Michael McIntosh couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had come to visit his son at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility near Jackson, Miss., only to be turned away. His son wasn’t there.
“I said, ‘Well, where is he?’ They said, ‘We don’t know.’”
Thus began a search for his son Mike that lasted more than six weeks. Desperate for answers, he repeatedly called the prison and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. “I was running out of options. Nobody would give me an answer, from the warden all the way to the commissioner.”
Finally, a nurse at the prison gave him a clue: Check the area hospitals.
After more frantic phone calls, he found Mike in a hospital in Greenwood, hours away. He was shocked at what he saw. His son could barely move, let alone sit up. He couldn’t see or talk or use his right arm. “He’s got this baseball-size knot on the back of his head,” McIntosh said. “He’s got cuts all over him, bruises. He has stab wounds. The teeth in the front are broken. He’s scared out of his mind. He doesn’t have a clue where he’s at – or why.”
Archive for the ‘Private Prisons’
A Mississippi jail is on lockdown today after a Sunday night riot left one prison guard dead and as many as 20 inmates and guards injured. According to sheriff’s reports, the violence began as a gang feud and soon engulfed the privately operated facility, which holds 2,500 non-citizens incarcerated for reentering the United States after deportation and for other charges. But the fragments of information that have emerged from inmates and advocates suggest that the violence had more to do with a pattern of abuse and neglect that has emerged at privately run, for-profit prisons.
The Adams County Sheriff’s office and the Corrections Corporation of America, the behemoth prison company that operates the facility for the federal Bureau of Prisons, have tightly controlled news of the riot and what caused it. In statements, officials say the violence emerged out of thin air and soon “turned into a mob mentality,” according to Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield.
“This could have happened anywhere, anytime,” Mayfield told the Associated Press.
Prison watchdogs say that’s not necessarily true. What little independent information that has emerged from inside Adams County Correctional Center suggests a different story—one of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of guards that may have reached a breaking point.
At 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, an inmate reportedly phoned a local TV station with a cell phone, sending photos to confirm that he was indeed held inside the facility.
“They always beat us and hit us,” the prisoner told the local reporter. “We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”
Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.
The hidden engine behind the state’s well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.
Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.
If the inmate count dips, sheriffs bleed money. Their constituents lose jobs. The prison lobby ensures this does not happen by thwarting nearly every reform that could result in fewer people behind bars.
Meanwhile, inmates subsist in bare-bones conditions with few programs to give them a better shot at becoming productive citizens. Each inmate is worth $24.39 a day in state money, and sheriffs trade them like horses, unloading a few extras on a colleague who has openings. A prison system that leased its convicts as plantation labor in the 1800s has come full circle and is again a nexus for profit.
Immigration is a key issue in the US presidential election, with the Republican candidates trying to demonstrate their tough stance on undocumented immigrants.
But under the Obama administration, the detention and deportation of immigrants has reached an all-time high.
Every day, the US government detains more than 33,000 non-citizens at the cost of $5.5mn a day. That is a lot of money for the powerful private prison industry, which spends millions of dollars on lobbying and now operates nearly half of the country’s immigration detention centres.
Fault Lines travels to Texas and Florida to investigate the business of immigrant detention in the US and to find out how a handful of companies have managed to shape US immigration laws.
If you have any doubt in your mind that improving society and lowering the number of prisoners in our country (normally considered a worthy social goal) is a threat to the prison industry business, all you need to do is to read about that concern in The GEO Group’s 2011 annual report:
‘In particular, the demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services and BI’s [a prison industry company Geo acquired in 2011] services could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws. For example, any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us.’
This is an industry that needs misery, long sentences, rounded-up undocumented immigrants and increasing crime to flourish. In order to keep the prison beds filled, The GEO Group and others have paid out millions of dollars to lobbyists, federal and state legislators, and governors to allow our immigration problem to go unsolved, to make sure that no drugs are decriminalized and that an ineffective War on Drugs continues, and to make certain that long term prison sentences, like California’s three-strikes-and-you’re-imprisoned-for-life laws, keep a steady flow of revenue and profits flowing to their shareholders. They are also hoping that our national drop in crime is just a temporary trend.
A driving force behind the push for ever-tougher sentences is the for-profit prison industry, in which Wells Fargo is a major investor. Flush with billions in bailout money and an economic system designed to siphon wealth from the working class to the idle rich, Wells Fargo has been busy expanding its stake in the GEO Group, the second largest private jailer in America. At the end of 2011, Wells Fargo was the company’s second-largest investor, holding 4.3 million shares valued at more than $72 million. By March 2012, its stake had grown to more than 4.4 million shares worth $86.7 million.
Unfortunately, it’s a safe investment. While a 50 percent growth in the number of human beings our society cages in rape factories may sound impressive – or perhaps the word is “revolting” – a study released last year by the Justice Policy Institute found that the private prison industry grew by more than 350 percent over the last decade and a half. While other industries of course benefit from state-granted privileges, companies like GEO profit by the state literally kidnapping and handing them clientèle, particularly as of late about-to-be-deported immigrants, of which President Barack Obama has ensured there is a steady, record-breaking supply.
WASHINGTON – Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department announced today its findings that the state of Mississippi violated the constitutional rights of youth detained at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (WGYCF). WGYCF is a 1,500-bed prison that houses young men aged 13-22 who were convicted as adults and are in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. WGYCF is run by the GEO group, a private prison company, under contract with the state…
The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct exists in several areas, including:
- Deliberate indifference to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth;
- Use of excessive use of force by WGYCF staff on youth;
- Inadequate protection of youth from youth-on-youth violence;
- Deliberate indifference to youth at risk of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors; and
- Deliberate indifference to the medical needs of youth.
“Our findings show that due to the unconstitutional operation of WGYCF, youth were sexually preyed upon by staff and all too frequently suffered grievous harm, including death,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The widespread and significant deficiencies at the facility violate the Eighth Amendment’s mandate that imprisoned youth be protected from harm and provided with adequate medical and mental health care. The department looks forward to working with the state and its officials to address the constitutional violations by developing and implementing comprehensive remedial measures.”
In June of last year, my worst fear came true – I was pulled over for a minor traffic violation, and immediately taken to the Northwest Detention Center — a private prison owned by the Geo Group and financed by Wells Fargo.
The conditions were miserable and inhumane. I have severe gastritis and was in a great deal of pain, yet I was not given my medication for three weeks. I saw many people that clearly had mental health conditions that were left untreated. The food we received was cooked in very unsanitary conditions, was often spoiled, and we received child-sized portions. I went to bed hungry every night, which further agitated my condition. We were so hungry that I and other detainees were forced to take spoiled food out of the garbage without the guards noticing. When they did see us, they would take it from us and laugh, ‘You’re eating trash!’
The prison industrial complex is the latest victim of Anonymous’ #FuckFBIFriday campaign. Hacktivists have compromised data from a massive correctional facility management firm and have defaced their website.
The website for The GEO Group, Inc., a Florida-based management firm with clients worldwide, has been targeted by operatives with the online collective Anonymous. Friday’s hack from the group is the most recent release related to the #FFF campaign that has in past weeks targeted and successfully taken down the sites of the CIA, FBI and US Department of Justice.
On Wednesday, January 24, the Occupy movement joined theNational Prison Divestment Campaign in 13 cities across the country for a nationwide day of action that gave a voice to an invisible segment of the 99 percent exploited by the private prison industry.
The National Prison Divestment Campaign was organized less than a year ago by Enlace, a coalition of US and Mexican low-wage worker centers and unions, to pressure corporations to divest from private prisons, whose chief investors include some of country’s largest financial institutions such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, both of which have provoked the ire of the Occupy movement for their role in tanking the economy, among other things.
In Washington, DC, occupiers and prison reform advocates converged on Tivoli Square across the street from the Columbia Heights Wells Fargo.
Tivoli Square is a commercial complex surrounded by big box stores and chain restaurants that popped up over the last decade along 14th Street between Park Road and Harvard Street. It was constructed as part of the city’s attempt to revitalize the neighborhood, which was destroyed in the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the gentrification that has predictably followed, Columbia Heights still maintains a strong African-American and Latino presence and is somewhat of a hipster haven, which is apparent almost immediately upon exiting the Columbia Heights Metro Station on 14th Street and Irving.
The evening was filled with chants demanding an end to Wells Fargo’s investment in the private prison industry. Over the loud speaker, lead organizers led dozens of protesters in chants that captured nods of approval from the swarms of pedestrians passing by. “Wells Fargo just face it, your investments are racist,” shouted the crowd. According to SEC filings, the bank owns 3.5 million shares in GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison operator.
Many of the protesters believe that Wells Fargo epitomizes Wall Street’s connection to mass incarceration, a common cause that unifies occupiers and prison reform advocates. Emily Tucker from the Detention Watch Network told Truthout that she reached out to Occupy DC when planning the rally because “They were already doing regular actions at Wells Fargo, so they helped big time with organizing the event.”
John Tuzcu, an organizer with Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change (SPARC) credited Occupy DC with bringing together leaders from organizations like his to plan the protest, arguing that the goals of Occupy and the prison divestment movement clearly overlap due to the “explicit connection between profit motive and imprisonment,” an idea that was echoed throughout the evening.
Yango, a middle-aged African-American DC native active in both Occupy DC and the prison divestment movement, spent over a decade in Rivers Correctional Facility, a private prison located in Winton, North Carolina, 251 miles outside DC. “Rivers,” as many call it, is of particular interest to DC residents like Yango because it was built specifically to house DC inmates to meet a condition in the 1997 DC Revitalization Act mandating that 50 percent of DC felons be housed in privately operated federal facilities. In 2001, the Bureau of Federal Prisons (BOP) awarded the GEO Group (known at the time as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation) a contract to construct and operate “Rivers,” which currently houses upwards of 1,400 low-security DC inmates.
Yango described his time there as “a horror story” marked by inedible sludge and negligent medical treatment, although he emphasized that the worst aspect was, “There are no programs for men who are housed there which means that when a guy comes out of Rivers, he is not prepared to come back to his community to make a positive contribution.”
According to the DC Department of Corrections, African-Americans make up 92 percent of the city’s prison populationcompared to just 55 percent of the overall DC population. With this in mind, it comes as a shock to many that GEO knowingly built the prison on the former site of one of North Carolina’s largest slave plantations. The symbolism of making a profit from jailing black nonviolent offenders atop the remnants of a plantation their ancestors were forced to labor on was not lost on the crowd.
“Wells Fargo is an enemy in our community,” declared Yango, referencing their direct contribution to the GEO Group. “We’re not out here trying to be soft on criminals. In fact I want the criminal laws enforced. I want the bankers locked up.”