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Chicago Teacher’s Union
Aug 19, 2018
Chicago Teachers to Ban Pension’s Private Prison Investments
The Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund added immigration detention centers to its list of prohibited investments Aug. 16. Companies such as GEO Group Inc., CoreCivic Inc., and General Dynamics Corp. are among those that own or operate the private prisons that have come under fire lately amid allegations of abuse of immigrant detainees. A spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law that pension trustees want investment managers to also “prudently liquidate public market holdings in private prison companies as soon as reasonably practical and in accordance with the managers’ fiduciary duties.” The decision by the fund’s trustees comes a week after the American Federation of Teachers released a report urging pensions to divest from any company that operates or owns prisons. The fund, which is the only school system in the state with its own pension fund, has 63,356 members as of last year, according to a Public Plans Data.

Cook County Jail
Cook, Illinois
May 4, 2010 Sun Times
A cook assigned to bring food to Cook County Jail was sentenced to two years probation today after he pleaded guilty to bringing marijuana into the facility. Last fall, Cook County investigators received a tip that Ivan Garcia, 22, had been smuggling marijuana and tobacco into the jail. At the time of his arrest in October, Garcia worked as Aramark’s supervisor of cooks. Aramark provides food services at the jail, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office. Garcia allegedly accepted cash payments from a friend or family member of the inmate, then smuggled the contraband in and delivered it to the inmate while working in the cafeteria.

October 30, 2009 Daily Herald
A Cook County Jail cook has been charged with smuggling marijuana into the jail for an inmate. Cook County sheriff's police said Ivan Garcia, 22, of Huntley, was paid by a relative or friend of an inmate to smuggled pot and tobacco into the jail and deliver it while working in the jail cafeteria. After receiving a tip about Garcia, an undercover operation was conducted by the sheriff's internal affairs division. On Oct. 16, an undercover officer approached Garcia and, in a videotape, he's shown accepting $500 in exchange for smuggling an ounce of marijuana into the jail, the sheriff's office said. After the transaction, Garcia was arrested, authorities said. He's been charged with felony possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, and is free on $30,000 bond. Garcia works as supervisor of cooks for Aramark, a jail contractor.

April 4, 2007 Sun Times
"I'm not going to be a minority front for anybody," declared Chicago businessman Harold Davis. Who asked you to? "Mike Maltese," answered Davis. Davis, the solitary figure you see in the picture, standing alone in a big empty South Side warehouse, called after I'd written about the FBI paying a visit last month to fired Cook County employee Paula Perkins. Perkins' job was to make sure firms like Davis' that applied for lucrative county contracts were run by actual minorities and were not just fronts for thick-necked white guys, a time-honored tradition in these parts. Perkins' axing, some believe, was the result of her doing her job too well. "I know her," Davis told me. "Ms. Perkins' job was to prove that I was not phony." And that she did. After a 14-month evaluation and inspection of his operation, Perkins certified Davis' company, American Enterprise Food Service, as a bona fide African-American business. She reaffirmed that Monday, saying, "When I saw it, it was full of merchandise . . . people were in there working." Perkins' certification paved the way for Davis to win an 18 percent share of $62 million in contracts to supply commissary products (chips, underwear, paper products) to inmates at Cook County Jail. The main contractor, Aramark Correctional Services Inc., is part of a multinational, multibillion-dollar corporation that services 475 prisons across North America, including Cook County jail. It's a Fortune 500 company with a reputation for racial diversity. Davis begs to differ. He claims that Aramark's account executives based in Oakbrook Terrace didn't want a minority partner at all. "They wanted a minority front," he told me as we walked through his empty warehouse on Monday. Exactly who told you that? "Mike Maltese did," he said, referring to Aramark's district manager who has since been transferred to its Kentucky division. Any relation to imprisoned Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese? Not that there's anything wrong with that. Davis said Maltese conceded he was her nephew, but didn't want to talk about it. Maltese did not return my phone calls. Company spokeswoman Sarah Jarvis Tuesday told me, "Aramark does not discuss personnel or contract matters, but we conduct our business with utmost integrity and according to the highest ethical standards." Davis wants to argue that point. He says his contract began in February of 2006 and that from the beginning, the Aramark guys did all the purchasing, hiring and running of the warehouse. Davis said he expected, after a brief training period, that he would take over all of those responsibilities. "I started asking questions," he said. "When was I going to take over the warehouse?" Never, was the the answer he says he got. Maltese, claims Davis, offered him $17,000 a month in "free money" to be a "pass through . . . a dummy company," Maltese allegedly preferring to have one of his own guys do the actual running of his operation. Davis said he told Maltese no. And that, he says, is when, in the summer of 2006, Aramark pulled its merchandise out of his warehouse and stopped paying the rent. The county, however, is still paying Aramark on that contract, though Davis gets none of it. Aramark's spokeswoman said the company couldn't release specifics but terminated the deal "for legitimate business reasons." All of this makes me want to talk to Betty Hancock Perry. Hancock Perry is the head of Contract Compliance, one of the many county departments the feds are currently crawling all over. It was Hancock Perry who fired Paula Perkins earlier this year. And Hancock Perry to whom Davis reported his problems with Aramark, according to letters and memos I've seen. My request Tuesday to interview her was turned down by County Board President Todd Stroger, who issued a statement saying he referred my inquiries to his inspector general but would not "compel any employee to speak publicly about this ongoing investigation." We await the results. I wonder, though, if the FBI's next visit won't be to an empty warehouse on the Far South Side.

October 22, 2004 Sun Times
Aramark, accused of using politics to secure the food service contract at the Cook County Jail, will likely hang onto the contract because it is the low bidder. Bids were opened Thursday and they showed Aramark will charge about 75 cents per meal, compared with 99 cents from Amerimeals and Compass -- which accused Aramark of playing politics last month.

September 14, 2004 Sun Times
A lucrative Cook County contract is being extended three months, as county officials debate how much political patronage has influenced the contract process. Aramark will continue to provide food at the county jail, at a rate of $856,000 a month, while county officials seek bids for a new contract. Aramark signed a $39 million contract in 2000, but with increases, the contract is now worth more than $43 million. Last month, as the contract came up for bid, an Aramark competitor -- Compass, a division of Canteen -- claimed the bid process was rife with troubles, including the influence of politics, and backed out of the bid process, leaving Aramark as the only qualified bidder for another contract. Aramark hired John Robinson and contracted with John Maul, both former aides to Sheriff Michael Sheahan, and Compass claims they influenced the bid process. Compass also said it was denied records and access to information needed to submit a bid. Campaign finance records show Aramark and its many divisions since 2000 have contributed $11,240 to county officials, including commissioners and Sheahan.  

August 27, 2004
With allegations lingering that the fix was in, Cook County officials were set to open bids Thursday on a $50 million food service contract at the county jail.  But when only one company -- Aramark -- submitted a proper bid, county officials said they weren't even opening it, instead opting to re-bid the contract in hopes of attracting more companies.  Fat chance, at least one of Aramark's competitors said, as Compass Group -- a division of Canteen -- alleges that Aramark has hired enough cronies of Sheriff Michael Sheahan that it is sure to lock up the contract. Both Sheahan and Aramark deny these allegations and Sheahan encouraged Compass to sit down and discuss its concerns with the county.  Aramark holds the contract now, but is accused by Compass of creating unsanitary food conditions at the jail, attracting rodents and airborne disease by leaving food out for several hours before serving inmates. Compass also alleged, in a letter sent last week to county officials, that as it tried to get records to prepare a bid, it was rebuffed time and again.  (Sun Times)

August 24, 2004
A Cook County Board commissioner called on his fellow commissioners Monday to block a $50 million contract for jail food until allegations of bias are resolved.  Chicago Democrat Forrest Claypool made the demand Monday after Crain's Chicago Business reported that a competitor for the contract accused the sheriff's office of not giving it information necessary to bid. The contractor, Canteen Correctional Services, is competing against Aramark Correctional Services, which employs two former top aides to Sheriff Michael Sheahan and may end up being the only bidder for the job. 
(Daily Herald)

August 22, 2004
A firm that had hoped to oust a politically connected competitor on a huge Cook County contract instead is pulling out of the bidding — complaining of "flawed and biased" county procurement procedures.  In a blunt letter to Sheriff Michael Sheahan and other county officials Friday, Canteen Correctional Services says it will be unable to bid for an estimated $50-million pact to feed inmates at the Cook County Jail because officials haven't given it the data it needs to compete, despite repeated requests.  That means incumbent contract-holder Aramark Correctional Services may face no opposition for a new four-year pact on Thursday, when Mr. Sheahan, who operates the jail, and other officials are due to open bids.  Aramark employs Mr. Sheahan's former top aide, John Robinson, as a lobbyist and vice-president. Mr. Robinson resigned as undersheriff in December 2000, days after revelations that he used sheriff's office stationary to promote a British Virgin Islands-based company that ran an alleged investment scam. He faces the potential suspension or loss of his license as a lawyer over that matter, with a state disciplinary hearing set for Oct. 5.  Aramark also this month retained as a consultant another top ex-aide to Mr. Sheahan, John Maul. He was acting executive director of the jail until last summer.  Aramark, a division of Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp., and Canteen are giants in the food-service industry. They've clashed repeatedly around the country, including in Chicago, where U.K.-based Compass' Levy Restaurants unit has held off Aramark for the food contract at McCormick Place.  Still, Compass' Cook County letter is notable for its language and specificity.  The letter also asserts that Aramark's operating procedures are "questionable to any industry standard." For instance, "hot" meals for inmates sit on racks as long as three hours before they're delivered to be eaten, the letter alleges. "Improper storage of food was observed continually" during a site tour and "pest control issues exist," it says.  Aramark, a division of Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp., and Canteen are giants in the food-service industry. They've clashed repeatedly around the country, including in Chicago, where U.K.-based Compass' Levy Restaurants unit has held off Aramark for the food contract at McCormick Place.  Still, Compass' Cook County letter is notable for its language and specificity.  Under its current contract, Aramark provides meals at slightly more than 77 cents a serving, according to Mr. Stroger's spokeswoman. That's well under the average of $1.01 the Illinois Department of Corrections spends just to purchase food. The Compass letter implies that Aramark may have cut costs through lowered standards and deferred maintenance.  (Chicago Business)

Cornell Interventions
Wauconda, Illinois
Cornell Companies

December 29, 2006 Lake County News-Sun
Two teenage girls who escaped from Cornell Interventions in unincorporated Wauconda shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday were both charged with possession of a stolen vehicle after attempting to elude police in a chase. Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to the at-risk youth facility to search the grounds for the two runaways, but found no leads at the time. The two females found an unattended 2001 maroon GMC Jimmy at Sweeney's gas station on Miller Road and Route 12 with the keys in the vehicle. "At approximately 1:50 a.m., the two juveniles were called in as runaways from the juvenile detention for at-risk youth," said sheriff's Sgt. Christopher Thompson. The owner of the GMC Jimmy was believed to be in the gas station making a purchase at the time of the vehicle theft and may have left the vehicle running. Lake Zurich police received a call shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday with a report from the driver that the vehicle was stolen. "A vehicle was reported stolen and our department was made aware of it and located the vehicle," said Lake Zurich Police Cmdr. Kevin Finlon. Police discovered the vehicle containing the 14- and 15-year-old females at the intersection of Route 12 and Wooded Ridge.

Crete, Illinois

How the private detention industry courted Crete: May 16, 2012, by Siddhartha Mahanta, American Independent. Exposé on how CCA works small communities.

June 11, 2012 WBEZ
Village residents in April marched against the project, in which Corrections Corporation of America would have held detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After months of rancor among its leaders and residents, a Chicago suburb has rejected a plan by the country’s largest private prison company to build and operate an immigrant detention center. Crete President Michael Einhorn said a unanimous voice vote of the village’s six trustees Monday night blocks the project “as of now.” The vote thrilled residents who have been campaigning against the plan. “When lots of little people get together, it’s possible that the big guns will listen,” said Marimonica Murray, a leader of the group Concerned Citizens of Crete, which led opposition to the detention center. Under the proposal, Crete would have contracted with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, which would have owned the detention center. The medium-security facility would have held more than 700 foreign nationals awaiting deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

June 1, 2012 Daily Register
The Illinois House repeatedly voted down a bill Thursday designed to prevent a company from building a private prison in Crete to hold federal immigration detainees. State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, led opposition to the bill as it might also have closed down the publicly-owned but privately-managed Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin that serves as the county jail for Alexander, Pulaski and Union Counties. Supporters of SB1064 brought the bill to a vote for the first time Thursday afternoon but it failed to secure a majority. Sponsors of the bill offered an amendment Monday grandfathering the Ullin facility under the law but Phelps said both Republican and Democratic county commissioners in Pulaski County remained concerned that the bill could prevent future management leases if the current company ever lost or gave up their contract. Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, claimed after the first vote that the Southern Illinois facility would not be "impacted by the legislation." When asked about the county commissioners' concerns he seemed shocked that they would still have them. "The spirit that we wrote it is that the facility would be (grandfathered), that we would protect them. We tried to address the concerns that they had with this legislation. That was our intent," he said.

May 31, 2012 WBEZ
A bill that would block an immigrant detention center near Chicago failed Thursday afternoon in the Illinois House. But the measure’s supporters said they would try for another vote before lawmakers adjourned for the summer. The measure needed 60 votes to pass. It fell short in a 55-61 roll call with one member voting present. The legislation would ban government agencies at the local and state levels from contracting with private firms to build or run civil detention centers. It would thwart a proposal for Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to construct and operate a 788-bed facility in the village of Crete, a suburb 30 miles south of Chicago. The bill met stiff opposition from building-trades unions eager for the project’s construction jobs and from CCA lobbyists led by Springfield-based Dorgan-McPike & Associates.

April 1, 2012 Southtown Star
Shortly before noon Sunday, a protest march against a proposed immigrant detention center ended its three-day long journey from Chicago as it turned the corner from Main Street onto First Street in Crete. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wants to build a detention facility in Crete for illegal immigrants awaiting their deportation hearings. The debate has spread from Crete to the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago, and a group of people began walking Friday from the Cook County Jail at 26th Street and California Avenue in Chicago. Awaiting the approximately 75 marchers were a handful of Crete residents on the street corner, who shared in their disapproval of the proposed detention center. “Companies can’t profit off of people suffering,” said David Bednarowicz, 24, of Crete. “It’s going to ruin this community. It’s good to see everyone come out here to support us, and I’m glad these marchers are here. I just wish our politicians would listen to us. It’s always about the money.” Lifelong Crete resident John Norman, 57, agreed “it’s a bad thing.” “It reminds me of slavery,” Norman said. “I don’t see any benefit to the taxpayers of Crete. There was no transparency from the leaders of Crete. We’re out here today to show the people that we’re here for a common good. These (marchers) are the people who could suffer from this, and we’re here to support them.”

March 29, 2012 WBEZ
The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at blocking an immigrant detention center proposed for south suburban Crete, but the measure could face rougher going in the House. Passed by a 34-17 vote, SB1064 would make Illinois one of the nation’s first states to ban local governments and state agencies from contracting with private companies to build or run civil detention centers. The measure would expand a state law banning privately constructed or operated state prisons and county jails. The proposal in Crete is for the village to contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to build and run a 788-bed facility that would hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees. Crete officials have talked up the project’s expected jobs and tax benefits but have yet to approve the facility. Some village residents are rallying against it, saying it would hurt their community. The residents have aligned with immigrant-rights advocates who say CCA has provided poor conditions for its ICE detainees in other parts of the country. “When you introduce the profit motive into corrections and detention, what you end up doing is ratcheting down conditions for detainees and for workers,” said Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which is pushing the bill. ICIRR last year shepherded into law a measure that set up a state commission to oversee privately funded college scholarships for undocumented immigrants. CCA disputes criticism about its detainee treatment. On its website, the company says its employees adhere “to the highest standards in corrections.”

March 7, 2012 Chicago Now
The Village of Crete, Ill., is surprisingly small for a community that sits just 30 minutes south of Chicago’s bustling Loop. The Will County village has fewer than 9,000 residents and a small, but solid, middle-class majority--the median household income is $70,074, according to the 2010 Census. For those residents, a prison that brings an influx of jobs might not seem like a bad idea. But will Crete residents, and their neighbors in surrounding villages, realize the windfall of jobs and tax revenue that's being promised in exchange for their support? David Shapiro, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Prison Project, told National Public Radio last fall that the economic boom communities expect from private prisons are often overstated. In a long-term assessment called The Prison Industry, researchers from Washington State University and Ohio State University studied the effects that prison construction has had on counties across America dating back to 1960. They found that, through 1990, there was no evidence that prisons stimulated economic growth. In most cases, prisons only contributed to a small spike in the employment of a low-skilled labor force. The Corrections Corporation of America, which appears to be the frontrunner in the bid to operate a new facility in Crete, says that it draws 70 to 80 percent of its workforce from the towns where its current prisons operate. On the Tennessee-based company's website, there are 235 jobs available. Of these, the most common positions are correctional officer and detention officer, neither of which require more than a high school diploma or GED. For a village like Crete, where 37.4 percent of its residents are in managerial and professional positions and 26.5 percent are in sales and office management, according to census data, the private facility might not provide a lot of new jobs. Even when the jobs come, they aren’t always great ones. In a list of about 537 lawsuits filed against the Corrections Corporation of America between 1998 and 2004 collected by the Private Corrections Working Group, about 119 suits were for wage disputes, wrongful terminations, employee sexual harassment or employee discrimination suits. It doesn’t seem like taxpayers will get much from the building of the private prison either. The cost of building the prison, and paying to house each inmate, will fall to the county and the federal government, respectively. And though the Corrections Corporation of America is assumed to run the prison at a lower cost than the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on its own would, an audit by Arizona's auditor general found this wasn’t the case for private prison-heavy Arizona. In addition, for each prisoner kept in a Corrections Corporation of America detention center, the company is paid a flat amount, and any costs they can cut down from there go toward their profit. But the cost of finding immigrants to detain and transporting them to the center, as well as processing them through the court system, is held by public agencies. It seems like, as with private prisons in other states, the economic windfall may actually go to the Corrections Corporation of America, not taxpayers or job seekers in the area.

February 3, 2012 North West Illinois Times
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will hold a hearing this spring to give local residents a chance to express their views on a proposed detention center that would be used to hold people suspected of violations of immigration law. The promise by ICE officials to hold such a hearing was made following a meeting with Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez, both D-Ill. No date has yet been set. But Jackson, in a prepared statement, said it would be some time after the March 20 primary elections. The two congressmen from Chicago met with federal immigration officials this week to discuss the proposal, which would be built within Jackson's congressional district as it has been redrawn for the upcoming decade. Gutierrez got involved because he has an interest in various issues related to immigration reform. Both congressmen said Thursday they remain opposed to construction of the facility, which would be run by a private company, Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, and would be used as an alternative to holding people facing federal immigration law violations in local jails with people who face criminal charges. "I don't want the south suburbs to become famous for building prisons and breaking up families," Jackson said, adding later, "I've successfully opposed prison projects in my district for 17 years and will continue to do so." Calling Crete a "vibrant and charming small town," Jackson said he thinks the existence of a detention facility nearby, tentatively proposed to be built near the Balmoral Racetrack south of town, would ruin the local ambiance. Immigration activists oppose such facilities, saying the violations some people face are not criminal acts, and the indefinite incarceration that can result in some cases is wrong. Gutierrez said he is pleased to see that Jackson is opposing such a development in the district. "He is absolutely right that economic development through detention and deportation is a dead-end street and doomed to fail," Gutierrez said. The proposed detention facility is being investigated by village officials.

January 23, 2012 Chicago Tribune
A small south suburb has quietly been working with federal officials on a plan to build an immigration lockup of up to 700 beds, placing the semirural town in the middle of a national debate. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has selected Crete as the potential site for an immigration detention center — one of seven locations nationwide chosen for such a facility, as the agency consolidates its detention centers and deports illegal immigrants at a record pace. Crete would hire a private company to build and manage the facility of 500 to 700 beds if the plans evolve into a federal contract with the village, Mayor Michael Einhorn said. Officials from Crete, ICE and the private company, Corrections Corporation of America, say the detention center plan is not a done deal. But officials from all three have been talking privately since at least 2010, according to records obtained by the Tribune through the Freedom of Information Act. Crete leaders have traveled to Washington twice and toured another CCA facility in Kansas, records show. Emails indicate a contract on the proposed site of the detention center has been in effect since at least April. Some Crete residents, angered by what they call a lack of transparency, have been organizing since word of the proposed detention center leaked late last year. Yard signs scattered throughout the town — with a slash through the words "Crete detention center" — signal the feelings of many. Village officials maintain that they haven't discussed the proposal publicly because nothing is concrete.

DuPage County Jail
DuPage County, Illinois
Aramark, A'viands

January 13, 2010 Daily Herald
Debra Olson painted a giant target on her back in the shape of a dollar sign when she announced she'd hold herself to a higher campaign finance standard in her bid to win the Republican nod in the DuPage County Board Chairman's race. The District 4 board member said she won't accept money from people or companies that do business with the county when she announced her candidacy. Since then, two of her opponents and their supporters have attacked Olson, complaining she was "hypocritical" about campaign finance reform and that she lined her war chest with ill-gotten dollars before taking the campaign-funding high road. Olson denies any wrongdoing and blasted state Sen. Dan Cronin and state Sen. Carole Pankau for the accusations. "They can't win on the issues so they go for a smear campaign," Olson, who is a current District 4 board member said. Both state senators attacked Olson for accepting campaign donations from food vendor Aramark while voting in 2007 and 2008 on a $1 million contract to provide meals at the county jail for a year. The contract eventually went to Minnesota-based A'viands Food & Services Management. "I voted consistently for A'viands and gave donations back to Aramark," Olson said. Cronin's camp also said they tallied more than $20,000 worth of campaign donations from companies or people that do business with the county in Olson's coffers over the years, including donations as late as May, 2009.

September 24, 2008 Naperville Sun
Inmates of the DuPage County Jail finally have permanent food service after 18 months of wrangling by competing companies ARAMARK and A'viands. A'Viands was issued a $792,585.92 contract on Tuesday by the DuPage County Board to provide meals to inmates and officers from Oct. 23 to Oct. 22, 2009. The company emerged as the lowest responsible bidder after the contract was sent out for a fourth bid. It's been vying for the contract ever since March 2007, when the first bid was thrown out because of accusations by ARAMARK that A'viands' winning menu did not meet requirements. A'viands has been serving meals at the jail throughout the bidding process, under temporary contracts approved by a county committee. Before that, ARAMARK had fed the inmates for 21 years.

August 22, 2008 Naperville Sun
Inmates of the DuPage County Jail may finally have permanent food service after 18 months of wrangling by competing companies ARAMARK and A'viands. For a fourth time, the companies are bidding for a yearlong contract to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the jail. They've been vying for the contract ever since March 2007, when the first bid was awarded to A'viands and thrown out because of accusations by ARAMARK that the winning menu did not meet requirements. Along with another company officials declined to name, both ARAMARK and A'viands agreed Monday to bid on two menus approved by a professional nutritionist. All three companies have until the first week of September to submit prices on one or both of the menus and the lowest bidder will be chosen.

May 29, 2008 Reporter Met
For the fourth time in about a year, the DuPage County Board has extended a temporary contract for food service at the county jail. After Tuesday’s County Board meeting, Chairman Robert Schillerstrom expressed frustration that the process has dragged on for so long. But board member Michael McMahon, R-3rd District, of Hinsdale, who heads the board’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee, said the county should be able to award a long-term contract by the end of June. By the numbers -- $850,000 Annual cost of original contract -- $1.3 million Approximate cost of temporary contracts -- 53 percent increase The board decided in February to open a fourth round of bidding for the food-service contract and extended the temporary contract through May 31. The new extension runs through Aug. 31, but McMahon said the matter should be settled well before then. A’viands, a Minnesota-based company, has been serving food at the jail under a temporary contract since last June. The contract has been under dispute since May 2007, when it was put out for bidding. A’viands was originally awarded the contract, but it was voided after another bidder, Philadelphia-based ARAMARK, objected that A’viands’ bid did not meet nutritional requirements. The original contract with A’viands would have cost the county about $850,000 for a year of food service. The new temporary contract will total about $1.3 million if a long-term deal is not reached before Aug. 31. “Simply put, the County Board can’t make up their mind on (the contract),” Schillerstrom said. “It should have been done a long time ago. There’s no reason for this to have dragged on for so long.” After a second round of bidding, bids by both companies were thrown out because they failed to meet nutritional requirements. For the third round, the county hired a nutritionist to create a menu with which all bidders were required to comply. ARAMARK’s bid of 91.9 cents per meal was slightly lower than A’viands’ bid of 92.5 cents, but county staff members recommended the contract be awarded to A’viands because ARAMARK strayed from the menu, county officials said. To avoid the confusion over nutritional requirements, the county is taking a new approach for the fourth round of bidding, McMahon said. Rather than requiring bidders to conform to a set menu, each company will be allowed to submit up to three menus, he said. A dietitian hired by the county will then review each menu and determine if it meets nutritional standards. The companies will then be allowed to bid on any of the approved menus, including those submitted by their competitors, and the contract will be awarded to the lowest bidder, McMahon said. “I think this is going to prove to be a good approach,” he said. “It should all be over within the next month.”

May 8, 2008 Naperville Sun
Maybe DuPage County Board members got it right the first time they opened competition for a contract to serve food to some 850 County Jail inmates. They approved a fourth round of bidding Tuesday that is almost identical to the original bid more than a year ago. While board members hope this bid will end a long feud between companies Aramark and A'viands over the contract, some say it will lead to even more contention. This time, bidding companies may submit up to three menus to the county, which will then be either approved or rejected by a certified nutritionist. The bidders may then submit prices on any of the approved menus and the lowest bidder will be chosen. The Judicial and Public Safety Committee has conducted and thrown out three bids during the past year. As members tried adding more specific nutrition requirements and then specific menu requirements, Aramark and A'viands either failed to meet standards or raised objections to each other. But committee member Jim Healy of Naperville said allowing bidders to select from a pool of approved menus may just lead to more conflict. "Then you have two parties arguing about fish cakes versus fish patties, orange juice versus orange drink," Healy said. But the county could save money by allowing bidders to select from a pool of approved menus, said DuPage CFO Fred Backfield. "(This) allows a vendor to choose another menu they could make cheaper," Backfield said. As the bidding process drags on, A'viands continues to feed inmates under an extended temporary contract that was first awarded last July. Before that contract, Aramark had serviced the jail for 21 years.

February 24, 2008 Naperville Sun
A company hoping to win another contract at the DuPage County Jail has donated thousands of dollars to elected county officials. Aramark, a Philadelphia-based company that has provided the jail's food service for 21 years, has poured $14,770 into campaign coffers of State's Attorney Joe Birkett, Sheriff John Zaruba, County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and others since 1999, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. County Board members Brien Sheahan, Debra Olson and Mike McMahon have received several hundred dollars each. In a bidding process fraught with ambiguity and conflict, Aramark has been fighting for more than a year to continue serving food to jail inmates. When the bid was redone for the third time in December, the company submitted a $949,616 bid that was $6,000 lower than that of its competitor, Minnesota-based A'viands. But after the state's attorney's office said Aramark submitted a menu that didn't meet requirements, officials recommended the bid be awarded to A'viands. Aramark's menu diverged slightly by offering breaded fish patties rather than the specified fish fillets and 12-ounce instead of 8-ounce oatmeal servings, Assistant State's Attorney Tom Downing said. Potential savings -- However, County Board members are giving Aramark another shot at the contract, opting for a fourth bid instead of awarding the contract to A'viands. They say the county can save thousands of dollars by changing bidding requirements. Instead of stipulating a specific menu, board members want to mandate only certain nutritional requirements, as was done during the second round of bidding. Allowing bidders to submit their own menu resulted in a bid from Aramark that was $120,000 less than when it followed a menu mandated by the county. That cost difference is enough to justify yet another bid, said Sheahan, calling the whole process "ridiculous." "We're basically having a $120,000 argument over whether milk and oatmeal will fit on a tray, and I think we owe it to taxpayers to make sure we are getting the best value for their money," he said. "We're not interested in spending extra every year so people at the County Jail can eat fish fillets instead of fish sticks." Nothing to hide -- Sheahan said a $500 contribution from Aramark to his primary campaign had nothing to do with his support for a fourth bid. "I really don't care whether Aramark gets it or not," he said. "I want the lowest bid to get it. I think the interest of the committee is just to get the best value for taxpayers." Saying she believes Aramark has submitted responsible bids, Olson, of Wheaton, said she supports a fourth bid to potentially save the $120,000. "This is about saving taxpayers money," said Olson, who noted that she has supported extending the temporary contracts to A'viands. "Any implications that my motivations are other than in the best interests of taxpayers is insulting." Birkett, who has received $3,600 from Aramark, said the campaign contributions played no role in the opinion rendered by his office, which ruled Aramark's bid noncompliant. "If I'm asked for opinion or legal guidance, I give it, free from any political support I've received," Birkett said. The recipient of $4,500 from Aramark, Schillerstrom sided with the state's attorney, saying Aramark failed to meet the menu requirements. "I believe A'viands is the lowest responsible bidder," he said. "I think it's clear that Aramark did not comply with the bid." Zaruba did not return a phone call seeking comment. Nutrition requirements -- Disputes about nutrition requirements have plagued the bidding process, which began last March. After the county declared A'viands the winner of the first bid, Aramark filed a lawsuit claiming its submitted menus were deficient. Schillerstrom upheld the protest, finding that both companies failed to meet requirements and declared a second round of bidding. For the second bid, the county outlined more specific nutrition standards. But both companies fell short, saying it was impossible to meet sodium requirements. In the third bid, the county hired a nutritionist to create a specific menu. While A'viands said the menu gave clear and specific requirements, Aramark disagreed. "It was crystal clear to us that we were to submit a menu that exactly met those requirements, and that's what we did," said Perry Rynders, CEO of A'viands. Rynders expressed "significant disappointment" at the county's decision to hold another bid, saying no one had disputed that A'viands did meet requirements. Temporary contract -- To keep prison inmates fed, the county has issued a string of temporary contracts to A'viands since July. But it's difficult to attract and hire good workers at the jail while the contract remains in limbo, Rynders said. "It's very difficult for us to find staff to work on a temporary basis," he said. "Each time this comes up, they're wondering if their job is on the line. I don't think the County Board understands how difficult this is on us." Aramark spokesman Tim Elliot said the county should return to a nutrition-based bid instead of one based on a menu. That is standard procedure for most of the 700 correctional facilities the company services worldwide, he said. Aramark is a private company that is the 19th-largest employer on the Fortune 500, employing 240,000 workers in 19 countries. Hospitals, eldercare centers, schools, corporations and sports stadiums are among the company's clients. Board member Jim Healy of Naperville agreed with Aramark that the county's "ambiguous" menu should be thrown out in favor of nutritional requirements. "We don't care what you serve as long as you meet the nutritional standards," he said. The county should have stuck with very basic nutritional requirements as it had done until last year, said board member Jim Zay. "This is insane ... the more people we get involved, the worse it gets," Zay said. "This has been costing us hundreds of thousands more because we've been screwing around with it."

Evanston Hospital
Evanston, Illinois

July 7, 2010 Evanston-Review
An on-site food services worker is charging that her employers, Evanston Hospital and Aramark Services, allowed co-workers to repeatedly harass and discriminate her despite her pleas to management for help. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Yaffa Washington, a member of a Hebrew Israelite sect who was born in Israel, said she was hired by Evanston Hospital in 2004 and soon thereafter began working for Aramark Services, on location at the hospital, 2650 Ridge Ave. Washington, an African-American, charges in her lawsuit that she was subjected to offensive racist and and anti-Semitic slurs, including references to her as the “Jew Girl,” soon after after she began working for Aramark. The lawsuit alleges that soon after informing Aramark officials that she was contemplating filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge if the harassment didn't stop – in what her lawsuit describes as “unlawful retaliation against her for engaging in legally protected activity” – Washington was fired. Aramark could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Wednesday that the hospital had not been served notice of such a lawsuit and so could not comment.

Illinois Department of Corrections
Addus, Aramark, Wexford
Oct 14, 2015

Escapee from I-80 rest area caught in Oregon

A prisoner who escaped his guards at an Interstate 80 rest area last month made it to the state of Oregon before being captured Monday. Joshua Drinnon escaped from a private prison transport vehicle about 4:45 p.m. Sept. 2 at the I-80 westbound Great Sauk Trail rest area about 50 miles east of the Quad-Cities. A two-day search for Mr. Drinnon was called off with authorities stating they did not believe he remained in the area. On Tuesday, state police announced that Mr. Drinnon was recaptured Monday at a homeless shelter in Ashland, Ore. Mr. Drinnon had been incarcerated for aggravated robbery and was being transported to California at the time of his escape, according to the Illinois State Police.

Jul 11, 2014

On July 28, 2012, Elawndoe Shannon put in a request for sick call at the prison where he was housed in Lawrence, Illinois. Two days later, he died. The day after his death a nurse in the health care unit finally got his request slip for medical care. “That means somebody took it and just said, ‘Oh it don’t matter, ain’t nothing wrong with him.’ That’s crazy!” said his sister Jackie Shannon in a recent interview on the front porch of her house on Chicago’s South Side. “Everybody’s entitled to see a doctor. I don’t care, you could live in a hole somewhere. If you come out of that hole and you’re sick, you should be able to see a doctor. How many other ones in there that need to see the doctor are not seeing a doctor?” she said. It’s not unusual for Illinois inmates to complain that they have trouble seeing doctors. In another story, WBEZ reported on Anthony Rencher who went to the prison health care unit in the middle of the night where he was observed in the waiting room for an hour before he returned to his cell where he died. And then there’s the case of Daniel Nevarez. Letter from the grave: Daniel’s brother Alonzo Nevarez sits on the front stoop of his dad’s bungalow near Midway Airport and reads through a letter his brother Danny wrote from prison. “We got the letter after Danny passed, and it was, it’s him talking from the grave actually,” said Nevarez. It’s in Spanish and Alonzo translates while he reads. “The reason for this card, to beg you to help him, he’s sick, and the people from this facility, no me quieren, they don’t want to help me. These people are not taking me serious. I need help.” According to medical records, in March of 2010 Nevarez complained to a prison health care worker of pain in his knee. The prison took an X-ray but found nothing. The doctor prescribed some drugs and told Nevarez to exercise as much as possible. A year later Nevarez was still complaining about his knee. He was prescribed Motrin and referred to a doctor. The next two appointments with the prison doctor were cancelled, one because of understaffing and another one because there was no security escort. “He called when he was in prison complaining that they were ignoring him. They wouldn’t let him see the doctor,” said Nevarez. The medical records also show that on several occasions Nevarez refused to see health care workers. In one instance he’s quoted as refusing to see the prison doctor because he wants to be immediately taken for surgery on his knee. On another occasion he refuses to pay the $2.00 co-pay and is therefore denied care. Cancer diagnosis: When the mass on his knee was diagnosed as cancer 15 months after his first complaints, the tumor was hard to miss. It was 5 centimeters by 5 centimeters by 3 centimeters. Daniel’s father Salvador Nevarez said his son was complaining that the prison wasn’t giving him health care,  so the family had a lawyer contact the prison. Nevarez went to an outside hospital where the tumor was removed. He also went for 33 radiation treatments. A year after his treatments on December 13, 2012, Nevarez once again sought medical care. According to records he appears to have fainted and gotten a cut above his eye when he fell. He told doctors his head hurt and he couldn’t remember things. A doctor at the facility seems to have decided Nevarez was lying in an attempt to get drugs. The way it’s recorded in the medical record is: “appears to be med seeking.” Nevarez was sent back to his cell. He fell into a coma. A CT scan of his head was taken and it showed he had two large, dense brain tumors and swelling in his brain. He died that day at the age of 31. The autopsy states, “Given the lack of follow up care and systemic chemotherapy for this patient, in combination with with the poor prognosis in general for such a tumor, it is not surprising that he developed widespread metastases a year after diagnosis.”In the death review the department handed over to WBEZ, where it asks, ‘Was an earlier intervention possible?’ the answer is redacted. On the non-redacted version given to the family, it says the cancer diagnosis could have been made sooner, though it says it was, “probably too late for significant intervention.” Seeing a doctor 'can take months': “It’s a symptom of an overloaded system that it takes forever to get over to a doctor,” said Alan Mills, an attorney specializing in prison litigation. “And then once you’re there you don’t see the doctor right away, you go through two or three screening processes before you finally get to see a doctor. So that can take months.” “There are red flags all over the place,” said Mills. “But without the details, you have to get beyond just saying, ‘well this person died too soon.’ You don’t know that unless a doctor looks at the medical records and says, ‘no this test was done or this test wasn’t done, this is what the follow should have been and it wasn’t.’” That work is now being done by a doctor appointed by a federal judge as part of the class action suit Mills filed over health care. The State of Illinois pays a company called Wexford Health Sources more than $100 million a year to provide health care in the prisons. Wexford did not return repeated calls for comment over the last two weeks. That’s just the most recent refusal—WBEZ has had an ongoing request for an interview with the company for almost two years. Attorney Alan Mills has studied the contract between Wexford and the state. “Wexford gets paid the same amount whether they provide a lot of care or a little care, so therefore, every time they provide care their stockholders lose money. So that is a fine model, but you have to have some control to make sure that they’re actually providing the care that you’re contracted to giving them. Nobody in the state of Illinois regularly audits the Wexford contract, either financially, or more importantly, a health audit to see what the outcomes are that we’re getting,” said Mills. IDOC won't discuss Mills: Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer won’t discuss issues raised by Mills. “I’m not going to discuss anything that Alan Mills says because Alan Mills has been proven to state things that are false, so I’m going to respectfully decline to include any information coming from Alan Mills in this interview. Anybody else you want to talk about, fine, not him,” said Shaer. The medical director who oversees more than $100 million Illinois pays Wexford for medical care refused to speak to WBEZ. WBEZ asked Gov. Pat Quinn’s office about the medical director’s refusal to discuss medical care. After an initial conversation the governor’s office simply ignored follow-up calls and emails from WBEZ. Illinois prisons have low death rates compared to other prisons: Shaer says focussing on just a few cases does not give an accurate picture of health care in the department. He points to Bureau of Justice statistics showing Illinois’ prison system has one of the lowest death rates in the country compared to other prison systems. "We have pretty high standards here. We do the best we can within our ability to monitor that and if we felt that our ability wasn’t adequate, we would find a way to address that,” said Shaer.Independent experts should provide some answers soon: “I see enough things that tell me there are really some warning signs here. I mean there are problems,” said State Rep. Greg Harris.Harris held committee hearings last year to dig into allegations of poor care. “You know in the testimony, in the contacts from individual families, in the lawsuits that have been settled and paid by the state for deaths that should have been preventable, I know there are things that we should have done that we did not do and that there are probably things that we ought to be doing better now,” said Harris. As a result of the hearings, Harris concluded that no one in Illinois is paying close attention to the $100 million the state pays Wexford every year. Harris brought in the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to audit health care, both the finances, and the health outcomes. He says independent experts who know how to evaluate health care in a prison setting are looking at the system and should provide some answers soon. That audit is in addition to a federal court monitor who is also evaluating Illinois’ prison health care system in response to complaints.

Nov 1, 2013

On Tuesday, The Insider reported that the Illinois Department of Corrections had handed on Monday a 10-year, $200 million post-prison services contract to a controversial for-profit firm. 48-hours later Governor Pat Quinn killed it.

DOC announced on Monday that a subsidiary, GEO Re-Entry Services of North Carolina, of the nation's largest, prison and prison services management company, had won the job to consolidate the heap of existing statewide re-entry service contracts targeting offenders on parole. On Wednesday morning, Central Management Services issued a procurement bulletin notice saying that the RFP "is being rescinded." GEO Re-Entry Services' parent, the GEO Group, has been engulfed in a mire of lawsuits, state complaints, federal citations, and allegations of constitutional violations.

The Public Interest Group highlights some of problems that have bedeviled GEO:

•  OSHA found that GEO Group exposed employees to assaults by inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Lost Gap. The citations say GEO knowingly failed to provide adequate staffing, fix malfunctioning cell door locks to protect employees from inmate violence. The company could face up to $104,000 in fines. (Associated Press, 6/12/12)

•  A U.S. Dept. of Justice investigation of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi run by GEO, found multiple violations of the constitutional rights of the detainees, including: indifference to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth, excessive use of force, inadequate protection of youth from youth-on-youth violence. (USDOJ Civil Rights Division press release, 3/20/12)

•  GEO Group, which manages three of New Mexico's four private prisons, was fined $1.1 million by the state for not adequately staffing a prison it operates in Hobbs. GEO agreed to spend $200,000 over the next calendar year to recruit new correctional officers for the Hobbs facility. (The New Mexican, 11/14/11)

This year, in May 2013, inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, sued the state in U.S. federal court alleging "barbaric and horrific conditions" at the facility, which GEO ran from 1999 to 2012, according to SourceWatch. According to a report by the ACLU, which filed the suit on behalf of the inmates, the conditions under GEO's watch were allegedly horrendous. "EMCF is a cesspool. Prisoners are underfed and routinely held in cells that are infested with rats and have no working toilets or lights. Although designated as a facility to care for prisoners with special needs and serious psychiatric disabilities, ECMF denies prisoners even the most rudimentary mental health care services. Many prisoners have attempted to commit suicide; some have succeeded," the ACLU report stated. Not exactly Club Fed. After reading The Insider's report, the John Howard Association's chief, John Maki, flew to phones to give the governor's office an earful. "I gave the governor's office a call to let them know," Maki said modestly. But other sources say that Maki was "instrumental" in killing the contract, saying that Maki reached Quinn's new chief of staff, Ryan Croke, and alerted him to the new contract and its controversial winner. The firm's "Illinois provider network" submitted in the bid was problematic, allegedly being more aspirational than actually in place as the bid required. Croke instantly recognized the problem and acted to squash the contract, sources say. "This contract was absolutely the wrong thing to do," said Maki. "Illinois should not pursue its financial interest over public safety and justice should not be about profit." The GEO contract, awarded over the bids of three Illinois non-profits, also drew scorn from State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), a member of the House Public Safety Appropriations Committee. "I was deeply troubled by the possibility that this private prison corporation might get their foot in the door here via this contract and was pleased to see it rescinded," Cassidy told The Insider. "...[W]e should examine the procurement policies that allowed this situation to develop so we can avoid this in the future." Maki is also happy with Quinn. "I commend the Quinn Administration for taking a second look at this contract," said Maki. "They did the right thing." The governor has been well served by his new, top aide. Bullet dodged.

March 26, 2013

When William Jessup got to Vandalia prison he went to the dentist. Jessup says the dentist told him he had two cavities and offered to pull them. Wait..huh? “No, you’re gonna pull my teeth out. Any qualified dentist will tell you it’s always best to keep your teeth,” said Jessup in a recent interview at the Vandalia prison in southern Illinois. “I’m assuming it still applies here but obviously it don’t, because I still have the two cavities.” When Anthony Rivera first got to Vandalia prison he caught some sort of foot fungus. His feet started smelling bad and he started getting sores, so he went to the doctor there and the doctor gave him foot cream but it was expired. When he told the doctor it was expired, he says the doctor told him that those were just numbers on the container, not an expiration date. “I’m like, what are you talking about,” said Rivera. “It says 9/17/2010. How that’s gonna be just regular numbers?  He’s like, well you don’t want it then leave, so I took it just to take it.  I put it on my feet but it got worse.” Rivera says the sores on his feet got so large and painful that eventually he couldn’t walk. “They gave me some kind of a shot and it relieved it a little bit but it took a nice three months,” said Rivera. Illinois taxpayers are paying Wexford Health Sources, a private health care company, moe than $1.3 billion over ten years to provide care for inmates in prisons. But most of the inmates WBEZ has talked to say, unless it’s an emergency, they’re not getting the care taxpayers have already paid for. And the Illinois Department of Corrections doesn’t seem to have any mechanism to ensure that taxpayers aren’t being fleeced in the health care deal. One more case. Jeff Elders. (Elders and Jessup were both featured in our story Tuesday about Illinois spending big money on people convicted of relatively minor crimes. Jessup got a four-year sentence for having a stolen license plate sticker. Elders got a couple years for trying to steal $111 from J.C. Penney.) Elders has a hard growth on the palm of his right hand.  He holds it up for me to see and pokes at the hard part. “It’s all along the tendon,” said Elders. It’s climbing probably three inches up my hand on my tendon. That’s all hard, real hard and right here there’s a big ol’ thing. It’s pulling that finger in. They say it’s a calcium build-up.  They called it some kind of hemotobin globin, er...” It’s like a hard stick under his skin that runs from his wrist towards the ring finger on his right hand. It breaks into two strands as it approaches the knuckle, making the growth under his skin look like the letter ‘Y.’ It pulls his one finger back so it’s constantly curled and he can’t straighten it out, and it’s getting worse. He went to see the prison doctor about the problem. “They tell you flat out, they can’t do nothing for you,” said Elders. “Unless it’s an immediate issue, they’re not doing nothing for you. He said, well, I’ll give you some aspirins and I suggest you take care of it as soon as you can when you get out or you’re going to end up like this, all crippled up, but there’s nothing we’re going to do for you here.” Elders wasn’t surprised by the ‘treatment.’ “That, to me, it’s what I’m used to. It’s the system. Everything’s blamed on not enough money. What can you do with that? I have no kind of say so. If you back-talk anybody you’re in trouble,” said Elders. I took some of these stories to the guy in charge of Vandalia prison, Warden Victor Dozier. I told Dozier about Jessup, the guy who was told by the dentist that he had cavities and was also told that all they would do for him was pull the teeth. DOZIER: Really. WILDEBOER: Yeah. DOZIER: That’s hard to believe but.... I also asked Dozier about Elders and the growth on his hand. Dozier said offenders can file grievances. That’s the name for the formal complaint process in Illinois prisons. But in the next breath Dozier all but admitted that filing a grievance on a medical issue would be pointless. “If the doctor states, gives him a rational why he can’t do it, I mean, he’s our medical director. I can’t question what he tells the offender,” said Dozier. Admittedly, a corrections professional shouldn’t be overruling the health care decisions of a medical professional. But then who does vet the health care decisions being made? In written statements given to WBEZ over the last several months, the Department of Corrections has said repeatedly that it oversees health care, holding, “monthly continuous quality improvement meetings.” But the department has yet to provide someone who can explain exactly what happens at these meetings, who’s involved or what information they’re looking at. According to the prison watchdog group the John Howard Association no one seems to be providing meaningful oversight of prison health care. In fact, last year, the John Howard Association reported that the state entered into a more than $1.3 billion contract with a company called Wexford Health Sources without auditing the company’s previous performance in the state. I asked Warden Dozier how he, as the top official at the Vandalia prison, ensures that Wexford is delivering the care that Illinois taxpayers have been paying for. “Okay, I don’t have an answer for that,” said Dozier. The lack of oversight has caught the attention of state Rep. Greg Harris. “Well, I’ve heard similar stories and actually worse, and I’m very concerned that we’re paying about $1.3 billion dollars to a private company to manage health care in our prisons, and I want to look into are we getting quality health care for the folks for the money that we’re paying,” said Harris. Greg Harris has been looking into the health care contract. His interest was piqued by the John Howard Association report last year. Harris says his review of the contract shows that the deal is a good one as long as Wexford actually provides the care they’re supposed to provide. “I mean we can’t take the Department of Corrections word for it and we can’t take the private company’s word for it,” said Harris. ”I want somebody to go in and independently verify that people are being adequately treated.” Harris is planning to hold a hearing on April 4th in Chicago to take a closer look at the contract. He’s pushing to bring the National Commission on Correctional Health Care into Illinois prisons to provide independent oversight. Wexford declined to be interviewed for this story. In fact, the company with a billion-dollar public contract in Illinois has refused all of our requests for interviews. However, in a written statement, they said they provide medically necessary care as required by the constitution while at the same time acting as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. Wexford also says it welcomes Rep. Harris’ push to bring a third party into the Illinois prisons to audit Wexford’s performance.

October 9, 2012 WBEZ News
An Illinois state legislator is demanding answers about a huge healthcare contract for prison inmates. Democratic Rep. Greg Harris from Chicago’s Northwest Side is pushing HR 1248, a House resolution calling for an official examination of how the state failed to audit Wexford Health Sources before signing a $1.4 billion contract with the private health care company last year. WBEZ has been reporting on poor health care in the prisons, and a recent report by the prison watchdog John Howard Association found that no one in the state is checking on Wexford to make sure they’re providing the care they’re being paid for. Harris's audit would change that. Harris says there are 250 lawsuits against the state right now alleging poor health care.  He says he's been seeking proof that Wexford is actually earning the $115 million Illinois pays them every year, but he’s not satisfied with what he’s found. “I got a one-page response from the Department of Corrections saying they're doing it.  To me that's just not adequate,” said Harris. “We need to dig beyond what people tell us that there's no problem here, keep moving, there's nothing to see.  We as legislators need to do our jobs and monitor these contracts.” Harris says dollars are in short supply and there needs to be independent oversight of the enormous private contract. He says Wexford may be providing great care to Illinois inmates, but he wants an independent agency to make sure that's the case.

January 6, 2009 The Pantagraph
Unionized health care workers at 27 Illinois prisons are mulling whether to go on strike over wages. The 350-plus workers are employed by Wexford Health Sources of Pennsylvania, which recently received a two-year, $210 million extension in its contract to provide health care to inmates within the state's sprawling prison system. The health care workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union say they want a wage increase similar to a 4 percent boost the union recently inked with a different prison health care contractor. ''Wexford should not have any difficulty meeting the pay and benefit levels of its competitors,'' AFSCME spokesman Buddy Maupin said Monday. The company, which has given embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich $38,000 in campaign contributions since he took office, did not immediately respond to questions. The Illinois Department of Corrections said the matter, for now, is between the company and the union. ''We hope they come to an agreement,'' said Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp. It isn't the first time AFSCME has tangled with Wexford. Three years ago, union workers threatened to strike, raising the possibility that management-level health care workers would have to provide care to inmates. State officials averted the 2005 strike by firing Wexford and bringing in a new company. Wexford eventually was re-hired and received an extension to its contract in late December worth an additional $5 million over its previous deal.

July 30, 2008 AP
Fighting back tears and apologizing to his teenage daughters, the former head of the Illinois prison system was sentenced to two years in federal prison Wednesday for taking payoffs from lobbyists. ''What I did was absolutely wrong,'' said Donald Snyder, who admitted pocketing $50,000 from lobbyists when he was director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He said he hoped his conviction on the charges would not bias employers against his daughters when they grow up and look for jobs. ''I'm sorry, girls,'' he said, turning to the bench where they were sitting. As he tried to finish his statement, his face turned dark red, he grimaced and was unable to speak. Judge James B. Zagel chastised Snyder, who pleaded guilty, volunteered to be a federal witness, secretly recorded corrupt conversations and testified at the trial of one of the lobbyists. ''I didn't believe much of your testimony and I didn't believe much of your testimony because of your claimed lack of memory,'' Zagel told him. He said Snyder diminished the stature of government officials by setting a terrible example and making people doubt their integrity. ''You hear over and over against that all government officials are corrupt,'' said Zagel, a one-time Illinois law enforcement director. Zagel brushed aside letters from Snyder's neighbors in downstate Pittsfield, vouching for him as someone well liked in the community. ''You should have stayed in Pittsfield,'' Zagel said. Snyder admitted that he took $30,000 from Larry Sims, a lobbyist for two vendors. He said he pocketed up to $20,000 from two other lobbyists, former Cook County undersheriff John Robinson and Michael J. Mahoney. Sims and Robinson have pleaded guilty. Mahoney was acquitted in a bench trial before Zagel who said he didn't believe Snyder's testimony. The case drew the spotlight not only because of Snyder's position but because Mahoney had lobbied the prison system while executive director of the John Howard Association, a prison reform organization. At his trial, Mahoney admitted what he had done but argued that whatever the ethical lapses, he simply had not done anything illegal. Zagel agreed, though he said the defense was ''inherently unattractive.''

July 20, 2007 Sun Times
The former director of the Illinois Department of Corrections was indicted Thursday for allegedly taking $50,000 in illegal kickbacks to hand out state contracts to favored companies, including $20,000 in bribes from the former undersheriff of Cook County. The former undersheriff, John Robinson, who left his job under a cloud, had a side job as a lobbyist for companies such as Addus Health Care of Palatine, trying to get them state business. He succeeded in getting Addus a contract providing health-care services in Illinois prisons in part because he bribed then-state Corrections Director Donald Snyder with $20,000, according to the indictment. $30,000 in alleged bribes - "Addus Health Care has not had a relationship with Robinson for several years, is not accused of any wrongdoing, didn't know the alleged activity was taking place, and is assisting authorities every step of the way," said Dave Bayless, a company spokesman. Addus is referred to as "Company A" in the indictment. Also indicted Thursday was Larry Sims, a lobbyist who allegedly gave Snyder $30,000 in bribes so state business could go to an unnamed Pennsylvania health-care company. Snyder, 52, of Downstate Pittsfield, was director of the state prisons under former Gov. George Ryan, from 1999 until 2003. Thursday's indictments grew out of the Operation Safe Road probe of corruption in the Ryan administration. Robinson, 59, of Barrington Hills, was undersheriff of Cook County from 1991 until 2000. He resigned amid a grand jury probe of him allegedly using his undersheriff stationery to solicit business for a British Virgin Islands-based company that ran an alleged investment scam. He was never charged. Robinson was undersheriff for part of the time he allegedly passed money -- in increments, totaling $20,000 -- to Snyder. 5 counts of mail fraud - "John is in a proper manner facing his charges. He will do what is right," Robinson's lawyer, George Collins, said. Robinson is currently unemployed, Collins said. Sims, 58, of Downstate Pleasant Plains, was a lobbyist for several vendors, including the Pennsylvania company. Snyder and Robinson were each charged with five counts of mail fraud. Sims was charged with one count of perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury during the investigation. Attorneys for Snyder and Sims could not be reached for comment. [Indictment is at ] [US Attorney Press Release]

August 25, 2006 The New Mexican
Santa Fe County has interviewed four people who applied to be the new jail administrator. One high-profile candidate, however, took her name out of the hat just before interviews were slated to begin Thursday. Ann Casey, a lobbyist and Illinois jail official embroiled in controversy over her relationship with state Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, had applied for the job along with five others. Casey canceled her interview Thursday and said she no longer wanted to be considered for the job, according to Assistant County Attorney Carolyn Glick. Casey was in the news in New Mexico when the state put Williams on unpaid leave and launched an investigation. Officials looked into his relationship with the woman, including use of his work cell phone and other expenses after the Albuquerque Journal reported billing records for his state cell phone showed 644 calls between the two over five months. Williams returned to work and is on probation following what a governor's aide called "a lapse in judgment." Illinois officials also looked into the matter, but Casey remains in her position of assistant warden of programs at the Centralia Correctional Center, said department spokesman Derek Schnapp. Casey was not available for comment.

May 30, 2006 AP
Gov. Bill Richardson has put Corrections Secretary Joe Williams on unpaid leave while the secretary's recent actions are investigated. Richardson said the review will focus on Williams' use of a state-issued cell phone, a state-funded trip that included some personal travel and his relationship with a lobbyist. "Gov. Richardson wants a thorough investigation to examine the secretary's actions and determine if anything improper occurred," said James Jimenez, Richardson's chief of staff. "The governor sets a very high ethical standard for his administration and will not tolerate any level of abuse of authority or public trust." A spokeswoman for the Corrections Department said Williams was unavailable for comment. State Personnel Director Sandra Perez will conduct the investigation through her office, Jimenez said. Williams will be on unpaid leave until June 9, the day Perez's office is to report to the governor. The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that Williams spent about 91 hours on his state-issued cell phone talking with Ann Casey, an assistant warden at a state prison in Centralia, Ill. The calls between the two phones were placed between Sept. 24, 2005, and Feb. 23, 2006. Casey registered as a lobbyist in 2005 for two companies that have contracts with New Mexico to provide health care and meals to prisoners. Williams described his relationship with Casey as a friendship and said he doesn't give preferential treatment to anybody. Richardson also is questioning a trip Williams took to Nashville on the state's dollar. In January, Williams attended a conference of the American Correctional Association. His travel records show he added a St. Louis leg to the trip, which he said was personal. A 30-mile drive from the St. Louis airport would land Williams at an address in O'Falcon, Ill., which Casey listed on lobbyist registration forms. Records show Williams wrote a check to his department in January for $266, the cost of adding the St. Louis trip. While on the trip, Williams and Casey accepted a dinner invitation from a company that operates a state prison in Santa Rosa, according to Williams' e-mail records. A billing statement for a hotel stay during the trip also lists two people in his party, but Williams would not say who the second person was. Richardson appointed Williams, a former warden at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs and former warden at two state prisons, as corrections secretary in 2003.

November 24, 2005 State Journal Register
Less than five months after the state government canceled a contract with Wexford Health Sources to provide health care for most prison inmates, the company is resuming those duties with a new contract worth a potential $547 million. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which handles health-care procurement for most state agencies, awarded the contract late Wednesday. The agreement will pay Pittsburgh-based Wexford $97.6 million in the first year and $103.9 million in the second year, said HFS spokeswoman Kathleen Strand. Among the other bidders on the contract was Peoria-based Health Professionals Ltd., which the state hired after ending its previous contract with Wexford in July. HPL had prior agreements with the state to provide inmate health care at 10 other Illinois prisons, and those remain in effect, Strand said. The state canceled the earlier contract with Wexford just before the company's union-represented workers planned to go on strike. Workers said they authorized the strike because they were making little progress in contract talks with Wexford. The Department of Corrections awarded emergency contracts worth an estimated $55 million to HPL, and agency officials said at the time that the contracts soon would be put out for long-term bid. The emergency contracts cover the period from July 5, 2005, to Jan. 31, 2006. Wexford has contributed about $25,000 to Illinois political campaign funds since 1994, according to the State Board of Elections' Web site. The largest contribution was $10,000 to Friends of Blagojevich, the governor's fund, in November 2003.

August 27, 2005 Southern Illinoisan
In July, healthcare workers in Illinois prisons were so unhappy with Wexford Health Sources Inc., the company that employed them under contract with the state, they threatened to go on strike. Gov. Rod Blagojevich stepped in and pulled the contract from Wexford and awarded it to Health Professionals Limited. But the workers are still unhappy with Wexford, alleging the company has failed to pay them for accumulated "paid time off" including vacation and sick days. Wexford officials said it may be as late as October, but they will indeed pay what is owed pending receipt of information from HPL and money owed by the state of Illinois.

August 11, 2005 Pantagraph
In her job as a pharmacy technician at Lincoln Correctional Center, Kirsten Lolling has doled out pills and prescriptions to prison inmates for more than 12 years. On Wednesday, Lolling received some good medicine herself in the form of a 24 percent pay hike and a host of other improvements in her wage and benefits package. The added cash comes as part of a union contract ratified Wednesday by nearly 380 privately employed prison health care workers. Overall raises differ at the 23 prisons affected by the deal. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union reports its contract with Peoria-based Health Professionals Ltd. will result in better retirement benefits, cheaper health care costs and added benefits for education and length of service. Faced with the prospect of having inadequate staffing levels in many of its prisons, the Illinois Department of Corrections dropped Wexford and its $83 million contract and brought in HPL, which was already providing health care services at nine other state prisons.

July 7, 2005 Pantagraph
A Pennsylvania-based company may sue the Illinois Department of Corrections after the agency abruptly canceled its contract to avert a labor strike.  "We are looking at all our options," said Elaine Gedman, human resources chief of Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources Inc. "This is totally unprecedented."  The potential lawsuit comes in response to action the state took Sunday as the clock ticked down on a potential strike by nearly 380 nurses, pharmacists and other health-care professionals who work in the prison system but are employed through Wexford.  The workers, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, had threatened to walk off the job Tuesday if their contract demands were not met. Dozens of workers at prisons in Dwight, Pontiac and Lincoln are covered by the labor contract.  But a strike was averted late Sunday when the state terminated its lengthy relationship with Wexford -- worth about $83 million this year -- and hired a second company to manage health care at the prisons.  The affected workers, meanwhile, remain on the job while AFSCME attempts to negotiate a new labor agreement with the new contractor, Health Professionals Limited.

July 5, 2005 State Journal Register
The state has dropped its contract with Wexford Health Sources Inc. to provide health services at 23 state prisons on the eve of a scheduled strike by its employees. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dede Short confirmed that an agreement had been reached between Corrections and Health Professionals Limited to take over the Wexford contracts, which were cancelled Monday. Health Professionals Limited is a private vendor that currently provides similar health services in nine prisons, according to representatives of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represented the Wexford prison employees. As a result, the strike that had been scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. today, affecting more than 350 Wexford employees at 23 state prisons, has been put on hold, according to Anders Lindall, public affairs director for AFSCME Council 31. Negotiations broke off Friday between Wexford and the union. At the heart of the dispute is the difference in pay, health and other benefits between Wexford's employees and state workers, some of whom reportedly make twice as much as private vendor health employees doing similar jobs. Wexford's workers provided medical, dental and mental health services at nearly two dozen state prisons.  

June 26, 2005 Lincoln Courier
More than 350 health care workers at Illinois prisons, including those at Lincoln and Logan correctional centers, will go on strike July 5 if contract negotiations between their union and their employer, Wexford Health Sources, fail to produce an agreement. Wexford has state contracts to provide health care at nearly two dozen correctional facilities. The union-represented Wexford workers voted 356-5 this week to authorize a strike, said Buddy Maupin, regional director for Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. For instance, he said, Wexford employees at state prisons are paid "vastly inferior" wages compared with state employees doing the same work. Kirsten Lolling, a pharmacy technician at Lincoln Correctional Center, said she is paid $14 an hour, despite having 13 years of experience. State employees doing the same job are paid about twice as much, she said. "Philosophically, we don’t think that the state should exploit its Wexford work force by using a low-wage, low-benefit vendor to save money on the labor costs," Maupin said.

June 24, 2005 Copley News Service
Frustrated by a lack of progress in contract talks, more than 350 workers who provide health care services to Illinois prison inmates have been taking strike-authorization votes, the results of which will be announced today.  A contract between AFSCME and Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Wexford Health Sources Inc. expires at midnight June 30, AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said Thursday. Wexford has state contracts to provide health-care services at most Illinois prisons. Negotiations on a new contract started in April, but they have not gone smoothly, Lindall said.  Wexford has proposed an "array of draconian takeback measures," including reductions in pay and benefits, he said.

August 18, 2003  Sun Times News
The union representing Illinois’ 15,000 state prison employees is praising Governor Blagojevich’s approval of legislation that would bar the privatization of prison commissary services.  Illinois law already prohibits the privatization of all security functions in the state prisons. AFSCME Council 31 initiated the new measure after former Governor George Ryan made an aggressive effort to contract out commissary services in the state’s 37 correctional facilities. Ryan contended that no security function was involved in the commissaries, which sell non-essential goods to inmates at reduced prices.  SB 629 makes explicit the prohibition against privatization of commissary services. It passed the General Assembly earlier this year by overwhelming majorities in both houses.

April 28, 2003 Clinton Herald
There's no money in the Illinois budget to staff and operate the Thompson prison next year but the state is exploring options for using that facility and other prisons not currently open.  One option would be to turn those facilities into federal prisons.  Doing so would require the Illinois Department of Corrections to first turn over the prisons to private companies to run, and the private companies would then lease the space to the federal prison system.

April 10, 2003  The Southern Illinois
Union picket lines could begin appearing as early as next week at eight Illinois Department of Corrections facilities because of stalled contract talks between health care workers and the private vendor that employs them.  Health care workers have been without a contract since Dec. 31 and have set Monday as a strike date, said Mark Samuels, public affairs director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state's largest public-service employee union.  AFSCME Regional Director Buddy Maupin said Tuesday that HPL is one of three primary suppliers of health care services to the state corrections system. Wexford and Addus are the other two principal contractors. Maupin said HPL's contract proposals are not only "inferior" to wages and benefits earned by state employees in IDOC who provide the same services, but they are also below those paid by Wexford and Addus.

July 26, 2002
When they cobbled together a crisis budget in spring, Gov. George Ryan and Illinois lawmakers made some of their most significant cuts in the state prison system, an expensive sector of government and home to thousands of jobs and costly operations. A month into the new budget year, the cuts are taking effect, as inmates are shuttled out of prisons destined for closing, 2,200 workers prepare to lose their jobs and prison towns brace for the economic losses.   Officials also are trying to implement another cost-saving plan: privatization of food services at state prisons.  But the state hasn't seen any savings from that plan. A Grundy County judge has put it on hold until a lawsuit by the union to block the food contract is resolved. Union leaders say it isn't safe to have private employees work in prisons, especially in the kitchens where knives and chemicals are stored.   According to a summary of incident reports at the Joliet Correctional Center between August and November 2001, employees of the Aramark company on different occasions failed to keep dishes, knives and chemicals locked up properly.  (The Chicago Tribune)

July 17, 2002
When Illinois solicits bids to take over its prison food service, only one company made an offer.  That company, Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp., has had some reported problems in Ohio, Florida and even Illinois, but state officials here say those types of incidents are no different from the ones that occur in state-run facilities.  The American Council of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 31 disagrees.  "In any prison, the dietary unit-- the kitchen-- is always the most dangerous place because the inmates do the cooking," said union spokesman Buddy Maupin.  "Those inmate cooks have access to food, fuel and knives, so overseeing how they utilize that access is a critical security function in a prison, and it needs to be performed by professional security staff, not minimum-wage, fly-by-night, for-profit companies like Aramark.  Ohio union officials say their state's decision to return to running prison kitchens with state employees after hiring Aramark speaks for itself.  "It's surprising to us to see other states not learn lessons from Ohio and other states that have had negative experiences with Aramark," said Sally Meckling of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.  When the contract expired, Ohio state employees took control of prison kitchen operations.  The Florida Department of Corrections hired Aramark last year to take over 126 of its 133 prison kitchens, hoping to save as much as $8 million in the first year.  The savings were realized, but problems with the company's service led the state to fine it $110,000 within the first 12 months of the contract.  Gov. George Ryan and the Illinois Department of Corrections say privatizing prison kitchens in Illinois will save up to $25 million, and they support contracting out those services, despite problems in other states and even here.  A list of incident report highlights released by the American Council of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 31 for a three-month period at Joilet in late 2001 included one instance in November when an Aramark manager allegedly took a key to the tool room home, preventing the duty manager from locking up a butcher knife, and another instance in September when chemicals were reported on a grill and an Aramark employee allegedly inspected it and proceeded to cook on it without cleaning off the chemicals.  Since incident reports are not public record, the Department of Corrections declined to comment on those specific allegations.  Grundy County Judge Lance Peterson has temporarily blocked the state from awarding a prison food service contract while a lawsuit challenging the privatization effort is resolved, so the Illinois Department of Corrections' plans to offer Aramark a contract on hold.  A hearing is set for late August.  This spring, state lawmakers overwhelmingly passed  a bill specifically banning private prison dietary service, but Gov. Ryan vetoed the measure.  An attempt to override the veto failed.  (The News-Gazette Online)

June 22, 2002
A Grundy Court judge has ruled a lawsuit challenging Gov. George Ryan's plan to privatize prison food worker's jobs can go forward. Privatization could cost about 630 jobs statewide and a lawsuit claims that contracting out prison food service is illegal under the state's Private Prison Moratorium Act.  (The Associated Press State and Local Wire)

Legislation that would have thwarted Gov. George Ryan's plan to privatize prison food services won't become state law after all.  An Illinois state's largest employees union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is fighting the privatization issue in court.  (State Capital Bureau)

Illinois Legislature
IllinoisJun 23, 2019

"We will not allow private entities to profit off of the intolerance of this president."

With mass raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) planned for Sunday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signed a bill Friday that will make his state the first in the country to ban private immigration detention centers. “Illinois is and always will be a welcoming state,” said Gov. JB Pritzker in a statement on Friday. “Let me be perfectly clear: the state of Illinois stands as a firewall against Donald Trump’s attacks on our immigrant communities. In the face of attempts to stoke fear, exploit division, and force families into the shadows, we are taking action.” The ICE raids — known as “family op” — are scheduled to begin before dawn on Sunday in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. They will target up to 2,000 families who have already received deportation orders. According to the Washington Post, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has urged ICE to narrow the raids to just 150 families who abandoned legal proceedings after being provided with attorneys. These raids will likely result in additional family separation, and the arrest of many people who have not been presented with deportation orders — something ICE considers “collateral arrests.” The Washington Post reports that ICE plans to temporarily house the immigrants it rounds up in hotels. Increasingly, ICE has begun relying on private, for-profit detention centers to hold immigrants, which is why Pritzker decided to push forward this legislation prohibiting such facilities from operating in Illinois. The bills he signed on Friday also prohibit local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with ICE, and allows undocumented students to receive MAP grants for college. “We will not allow private entities to profit off of the intolerance of this president. We will not allow local police departments act as an extension of ICE,” Pritzker said. “And we will ensure that every student in this state who wants to go to college should be able to do so without saddling themselves with debt for the rest of their lives.” Many democratic presidential candidates have spoken out against these planned raids. “Deporting hundreds of families—separating more children from their parents in the process—is inhumane,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted on Friday. “Our immigration policies should reflect America’s values, not betray them.” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said, “Millions of people will enter this weekend filled with fear. Children who are U.S. citizens will wonder if their mothers will be ripped from home in the pre-dawn hours before church on Sunday. And why? So Trump can vilify immigrants as part of a political campaign. It’s shameful.” On Saturday, President Donald Trump defended his plan on Twitter. “The people that Ice will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported. This means that they have run from the law and run from the courts. These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country. They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying,” he said. UPDATE: On Saturday afternoon, Trump announced via Twitter that he was cancelling the ICE raids until the July 4th holiday weekend “to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”


Jun 5, 2013

Corrections Corp. of America won’t make a public presentation of its plans for an immigrant detention center now that it has pulled out of Joliet. But the company did present some idea of its plan months ago to a mayoral committee of business owners. Two city council members on Tuesday questioned the private showing of the CCA plans after hearing Mayor Thomas Giarrante talk about it during a radio interview earlier in the day. “I would like to know why we allowed that to happen and allowed the public to speculate,” Councilman Jim McFarland said to the mayor at Tuesday’s council meeting. “In my opinion, you knew everything that was going to be proposed.” McFarland and Councilman Larry Hug said the presentation indicated that the plan for an immigration detention center was more advanced than the city suggested at several public meetings where opponents raised questions about it. City officials repeatedly said there was nothing to discuss because there was no plan on the table. “I feel embarrassed,” Hug said. “We presented to the public that there wouldn’t be a presentation because there was nothing on the table.” Giarrante and City Manager Thomas Thanas said the CCA presentation was made at a time when the project looked like it was about to go forward. “Subsequently, everything got pulled back,” Giarrante said. Thanas said the presentation to the Mayor’s Committee to Attain and Retain Business “was the first opportunity for a meeting with anyone from Joliet.” He said the meeting was a “boilerplate presentation” that offered basics that could be made in any community where CCA was considering building a detention center. Thanas said details like the number of jobs and potential tax dollars were presented, but he noted that he had also made those numbers public repeatedly. It was not clear when the meeting was held, but Thanas said he remembered it was sometime in the winter. The committee was formed by Giarrante after he was elected mayor to serve as a business advisory group on economic development issues. Thanas said the presentation to the committee was to be the first of many that were to be made to neighborhood groups and other organizations in Joliet as CCA was to make a case for building the center in the city. “I think it was at a time when the understanding was that we were going to hear from the federal government — ICE (Immigration, Customs and Enforcement) — whether Joliet was a suitable location,” Thanas said. “By default, it didn’t move forward.” This week, Thanas announced that CCA had decided to drop its plan for a Joliet location. The council had voted in May to have CCA make a public presentation on its plans for Joliet. Thanas had said there never was a plan advanced enough to bring to the council for a vote.


Jun 4, 2013

Corrections Corporation of America will not build an immigrant detention center in Joliet, City Manager Tom Thanas announced Monday. The company's decision was made public toward the end of the Joliet City Council's pre-council meeting, just before residents were set to speak yet again against the proposed for-profit detention facility, a bi-monthly occurrence since the possibility of the center being built here was broached last fall. "I was in a conversation this afternoon with representatives of the Corrections Corporation of America, otherwise known as CCA," Thanas said, "and they indicated to me that they are withdrawing their interest in Joliet as a possible site for a detention center." Two weeks ago, the council asked Thanas to invite CCA officials to a future council meeting so they could explain what type of facility it might build in Joliet. The meeting request was instigated by At-Large Councilman Jim McFarland, the only council member to publicly state his opposition to the center. Following the meeting, McFarland issued a statement in which he credited residents with influencing CCA's decision to abandon Joliet as a possible location. Public pressure also ended CCA's efforts to build a detention center in Crete when the board there rejected the proposal a year ago. "The citizens of Joliet have spoken," McFarland said. "CCA apparently responded to the feedback given by the residents of Joliet, recognizing that a for-profit prison is not a good fit for our community. "As a city, we can now start to focus on issues that directly affect the public good, such as the need to create sustainable, high-paying jobs and confront crime in our neighborhoods," he said. Thanas said Monday that CCA's decision was, in part, tied to federal indecision over how to deal with immigration reform, which will dictate what type of demand there will be for these types of centers in the future. "Obviously, the issue is not resolved in Washington, D.C.," Thanas said. "It may be many months or perhaps years before the issue gets resolved and they had made a determination that Joliet would not be under consideration for a site." The anti-immigration center movement started almost immediately after it became known last fall that Thanas had spoken with CCA officials about the possibility of building a center in Joliet. The company has expressed a desire to build something in or near the Chicago market and was looking at locations in the wake of the Crete rejection. Although the company never made a formal overture to the city about the center, residents opposed to the idea organized and held a series of public forums, rallies and press conferences to keep the issue in the public eye. Representatives spoke at every council meeting, and they enlisted powerful political opponents, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

May 27, 2013

The governor has penned a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security urging her to reject a for-profit immigration detention center in Joliet or anywhere else in Illinois. In his May 23 letter to Janet Napolitano, Gov. Pat Quinn refers to the Corrections Corporation of America facility as an "immigration prison" and says it's time to "time to embrace our nation's immigrants, not build prisons to incarcerate them." The letter comes in the wake of an anti-detention center movement mounted by a group of Joliet residents opposed to the building of such a facility in the city. The organized effort has mounted rallies, forums and press conferences to put pressure on the Joliet City Council to reject any proposal that is submitted for approval. The group is particularly critical of the Corrections Corporation of America, better known as CCA, because of what it deems to be the inhumane treatment of people who are held in their facilities. Joliet City Manager Tom Thanas has spoken to CCA officials about the possibility of building an immigration detention center here, but there have been no formal plans presented. Last week, the city council -- acting on the request of newly election At-Large Councilman Jim McFarland -- directed Thanas to invite CCA officials to make a presentation to the council about what they are hoping to build in the Chicago market, either in Joliet or elsewhere. The project was to be built in suburban Crete, but village officials there rejected the proposal in the wake of public opposition. It's not known who asked and what instigated Quinn to write his letter to Napolitano (a copy of the actual letter accompanies this article), which reads as follows:

May 19, 2013

Attorney General Lisa Madigan Joins Illinois Congressional Delegation Against the Corrections Corporation of America’s Proposed For-Profit Immigration Prison in Joliet. Community Leaders and Clergy Call on Joliet Mayor Giarrante to end negotiations with Corrections Corporations of America. Will County board members, Joliet City Council members wee joined by leaders from the faith, business and community to denounce the proposed for-profit prison by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in Joliet and delivered 4,000 petitions to Joliet officials asking them to end negotiations with CCA.  “I call upon the mayor and council to recall their own immigrant roots and stand with us in opposing this immigrant prison,” said Tom Garlitz of the Diocese of Joliet. He noted that Presence St. Joseph Medical Center and the University of St. Francis also joined with the Diocese in opposition to the center.

The group applauded the letters that Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 7 members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation submitted to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano opposing CCA’s private, for-profit immigration prisons in Illinois. “Published reports indicate that the private, for-profit entity, Corrections Corporation of America, Inc., which is currently seeking to build and operate a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention center in Will County, Illinois, has a record of violence at its facilities, including DHS detention facilities…Based on these concerns, I would respectfully request that you reject CCA's proposal to operate a detention center in lllinois,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. CCA, a multi-billion dollar corporation, has a long, well-documented history of cutting costs, underpaying and under-training staff, and fighting unions.  These practices have created poor morale, high turnover, and personnel who are ill prepared to handling their responsibilities and prone to violence and abuse. Additionally, CCA also has a long and sad history of neglect, abuse, and mistreatment.  At least 24 immigrant detainees have died in CCA facilities, many from lack of medical care for conditions that could have been treated.  CCA has faced multiple lawsuits regarding these and other abuses, including allegations that in one Idaho prison it ran a “gladiator school” that used “Hunger Games”-like violence and intimidation to control the inmates. Last year, CCA attempted to build a similar prison in Crete but due to community opposition the Village of Crete voted unanimously to end discussions with Immigration and Customs (ICE) and CCA. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit

June 1, 2012 Daily Register
The Illinois House repeatedly voted down a bill Thursday designed to prevent a company from building a private prison in Crete to hold federal immigration detainees. State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, led opposition to the bill as it might also have closed down the publicly-owned but privately-managed Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin that serves as the county jail for Alexander, Pulaski and Union Counties. Supporters of SB1064 brought the bill to a vote for the first time Thursday afternoon but it failed to secure a majority. Sponsors of the bill offered an amendment Monday grandfathering the Ullin facility under the law but Phelps said both Republican and Democratic county commissioners in Pulaski County remained concerned that the bill could prevent future management leases if the current company ever lost or gave up their contract. Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, claimed after the first vote that the Southern Illinois facility would not be "impacted by the legislation." When asked about the county commissioners' concerns he seemed shocked that they would still have them. "The spirit that we wrote it is that the facility would be (grandfathered), that we would protect them. We tried to address the concerns that they had with this legislation. That was our intent," he said.

May 31, 2012 WBEZ
A bill that would block an immigrant detention center near Chicago failed Thursday afternoon in the Illinois House. But the measure’s supporters said they would try for another vote before lawmakers adjourned for the summer. The measure needed 60 votes to pass. It fell short in a 55-61 roll call with one member voting present. The legislation would ban government agencies at the local and state levels from contracting with private firms to build or run civil detention centers. It would thwart a proposal for Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to construct and operate a 788-bed facility in the village of Crete, a suburb 30 miles south of Chicago. The bill met stiff opposition from building-trades unions eager for the project’s construction jobs and from CCA lobbyists led by Springfield-based Dorgan-McPike & Associates.

March 29, 2012 WBEZ
The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at blocking an immigrant detention center proposed for south suburban Crete, but the measure could face rougher going in the House. Passed by a 34-17 vote, SB1064 would make Illinois one of the nation’s first states to ban local governments and state agencies from contracting with private companies to build or run civil detention centers. The measure would expand a state law banning privately constructed or operated state prisons and county jails. The proposal in Crete is for the village to contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to build and run a 788-bed facility that would hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees. Crete officials have talked up the project’s expected jobs and tax benefits but have yet to approve the facility. Some village residents are rallying against it, saying it would hurt their community. The residents have aligned with immigrant-rights advocates who say CCA has provided poor conditions for its ICE detainees in other parts of the country. “When you introduce the profit motive into corrections and detention, what you end up doing is ratcheting down conditions for detainees and for workers,” said Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which is pushing the bill. ICIRR last year shepherded into law a measure that set up a state commission to oversee privately funded college scholarships for undocumented immigrants. CCA disputes criticism about its detainee treatment. On its website, the company says its employees adhere “to the highest standards in corrections.”

October 26, 2006 Sun Times
Gov. Blagojevich remembers political insider Stuart Levine spilling a cup of coffee on him during a New York fund-raising trip that is under federal scrutiny, but insists Levine spilled nothing about any illegal scheme to trade government business for campaign cash. "That's ridiculous," Blagojevich said Wednesday. "Absolutely not. Of course not." The Democratic governor spoke for the first time in detail about the 2003 trip as supporters of his GOP rival, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, said an itinerary shows Blagojevich illegally mixed government and political fund-raising. The itinerary lists meetings at New York's Harvard Club between Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, top Blagojevich fund-raiser Christopher G. Kelly and representatives of two companies. Those firms, Maximus Inc. and Wexford Health Sources, do millions of dollars in state business each year. Each also has contributed five-figure sums to Blagojevich. Feds probing trips: The Chicago Sun-Times last month reported that the Oct. 29, 2003, trip -- plus another to the East Coast later -- are focuses of a federal pay-to-play probe of state government. "The chief fund-raiser is meeting with people who are interested in government contracts along with a high-ranking member of the governor's staff," said Joe Birkett, DuPage County's state's attorney and GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. "You're setting the table to exchange your governmental decision-making in exchange for a political benefit." Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield dismissed the criticism. Kelly and Tusk, he said, never met with Wexford or Maximus -- despite what the "preliminary draft" schedule indicates. "Bradley and Chris were not in any meetings together. I really have no idea why it would be that way on the schedule," Scofield said. "You have a schedule that looks like it's inaccurate in a number of ways."

February 6, 2006 Sun-Times
Sparking an outcry from a Republican rival, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka accepted $11,000 from a firm owned by an investor in a clout-heavy luxury hotel that she once offered to bail out from a decades-old, unpaid state loan. In October and again in December, Topinka opened her campaign coffers to Peoria-based Health Professionals Ltd., a contractor that provides prison health care services. The firm is owned by Dr. Stephen Cullinan and his wife, Dr. Theresa Falcon-Cullinan, and has received $43.9 million so far this year under a state prison contract. The money Health Professionals donated to Topinka in the last half of 2005 made the firm the third-largest contributor to her campaign during the period. Only former Gov. Jim Edgar and U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, who donated $25,000 apiece, gave more.

September 15, 2004 Sun Times
Scott Fawell, once a golden boy of Illinois politics, cut a deal with federal prosecutors Tuesday that put his lover's fate over the future of former Gov. George Ryan, a man once like a father to Fawell.
Fawell, a former top aide to Ryan, pleaded guilty to a bid-rigging scheme and is already providing prosecutors substantial assistance in their corruption case against Ryan, the Sun-Times has learned. Fawell is also giving information on Ryan's friend, Republican businessman Lawrence Warner, and other potentially high-profile investigations not yet made public. On Tuesday, Fawell pleaded guilty to leaking inside bid information in 2001 on an $11.5 million contract to oversee expansion at McCormick Place. The company that got the contract was Jacobs Facilities Inc., a client of Fawell's friend, Ronan. Fawell ordered his girlfriend, Coutretsis, to give the details to an employee of Ronan's. In Fawell's plea agreement, he admitted providing inside information to help two other Ronan clients while Fawell oversaw McCormick Place and Navy Pier -- food service giant Aramark, and LaSalle Bank, which wanted the ATM contract at Navy Pier, according to the plea and sources.

March 10, 2004 WAND TV
A health care firm that contributed $10,000 to Governor Rod Blagojevich got a 113 million-dollar state prison contract even though it didn't make the best offer.  Corrections Department spokesman Sergio Molina says Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Sources did not have the highest overall score of four companies evaluated.  But he says officials chose Wexford because its price was so low not because of the campaign contribution.  The contract covers inmate medical care for seven prisons. Wexford also won contracts totaling 90 million dollars for eight others.  Molina says Wexford had the highest score and the lowest bid on those contracts.  He would not release competitors' scores or bids.  State officials say losing bidders' proposals are proprietary.  Wexford now handles health care for all but five state prisons.

June 8, 2002
Worried about the shaky underpinnings of a state spending plan recently passed by the General Assembly, Gov. George Ryan on Friday summoned lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session starting Monday to consider changes. In an official proclamation summoning the legislature back to Springfield, Ryan signaled his intent to cut spending approved by lawmakers last weekend and to veto outright a bill that outlawed privatization of prison food services--a measure that passed both chambers with overwhelming majorities. (The Tribune)

May 8, 2002
Prison kitchen supervisors in Danville and around the state breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, but the fight to save their jobs is not over yet. The Illinois Senate voted Tuesday to send Gov. George Ryan a bill banning privatization of prison food and commissary services. The House passed the ban earlier this spring. (The News-Gazette)

May 6, 2002
*Ryan says the budget approved by the Legislator is still $500 million out of balance.  Illinois legislators, who passed an unbalanced state budget last week and then headed home, are being called back to Springfield to rework the math.  Ryan announced Friday that he planned to veto one bill that would prohibit the privatization of state prison services, an idea that the governor's office says would save $30 million.  Union officials and many Democrats oppose privatization.  "I don't think it will save the money they say it will," said state Rep. Thomas Holbrook, D-Belleville.  (St.Louis Post-Dispatch)

January 31, 2002
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 planned to file a lawsuit today to stop the governor's efforts to privatize food and commissary services at state prisons. The privatization is expected to cost 33 jobs at the Danville prison and about 900 jobs statewide. The union claims Ryan's plan violates the state's Private Correctional Facility Moratorium Act and that the governor cannot contract out the services without General Assembly approval. The union plans to picket Danville Correctional Center at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to protest visits from representatives of companies bidding for the prison's food and commissary contracts. (The News-Gazette)

December 5, 2002 
A Grundy County judge ruled Thursday that the Illinois Department of Corrections' plan to privatize prison cafeteria jobs violates state law.  Facing a budget deficit of $1 billion, Gov. George Ryan announced last Winter he would replace about 600 jobs on the state payroll by hiring outside companies to run the dietary and commissary operations.  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and others sued, claiming the move violated a state law prohibiting hiring private companies for security-related prison functions.  AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer applauded the ruling. He has argued that Corrections' 500 cafeteria workers cook and serve alongside inmates.  "Privatizing dietary services in prison kitchens - where inmates have access to knives and other potential weapons - would have posed a great risk to prison security and to our members," Bayer said in a statement.  AFSCME also sued Ryan last spring to block the layoff of 1,000 union workers.  A circuit judge stopped the layoffs in May while the two sides argue over whether the layoffs are allowed.  (AP)

February 15, 2002
A Grundy County judge has put a temporary stop to Gov. George Ryan’s plan to privatize food service operations at Illinois prisons. Judge Lance Peterson will issue a temporary restraining order today preventing the hiring of private contractors to serve food in state prisons. AFSCME filed suit in Grundy County, in northern Illinois, contending Ryan’s plan violated state law prohibiting the privatization of certain prison operations. While contractors can do some prison work, such as providing medical service, the food service cannot be privatized because of security issues, the union said. With the temporary restraining order in place and further hearings in Grundy County before a final decision is issued, the union is continuing its push for a law solidifying its contention that the food service cannot be run by private companies. That bill is scheduled for a hearing in a House committee Wednesday. (The State Journal-Register)  

October 24, 2000
Once hailed as a cost-cutter to reduce government waste, Illinois' move to contract with private companies for health care in its prisons is now a growing source of controversy. Former health-care employees and union representatives detailed the downside of privatization at a House Prison Management Reform Committee. They said allowing private companies to handle the workload has created a lack of leadership and accountability, leaving those employees with no option to voice concerns about mismanagement at the facilities. Those concerns are serious enough for a closer look by committee members.

Aug 12, 2020

ICE drops search for contractor to build immigration detention facility near Chicago

Immigration advocates in Chicago celebrated the news by saying they would continue to hold the federal agency accountable.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has canceled its search for a contractor to build a detention facility near Chicago that would have held people facing deportation, according to a website that tracks federal contracts. The update was made Tuesday on a website that is part of the U.S. General Services Administration. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chicago-based immigration advocacy groups the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the National Immigrant Justice Center, released a statement saying the organizations were “elated” by the change. “Our organizations will continue to fight to hold (the Department of Homeland Security) and ICE accountable, to stop the harms they are inflicting and the fear they are creating in our communities, and to make Illinois welcoming for all,” the statement read. In 2019, ICE sought bids for a contract that would have brought a detention facility with the capacity to hold up to 1,000 people within a 150-mile radius of Chicago. ICE currently contracts with suburban local jails to detain people facing deportation. Immigration Centers for America had expressed interest in building a private detention center in Dwight, about 75 miles southwest of Chicago. The efforts were thwarted after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law in June 2019 that expanded the state’s ban on private prisons to include detention facilities. But in recent weeks, a letter from ICE, dated July 23, that stated an environmental assessment would take place in Dwight caused confusion and worried immigration advocates. Jared Anderson, the president of the village of Dwight, previously told the Sun-Times that he received the letter but that he didn’t know what it meant. He and other Dwight officials were under the assumption that the construction of the facility had been derailed.

Kane County Jail

Kane, Illinois

Aramark, Cornell, Prison Health Services
Jan 20, 2014

A former Kane County Jail inmate is suing Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, alleging that he was denied depression and anxiety medication during his incarceration, which led to a suicide attempt. Randy Brattin, 33, of Elburn, is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, and has named Perez, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. in the suit he filed earlier this month. Wexford contracts with the jail to provide medical services to inmates, according to court records. Brattin was taken into custody on Nov. 30, 2012, on his fourth drunken driving charge, fleeing/eluding deputies and several other charges. During his incarceration, Brattin said he was denied his prescribed and required medication for the treatment of anxiety, depression and seizures. The suit claims that jail policy is to inventory medication brought in by an inmate, and then to have the Sheriff’s Department’s own medical staff supply the same or equivalent medications to the inmate. Brattin said in the lawsuit that never happened. Instead, he said, doctors never regularly examined him, or contacted his primary care physician or family regarding his medical care. In the suit, Brattin said he notified staff at the jail that he was supposed to be taking the medication. Brattin “never received the medication he requested” the suit alleges. Because of this, Brattin attempted to take his own life by cutting his wrists on Dec. 6, 2012, the lawsuit states. As a result of being denied his medication, Brattin “suffered severe depression, and/or panic attack ... and attempted to commit suicide,” the suit states. Perez would not comment on the pending allegation. Brattin’s case management conference is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Kane County.

February 15, 2010 The Daily Herald
A convicted robber has filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was given the wrong medication while incarcerated at the Kane County jail. Michael H. Morris, 30, of North Aurora, was "unable to urinate, suffered neuropathy in his feet and had difficulty breathing" after the jail gave him a form of insulin that doctors had concluded was "no longer effective" in treating his diabetes, the lawsuit says. Morris claims he repeatedly was treated incorrectly, despite protests from himself and his mother, during a 90-day jail sentence he served after pleading guilty to aggravated robbery in 2007. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court says Morris' "blood sugar levels went dangerously high, to more than double the normal range," and also accuses jailers of acting "willfully and wantonly, maliciously, and with a conscious disregard and deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's rights." Kane County Sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler said the office does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, names as defendants Sheriff Pat Perez, the county and the jail's medical provider, Prison Health Services, as well as four unnamed guards and the jail's health services administrator.

January 10, 2008 The Daily Herald
Aramark, the Kane County jail's longtime food service vendor, has come under fire by a union-affiliated group. Four representatives of the Campaign for Quality Services, a group formed by two labor organizations, on Tuesday asked the Kane County Board to examine its contract with Aramark in light of complaints against the company filed across the country. Aramark is accused of billing the Florida Department of Corrections for meals that were never prepared or eaten and failing to pass on the cost savings for serving less expensive food items to inmates, according to an analysis conducted by Florida's inspector general last year. Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez said he is aware of those and other complaints against Philadelphia-based Aramark, which has provided food to county jail inmates since at least 1996. Perez said he and his staff are evaluating Aramark and other vendors in light of the jail's pending relocation from Geneva to a new building in St. Charles Township. "Obviously moving into the new facility, we're reviewing all of our operations. The kitchen is one of them," Perez said. "It's entirely possible that we're going to open this up to bid. … This may be an opportunity for us to look and see could we get better service and could we get it for a better price." An Aramark spokeswoman dismissed the Campaign for Quality Services' concerns, saying the group is interested only in increasing union membership.

May 7, 2006 Kane County Chronicle
At 12:01 a.m. Saturday, a controversial correctional health-care company took over medical services for Kane County Jail inmates. Tennessee-based Prison Health Services Inc. has seen its share of scandal, with New York state investigations revealing "flagrantly" and "grossly" inadequate service in two cases of inmate death. Lawsuits against the company allege poor care in jails in several states, leading to deaths and, in one allegation, the amputation of a woman's legs below the knees. In December 2005, the Kane County Board, on the advice of the sheriff's office, approved a $1.97 million contract with Prison Health Services, which, as of August 2005, served 310 jails and 214,000 inmates nationwide. As of Saturday, the Kane County Jail housed 401 inmates. Since the jail was built in 1975, it has increased from 102 beds to 399 beds. The infirmary area, however, has not increased since 1975. It has six beds. Kane County Sheriff Kenneth Ramsey said he was aware of some issues in Prison Health Services' past, but that the company was the best of the four that submitted bids last year. "[Prison Health Services] had some problems in the past," Ramsey said. "They straightened them out." However, Prison Health Services spokesman Pat Nolan said the past incidents had not led to any change in company policy. "We've just continued to do the best job that we can, and that's how we've responded to it," Nolan said. David Fathi, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, said the problem is not with Prison Health Services, but with the process of subcontracting health services. "Prison Health Services is one company. I'm not saying it's better or worse than any others. The real problem in our view is farming out a constitutional service to the lowest bidder," he said. "If you or I are not getting good care, we can go somewhere else. Prisoners do not have that option."

November 22, 2002
No one argues about the frustration Kane County leaders feel about the County jail they run. It's old. It's overcrowded. It's dangerous. The argument is over what can be done to solve the problem. Sheriff Ken Ramsey feels there is little he can do with a broken down Facility. Now, Kane County Board Chairman Mike McCoy is exploring yet another option one untried and one that just might save the county taxpayers money: privatizing some or all of the jail's corrections operations. County jail privatization is untested in the Chicago area. Ramsey added that exploring the idea would be a waste of time. "I steadfastly maintain that a private company cannot come in and do a better job of running the jail," he said. Others share his belief. Privatization would hurt counties looking to save a buck more than it would help, said Lake County jail director Chuck De Filippo. He also is a corrections instructor at the College of Lake County and a Midwestern county jail consultant. "You get what you pay for," De Filippo said. "You're not going to get an educated corrections guard with a private company. They're not going to be committed to the job. And you'll have very high turnover." Essentially, he said, jail quality will decline to a point where safety of both guards and inmates is sacrificed for the sake of savings. The company McCoy said he's been talking to - Texas-based Cornell Companies Inc. -runs just three adult county jails, fully or in part, out of 3,100 nationally. (Chicago Daily Herald)

North Elementary School
Godfrey, Illinois

August 22, 2006 The Telegraph
A part-time custodian with Aramark, the firm hired last year to clean Alton schools, was charged Monday with felony theft for allegedly stealing four laptop computers from North Elementary School. William D. Gray, 53, of the 1200 block of Rodemeyer Street, Alton, was charged after school staff members noticed the computers missing over a period of weeks and called the Madison County Sheriff's Department. Bail was set at $30,000. Lt. Brad Wells said Gray is suspected of carrying the computers out of the building in trashcans and placing them in bins outside the building, then returning later to take them from the bins to his house. The school is located at 5600 Godfrey Road. Two of the computers were found in Gray's home after he was arrested Friday. The most recent computer theft was reported Friday, Wells said. He said he is not sure of the total value of the computers, but it is well over $300, which qualifies the thefts as a felony. The Alton School Board last year signed a contract with Aramark in a move to save about $1 million a year. The Alton Education Association reluctantly agreed to drop the custodians from its bargaining unit in exchange for a promise of 10 percent pay raises over four years. The staff of custodians was reduced from 52 to 42 employees. A survey of school employees later rated Aramark 3.2 on a scale of 5, prompting complaints from board member Ed Gray that the firm was not keeping the schools clean enough.

Oak Grove School
Macon County, Illinois

April 15, 2011 Herald-Tribune
Vershaw Patton, a 21-year-old felon formerly employed as a food service worker at Oak Grove School, was arraigned Thursday in Macon County Circuit Court on a charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly having sex with a girl younger than 16. Patton's cousin, Darren P. Edmonds, 22, was arraigned on the same charge, for allegedly having sex with a girl younger than 14 in Patton's van. If convicted, Patton and Edmonds each face up to seven years in prison. Patton worked for Aramark Food Services at the school from September 2010 until January, said Chris Herbert, spokeswoman for the Decatur School District. When contacted by a police detective by telephone immediately before his arrest April 5, Patton said he was working at Oak Grove School that day until 3 p.m., according to a sworn statement by the detective. The detective, Kristopher Thompson of the Macon County Sheriff's Office, then drove to the school, at 2160 W. Center St., at 12:25 p.m. When Thompson arrived, he spotted Patton driving a van away from the school parking lot. As Thompson followed Patton in his unmarked car, his phone rang. As Patton drove from the school lot toward his home a few blocks away, he told the detective he was still busy working at the school and offered to meet him after his shift ended at 3 p.m. Thompson then conducted a traffic stop, arresting Patton after he pulled into his driveway in the 2400 block of West Division Street. The mother of the girl who allegedly had sex with Patton informed the sheriff's office that Patton had told her daughter that he was an 18-year-old virgin. Patton had picked up the victim at her friend's house before having sex with her in the van. The girl gave police Patton's phone number, and her mother gave them his license plate number.

Sheridan Correctional Center
Sheridan, Illinois
Gateway Foundation
June 2, 2006 AP
Union leaders on Friday urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fire a contractor at Illinois' only prison for drug-addicted inmates, saying the move would avert a strike set for next week that would disrupt treatment programs. A spokeswoman said the governor is monitoring talks but has no plans to intervene in the labor stalemate between The Gateway Foundation and its 53 substance-abuse counselors at Sheridan Correctional Center, who will walk out Tuesday if no deal is reached. "This is very clearly a dispute between a company and its employees ... We urge both sides to continue discussions," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch. Gateway President Michael Darcy said the Chicago-based company hopes to reach a deal before Tuesday's deadline, but will use management employees to continue Sheridan's treatment programs if workers strike. Union officials contend replacement workers would be unable to provide the treatment needed to help inmates kick their substance-abuse habits. The state Department of Corrections would monitor treatment programs if workers strike, said spokeswoman Dede Short. If services slipped, the department could reevaluate its contract with Gateway, which runs through the end of the year. A walkout would not affect other operations at the 850-inmate prison because correctional officers are barred from striking by law and could not honor picket lines. Union officials allege Gateway has stonewalled since talks began in November for its first contract with workers who last year joined Local 472 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union also represents about 280 other Sheridan workers. Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said Gateway workers who make 45 percent less than state-employed counselors have been offered no guaranteed pay increase or relief from health care premiums that cost up to $500 a month.

St. Clair County Jail
St. Clair, Illinois

October 20, 2005 St. Clair Record
A St. Clair County Jail inmate charged with first degree murder is seeking $1 million in a lawsuit claiming he was denied proper medication. In a federal court suit filed Oct. 18 against the county and Wexford Health Sources, Darron Perkins claims his civil rights were violated and his mental stability has been detrimentally affected. Perkins, a disabled Vietnam veteran, claims he was given a greater dose of medication by a nurse making rounds in the jail approximately two months ago. He consumed all the medication that had been prescribed to him by a psychiatrist, but the nurse accused him of giving pills to another inmate.

Tri-County Justice and Detention Center
Ullin, Illinois
GEO Group (formerly Correctional Services Corporation
January 7, 2010 Jackson News-Journal
A local school was put on lockdown after 3 men escaped from the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center. Prison officials believe the men escaped Tuesday night. The three men are considered armed and dangerous, but the U.S. Marshals are confident they will recover the escapees. Miguel Robles-Moya, 35, of Chicago, Rodney Brown, 35, of Alton, Ill., and Thomas Glaab, 28, of Anna, Ill. are all currently on the run, evading U.S. Marshalls and local police. U.S. Marshals discourage people from trying to apprehend the fugitives themselves, but anyone with information about the escapees are can call local authorities or the U.S. Marshals at 618-482-9336.

June 5,  2007 Southern Illinoisan
A weekend riot involving one-fifth of Tri-County Justice and Detention Center's inmates may have been contained in less than an hour, but the incident is not over as far as area law enforcement officials are concerned. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department, along with the Illinois State Police, is conducting an investigation into the incident, which began on Friday evening when 46 inmates at the Ullin facility barricaded themselves in a room and began setting fire to mattresses and books. "We're investigating why it happened, how it happened and we're going to get down to who needs to be charged," Sheriff Randy Kern said. Kern said there is a strong possibility that criminal charges will come out of the incident. Pulaski County owns the Tri-County building, and the jail's management is contracted to the GEO Group headquartered in Florida. Kern also serves as warden for the 226-bed facility. Responding to the scene about 8:30 p.m., law enforcement agencies brought the riot under control by firing tear gas into the area where inmates were barricaded about 30 minutes after the riot was reported. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said the company is assisting local law enforcement in the investigation. "We will be fully cooperating with local law enforcement in any charges they decide to bring," Paez said. It is the second time in just more than a month that the company has had to deal with the aftermath of a riot. An Indiana state prison managed by GEO Group reported nine people who were injured in a riot on April 24 at New Castle Correctional Facility. The Indiana riot occurred just a week after the facility gained an additional 630 inmates from Arizona. A report on the incident by the Indiana Department of Correction states factors such as "too many unseasoned staff on duty and a lack of veteran staff in key positions" as contributing to the riot. Other factors listed include too much offender idleness, a breakdown in communications and failure to impose consistent sanctions for offender misbehavior. Paez said both state and private prisons have similar incidents sporadically. He said the GEO Group was pleased with how quickly the Ullin incident was contained. "These unfortunate incidents happen from time to time in both public and private institutions," Paez said. "We do have policies and protocol in place. We fully followed those procedures and got the incident under control in less than 30 minutes." Kern said he too was pleased with how quickly responding agencies were able to defuse the situation. "We took control of it quickly and efficiently," Kern said. Even so, Ken Kopczynski of the Private Corrections Institute said the incident is further evidence supporting his organization's mission. The Private Corrections Institute advocates abolishing for-profit prisons throughout the country. "If you get over the moral issue of incarcerating people for profit, I think you can see they don't do a good job," Kopczynski said. He added that the percentage of incidents in private prisons is higher than in state- and federally-operated prisons. "If you take the GEO Group as a whole and look at their incidents, riots and escapes and compare to a comparable facility in the state of Florida Department of Corrections, it's higher in terms of their escape and abuse," Kopczynski said. "Public facilities have the same problems, but the percentage of what they have is not as bad."

June 3. 2007 Southern Illinoisan
Pulaski County State's Attorney Grayson Gile will weigh in on whether to press charges following a riot involving nearly 50 inmates of the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in Ullin on Friday evening. The Illinois State Police responded around 8:30 p.m. Friday to a call that 46 inmates had barricaded themselves inside a housing area and began setting fire to mattresses and books. When Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Kern, warden of the Tri-County Correctional Center, and police arrived, inmates refused orders to peacefully exit the burning area. With the aid of 18 local agencies including fire and ambulance services, officers began firing tear gas projectiles into the facility just after 9 p.m. Inmates began to slowly exit the building. Each was decontaminated, taken into custody and individually secured in a separate area of the facility. The last inmate was decontaminated and locked down at 9:20 p.m. Friday. Kern said he believed there was no chance of an additional riot, because all inmates had been locked up individually. No inmates or officers were injured in the riot, Kern said. A 226-bed facility, the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center is owned by the GEO Group, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla. The center was previously managed by GRW Corp. out of Tennessee, which managed the facility since its opening in 1998. Officials at Tri-County Justice and Detention Center said Saturday afternoon there was a strict "no comment" policy from local affiliates of the GEO Group and that all comment must come from the Florida headquarters.

June 9, 2006 KFVS 12
Corrections officers at Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in southern Illinois demand a raise after four years without one. The Tri-County jail serves Union, Pulaski and Alexander Counties. Corrections employees say they've gone too long without a raise. According to arbitrators with the International Labor Union of North America Local 773, the company contracted to operate the jail has offered workers $.25 per hour raise. Correction workers currently earn $8.85 per hour and they say a $.25 raise is not enough. "I've been working here seven years and six months," said Tri-County corrections officer Peggy Keith. "I started at $8 per hour, and now we make $8.85, that's it." The Geo Group is the third management company Keith has worked under in her years as a guard at the Tri-County jail. According to her, none of those companies have paid its workers what they feel they're worth. "Now they're going to tell us if we won't take this contract we're gonna close. Well go ahead, we can't take it anymore," said Keith. "The company has shown us a copy of their contract with Pulaski County," said Local 773 Union Representative Bill Stark. "All the company needs to do is give a 120 notice and they can vacate the premise." As it stands now, Geo Group and Tri-County employees are at a stalemate. Union officials say Geo won't offer more, workers won't accept less. "We started negotiations in February," said Stark. "Since then we've had two meetings. There's been no movement whatsoever. They won't budge."

July 22, 2004
The Tri-County Civic Organization needs a new plan to refinance the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in Ullin, officials say.  The organization's application for a federal rural development loan has been rejected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its status as a nonprofit group, said Jerry Thurston, chairman of the Pulaski County Board. Thurston said officials from Pulaski County alone will have to reapply for the money, with an updated agreement from both Union and Alexander counties to help continue paying off the jail.  "It's basically signing an intergovernmental agreement saying they are going to use the facility the way they have been," Thurston said.  The Tri-County jail opened in 1998. All three counties house inmates there to pay for the jail's costs.  The center employs people from Union, Alexander and Pulaski counties. Thurston said now, under new management from Correctional Services Corp. of Florida, the detention center employs 38 people and is increasing the number of inmates.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also houses detainees at the center.  Officials from Union, Alexander and Pulaski counties plan to meet at 6 p.m. today at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Mound City to discuss options.  Union County Sheriff Jim Nash said that while Tri-County isn't the cheapest place to house inmates, it is the most convenient for his department.  Union County pays roughly $53 a day per inmate at the detention center. Nash said the expense has risen because Correctional Services Corp. won't cover the first $250 of an inmate's medical bills. He said the previous management company did.  Last month, the county board reported spending roughly $10,000 in medical bills for inmates. On average, Union County houses 13 people at the center, according to county records.  (Southern Illinoisan)