3 Months in Juvie For a MySpace Joke? How the For-Profit Prison Industry Locks Up More People Each Year
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An investigation by Arizona's KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Arizona's Gov. Janet Brewer's deputy chief of staff, was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA), and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer's campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA.
CCA was set to receive well over $74 million in tax dollars in fiscal year 2010 for running immigration detention centers. In a recent presentation, Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund with a large financial stake in CCA, suggested that CCA's profitability depends on increasing numbers of immigrants sent to prison. Many of the legislators helping to earn CCA more profits with radical anti-immigrant bills mirroring SB1070 have been recipients of private prison industry cash or have worked closely with the CCA-funded ALEC organization.
"When detentions increased following the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and the Pentagon," author Mark Dow writes in " American Gulag: Inside US Immigration Prisons," "private prison profiteers saw another opportunity. The [then] Chairman of the Houston-based Cornell Companies spoke candidly in a conference call with other investors: 'It can only be good ... with the focus on people that are illegal and also from Middle Eastern descent ... In the US there are over 900,000 undocumented individuals from Middle Eastern descent ... That's half of our entire [US] prison population ... The Federal business is the best business for us ... and the events of September 11 [are] increasing that level of business ...'"
Efforts to reach the CEOs of the two leading private prison companies, CCA and GEO, to invite comment on this article were unsuccessful. However, their web sites present a comprehensive picture of the companies' vision of their operations. Both are doing extremely well. GEO's revenues for 2010 rose 11 percent to $1.27.billion. CCA's revenues in 2009 rose to $1.670 billion. The companies' annual reports and 10-K filings present a robust picture of these operations and strike an optimistic note for the future.
Beau Hodai, considered an authority on the private prison industry, noted in Prison Legal News last year that private prison leaders had substantially increased their spending on lobbying.
For example, he writes, "From January 2008 to April 2010, CCA spent $4.4 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the Office of Budget Management, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and both houses of Congress. Of the 43 lobbying disclosure reports filed by CCA during this period, only five do not expressly state intent to monitor or influence immigration reform policy or gain Homeland Security or ICE appropriations."
The private prison industry's operation of immigration detention centers has been less than stellar - a lot less.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and El Paso co-counsel Mike Torres and Leon Schydlower filed a lawsuit on behalf of the survivors of Jesus Manuel Galindo. Named as defendants were the federal government and the GEO Group, the administrator of the West Texas for-profit prison where Galindo, 32, died on December 12, 2008, after suffering a seizure in solitary confinement where he had been placed for complaining about the facility's failure to provide him medication to control his epileptic seizures.
At least nine immigrant prisoners have died in the Reeves County Detention Center in the last five years. The GEO Group has had at least six facilities in Texas shuttered or contracts canceled. The state of Idaho pulled its inmates from the Dickens County Correctional Center in the spring of 2007 in the wake of the suicide of inmate Scot Noble Payne and a subsequent investigation into "squalid" conditions at the lockup. Idaho also cut its contract with the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, after the 2008 suicide of Randy McCullough. In October 2007, the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was shuttered by the Texas Youth Commission after a damning investigation into conditions at the youth detention center.