause of death. The chart updates the first government list of 66 names, also attached, which covered a period between Jan. 1, 2004, and November 2007. The new chart adds deaths that occurred before and since, and corrects some omissions. Notably, it adds the Sept. 9, 2005, death of Tanveer Ahmad, also known as Ahmad Tanveer, 43, of Pakistan. Officials had maintained for months that no records of his death could be found, despite complaints that he had died after his severe and obvious symptoms of a heart attack went untreated for hours at the Monmouth County Correctional Institute, in Freehold, N.J. New errors appear on the latest list, and it omits at least one known death from 2008: that of Ana Romero Rivera, 44, of El Salvador, found hanged in a cell at the Franklin County Jail in Frankfort, Ky., on Aug. 21. Ms. Romero, a cleaning woman, had been placed in isolation for not eating, according to local newspaper reports. Though she was being held for deportation, federal officials now disagree whether she was legally in immigration custody when she died. The list no longer distinguishes between where the detainee was last held and where the death occurred. Sometimes it cites the hospital where a dying detainee was taken, but not the jail involved, and sometimes the reverse. Some information has been changed without explanation. For example, the cause of death for Boubacar Bah, 52, who was held at the Corrections Corporation of America detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., previously was listed as “brain hemorrhage, fractured skull” and now reads “undetermined.” The government has reported one more death since the list was issued, bringing the known total to 92: that of Roberto Martinez Medina, 39, of Mexico, who had been held at the Correction Corporation’s Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. He died March 11 at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Ga., apparently of a heart attack. There are more than 500 detention centers around the country, but one private operator, the Correction Corporation, had at least 18 deaths, including eight at its Eloy, Ariz., center alone, three of those since July 2008. The 18 Correction Corporation deaths include one in 2004 that the new list mistakenly places at the “Jefferson County jail.” After correcting for such errors, The Times counted 32 of the 92 deaths at jails run by private companies; 37 of them at county or regional jails, and 20 at federally run detention centers. The remaining 3 deaths fall into other categories. That breakdown differs from one provided at a March 3 House subcommittee hearing that cited only six deaths in private facilities. That low figure was based on a classification supplied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which reflected who owned the jail building and the type of government contract in effect, not the operator. Both lists sometimes obscure who was operating detention centers where people died, or even in which state a death occurred. A 2007 death first listed at the Otero County jail, in New Mexico, is now incorrectly placed at “El Paso SPC,” referring to a service processing center in Texas. The Otero County jail, where there was another death in 2008, is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a private company. Of the 92 people who died in detention, 21 were from Cuba, 19 from Mexico, 6 each from Guatemala and Honduras, 5 from El Salvador, three each from Colombia, Haiti and Jamaica; two each from Ghana, Guinea, India, Korea and one each from 18 other countries, including Germany, Brazil, Afghanistan and the Philippines. Readers with information about the men and women listed on the document, or with knowledge of other deaths in immigration detention, can contact The Times by using this link.

March 26, 2009 Houston Chronicle
If you were to stop on a street corner anywhere in America and knowingly hire an illegal immigrant to do your laundry or clean your basement, you would be breaking the law. But for years, the federal government has been paying immigration detainees $1 a day to perform menial work in the nation’s public and private detention centers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials insist there is no double standard, saying the Voluntary Work Program offers detainees a break from the monotony of incarceration and a chance to earn money while they are locked up. Rutgers University criminal justice professor Michael Welch called the program a “paradox.” “It’s ironic that these undocumented immigrants are barred from working legally in the community, but while behind bars, they are not only allowed but encouraged to work for a dollar a day,” Welch said. ICE officials have found an eager work force in their growing network of detention centers, which house an estimated 400,000 immigrants annually. The agency does not track participation in the work program on a national level, said ICE spokesman Gregory Palmore, though more than 11,000 detainees participated last fiscal year at one Houston detention center alone. Immigrant advocates offered general support for the program, saying it at least gives detainees an opportunity to pass the time by doing something other than sitting in a cell. But the irony of the program is not lost on some. “Why can the U.S. government hire undocumented immigrants? And not only hire them, but get a day’s work for a dollar?” said Brittney Nystrom, senior legal advisor at the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “It really is an absurdity.” ICE says program legal -- ICE officials say the program is perfectly legal. There is no specific statute, regulation or executive order authorizing the program, ICE said in a statement. The program “does not constitute employment and is done by detainees on a voluntary basis for a small stipend,” according to ICE. Nystrom had a hard time buying that legal explanation, citing ICE’s own detention standards, which describe the program as providing “monetary compensation for work completed.” “That sounds like employment to me,” Nystrom said. Variety of jobs performed -- At Houston’s Contract Detention Facility on the city’s north side, about 200 immigration detainees are currently participating in the work program, performing jobs including cleaning and washing dishes, laundry, and maintenance of the facility, according to ICE. Others jobs include working as a barber and helping in the medical clinic, law library or commissary. ICE officials said no detainees from the Houston facility performed work outside of the detention center grounds. The Houston detention center is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies. CCA’s warden in Houston, Robert Lacy, referred questions about the program to ICE. Work programs are commonplace in state and federal prisons. The lowest-paying jobs in the Federal Bureau of Prison system, such as cleaning and grounds keeping, pay 12 to 40 cents per hour. In its statement, ICE officials said the program gives detainees “an opportunity to be gainfully occupied on a voluntary basis.” The agency added that perhaps the most important benefit from the program is “reducing inactivity and disciplinary problems.”

January 13, 2009 Press Release
A report released today by the Southwest Institute for Research on Women and the Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program describes harsh conditions of confinement for the roughly three hundred women housed in immigration detention facilities in Arizona. The report, Unseen Prisoners: A Report on Women in Immigration Detention Facilities in Arizona, is based on over a year of research, including over 40 interviews with detainees, their family members, attorneys, and service providers. “Few people realize that we are locking up huge numbers of immigrants every day and holding them for months and in some cases years at a time. They are not being punished for a crime, and yet they are held in facilities that are identical to, and often double as, prisons or jails,” said Nina Rabin, the lead researcher and author of the report. “Women immigration detainees in particular are an invisible population. We hope this report will raise awareness about women locked up just an hour away from here in conditions that would shock most Americans. We also hope to raise awareness about the U.S. citizen children separated from their mothers right now because of immigration detention.” The report provides detailed information about day-to-day life in the three facilities that house women immigration detainees in Arizona: Central Arizona Detention Center, Pinal County Jail, and Eloy Detention Center. Rabin and several University of Arizona law students conducted interviews and extensive background research for the report over a twelve month period between August 2007 and August 2008. Rabin described the study’s participants: “In our small sample size of detainees who agreed to participate in this research study, we encountered pregnant and nursing mothers, domestic violence victims, low-wage workers swept up in worksite raids, and asylum-seekers fleeing persecution and sexual violence.” The federal agency in charge of the detention and removal of immigrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), contracts for two of the facilities to be run by the private prison company the Corrections Corporation of America. In the case of Pinal County Jail, ICE contracts with the county. ICE permitted the researchers access to two of the three facilities, but declined requests to interview ICE representatives or facility personnel for the report. Rabin met with ICE representatives in December to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations. Key findings of the report include: • Family separation: The majority of women interviewed were separated from at least one U.S. citizen child under the age of 10 and were transferred to Arizona from out of state. As a result, they were hundreds or at times thousands of miles away from their families and communities during their time in detention. • Severe penal conditions for women who are not serving criminal sentences: Women described conditions of confinement that are in many cases more restrictive than in county jails or prisons, including limited access to recreation, a complete absence of programming or activities, frugal provision of food and other supplies, and the routine use of strip searches and shackling during transport. • Aggressive government prosecution and detention of women who pose no security threat or flight risk: Attorneys reported that ICE routinely appeals decisions to release pregnant women on bond; rejects or does not respond to applications for humanitarian parole of victims of domestic violence, refugees, or women with serious health conditions; and refuses to reduce bonds for families unable to pay. • Inadequate medical care: Women reported inadequate gynecological and obstetrical care, long waits for medical attention, and dismissive responses to medical requests. The report contains detailed recommendations for Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and the individual facilities researched. Recommendations range from broad policy changes, including the need for increased consideration of the impact of immigration detention on families, to specific facility-level concerns, such as the lack of outdoor recreation in Pinal County Jail. The report will be available beginning on January 13, 2009, at http://www.law.arizona.edu/depts/clinics/ilc//UnseenPrisoners.pdf. For more information, please contact Nina Rabin at (520) 621-9206 or rabin@email.arizona.edu.

July 21, 2008 First Amendment Center
A bill before Congress would extend the Freedom of Information Act to require private prisons contracted by the federal government to release records under the same standards as federal prisons. The Private Prison Information Act of 2007 (H.R. 1889), introduced by Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., would require private prisons and other correctional facilities under contract with federal agencies to house federal prisoners to make their records accessible under the same FOIA requirements that govern federal prisons. An identical bill was introduced in the Senate (S. 2010) by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. Prison privatization has increased rapidly in the face of growing concerns over overcrowding, safety and poor health care in public institutions. Desire to control costs has also led to an increase in privatization. However, privately owned and operated facilities are not subject to the same FOIA scrutiny as public agencies. Although the press and public can retrieve information about privately run prisons from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other government agencies, private prisons remain largely outside the scope of FOI laws. Of the almost 1.6 million prisoners in the United States in June 2007, 7.4% of them were held in privately operated correctional facilities, according to the June 2008 Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin. At last count, in 2000, the BJS reported 264 private facilities under state and federal contracts used to house prisoners. And there were 5.4% more prisoners in private facilities in June 2007 than in June 2006, according to BJS. Private detention centers are also used to house immigrant detainees. Two lawsuits filed in the last two months aim to force private prisons to release records, including one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union investigating the deaths of immigrant detainees in federal custody. In May 2008, The Washington Post ran a four-day series investigating medical conditions in immigrant prisons. "Careless Detention" explored the deaths of 83 prisoners and detainees in custody between March 2003 and May 2008. "Our correctional system is broken. It is overcrowded and unsafe," said Mike Flynn, director of government affairs for the Reason Foundation. "Contracting with private prisons gives us an ability to better manage outcomes. I think contracts should require certain benchmarks, like treatment programs, continuing education and job training." The Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank that promotes "libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law," according to its Web site. The largest private corrections-management service in the U.S. is Corrections Corporation of America, which is headquartered in Nashville. CCA posted $35 million in profits during the first quarter of 2008, according to a company press release. CCA and other private corrections companies have seen rapid growth from contracts with states and the federal government. The Los Angeles Times reported in August 2007 that California state officials had signed a contract with CCA to hold about 4,000 prisoners for $63 per prisoner, per day. It would cost the state an average of $123 per prisoner, per day in a state prison. As private corrections companies grow, so do questions about their methods, success and profitability. The recent lawsuits seek answers to some of those questions. The ACLU filed an FOI lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after DHS failed to turn over documents related to the deaths of immigrants held in public and private detention centers. The lawsuit also named Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Office of the Inspector General for DHS. "DHS must not be allowed to keep information about in-custody deaths secret," said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, in a press release. "It is imperative that ICE be held publicly accountable." Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that covers prison issues, filed a lawsuit against CCA in a Tennessee court on May 19 after CCA did not respond to a public-records request. The lawsuit, Friedmann v. CCA, argues that CCA performs a public function, and its records should be public. In 2002, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a private company performing a public function must make its records available to the public under the Tennessee Public Records Act. In Memphis Publishing Company v. Cherokee Children & Family Services, the court ruled that a nonprofit social service agency under state contract had to turn its records over to the Memphis Commercial Appeal because it was the "functional equivalent" of a government agency. "Public agencies cannot contract away the public's ability to review records that otherwise would be publicly accessibly under the state's open records law," said Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, in a press release. "The public's right to know is not delegable to private corporations." One FOI expert applauded the congressional bills that would make private-prison companies accountable to the federal FOIA. "I think that is a long-overdue fix," Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information coalition, said of the Private Prison Information Act of 2007. "This is a problem on the state level. This would fix it at the federal level in a way that would bring a whole lot of otherwise private operations into public scrutiny. We've seen lots of anecdotal evidence over the past decade for the need for public oversight and scrutiny." Some aspects of private-prison contracts are already accessible under FOIA, however. Flynn of the Reason Foundation argued that those provisions provide enough information. "The federal agencies that manage the contract with the private company are subject to the FOIA process. The agencies engage in regular and ongoing oversight of the contract, usually having [their] own employees in the facility full-time. All reports and studies from these monitors are subject to the FOIA process. Terms of the contract with the private company are subject to FOIA. Their progress in meeting any benchmarks detailed in the contract are subject to FOIA," said Flynn. "If there is relevant information that isn't available, it can be [added to] terms of the contract and then be subject to FOIA. There is no limit to what can be required to be disclosed to the agency, which would then be subject to FOIA." Davis agreed that FOIA's coverage of contracts between the government and private-prison companies was important, but said it didn't go far enough. "The contract piece is important and FOIA does do a good job with that," he said. "The contract data is just a sliver of the overall picture of what people should rightly have access to … . The vast majority of the information isn't covered." Davis mentioned "inspection reports, incident reports involving inmate violence, and just about any narrative report documenting inmate treatment." If the ACLU's or Prison Legal News' lawsuit succeeds in extracting records from private-prison corporations or if Congress passes the Private Prison Information Act, an increase in information from these prisons could bring light to a host of new issues. Some of these may well involve the First Amendment. U.S. courts frequently address issues related to access to publications, religious material, special diets and other claims of First Amendment violations from prisoners. "I think you could get better protections," said Flynn when asked about the First Amendment rights of prisoners in private facilities, "because they can be detailed in a contract with the private company. These protections can be mandated into the contract rather than litigated later." "The best part about having this information is that we would be able to act on it. Private companies can be fired. Public facilities cannot," Flynn said. Said Davis, "When you start getting the human narrative of incident reports, what's going on in these prisons on a day to day basis, they could be rife with corruption or running like a Swiss cruise ship."

July 3, 2008 New York Times
The federal immigration agency should report all deaths in detention promptly, not only to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, but also to state authorities where required by law, the inspector general has recommended after a “special review” of the deaths of two immigrant detainees. The detainees — a 60-year-old South Korean woman in Albuquerque and a 30-year-old Ecuadorean woman in St. Paul — were among dozens whose deaths in the custody of the agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have drawn scrutiny in the past year. Congress, advocates for immigrants and the news media have highlighted the lack of systematic accountability in such cases, and documented problems with the medical care provided in the detention system, a patchwork of county jails, privately run prisons and federal facilities. Both detainees died because of serious medical conditions that existed before they were detained. But the review found that the cases pointed to larger problems with oversight and medical care, including the failure to recognize or act on serious health care deficiencies in both detention centers that had been documented by routine inspections. The 55-page report, released Tuesday, did not name the two detainees, but one was Young Sook Kim, a cook who died of metastasized pancreatic cancer on Sept. 11, 2006, a day after she was taken to a hospital from the Regional Correctional Center in Albuquerque, a county prison operated by the Cornell Companies. A complaint to the inspector general’s hot line, testimony by a former employee, and an affidavit from a fellow detainee all contended that Ms. Kim had pleaded in vain for medical attention. The review found that it was already too late to save her life, and that Cornell clinical records showed the staff had responded to her written medical requests — albeit only by giving her antacid tablets when she complained of stomach pain. But the review confirmed complaints that Cornell was slow to deal with sick calls because of a nursing shortage: a government inspection in September 2006 found ailing detainees had to wait for as long as 30 days to see the medical staff. That inspection, by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, also found that only 11 of 20 detainees with chronic conditions were regularly scheduled for chronic care clinics, and that its policies did not fulfill requirements to notify the Homeland Security Department — the system’s parent agency — or the Justice Department of deaths. Ms. Kim’s death was not reported, as required, to state medical investigators. The immigration agency initially maintained that the county should have reported the death, but on Wednesday, a spokeswoman, Kelly Nantel, said that “as a result of the report,” the agency has directed that all deaths be reported to the appropriate state and federal authorities. The report also urged the immigration agency to pool information with the detention trustee. In September 2006, it noted, trustee inspectors gave the Albuquerque prison the lowest overall rating, “at risk” — two levels below acceptable. But because the two agencies do not routinely share information, the report said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed some 3,500 more detainees at the facility. Last August, the immigration agency removed all detainees after its inspectors found a host of other problems, including an inadequate suicide watch. The Minnesota case involved Maria Inamagua Merchan, a department store worker who was detained in the Ramsey County jail and died in April 2006. For more than a month, her persistent headaches had been treated only with Tylenol; when she fell from a bunk bed, several hours passed before she was taken to the hospital, where physicians diagnosed neurocysticercosis, an infection of the brain by larvae of the pork tapeworm. “We cannot determine with certainty whether this death could have been avoided had the detainee received immediate medical attention for head trauma,” the report said, after praising the authorities for promptly reporting the incident and for notifying the Consulate of Ecuador and the detainee’s spouse. But it recommended better medical screening and education about the parasite, which is endemic in parts of Latin America.

June 25, 2008 Press Release
The American Civil Liberties Union today sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for refusing to turn over thousands of public documents in their possession detailing the deaths of immigration detainees held in U.S. custody. The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes after repeated rejections by DHS officials of requests by the ACLU for critical information about the deaths of dozens of people in immigration detention. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring DHS to expedite the processing of the document request and conduct a reasonable search of the records in its possession in an effort to fully comply with the ACLU’s requests. “We know that the medical care provided in many immigration detention centers is grossly inadequate and has resulted in unnecessary suffering and death,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “DHS must not be allowed to keep information about in-custody deaths secret. It is imperative that ICE be held publicly accountable when it fails to provide the health care mandated by the U.S. Constitution.” Deficient medical care is believed to be a leading cause of death in immigration detention, and is the number one complaint the ACLU has received from ICE detainees. The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year against the San Diego Correctional Facility (SDCF), an ICE facility run by Corrections Corporations of America, Inc. (CCA), the country’s largest for-profit correctional services provider. In its lawsuit, the ACLU challenges flawed medical care policies and the denial of needed treatment by ICE and the Division of Immigration Health Services which has led to excruciating suffering and even death of numerous detainees at SDCF. In its Freedom of Information Act request submitted to DHS last year, the ACLU requested information about whether ICE – or any independent monitoring agency – adequately tracks deaths of immigration detainees, who are often housed in county jails around the country alongside criminal detainees, or in one of numerous immigration detention facilities managed by private prison companies. Past OIG reports to Congress have contained only vague and sporadic references to investigations into these deaths, and provide little useful information that would ensure the public that meaningful investigations are conducted into each death and that steps are being taken to guarantee that detainees receive necessary medical services before it is too late. “Unless ICE exhibits full transparency by releasing all of the information that we have requested, we are left little choice but to believe that it has something to hide,” Alexander said. Attorneys on the case include Tom Jawetz of the ACLU National Prison Project, Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, New York-based attorneys Natalie N. Kuehler and Benjamin R. Walker and Washington-based attorneys Margaret K. Pfeiffer and Lee Ann Anderson McCall. A copy of the ACLU lawsuit filed today can be found online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/35774lgl20080625.html A copy of the original FOIA request filed by the ACLU can be found online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/30260res20070627.html Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project can be found online at: www.aclu.org/prison/index.html

June 5, 2008 San Diego Union-Tribune
A class-action lawsuit alleging chronic overcrowding at an immigration jail in Otay Mesa was settled yesterday. The lawsuit said the overcrowding at the facility, run by Corrections Corp. of America for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, subjected immigration violators to health and safety risks. It also alleged the conditions violated due-process rights under the Constitution. Before the suit was filed in January 2007, the jail was so overcrowded it was “triple celling” hundreds of detainees, the suit alleged. That involved putting three people into cells designed for two, with the third sleeping on the cell floor in a plastic shell or “boat.” The facility housed 1,000 people at one point. After the suit was filed, federal authorities moved out more than 100 inmates, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the facility now holds no more than 700 people. The settlement agreement requires that detainee populations not exceed specified limits for the next three years. Corrections Corp.of America will have to show it is within the caps three times between now and January. If the requirements are met, the suit will be dropped. The settlement agreement is subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw. A spokesman for Corrections Corp.of America directed requests for comment to the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A spokeswoman for ICE said the agency has not admitted fault. “The parties agree by settling the case that there is no admission of wrongdoing, and ICE maintains that the agency houses its immigration detainee population, including those at the San Diego CCA facility, in a safe and secure environment that is in compliance with its national detention standards,” said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the agency in San Diego. David Blair-Loy, legal director for the ACLU in San Diego, said the lawsuit achieved the goal of stopping poor conditions for immigration detainees. “The population was at a very high level before we appeared in the case,” Blair-Loy said. “And after we appeared they reduced it and then maintained that for a year and a half.”

June 1, 2008 Chicago Tribune
Yanira Castaneda weeps at the empty space in her living room where she spent a year caring for her brother, who died last February at 36, a loss for which she blames the U.S. government. Francisco Castaneda had been in a federal immigrant detention center because he was an illegal immigrant with a drug conviction. During his 10-month stay, his signs of cancer went untreated until the facility made him a free, but sick, man. He died a year later. "If they do a crime, they should do their time, but take care of them," said a tearful Yanira Castaneda, 35, whose family in the Los Angeles area is continuing her brother's lawsuit against the government. "I think my brother could have been saved." His death is part of a growing body count linked to the nation's beefed-up detention system, alarming lawmakers and emerging as the newest Immigration controversy in a spate of Capitol hearings and media exposés. Federal Immigration officials say critics are exaggerating the problems. In the case of Castaneda, who fled El Salvador's civil war at age 10 with his family, the U.S. government in April admitted negligence. After federal authorities released him last year with signs of penile cancer, doctors had to amputate that organ in February 2007. But it was too late. Since 2003, when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was created, 83 deaths reportedly have been linked to detention sites run by ICE or by private contractors and local governments, including one detainee with coronary artery disease in a Chicago detention center and a suicide in McHenry County Jail. ICE said last month that it counted 71 deaths since 2004, but no public reporting requirements exist. Infrastructure expanded -- Unable to resolve what to do with the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants, Congress authorized ICE to build a vast detention infrastructure that now holds more than 300,000 detainees a year. The expansion, to 32,000 beds from 19,444 in 2004, has been fueled by recent crackdowns such as the end of the "catch-and-release" of unauthorized immigrants, experts say. "No bureaucracy can respond quickly to the sort of dramatic change that the country has seen with Immigration enforcement and detention over the last decade or so," said Louis DeSipio, associate professor at the University of California at Irvine. As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE "was ramping up quickly and wanted to show or impress Congress that it was responding rapidly, but it didn't respond to these other needs" such as medical care, DeSipio said. Last month, legislation was introduced to mandate health-care standards — now voluntary—in the more than 300 ICE detention facilities. It also would require all deaths be reported to Congress. But ICE officials contend that "detainees' health care is equal to or better than that provided to U.S. citizens in custody," according to statements in response to news reports. The death rate for detained immigrants is "dramatically lower" than that of U.S. prisons and jails, federal officials say. The 2005 rate was 6.8 deaths per 100,000 in ICE facilities compared with 540.5 per 100,000 in U.S. prisons and jails, according to the agency. Its 2007 death rate dropped to 3.5 per 100,000, officials said. "ICE is committed to providing all detainees in our care with humane and safe detention environments and ensuring that adequate medical services are available," said spokesman Richard Rocha. Last year the government spent almost $100 million on detainee health care, double the amount from five years ago, and did 184,448 medical screenings, with many detainees receiving health care for the first time, Rocha said. But Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of a subcommittee looking at detention medical care, contended that ICE failed to fix its health system even after hearings last October. "If [ICE officials] say they meet these standards, they are not to be relied on. I'm often disappointed that what they say is true turns out not to be correct," said Lofgren, who asserted that some detainees died because staffers withheld required medicine. She said some medical procedures recommended by physicians have to be reviewed in Washington by "a non-physician who's never seen the patient." "The policies themselves foster poor medical care," she said. "No matter where you are on the spectrum of Immigration reform, you got people in custody. You can't kill them." Tom Jawetz, an attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project, said the ICE figures don't include ill individuals who die after being deported or released. Lawsuits filed -- In the wake of the detention buildup, Jawetz began filing class-action lawsuits against ICE last year, including one alleging overcrowding and another for deficient health care at the same 800-bed facility in Otay Mesa, Calif. That center is operated by the private Corrections Corporation of America, which is seeking a second facility with 3,000 beds there for an as-yet undisclosed use. In court documents, Francisco Castaneda alleged ICE released him "presumably" to avoid the cost of cancer treatment. "I can tell you that Castaneda is a perfect example of why the [death] numbers are skewed," said Castaneda's lawyer, Conal Doyle. Human-rights advocate Homer Venters said ICE's figure of one out of every three detainees having pre-existing chronic conditions shows the agency needs a model for chronic health care, not just acute care. Detainees' average stay of 37.5 days makes comparisons to U.S. prisons' death rates "unduly rosy," according to Venters and Allen Keller, a physician and the director of New York University's School of Medicine Center for Health and Human Rights. To improve care, the federal agency has recruited non-governmental groups and experts to rewrite detention standards, and has hired two firms to inspect how centers are managed. "While a single death of an ICE detainee is a serious matter," ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said, "we strive to maintain safe, secure and humane detention conditions and to ensure that all detainees receive quality health care."

May 11, 2008 Washington Post
At the agency in Washington responsible for foreign detainees' medical care, internal documents reveal a tendency to conceal the truth by withholding complete medical records or by offering misleading public explanations. But e-mail exchanges speak for themselves in the death of Francisco Castaneda. Castaneda's family had fled the civil war in El Salvador when he was 10 years old, but his mother died of cancer before she could obtain legal status for her children. Castaneda began working at 17 and eventually got involved with drugs. After living for nearly a quarter-century in Los Angeles, he was being deported after serving a four-month sentence for drug possession. In March 2006, immigration officers took him into custody. Medical staff members suspected that Castaneda, then 34, had penile cancer. A lesion on his penis was bleeding and oozing. The staff sought approval for a biopsy, but the Division of Immigration Health Services, or DIHS, headquarters in Washington denied the procedure for 10 months. Along the way, as he fought deportation, Castaneda filed several grievances. "I am in a considerable amount of pain and I am in desperate need of medical attention," he wrote in June. "I feel that I am entitled to a healthy life." In July, David Lusche, a physician assistant at the Otay Mesa facility in California, where Castaneda was being held, realized that his grievances were still pending and that an audit of the compound's medical files was approaching. At 2:26 a.m. July 28, he e-mailed a colleague, asking him to retrieve a handwritten grievance from Castaneda that Lusche had left in a drawer in an examining room. "We need to write something different, or make some amendment, on the Grievance for Francisco Castaneda," Lusche wrote. ". . . Your response starts, 'Grievance not resolved.' Those words are going to attract all kinds of attention during an ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] Jail Standards audit. . . . Could you somehow 'patch up' that Grievance with an amendment then put it in my box. I just want to avoid problems when the Auditors show up." Anthony Walker, a physician assistant at Otay Mesa, responded at 10:10 a.m. the next day: "But it is true, unfortunately, this is a case where his grievance is correct and I don't blame the detainee." After pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, a biopsy was finally scheduled for early February 2007. But immigration officials suddenly released Castaneda from custody days before the surgery, sparing the agency the cost. When the DIHS medical director, Timothy T. Shack, was asked to review the case, he concluded: "I looked over about 200 pages of medical records for this case. In my opinion, the care provided to this detainee was, and is, timely and appropriate." One week later after the review, UCLA doctors gave Castaneda a diagnosis of invasive squamous cell carcinoma. On Valentine's Day, surgeons amputated his penis. In October, after rounds of chemotherapy, he testified before a congressional panel looking into detainee medical care. "I am a 35-year-old man without a penis with my life on the line," he said. "I have a young daughter, Vanessa, who is only 14. She is here with me today because she wanted to support me -- and because I wanted her to see her father do something for the greater good, so that she will have that memory of me. The thought that her pain -- and mine -- could have been avoided almost makes this too much to bear." On Feb. 16, 2008, Castaneda died. U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson denied a government request to dismiss the lawsuit brought on Castaneda's behalf. In his March 11 ruling, the judge said lawyers had "submitted powerful evidence that Defendants knew Castaneda needed a biopsy to rule out cancer, falsely stated that his doctors called the biopsy 'elective,' and let him suffer in extreme pain for almost one year while telling him to be 'patient' and treating him with Ibuprofen, antihistamines, and extra pairs of boxer shorts." Pregerson added: "Defendants' own records bespeak of conduct that transcends negligence by miles. It bespeaks of conduct that, if true, should be taught to every law student as conduct for which the moniker 'cruel' is inadequate."

May 11, 2008 Washington Post
Neil Sampson, who ran the DIHS as interim director most of last year, left that job with serious questions about the government's commitment. Sampson said in an interview that ICE treated detainee health care "as an afterthought," reflecting what he called a failure of leadership and management at the Homeland Security Department. "They do not have a clear idea or philosophy of their approach to health care [for detainees]," he said. "It's a system failure, not a failure of individuals." A new director for health services arrived six months ago, following a stretch when the agency was run first by Sampson and then by a second interim director. The new boss is LaMont W. Flanagan, who brought with him the credential of having been fired in 2003 by the state of Maryland for bad management and spending practices supervising detention and pretrial services. An audit found that Flanagan had signed off on payments of $145,000 for employee entertainment and other ill-advised expenditures. His reputation was such that the District of Columbia would not hire him for a juvenile-justice position. "Another death that needs to be added to the roster," Diane Aker, the DIHS chief health administrator, tapped out in an e-mail to a records clerk at headquarters on Aug. 14, 2007. Juan Guevara-Lorano, 21, was dead. Guevara, an unemployed legal U.S. resident with a young son, was arrested in El Paso for driving illegal border-crossers farther into the city. He was paid $50. An entry-level emergency medical technician, with barely any training, had done Guevara's intake screening and physical assessment at the Otero County immigration compound in New Mexico. Under DIHS rules, those tasks are supposed to be done by a nurse. After two difficult months in detention, Guevara had decided not to appeal his case. He would go back to Mexico with his family. But on Aug. 4, he came down with a splitting headache, what he called a nine on a pain scale of 10, his medical records show. The rookie medical technician prescribed Tylenol and referred Guevara to the compound's physician "due to severity of headache ... and dizziness," according to medical records. But Guevara never saw a doctor. Eight days after the first incident, he vomited in his cell. The same junior technician came to help but was unable to insert a nasal airway tube. Guevara was taken to a hospital, where doctors determined an aneurism in his brain had burst. His wife, pregnant at the time with their second child, recalled that she rushed to the hospital but ICE guards would not let her inside, until the Mexican Consulate interceded. Guevara's mother waited five hours before they let her in. By then he was brain-dead. "My son is not coming back," sobbed Ana Celia Lozano months later, sitting in Guevara's small mobile home as her grandson played on the floor. "I want to know how he lived and died, nothing more." What appears to be the most incriminating document in Guevara's case has been partially blacked out. Still, what is left shows that he did not receive adequate care. "The detainee was not seen or evaluated by an RN, midlevel or physician. . . . At the time of the incident on 8/12/2007, the detainee was seen and examined by EMTs." Each immigration facility is allotted a different number of positions, and a shortage of doctors and nurses is not unusual at centers across the country. Records from February show that about 30 percent of all DIHS positions in the field were unfilled. ICE officials said last week that the current vacancy rate is 21 percent. Concern about the vacancies is voiced repeatedly at clinical directors' meetings. "How do we state our concerns so that we can be heard? . . . this is a CRITICAL condition. . . . We have bitten off more than we can chew," a physician wrote in the minutes of one meeting last summer. In some prisons, the staffing shortages are acute. The Willacy County detention center in South Texas -- the largest compound, with 2,018 detainees -- has no clinical director, no pharmacist and only a part-time psychiatrist. Nearly 50 percent of the nursing positions were unfilled at the 1,500-detainee Eloy, Ariz., prison in February. At the newly opened 744-bed Jena., La., compound, nurses run the place. It has no clinical director, no staff physician, no psychiatrist and no professional dental staff. Last August, Sampson, who was then DIHS interim director, warned his superiors at ICE that critical personnel shortages were making it impossible to staff the Jena facility adequately. In a vociferous e-mail to Gary Mead, the ICE deputy director in charge of detention centers, he wrote: "With the Jena request we have been re-examining our capabilities to meet health care needs at a new site when we are facing critical staffing shortages at most every other DIHS site. While we developed, executed and achieved major successes in our recruitment efforts we have been unable to meet the demand." The slow ICE security-clearance process forced many job applicants to go elsewhere, Sampson wrote. Of the 312 people who applied for new positions over the past year, 200 withdrew, he wrote, because they found other jobs during the 250 days it took ICE, on average, to conduct the required background investigations. Last week, ICE officials said the average wait had decreased recently to 37 days. These shortages have burdened the remaining staff. In July 2007, a year after Osman's death in Otay Mesa, medical director Hui strongly complained to headquarters about workload stress. "The level of burnout . . . is high and rising," she wrote in an e-mail. "I know that I have been averaging approximately 2-6 hrs of overtime daily for the past 2 months. I will no longer be able to sustain this pace and will be decreasing the number of hours that I work overtime. This being said, more will be left undone because we simply do NOT have the staff." The overcrowding has created a petri dish for the spread of diseases. One mission of the Public Health Service is to detect infectious diseases and contain them before they spread, but last summer, the gigantic Willacy center was hit by a chicken pox outbreak. The illness spread because the facility did not have enough available isolation rooms and its large pods share recycled air, but also because security officers "lack education about the disease and keep moving around detainees from different units without taking into consideration if the unit has been isolated due to heavy exposure," noted the DIHS's top specialist on infectious diseases, Carlos Duchesne. The staff was forced to vaccinate the entire population in mid-July. In one 2007 death, memos and confidential notes show how medical staff missed an infectious disease, meningitis, in their midst. Victor Alfonso Arellano, 23, a transgender Mexican detainee with AIDS, died in custody at the San Pedro center. The first three pages of Duchesne's internal review of the death leave the impression that Arellano's care was proper. But the last page, under the heading "Off the record observations and recommendations," takes a decidedly critical tone: "The clinical staff at all levels fails to recognize early signs and symptoms of meningitis. . . . Pt was evaluated multiple times and an effort to rule out those infections was not even mentioned." Arellano was given a "completely useless" antibiotic, Duchesne wrote. Lab work that should have been performed immediately took 22 days because San Pedro's clinical director had ordered staff members to withhold lab work for new detainees until they had been in detention there "for more than 30 days," a violation of agency rules. "I am sure that there must be a reason why this was mandated but that practice is particularly dangerous with chronic care cases and specially is particularly dangerous with . . . HIV/AIDS patients," Duchesne wrote. "Labs for AIDS patients . . . must be performed ASAP to know their immune status and where you are standing in reference to disease control and meds." Given the frequency with which ICE moves people within the detention network, keeping track of detainees is critical to stopping the spread of infectious illnesses. The purchase of an electronic records system named CaseTrakker in 2004 was supposed to help. But according to internal documents and interviews, CaseTrakker is so riddled with problems that facilities often revert to handwritten records. A study at one site found that it took one-third more time to use CaseTrakker than to use paper. Thousands of patient files are missing. Recorded data often cannot be retrieved. Day-long outages are common. When detainees are transferred from one facility to another, their records, if they follow them, are often misleading. Some show medications with no medical diagnoses, or "lots of diagnoses but no meds," according to Elizabeth Fleming, a former clinical director at one compound in Arizona. After Yusif Osman's death and the discovery of the problem with his computerized records, the DIHS ordered a review of all charts at the Otay Mesa center. During the review, auditors also found that 260 physical exams were never completed as required. The nurse responsible for the error in Osman's case was reprimanded, but the computer problem was not fixed. The CaseTrakker system "has failed and must be replaced," Sampson, the DIHS interim director, wrote to his ICE supervisors in August. In January 2008, medical director Shack told colleagues that CaseTrakker "is more of a liability than the use of paper medical record system," according to the minutes of a meeting. It "puts patients at risk." ICE officials said last week that they are not satisfied with CaseTrakker and are working to replace it. Along with being at the mercy of computer glitches, detainees suffer from human errors that deny or delay their care. And with few advocates on the outside, they are left alone to plead their cases in the most desperate ways, in hand-scribbled notes to doctors they rarely see. "I need medicine for pain. All my bones hurt. Thank you," wrote Mexico native Roberto Ledesma Guerrero, 72, three weeks before he died inside the Otay Mesa compound. Delays persist throughout the system. In January, the detention center in Pearsall, Tex., an hour from San Antonio, had a backlog of 2,097 appointments. Luis Dubegel-Paez, a 60-year-old Cuban, had filled out many sick call requests before he died on March 14. Detained at the Rolling Plains Detention Facility in the West Texas town of Haskell, he wrote on New Year's Day: "need to see doctor for Heart medication; and having chest pains for the past three days. Can't stand pain." Ten days later he went to the clinic and became upset when he wasn't seen. He slugged the window, yelled, pointed at his wristwatch. He was escorted back to his cell. Another of his sick call requests said: "Need to see a doctor. I have a lot of symptoms of sickness ... as soon as possible!" The next was more urgent: "I have a emergency to see the doctor about my heart problems ... for the last couple days and I been getting dizzy a lot." The next day, Dubegel-Paez collapsed and died. His medical records do not show that he ever saw a doctor for his chest pains.

August 31, 2007 Government Executive
Federal officials reported this week that they have reviewed contracts with private security firms hired to guard federal facilities and have made overdue payments to them. But a lawmaker said she will continue to monitor the situation. A report released by the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the bureau paid more than $2.6 million in undisputed claims by Aug. 3, and planned to review another $3.8 million of disputed invoices. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, which she chairs, will continue to monitor the disputed claims. Norton said that reforms at ICE -- including appointing an ombudsman to oversee the bureau's invoicing system and providing training for contract guard vendors -- will help "eliminate security risks to federal employees where they work." The report detailed steps the agency had taken since July to solve problems with its invoicing system. ICE has appointed additional financial personnel to "provide hands-on support" to the Federal Protective Service, the agency responsible for managing contract guards. ICE also sent a memo on July 30 to all its contract guard vendors on new consolidated invoice procedures and instituted weekly status reports and conference calls to assess progress on contract guard payments. The report says the agency would continue to make adjustments "if needed." Norton requested the ICE report to assess progress on paying contract guards, some of whom claimed in July that they had gone into bankruptcy or been forced to borrow money because the government did not pay them in a timely manner. Some vendors found it difficult to meet their payroll requirements as a result. "This large amount in overdue, undisputed claims from FPS endangered security at federal sites because it carried the risk that guards would fail to show up for work," Norton said. Norton also has proposed the Federal Protective Service Guard Contracting Reform Act, which would prohibit the federal government from contracting with companies owned, controlled or operated by people who have been convicted of felonies. Norton wrote the bill in response to the discovery that STARTECH International Security, a private guard vendor, had received funds from the government but had not paid its employees. STARTECH's owner had served time in prison for fraud. The bill has passed the subcommittee and will face full committee review in September.

March 6, 2006 USA Today
The guards have taken their concerns to Congress, describing inadequate training, failed security tests and slow or confused reactions to bomb and biological threats. For instance, when an envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at Homeland Security Department headquarters, guards said they watched in amazement as superiors carried it by the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby. The scare, caused by white powder that proved to be harmless, "stands as one glaring example" of the agency's security problems, said Derrick Daniels, one of the first guards to respond to the incident. "I had never previously been given training ... describing how to respond to a possible chemical attack," Daniels told The Associated Press. "I wouldn't feel safe nowhere on this compound as an officer." Daniels was employed until last fall by Wackenhut Services Inc., the private security firm that guards Homeland's headquarters in a residential area of Washington. The company has been criticized previously for its work at nuclear facilities and transporting nuclear weapons. Homeland Security officials say they have little control over Wackenhut's training of guards but plan to improve that with a new contract. The company defends its performance, saying the suspicious powder incident was overblown because the mail had already been irradiated. Two senators who fielded complaints from several Wackenhut employees are asking Homeland's internal watchdog, the inspector general, to investigate. "If the allegations brought forward by the whistle-blowers are correct, they represent both a security threat and a waste of taxpayer dollars," Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote. "It would be ironic, to say the least, if DHS were unable to secure its own headquarters." Daniels left Wackenhut and now works security for another company at another federal building. He is among 14 current and former Wackenhut employees — mostly guards — who were interviewed by The Associated Press or submitted written statements to Congress that were obtained by AP. A litany of problems were listed by the guards, whose pay ranges from $15.60 to $23 an hour based on their position and level of security clearance. Among their examples of lax security: •They have no training in responding to attacks with weapons of mass destruction; •Chemical-sniffing dogs have been replaced with ineffective equipment that falsely indicates the presence of explosives. •Vehicle entrances to Homeland Security's complex are lightly guarded; •Guards with radios have trouble hearing each other, or have no radios, no batons and no pepper spray, leaving them with few options beyond lethal force with their handguns. Over the last two years, the Energy Department inspector general concluded that Wackenhut guards had thwarted simulated terrorist attacks at a nuclear lab only after they were tipped off to the test; and that guards also had improperly handled the transport of nuclear and conventional weapons. Homeland Security is based at a gated, former Navy campus in a college neighborhood — several miles from the heavily trafficked streets that house the FBI, Capitol, Treasury Department and White House. Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle said Wackenhut guards are still operating under a contract signed with the Navy, and the agency has little control over their training. A soon-to-be-implemented replacement contract will impose new requirements on security guards, he said. Daniels, the former guard who responded to the white powder incident, said the area where the powder was found wasn't evacuated for more than an hour. Available biohazard face shields went unused. Daniels said that after the envelope was taken outside, and the order finally given to evacuate the potentially infected area, employees had already gone to lunch and had to be rounded up and quarantined. Former guard Bryan Adams recognized his inadequate training one day last August, when an employee reported a suspicious bag in the parking lot. "I didn't have a clue about what to do," he said. Adams said he closed the vehicle checkpoint with a cone, walked over to the bag and called superiors. Nobody cordoned off the area. Eventually, someone called a federal bomb squad, which arrived more than an hour after the discovery. "If the bag had, in fact, contained the explosive device that was anticipated, the bomb could have detonated several times over in the hour that the bag sat there," Adams said. The bag, it turned out, contained gym clothes. Some guards who continue to work at Homeland, who would speak only on condition of anonymity because of fear of losing their jobs, said they knew of two instances in which individuals without identification got into the sensitive complex. Another described how guards flunked a test by the Secret Service, which sent vehicles into the compound with dummy government identification tags hanging from inside mirrors. Guards cleared such vehicles through on two occasions, this guard said, and one officer even copied down the false information without realizing it was supposed to match information on the employee's government badge. Marixa Farrar, a former guard, said two guards always should have been stationed inside the main building where Chertoff had his office, but she often was on duty alone. One day last fall a fire alarm rang. As employees walked by Farrar, they asked if this was a fire or a test. "There were no radios, so I couldn't figure out if it was a serious alarm," she said. There was no fire.

Department of Justice
Jul 9, 2021 capradio.org

As California Pushes To Eliminate Immigrant Detention Centers, New Report Shines Light On Detainee Deaths

Detainees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in California and elsewhere are at risk of preventable deaths due to poor medical care, according to a new study from the University of Southern California. Advocates say the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic, and they're pushing to eliminate private detention facilities in the state. Seventy-one detainees died while in ICE custody between 2011 and 2018, according to the study. Of the 55 deaths that the authors could review, they found 78% involved a violation of national standards for medical care in detention facilities. In some cases, that meant abnormal vital signs being documented at more than one medical check-up before the detainee was transferred to a hospital. These detainees spent an average of 39 days in detention before their deaths. Their mean age at death was 43 years old. Most did not have serious medical conditions when they entered the facility. Autumn Gonzalez, an organizer with advocacy group NorCal Resist, says the findings were not a surprise. "The lack of human decency in how they treated people was pretty shocking to me," she said, of working with people recently released from ICE custody. "I'm constantly hearing stories of people who had really serious long-term health issues that just went completely ignored the entire time that they were in detention." ICE did not immediately respond to CapRadio's request for comment. A January study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that ICE center detainee deaths between 2019 and 2020 increased sevenfold,  even as the average daily population in the detention facilities decreased by nearly one-third during that time. Researchers found that about half of the deaths during that period were due to preventable causes such as influenza, COVID-19 and suicide. The California Department of Justice also released a report in January calling out inadequate conditions at ICE facilities. They looked at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Southern California, and found that the facility "is understaffed, offers no meaningful therapy services, provides delayed care, and fails to adequately handle detainees placed in suicide watch, among other issues." "This is a longstanding issue, which during COVID has sort of been exacerbated," said Lisa Knox,  legal director for the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice. "We've long known that detention is unsafe, and that particular the medical and mental health services that are provided in detention facilities are inadequate." California lawmakers are trying to improve the situation. A bill that would require all private detention facility operators to comply with state and local public health orders is currently moving through the legislature and would take effect immediately if it's signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Immigration advocates are also seeking to abolish all private prisons and detention facilities in California. Newsom signed a bill in 2019 to phase out these facilities. California would be prohibited from housing people in these centers starting in 2028. But the bill is facing legal opposition from the federal Department of Justice. California lawmakers wrote a letter to the department last month asking them to let it stand. "A lot of organizations are pushing the Biden administration to drop that challenge, but we'll see," Gonzalez said. "They haven't been the allies that we were hoping for." Advocates say the state can also reduce the number of ICE detention deaths by ending the practice of transferring California prison inmates to federal immigration custody when their sentences end.

Jan 26, 2021  yahoo.com
Justice Department to End Federal Contracts With Private Prisons

In the 1990s, Joe Biden bragged that his work in the U.S. Senate helped America win the “War on Crime.” Decades later, one of his first acts as president will be to undo one of the most potent symbols of that record. Included in a raft of executive orders designed to address systemic racism in the housing and criminal justice systems that Biden intends to sign on Tuesday afternoon is an order ending the Department of Justice’s use of private prisons. Such facilities, operated across the country, are a billion-dollar industry, paid for with taxpayer money and often plagued by dehumanizing conditions for inmates, minimal training of personnel, and work conditions that former detainees liken to slave labor. “Mass incarceration imposes significant costs on our society and community, while private prisons profiteer off federal prisoners and have been found by the Department of Justice’s own inspector general to be less safe and secure,” a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing ahead of the announcement of the executive orders’ contents, calling the policy a “first step in his broader criminal justice agenda.” “President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer,” the official said. “That starts with ending the federal government’s reliance on private prisons.” As the architect of the landmark legislation he once dubbed “The Biden Crime Bill,” Biden spent much of the Democratic presidential primaries on the back foot as rivals for the nomination attacked the law as a driving force behind the modern carceral state. Amid nationwide protests over police brutality against Black Americans and in favor of wide-scale criminal justice reform over the summer, Biden expressed regret over some aspects of that bill, which included funds for the vast expansion of America’s prison system, and vowed to undo the damage if elected. “‘I can’t breath.’ It’s a wake-up call for our nation, for all of us,” Biden said in June, quoting the dying words of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was killed as a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. “It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words—they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago. But it’s time to listen to these words, understand them, and respond to them with real action.” Under the order, Biden directs the attorney general—as-yet-unconfirmed Judge Merrick Garland—to not renew any Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. The administration official said they did not know exactly how much money would be saved by ending the use of private prisons, but added cost savings were not “the motivating factor.” “The motivating factor, however, was the fact that private prisons, not only, you know, encouraged profiteering off of human lives but more importantly had been shown by the Department of Justice Inspector General report to be subpar in terms of safety and security for those incarcerated and so that is the rationale for ending the contracts with private private prisons,” the official said. “When they come up for renewal, they won’t be renewed.” Under the Trump administration, use of private prisons exploded as private prisons began serving double duty as immigrant detention centers, where undocumented immigrants—including those seeking legal asylum—frequently suffered from the same inhumane conditions as other inmates. Asked by The Daily Beast whether the order includes private prison facilities operated as immigrant detention centers, which fall under the Department of Homeland Security’s authority, a White House spokesperson clarified that the order only applies to the Department of Justice.” Lobbying expenses and political donations by the industry skyrocketed over the past four years, an indication that Biden’s executive order may face stiff opposition from congressional recipients of the industry’s largesse.

Jun 17, 2017 motherjones.com
Lawsuit Accuses Private Prison Company of Illegally Funding a Trump Super-PAC
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump has been very good for private prison executives. After the Justice Department announced earlier this year that it would continue using private lockups—a reversal of an Obama policy announced in 2016—prison companies’ stock prices soared. Now, a campaign finance watchdog is suing to figure out whether one of these prison companies influenced the Trump administration’s policy reversal by donating large sums to a pro-Trump super-PAC during the 2016 presidential campaign. In August and November, GEO Group, the country’s biggest private prison company, donated a total of $225,000 through a subsidiary to a pro-Trump super-PAC, according to campaign disclosures. The super-PAC, Rebuilding America Now, had been heartily endorsed by the Trump team; Mike Pence said contributions to the group would be “one of the best ways to stop Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump our next president.” But according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Campaign Legal Center, the prison company’s decision to fund the super-PAC allegedly violated federal law, which prohibits government contractors from making political contributions. GEO Corrections Holdings made a donation of $100,000 on August 19, just one day after the Obama administration announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons because of their high rates of violence. In November, before Election Day, the GEO subsidiary made another donation to Rebuilding America Now. After Trump’s inauguration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would continue its relationship with private prisons. The following month, GEO won a $110 million contract to build a federal immigrant detention center in Texas. In its lawsuit, the Campaign Legal Center is asking the Justice Department to turn over documents related to the administration’s decision to keep working with private prisons. In particular, the nonprofit watchdog is seeking records that might shed light on whether the administration’s decision was influenced by GEO contributions to the pro-Trump super-PAC. The Campaign Legal Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request for these records more than three months ago. But the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has delayed the fulfillment of the request, according to the lawsuit, which seeks to speed up the disclosure process. “GEO made illegal contributions to influence the election, and now DOJ is refusing to release the documents that might show whether the Administration rewarded GEO for its illegal spending,” Adav Noti, a senior director at the Campaign Legal Center and a former associate general counsel for policy at the Federal Election Commission, said in a statement. GEO Group denies the allegation that its contributions broke campaign finance laws. “These are absolutely baseless and meritless allegations. All of our company’s contributions have been fully compliant with all applicable laws,” the company said in a statement to Mother Jones. It defended its $110 million contract to build an immigrant detention facility in Texas. “The contract we were awarded by the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Justice, was part of a competitive procurement process which was initiated by the Obama Administration in 2015.” It also noted that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has worked with private prison companies since the 1990s.GEO noted in December that its subsidiary’s super-PAC donations were legal because its subsidiary “is a non-contracting legal entity and has no contracts with any federal agency.” However, a page on USASpending.gov, a government website, suggests the subsidiary did receive funds from a federal contract in the past. A spokesman for the GEO Group told Mother Jones that the information on the USASpending.gov page was incorrect and “GEO Corrections Holdings has never held any federal contracts.” The Federal Election Commission has yet to weigh in on the matter.

Apr 27, 2017 themarshallproject.org
Congressman Calls for Probe into Private Prisoner Transport
A Florida congressman urged his colleagues and the Department of Justice on Wednesday to investigate deaths and abuses on for-profit prisoner transport vehicles, renewing calls for scrutiny of the industry first raised on Capitol Hill last summer. Rep. Ted Deutch (D.-Fla) cited a recent Marshall Project story of a 29-year-old New York man who died in March on a bus operated by Prisoner Transportation Services, the nation’s largest extradition company. It was at least the fifth prisoner death on a PTS vehicle since 2012. “I am extremely concerned with recent reports describing horrific conditions and loss of life,” Deutch said at a general Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Marshals. Deutch has repeatedly called for a hearing to probe the lack of federal oversight of private prisoner transport companies. After a Marshall Project investigation on the industry was published in the New York Times in July, then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch promised her office would report back to the committee on the issue. But there has been little follow-up. After Deutch’s remarks, the subcommittee moved onto other topics without comment, as is common at general oversight hearings. It is not clear if a hearing will be scheduled. Every year, tens of thousands of men and women — many of whom have not been convicted of a crime — are transported by private extradition companies to faraway jurisdictions where they have open arrest warrants or pending criminal cases. Countless state and local law enforcement agencies hire these companies, paying by the mile. Since 2000, the industry has been responsible for 16 deaths, 14 alleged sexual assaults, 60 escapes, and more than 50 crashes, The Marshall Project found. Kevin Eli, the Queens man who died last month, was being transported from Virginia to Florida to face a nine-year-old burglary charge. Passengers said he begged for medical attention but was ignored by guards until it was too late. At Wednesday’s hearing, Deutch noted that lawmakers could revisit and strengthen a 2000 federal law meant to regulate the extradition industry, commonly known as Jeanna’s Act. The law has been enforced only once. Deutch then asked the two witnesses at the hearing — Thomas Kane, acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, and David Harlow, acting director of the U.S. Marshals — whether the federal government contracts with PTS. Both said no and added that extradition companies are used mainly by state and local agencies.

Dec 11, 2016 themarshallproject.org
Federal Official Urges Probe of ‘Abuse’ on Private Prisoner Transport
A federal transportation regulator has urged the Justice Department to investigate accusations of “human rights violations” on privately run vans that carry tens of thousands of prisoners across long distances every year. Deb Miller, vice chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, made her comments last month, echoing calls from lawmakers this summer for a probe of Prisoner Transportation Services, the nation’s largest private extradition company, and others in the field. The company was highlighted in a Marshall Project investigation that revealed a pattern of deaths and abuse in the industry. “The problems of prisoner abuse, sexual assault, and medical neglect by Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC… are very concerning,” Miller wrote in a comment appended to the board’s Nov. 10 decision to grant approval for PTS to merge with its largest competitor, U.S. Corrections. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee in July — shortly after The Marshall Project story was published — that her office would review apparent lapses in federal oversight of prisoner transport companies. A spokesman for the Justice Department said recently the agency is still working on a report. The merger between PTS and U.S. Corrections had been put on hold on Aug. 9 after the Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit prisoner advocacy group, filed an objection to the deal, arguing that both companies have a history of prisoner abuse. Those concerns, however, were deemed to be outside of the Surface Transportation Board’s purview, which is focused narrowly on the economic impact of a merger. For-profit extradition companies transport suspects, fugitives, and others with open arrest warrants across state lines to where they are wanted. Many of these prisoners are first held in a local jail, sometimes for weeks, before they are picked up for the transport. The companies are governed by a 2000 federal law commonly known as Jeanna’s Act, which sets out some broad standards for treatment of prisoners. But the legislation has only been enforced one time in the 16 years since, despite at least 60 prisoner escapes, 50 crashes, 14 alleged instances of sexual assault, and 16 deaths on these vans during that time, The Marshall Project investigation found. The story prompted some changes at PTS, which is based in Tennessee and has contracts with state corrections departments and hundreds of local law enforcement agencies. At least four prisoners have died aboard PTS vans from alleged abuse or medical neglect since 2012. PTS officials declined to comment on those deaths. In a recent interview at the company headquarters, Alan Sielbeck, the chief owner of PTS, and its new president, Joel Brasfield, said six of their 29 vans have been outfitted with cameras, although the software for recording and saving footage has not yet been installed. They said they hoped it would be available soon and the entire fleet would have cameras within 12 months. When asked how the video will be used, the officials said it would be too costly to record and preserve all of it for more than a few weeks. Simply having the devices in the fleet would influence guards and inmates to behave better, they said. In addition, PTS officials said they have increased their staffing to 80 guards from about 35 so each of them can have more time off. Instead of getting only 12 hours to rest in between every 36 hours of driving, they will now have 24-hour breaks every two days — although that schedule depends on finding a jail along the way that is willing to take the inmates overnight. To prevent further deadly emergencies during transit, Sielbeck and Brasfield said they have prioritized the position of “medical verification” officer to obtain advance information from jails about medical problems of inmates picked up by PTS. If an inmate has a severe diagnosis, he or she can be escorted on a commercial flight instead of a days-long trip in one of the vans. PTS said it does not yet have enough data to determine whether air transports have become more common. “We’re kind of a slave to that holding agency,” Brasfield said. He said jails can withhold medical information either intentionally or unintentionally. Meanwhile, classroom training for guards has been upped to two weeks from three days, including lessons on what to do if an inmate is in distress. Seatbelts have also been installed in six of the vans, although Brasfield acknowledged they may be removed because “the industry has gone back and forth” about whether the straps and buckles can be used as weapons or to pick locks. Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, who questioned Lynch about the federal government’s role in monitoring prisoner transportation companies, called PTS’s efforts encouraging but said he plans to continue advocating for oversight of the industry. “We need to stay on this and make sure things are carried out effectively,” Deutch said. “We’re going to share this information with Justice and hope that it spurs action,” he added, noting that the department’s upcoming report will allow him to “determine whether additional legislative action is necessary.” Despite emphasizing the improvements, PTS officials defended their business model. Sielbeck, who described himself as “a self-avowed capitalist,” said there’s no clear alternative to for-profit prisoner transport. “The government can do it different but very seldom does the government do it better,” he said, referring to the U.S. Marshals and local sheriffs. Asked about claims of abuse and neglect that have been made by inmates, Sielbeck said, “The transported community can take stories and embellish them.” Sielbeck and Brasfield also pointed out that PTS is more compliant with federal regulations than some of its mom-and-pop competitors, which use minivans not covered by the same passenger carrier rules. They suggested they might even advocate more scrutiny of the industry and demand that states put more safety requirements in their contracts with these companies. But when pressed on whether PTS would actually demand such higher standards, the officials said they do not have a large budget for lobbying and would only share their ideas about how to better regulate the industry if contacted by the government. They added that they believed chances of that happening under the incoming Trump administration are slim.

Oct 20, 2016 motherjones.com
Private Prison Company Bankrolls Pro-Trump Super-PAC
It's unusual for a publicly traded corporation to donate to a super-PAC, but in August, private prison company GEO Group steered $150,000 to Rebuild America Now, a pro-Donald Trump outfit launched by the GOP nominee's longtime friend, developer Tom Barrack. The timing of the GEO Group's contribution is significant. It cut a $100,000 check to the super-PAC on August 19, the day after the Justice Department announced that it would phase out the use of private prisons. (The company's political action committee donated $50,000 to Rebuild America Now a week before the announcement.) The multibillion-dollar-a-year private prison industry has been under increasing scrutiny, in part thanks to a groundbreaking investigation by Mother Jones that revealed a litany of disturbing practices at a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. GEO Group is one of just three companies that operate prisons and detention centers on behalf of the federal government. It's no surprise the company is putting its money behind Trump. While Hillary Clinton has sharply criticized private prisons, Trump has expressed support for expanding their use, and his policy proposals, including his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, could be a boon for the industry. In addition to backing Trump, the company recently brought on three lobbying firms to represent its interests in Washington. Trump was not the GEO Group's top choice for president. During the Republican primary campaign, the GEO Group gave $100,000 to a super-PAC backing Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The company's CEO, George Zoley, also donated to Rubio's presidential campaign. A spokesman for the GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment.

Oct 14, 2016 washingtonpost.com
Private prison industry fights Justice Department directive to end the use of contract facilities
The private prison industry is lobbying against a Justice Department directive to end the use of their facilities, encouraging legislators to question the policy change and legally protesting one significant contract reduction. The moves by the GEO Group and others demonstrate the practical and political hurdles that stand in the way of the Bureau of Prisons actually ending its use of for-profit facilities to manage federal inmates. The private prison industry claims that the decision to do so was based on faulty research and that officials need contractors because of overcrowding in the federal prison system. “We think the private sector facilities did very well, that they were comparably secure, and in some important respects, they were better,” said George Zoley, chairman and chief executive of the GEO Group, which operates six facilities. The private prison industry, which generates billions of dollars in revenue, has become a powerful lobbying force on Capitol Hill, and officials say they have tried since the Justice Department announcement to rally legislators to their side. Last month, six Republican representatives from Texas, California and Georgia sent a letter asking the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons to “step back” from the directive until they provided Congress with more information. “We are concerned that the DOJ’s instructions put politics ahead of policy when it comes to maintaining flexibility in our prison system, encouraging vital criminal alien law enforcement and providing the best value for our taxpayers,” the lawmakers wrote. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Oversight Committee, wrote in a separate missive with two other Republicans that the Justice Department’s plan would “undermine the effectiveness of the system’s rehabilitation programs.” The directive by Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates in August that said the Bureau of Prisons should end its use of private facilities was greeted with widespread praise by advocates who have long been calling for the end of for-profit incarceration. Its effect, though, was limited to the 13 privately run facilities, housing a little more than 22,000 inmates, in the federal Bureau of Prisons system. Officials said it was unclear precisely how soon the contract prisons could be phased out. One of those 13 prisons in New Mexico has since had its inmates moved out, and the population in the rest stood just above 21,600 on Friday, according to the Bureau of Prisons website. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a statement that Yates’s directive was “in effect and the Bureau of Prisons is committed to implementing it.” “Since August, the overall prison population has continued to decline and the Bureau continues to modify its contracts to reflect the reduced need for bed space in private facilities,” Iverson said. “As private prison contracts come up for renewal in the coming months and years, BOP will be terminating or renegotiating those contracts consistent with the continuing decline in the overall prison population.” Yates has not minced words in criticizing the privately run facilities. “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” she wrote in her directive. That report found, among a litany of problems, private facilities had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average than government prisons. A cornerstone of Yates’s memo was the revelation that the Bureau of Prisons would amend a solicitation for a 10,800-bed contract to one for a maximum 3,600-bed contract. That, Yates wrote, would allow the Bureau of Prisons over the next year to discontinue housing inmates in at least three private prisons, and by May 1, 2017, the total private prison population would stand at less than 14,200 inmates. The GEO Group initially tried to compete for that modified contract, but earlier this month, it lodged a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office. The company argued that the reduced request was an “improper and illogical change” that did not take into account what the Bureau of Prisons actually needs, given its problems with overcrowding. It asked the Government Accountability Office to recommend that the Bureau of Prisons issue a new solicitation for the 10,800 beds initially sought. “We believe the need is still there, because the Bureau of Prisons is still overcrowded, and these communities have extended themselves financially,” Zoley said. The GEO Group is one of three companies that operate private facilities for the Bureau of Prisons. The others are Corrections Corporation of America and Management and Training Corporation. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for Management and Training Corporation, said while the company had not lodged formal protests, it believed “phasing out the use of contractors will result in greater overcrowding in public BOP facilities and an increased cost to the BOP and ultimately taxpayers.” Jonathan Burns, a Corrections Corporation of America spokesman, said that company was “aware of and monitoring the issue.” The private industry already had criticized the inspector general’s report for what it said was an unfair comparison to public facilities, which hold an eclectic mix of inmates, to private ones, which hold predominantly “criminal aliens.” The report acknowledged that investigators did not “know the extent to which demographic factors” might have played a role in contributing to some problems, and it said investigators were “unable to compare the overall costs of incarceration between BOP institutions and contract prisons in part because of the different nature of the inmate populations and programs offered in those facilities.” But the inspector general’s report was not the first public critique of private facilities, and some problems, such as concerns over medical care, seem to have little to do with inmate population. Justin Long, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman, said the bureau supported the deputy attorney general’s directive and believed it could be practically implemented over time. That is largely because of declining inmate populations. In fiscal 2016, the bureau saw a population decline of more than 13,500 inmates and sits now at 191,965 — 205 fewer than the year before. Young said the decline in population has led to a reduction in overall crowding, from 40 percent to 15 percent, as of Oct. 6. He said officials believed the inmate population would shrink further in 2017. The vast majority of those incarcerated in the United States are housed in state prisons — rather than federal ones — and Yates’s memo does not apply to any of those, even the ones that are privately run. Nor does it apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Service detainees, who are technically in the federal system but not under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons. Advocates have said, though, that it could serve as a catalyst for broader reform.

Oct 14, 2016 benzinga.com
The 2016 Economics Nobel Prize Winner's Case Against Private Prisons: Contracts Are The Key
Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström were the two winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics for their “contribution to contract theory” in the '70s and '80s. Hart, now based at Harvard University, has been a long-time critic of the private prison system. Twenty years ago, he wrote a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research where he suggested that privatization of prisons created pressure to cut costs and increase profits, and this translated into under-trained, under-paid, overly-violent guards. Two decades later, the U.S. Justice Department finally arrived to a similar conclusion and decided to phase out the use of private prisons, arguing that these facilities were not run as safe, efficient or effective as government-run prisons. But the extreme violence and poor living conditions in these prisons is no coincidence, Hart contended. Taking a page or two from his previous research, he claimed that the roots of the issue could be traced to how the contracts between these private companies and the government were structured. Interestingly, Hart and Holmström research “has wide implications: Hart's conclusions about privatization, for example, may extend beyond prisons to decisions about whether education and even garbage collection should be public or private,” a recent Mic article pointed out. Some companies that are very likely not big fans of Hart include private prisons operators The GEO Group Inc 

Oct 5, 2016 houstonchronicle.com
Company challenges fed decision to phase out private prisons
One of the nation's largest corrections companies is challenging the Department of Justice's decision to phase out the use of 14 private prisons nationwide, saying the department acted "illogically" and illegally. Florida-based GEO Group, which operates two of the five facilities facing possible closure in Texas, launched the attack this week in what it says is the nation's first legal challenge to the recent decision out of Washington. The official protest, a primary step toward a lawsuit, could freeze any changes in the procurement process until an administrative judge can consider the issue, including questions about how private prisons measure up to those run by the government. Six congressman, including three from Texas, have entered the fray, asking the Department of Justice and its Bureau of Prisons to explain the decision to stop using the private prisons, which primarily hold foreign-born people who have nine years or less left on their sentences and face deportation upon release. "We are concerned that the Department of Justice's instructions put politics ahead of policy when it comes to maintaining flexibility in our prison system," states a recent letter signed by each of lawmakers, all Republicans. They also questioned the impact the directive will have on the local communities they represent. Texas officials say thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in government contracts could be in jeopardy. "In many of these areas, the contract prison is one of the largest employers and citizens have few other job opportunities," states the letter. The Department of Justice did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment. Three companies - the GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America and the Management and Training Corporation - run private prisons nationwide on behalf of the Department of Justice. They also have contracts with Homeland Security and other entities. The five facilities in Texas are centered in West Texas. They include two side-by-side facilities at the Reeves County Detention Complex in Pecos, west of Midland; the Big Spring Correctional Facility in Howard County; Eden Detention Center in Concho County; and the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Garza County near Lubbock. The justice department recently directed the Bureau of Prisons to cut its business with private corporations as contracts expire over the next five years. Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have long questioned the use of for-profit corporations to house prisoners, and have praised the recent decision. The federal government has used private prisons since 1997 to relieve crowding, but a recent Office of Inspector General review noted an array of problems in the privately run facilities, including what it contends is an abuse of solitary confinement and more fights and contraband seizures than in facilities run by government. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates sent a memo to the Bureau of Prisons in August that announced the about-face. "Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own bureau facilities," Yates said. Private facilities don't save substantially on costs, don't provide the same level of safety and security and are lacking when it comes to educational and job training programs that reduce the likelihood of a person returning to prison, she continued. GEO Group, which has 20,500 employees globally and operates facilities in Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as facilities abroad, challenges any contention that privately run facilities perform poorly or cost more than government-run facilities. GEO contends that even the government's own OIG report concluded that private prisons had fewer problems than those of the government when it comes to inmate fights, suicides, sexual misconduct by staff, overall grievances and a host of other areas. At a minimum, the company says that Yates and other officials must follow certain procedures when it comes to altering the government contracts procurement process. Amber Martin, an executive vice president for the GEO Group, said in the protest filed this week in Washington that in late August – just two weeks after the Department of Justice announcement – her company's operation in Georgia was given a "superior" rating by the Bureau of Prisons and has also been paid a "multi-million-dollar" additional payment for its performance, including quality of service and lack of contractual violations. U.S. Rep Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, who was among those who signed the letter, said he wants to see what specific data was used in deciding that the federal government should step away from two prisons in his district. He said he's also concerned about jobs. "From the perspective of the local communities, the Dalby prison is the largest employer in Garza County, and the prison in Big Spring has nearly 500 employees," he said. "The local governments also receive tax and other revenue from the prisons, so a reduction in these contracts will impact the economy of a largely rural area with few other large employers." Texas Congressmen Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and K. Michael Conaway, R-Midland, also signed the letter, along with Congressmen Austin Scott and Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, both of Georgia, and Kevin McCarthy, of California. Howard County Judge Kathryn Wiseman said losing the Big Spring prison would "greatly affect" her county. Commissioners recently passed a resolution challenging the legality of the Department of Justice decision. "It would be a double hit," she said of a closure, noting that the county is already facing trouble from declining mineral values. "Almost 500 jobs, that is a big hit for a small community."

Oct 4, 2016 chicagotribune.com
Municipal prison bonds turn to junk as inmate population falls
The privately run prison in Walnut Grove, Mississippi, was besieged for years by violence and legal fights over deplorable conditions. Then last month, with local sentencing reforms keeping fewer behind bars, officials shut it down, leaving the state on the hook for $121 million of debt left behind. "The taxpayers are paying for that building and it's just sitting there," said Chip Jones, an alderman for the 1,600-person town about 63 miles (101 kilometers) east of Jackson, the state capital. The closing is part of a shift taking place nationwide among states and local governments that have sold $30 billion of bonds to build prisons and jails, some of which were leased to for-profit operators. With officials re-evaluating tough-on-crime laws that caused inmate populations to soar and the federal government moving to jettison its use of private prisons, the reduced need for such facilities is rippling through a niche of the $3.8 trillion municipal-securities market. On Friday, a Texas prison that serves as a U.S. detention center had its credit rating cut to junk by S&P Global Ratings, joining half a dozen others that were downgraded below investment grade by the company since federal officials in August announced plans to phase out for-profit facilities. About $300 million of tax-exempt debt issued for almost two dozen prisons has already defaulted, and investors are demanding higher yields on other securities amid speculation the distress will spread. "At any point there are only so many prisoners out there to fill the private prison beds," said Matt Fabian, managing director for Municipal Market Analytics Inc. "It creates unequal distribution and you have prisons competing against one another." The number of Americans behind bars has been on a steady decline. After peaking at 1.62 million in 2009, the state and federal prison population dropped over the next five years, reducing it by 54,000, or 3 percent, by 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. It's not certain that such reductions will continue, said Daniel Hanson, an analyst who follows the municipal-bond market for Height Securities in Washington. Even with the decrease, some federal prisons are still over capacity and states may already have done much of what they can to keep non-violent offenders out of their penal systems, he said. "The low hanging fruit of criminal-justice reform is already done," said Hanson. At the federal level, the impact is poised to trickle down. The Department of Justice on Aug. 18 said it will cancel or scale back the scope of private prison contracts after the number of federal inmates fell by about 25,000 over the past three years. About two weeks later, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which houses immigration detainees in privately run facilities, said it will review whether to curb their use too. Such a step would jeopardize the repayment of local-government bonds issued for prisons, which are typically repaid with revenue from leasing them instead of with taxpayer money. Since August, S&P has lowered to junk debt issued by, among others, the Washington Economic Development Financing Authority, the Garza County Public Facility Corp. in Texas, and the La Paz County Industrial Development Authority in Arizona. The prices of some securities have tumbled, pushing up the yields as investors demand higher compensation for the risk. The yield on bonds issued for the Reeves County detention center in Pecos, Texas, which mature in 2021 and were among those downgraded, rose to as much as 6.4 percent last month from 4.6 percent in early August. Additional closures could spread the impact. In Florence, Arizona, a 31,000-resident town southeast of Phoenix, the seven prisons -- four of which are privately-run -- are a major employer, said Jess Knudson, town spokesman. One of them is an immigration facility that could be hit if Homeland Security follows Justice's lead. "Our ability to influence that decision doesn't exist," Knudson said. The Mississippi Department of Corrections closed the Walnut Grove prison because of budget constraints and the number of inmates, with the annual average population dropping by about 10.5 percent between fiscal 2011 and 2016, bond documents show. The decline was driven in part by the passage of criminal-justice reform that gave judges more discretion over sentencing, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, which partnered with a state task force to push the 2014 law. The measure is projected to save the state $266 million over 10 years while also "safely reducing" the number of inmates, the group said. With less need for prison beds, Mississippi chose to shut down a facility that had a troubled history under former operator Geo Group. After it was sued by inmates, the Justice Department faulted it in 2012 for widespread staff misconduct and deliberate indifference to the welfare of the young offenders housed there. A federal judge said the description of life inside painted "a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world." Mississippi said it has been pleased with Management and Training Corp., the for profit company that took over Geo Group after the Justice Department investigation. The prison was closed last month and its 900 inmates were moved to other facilities. Mississippi still owes $121 million of debt for Walnut Grove, which the department of corrections has an "absolute and unconditional" obligation to pay off, according to bond documents. There state is considering using the emptied prison for another purpose. "Anything's better than nothing," said Jones, the local alderman. "The taxpayers are paying for that building, and it's just sitting there."

Sep 27, 2016 thedailybeast.com
Hillary Clinton’s Pitch to End Private Prisons Is the Surprise Hit of the Presidential Debate
An issue that rarely—if ever—gets play during presidential elections might give Hillary Clinton a surprising leg-up in Pennsylvania. That’s what was indicated by feedback from a swing-voter focus group that Frank Luntz conducted during the debate. Attendees gave Clinton sky-high feedback during the debate when she criticized private prisons, and said afterwards that it’s an important issue in their state. And, of course, that means the issue could help Clinton excite her supporters there and pick up some votes. Twenty-seven people participated in the focus group (it would have been 28, but Luntz kicked one guy out when he said he planned to vote Trump), and Luntz’s team tracked their responses to the debate as it progressed. A screen visible to the handful of reporters observing the focus group showed when participants felt positively or negatively about what the candidates said. The lines tracked particularly high for Trump when he bashed the NAFTA trade deal and promised to renegotiate trade agreements. His numbers dipped, and dramatically, when he tried to explain his refusal to release his taxes and his rationale for demanding Obama’s birth certificate. Clinton had her fair share of ups and downs as well; the Democratic nominee’s favorability among the completely undecided participants dipped when she went on a lengthy riff about Trump’s birtherism, and nosed up when she talked about her dad’s small business. But her numbers among completely undecided voters went high and higher during her discussion of criminal justice reform. When she pointed out that crime isn’t nearly as high as Trump suggests and that the criminal justice system punishes African-American and Hispanic men more harshly than white men, the favorability number kept going up. And it went even higher when she praised the Department of Justice’s announcement that it would phase out Bureau of Prisons contracts to stop doing deals with private prison companies. And the number went up even more when Clinton reiterated her position to end all federal contracts with the for-profit corporations. After the debate wrapped up, focus group participants explained why they liked Clinton’s answer on private prisons so much: Over the last few years, a so-called “kids for cash” scandal has rocked Pennsylvania. In 2011, a Pennsylvania judge got a 28-year sentence for accepting bribes from a private prison company owner. The owner paid him to send children to his prison, often violating their rights to have an attorney. Because of the scandal, the AP reported, Pennsylvania’s state supreme court tossed about four thousand sentences. The scandal impacted a massive number of people; not just children wrongfully sentenced in violation of their Constitutional rights, but also their families, friends, and, well, anyone who reads the news in Pennsylvania. And even though the judge’s sentencing was several years ago, the cash-for-kids scandal is still fresh in the minds of swing voters. A number of Luntz’s focus group attendees said Clinton’s opposition to private prisons made them think more highly of her. And none saw it as a negative. Clinton didn’t focus heavily on private prisons during the debate. But it might help her. Though she has led Trump in every public poll of Pennsylvania voters since July, her lead has contracted. The RealClearPolitics average gave her a 6.6-point lead as recently as Sept. 22, but now shows her leading Trump by just 2.4 points. And Trump’s backers hope that lead will vaporize over the next few weeks. If he picks up the Keystone State’s 20 electoral votes, it will be tough for Clinton to forge a path to the White House. But if Clinton keeps bashing the companies that profit from mass incarceration, it may be a little tougher for him to do that.

Sep 26, 2016 moodys.com
Cash flows to prison REITs less certain as use of private operators questioned
New York, September 26, 2016 -- Cash flows from the Bureau of Prisons to Moody's-rated prison real estate investment trusts (REITs) are less certain following the announcement by the US Department of Justice that it will phase out its use of privately operated prisons, the rating agency says in a new report. Moody's downgraded the senior unsecured ratings of Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, Inc., and revised their rating outlooks to negative from stable, on August 19, the day after the announcement. "Our recent rating actions reflect the substantial uncertainty surrounding the ultimate effects of the Department of Justice's move to stop using private prison operators," says Moody's analyst, Reed Valutas. "Private operators might as a result earn less revenue from owning and actively managing prison facilities, which could impact cash flows to prison REITs." The active management of prison facilities by private companies is today a particularly contentious political issue, with politicians, unions and reform advocates all weighing in, Valutas says in "Justice Department Plan to Phase Out Use of Private Prisons Is Credit Negative for Prison REITs." As a result, private prison operators could be eliminated altogether from management of federal and, potentially, state prisons. Despite the uncertainties surrounding the effects of the Justice Department's announcement, private prisons remain a necessity. Currently, many of the Bureau of Prisons' facilities are running at or above planned capacity and are also nearing obsolescence. While contracts to privately operate US prisons facilities are less assured as political pressures mount, the industry could transform itself by selling or leasing, rather than operating, some of its facilities, Moody's says. In addition, capacity constraints, aging prison stock and budgetary concerns could all drive this trend.

Aug 30, 2016 qz.com

Private prison companies in the US lost more than $2 billion in value—and counting
Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice announced it would move away from using private prison companies for federal inmates, citing inefficiency and problems with safety and security. On Aug. 29, Jeh Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced that the agency would also re-evaluate its cooperation with those companies, which run immigration detention facilities, too. The first announcement sent tumbling the stocks of the largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group. The latest news deepened their losses. Together, the two companies have now lost more than $2.2 billion in value—CCA $1.2 billion in market capitalization and the GEO Group $917 million. Since the DHS just started its evaluation process, more bad news for the private prison companies is likely. Privately-run immigration detention facilities are as notorious for their conditions as for-profit prisons. Advocates have been exposing problems plaguing the facilities for years.

Aug 30, 2016 cnbc.com
Private prison stocks keep crumbling
Prison stocks slid again Tuesday, extending Monday's declines after the federal government said it will examine its use of privately managed immigration detention facilities. The two major publicly traded prison stocks, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, declined more than 4 percent and more than 7 percent, respectively. With Tuesday's decline, both stocks were on pace for a weekly loss of more than 8 percent and down more than 40 percent for the month so far. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Monday that the Homeland Security Advisory Council will create a subcommittee to "review our current policy and practices concerning the use of private immigration detention and evaluate whether this practice should be eliminated." Representatives from both GEO Group and CCA told CNBC Monday that they welcome the review. The announcement calls for the subcommittee to submit a report by Nov. 30. The Department of Justice also recently announced that its Bureau of Prisons will begin phasing out the use of private contractors for federal prisons. After the DOJ's Aug. 18 announcement, private prison stocks shed 50 percent of their value before bouncing back. Analysts called the market reaction to that announcement excessive. Unlike the Department of Justice, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not maintain any of its own facilities.

Aug 18, 2016 washingtonpost.com
Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates instructed Justice Department officials Thursday to end its use of private prisons. (Carolyn Kaster/AP) The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote. In an interview, Yates said there are 13 privately run facilities in the Bureau of Prisons system, and they will not close overnight. Yates said the Justice Department would not terminate existing contracts but instead review those that come up for renewal. She said all the contracts would come up for renewal over the next five years. The Justice Department’s inspector general last week released a critical report concluding that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report. Disturbances in the facilities, the report said, led in recent years to “extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a Correctional Officer.” The report listed several examples of mayhem at private facilities, including a May 2012 riot at the Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi in which 20 people were injured and a correctional officer killed. That incident, according to the report, involved 250 inmates who were upset about low-quality food and medical care. The Post’s Matt Zapotosky explains why the Justice Department announced Aug. 18 that it plans to stop contracting private prisons across the country. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post) “The fact of the matter is that private prisons don’t compare favorably to Bureau of Prisons facilities in terms of safety or security or services, and now with the decline in the federal prison population, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about that,” Yates said. The problems at private facilities were hardly a secret, and Yates said Justice Department and Bureau of Prisons officials had been talking for months about discontinuing their use. Mother Jones recently published a 35,000-word exposé detailing a reporter’s undercover work as a private prison guard in Louisiana — a piece that found serious deficiencies. The Nation magazine wrote earlier this year about deaths under questionable circumstances in privately operated facilities. It is possible the directive could face resistance from those companies that will be affected. In response to the inspector general’s report, the contractors running the prisons noted that their inmate populations consist largely of noncitizens, presenting them with challenges that government-run facilities do not have. Scott Marquardt, president of Management and Training Corporation, wrote that comparing Bureau of Prisons facilities to privately operated ones was “comparing apples and oranges.” He generally disputed the inspector general’s report. “Any casual reader would come to the conclusion that contract prisons are not as safe as BOP prisons,” Marquardt wrote. “The conclusion is wrong and is not supported by the work done by the [Office of the Inspector General].” Yates, though, noted that the Bureau of Prisons was “already taking steps” to make her order a reality. Three weeks ago, she wrote, the bureau declined to renew a contract for 1,200 beds at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. According to a local TV station, the county sheriff said the facility’s closure would have a negative impact on the community. Yates wrote that the bureau also would amend a solicitation for a 10,800-bed contract to one for a maximum 3,600-bed contract. That, Yates wrote, would allow the Bureau of Prisons over the next year to discontinue housing inmates in at least three private prisons, and by May 1, 2017, the total private prison population would stand at less than 14,200 inmates. She said it was “hard to know precisely” when all the privately run facilities would no longer have federal inmates, though she noted that 14,200 was less than half the inmates they held at their apex three years ago, a figure she said indicated the department was “well on our way to ultimately eliminating the use of private prisons entirely.” “We have to be realistic about the time it will take, but that really depends on the continuing decline of the federal prison population, and that’s really hard to accurately predict,” Yates said. According to the inspector general’s report, private prisons housed roughly 22,660 federal inmates as of December 2015. That represents about 12 percent of the Bureau of Prisons total inmate population, according to the report. In her memo, Yates wrote that the Bureau of Prisons began contracting with privately run institutions about a decade ago in the wake of exploding prison populations, and by 2013, as the federal prison population reached its peak, nearly 30,000 inmates were housed in privately operated facilities. But in 2013, Yates wrote, the prison population began to decline because of efforts to adjust sentencing guidelines, sometimes retroactively, and to change the way low-level drug offenders are charged. She said the drop in federal inmates gave officials the opportunity to reevaluate the use of private prisons. Yates wrote that private prisons “served an important role during a difficult time period,” but they had proven less effective than facilities run by the government. The contract prisons are operated by three private corporations, according to the inspector general’s report: Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Management and Training Corporation. The Bureau of Prisons spent $639 million on private prisons in fiscal year 2014, according to the report. Yates said it was “really hard to determine whether private prisons are less expensive” and whether their closure would cause costs to go up, though she said officials did not anticipate having to hire additional Bureau of Prisons staff. “Bottom line, I’d also say, you get what you pay for,” Yates said.

Aug 14, 2016 theguardian.com

Private federal prisons more dangerous, damning DoJ investigation reveals
Privately operated government prisons, which mostly detain migrants convicted of immigration offenses, are drastically more unsafe and punitive than other prisons in the federal system, a stinging investigation by the US Department of Justice’s inspector general has found. Inmates at these 14 contract prisons, the only centers in the federal prison system that are privately operated, were nine times more likely to be placed on lockdown than inmates at other federal prisons and were frequently subjected to arbitrary solitary confinement. In two of the three contract prisons investigators routinely visited, new inmates were automatically placed in solitary confinement as a way of combating overcrowding, rather than for disciplinary issues. The review also found that contract prison inmates were more likely to complain about medical care, treatment by prison staff and about the quality of food. Contract prisons almost exclusively incarcerate low-risk inmates convicted of immigration offenses. These facilities house around 22,000 individuals, mostly deemed “low risk”, at an annual cost of $600m. They are operated by three private companies: Geo Group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and Management and Training Corporation (MTC). Investigators determined that these facilities were also more dangerous than others in the federal system. For example, the report found that inmate on inmate assaults were 28% higher in contract prisons, and confiscation of contraband mobile phones occurred eight times more. At the Eden detention center in Texas, operated by CCA and one of the three institutions routinely visited by investigators, the inspector general found that staff failed to discipline inmates in over 50% of disciplinary incidents. “This is the latest in a whole series of reports and investigations that have found very serious issues with Bureau of Prisons shadow systems of private prisons,” said Carl Takei, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s national private prison project and one of the authors of the 2014 report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped In Our Shadow Private Prison System, which investigated contract prisons in Texas. “Federal officials should be reconsidering their alliance on private prisons and developing plans to begin cancelling these contracts, rather than continuing this experiment.” Among the most stark of the ACLU’s 2014 findings was the severe medical understaffing and “extreme cost cutting” that limited inmates access to healthcare. Elements of these findings are replicated in the inspector general’s report, which identified serious flaws in the oversight of medical care in a number of contract prisons. “In one instance,” the report documents, “when an inmate had trouble breathing, the contract prison medical staff told him to place a sick call, which would put him on a list of inmates waiting to be seen by medical personnel instead of being treated immediately. “However, after he died, the mortality reviews showing this deficiency gave the onsite monitors no guidance on what steps to take to require corrective action. As a result, contractor deficiencies went uncorrected and corrective actions were delayed.” The inspector general recommends that the US justice department should convene a “working group” to probe the causes of the disparity in safety standards between contract prisons and publicly operated facilities, and states that federal government should strengthen oversight provisions across the board.

Federal Bureau of Prisons

August 30, 2012 Great Falls Tribune
Richard Flor, a former Miles City medical marijuana caregiver sentenced in April to five years in federal prison on charges that he illegally maintained drug-related premises, died in federal custody Wednesday. Flor, who suffered from a lengthy list of serious medical conditions, died in a Las Vegas hospital a day after suffering two heart attacks while awaiting transport to a federal medical facility, according to his attorney, Brad Arndorfer of Billings. At Flor’s sentencing last April, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell recommended that he “be designated for incarceration at a federal medical center” where Flor’s “numerous physical and mental diseases and conditions can be evaluated and treated.” Arndorfer said that never happened, and instead Flor was for months housed at the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby until a week ago, when U.S. marshals began the process of transporting him to an unknown medical facility. Arndorfer said Flor was in Las Vegas as a layover, but he did not know where his client was being taken. “It’s incredible to me to take a man with dementia, failing kidneys, severe diabetes and unable to care for himself and incarcerate him,” Arndorfer said Thursday. “He required nursing home care, and as far as I can tell he didn’t receive any care while he was incarcerated in Shelby. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” Crossroads spokesman Steven Owen, citing privacy concerns, declined to comment on the specifics of Flor’s medical conditions or any treatment he received while at the prison. “Our dedicated, professional corrections and medical staff at Crossroads are firmly committed to the health and safety of the inmates entrusted to our care; we meet or exceed the rigorous and comprehensive standards of our government partners, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Montana Department of Corrections, as well as those of the independent American Correctional Association,” Owen said in a written statement. Flor, along with his wife, Sherry, and their son, Justin, ran a medical marijuana caregiver business out of their home and from a Billings dispensary. Richard Flor was also a co-owner of Montana Cannabis, one of the state’s largest medical marijuana operations and a target in the March 2011 raids by federal agents on marijuana providers across Montana. At the time of the raids, Montana law allowed for the production of medical marijuana for use by patients with approved medical conditions. The state’s medical marijuana industry was booming after a top U.S. Justice Department official released a memo in 2009 indicating that the Obama administration would not prosecute people who were in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state medical marijuana laws. However, federal law still considers marijuana a dangerous narcotic in the same class as heroin or methamphetamine. Last month, Arndorfer filed a motion requesting the court release Flor pending an appeal of his sentence due to health concerns. Arndorfer’s brief supporting the motion detailed how Flor suffered from severe osteoporosis and on multiple occasions while in custody, Flor had fallen out of bed breaking his ribs, his clavicle and his cervical bones as well as injuring vertebrae in his spine. Flor also suffered from dementia, diabetes and kidney failure among other ailments, Arndorfer said. “He is in extreme pain and still is not being given round-the-clock care as is required for someone with his medical and mental conditions,” Arndorfer wrote in his brief to the court. “It is anticipated he will not long survive general population incarceration.” In his Aug. 7 order denying the motion, Lovell wrote that it was unfortunate the Flor had not yet been transferred to an appropriate medical facility but that the concerns detailed in the motion were “not factually or legally significant.” Lovell wrote that the federal Bureau of Prisons could provide the necessary medical care and that recent tests found kidney dialysis wasn’t needed, despite the fact that a year earlier a VA health care provider discussed with Flor the possibility that he might need dialysis in the future. Lovell wrote that “defendant has no such present need.” In a statement released by his staff, Lovell said he was sorry to learn of Flor’s death but that judicial ethics prevented him from commenting further. Kristin Flor, 36, confirmed her 68-year-old father’s death early Thursday. Kristin Flor said she was at her father’s bedside when the decision was made to remove him from life support after he suffered a serious heart attack, renal failure and kidney failure. Kristin Flor said her father had complained to her regularly that his kidneys and back were hurting him and that he wasn’t receiving proper medical treatment while incarcerated in Shelby. “They didn’t give him any of the medical attention he needed, and they never took him once to a medical doctor,” Kristin Flor said. “When he broke his clavicle and shoulder blade it took him two days to get doctors to look at it.” Arndorfer said he’s “more than interested” in the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons for the alleged mistreatment of Flor. “He had been complaining to his family and to me about kidney pain. They knew that his VA doctors were considering putting him on dialysis prior to him being placed in Shelby and they did nothing. They ran a blood test and said he was fine,” Arndorfer said. “I don’t believe he was giving any medical care at all at Shelby.” U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Rod Ostermiller said Flor was not in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service at the time of his death and directed calls to the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. A call was not returned as of press time. Arndorfer said his former client believed he was following all state laws governing the production of marijuana at the time federal agents raided his home and business. “These are good people who were doing what they believed were good works,” Arndorfer said. “ The political system is out of control with the states saying it’s legal and the federal government is deciding who they want to prosecute, when or if with no rhyme or reason.” Kristin Flor said he father suffered what amounted to cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of the federal justice system. “It’s a disgrace for a government and a country to treat a man like this,” Flor said. “He never hurt anybody. Even the crimes they claim he committed, they still are not to me great enough to justify all the pain and suffering he went through.”

August 21, 2012 PR Web
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), America’s leader in partnership corrections, is proud to announce that Kim White has joined the team as the new managing director of Inmate Programs. With more than 30 years of industry experience, White will bring fresh and innovative ideas to both the company and the field of inmate rehabilitation and reentry programming. “Ms. White has a strong passion for helping inmates build better lives and creating programs that will contribute to their development,” said Harley G. Lappin, CCA’s Chief Corrections Officer. “This passion will be reflected in her work at CCA and we are excited to see her impact on the department.” White will be overseeing CCA’s Inmate Programming department, which offers recidivism-reducing programs and helps prepare inmates for a successful life upon release. The department develops and offers a variety of rehabilitation programs and resources across CCA's system of more than 60 correctional and detention facilities nationwide. Programs address the unique needs of the inmate population, including addictions treatment, education courses, vocational trades and faith-based programs. White most recently served as assistant director of the Human Resources Management Division for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). She began her career as a correctional officer and over the years has ascended the ranks including nearly seven years as a Regional Director. Her interests in the corrections industry stems from a course she completed in college on correctional institutions, which led to an internship with the BOP. White also holds a degree from Kent State University and completed Harvard University’s Executive Education Program for senior managers in government.

March 12, 2012 Marketwatch
The Council of Prison Locals (CPL) of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today denounced a privatization plan by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) that would weaken prison security, jeopardize community safety and encourage states to take on additional debt. CCA Chief Corrections Officer and former Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Harley Lappin recently sent a letter to officials in 48 states announcing what the company is calling a "corrections investment initiative," in which CCA is offering to purchase and operate state prisons under the following conditions: The facility to be sold must have at least 1,000 beds, is filled to at least 90 percent capacity and the state agrees to pay CCA to operate the facility for a minimum of 20 years. "This is yet another example of a private prison company looking to bolster its bottom line with no regard for safety or fiscal responsibility," said CPL President Dale Deshotel. "Instead of investing in privatization with taxpayer funds, we should be investing in the correctional officers currently tasked with securing the nation's federal prison system. We're understaffed, underfunded and our inmate population is spiraling out of control." AFGE, which joined a coalition headed by the American Civil Liberties Union in asking state governors to oppose CCA's plan, has long opposed the privatization of prisons. The union says federal prisons are safer and more cost-effective than private prisons and maintains that private prisons have a history of slashing operating costs through the reduction of prisoner programs, reducing employee benefits and wages, and routinely operating with low, dangerous staff-to-inmate ratios. "Federal correctional officers are the most professional, highly-trained correctional workforce in the world and uniquely equipped to handle the demands of prison security and operation," AFGE National President John Gage said. "Taking this responsibility out of their hands puts communities around the country in grave danger." BOP correctional officers and other staff members inside federal prisons are unarmed, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by inmates with homemade weapons. For years, AFGE and CPL have fought not only for additional staffing and funding at BOP but also for protective equipment such as stab-resistant vests and pepper spray. The need for additional resources can be seen with the countless violent outbreaks occurring at BOP facilities across the country. A correctional officer can be responsible for supervising as many as 150 inmates at once and is unarmed inside the facility. Low staffing levels and a more aggressive inmate population have led to a spike in violence - something AFGE says cannot continue.

March 7, 2012 USA Today
A private prison management company's proposal to buy government prison facilities, criticized for requiring states to maintain high occupancy rates, also is prompting debate about the firm's executive who circulated it. Harley Lappin, the former director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, made the offer to 48 prison officials across the country in a January letter on behalf of Corrections Corporation of America, less than a year after retiring from his federal post. Civil rights advocates, a state lawmaker and the chief of the federal prison employees union said Lappin's involvement with the firm's offer, so soon after leaving his high-profile government post, raises ethical concerns. "He's clearly using his connections (in the public prison industry) and is now attempting to profit from it," said Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, who has spoken against high-incarceration rates. David Shapiro, staff attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project, said Lappin's role is "part of the continuing revolving door" between government and private industry. "It is definitely a concern," he said. Company spokesman Steve Owen said Lappin's involvement as the firm's corrections director was "very appropriate," and did not include solicitations of his former agency. USA TODAY initially sought to speak with Lappin, but questions were referred to firm's media relations office. Federal law prohibits designated senior federal government executives from doing business with their former agencies for at least a year after leaving their posts. Owen said Lappin's letter was not sent to his former agency. And Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said the agency has received no such proposal.

October 7, 2011 Forbes
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Harley Lappin (55) enjoyed a 25 year career of distinguished service when he announced that May 7, 2011 would mark the beginning of his retirement. He had been director for about 8 years. That announcement also came at around the same time as a revelation that Lappin had been arrested for driving under the influence near his home in Annapolis, MD. According to numerous news sources, the BOP has stated that Lappin’s resignation had nothing to do with the DUI event. Okay, we’ll give him that. We all make mistakes, some worse than others, but for a man who made a career of holding inmates accountable for their actions it must have been a serious blow to Lappin and those that knew him. However, we live in a forgiving society and, lucky for Lappin, some are more forgiving than others. In his case, Corrections Corporation of America had an offer to not only forgive Lappin for his lapse in judgement for driving drunk, but also to bring him out of retirement. Less than a month after leaving the BOP, Corrections Corp offered Lappin the role of Chief Correctional Officer (don’t see many of those positions in corporate America….but maybe we should). Upon accepting the job, Lappin said, “I look forward to continuing my career in corrections with a reputable organization like CCA.” Nice touch. On May 25, 2005, while Lappin was Director, the BOP awarded a $129 million contract to Corrections Corp. for management of a low-security federal factility in Youngstown, OH. In April 2009, again while Lappin was Director, the BOP awarded Corrections Corp a contract to house criminal alien offenders at its facility in Adams County, Mississippi. In fact, these are just a few of the awarded contracts to Corrections Corp. from federal agencies, including the BOP. According to 10-K (SEC Annual Filing for 2010), the federal government accounts for 43% of the total revenue of the company. Business is booming in the prison sector these days. According to Market Watch, activist investor Bill Ackman made a good call on the prison industry back in October 2009 (before the big insider cases) by saying about an investment in Corrections Corp that, “It’s also a hedge against your hedge fund business, because as the SEC ramps up….”, prompting laughter at the Value Investing Congress in New York where he was speaking. He got that call right. Ackman’s real interest in Corrections Corp was for a play on the real estate it owns….hey, he’s an investor but it seems a little cold. However, many investors think it’s a good call. I’m sure Ackman and many other investors in the publicly traded Corrections Corp. (NYSE: CXW) are looking for a good return on their investment. There are a lot of pressures to perform and earn a profit. My hope is that Lappin will be the best Chief Corrections Officer that he can be without having to call in any favors from his old friends he made at the BOP. Like I said, I’m HOPING.

September 29, 2011 Los Angles Times
Arrests of federal prison guards soared nearly 90% over the last decade, possibly because of poor hiring practices during a 25% increase in prison growth, the Justice Department's inspector general reported. Misconduct investigations doubled, and more than half of the offenses were committed during the officers' first two years on the job. The inspector general recommended that the Federal Bureau of Prisons improve its background investigation of job applicants and find better ways to assess rookie officers. But other factors have contributed to the problem, including private prisons and increasing numbers of female prisoners and young offenders in federal facilities, the inspector general found. The report did not specify how many misconduct cases came out of private federal prisons, which have increased their populations by 120% in the last decade, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington prison issues think tank. "Private prisons aren't always held to the same standards as public ones," said Joe Baumann, a corrections officer at the state California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. "That's where so much of the stuff I come across is from, the private contractors."

June 3, 2011 Mother Jones
Less than a month after retiring from his post as Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Harley G. Lappin has been hired to a top position at the nation's largest private, for-profit prison contractor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In a move that has gone virtually unnoticed by the press except on the business pages, Lappin, who had run the BOP since 2003, has been named CCA's Executive VP and Chief Corrections Officer. According to a company press release, his responsibilities will include "the oversight of facility operations, health services, inmate rehabilitation programs, [and] purchasing." Lappin announced his retirement in March, a few days before making public his arrest, the previous month, on DUI charges in Maryland. In a memo apologizing to BOP employees, Lappin admitted to a "lapse in my judgment...giving rise to potential embarrassment to the agency," but he refused to acknowledge a direct link between his arrest and his retirement. The announcement of his appointment to a leadership position at CCA came just over three weeks after his effective retirement date of May 7. Taking advantage of two concurrent 30-year trends--toward mass incarceration and toward privatization of government services--CCA has grown to a $1.6 billion company that operates 66 facilities in 20 states, with approximately 90,000 beds. It has become notorious for its poor treatment of prisoners, and for numerous preventable injuries and deaths in its prisons and immigrant detention centers. About 40 percent of CCA's business comes from the federal government, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the Bureau of Prisons. As BOP director, Lappin would have overseen government contracts with CCA worth tens of millions of dollars. CCA spends approximately $1 million annually on lobbying on the federal level alone. A press release from the invaluable Private Corrections Working Group notes that Lappin's quick trip through the government-to-industry revolving door is hardly unique in the Bureau of Prisons' history: "Lappin joins another former BOP director already employed with CCA, J. Michael Quinlan, who was hired by the company in 1993. He retired as director of the BOP in 1992, several months after settling a lawsuit that accused him of sexually harassing a male BOP employee. While settling the suit, Quinlan denied allegations that he made sexual advances to the employee in a hotel room." Advertise on MotherJones.com In addition, there's the case of the recently appointed head of the U.S. Marshals Service, Stacia Hylton, who until 2010 was the Federal Detention Trustee. In between serving in these two high-ranking government positions, Hylton worked as a consultant for the GEO Group, the nation's second largest private prison contractor. During Hylton's tenure, the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee gave several contracts to GEO; and the U.S. Marshals Service, like ICE and the BOP, houses federal detainees in privately owned prisons, including some run by GEO. "Federal ethics rules do not prohibit former high-ranking employees such as Lappin and Hylton from working for private companies, even when those companies contract with the same federal agencies where those former officials were employed," the Private Corrections Working Group points out. "An Executive Order issued by President Obama restricts appointees from taking official actions that directly and substantially affect immediate former clients and employers; however, that ethics rule was not applied to Hylton a