by Ed Lyon
The GEO Group is one of the largest private prison companies in the United States. Its primary reason for existence is to generate profit by warehousing people for the states and federal government. One of GEO’s many prisons is the 1,575-bed Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. Recently renamed the Northwest Processing Center (NPC) in an effort to make the facility appear less onerous, detainees at NPC perform various jobs in the kitchen, laundry and other areas. The detention center holds federal immigrant detainees, who are paid $1.00 per day for their labor – the amount Congress has decreed reimbursable. This practice is similar to that used by Washington State at its Special Commitment Center (SCC) for civilly committed sex offenders on McNeil Island.
Regarding pay for prisoners performing work in Washington prisons, state law exempts prisoners from being paid at all, much less imposing any threshold requirements like $1.00 a day or minimum wage. Wage rates are left to prison administrators’ discretion. The state’s civil commitment system lies outside of that law and is presumably on a par of sorts with the NPC. The NPC has been paying detainee workers a $1.00 per day wage since ...
by David M. Reutter
Nashville’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) has removed for-profit prison company CoreCivic from its membership rolls. The October 8, 2019 decision to return the company’s membership fee came after a vocal outcry from the local LGBT community.
“The voices at our meeting last night were very clear. Their membership was too much for many in our LGBT community,” the Chamber said in a statement. “We heard those concerns and last night our board voted to remove CoreCivic as a member and return their $300 membership fee.”
Speakers at the meeting pointed to the private prison company’s dismal record of poor conditions and abuse inside its facilities, as well as its involvement in detaining immigrants on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
PLN has reported on those conditions for years, and has covered numerous reports, audits, incidents and lawsuits involving CoreCivic facilities, often tied to the company’s business model of cutting costs in order to generate profit.
In the current political environment, CoreCivic sees opportunity to grow its business model. The Trump administration’s stance on undocumented immigrants is viewed by the company as a great opportunity. In June 2018, CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told investors that ...
by Matt Clarke
On September 30, 2019, U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent letters to five private equity firms – BlueMountain Capital Management, H.I.G. Capital, American Securities, Apax Partners and Platinum Equity.
The firms own companies that provide support services to prisons, including health care, food services and prisoner telephone services. The letters accused the companies of charging exorbitant prices for substandard goods and services while reaping windfall profits, noting that they received over $40 billion in taxpayer funds each year plus money from prisoners and their families. [See: PLN, Aug. 2019, p.22].
The letters from members of Congress expressed “concerns about the rapid spread and effect of private equity investment in many sectors of the economy – including the correctional facility support services industry.” They noted that private equity firms had a history of purchasing companies, stripping them of assets while loading them with debt, and extracting exorbitant fees before selling them for a profit. Other concerns included the role of the private equity firms in consolidation of prison services companies and a steep decline in the quality of services provided. They noted that “three companies – GTL, ...
by Ed Lyon
California governor Gavin Newsom entered office in early 2019 vowing to end the use of private prisons – including those in which federal immigration authorities detain asylum seekers – because for-profit prisons “lead to over-incarceration” and “do not reflect our values.” For many years, California sent prisoners to privately-run facilities in other states.
The state legislature responded with Assembly Bill 32, which passed, was signed by Newsom and went into effect in January 2020, banning California from entering into any new contracts with private prison companies and beginning a countdown to end all such contracts in the state by 2028.
Florida-based private prison operator GEO Group, Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm with $2.33 billion in 2018 gross revenue, signed new contracts in December 2019 – just before the law took effect – with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for two facilities the company operates in California.
GEO also signed a new contract the same month with the U.S. Marshals Service for its 512-bed El Centro Service Processing Center until 2028, in addition to a contract already in place to run the 725-bed Western Region Detention Facility in San Diego for the Marshals until 2027. ...
by Matt Clarke
Many prisoners transported by Prisoner Transportation Services of America, LLC (PTS) report being denied restroom breaks, food, liquids and essential prescription medications such as insulin, occasionally with fatal results. Others say they were physically or sexually abused by PTS staff. At least five prisoners have died while being transported by PTS since 2012.
The Nashville-based company contracts with law enforcement agencies throughout the country to transport prisoners between jurisdictions in trips that can take up to two weeks coast-to-coast as PTS vans zigzag between jails, sometimes backtracking in an attempt to maximize profit each trip.
One death occurred after a PTS transportation officer – the company’s version of a guard – assaulted a prisoner and ordered other prisoners to beat him, too. Two more prisoners died due to bleeding ulcers while transport guards ignored their pleas for medical attention. Two guards were charged with sexual assault and pleaded guilty, one of them to lesser charges.
Being subjected to a PTS extradition transport is the proverbial trip from hell, according to prisoners who have taken such journeys. It starts with a guard placing your legs in shackles, then your wrists are locked in handcuffs with a “black box” ...
by Scott Grammer
On September 18, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) filed suit in Arizona against Corizon Health, Inc. and Corizon LLC. The purpose of the litigation was “to correct Corizon’s nationwide unlawful employment policies and practices that discriminate on the basis of disability and to provide appropriate relief for Charging Parties Elizabeth McCrehin, Ann Pogue, Nicole Moore, Linda Magnelli, Barbara McCormick, and other similarly situated qualified aggrieved individuals who were adversely affected by Corizon’s unlawful actions,” according to the complaint.
The suit alleged that “[a]s a matter of policy or practice, Corizon would not approve modified job duties, allow more than twelve weeks of leave permitted by the FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act], allow extended leave past an unpaid 30-day medical leave, or allow employees to return to work without being fully healed.... Corizon has failed to provide reasonable accommodations to its employees with disabilities when the employee requests an accommodation or when Corizon is on notice that the employee needs an accommodation.”
Further, the company was accused of “harass[ing] qualified employees with disabilities because of their disabilities.... Corizon has engaged in harassment of some of its qualified employees with disabilities because of their need for reasonable ...
One company has become the biggest provider of jail health care. Sheriffs are worried: “If you’re the only dance in town, you can pretty much call your own shots.”
Story by Marsha McLeod, The Atlantic
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – In the span of 24 days in May 2017, two men died in Forsyth County’s jail. Both were fathers. Both were black. The first man, Deshawn Lamont Coley, had written request after request begging for his asthma inhaler – accurately predicting that his sporadic access to it was putting his life at risk. The second, Stephen Antwan Patterson, was found without a pulse about a week after he was booked with a blood-pressure reading that would likely have led any free person to the emergency room. The deaths came at an uncomfortable time for Forsyth County: Patterson died just four weeks before the Board of Commissioners sat down to decide whether to renew a contract with the private health-care company that had cared for the two men, then called Correct Care Solutions and now Wellpath, or sign with someone else.
What might have been a routine board meeting turned tense. “Correct Care Solutions makes the sheriff’s office look bad, makes ...
by Chad Marks
Walking 200 feet to the chow hall was excruciating, said 35-year-old Arizona prisoner Waylon Collingwood. Held at ASPC-Lewis, he had already been to the medical department several times in July 2019 to seek help for his symptoms, which also included vomiting and nausea, only to be wrongly diagnosed. A nurse thought Collingwood had pneumonia. She gave him a Z-pack – antibiotics commonly used for pink-eye and strep throat – and sent him back to his housing unit.
A month later Collingwood was at an outside hospital, finding out why walking to the chow hall had been so painful. He did not have pneumonia but rather Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The nurse, who worked for prison medical provider Corizon, had been wrong – leaving Collingwood with a heavy price to pay. He was also misdiagnosed by Corizon staff with Valley Fever and tuberculosis before going to the hospital.
MRSA had infected his lungs and the valves of his heart, and he needed open heart surgery to replace his tricuspid valve. His heart stopped beating the day after surgery, but a nurse at the Abrazo West Campus Hospital was able to save him. Collingwood learned that he would ...
by Scott Grammer
Robert J. “Bob” Dennis, CEO of Genesco, a Nashville shoe and boot retailer, was first appointed to the board of directors of CoreCivic, the private prison company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, in February 2013. However, in May 2019 his time on the board was up, according to investors holding more than 49.9 million shares of CoreCivic stock, who voted to deny Dennis another term. He was required to tender his resignation.
The company told the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it believed Dennis’ failure to survive the retention vote “was due to his service as the Chief Executive Officer and director of a publicly traded company, his service on the Board and his service on the board of directors of one additional publicly traded company, which resulted in a concern among shareholders holding a significant number of shares of [CoreCivic’s] common stock.”
Dennis also serves on the board of directors of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), as well as the boards of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, Leadership Nashville and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.
One news report suggested that investment firms Blackrock and Vanguard Group, which together hold almost ...
by Douglas Ankney
In November 2019, an employee of private food service provider Aramark Correctional Services at Indiana’s Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton was captured on surveillance video delivering a package and $300 in cash to a prisoner. Kevin Lake, 26, admitted to smuggling the contraband he had received from a woman at a Wendy’s restaurant, as well as passing money to other prisoners that he obtained through an app on his cell phone. He was charged with felony drug trafficking.
On September 20, 2019, Aurelia Diaz Brin, 54, an Aramark employee at the Whatcom County jail in Washington, was arrested and booked into the jail for allegedly smuggling drugs, including heroin and Suboxone, into the facility. The Sheriff’s Office said it was reviewing the company’s performance and would recommend that the county contract with a different food service vendor.
The arrests of Lake and Brin were among the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents involving Aramark, which is the 27th-largest employer among Fortune 500 companies, with $14 billion in 2018 revenue from food service contracts with prisons and jails, universities, sporting arenas and other venues. The firm has been the subject of protests from New ...