This year, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is celebrating 30 years of profiting from incarceration. CCA was one of the pioneers in for-profit prison management, and today is the world’s largest private prison company.
A publicly-traded company, in 2010, CCA saw record revenue of $1.67 billion, up $46 million from 2009.
Here in Arizona, CCA operates 6 facilities, holding prisoners from Arizona, California, Vermont, and Hawaii as well as federal prisoners. CCA is one of the main beneficiaries of harsh immigrant enforcement and detention policies, such as Operation Streamline. And recently CCA was awarded its first contract to run an Arizona state prison. The first 1,000 beds are set to come online in 2014.
Next week, at its shareholder meeting in Nashville, TN, CCA will be toasting itself with lavish parties hosting rich investors and well-connected lobbyists.
Meanwhile, people around the country say, 30 years of abuse, mismanagement, and political influence peddling is nothing to celebrate.
There will be protests to accompany the shareholder meeting in Nashville, as well as solidarity actions in Washington DC, Ohio, and and here in Tucson, where the AFSC is organizing a rally and press conference on Monday, May 13th from 4:00-5:00pm at the aptly-named DeConcini Federal Courthouse, 405 W. Congress.
As part of the lead-up to this event, we at Cell-Out Arizona offer our readers a three-part retrospective of CCA’s Dirty 30: Thirty Reasons to Kick CCA Out of Arizona. Enjoy!
CCA’s Dirty Thirty, Part I: The All-Arizona Edition
30. CCA Pays to Play in AZ.
CCA employs Highground Public Affairs Consultants whose president is Governor Jan Brewer’s top political advisor Chuck Coughin. Governor Brewer’s former spokesman, Paul Senseman, was previously employed by CCA, then returned to his lobbying job after leaving the Governor’s office. His wife is currently employed as a lobbyist for the corporation (‘Ties that Bind’ In These Times 6/21/10).
CCA has given money to Governor Brewers past campaigns such as Prop.100 and stands to benefit greatly from SB1070. As more undocumented people are turned over to ICE it is likely that they will be sent to one of CCA’s three detention facilities in Arizona (‘Governor Brewer’s CCA Ties Burn Like Neon’ Phoenix New Times 7/29/10).
And let’s not forget former Senator Dennis DeConcini, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents (which oversees state universities) who also sits on CCA’s Board of Directors. Despite his claims of being a friend to the immigrant community, DeConcini owns upwards of 8,700 shares in CCA or roughly $222,268. Dennis has come under fire from community groups pointing out his own hypocrisy as well as the conflict of interest posed by the competition for state funds between prisons and universities.
29. CCA Greases Palms in Pinal County
CCA pays the Pinal county government based on the number of inmates in one of its prisons in Pinal, as part of an agreement to operate in the county. Last year that amounted to roughly $1.4 million, according to county budget documents. The payments increase as more beds are filled — under the agreement, the county receives two dollars per day for each inmate held in the facility.
The money in part funds the county sheriff’s office, whose enforcement actions have influence over the size of the prisoner population: Under an agreement with the federal government, the office acts as an enforcement agent on immigration law, arresting violators and referring them to federal authorities, who make the ultimate decision on detention. (“Private Prisons Profit From Immigration Crackdown,” Huffington Post, 6/7/12).
28. CCA Guards Participate in Drug Raids on Public High Schools
Guards from Corrections Corporation of America recently assisted local and state law enforcement in two drug raids on public high schools. CCA operates a total of six prisons and detention centers in Pinal County, where the schools are located.
According to an article by Beau Hodai in PR Watch, it was not the first time CCA guards were used in this way, despite the fact that CCA staff are not considered ‘peace officers’ and have no training or certification to allow them to participate in law enforcement activities in Arizona.
After the first incident raised a huge public outcry, the corporation issued a statement that read:
“Our company strives to be a good community partner, and it was in that spirit that local staff responded to the request. Decisions like this are usually made at the facility level. CCA has since reviewed this practice and decided that facilities can no longer provide this type of assistance, for reasons such as liability. Unfortunately, many of the communities where we operate lack these types of resources, but we think this is the appropriate corporate level policy. We’ll continue to support our communities in many other ways.”
However, just a few months later, CCA guards just participated in ANOTHER drug raid on a high school in Pinal County, even after they publicly announced they would not do this. This time, astonishingly, they called it a “teaching lockdown.” After the first report of the raid surfaced, the website quickly removed CCA from the list of participating agencies.
27. More Immigrant Deaths at CCA’s Eloy Detention Center
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently investigating two suicides that occurred in the space of three days at the Eloy Detention Center.
CCA’s Eloy Detention Center, which houses immigrant detainees, had the most deaths of any immigration detention center in the country. According to the ACLU, nine deaths have taken place in Eloy Detention Center–most were caused by inadequate or delayed medical attention (‘Lost and Ignored’ Tucson Weekly 2/11/10).
26. Who’s the Criminal?
A CCA employee pled guilty to drug charges in April 2010 for attempting to give prison inmates cocaine at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence (‘Arizona corrections officer caught buying cocaine for inmate’ ABC15 4/21/10).
25. Dead-End Jobs
While correctional officers working for state prisons receive $18-$20 an hour, CCA employees are paid less to do the same job, earning only $10-$12 an hour. CCA employees also receive 240 less hours of training than those employed by ADOC (‘CCA criticized by union, praised by Florence officials’ The Daily Currier 12/18/09)
24. What a Riot!
A prison employee suffered a broken nose and cheekbones as well as eye socket damage during a 30 inmate brawl over an Xbox owned by an inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center (‘Prison Employee seriously injured’ KITV4 7/30/10)
23. Deaths in Custody
A prisoner in CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center strangled his cellmate while the prison was in lockdown in June 2010. Saguaro houses Hawaiian prisoners in Arizona and was also the site of the stabbing death by two inmates who now face the death penalty in Arizona although Hawaii has no death penalty. Prisoners claim the prison is ‘greatly understaffed.’ (‘HI inmates complain about CCA’ Hawaii News Now 6/17/10).
22. Widespread Prisoner Abuse
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Hawaiian prisoners in CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center argued that officers stripped and beat prisoners, in some cases hitting their heads against tables while their hands were cuffed behind their backs. Officers and even the warden threatened the prisoners and their families. The officials then destroyed the evidence of the beatings, including videotapes, and faslified reports. An additional suit was filed claiming that beatings and threats have continued in retaliation for prisoners filing the suit (“Private Prison Beatings Continue, Men Say,” Courthouse News, 7/27/11).
21. Unsafe Facilities
The Inspector General for the State of California (which houses prisoners in CCA’s Red Rock, LaPalma, and Florence Correctional Center in Arizona) slammed CCA for serious security flaws and improper treatment of inmates. Inspectors found faulty alarms and malfunctioning security cameras, prisoners evading metal detectors, and discovered that CCA was not checking the arrest records of employees or screening out those with gang affiliations (“Prison firm optimistic about Arizona bid despite incidents,” The Arizona Republic, 8/8/11).
Stay tuned for Parts II and III of CCA’s Dirty Thirty!