(the Gulag, cont’d.) Politics,Policies,Prisons : The Business of Detention (Case study)
I’ll be honest. I am VERY concerned about how far down the Road to Serfdom we already are.
Why spend all that energy on human rights, civil rights, legal rights, due process, when who one is dealing with is a calculating policymaker/investor (the door rotates in and out of private and public sectors) who knows a good — business- deal when he (or occasionally, she) sees one?
I found “Corrections Corporation of America” and the Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) connection. I retain a lot of information upstairs, even though words may come out crossed occasionally. I notice anomalies. Or just things that interest me. When I looked at the richest Congresspersons roll, long ago, and the Obamas came out 10th (probably 2008), counting assets, and spouses assets as well — Mr. Alexanders interest in a huge work-site Child Care provider made an impression (see comment to most recent post). OK, so why would someone so interested in child care also be interested in prisons?
The topic of lockup relates to family court matters because violation of law, or contempts, or crimes, obviously could lead there. My research process is real simple. I google, read, and pay attention. It’s not rocket science.
I recognize good reporting when I see it. (A few awards doesn’t hurt either). Too bad more court reform people wouldn’t form the investigative journalism, FOIA, and looking at the Financials habit that these Columbia University journalism grads did:
Washington, D.C. – CCA plays the game of politics like a pro. After all forty percent of its revenue comes from federal contracts.
The company backs key politicians who support an immigration crackdown, and has intensified its lobbying in order to influence those still on the fence. For good measure, it hires former prison and immigration officials to coordinate its federal relations.
(from interactive graph on site, slide 3 of 4). Notice, graph source is from “opensecrets.org”, another good resource.
“The rest of CCA’s political giving went directly to lawmakers who determine detention funding through their positions on the appropriations committee in the House and Senate. In 2008, the committees approved a $2.3 billion budget for ICE detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, including funds for an additional 4,870 new beds. More than half the senators backed by CCA’s PAC are on the appropriations committee, and four of them are on the subcommittee on Homeland Security.”
Maybe some mothers and fathers who want Family Court Reform ought to spend a little more browsing (and submitting testimony) time on the House Ways and Means Committee, where many programs affecting the courts are. (see some of my posts). CCA knew right where to go to get their policies through.
One CCA-backed appropriations committee member deserves special mention. Former Tennessee governor, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) received $31,200 from 2003-2008 from the Nashville-based company and its employees, spouses and their subsidiaries, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Alexander’s history of supporting CCA includes endorsing its failed bid in 1985 to take over the Tennessee prison system.
In the House, CCA’s PAC gave $5,000 to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who sits on the Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations. Another $2,500 went to fellow committee member John Carter (R-TX) who is also on the Committee on Homeland Security. Carter’s district is where CCA’s T. Don Hutto family residential center is located. He is a major advocate for “a system of 100 percent catch and return.”
Republican members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus reaped CCA’s support for backing the Secure America though Verification and Enforcement Act. The Act calls for expediting “the removal of illegal aliens by expanding detention capacity.
I have a question. Suppose, very hypothetically, all illegal aliens (that’s people…) WERE removed? Then what about all that prison capacity? Hmmm??? Maybe another Kids for Cash scenario? (As if aspects of the child protective services, and foster care incentives, and child support agency system(s) weren’t already this…)
WELL, some people – shareholders — wanted to know what was going on with all this money:
In 2007, the company fought a shareholder resolution that requested semi-annual reports on the company’s political contributions and expenditures.
“Absent a system of accountability, corporate executives are free to use company assets for political objectives that are not shared by and may be inimical to the interests of a company and its shareholders,” argued Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Investment Program, who introduced the failed measure to force CCA to disclose payments it makes to trade associations, political recipients and soft money entities such as 527s.
To influence lawmakers who did not receive direct donations, CCA has spent millions on lobbyists. They got what they asked for.
And we even got a corporate (CCA) counsel taking a spin at a judgeship in Tennessee. That should help:
CCA’s general counsel, Gustavus Puryear IV, could give the revolving door another turn. Puryear made headlines this year when President Bush nominated him for a federal judge seat in the Middle District of Tennessee, where CCA is headquartered. Puryear has worked as a speech writer for Vice President Dick Cheney. He testified during a Senate hearing that he would recuse himself from cases involving the company.
WELL, this is just a flavor. Not only does this subject matter overlap with family court, but take note of these TWO students’ masters’ thesis project. The same principles apply in organizations which are close to the federal faucet through HHS (see “What Decade Are These Stores?” post.). I notice that the Loop21.com article noticed a n Arizona connection. (bottom of last post)
from their ABOUT BD link — and I also added this link to my blogroll:
Our desire was to create an innovative way to present the business of privatized detention services — using solid reporting skills and pairing that up with video and interactive info graphics. This was also an experiment for us in creating a platform for a news product, that largely went under reported in mainstream news when we started the Corrections Corporation of America investigative project in late 2007. That project became the first investigative-new media project for the University and has since won the Melvin Mencher Award for Superior Reporting and James A. Wechsler Award for National Reporting, and a finalist at the 2009 SXSW Interactive Awards.
This link is to a “money.cnn” report focusing on Arizona, where a bid was made to privatize the entire state’s prisons.
According to research firm IBISWorld USA, private corrections is a $22.7 billion industry with an annual growth rate in the last half-decade of 4.7%. While growth slowed from 2009 to 2010, projections for the industry remain largely optimistic.
“The prison population continues to grow regardless of what the economic conditions are,” says George Van Horn, senior analyst at IBISWorld.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of federal inmates housed in private facilities jumped nearly 14% between 2000 and 2007, and nearly 6% between 2007 and 2008.
Even so, the federal government nor any other state has gone as far as Arizona has in the march toward prison privatization. Last fall, Governor Brewer signed a law calling for the privatization of all the state’s prisons, should a private contractor offer an upfront bid of $100 million. This March, the law was repealed because no private company made a bid.
A prison too far?
But with the recent escapes, officials in Arizona and elsewhere have started to question the use of private correctional facilities. When Arizona’s privatization bill passed, the state’s director of corrections, Charles L. Ryan, took the unusual step of writing a letter to Governor Brewer expressing concern.
“[The bill] seeks to attempt something never experienced in the nation: Privatizing a state’s entire prison system. This is bad public policy,” the letter read.
“This escape has put everything in stark relief,” says Goddard. “A private company has an acceptable level of loss. In the case of violent offenders, I don’t believe the public does or should tolerate any incidence of failure.“