Another week and more problems with incarceration in the U.S. Of the many articles to make the news this week, this one touches most of the bases and issues I report on.
We have all read about prison privatization and how it saves the taxpayers money by private companies operating the facilities in a more "efficient" manner. As I've written in the past, that is all bullshit and the reports, articles and claims made by companies acting as prison profiteers, their supporters and of course government agencies and departments that have authorized such privatization.
We've also read recently about the Republicans emergency session held to vote on defunding NPR. Well, below you're going to find out why it is so important to the likes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Koch Industries (sitting on their board) and the thousands of Conservative Republican state lawmakers.
Well here's a case that combines ALEC's conservative agenda, Geo Group's profiteering, the wasteful expenditure of tax dollars for privatizing in one neat package and gives us a true understanding why an "emergency session" was necessary for the House of Representatives on the matter of stopping federal funding of the National Public Radio (NPR).
This article released by NPR this morning shines a bright light on why the Conservatives, Tea Partiers and other Republicans are in such a hurry to cut funding to NPR.
Down south in Mississippi the state has a juvenile detention facility that is operated by Geo Group - formerly Wackenhut - the number two private prison corporation in the U.S. This facility is known as Walnut Grove and houses 1,200 "Boys" (here that term is used very loosely, indeed) between the ages of 13 and 22. Previous to the acquisition of this facility by Geo, youths between the ages of 13 and 18 were sent to Walnut Grove - or The Grove as most inmates call it.
The Good Ol' Boys run this facility down there; promoting fights on pay day so they can bet amongst themselves on the outcomes, physically abusing and beating the prisoners, frequent introduction of contraband into the facility, some guards at the facility are members of gangs housed there and sex between female staffers and prisoners is another frequent occurrence. What a spectacularly wonderful way to reform those youths that have made mistakes and need punishment and discipline to straighten them out. I'm betting Mississippi will come up with reports that will inform that the recidivism rate for youths housed at The Grove are lower than for juveniles housed elsewhere, to demonstrate what a wonderful thing privatization is.
In addition to the problems with out and out abuses, there have been deaths of prisoners there. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU National Prison Project have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 13 inmates against GEO Group, the prison administration and state officials.
" A state audit in 2005 and another one last year noted that staffing at Walnut Grove decreased even as the prisoner population increased.A ratio of 1 to 60! Incredible - and many of those staffers representing gangs of those offenders locked up there.
According to the audit, in 2009 there were three inmate injuries a day. In the first six months of 2010 there was more than one fight a day, an assault on staff at least every other day and nine attempted suicides. The Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, whose members represent youth facilities in all 50 states, reports that a guard-to-inmate ratio of 1 officer to 10 or 12 juvenile prisoners is common. The state audit of Walnut Grove found the guard-to-inmate ratio to be 1 to 60. Salaries are the largest expense of a correctional budget, and reducing staffing is typically a way to keep costs down. Pablo Paez, vice president for corporate relations for GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., declined repeated requests by NPR to give the company’s side of the story. He cited the pending lawsuit. GEO, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is the nation’s second largest prison corporation and had more than $1 billion in revenue last year."
Only after Cornell Corrections (acquired by Geo last year through merger) began operating the facility did they increase the age of the offenders housed there. There were simply not enough 13 to 18 year olds to make it profitable for the private prison company, so the maximum age was increased from 18 to 22. Geo now has a full compound of these young men, inadequate staffing and on top of that...they found a way to provide the warden and assistant wardens with between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00 supplemental checks out of education grant funding. These administrators don't have anything to do with providing education and now the U.S. Department of Education has become involved, providing its own investigation:
"NPR examined thousands of pages of public records associated with federal grants paid to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. Records show that Warden Brick Tripp and his deputy wardens — already paid by GEO — have been receiving checks for $2,500 to $5,000 as “supplemental salaries” for administering federal Title 1 education funds. “The warden and deputy warden had no dealings whatsoever with educating students,” Cole stated emphatically in a phone interview."
"NPR forwarded the paycheck supplements to the U.S. Department of Education and asked if this was normal. Chief of Communications Justin Hamilton said the agency is concerned and has referred the matter to its Office of Inspector General for investigation."
And as they say, just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. A staunch supporter of Geo Group's running of the facility is the Mayor of Walnut Grove:
"Grady Sims, mayor of Walnut Grove, says he visits the prison frequently and knows the staff well. “I wouldn’t interfere with the way they’re operating it,” he said. “They’ve done an excellent job.”Of course when NPR dug a little deeper they found a reason why the Mayor's opinion was the opposite of many lawmakers and parents of the youths...
"The mayor’s own vending company has 18 snack machines inside the prison.So all of that money allows the town of Walnut Grove - population 600, no stop lights and the population outnumbered 2 to 1 by the juveniles housed at the facility - to operate a "full-time police department." Must be a high crime rate among those 600 Mississippi folks, huh?
“It’s been a sweet deal for Walnut Grove,” Sims said. Indeed, every month, the prison pays the town $15,000 in lieu of taxes — which comprises nearly 15 percent of its annual budget.
“For a small town, that’s a lot of money,” the mayor said, “and it helps us maintain a full-time police department that we wouldn’t be able to afford without that income.”
Everyone in the town is supportive of the facility - cause they're all making money off of it in one way or another, it appears. Of course, Geo nor the Mississippi DOC would offer any comments and though invited to attend a recent hearing, neither attended or sent a representative.
The Souther Poverty Law Center filed the litigation against Geo and Mississippi authorities in November of last year. The SPLC is no stranger to representing juveniles that have been abused by staff at various state and/or privatized youth facilities. They filed suit against Youth Services International, Inc., the company which operates a Pembroke Pines, Florida facility known as the Thompson Academy: Thompson staff
"violated the constitutional rights of children at the prison by preventing them access to attorneys to report these abuses. The children were not allowed to have confidential phone calls with their attorneys and were questioned about their meetings with attorneys by the academy’s director and other staff. They also were coerced into signing statements ending or declining legal representation by the SPLC.
Children held at the facility were brutalized, choked and slammed by staff. At least one youth was sexually assaulted by a staff member. Even after the child reported the sexual abuse, Thompson administrators allowed the staff member to have contact with the child, resulting in a second sexual assault."
For those readers wanting more information on the cases filed by SPLC visit this link where their docket provides the case title and a brief synopsis of the suit.
Now I'm sure some are not familiar with ALEC, Geo Group, CCA or their efforts involving furtherance of their conservative agenda, and want to know how these situations in Mississippi and Florida tie in to ALEC and the haste by Republicants to pull NPR's funding?
The connection is relatively simple: Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) are both prominent members of ALEC. Their representatives sit at ALEC's Task Force tables alongside Mike Morgan, representing Koch Industries. Across from these corporate members of ALEC's Private Enterprise Board sit any number of Conservative state lawmakers from all over the country. The Public Safety Task Force deals with issues involving crime, imprisonment and legislation involving all forms of criminal justice. This is the group that brought us laws such as the 3 strike, minimum mandatory drug and gun laws, Truth in Sentencing (TIS - mandatory serving of 85% of a sentence by prisoners) and a myriad assortment of other harsh criminal laws that served to increase the prison population in the U.S. by as much as 300% between 1980 and today.
ALEC's Conservative agenda brought us SB 1070 in Arizona (with the same legislation spread across the U.S. now by their members to more than 20 additional states). The law was written by ALEC, tweaked by ALEC and ALEC's member, Senator Russell Pearce (R-AZ.) was given the proposed legislation to take back to Arizona and present it to the general assembly. Only after it became law were the ties between ALEC, Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer's two lobbyist advisors made known. CCA, Geo Group and ALEC all expect this legislation in Arizona to provide a huge number of illegal alien immigrant arrests. Each of those arrests there in Arizona - and in other states if the same legislation is enacted in them - will result in a bed owned by Geo or CCA to be filled with a detainee. The U.S. government has issued contracts to both to house federal immigrant detainees, at an average annual cost of $62,000.00 in taxpayer dollars per detainee.
There is no argument left that the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is not a profit making - and growing industry in the U.S. These companies are making money hand over fist off of taxpayers for housing hundreds of thousands of prisoners. They are making more money off of the labor performed by those prisoners in their care. They work inmates as slave laborers and reap the profits from their labor and the products they make for the private corporations partnered with the prison operators.
ALEC and the Koch brothers, Charles and David are now known to be heavily involved in pursuing - and funding - the union busting, collective bargaining and fair wage attacks that have become prevalent since the first of the year. Main stream media outlets have been forced to report on these attacks against American Jobs and wages - though in many articles and news broadcasts, the involvement of Charles and David Koch and ALEC have either not been reported, or the reporting has been veiled and full involvement by ALEC and the Kochs has not been highlighted.
This brings us to NPR and the need by Republicants to pull their funding. Conservatives have not been able to buy NPR and change their reporting or formatting. They have no influence over their reporting and can't control the stories they publish or documentaries that are shown to the public. Realistically, they are a boil on John Boehner's ass - and a rather large and painful one that is constantly festering. Many are unaware, but this is possibly one reason why the Speaker of the House is so easily brought to tears - the pain caused by NPR upon his bronzed ass.
NPR published articles during the 2008 election exposing much of the dirty tactics used by all politicians - democrat as well as republican - and they reported on the union backing President Obama was receiving during his campaign. Later, NPR exposed the CCA/Geo/ALEC ties to SB 1070 and idnetified Governor Brewer's ties to CCA through her Aide (Paul Sensemann) and Advisor (Chuck Coughlin) who lobbied for CCA from the Governor's office. Following the breaking of this story, the Conservatives cried foul and threatened to introduce legislation to pull federal funding from NPR. NPR has accurately reported on the GOP success in blocking legislation that would allow taxing firms that outsource jobs, and of GOP efforts to repeal Health care reform legislation.
The problem Republicants, Koch brothers, ALEC and Conservatives have with NPR is that they report the truth to the American people. They report the facts of a story and let the accusations of government corruption, political misbehavior, election fraud and other egregious activities fall at the feet of those committing the acts - regardless of political affiliation, stature or size of their bank accounts.
Truthful facts have all but disappeared from our lives in the U.S. over the past twenty or so years as Murdock and a handful of others have bought, merged with or acquired more and more media companies and outlets through forced takeovers. Once they acquire these media companies, the truth often times gets left out of the reporting and articles published and disseminated to the public. In this way a handful of individuals owning a multitude of media corporations can control and "censor" the reporting presented to the public. In this way they can "scrub" otherwise unpalatable information provided to the public.
Koch may not own a handful of Radio, TV or print publications, but they do the same thing without actually having to buy up media corporations. For instance take a look at this link that introduces us to a firm that when hired works hard on the client's behalf to repair damage to their reputation or find more palatable terminology...and in the case of Koch Industries, to clean up their image on places such as Facebook, Wikipedia and Twitter accounts. They make their clients look squeaky clean and upstanding to the public...regardless of current or past behavior.
New Media Services has Koch Industries as a client. For this client they went to work erasing, editing, changing and adding information to the Wikipedia page on Koch Industries. They also handle this client's Facebook account and help to "scrub" their image and reputation and by that make them appear to be less of a threat or menace to society. Disinformation and propaganda is still what it is and corporations like Koch Industries and their owners need all the help they can get making their conservative agenda pass inspection by the general public. Maybe when NMS is done, all traces of the creation, funding and support of the Tea Party Movement in the U.S. by the Kochs will be erased...their contributions and connections to Governor Walker in Wisconsin, probably Snyder in Michigan and Kasich in Ohio to break up unions, eliminate collective bargaining and reduce fair wages will also disappear into the vast spaces of the internet.
I have called this collection of members of ALEC a "cabal" in past diaries. Instead I should have called them "Road Dogs." In prison slang, Road Dogs are individuals that hang together through thick and thin and stand against all opposition. They have the same attitude, behavior and when the going get's tough, they have each other's backs in tight situations. They are not gang members, per se, they are simply prisoners that form a tight, cohesive coalition against other prisoners and prison groups.
Koch, CCA, Geo Group, AT&T, 3M and dozens or more other U.S. corporations all belonging to ALEC are in fact, just that: Road Dogs, in every sense of the word. This group of smelly canines also include more than 2,000 conservative state lawmakers in the U.S. All of them belong to ALEC - which I will in the future refer to as the Road Dog's Kennel. This is where they go to lick wounds, gather strength and to plan their next attacks against under-defended and unaware opponents - our society. From this safe haven - secure from any view by outsiders - they formulate schemes, plans and legislation that will enable them to grow and prosper from the profits wrung from tax dollars and sales of their products manufactured by prisoners nationwide.
Of course I could have called them all snakes in the grass and ALEC their Viper's nest - but somehow the mental image of a group of them hiking their legs and pissing all over us somehow makes me angrier and more determined to continue to expose them. It also adequately describes exactly what is happening in America, the corporate elite are in fact taking turns pissing into our face daring us to do something about it - anything, if we can. Their Road Dogs have a majority in many state assemblies, state offices of Governor and our House of Representatives and they truly believe we are without an ability to resist their efforts of exploitation. After all they have created a 2.3 million human workforce to work our jobs from behind prison walls where they turn out the Road Dog's products for us to buy while they continue to attack our workers to drive down wages and keep us under control. We pay them hard earned money in tax dollars to house and work these men and women..and with what little money we have left to our names, we still fucking buy their damn products!
What is wrong with us?!