Category: private prisons

The fingerprints of the private prison industry are all over the immigration reform process

By Alan Bean

When the for-profit giant Geo Corp insisted a few months ago that they would stay out of the immigration reform debate I was suspicious.  These people are in the money-making business and real reform would have a disastrous impact on the bottom line.  The industry wants the US government to lock up as many people for as long as possible because that’s what a decent ROI demands.  The private prison people don’t care about the families that are ripped apart by the draconian policies they advocate or whether the punitive approach makes a lick of sense.  They aren’t in the making sense business; their in the money-making business.  Which is why they should not and must not influence the political process.  As this article from the Nation makes clear, the private prison industry is deeply invested in the political process because the shape of reform emerging from Washington is a make or break proposition.  It is particularly significant, as I have frequently noted, that the for-profit prison boys are big supporters of the the Gang of Eight (more on this below).

Disclosure Shows Private Prison Company Misled on Immigration Lobbying

Earlier this year, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country sent out a statement to reporters claiming that it would not lobby in any way over the immigration reform debate. A new disclosure shows that the company, the Boca Raton–based Geo Group, has in fact paid an “elite team of federal lobbyists” to influence the comprehensive immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress. (more…)

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses–We Have Private Prisons to Fill

Immigrant female detainees inside their holding cell of the Willacy County Immigration Detention Center in Raymondville.

I have been researching Operation Streamline and the private prison industry for several years now.  This is by far the best researched, thorough, and devastating treatment of these issues I have found.  The Texas Observer deals with issues the mainstream media wouldn’t think of touching.  In 1999, a packet of information from Lili Ibara of Friends of Justice sparked a 16-page investigative piece on the Tulia drug sting.  Nate Blakeslee’s article did what the New York Times and the Washington Post can’t afford to do–it told the story from the perspective of the poor black folks who had been directly impacted by a bogus narcotics operation.  It told the truth as it can only be seen from the bottom looking up.  This piece is just as good.  

Ask people on the street about Operation Streamline and you get blank stares.  Admit it, dear reader, even you, as well informed as you are, have never heard of the program.  And since we’re being brutally honest, most of you won’t take the time to read this article either.  Of course you won’t.  But if you really want to know what’s driving America’s immigration system, invest half an hour in Forrest Wilder’s article on Streamline and private prisons.  It pretty much says it all.  AGB

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses—We Have Private Prisons to Fill

The profits and losses of criminalizing immigrants.

by  Published on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at 12:14 CST
Immigrant female detainees inside their holding cell of the Willacy County Immigration Detention Center in Raymondville.

Delcia Lopez/San Antonio Express-News/ZUMA Press
Immigrant female detainees inside their holding cell of the Willacy County Immigration Detention Center in Raymondville.

When Jose Rios walked into a Bank of America branch last year, he hoped to open an account for the car repair shop he owned. He didn’t expect to end up with a prison sentence.

Days after Rios provided the bank with a home address and Social Security number, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents showed up at his house looking for him. (Rios said ICE agents later told him that Bank of America, which has acknowledged a policy of reporting undocumented immigrants to immigration officials, turned him in.) Rios wasn’t home. His wife, a pretty, sad-eyed woman of 38, answered the door.

“They said, ‘if we don’t find [Jose], we come back for you,’” she said, sitting outside her daughters’ elementary school on a gorgeous California day while her smiling 2-year-old brought us handfuls of dainty red geraniums. Her daughters, the agents warned, could end up in foster care. (more…)

Private prisons fuel growing controversy in Florida

By Alan Bean

There’s nothing like a good scandal to get people talking about public policy issues that normally fly under the radar.  Take private prisons, for instance.  Like most people, Mary Jane Saunders knew practically nothing about the private prison industry until an alumnus of the school offered Florida Atlantic University a cool $6 million if they would name their football stadium after GEO group, one of the largest private prison companies in the world.  Fortunately, students at FAU knew more about private prisons than president Saunders.  They didn’t want their beloved Owls playing in a football stadium named after a company associated with blatant human rights abuses.    (more…)

“OwlCatraz” reconsidered

By Alan Bean

It’s hard for any university to turn down a multi-million dollar donation from an alumnus, even if you have to name a stadium after a notorious private prison company to do it.  After students of Florida Atlantic University occupied the office of president Mary Jo Saunders, she agreed to sponsor a public discussion on the propriety of naming the home of the FAU Owls after GEO Group, the second largest private prison company on the planet.  The clever student who thought up the “Owlcatraz” name should be given a large cut of the credit on this one–that name is going to stick!

Meanwhile, GEO is fighting back.  Criticism of the company’s record has centered on the dreadful conditions discovered at GEO’s Walnut Grove facility in Mississippi.  Now GEO vice president for corporate relations, Pablo Paez is claiming that GEO didn’t even run the Walnut Grove facility until August 2010 and therefore can’t be blamed for problems they inherited from their predecessor.  (more…)

The two phases of the prison-industrial complex: the war on drugs and the war on immigrants

By Alan Bean

This essay was presented at the recent Samuel DeWitt Proctor conference in Dallas, Texas.

I went from being a Baptist preacher to my current work as a justice advocate in July of 1999.  A massive drug bust hit the little farming community of Tulia, Texas, putting forty-seven people, most of them black, in jails and prisons.  Some of us didn’t think it was wise to let a gypsy cop with a reputation for dishonesty send men and women to prison for up to 300 years on nothing but his uncorroborated say-so.

As the long battle for justice evolved, I started asking how it had come to this.  The locals assured me that Tulia hardly had a single black resident in 1950 when they figured out how to pump the waters of the Ogallala Aquifer up to the dry prairie.  Suddenly, Swisher County was blooming like the proverbial rose and share croppers from Deep East Texas were migrating westward.  They were forced to live in little shanty towns on the wrong side of the tracks.  There was hardly any running water or police protection and everyone, especially the children, suffered through the winter months.  But there was more than enough work to go around.  It didn’t pay well, for sure, but it was enough to keep food on the table and the young folk out of trouble.  Most of the time, anyway. (more…)

Controversy erupts as Florida university names its football stadium after a private prison company

By Alan Bean

Florida Atlantic University didn’t know what it was getting into when it agreed to name it’s football stadium after the private prison giant GEO Group.  George Zoley, the CEO of GEO Group calls FAU his alma mater and was willing to hand over a $6 million donation.  The good folks at FAU who gladly took Zoley’s money didn’t realize that private prisons are highly controversial.

As the article below makes clear, GEO Group, like every other private prison company, has been dogged by a long list of abuse allegations in places like Broward County, FL, Walnut Grove, MS, and Jena, LA.  Immigrant rights and DREAM Act groups immediately sprang into action, linking to GEO Groups Wikipedia article to corroborate their unflattering portrait of the private prison company.  In a desperate attempt at damage control, GEO Group gave the Wikipedia article a radical edit, replacing all the unflattering facts with its own corporate propaganda.

I first learned about the FAU-GEO Group connection on Tuesday morning at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference in Dallas.  I had just finished my presentation on the private prison industry when a woman in the audience stood to announce the breaking news.  This morning, my Google Alert on Walnut Grove led me to the article below.

Private prisons are cheap because they cut corners at every turn, diverting tax dollars into corporate coffers and massive bonus checks for men like George Foley.  They must understaff their prisons to remain in the black.   (more…)

If you think private prisons make sense, read this . . .

By Alan Bean

The Sentencing Project published this report over a year ago but it remains the single best introduction to the truly scary private prison industry on the web.  Like everything put out by Marc Mauer’s organization, Too Good to be True: Private Prisons in America is cautious, understated, balanced and authoritative.

Nationwide, about half the states have significant private prison populations and half do not.  Some states dabbled with privatization, then gave it up; others have recently developed an unwarranted enthusiasm for selling their prisons to the private industry.

But it is the federal prison system, thanks largely to almost invisible programs like Operation Streamline, that is the real sugar daddy for one of America’s creepiest industries.  Since 2005, when the feds started prosecuting the folks detained at the border for illegal entry or illegal re-entry, 400,000, largely Latino detainees spend time in federal prisons and detention centers every year.  Latinos comprise 16% of the American population and over 50% of federal prisoners. (more…)

Lawsuit claims private prison uses violent prison gangs to offset insufficient staffing

By Alan Bean 

Attorneys representing a group of inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center are alleging that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is attempting to cover up serious deficiencies in staffing by falsifying staff logs.  The lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs also alleges that CCA tries to cut costs by aligning itself with violent prison gangs who, one assumes, have their own ways of maintaining discipline.  Let’s hope the allegations are inaccurate, because, if I was locked up, I wouldn’t want the “the Aryan Knights and the Severely Violent Criminals” running my prison.  I doubt the tax payers of Idaho had that in mind either when politicians decided to privatize the state’s largest prison.

Inmates claim private prison falsifies staff logs

REBECCA BOONE – Associated Press (AP)

Originally published 04:42 p.m., January 22, 2013
Updated 08:05 p.m., January 22, 2013

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Attorneys for inmates at Idaho’s largest private prison say Corrections Corporation of America is falsifying staff logs to hide chronic understaffing.

The allegation was raised Friday in an amended lawsuit filed in Boise’s U.S. District Court.

Attorneys for the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA have not yet responded to the amended lawsuit in court, and CCA spokesman Steve Owen said he couldn’t discuss details of the litigation. (more…)

The Penalty is Exile

By Alan Bean

The criminalization of immigration, or “crimmigration” as it is sometimes known, is a recent development.  Michelle Fei lays out the basic problem,

The issue that immigrants face is that, now there is this increasing collaboration between the criminal justice system and the deportation system.  So, for basically, all kinds of immigrants, including green-card holders, undocumented immigrants, people with visas.  This means that once you enter the criminal justice system, often times you are on a fast-track to deportation, usually with no chance of ever coming back to the United States.

There is more crimmigration information packed into this radio program than I have previously discovered in any single source.

The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide

Written by Cory Fischer-Hoffman

Under President Obama more than 1 million people have been deported from the United States. We’re told many of those people are criminals who’ve broken more than just immigration law. On this edition, producer Cory Fischer-Hoffman takes a closer look at how immigration and the criminal justice system work together, to detain and deport hundreds of thousands of people every year.


Cory Fischer-Hoffman: Have you ever traveled on Greyhound Bus Before?  Do you know the feeling of standing in the station, looking around to see if your bus will be full and hoping that after a smooth and uneventful journey, you will safely arrive to your destination?

In January of 2010, Alex Alvarez boarded a greyhound bus in Lawrence, Kansas and then got off his bus in Orlando to transfer to Immokalee, Florida,  but he never arrived to his final destination.

Alex:, I was entering the bus station, and I entered calmly but there was someone who detained me and asked, “where are you going?” I said “to Florida, to work.” and then they asked me for my papers.  I didn’t present any documentation and so, they immediately handcuffed me and they took me to a room, and they said, “sorry you can’t travel because you don’t have papers from here.” In this bus station, it was two of us who were detained, because we were the only ones who were immigrants. But, we didn’t commit any crime, absolutely none

Cory Fischer-Hoffman: Alex Alvarez is from Guatemala, and like so many others he left his country in search of way to provide for his family back home.  Alex worked in a bakery in Florida for four years and then traveled to Kansas.  Since he was unable to find reliable work, he decided to return to Florida and see if he could get his old job back.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement stopped him, solely based on “looking like an immigrant,” Alex said.  They handcuffed and arrested him and then took him to an immigrant detention center.

Alex: I was in an immigrant detention center.  They asked me a lot of questions, “what’s your name, what is this, what is that?” as you were a criminal, even though, I didn’t do anything.  Then they took me to another detention center, where there were more people, and throughout the whole time we were handcuffed.  It enrages me to think about how they treat people, I am not a criminal that they should treat me like that, with chains ties around my wrists, ankles and waist. (more…)

Feds don’t know if private prisons save money

FILE -In a March 13, 2012 file photo, Gary Mead, executive associate director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Enforcement and Removal Operations, speaks to reporters by a soccer field at a new civil detention facility for low-risk detainees in Karnes City, Texas, on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The U.S. is locking up more illegal immigrants than ever before, generating a lucrative business for the nation's largest prison companies. Mead said that the government has never studied if privatizing immigrant detention saves money. Photo: Will Weissert / AP
ICE associate executive director Gary Mead says his agency has never asked whether private prisons save money.

By Alan Bean

An AP article published in the Houston Chronicle features a startling revelation.  According to Gary Mead, ICE Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations, the federal government has never studied whether privatizing immigrant detention saves money.

In other words, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is paying the private prison industry $166 per day for each detained individual, but has no idea whether this price is justified.

The plot thickens when you realize that the private prison industry owes its survival to federal, immigration-related contracts.  At the close of the twentieth century, the private prison industry was down for the count; then the federal cavalry rode to the rescue and the days of wine and roses descended with a trumpet fanfare.

This is simply one more indication that mass deportation, in all facets, is a horribly wasteful job creation program. (more…)