"Private Prison Industry, USA by War on Error1, on Flickr

Federal Government Drops CCA Contract in Ohio, But Remains Committed to Private Prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has decided not to renew Correction Corporation of America’s (CCA) contract to hold around 1,400 low-level federal inmates at the North East Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown.

As the deadline for renewal approached, the for-profit prison contractor launched an aggressive PR and letter-writing campaign focused on “the value of CCA” in the community and the jobs that Youngstown could lose without the contract. Prisoners and advocates sought to instead  raise awareness about the facility’s ugly history of violence and mismanagement under CCA, and in August, 240 inmates staged a 14-hour peaceful protest against poor conditions, high commissary prices and abuse and mistreatment by prison guards.

In the end, the BOP decided to let their contract expire on May 31st of this year. CCA spokespeople told reporters they were not briefed on the government’s reasoning. They are seeking meetings with federal officials and are planning to mount an appeal in the coming days.

What is clear, however, is that the BOP has not lost confidence in for-profit incarceration. Most if not all of its prisoners at NEOCC will be transferred to two separate private facilities operated by GEO Group: the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Phillipsburg, PA (which, like NEOCC, holds immigrant prisoners) and the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton, Oklahoma (which was vacant and is now being reactivated thanks, at least in-part, to this contract).

CCA will continue to hold some 580 prisoners for the US Marshals Service at NEOCC.

The federal government appears to be warming up to the idea of improving prison conditions, but it does not appear ready to give up on the private prison experiment. This would require a confrontation with the for-profit incarceration industry that they’ve now helped become deeply rooted in communities across the country. Continue reading

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Prison News Round-up for Oct. 28, 2014

There are far too many stories out there that I want to write about, but I just don’t have the time to fully cover them. So occasionally I’ll be posting a collection of important stories from around the country with some thoughts and notes where appropriate.

This week:

1. Vermont Lawmakers Quiz the State’s Private Prison Company
2. Lawsuit accuses Aurora private prison of paying immigrants $1 a day
3. Meet the controversial private prison corporation, Geo Care, that may run Terrell State Hospital
4. Prison panel suggests broader menu, more recreation for inmates at Ohio facility
5. Pope Francis blasts life sentences as ‘hidden death penalty’
6. 19-year-old dies naked on cell floor of gangrene; lawsuits target deaths in Madison County jail
7. Senators ‘Deeply Concerned’ by Plans to Detain More Immigrant Women and Children
8. Virginia prison system faces $45 million shortfall in inmate health care
9. 10-Year-Old Murder Defendant Shows Failure of U.S. Juvenile Justice System

Here’s my take on these stories… Continue reading

NEOCC

Peaceful Inmate Protest Highlights Dysfunction and Disservice of CCA’s Ohio Private Immigrant Prison

There is rightful anger at Correction Corp. of America’s failures in response to a 14-hour, 250-inmate protest at their for-profit Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Ohio. But any critique that does not discuss the actual protest and its context is missing the point.

Inmates appear to have reached a breaking point in their tolerance for poor living conditions at NEOCC, and given CCA’s alarming track record at the facility, we should be paying close attention:

CCA first operated a for-profit prison in Ohio when it opened NEOCC in 1997. In its first 14 months of operation, the facility experienced 13 stabbings, two murders, and six escapes. The city of Youngstown eventually filed a lawsuit against CCA on behalf of the prisoners. Even after those tragedies, CCA still operates the prison today.

These inmates knew they would be risking severe punishment and retaliation for their decision to disobey orders to return to their cells. They knew this action could provoke violence from militarized guards, or a possible stint in solitary. They knew they could lose access to their families and communities through a punitive reduction in visiting hours and phone calls.

Still, in light of these potential consequences, between 250 and 400 of them decided it was still worth doing for 14 whole hours. Even as guards began preparing chemical munitions and setting up command posts to confront a peaceful demonstration, the prisoners refused to back down.

CCA should have been completely transparent about the protest from the beginning, but instead attempted to keep the situation under wraps. After all, it doesn’t make CCA look good for there to be allegations of mistreatment and mismanagement, nor when inmates are disobeying commands in order to protest about them. Continue reading