By: Laura Carlsen
Director, Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy; columnist,
As the immigration reform debate heats up, an important argument has been surprisingly missing. By granting legal status to immigrants and ordering future flows, the government could save billions of dollars. A shift to focus border security on real crime, both local and cross-border, would increase public safety and render a huge dividend to cash-strapped public coffers.
This kind of common-sense immigration reform has the multibillion-dollar private prison industry shaking in its boots. Its lobbyists are actively targeting members of congressional budget and appropriations committees to not only maintain, but increase incarceration of migrants — with or without comprehensive immigration reform.
While a broad public consensus has formed around the need to legally integrate migrants into the communities where they live and work, private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, thrive off laws that criminalize migrants, including mandatory detention and the definition of immigration violations as felonies. They are using their money and clout to assure that even if immigration reform goes through, the practice of locking people up for immigration infractions will continue.
Their No. 1 goal: to assure that Operation Streamline — their goose of the golden eggs — survives, with more money than ever.
Operation Streamline began in 2005, and it imprisons men, women and children for immigration violations, sometimes up to 10 months or more, and it channels more than $1 billion a year in federal funds to private-run detention centers.
It would seem contradictory for a program that rounds up undocumented migrants to be funded alongside comprehensive immigration reform. Yet both President Obama’s plan and the plan put forward by the Gang of 8 senators call to increase Border Patrol enforcement programs.
Enlace, coordinator of the National Private Prison Detention Campaign, has compiled data on private prison industry money to pressure Congress for more enforcement business in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The Private Prison Lobby
First, a brief guide to the private prison lobby. Numbers are from their 2012 quarterly lobby disclosure reports filed with the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House. The Center for Responsive Politics has a useful site where much of this information is posted.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, lobbyist for CCA, received $220,000 for its services for CCA in 2012.
Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc., received $280,000 to lobby for CCA in 2012. McBee Strategic Consulting received $320,000 in 2012 from CCA. CCA in-house lobby registered $970,000 in lobbying for 2012.
Navigators Global lobbies for GEO. GEO paid Navigators Global $120,000 for lobbying in 2012. Lionel (Leo) Aguirre was also paid $120,000 for lobbying for GEO.
Among the gang of eight senators, all but Lindsay Graham and John McCain have received significant money from the private prison corporations. The transparency watchdog, Open Secrets, compiled the figures by adding contributions from members, employees, PACs or immediate family members of the organization.
* Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Chair of the Rules Committee, Member of Judiciary and Chair of Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Enforcement. In 2012, Schumer received at least $64,000 from lobbyists Akin Gump et al, and $2,500 from Mehlman Vogel. He also received $34,500 from FMR (Fidelity), which owns 5.09 percent of CCA and 8.67 percent of GEO.
* Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Foreign Relations, received $29,300 from the GEO Group. Wells Fargo (also heavily invested in private prisons) gave Rubio $16,150.
* Bob Menendez (D-N.J): Finance Committee, new chair of Foreign Relations, received more than $39,000 in documented money from private prison lobbyists, with $34,916 coming from Akin Gump, $6,300 from Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc. and $1,000 from McBee Strategic Consulting.
* Michael Bennet (D-Colo.): Finance Committee, received at least $30,794 from
The prison lobby also targeted several key House members Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Budget committee and member of Appropriations, received $21,600 from Akin Gump; $74,700 from McBee Strategic Consulting.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is on the House Budget and Judiciary committees, received money from: Akin, Gump et al ($19,600); and contributions from Mehlman Vogel associates totaling $2,500.
What these lobbyists want for their money is an immigration reform bill that tightens, rather than loosens the criminal net for undocumented workers and their families.
The inhumane and illogical step of pre-deportation detention was invented by the private prison industry. Last year, the Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement, including detention, than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined — a staggering $18 billion. The detention centers receive $166 per person, per day in government funds — an amount that would be a godsend to a homeless family or unemployed worker.
Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, director of Enlace, notes, “The private prison industry is swamping the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees to try to buy them to keep Operation Streamline so they can incarcerate more immigrants in private prisons despite immigration reform.” There is nothing surprising about that, he adds, “That’s their business.”
The national movement made up of local organizations against private detention centers has a simple demand — stop funding private immigrant detention centers. They have blocked construction of new prisons and pressured investment funds and individuals to divest from private prison stock. They have also turned their sights on the politicians that feed federal money into the system.
Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a member of the divestment campaign, explains that her group is meeting with Florida Congressional representatives to counteract the influence of the private prison lobby.
“In the broadest sense, what we’re trying to do is to show the financial impact on policies and the conversation in the context of immigration reform,” she says.
Are members of Congress being bought off? Rodriguez replies, “I think that when people are being heavily lobbied and when there’s financial interests involved and when our representatives are benefiting from those financial interests directly through lobbying, it compromises their ability to do what’s right for taxpayers and immigrant families.”
There is a lot at stake for the private prison companies. CCA and GEO reported combined revenues of $3 billion dollars in 2011, with nearly half — $1.3 billion — coming directly from federal government, according to 2011 annual reports. They will fight hard for continued incarceration under immigration reform — whether it makes sense policy-wise or not.
The human rights issues involved in locking up migrants for profit, separating families and detaining individuals in poor and humiliating conditions rarely even make it into the debate. Instead, politicians are tempted to curry support among the prison industry and conservatives, with more talk of “enforcement” as the trading chip for citizenship and less talk of human rights.
Meanwhile, citizen groups are hoping that greater transparency and public awareness of the role of private prison corporations will lead to a more lasting and rights-based comprehensive immigration reform, one where for-profit immigrant detention centers become a relic of a crueler past.
Follow Laura Carlsen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cipamericas
FRIDAY DEC 14, 2012 12:10 PM
New York demonstrators call on Scopia to divest from private prisons. (Photo courtesy of Andalusia K. Soloff)
After Ancelma’s husband was deported to Mexico, she found herself unable to close a bank account with Wells Fargo that was accruing overdraft fees. Though it has marketed itself as a bank of choice for the Latino community—accepting matricula cards that give undocumented immigrants access to banking services and even establishing “Wells Fargo Amigos” outreach teams—the bank refused to accept her husband’s authorization to close the account because it was written in Spanish.
The family soon learned this wasn’t the only way in which Wells Fargo is less “immigrant-friendly” than it first appears: The financial institution also invests heavily in the private prison industry that lobbies for and profits from harsher immigration enforcement and detention.
Ancelma’s story is one of several detailed in a series of reports urging Wells Fargo to break ties with private prison operators. In September, National People’s Action and the National Prison Divestment Campaign exposed that the bank was heavily invested in two major such companies with nearly $100 million of holdings in Geo Group and nearly $3 million in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The groups launched a public pressure campaign, branding the bank “Jails Fargo” and holding demonstrations outside its branches. In late October, they declared victory when Wells Fargo’s most recent SEC filings revealed that it had divested more than a third of its holdings in GEO Group.
Prison divestment organizers are encouraged by this move, but say it doesn’t yet go far enough. During a national day of action yesterday, activists in nine cities staged demonstrations to call for full divestment from the private prison industry. “Wells Fargo still provides a $700 million line of credit without which CCA could not build new prisons,” explains Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, executive director of Enlace, a national alliance of low-wage worker centers that coordinates the National Prison Divestment Campaign. “And beyond this, we’re asking all institutions, public and private, to cut ties with this industry—much as people of conscience divested from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.”
The National Prison Divestment Campaign, launched in spring 2011, brings together labor and faith organizations with immigrant rights groups alarmed by the explosion of private detention centers. In 2005, private prison operators gained a major foothold in the field of immigrant detention with the start of Operation Streamline, a policy mandating criminal, as opposed to civil, prosecution of undocumented immigrants crossing the border. As the result of this shift, and the redefinition of acts like “illegal border crossing” as immigration felonies, Latinos now constitute the majority of those sentenced for federal crimes. Nearly half of immigrants convicted of such crimes are held in private facilities.
The private prison industry has been involved in lobbying heavily for both new immigrant detention centers and tougher enforcement policies that will help fill them. In 2010, In These Times reporter Beau Hodai uncovered CCA’s pivotal role in shaping SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. Thirty out of the 36 state legislators who co-sponsored the bill received campaign contributions from private prison companies. Though the Supreme Court struck down three out of the bill’s four provisions earlier this year, the “show me your papers” law that invites racial profiling by law enforcement remained intact, and has since taken effect in Arizona.
SB 1070 is far from the only instance where private prison companies have prevailed in securing such lucrative arrangements. During the past decade, the AP reported in August, the three major private prison companies have spent $45 million in lobbying and campaign contributions. This was money well-spent: Whereas ten years ago, private prison operators held two federal contracts worth about $760 million, the Federal Bureau of Prisons today pays these companies $5.1 billion through 13 different contracts.
The result is more than 23,000 immigrants detained for federal crimes, up from just over 3,000 a decade ago. Cervantes-Gautschi asserts that this drastic increase is clearly the result of profit-motivated policy shifts: “More than half of immigrants in the federal prison system are being held for things not even considered crimes six years ago,” he says.
Demonstrations held across the country yesterday targeted Wells Fargo, GEO headquarters, and the hedge fund Scopia, which according to Enlace holds over 9 million shares in GEO group. As New York demonstrators assembled outside Scopia’s offices, protesters carried life-sized black silhouettes labeled “missing” to symbolize the destruction of communities wrought by rising levels of detention.
“Each silhouette represents a missing member of our community,” explains Andalusia Soloff of the group Families for Freedom. “A person who, no matter the legal status, residency, or citizenship of the person has been removed and sent away, leaving their families and loved ones behind.”
Rebecca Burns, In These Times Assistant Editor, holds an M.A. from the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, where her research focused on global land and housing rights. A former editorial intern at the magazine, Burns also works as a research assistant for a project examining violence against humanitarian aid workers.
By: Jesse Fruhwirth
December 6th, 2012
The Utah Democratic Party is on the verge of choosing a private-prison profiteer to be a party officer. Management and Training Corporation vice chair Jane Marquardt is the hands-down favorite to win the race for party vice chair (yep, same job title), which will be held Saturday. We want your help in the next two days to persuade the party that private prisons are shameful and prison profiteers should not be community leaders!
While there are many reasons including mass incarceration to oppose for-profit prisons as an entire industry and on principle alone, there are some particularly problematic factors about MTC.
- What torture? Lane McCotter, former director of Utah Department of Corrections in the 1990s, resigned after it was proven that a 29-year old schizophrenic inmate died after being strapped naked to a restraint chair for 16 hours. Rather than having to find a job in a completely new industry after being disgraced by his professional peers, McCotter was then hired by MTC as their business development director. In 2003, shortly after abuses were found to be rampant in a New Mexico prison under MTC and McCotter’s supervision, he was asked by the US Department of Justice to reestablish Iraq’s prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib. According to UK’s Guardian, “McCotter left Iraq to resume his executive job at MTC in September 2003, a month before the worst documented atrocities against Iraqi prisoners occurred.” Terry Stewart, another MTC profiteer, is the former Arizona department of corrections chief and helped McCotter with Iraq’s prisons.
- Donations to racist policies: MTC has also favored racist immigration policies and politicians. MTC’s political action committee gave money to former Arizona Rep. Russell Pearce, the sponsor of Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 in the months leading up to his sponsorship of that law–Jane Marquardt herself donated to the PAC just months before that PAC donated to Pearce. SB 1070 was written by CCA and GeoGroup, the number 1 and number 2 private prison corporations, allegedly in conjunction with state lawmakers. SB 1070 is one of the most palpable examples of how private-prison industry frequently aligns and its money is used to hire lobbyists to demand more prisoners and bribe/donate to politicians to stoke racist fears in the public for more immigration detentions.
- Low Standards and Cheap Profits: A 2010 jail-break at an MTC prison lead to two people’s deaths. The Arizona Department of Corrections review of the tragedy reports that MTC prison staff didn’t know how to work the alarm, “staff are not proficient with weapons,” and perhaps most concerning, “it appears that very little action was taken to prepare the physical plant and the staff for the transition (from Minimum security custody) to Medium (Security) Custody in April 2010.” You know, because properly housing dangerous people is really expensive and there are profits to be found in keeping expenses low.
It’s time that people wake up that Jane Marquardt and prison profiteers can NOT buy our respect and should not be allowed to buy political influence. Indeed, Utah Democrats this week need to hear that prison profiteers should be ostracized from polite society–disinvite her from your holiday parties, Democrats, and certainly don’t elect her to be among party leadership.
You can help: Contact newly elected Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. He is highly influential and popular and has endorsed Jane Marquardt, even appearing in a campaign video for her. Tell Mayor McAdams that prison profiteers are not community leaders–they are parasites that suck the life from our families and our communities. We’ve got two days to change his mind!
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams 801-618-1946
Also, call MTC, ask for Scott Marquardt–that’s Jane’s brother and boss–he’s the chair of MTC. Tell him that no one from a private prison company should be running for leadership of a community organization. Tell him we want Divestment from Private Prisons–not prison profiteers in positions of political power.
Management and Training Corporation 801-693-2600
Also, you can litter her campaign Facebook page with messages. Let her supporters know what you think of private prison profits!
For the last year National People’s Action (NPA), as part of the National Prison Divestment Campaign has been organizing to get Wells Fargo to divest from financing private prisons. While Wells is investing in aggressive customer outreach to the Latino community, it is also providing critical financing to private prison corporations that lobby to prevent reform of a broken immigration system. They can’t have it both ways.
NPA and Public Accountability Initiative just released the first of 2 reports, Wells Fargo: Banking on Immigrant Detention, that details Wells Fargo’s direct financing of private prisons known for their inhumane conditions and for trying to block immigration reform. Key finding include:
Prison industry giants Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group doubled annual revenue in the last 10 years to a combined $3.3 billion in 2011, in major part due to the increase in immigrant detention centers.
Wells Fargo provides critical financing to Corrections Corporation of America, including a $785 million line of credit.
Wells controls $95.5 million in GEO Group stock through its mutual funds, and serves as trustee for $300 million of the company’s corporate debt.
You can read the report here:
Please take action and sign the petition: http://www.npa-us.org/jailsfargo
Nation of Change / OP-ED
Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
It seems that every few days I read a new press release or“study” commissioned by the private prison industry lauding its supposedly unmatched performance on measures of efficiency and safety relative to the public sector. Despite the industry’s zeal for public approval, it routinely refuses to disclose the very information necessary to support its arguments.
Whereas public departments of corrections on the state and federal levels are subject to disclosure statutes under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), private prison firms contracting with public agencies are not. This level of concealment is indefensible in light of the $7.9 billion in federal contracts that the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO)—the two largest publicly-traded, private prison firms—have been awarded since 2007. If companies like CCA and GEO would like to continue to rely on taxpayer largess, then they should be required to adhere to the same disclosure laws as their public counterparts. Continue reading
The Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) – The U.S. is locking up more illegal immigrants than ever, generating lucrative profits for the nation’s largest prison companies, and an Associated Press review shows the businesses have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers and contributing to campaigns.
The cost to American taxpayers is on track to top $2 billion for this year, and the companies are expecting their biggest cut of that yet in the next few years thanks to government plans for new facilities to house the 400,000 immigrants detained annually.
After a decade of expansion, the sprawling, private system runs detention centers everywhere from a Denver suburb to an industrial area flanking Newark’s airport, and is largely controlled by just three companies. Continue reading
Written by: Jeff Amy – The Associated Press
11:09 PM, Jun. 13, 2012
A private prison operator that is giving up its business in Mississippi could face up to $104,000 in fines from federal workplace safety regulators.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said GEO Group exposed employees to assaults by inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Lost Gap.
Citations issued Tuesday by OSHA say GEO Group knowingly failed to provide adequate staffing, fix malfunctioning cell door locks or provide training to protect employees from inmate violence, including stabbings, bites and other injuries. Continue reading
Article from the CCA Go Away! Campaign
Article from CCA Go Away!
JUNE 16, 2012
ICE cancels tentative agreement to build a for-profit immigrant lock-up in South Florida.
David vs. Goliath battle results in victory for immigrant rights, residents and environmentalists
After a long and heated fight in South Florida, ICE announced yesterday that their plan to bring one of the largest for-profit immigration detention centers in the country, through an agreement with the Town of Southwest Ranches and private prison giant, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is dead. Immigrant advocates and immigrant families are claiming this as a victory against the mass incarceration of immigrants driven by profit, thus saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
Below is a statement from Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the organization who spearheaded the grassroots campaign “CCA Go Away” together with Broward residents.
“After one year of hearing our elected officials say this was a ‘done deal’, including Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we always believed that anything was possible as long as we could get people together to unite their voices in opposition and to build power in their communities. All of us can and should stand up to powerful interests, including corporations and elected officials, who are not watching or representing the interests of those affected. There is no such thing as a ‘done deal’ when people unite and do everything they can to hold their leaders accountable.
This proposed immigration detention center was always wrong and unnecessary from any point of view. South Florida didn’t want more immigrant families being torn apart because of increased detentions and deportations; Broward residents didn’t want a massive prison near their homes; taxpayers couldn’t continue feeding the business of immigrant detention making companies like CCA increase its profits; and the Everglades couldn’t take more irresponsible urban development that threatened its stability.
We have witnessed the influence that for-profit prison companies have on our policies and legislators and we want them out of Florida all together. For-profit prison corporations are lobbying and promoting laws that deepen the crisis of mass incarceration of people of color in this country. To make it worse, private prison companies like CCA and the GEO Group have a long track record of cutting corners with the safety of detainees so they can make more money. The devastating results include wrongful deaths, riots, and sexual assaults; many of which get covered up. CCA is not a good neighbor.
The national expansion of detention for profit has met nationwide resistance and decisive victories for those who oppose it. Since 2011, the National Prison Divestment Campaign has been instrumental to get the United Methodist Church and Pershing Square to divest their shares in CCA and Geo Group and more institutions are sure to follow suit. This year, the largest prison privatization effort in the country failed in the Florida legislature. In April, Valdosta County, GA, shelved a CCA project. Just this week,Crete, IL, voted down another CCA immigration prison in this Chicago suburb. Today, South Floridians celebrate this as a victory of diverse sectors that came together to protect our community. The coalition that came together stood up to the worst of the 1% and won.
Costly immigrant detention that profits private corporations like CCA and the Geo Group on the backs of taxpayers is immoral, expensive, and unnecessary. ICE itself has hailed cheaper alternatives to detention to be just as effective and saves millions in taxpayer money. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, ICE must stop its expansion of costly detention and the brutal separation of families.
This decision came on the same day as President Obama announced administrative relief for young immigrants, who were often unnecessarily incarcerated in private prisons such as the one CCA planned to build in South Florida.
Immigrants, and especially Latinos, finally feel that our voices are being heard. We have made it clear that we will not accept any profiteering from our pain and the separation of our families.“
SAN FRANCISCO | Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:42pm EDT
(Reuters) – Activist groups say protesters plan to disrupt Wells Fargo & Co’s (WFC.N) annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday to vent their anger over foreclosures, executive compensation, corporate taxes and other issues.
Demonstrators plan to march to the site of the meeting near the bank’s headquarters in the financial district from a nearby park. Police were already a visible presence in the streets around the meeting site on Tuesday morning. The shareholders meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. PST (20:00 GMT)
“Banks are big and greedy,” said Julia Cheng, one of the protesters. “They only care about themselves.”
Demonstrators started gathering at the park on Tuesday morning, but it was not clear whether the event would draw as many protesters as organizers have said. There were more than 200 protesters carrying placards and supplies such as food and water. The peaceful gathering included Occupy Wall Street protesters from San Francisco and Oakland.
Looking to build on the energy of the Occupy movement, activist groups are targeting corporate stock holder meetings this spring to draw attention to economic disparity in the United States and to promote an assortment of other causes.
A group called 99% Power – a reference to those not among the top 1 percent of earners – has said it plans actions at 36 shareholder meetings, starting with Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo has emerged as one of the healthier U.S. banks from the financial crisis and expanded across the United States after buying North Carolina-based Wachovia Corp in 2008.
The bank is the largest U.S. mortgage originator and servicer, making it a target for protesters who say lenders have treated struggling borrowers poorly. Wells was one of five big lenders to agree this year to a $25 billion national mortgage settlement over foreclosure abuses.
Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez said the bank works hard to keep homeowners in their homes and that fewer than 2 percent of its owner-occupied homes have gone into foreclosure over the past year.
At the shareholder meeting, stockholders will get a chance to ratify or reject the bank’s executive compensation plan and vote on a proposal to split the chairman and CEO roles held by John Stumpf. Last week, shareholders delivered a rebuke to Citigroup Inc’s (C.N) management when they gave a surprising vote of no confidence to the bank’s executive compensation plan.
(Reporting By Rick Rothacker in San Francisco; editing by Andre Grenon)
by Mari Herreras @TucsonAZMari
When Alma Hernandez and a friend were detained after a routine traffic stop in June 2010 because they were undocumented, they were sent to a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Eloy, and then transferred to a CCA prison in El Paso, Texas. Then they were transferred yet again, to a CCA facility in Louisiana.
It was seven weeks before Hernandez’s family was able to pay the bond. Stuck in Louisiana after their release, the two women were forced to ask friends and family to help again with $400 for the 28-hour Greyhound bus ride back to their children and families in Tucson.
After her experience with private prisons, Hernandez said she wanted to learn more about the company. That’s when she and others in the immigrant-rights group Corazón de Tucson discovered that former Democratic U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini is on the CCA board of directors.
Other groups, including Derechos Humanos and No More Deaths, met with DeConcini and a CCA representative on Jan. 31 and demanded that he resign from the company’s board.
“I got involved with this because of this personal experience,” Hernandez said. “My parents brought us here when we were very young. My children are U.S. citizens, and I want them to have a bright future without this oppression hanging over our community.”
Hernandez said that during the meeting with DeConcini, she told him about abuses she witnessed and experienced, including a lack of food, which forced prisoners to buy from the prison commissary; issues with medical care; and problems with guards and staff. According to Hernandez, DeConcini wanted more documentation. “He said he couldn’t speak for the workers because he doesn’t have contact with the workers,” Hernandez said.
Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa, also with Corazón de Tucson, said that although the ultimate goal is to get DeConcini to resign from CCA, they also want to educate the community on private prisons and how they have been used to detain immigrants. The group also is involved in a national campaign to pressure Wells Fargo Bank to divest from GEO Group, another private-prison company with facilities in Arizona.
“Basically, we met with (DeConcini) to tell him about our campaign,” Ochoa said. “We asked him to resign from the board. … We know he is directly profiting from being on the board of CCA. He’s directly making money off the backs of people in the (immigrant) community and the devastation of families in this community.”
Ochoa said that after meeting with DeConcini, the coalition sent letters to attorneys at his Tucson law firm in early February, explaining the campaign and saying that some protest actions might take place outside the firm’s building.
In March, DeConcini responded with a letter defending his involvement with CCA. He wrote that the letter sent to law-firm employees was “based on inaccurate information” about CCA. The coalition’s letter included information about a lauded NPR report that linked proponents of SB 1070 and the private-prison industry—which stood to profit from an increase in the detainment of undocumented migrants.
In his letter, DeConcini included a copy of an NPR clarification on its October 2010 report, issued Feb. 22, 2012. DeConcini wrote that the clarification explains that “CCA did not participate in the drafting of the SB 1070 legislation. In view of the truth and facts as they actually exist, I am also writing to ask you to end your threats towards me personally and my law firm, because of my service on (CCA’s) board.”
The NPR clarification states that the report “didn’t mean to suggest that CCA wrote the language of SB 1070.”
DeConcini also included with his letter a short editorial he wrote calling for SB 1070 to be repealed that was published in The Arizona Republic.
When DeConcini talked to the Tucson Weekly, he said the meeting with representatives of Corazón de Tucson and the other groups included a representative from CCA. “A couple (of people) were quite civil and genuine,” while others, DeConcini said, had their minds made up about CCA.
DeConcini said he made it clear that CCA is prohibited from making donations to political campaigns—although a campaign-finance report shows dozens of contributions from lobbyists who work for CCA and other private-prison companies to former State Sen. Russell Pearce, the main architect of SB 1070.
“The reality of it is that (CCA lobbyists) very well may give money, and I’m sure they do. I used to be a lobbyist. But CCA has a clause that prohibits the company from giving donations to politicians,” DeConcini said.
As an example, he mentioned CCA lobbyist Jaime Molera. “He did give money to candidates, but not at our direction.
“I’ve been involved in prison reform a long time, and as I explained to the coalition group … government has failed to provide humane and constitutional standards for prisoners,” DeConcini said, adding that private prisons are needed to help states with strapped resources, similar to how the federal government uses contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last month, the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee issued a report on financial and security issues surrounding private prisons in Arizona (See “No Disclosure,” Feb. 23), including CCA. The report also mentions the fact that private prisons do not have to operate transparently and comply with public-records requests.
DeConcini said he hasn’t read the report, but he knew that CCA reps reviewed it. “I’ve been told we have much information that disputes (the report)—not that atrocities have not occurred. When they do, (people) are held responsible.”
Regarding transparency issues, DeConcini said: “I’m concerned only that CCA, as any corporation, complies with all of the laws that are required. I’m satisfied from my review that they do. … We are not a public entity.”
Ochoa said some UA-student groups are organizing a campaign to call for DeConcini’s CCA resignation because of his position on the Arizona Board of Regents. The Corazón members heard that DeConcini recruited another regent, Anne Mariucci, to join the CCA board. Ochoa said she should expect to be targeted in the campaign, too.
DeConcini confirmed that he suggested Mariucci to the board of directors of CCA, along with two other possible candidates.
Rachel Winch, a member The Restoration Project at Casa Mariposa, another group asking DeConcini to resign from the board, said that despite his reluctance, it’s the right thing to do.
“I believe it is immoral that people are profiteering off this,” she said.
David Mendez contributed to this story.
Senate Passes Bill That Would Block Privatized Detention, Including Crete Detention Center
Today, the Illinois Senate passed SB 1064, Senator Antonio Munoz’s bill to bar the State, counties, and municipalities from contracting with private companies to run civil detention centers. SB 1064 passed the Illinois Senate by a vote of 34-17. This bill would block an immigration detention center being proposed for Crete, in the south Chicago suburbs. The bill now goes to the Illinois House. Continue reading
Resist the Crete Immigration Detention Center
Chicago, IL – Immigrant Families, activists, and supporters will embark on a 3 day walk from Little Village, Chicago to Crete Illinois. This action is a response to the “detention center” planned by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the village of Crete. While immigrant rights advocates have been demanding an end to all deportations and immigration reform, the Obama administration has instead done the opposite; deporting over 1 million immigrants and pushing “Immigration Detention Reform.” ICE is currently planning to build at least five detention centers nationwide located in states that have a high concentration of immigrants (California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey) Continue reading
At 11:37 a.m. on a Tuesday in October, a fight between two inmates started in the dining hall in a prison in western Oklahoma. Guards broke it up using pepper spray, and the situation returned to normal.
Or so they thought.
Minutes later, the dining hall erupted in all-out war with fists, kicks and food trays flying. Within 15 minutes, the entire facility was thrust into chaos as 600 inmates, mostly African-Americans and Hispanics associated with the Surenos prison gang, bloodied each other. Suddenly, one of the largest prison riots in California’s recent history was going down in a corrections facility a thousand miles outside the state. Continue reading