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…)