by Derek Gilna
A federal class-action suit filed on April 17, 2018 in the Middle District of Georgia accuses private prison behemoth CoreCivic – formerly Corrections Corporation of America – of exploiting immigrant detainees who perform work in the company’s ICE detention facilities, specifically at the Stewart Detention Center in central Georgia.
The complaint alleges violations of state and federal labor laws. According to one of the attorneys representing the proposed class, Azadeh Shahshahani, legal director for Project South, “CoreCivic is exploiting the labor of detained immigrants to enrich itself. It must be stopped.”
CoreCivic, the largest private prison operator in the U.S., has been the target of numerous lawsuits in states where it maintains detention facilities for inadequate medical treatment and employee misconduct, and has been fined millions of dollars by various government agencies for contract violations. Prison Legal News has extensively covered these various scandals, which include the common threads of cutting corners and exploiting prisoners in order to increase profits.
Although legal precedent does not uniformly restrict corrections officials from compelling healthy prisoners to work, the complaint notes that the legal status of detained immigrants is different: “Immigration violations are civil violations, and immigration detention ...
by Monte McCoin
On May 8, 2018, the City Council in Tucson, Arizona passed a historic resolution by unanimous vote that prohibits “contracting with private, for-profit prison companies like GEO Group or CoreCivic (formerly CCA) for jail operations.” City Councilmember Regina Romero, who spearheaded the passage of the resolution alongside Tucson Vice Mayor Paul Cunningham, noted that “Profit should never be motivation for our justice system.”
The Tucson resolution closely followed a similar measure passed in December 2017 by the Board of Supervisors in Pima County, Arizona, and appears to follow a growing trend among municipalities to reject correctional privatization.
King County, Washington was one of the first jurisdictions to ban privately-operated facilities; the county passed legislation in August 2017 that prohibits contracts between the county and private prison firms to house either adult or juvenile detainees. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.29]. And in April 2018, the Indianapolis City-County Council proactively prohibited privatization of the city’s yet-to-open new criminal justice center and jail with an ordinance that also dissolves the city’s current contract with CoreCivic when the old jail closes.
“No function of our government is more serious than when it deprives people of liberty,” said ...
by Matthew Clarke
Over a decade ago, with the promise of cost savings as well as stable jobs for the community, local governments in Texas agreed to issue bonds to finance the construction of prisons and jails operated by for-profit companies. But when state and federal authorities stopped sending enough prisoners for the facilities to break even, the companies pulled out of their deals, leaving cities and counties with empty jails and debt payments on the bonds sold to finance them.
In 2007, Burnett County, Texas issued $40 million in municipal bonds to build a new jail. A private operator, Louisiana-based LaSalle Southwest Corrections, was awarded a contract to operate the facility for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which used it to house prisoners enrolled in a drug treatment program. LaSalle also signed a deal with the U.S. Marshals Service to hold some of its prisoners.
But the company lost $4 million on the deal. LaSalle had also been cited for failure to provide adequate healthcare in 2009, and for failing a security review in 2014. It pulled out in 2014, just five years after the facility opened, and the TDCJ sent its prisoners elsewhere. But the ...
by Matthew Clarke
The family of a prisoner who died at the Bi-State Jail in Texarkana has filed a federal civil rights suit alleging his death resulted from inadequate medical care.
The jail is unique in that it straddles the border of Texas and Arkansas in a city that spreads out over four counties in two states. The 164-bed facility, opened in 1985, is run by a for-profit company, LaSalle Corrections, and used by law enforcement agencies in both Texas and Arkansas.
On July 19, 2015, Michael Sabbie, 35, was arrested on suspicion of verbal assault, a Class C misdemeanor, in Texarkana, Arkansas after he had an argument with his wife during which he allegedly threatened her. He was booked into the jail.
During the intake process, Sabbie told a nurse he had heart trouble, diabetes, mental illness, a communicable disease, asthma and hypertension, and reported he had suffered from congestive heart failure. He also complained of shortness of breath and told the nurse he had pneumonia prior to his arrest. [See: PLN, Dec. 2016, p.43].
Sabbie’s complaints about shortness of breath continued over the next two days. He was seen twice by nurses, but sent away without treatment ...
by Steve Horn
It’s an even-numbered year, which makes sense because, as is the norm, what’s going on in our nation’s capital is anything but odd. That is, big money once again is flowing into Congressional campaign coffers from corporate interests, aiming to influence the 2018 midterm elections. And as usual, well-compensated federal lobbying continues apace. Of course that happens in the odd-numbered years too, perhaps even more so because federal lawmakers are not as busy on the campaign trail.
A review and analysis of federal lobbying disclosure records by Prison Legal News revealed that private prison companies GEO Group, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and Management & Training Corporation (MTC) spent at least $812,500 to lobby federal officials during the first quarter of 2018. And they’ve hired a cast of lobbyists who have passed through the government-industry revolving door – many of them former senior-level congressional staffers, White House staffers, members of Congress and officials with close ties to President Donald Trump – to get the job done.
Private prison firms have also showered Congressional candidates with campaign donations in the run-up to the November midterm elections, giving more than $360,000 thus far through their political ...
by David M. Reutter
Food plays an integral role in our lives. It not only provides the nutrition necessary to sustain our existence, it feeds the sense of community we all crave. Social bonds are made as we break bread with those who sit and dine with us at the meal table. It may sound trite, but food feeds not just the body but also the soul.
The role of food is more pronounced for prisoners than for those who are not incarcerated. A primary reason for that difference is the fact that prison and jail schedules revolve around meal times. Another is that prisoners are limited to eating the fare provided in the dining hall (commonly called the chow hall or mess hall), or what they can buy from the commissary; they lack the food choices that most people take for granted.
The answer to the question “what’s for chow?” is often determinative of whether a prisoner goes to the dining hall or eats out of his or her own pantry. The latter occurs only if the prisoner has money to buy food items from the commissary or can hustle up something to eat. The poorest prisoners are ...
by Dale Chappell
An “egregious” lack of medical treatment that resulted in the death of a jail prisoner led Albany County, New York and its private health care contractor to settle a lawsuit filed by the prisoner’s family for over $1 million.
Mark Cannon died in 2014 after he suffered ...
by Christopher Zoukis
A December 11, 2017 report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) harshly criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for serious deficiencies at four immigration detention facilities.
The OIG report arrived just weeks after two non-profit groups, Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights, released a damning review of 201 immigration detention facilities that concluded they operate under inadequate standards with insufficient accountability, under contracts with “perverse incentives.”
The analysis by the pair of non-profits did not include the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, which houses female ICE detainees. That facility is operated by private prison company CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corp. of America). It was also the site of a November 2017 complaint filed by Laura Monterrosa, from El Salvador, who claimed she was sexually abused by a guard at the 500-bed detention center.
Many other detainees had already suffered sexual abuse, according to Sofia Casini, the coordinator of immigrant programs at Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit based in Austin, Texas. “You have to keep in mind that all of the women in Hutto are asylum seekers and many have experienced sexual assault. Not ...
by Derek Gilna
Everett Joseph Jewett, a disabled prisoner held in the medical unit at a jail in Shasta County, California, filed suit in federal court in 2013 alleging the facility had failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. After five years of intense discovery and motion practice, and the filing of five amended complaints, the parties finally agreed to settle the case pending final approval by the district court.
Jewett’s original complaint alleged that the Shasta County jail was in violation of the ADA because it did not have a solitary confinement unit for disabled prisoners, who were instead classified as being held in administrative segregation; because detainees with disabilities were not housed in “the most integrated setting appropriate to [their] needs”; and because disabled prisoners were held in medical areas when they were not “actually receiving medical care or treatment.”
According to Jewett, those failures to adhere to the ADA unfairly penalized a dozen disabled detainees at the jail, who were unable to participate in programs offered to non-disabled prisoners in the general publication.
Jewett also sued the jail’s private health care provider, the California Forensic ...
by Sytonia Reid, Green American Magazine
Every day, incarcerated and detained people in both US government and private prisons perform labor during their sentences, with few exceptions. Many provide services for the prison itself, such as cooking, laundry, and maintenance tasks, while others make goods or provide services for the government or private companies. The prisoners and organizations that advocate on their behalf say they’re being forced to work in intolerable conditions for virtually zero pay.
While there may be some benefits for prisoners who work while incarcerated, the prison system strips many of these workers of their fundamental rights.
A History of Exploiting Prisoners
The use of prisoner labor has roots that go back to the system of slavery in the US. Passed three years after the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in Confederate states after the Civil War, the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution outlawed any continuance of slavery, “except for punishment of a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
The amendment created an incentive for the South to criminalize more people to replace the now-freed slaves on whose backs their entire economy once rested, say experts. Their main target: recently emancipated ...