Hunger Strike at Texas Detention Center Swells Into the Hundreds

This comes from the RH Reality Check Reporter

by Kanya D’Almeida, Race and Justice Reporter, RH Reality Check
November 2, 2015

The number of hunger strikers at a Texas immigrant detention facility has swelled to almost 500 since last Wednesday, an Austin-based advocacy group revealed in a phone call with RH Reality Check.

When news of the protest action broke on October 28, about 27 women at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, 35 miles east of Austin, were reportedly refusing their meals.

While grievances ranged from abusive treatment by guards to a lack of medical care, the women, hailing primarily from Central America, were unanimous in their one demand: immediate release.

The strike snowballed over the weekend, according to Grassroots Leadership, an organization that forms part of a larger umbrella group known as Texans United for Families (TUFF).

 

Read the rest here.

California prisoners in AZ: CCA Eloy LaPalma: Jewish prisoners fasting for religious rights

This concerns the California prisoners who were transported involuntarily out of state to a private prison (CCA) in Arizona.Their religious rights are being trampled on and they have started a fast in protest. Please show support!
From: Arizona Prison Watch:

May 11, 2013

Dennis DeConcini
Arizona Board of Regents
2020 N. Central Ave., Suite 230
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4593
d.deconcini@att.net

Dear Mr. DeConcini:

I am a Phoenix area artist, freelance writer, and human rights activist known for my concern about Arizona’ prisoners. This week I was contacted by the wife of a California Department of Corrections prisoner in Corrections Corporation of America’s LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ. They’ve been having a lot of trouble in their prisons in Eloy lately. As you can see from the letter and attachments below, several Jewish prisoners have begun to fast after extensive efforts to resolve the problems with CCA’s lack of respect for their religious rights. If what they report is true, then CCA is out of compliance with the law and there’s no excuse for it.

I’m sure this is something you’ll be deeply concerned about, as I am, and expect that you will put in a good word for the US Constitution with Warden Jim MacGregor at LaPalma prison. He can be reached at 520-464-3200. Since you’re so proud to be on the CCA board and used to be a US senator, this seems to be something you should take some responsibility for resolving.

We all look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Margaret Jean Plews


Margaret J. Plews, Editor
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036
480-580-6807

May 10, 2013

Annie Santiago
Martinez, CA 94553
925-812-1694
a.santiago1012 @ yahoo.com

RE: PRISONERS FASTING over Anti-semitism and religious rights violations at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ.

My name is Annie Santiago.

My husband, Kenneth Santiago, is a prisoner of the state of California, in a private prison in Eloy, Arizona run by Corrections Corporation of America. His CDC # is F03822.

Kenneth reports that as of May 7, 2013, he and several other prisoners at LaPalma Correctional Center began to fast. They are doing so in hopes of focusing the attention of the larger faith community on their more than 1 ½ year long struggle to compel the prison administration to come into compliance with the US Constitution, recent court settlements, and the norms for human decency, regarding Kosher food service for California prisoners located in Arizona.

Documentation of the problems at LaPalma and the struggle of Jewish prisoners against harassment, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and retaliation is attached. More will be available soon, as will correspondence directly from the prisoners themselves about their objectives that is, if they haven’t been stripped of their belongings and thrown in the hole already.

Yesterday morning an officer confronted my husband and the other men who were fasting, threatening to punish them with detention if they didn’t eat. Warden Jim MacDonald told me in the afternoon that he was going to look into it, but he asserted that “hunger strikers” would indeed be inviting disciplinary action, so please do not characterize this as a “hunger strike”.

These men are fasting in a deeply spiritual tradition, not setting their mattresses on fire or inciting riots. Why are they not even afforded the most simple respect for their efforts to adhere to their faith?

Please, whether you are media or a member of the faith community in Arizona or California, help my husband and the other prisoners get the outside world’s attention on that place there’s a bigger problem there than just what’s happening to them. Contact me at the number above for more information.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Annie Santiago

Letter to Governor Brown of California-page 1
Letter to Governor Brown of California, page 2
from prisoner Kenneth Santiago to a sympathetic Rabbi
But first, the complaint was in-house with CCA’s “unsung hero”,
 Chaplain Tim O’Dell… who apparently did not come to the rescue. 

The state police investigate after officials report discrepancies in Idaho Correctional Center books

From: Idaho Statesman, Feb. 5th 2013

By REBECCA BOONE — The Associated Press

BOISE, IDAHO — The Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America has run the facility under a contract with Idaho for a decade. The agreement contains minimum staffing requirements, which also have been spelled out in a legal settlement reached with the American Civil Liberties Union after inmates sued in federal court.

Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke told the state Board of Correction on Tuesday that he requested the investigation because the department found “potential anomalies” during an audit.

The department began taking a deeper look around the time The Associated Press filed public records requests for shift logs at the prison.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in an email that his company is also investigating and working with state officials. He said the safety of staff, inmates and the community is CCA’s top priority.

“It is premature and speculative to draw conclusions before all of the facts have been gathered, and to do so at this point would undermine the investigation that is taking place. If our efforts uncover inconsistencies, we will take swift action to rectify any issues,” Owen wrote.

CCA’s monthly staffing reports to the state — obtained by The AP — appear to show guards listed as working 24, 36 and 48 hours straight without time off. Although its contract with Idaho does not limit the number of hours a guard may work in a row, correction officials said it would be unwise to have such long shifts.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/02/05/2439788/apnewsbreak-prison-companys-reports.html#storylink=cpy

Vermont: One Tiny State’s Movement to Ban Private Prisons

An interesting and well researched article about prisons for profit and mass incarceration:

By: Jonathan Leavitt, From: Toward Freedom
Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vermont, the most progressive state in America, spent over $14 million last year to lock up Vermonters in for profit prison like Lee Adjustment Center, located in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. Private prisons like Correctional Corporation of America (CCA)’s Lee Adjustment Center offer no mental health, educational or rehabilitational services, but they do post massive corporate profits; CCA posted $1.7 billion in 2011 revenue alone.

As best-selling author Michelle Alexander notes in her seminal book The New Jim Crow, more black men are under correctional control now than were enslaved in 1850. A recent New Yorker piece noted more Americans are now incarcerated than there were imprisoned in Stalin’s gulags.

Clearly a dialogue about mass incarceration, budget crises, and privatization is unfolding. A group of Vermonters working out of Church basements and living rooms is attempting to build a movement to push this conversation forward by passing a historic law banning Vermont’s use of for-profit prisons.

Behind the Profitable Private Prison Wall

Between 2002 and 2003, according to the Rutland Herald, the number of prisoners in Vermont increased at “nearly five times the national average.” The number of teenagers and young adults in Vermont jails surged by more than 77 percent. A racialized “get tough on crime” ideology, mandatory minimums, and harsher sentencing guidelines from the failed war on drugs left then Republican Vermont Governor Jim Douglas at a moment of departure: build new prisons, or start shipping Vermonters incarcerated under these controversial policies into the deep south to be warehoused without even the “rehabilitative” programs found in Vermont prisons.

According to Prison Legal News’ Matthew Clarke, CCA doubled the population of Lee Adjustment Center in three months in 2004 with a massive influx of some of the first Vermont prisoners housed in private prisons. These conditions and what State Senator James Leddy called a “rogue warden” led to an uprising at Lee Adjustment Center involving 100 inmates. The Louisville Currier Journal and The Times Argus detailed how those involved in the riot tore down fences, began “tearing apart” a wooden guard tower with a guard still inside and toppled the guard tower. In addition, fires “heavily damaged the administration building and guard shack.”

“The inmates literally had control of this place, the inner compound,” said Adam Corliss, an inmate from Springfield, Vermont. A week and a half after the riot, the Montpelier Vermont daily The Times Argus printed an excerpt of a Vermont inmate’s letter home to his fiancé detailing the uprising: “Inmates chasing guards with 2x4s breaking everything in sight…It was so hostile that the S.W.A.T. team of guards came in, launching tear gas, armed with shotguns.”

When the Assistant Warden summoned the 20-person response team only three responded. Clarke details the precipitating conditions: racial and regional prejudices, overcrowding, poor nutrition, and CCA’s warden undertaking, “a zero-tolerance disciplinary crackdown that gave guards the ability to discipline prisoners without proof of misconduct and even put them in solitary confinement for 60 days without disciplinary charges.”

These conditions and the riot they produced happened in the first months of Vermont’s experiment with private prisons. Rather than serving as a cautionary tale about the hollowed-out services privatization provides, policymakers have since only increased the number of Vermonters housed in Lee Adjustment Center and other CCA prisons.

The Moral Consequences of Privatization

“I could write a book about violations [against Vermonters in private prisons],” says Frank Smith, of the Bluff City, Kansas-based Private Correction Working Group. “I visited Beattyville after the September 2004 riot and I have Open Records Act info on it. In Marion Adjustment Center (a CCA prison in St. Mary, Kentucky) there was sexual abuse by guards. CCA did very little to stop it or to help track down the offenders after they fled to avoid prosecution from MAC and the women’s prison -also known as, the ‘rape factory’ – at Otter Creek, Kentucky.”

The same year of the Lee Adjustment Center uprising, The Vermont Guardian reported that Republican Governor Jim Douglas requested corporate bids for the healthcare for (what was then) 1,700 in-state prisoners. Douglas went with the lowest bidder, Prison Health Services, for $645 million over ten years, and Vermonters under their care started literally dying from inadequate care, including Ashley Ellis, a 23 year old woman serving a 30 day sentence.

Prison Health Services broke the contract, not due to concerns related to the deaths, but due to their projected profits never materializing. Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Vermont “cannot contract out the public’s fundamental right to know how their tax dollars are being spent and the quality of services the pubic is getting for its money.”

Powerful Allies, Monolithic Opponents

According to a bombshell 2008 memo detailing the cost of Vermont’s for-profit prisons use, newly sworn in Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer wrote, “Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) does not provide mental health services. […] CCA does not provide services related to sexual abuse, substance abuse, or violent offenders.” According to the memo there’s a laundry list of programing provided here in Vermont facilities which are conspicuously absent at the for-profit prisons. “DOC programs not available through CCA include the Cognitive Self Change program for violent offenders; the Intensive Domestic Abuse Program; Batterers Intervention Program; the Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs; and the Discover Program for those with substance abuse problems.”

Suzi Wizowaty, a Democratic Vermont State Representative from Burlington and lead sponsor of H.28 which states “As of July 1, 2013, all Vermont inmates shall be incarcerated in correctional facilities that are owned and operated by the federal, state, or local government (‘public’).“ Wizowaty, in explaining her bill, makes the case that in this time of austerity Vermonters wanting to use these public dollars responsibly means using public oversight. “The idea that private prisons save money is illusory and has been debunked, the most optimistic studies show that they are a-wash in spending, because there are higher rates of recidivism, less job training, therapy and programming. All we are doing is putting profits in the pockets in the prison corporations.”

Another elite schism which lends credence to Vermont’s anti-privatization efforts comes from an unlikely place, Florida’s Republican Party. Florida Republican State Senator Mike Fasano led a successful effort to stop the privatization of 27 prisons, saying, “We have a 10 percent-plus unemployment rate in the state of Florida, and the last thing we should be doing is moving prisons that were paid for by the taxpayers into the hands of corporations, that would probably put many of these families out of work, who have mortgages to pay, homeowner’s insurance to pay, food on the table. This would be devastating to—not only to their families, but also to the community they live in.”

One might assume that given these financial and moral arguments policy makers would be feel compelled to discontinue using private prisons, if only because risk-adverse state governments typically dislike courting law suits. However, the prison corporations Wizowaty and Hoffer have critiqued are Wall Street monoliths. CCA send a letter to 48 states, dangling hundreds of millions of dollars in front of the cash strapped, austerity budget-minded governors, if only those states will privatize their prisons for the next twenty years. And, oh yeah, one other tiny piece of fine print: the prisons must be kept at least 90% full for the duration of the contract. Seemingly, this would create a contractual incentive for states to enact harsher sentencing guidelines and policing procedures. Meanwhile as best-selling author and legal scholar Glenn Greenwald writes, “Since there is no well funded lobby advocating for penal reform or promoting the interests of prisoners, the prison lobby goes virtually unchallenged and can buy the ability to shape pertinent laws at bargain basement prices.”

The military refers to mission creep as “the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals.” Corporate prisons who only know how to maximize profits for shareholders have expanded their mission to incarcerating 50% of immigrants detained in the US. Perhaps unsurprisingly the number of immigrants detained has exploded during the same period. Which begs the question: to what degree can a $1.7 billion per year prison corporation like CCA shape public policy? As a December 2008 Boston Phoenix article details: “[private prisons] regularly lobby against criminal punishment reforms, and for the creation of new criminal statues and overly harsh prison sentences. While these efforts are cloaked as calls for public safety, they are essentially creating more business for themselves […] CCA spent more than $2.7 million from 2006 through September 2008 on lobbying for stricter laws.”

Or, as CCA states in plainsong in its 2010 annual report: “Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new corrections and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any change with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number or persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

The Primacy of Movement-Building

“It is absolutely essential that we raise the profile of this issue. We will not get anywhere without people calling their public officials, we will not get anywhere without that kind of organizing,” says Wizowaty. With that in mind, in a Burlington church basement this Martin Luther King Day, community organizers like Infinite Culcleasure began what they hope to be the first of many conversations about private prisons. “The grassroots component,” says Culcleasure, “is invaluable in overcoming the special interest and apathy that currently exists on this mass incarceration. With all of the competing crises for communities to manage, our greatest challenge in making this a watershed moment for prison reform is to make it a local issue that is directly relevant in people’s everyday lives.” With a network of 145 churches statewide interested in hosting similar conversations, it seems the tiny state of Vermonters are poised to bring forward a very different vision than corporate mass incarceration.

That said, the CCAs of the world are well-versed in utilizing their taxpayer dollars to leverage Vermont’s political elite: they helped finance former-Governor Douglas’ Inaugural Ball and donate to influential state senators’ re-elections. This is an industry which, as Glenn Greenwald notes in With Liberty and Justice for Some, has spent $3.3 million on state political parties and politicians in the 2002 and 2004 political cycles, according to a 2004 National Institute on Money In State Politics report.

Dick Sears, the influential state senator who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that this bill will have to emerge from, has received more campaign donations from private prisons than any other policymaker in Vermont’s Statehouse. CCA’s annual reports assume that this rarified historical moment where The New Jim Crow is a bestseller, The House I Live In has won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and Stop and Frisk has been declared unconstitutional won’t last forever. Certain social and political factors which prefigure a new social movement emerging are appearing: a loss of legitimacy in former institutions and attitudes, elite schisms, and unifying motivations. The question is one of organizing to scale. As with making health care a human right, decommissioning a failing nuclear power plant, and getting drivers’ licenses for migrant workers, if the Green Mountain State is to lead the country forward on the issue of private prisons, it will depend on Vermonters making good on their aspirations to build a statewide movement which will compel  VT senators such as Dick Sears to move this bill forward.

As the first of many Vermont church basement organizing conversations on private prisons unfolds, high schoolers hands are flashing in the air: “How is this moral?” “Why do corporations do this?” and in so many different ways “What can I do?” Infinite Culcleasure and Suzi Wizowaty have skillfully transfigured the church basement of teenagers into eager community organizers. Before the conversation reaches its midpoint the high schoolers are poised to bring this dialogue out into the larger community, to hold their elected officials accountable and draw Vermonters across the state together to share their stories and build a movement which can be a sufficient countervailing force to the influence of Wall Street’s private prisons. Afterwards the interstitial space of the Church hallway is luminous with excitement; the Pastor offers Suzi and Infinite the opportunity for similar conversations about for-profit prisons in congregations around Vermont. Just down the corridor a new generation of organizers is sending so many social media appeals to shutter the Lee Adjustment Center, shutter CCA and to shutter the private prison industry. Their prescient questions haunt me as I walk out into the snow: “How is this moral?” “Why do corporations do this?” and in so many different ways “What can I do?”

Jonathan Leavitt a journalist, community organizer, and teaches college classes about social movements in Burlington, VT Email: jonathan.c.leavitt(at)gmail.com

Link to article: http://www.towardfreedom.com/home/special-reports/3119-vermont-one-tiny-states-movement-to-ban-private-prisons

Private Prison Information Act of 2013

This is a letter that concerns making private prisons more transparent. PrisonWatchNetwork.org endorses this letter as well.

Please visit the website on which this letter to Repr. Sheila Jackson Lee is published:

Privateprisoninformationactof2013.blogspot.com

We – a coalition of over 30 not-for-profit criminal justice and public interest organizations – urge Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act during the 113th Congress. The bill, which would extend Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reporting obligations to private corrections companies that contract with federal agencies, is an important first step in bringing transparency and accountability to the private prison industry.

PRESS RELEASE
Human Rights Defense Center– For Immediate Release
December 19, 2012
Organization Urge U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to Reintroduce Private Prison Information Act
Washington, DC: – Yesterday, a joint letter signed by 34 criminal justice, civil rights and public interest organizations was submitted to the office of U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, urging her to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act.
The Private Prison Information Act (PPIA) would require for-profit prison companies that contract with the federal government to comply with public records requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the same extent as federal agencies. Currently, FOIA does not apply to private companies that contract with the federal government.
We are deeply troubled by the secrecy with which the private corrections industry presently operates. Whereas the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and state departments of corrections are subject to disclosure statutes under the Freedom of Information Act and state-level public records laws, private prison firms that contract with public agencies generally are not,” the joint letter submitted to Rep. Jackson Lee noted. “This lack of public transparency is indefensible in light of the nearly $8 billion in federal contracts that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO) – the nation’s two largest private prisons firms – have been awarded since 2007.”
In fact, according to the U.S. Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Electronic Filing System, CCA has lobbied against the PPIA when it was introduced in previous Congressional sessions. Other allies of the private prison industry, including the Reason Foundation – which receives funding from CCA and GEO – have also opposed extending FOIA to private prison contractors.
Both CCA and the GEO Group receive over 40 percent of their revenue from federal contracts, which “makes them the perfect candidates for FOIA compliance” because “The private prison industry is fundamentally different in that no citizen can freely purchase incarceration services as a private individual. There is no natural market for incarceration services; the entire market would cease to exist without direct government intervention in the form of taxpayer-funded contracts to operate correctional facilities.”
The joint letter submitted to Rep. Jackson Lee was a cooperative project between UC Berkeley doctoral student Christopher Petrella and the Human Rights Defense Center. Signatories include the ACLU National Prison Project, Florida Justice Institute, In the Public Interest, Justice Policy Institute, National CURE, Prison Policy Initiative, Southern Center for Human Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center, Texas Civil Rights Project, Enlace and YouthBuild USA.
The private prison industry operates in secrecy while being funded almost entirely with public taxpayer money,” noted Human Rights Defense Center associate director Alex Friedmann, who testified in support of the PPIA before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security in June 2008. “The public has a right to know how its money is being spent, and transparency and accountability demand that private prison corporations answer to the public by being subject to FOIA requests to the same extent as federal agencies. If they have nothing to hide from the public, they should not object – but they do, which speaks volumes.”
Obligating private prison companies to comply with FOIA requirements applies a single standard for transparency in corrections reporting regardless of agency type,” added Christopher Petrella. “And because efforts to privatize federal detention facilities are on the rise – populations held in privately-operated facilities have grown by nearly 20 percent over the past year – the time is right to demand meaningful accountability in the private corrections industry.”
________________________
The Human Rights Defense Center, HRDC, founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents.

Christopher Petrella is a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley where he is currently working on a manuscript entitled “Race, Markets, and the Rise of the Private Prison State.” His work on the private corrections industry has been cited by a number of national organizations and campaigns including Prison Legal News, the ACLU’s National Prison Project, Southern Poverty Law Center, Justice Policy Institute, Prison Policy Initiative, National Prison Divestment Campaign, and the Real Cost of Prisons. He’s also a frequent contributor to Truthout, Business Insider, Monthly Review, and Nation of Change.

For further information, please contact:

Alex Friedmann, Associate Director
Human Rights Defense Center
(615) 495-6568
afriedmann@prisonlegalnews.org
Christopher Petrella 
(860) 341-1684
cpetrella@post.harvard.edu


December 18, 2012

The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee
U.S. House of Representatives
2160 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
Re: Private Prison Information Act

Dear Representative Jackson Lee:
We, the undersigned not-for-profit criminal justice and public interest organizations, respectfully urge you to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act (PPIA) during the 113th Congress. The bill, which would extend Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reporting obligations to private corrections companies that contract with federal agencies, is a critical first step in bringing transparency and accountability to the private prison industry.
We are deeply troubled by the secrecy with which the private corrections industry presently operates. Whereas the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and state departments of corrections are subject to disclosure statutes under the Freedom of Information Act and state-level public records laws, some state courts have held that private prison firms that contract with public agencies generally are not. This lack of public transparency is indefensible in light of the nearly $8 billion in federal contracts that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO)—the nation’s two largest private prisons firms—have been awarded since 2007.
If private prison companies like CCA and GEO would like to continue to enjoy taxpayer-funded federal contracts, then they should be required to adhere to disclosure laws equivalent to those governing their public counterparts—including FOIA.
Though five separate iterations of the Private Prison Information Act have been introduced in Congress since 2005, each bill has died as a result of vigorous lobbying efforts on behalf of the private corrections industry. According to documentation maintained by the U.S. Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Electronic Filing System, Corrections Corporation of America has spent over $7 million lobbying against the passage of various Private Prison Information Acts since 2005. They claim that the bill violates their “trade secret” FOIA exemption.
But why should private prison contractors, which are paid exclusively with taxpayer funds, be any less accountable to taxpayers than public corrections agencies such as the Bureau of Prisons? We contend that because the private prison industry relies entirely on taxpayer support, the public has a right to access information pertaining to its operations.
There is little evidence that taxpayers currently have access to the type of information that would allow them to evaluate the performance of private corrections firms in comparison to the public sector. Though the private prison industry routinely cites its record on measures of efficiency and safety relative to public agencies, it nonetheless refuses to disclose the very information required to substantiate its most basic claims of success.
Disclosure statutes providing the public with access to information pertaining to the operations of private prisons is vital if reasonable comparisons are to be made between the private and public sectors.
The time to reintroduce and pass this bill is now. Privately-operated federal facilities have grown 600 percent faster than state-level contract facilities since 2010, and now represent the single most quickly-growing corrections sector. Moreover, business from federal customers like the Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement now accounts for a greater percentage of revenue among private prison companies than ever before.
In the past, critics of the Private Prison Information Act have argued that its passage would set a “dangerous precedent” for FOIA overreach. In his 2007 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Mike Flynn, the Director of Government Affairs for the Reason Foundation, testified that applying FOIA to private prison companies could open the “floodgates” to any other federal contractor and, by extension, their contractors and suppliers. “Thousands of individuals, small and large businesses, provide services to the government and products to the government at great efficiency for the taxpayers [and] all of that could be opened up to the FOIA process,” he claimed. He did not mention that Reason Foundation receives funding from private prison companies, including CCA and GEO.
We squarely reject these unfounded assumptions. The Private Prison Information Act should be applied narrowly and judiciously. It is unlikely that the Private Prison Information Act, if enacted, would unwittingly extend FOIA provisions to other private companies because private prison firms hold an exceptional market position relative to other private companies. To our knowledge, no other type of private industry is contracted by the public sector solely to perform an essential governmental function such as incarceration.
That private corrections firms are supported exclusively by public agencies and enjoy the benefits of operating within an artificial government contract-driven market makes them the perfect candidates for FOIA compliance. In most economic sectors there is a free market analogue for many kinds of services that governments typically provide. A field such as education, for example, has a robust market of existing non-profit and for-profit organizations and agencies willing to sell/provide services to a market of potential buyers that includes both individuals and governments.
This is not the case with private corrections firms.
The private prison industry is fundamentally different in that no citizen can freely purchase incarceration services as a private individual. There is no natural market for incarceration services; the entire market would cease to exist without direct government intervention in the form of taxpayer-funded contracts to operate correctional facilities.
We, the undersigned, argue that because private prison firms are ultimately functionaries of the state, they must come under the same FOIA requirements as their public counterparts. We therefore urge you to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act this Congressional session and are willing to support your efforts. Should you have questions or require additional information, please feel free to contact either Christopher Petrella at 860-341-1684 or cpetrella@post.harvard.edu, or Human Rights Defense Center associate director Alex Friedmann at 615-495-6568 or afriedmann@prisonlegalnews.org.
Respectfully,
ACLU National Prison Project
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Media Justice
Center for Prison Education
Enlace
FedCURE
Florida Justice Institute
Florida Reentry Resources & Information (FreeRein)
Grassroots Leadership
Human Rights Defense Center
In the Public Interest
Justice Policy Institute
Justice Strategies
Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition
Media Alliance
National CURE
National Immigrant Justice Center
Partnership for Safety and Justice
Prison Policy Initiative
Private Corrections Institute
Private Corrections Working Group
Southern Center for Human Rights
Southern Poverty Law Center
Texas Civil Rights Project
Texas Jail Project
The Center for Church and Prison
The Fortune Society (David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy)
The Real Cost of Prisons Project
The Sentencing Project
The Workplace Project/Centro de Derechos Laborales
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform
Voters Legislative Transparency Project
YouthBuild USA, Inc.
And the Prison Watch Network

Lawyer claims Hawaii prisoners are harassed at Arizona prison

From: Hawaii News Now, Nov 24th 2012
By: Keoki Kerr

SUGUARO, Arizona (HawaiiNewsNow) —

A Honolulu lawyer who represents about 70 Hawaii inmates at an Arizona prison said officials there routinely harass and retaliate against some of those inmates for bringing complaints about their treatment behind bars.

Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona often use the phone to talk to their Hawaii-based attorneys, such as Myles Breiner.  
But he said officials at the prison routinely listen to the prisoners’ side of the conversations and take notes on their contents, a violation of attorney-client privilege.

“Inmates, as a result, are intimidated.  They are reluctant to discuss anything over the phone,” Breiner said. “Our clients are told, ‘Why do you need that lawyer?  You don’t need that lawyer. We can help you without that attorney.'”

Breiner said Saguaro inmates who file complaints about abuse by guards, improper medical attention and other problems with staff are retaliated against with unfair misconduct violations, which can make them ineligible to get parole.

“Inmates who are pursuing litigation have a disproportionate number of misconducts filed against them by the facility,” Breiner said.

A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that owns the prison where Hawaii houses more than 1,600 of its inmates, released a statement responding to some of Breiner’s allegations.
 “CCA takes the safety and dignity of the inmates entrusted to our care very seriously,” said Steven Owen, senior director of public affairs for the prison company. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of retaliation and take any such allegations very seriously.”

Owen said the Saguaro Correctional Center has a “robust grievance process” that inmates can use to voice concerns or complaints, and he said the prison encourages them to do so.

But Breiner has other complaints.

“The warden has a habit of referring to me as ‘That Jew lawyer. That Jew lawyer Myles Breiner.” They hope to have me put in segregation,” Briener said.

In a letter he wrote to Hawaii’s Attorney General David Louie, Breiner said his clients tell him the prison warden and his assistant warden say they want to lock Breiner up if he visits the facility.

Read the rest and view the film here: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/20173244/lawyer-claims-hawaii-prisoners-are-harassed-at-arizona-prison

Immigrants Are Not For Sale

Please Sign the petition of My Cuentame:

The short video is on the Correction Corporation of America & the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their attempt to open the country’s largest private immigration detention facility in south Florida.

The video features south Floridians voicing their criticism both against CCA’s/ICE’s facility and against the phenomena of private immigration detention centers/prisons. The petition asks Rep. Debbie Wasserman to stand with her constituents and “say no to CCA.”

IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT FOR SALE

We call on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-20) to WITHDRAW her current endorsements for CCA’s project.

The Obama Administration announced a change in the priorities for detentions and deportations, to focus on real national security concerns, not on separating parents from their children or deporting DREAMers who are only seeking a better future.

It is time for ICE to stop the immigrant money making machine and tell CCA to GO AWAY from Southwest Ranches.

SIGN PETITION and tell REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ To Say NO to CCA!

Plz Sign: Immigrants Are Not For Sale

Please Sign the petition of My Cuentame:

The short video is on the Correction Corporation of America & the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their attempt to open the country’s largest private immigration detention facility in south Florida.

The video features south Floridians voicing their criticism both against CCA’s/ICE’s facility and against the phenomena of private immigration detention centers/prisons. The petition asks Rep. Debbie Wasserman to stand with her constituents and “say no to CCA.”

IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT FOR SALE

We call on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-20) to WITHDRAW her current endorsements for CCA’s project.

The Obama Administration announced a change in the priorities for detentions and deportations, to focus on real national security concerns, not on separating parents from their children or deporting DREAMers who are only seeking a better future.

It is time for ICE to stop the immigrant money making machine and tell CCA to GO AWAY from Southwest Ranches.

SIGN PETITION and tell REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ To Say NO to CCA!

When prison illness becomes a death sentence

From The Guardian, on Feb. 16th 2012, this gruelling story about a private prison from CCA in Colorado, Bent County CF. May people outside wake up to the fact that people in prisons are Human Beings! Stop the privatising of prisons. Health care for everyone, INCLUDING people in prisons.

Two in every five inmates in US prisons have a chronic medical condition. Terrell Griswold, due for release last year, was one.

On 28 October 2010, Lagalia Afola received a phone call from the Bent County Correctional Facility, a private prison operated by the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), informing her that her 26-year-old son, Terrell Griswold, was dead. Terrell was serving a three-year sentence for burglary and was due to be released in early 2011. Sadly for him, and for his grieving family, he never made it home.

The autopsy report stated that Terrell died as a result of “hypertensive cardiovascular disease” and that he had a clinical history of hypertension, for which he refused to take medication. His mother found this conclusion hard to accept and, after months of persistent enquiry, was finally
provided with at least some of her son’s medical records. Upon reviewing the records, she discovered that her son had been suffering from a blockage in his prostate that prevented him from urinating properly, causing chronic kidney damage, and which, she believes, ultimately
contributed to his abrupt demise.

This blockage in Terrell’s prostate was discovered on 3 December 2009 by Dr David Oba, an attending physician at the CCA prison. The doctor noted at the time that inmate Griswold reported having had problems passing urine for the past two months:

“He has the urge to void but sometimes is unable to void at all, other times he has a very weak stream but is able to void.”

The doctor also noted that he had discussed with the patient that “he may have a chronic sub-acute prostatitis”, which he planned to treat with a 30-day cycle of ciprofloxacin (Cipro). If there was no improvement he wrote that “he may need an eval [sic] with cystoscope with urology.”

According to the records seen (pdf), Terrell was never treated by an urologist during his entire stay at the CCA facility, and it appears he did not receive the Cipro for almost six months. On 27 January 2010, Terrell had a follow-up visit with a nurse. The nurse’s report of the visit reads as follows:

“I/M (inmate) to medical to discuss non-compliance re: HCTZ & Lisinopril. (Both drugs were to treat hypertension and high blood pressure). Per I/M he has the meds in cell but states he forgets to take meds. I/M agrees to take meds as ordered.”

She goes on to write:

“I/M also reports he never received Cipro for his urinary problem.” She reviews his charts and confirms that the Cipro was never ordered. Following this visit, there are several “Refusal of Treatment Medical Release Forms” dated 5, 13 and 24 February, 10 and 15 March, which appear to have been completed on Inmate Griswold’s behalf but which he “refused to sign”.

There appears to be no record of any visits with the medical team regarding his urinary complaint for several months. His next visit with a nurse (other than to deal with an issue regarding a swollen knee), according to the records I reviewed (pdf), was on 16 August 2010. The nurse notes again that “I/M non-compliant re: medication regimen. Last pick up 5/14/10.” This note is somewhat at odds with Terrell’s monthly medication records, which list all the medications he is taking each month. In May, June and July, the listed medications include HCTZ, Lisinopril and Cipro. If what the nurse stated on 16 August 2010 was true, that Griswold had not picked up his medications since 14 May 2010, then why did the records list all these medications (including Cipro) for the intervening months?

Whatever the explanation, it is clear from what followed is that Terrell Griswold’s urinary complaint never went away.

Close to midnight on 22 October 2010, Terrell declared a medical self-emergency (pdf) and was taken from his cell to the prison clinic. He complained of “diarrhea, dizziness, tingling in his fingers and feet, has an odd smell in nose like bleach or ammonia, feels like his throat is closing up, has acid reflux when awake and pain in epigrastic area.” He did not see a doctor because the doctor was not there; but the doctor did prescribe Bactrim, an antibiotic used to treat infections, over the phone. The nurse noted on her report that inmate Griswold was instructed to take his meds as ordered, told to follow up in 24-48 hours if no better, and was sent back to his cell. She ticked the box that said “no acute distress”.

On 24 October 2010, Griswold got to see the doctor. But according to the records, the doctor performed no tests, did not take a blood pressure reading, and simply wrote the words “UTI” (urinary tract infection) in the assessment section. During this period, Terrell’s cellmate later reported that he was making frequent attempts to urinate.

Three days later, on 27 October 2010, Griswold began vomiting in his cell and was sent to the nurse at 7.30pm. The nurse informed her patient that his antibiotic was making him sick. She ordered him to return to his cell and wrote: “He did not show any outward signs of distress that would have warranted he needed emergency treatment.”

Eleven hours later, at 6.30am, Terrell Griswold was found slumped over his toilet bowl, lifeless. His condition finally warranted emergency treatment (pdf) and the full capacity of the CCA’s medical team kicked in; CPR was administered, the patient was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7.24am. It was noted on his death certificate that his bladder was full of urine.

When a prisoner is deprived of their liberty by the state, they cannot provide themselves with food, water or medical care. For this reason, the state has to assume the responsibility for meeting those basic needs. A private prison that is run for profit has the same obligation to meet these basic needs; otherwise, the prisoner would be deprived of life, a violation of their most basic constitutional rights.

I asked Steve Owen, the senior director of public affairs for the CCA, if he felt that Terrell Griswold had been provided with adequate medical care.
He would not comment on Griswold’s specific case, citing privacy reasons, but he sent a fact sheet (pdf), which, he said, “summarizes both the scope and commitment to quality inmate healthcare services that our company provide and to which our government partners hold us
accountable.”

The fact sheet claims, among other things, that every CCA facility is equipped with a fully-staffed, state-of-the-art medical clinic, which is available for inmate access 24/7; that all care-related decisions are made solely on a medical basis, entirely independent of impact on CCA profits. It also states that CCA facilities utilize an innovative computer program that automates medical records, pill call and pharmacy services, which reduces paperwork and wait times.

Lagalia Afola wrote to Dr Leon Kelly, the coroner who performed her son’s autopsy, detailing her objection to his initial conclusion that her son had died of “hypertensive cardiovascular disease”. When he reviewed the new information, the coroner issued a revised autopsy (pdf), listing obstructive uropathy as one of the causes of death. Dr Kelly told me that he believed the successive urinary episodes led to kidney failure, which “certainly contributed to [Terrell’s] sudden cardiac death”.

At this point, however, the cause of death is of less concern to Mrs Afola than the fact of it. “My son was sentenced to three years for burglary,” she said. “It was not supposed to be a death sentence.”

According to bureau of justice statistics (pdf), around 4,000 inmates died in prison and jails (both public and private) in 2009; and over half of those deaths were illness-related. A comprehensive nationwide survey on the health and healthcare of US prisoners carried out by Harvard Medical School researchers (pdf) found that over 40% of US inmates were suffering from a chronic medical condition, a far higher rate than other Americans of similar age. Of these sick inmates, over 20% in state prisons, 68% in jails and 13.9% in federal prisons had not seen a doctor or nurse since incarceration.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Andrew Wilper, told me they did not include private prisons in their study because, to the best of his knowledge,there was no data available. In his view, he added, “the private prisons like it that way.”

Interested parties can write to:

Sadhbh Walshe
PO box 1466
New York, NY 10150
Or send an email to: sadhbh@ymail.com

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/16/when-prison-illness-becomes-death-sentence

CA prisoners trapped in Riot at North Fork (OK): Private prison exchanges security for profits

In: SF Bay View, January 10, 2012
by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“We will now criticize the unjust with the weapon.” – Comrade

Written Nov. 1, 2011 – In our struggle for freedom, that weapon has been and will continue to be Truth. I am a California prisoner who was sent involuntarily to NFORK CCA (the Corrections Corporation of America’s North Fork Prison), a private prison in Oklahoma, where I have been for over a year. California thought they could more effectively silence my protests and lawsuits by hurling me hundreds of miles away.

I am once again calling on the Bay View, i.e. Voice of the People:

On Oct. 11, 2011, a riot kicked off where Black inmates were fending off inmates from every other demographic. We faced insurmountable odds and some people were in critical condition afterwards, but the biggest odds against us has yet to be pointed out and is now working diligently to manufacture cover stories to conceal their liability; the odds I speak of is the role of CCA NFORK and COCF (Sacramento-based California Out-of-State Correctional Facility, a unit in CDCR, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) in setting the stage for such a catastrophic event to take place.

For years CCA NFORK has been operating under-staffed and unprofessionally with no consequences brought to them, even though, in the contract between CCA and COCF, it states that they are to maintain a sufficient number of staff to ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff, or they face indemnity and breach of contract.

The day of the riot it was apparent that they didn’t have the staff to curtail the aggression. They were so desperate for manpower they were using nurses to hold spray cans on those of us who made it out of the chow-hall and were being placed in restraints. In my 10 years in California prisons, I have never seen an MTA or nurse touch a spray can during or after a riot. The nurses couldn’t even carry out effectively their assigned duties and tend to the wounded because they had to adopt the role of security force against the people.

The memos they passed out soon after the riot provided insight into the cover story they are manufacturing. During feeding, inmates are to be instructed to go to the back of the cell and sit on the bunk, while two officers come around to feed, placing our food on the floor. They are trying to infer and imply that there was a more pressing need for staff safety as an explanation as to why it took over an hour to get to the injured and wounded. Failure to protect is an understatement! Tacked on to this is their deliberate indifference as they have falsely concluded that the Black inmates intentionally started a riot with Southern inmates, whose numbers consume nearly 60 percent of the inmate population.

How is such a racial disparity created in a facility, a reasonable person might ask? Intentionally, of course. In Alpha North, where I am housed, there are 29 Black inmates to 80 or so Southerners. And nearly every building is set up as such.

The beginning of this year they removed all the Northerners off the line and replaced them with nearly all Southerners. The stated reason was potential tension, gleaned through informants and kites, of a riot between Southern and Northern groups. After talking with the chief of security, lieutenants etc. about the increased racial disparity that is intentionally being catered to, I wrote a grievance to Warden F.E. Figueroa letting him know in no uncertain terms that there is an implicit failure to protect liability in the racial disparity alone.

It became obvious after my appeal was ignored that CCA NFORK and COCF have exchanged security for profits. The less staff a private institution has to hire, the more it profits. When that institution is allowed to operate understaffed, they guarantee a profit by not hiring the staff it would take to cover the gap to become properly staffed.
CCA NFORK and COCF have exchanged security for profits. The less staff a private institution has to hire, the more it profits.

For those of us like myself who have been sent out here involuntarily so that California can fabricate on the books a decrease of overcrowding, we have implicitly been asked to exchange comforts like Xbox, Playstation, hobbies and crafts for security. And the guise would probably still seem impenetrable, but for this riot.

Even though we are on lockdown and in our confined cells, we may be more vulnerable than ever if left in the hands of corporate think tanks and an obviously draconian COCF machine that would like nothing more than to quietly put back together their Frankenstein puzzle of quite a “functional” CCA/COCF institution.

The Milgram experiment (“a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience,” according to Wikipedia) is seen all over again in regards to the prestige given the prison industrial complex that disables people’s right to question and demand the basic human necessity of rehabilitation.

The people have been taught to look at America’s prisons as such a necessity that an inherent legitimacy grows, in which legislatures, wardens, corrections unions etc. are allowed to treat prisoners as inhumanly as it takes to turn a profit or break what is seen as a rebellious spirit. The Greek concept of civil death has been resurrected in regards to prisoners.

Have our sentences ushered us out of the definition of what it means to be human? Has the privilege of humanity been taken off the list like an item on our commissary?
Have our sentences ushered us out of the definition of what it means to be human? Has the privilege of humanity been taken off the list like an item on our commissary?

In Solidarity!

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-57144, NFORK AN-247, 1605 E. Main, Sayre, OK 73662. He is the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poems, Volume 1.”

Black and Brown must unite against our common enemy, the system

by Marcus Dalton

This is in regard to the unjust conditions and unsafe environment of a facility that is not capable of operating or containing a full scale riot. On Oct. 11, a riot between inmates occurred. The riot started in the kitchen and spread to almost every part of the facility.

This facility has operated understaffed for two years and the day of the incident, they were so understaffed that they used OJT (on the job trainees) who have not been properly trained as C/Os (correctional officers), C/Os from other facilities, C/Os on their day off and nurses to try and control the situation. It took over an hour and 30 minutes to do so, and at the height of the assaults some buildings were overrun by inmates with no thought on their mind but to kill anyone from the other side. The odds were overwhelming, and the staff who are assigned to insure our safety and security were confused and lost.
The day of the incident, they were so understaffed that they used OJT (on the job trainees) who have not been properly trained as C/Os, C/Os from other facilities, C/Os on their day off and nurses to try and control the situation.

The majority of us were forced out here (to CCA’s North Fork Prison in Oklahoma) by the aggressive “Involuntary Transfer” policy adopted by CDCR in response to the overcrowding in the CDCR prison system. By CCA being a private organization, profit is its top priority and everything else is second.
Prisoners in the exercise yard at North Fork Correctional Facility, Oklahoma – Photo: Corrections Corporation of America
Thousands in damage was done to the facility, which Black inmates are being blamed for. It’s impossible to hold us responsible, as we were fighting for our life. But it seems to be easier to blame us because we’re all “savages” anyway.

The cover story they sold the media was that it happened over food conditions, but why would inmates riot with each other over food conditions? The food conditions were protested by our hunger strike in support of the California hunger strike two weeks prior, which many may not know took place because of the “sweep it under the rug” tactics used by CDCR and North Fork CCA so as to not affect its profit margin and image as a functional facility.

I have been here from the opening of this facility in 2008 to California inmates. My cellie, Anthony Robinson Jr., has continued to file Form 22s and 602s against this facility since his arrival in protest to the lack of preparedness, understaffing and political tricks being used to keep this facility running by the warden, the head of security and Oklahoma auditors.

The fact that inmates were able to take over buildings and controls to doors and were opening them to hurt inmates who were behind them is more than enough of a reason to bring light to the situation. Injuries ranged from minor to serious. Some inmates, including Kevin Hicks and Jabar Walton, were in critical condition. They say that the FBI has started a criminal investigation, but to what effect?

The facility seems to be more concerned about punishment and profit or loss. The main kitchen was partially destroyed, which made them cut back on food portions. They refuse to allow food purchases from canteen and the family package program in retaliation.
They say that the FBI has started a criminal investigation, but the facility seems to be more concerned about punishment and profit or loss.

The reason for the riot may never be known, but the more important issue is that this came at a time when we should be coming together. There are more serious concerns. Black and Brown relations need to come together! We have one common enemy which is the system!
Black and Brown relations need to come together! We have one common enemy which is the system!

Send our brother some love and light. Marcus Dalton and Anthony Robinson are cellmates, so Marcus can be reached in care of Anthony.