Within the next couple of weeks the Arizona Department of Corrections will be recommending the company or companies that will be awarded a contract with the State of Arizona. That private detention corporation(s) will be charged with building a couple of new facilities to house inmates.
Although we’ve seen a decline in crime and a decline in a need for new facilities, the private prison industry continues to expand their operations in Arizona by and through relationships like the one they maintain with Chuck Coughlin who owns and runs High Ground Public Affairs and who in turn lobbies for Corrections Corporation of America. Coughlin, amazingly enough, is Governor Jan Brewer’s top political adviser. Although much of this may be a refresher course for many of you, it’s crucial to set the foundation for those who may not be aware of these very highly publicized facts.
In a declining market, a bad economy, and desperately trying to pull out of a recession, we find that the private prison industry has established ties that have allowed it to continue profiting to the tune of 5 billion dollars per year. Like a game of chess, the pawns were put in place while many Arizonans were sleeping on the political job. Once established these private corrections corporations have been able to maintain many states in a virtual checkmate.
As an example of failed policies and unneeded private prisons or as many of us call them, concentration camps, we need to look at Littlefield Texas who bought into the idea of building a private prison. Hell the idea seemed good enough. The private corrections corporation would build the prison at their own cost. There would be no subsidiaries in the form of taxpayer money and everything would be done up to code. Once built, profits would be shared, it would create jobs, it sounded like a great plan, especially given the fact that many of these prisons depend on undocumented Immigrants to fill them, and of course, officials in Littlefield are well aware of Texas’ stand on illegal immigration and the enacting of laws that are aimed at the undocumented Immigrant, therefore creating more prisoners to fill those jails.
Somehow the perfect model collapsed and Littlefield is stuck with a private prison that nobody wants and that is actually costing them money to maintain. In fact for the last couple of years Littlefield is having to dish out $65,000.00 a month to pay the note on the prison. The corrections corporation giant GEO bailed out and the contractors and snake oil salesmen all made their money leaving Littlefield holding the jailer’s keys.
What Littlefield and those in the private prison industry did not take into consideration is the fact that creating these laws would cause panic amongst their potential dweller, which would in turn caused a massive exodus from those states who would most likely benefit from incarcerating these potential inmates.
Another factor not considered by the private prison industry or those seeking to profit from the incarceration of Immigrants is the fact that securing the border has swayed many from making that dangerous trek across our border. Therefore denying the private prison industry of the desperately needed fodder for their private prisons.
I would imagine that there must be a behind the scenes struggle between the private prison industry who seeks a porous border in order to allow their favorite customers in and the Tea Party driven politician who insists that they want an even more secure border further damaging profits for private corrections purveyors.
In any event, Arizona is hell bent on building more private prisons. They have a commitment to those correctional giants and by golly they plan on keeping their word. So who’s going to be building these new prisons? Who get’s the latest contract? They’ve all got horrible track records, from escape, to abusing inmates, although, I don’t think Clarence Thomas would object to the latter, seeing as how he has displayed his support for inmate abuse by rendering dissenting opinions on such matters from the SCOTUS bench, however, that’s another story for another time. Let’s take a look at the bidders’ track record.
Those companies are:
- Geo Group Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla. A publicly-traded company, Geo operates about 80,000 prison beds at 116 federal, state and local prisons and treatment facilities in the U.S. and three other countries. It reported $62.8 million in net income on $1.27 billion in revenues for its most recent fiscal year ending Jan. 2. It operates three prisons under contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections: the Central Arizona Correctional Facility (medium security) in Florence, and the minimum-security Phoenix West and Florence West prisons.
Geo has had at least 27 escapes in the past seven years, according to press accounts, including one three years ago that led to a murder in a convenience store in Houston. In 2007, Texas canceled an $8 million contract with Geo and closed the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, citing filthy conditions. The company is currently fighting a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging the use of excessive force, and unconstitutional and barbaric conditions at its Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove, Miss. Meanwhile, the FBI and a federal grand jury are investigating alleged illegalities in the appropriations and the construction of Geo’s $120 million Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Florida. The company did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.
- Management & Training Corp., of Centerville, Utah. A privately-held company, MTC operates 20 prisons in seven states, with a capacity of 26,000 prisoners. It does not publicly release financial data. It began in 1981 operating federal Job Corps centers. MTC operates two prisons under contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections, a medium/minimum security facility in Kingman and a minimum-security facility at Marana.
MTC currently faces lawsuits over the deaths of an Oklahoma couple killed after three inmates escaped from its Kingman prison last year. The company has also had escapes from prisons it operates in Texas and Utah. In two separate instances, it has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to repay a total of more than $650,000 in back wages to officers from whom it withheld overtime pay in Texas and four other states. MTC spokeswoman Issa Arnita noted that the Utah escapees were inmates working outside the prison. And she said MTC added razor wire – not then required by Texas at minimum-security facilities – after the Texas escapes. She said that after the Department of Labor determination, MTC voluntarily audited all its facilities and compensated any employees who were due back wages.
- Correctional Corp. of America, of Nashville, Tenn. CCA is the largest private-prison company in the U.S., housing about 80,000 federal and state prisoners in 66 facilities across 19 states and the District of Columbia. A publicly-traded company, CCA reported net income of $157 million on $1.67 billion in revenues for 2010. It has no contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections, but houses federal inmates and inmates from Hawaii, California and Washington at six prisons in Eloy and Florence.
CCA has had at least 21 escapes at various facilities over the past decade, including several that have led to assaults and other crimes. CCA also faces several lawsuits over its Idaho Correctional Center, dubbed the “Gladiator School” for allegations that guards and supervisors there regularly allowed violent inmates to assault and beat other inmates during 2009 and 2010. In January 2010, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered hundreds of female prisoners removed from CCA’s Otter Creek Correctional Complex after a series of charges that guards regularly sexually assaulted female inmates there. CCA did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.
- Emerald Correctional Management, of Lafayette, La. A privately-held company, Emerald operates about 3,800 beds at six federal, state and local prisons. It has no contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections, but operates the San Luis Regional Detention Center south of Yuma in partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It has had at least five escapes in the past decade.
Last year, the Houston Chronicle, reporting on the death of a Cuban immigrant, investigated the company’s Rolling Plains Regional Jail and Detention Center in Texas. It noted that the company had no doctors to care for more than 500 immigration detainees at the facility, using only poorly supervised vocational nurses. Emerald did not respond to calls for comment.
- LaSalle Southwest Corrections, of Ruston, La. A privately-held company, LaSalle operates about 7,700 beds at 12 prisons in Texas and Louisiana. It has no contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections. It has had eight escapes in the past six years, including three of minimum-security prisoners who walked away while on work crews outside the prisons.
The corporate giant’s on this list have successfully bought their way into Arizona politics utilizing the hot button issue nowadays “immigration”, while funding local corrupt and profoundly racist politicians. I really doubt that Arizona will end up with a Littlefield, Texas problem, especially given the fact that if anything does go wrong, Arizona’s Republican led administration will ensure that you, the tax payer, flip the bill for their mistakes.
Welcome to Arizona, where everything is for sale to the highest bidder, from the Arizona State Capitol Building that’s already been sold, to the politicians contained within that are bought and sold daily, to our Immigrant labor that can be used for profit by corporations involved in manufacturing, agriculture, food, or the latest, the correctional industry.
Carlos E. Galindo is a radio talk show host & political analyst conducting radio shows in both English and Spanish on four radio stations in Arizona. Mr. Galindo is a weekly contributor to KPFK 98.7 FM Los Angeles and has appeared on CNN, Univision and Telemundo as a political analyst. Mr. Galindo is also an Op-Ed columnist on Prensa Hispana Arizona. www.nospinonair.com/http://www.carlosgalindo.com
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