On February 23, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reversed Sally Yates’ order of August 18, 2016 to phase out private prisons holding federal inmates. President Trump signed an executive order calling for expansion of immigrant detention facilities and authorized use of private contractors to “construct, operate, or control facilities.” (NY Times, LA Times)
The GEO Group, one of the largest private prisons companies, is going to build a 1,000 bed detention center for immigrants in the Houston, TX metro area for $100 million. (Houston Chronicle) Civil rights leaders fear that immigrants’ rights will be violated in the search for sufficient numbers of deportees to fill the newly-built prison space. This should lead to $44 million in annualized revenues – 308 new jobs and property tax increases. This 10 year renewable contract is in Houston, TX. (Houston Chronicle)
Among things spelled out in the May 1, 2007 contract between Marion County (IN) and CCA is that the county maintain a guaranteed monthly minimum of 1,025 beds. With this Marion County contract up for renewal, Mayor Joe Hogsett is planning to cut ties with a private jail operator that has been facing scrutiny over its management of facilities across the U.S.
The mayor's criminal justice reform task force has recommended that the Marion County Sheriff's Department take over all operations for the proposed jail. That means the county would end a decades-long contract with CoreCivic, formerly called Corrections Corp. of America.
The Nashville-based CoreCivic receives $18 million a year to operate Marion County Jail II, according to the Sheriff's Department. The Hogsett administration estimates that eliminating the private contract would save $16.5 million a year — money that would help pay for the new criminal justice center projected to cost up to $575 million.
Beyond savings, the Hogsett administration wants to move away from a private operation model that has drawn fire from criminal justice reform advocates.
"First and foremost, that's the job of our elected sheriff — to be responsible for the care and security of inmates," said Andy Mallon, corporation counsel for the city. "That promotes accountability with public officials and transparency, whereas when you have a privately run jail, all of that gets transferred by a contract to a private, profit-driven company. We don't think at this point we should be providing profits for jailing (inmates)." (Indy Star)
Most insidious is the effect of profit-making prisons on public policy. With large gifts to lobbyists and politicians, the private prison industry seeks to influence criminal justice policy. It lobbies for laws that impose longer and harsher punishments and fight any attempt to decriminalize substances such as marijuana. (Sheila Kennedy)
(Emma Dalsimer, West Lafayette)