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Private Prisons: Your Tax Dollars Hard At Work Lining The Corporation’s Pockets

Prison bars lockup hands

Prison bars lockup handsFor many years our state and local governments have been looking for ways to save money in their budgets. Some have turned to privatization as a way to reduce cost.  Privatization ultimately ends up costing taxpayers more money in the long run no matter how much they save up front.  The private prison industry is no different.

Private prisons have been popping up all across the country. They offer to build a new prison and then lease it back to the state.  Also part of this agreement is that the state will pay the private prison company to operate the prison.

The initial savings come from the fact that the private prison company coughs up some of the money to cover the cost of constructing a new building.  Many state’s budgets are so thin that they cannot afford to do major investments like building a new prison.  This may save the taxpayers money in the actual construction, but the private prison industry makes their money back and more on the occupancy of the prison.

In a new report released yesterday, Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and “Low-Crime Taxes” Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,” we see exactly how private prisons are actually taking extra money from the taxpayers.

The study documents the shocking prevalence of contract language between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantees prison occupancy rates (“lockup quotas”) or forces taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population falls due to lower crime rates or other factors (“low-crime taxes”).

That’s right, you are paying a corporation for empty beds in private prisons.

Nationally we all have been working to reduce the number of prisoners in our penal system.  Reducing the number of inmates would also help reduce our state budgets, right? Wrong.  With ‘Lockup Quotas’ it does not matter how many people are in the prison, the corporation still gets a minimum fee.

In The Public Interest, who released the above report, found “nearly two-thirds (65 percent) include occupancy guarantees and force taxpayers to pay for empty prison beds if the lockup quota is not met.”

ITPI research also found that “lockup quotas in private prison contracts range between 80 percent and 100 percent; 90 percent is the most frequent occupancy guarantee requirement. Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia have the highest occupancy guarantee requirements, with quotas requiring between 95 percent and 100 percent occupancy.”

Image from ITPI Report

Image from ITPI Report

Donald Cohen, Executive Director of ITPI stated: “Private prison companies are gaming the system to guarantee themselves profits at the expense of taxpayers and, worst of all, at the expense of people’s freedom.  Governments should cease working with this corrupt industry and reclaim public control of corrections.”

Alex Friedmann, Managing Editor of Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center stated: “As a private prison expert who began researching the industry while incarcerated in a for-profit prison, I can tell you firsthand that private prison companies are profitable only because they are ethically bankrupt, with taxpayers footing the bill.”

You can read ITPU full report here.

The story does about the private prison industry does not stop there.  One of the largest private prison corporations, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), uses inmates as slave labor.   Forcing inmates to work for as low as $.50 an hour.

Arizona inmates working for private agricultural companies are paid a “whopping fee” of “more than 50 cents an hour.”  Read “How US prison labour pads corporate profits at taxpayers’ expense” in The Guardian here.

Liz Iacobucci talked about these atrocities before in the NH Labor News post, “Another thing that went wrong in the Bush Economy.”  That post describes how inmates in Arizona are forced to work for $2.00 an hour while CCA takes 30% to offset their incarceration costs and the state takes another 30% for legal costs.  That means inmates are being forced to work for about $.80 cents and hour.   Do you think that CCA gives that 30% back to the state to reduce the taxpayer cost of incarceration?

What do you do with an entire prison full of slave labor; you sell it to the highest bidder.  During the G.W. Bush administration the Department of Justice teamed up with the National Corrections Industry Association to promote this idea.  They even produced a recruitment video (circa 2004) to draw manufactures to set up shop in the prisons.

Industry spokesmen describe the program as a “win-win” – but that’s from their perspective.

“I asked an NCIA spokesperson how private companies can get away with what could reasonably be described as forced labor. He explained that the PIE program classifies certain work functions as a ‘service’ rather than an actual ‘job’, and therefore is not subject to [restrictions in a 1979 federal law]. Conveniently, then, the backbreaking work of picking crops in the blistering sun counts as a ‘service’, so prisoners can be paid even less than the immigrants who have traditionally performed this work.”

It is no wonder that CCA spent over “$12 million dollars between 2002 and 2012 lobbying for policies that protect their bottom line and keep pro-privatization politicians in office”.  The AP reports, “the industry’s giants — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. — have spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal level in the last decade.”

The private prison industry is very lucrative for those at the top.  CCA brought in $178 million in 2012 and GEO brought in $78 million.  Over 40% of CCA’s total revenue comes from federal contracts. That is your tax dollars lining the pockets of these companies.

It is obvious to see that the private prison industry is a loss for taxpayers.  We are overpaying for services with ‘lockup quotas’, while they collect massive profits from slave labor camps inside the prisons.

As fiscally responsible taxpayers why would we continue to let our tax dollars fuel this corporate machine?

(Related article from AATTP “Watch The Video For-Profit Prison Corporations Don’t Want You To See!“)

 

Prison Consultant gets Contract Extension

Jail For Sale, Image from NH Prison Watch

February 28 is New Deadline
Cross posted from InzaneTimes 

New Hampshire’s Executive Council voted today to extend the contract of a private consultant that has been evaluating proposals from four firms interested in for-profit operation of the state’s prison system.  The consultant, MGT of America, now has until February 28, 2013, to complete its work.

The original contract, approved by the Council in July, called for the firm to turn in its report by October 5 and to be available until the end of that month to explain its findings.  When that date arrived, the company was given an extra ten days.  When October 15 arrived, the Department of Administrative Services said completion of 12-5-12 003the report would be delayed until mid-November.  When mid-November arrived, Administrative Services said the report would be done in mid-December.

MGT will not get additional payment beyond the $171,000 of the original contract.

The main impact of delay is that MGT, Administrative Services, and the Department of Corrections will be reporting at the end of February to a new Governor and a changed Executive Council.

Bob Sanders of New Hampshire Business Review reported this morning:

The state received the four bids last spring after issuing a relatively vague request for proposal last spring to build and perhaps run a prison to handle all of the state’s inmates. Thus far, no other state has turned its entire prison population over to a private company.

That RFP was the result of even vaguer legislation – never debated by lawmakers but instead tucked into a large budget bill — that appeared to be more interested in looking at shipping inmates out of state to private facilities elsewhere. However, the wording morphed into an RFP for a private prison company to set up a facility so large that it would have the capacity to import prisoners in from other states, an idea favored by outgoing Gov. John Lynch.

Asked by outgoing Councilor Dan St. Hilaire if it is still worth it to finish this project, Commissioner Linda Hodgdon of Administrative Services told the Governor and Council the report would put a “whole comprehensive report in front of you” for consideration as they look into whether and how to replace the women’s prison in Goffstown and the men’s prison in Concord.

When retiring Councilor Ray Wieczorek said the information would help the new Governor and Council decide whether to pursue privatization, Governor Lynch said there are many forms of privatization.   “We need a new women’s prison and at some point we’re going to need a new prison in Concord,” he said.

12-5-12 008 Lynch has been promoting an approach in which the state would contract with a private firm to finance, build, and own a major prison that would then be leased to the state.  The ostensible advantage is that the state would not have to worry about financing a major construction project.  The political advantage would be that the expensive enterprise would be handled as a contract by the Governor and Council, thereby evading the Legislature’s always thrifty capital budget process.  But once the contract is signed, the Legislature would have little choice but to include payments in the biennial state budget.

Such an approach would also give a for-profit prison company a position from which it could make the case for full-scale privatization.

When Chris Sununu, the Council’s most vocal privatization supporter, asked why the process had been delayed, Hodgdon said the analysis was “more complicated than any of us thought.”

Each of the four firms responded to a complex Request for Proposals that asked for details on plans to build and operate a men’s prison and a prison that would house both men and women.   Each proposal presumably also includes the build/lease option for both types of facilities.  That means there are 16 proposals to analyze, not four, and that they all need to be compared to status quo arrangements and to construction and operation of new facilities fully in the hands of the state.

Privatization opponents hope to talk soon with newly elected Councilors.

Today was also Organization Day for the newly elected Legislature.  The House bears little resemblance to the pro-privatization gang that ran the joint for the previous two years.   Legislation to prohibit privatization may meet a warm reception.

Statewide Watch Group Shines Light On Prison Privatization

Jail For Sale, Image from NH Prison Watch

Cross-posted from SEA / SEIU 1984 Blog

Image from NH Prison Watch .Org

The issue of privatizing New Hampshire prisons will be the topic of a series of panel discussions and documentary screenings between now and the end of the month.

The 45-minute film, “Billions Behind Bars,” explores the for-profit industry that is rapidly growing across the U.S – generating incredible revenue for shareholders and CEO’s from the incarceration of individuals.  Locally, New Hampshire’s Department of Corrections is currently reviewing proposals from for-profit companies seeking to build and operate its state prisons.

Evidence shows that private prisons do not save money. In fact, they frequently cost states more than publicly operated facilities. They are more dangerous than publicly run prisons, and they raise key moral issues.  Questions to be discussed include whether the state faces an inherent conflict between allowing profit-making prisons to operate and a moral obligation to rehabilitate prisoners.

The events are free and open to the public.

The CNBC documentary “Billions Behind Bars,” will be shown courtesy of NHPrisonWatch, a group of organizations that oppose prison privatization. To learn more visit www.NHPrisonWatch.org.

  • Nov. 14, 7 p.m. at the Congregational Church in Exeter, 21 Front St., Exeter.
  • Nov. 19, 5:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton.
  • Nov. 26, 7 p.m. at Keene State College, the Mabel Brown Room, Young Student Center, 229 Main St. Keene.
  • Nov. 27, 6 p.m. at the Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St., Concord.
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