Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Read this Story (or just Google "Irony")

Originaly found here.

Vermont Pulls Its Inmates from Cut-Rate Alabama Prison

By Ken Picard [05.27.09]

The Vermont Department of Corrections has pulled all of its inmates out of a privately run prison in Alabama after a state investigation confirmed that some of the men had been injured by their fellow inmates. The investigation was launched after the Vermont Prisoners’ Rights Office began receiving reports from clients who claimed inadequate security at Perry County Detention Center led to the inmate-on-inmate violence.

The April withdrawal of some 80 Vermont offenders from the 734-bed facility in Uniontown, Alabama, occurred just five months after the state signed its first-ever contract with a new private prison vendor: LCS Corrections Services. Based in Lafayette, Louisiana, the for-profit prison company houses some 6000 inmates in eight facilities throughout the South.

Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Lisa Menard said last week that the state had been looking for an alternative prison vendor in an effort to “expand our options” and “ultimately save the taxpayers money.” Vermont was paying LCS $49.50 per day per inmate. Its other out-of-state vendor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), charges $67 per day to house Vermont inmates. In-state prisoners cost $140 per day.

Vermont currently has about 680 inmates in out-of-state prisons, mostly in two facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee. Both are owned by CCA, the nation’s largest for-profit prison vendor. According to Menard, all the Vermont inmates from the Alabama detention center have since been moved to CCA prisons or returned to Vermont.

Asked why the Vermont inmates were withdrawn, Menard initially said, “Vermont has high standards as far as conditions of confinement. Basically, this facility didn’t feel like the best fit for us, without getting into a great deal of detail.”

Probed further about the alleged reports of abuse, Menard later confirmed the stories were true.

“We did get reports from offenders that there was some assaultive behavior happening,” she confirmed. “When we checked into that, we found that it … was accurate. Unfortunately, this was Vermont inmates committing assaults on other Vermont inmates.”

Menard downplayed the severity of the injuries, noting that none was life-threatening and they were “basically bruises, that type of thing.”

But that’s not how a lawyer in the prisoners’ rights office in Montpelier characterized the situation in Alabama. Managing Attorney Seth Lipschutz called it “a total disaster.” According to Lipschutz, his office received reports of alleged lax security, contraband being smuggled into the facility, and inadequate bureaucratic procedures being followed for addressing inmates’ grievances. There was even one allegation of a corrections officer being intoxicated while transporting Vermont inmates to the prison.

“They were letting the inmates run the asylum,” Lipschutz added. “It was a system where the strong were taking advantage of the weak.”

Concerned about their clients’ safety, the prisoners’ rights office notified the Vermont Department of Corrections, which, according to Lipschutz, “acted on it right away and got the inmates out of there as soon as possible.”

Lipschutz also characterized the inmates’ injuries as more serious than DOC let on. “There were some people who got beat up,” he claimed. “There were more than cuts and bruises. I think some people had to go to the hospital.” He put the number of inmates involved in such incidents at “maybe two dozen.”

But Deputy Commissioner Menard denied that the problems in Perry were the result of poor security. Instead, she blamed the problem on the physical design of the prison itself, which featured a “more open floor plan … that didn’t work well.”

Richard Harbison, executive vice president of LCS Corrections Services, echoed that sentiment. “The physical plant in Perry, frankly, was not very conducive to the type of inmates they sent us,” he said. “That prison was designed for low-custody levels and the inmates [Vermont] sent us were of a higher-custody level.”

Harbison said he wasn’t aware of any Vermont inmates being hospitalized. “It’s the prison business and these guys are going to get into fights,” he admitted. “But as far as someone being seriously injured, I’m sorry, not to my knowledge.”

Whether the injuries at the Alabama prison were due to lax security or a “more open floor plan,” the choice of this particular prison appeared problematic from the get-go. Back in November, when the DOC signed its contract with LCS, then-Corrections Commissioner Robert Hofmann pointed out that the new facility would only be taking Vermont offenders who were “unacceptable to be placed with a majority of other prisoners.” In other words, the more dangerous inmates with behavioral problems.

According to Lipschutz, the Perry County Detention Center is used mostly as a holding facility for people arrested on federal immigration violations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many of those detainees don’t even have a criminal record.

Members of the Vermont House of Representatives’ Committee of Corrections were notified of the move only after the inmates had been withdrawn from Alabama, but weren’t told the reason why.

“I felt, from our discussions with the commissioner, that it was not a comfortable situation,” said Rep. Linda Myers, vice chair of that committee. Asked if she knew that Vermonters had been beaten up and injured in Alabama, she said she’d heard word of it, “but I can’t say I heard it from the Department of Corrections.”

Though Lipschutz credits corrections officials for their prompt response, he sees this episode as symptomatic of the larger systemic problems associated with the for-profit prison industry, which he described as “always a race to the bottom.

LCS “came in with a low, low price to take these Vermont inmates,” he added, “which is very attractive to state governments in these tough economic times.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CCA Founder & Former CEO Sued for Theft

This story can be found here.

Crants, 19 others sued in theft claim

By Wendy Lee • THE TENNESSEAN • May 21, 2009

A former business partner is suing several entities connected to past Corrections Corporation of America CEO Doctor R. Crants Jr., accusing the groups of taking stolen money from a homeland security company both men worked on.

Bruce Siddle said in a federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Illinois that apparently 19 defendants knowingly accepted a total of more than $27.3 million stolen or unlawfully taken from Homeland Security Corp. The money could have been illegally taken from Siddle, his wife, a trust or Siddle's company PCCT Management Systems Inc., the lawsuit said.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois on Tuesday, is asking for more than $81.9 million in damages and names as defendants companies and individuals ranging from Connectgov Inc. to Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain that handled the accounting services to Homeland Security Corp.

"All allegations of misconduct about LBMC are just false," said Larry Thrailkill, the accounting firm's outside counsel. "They will be defending the litigation very vigorously."

Siddle's involvement with Homeland Security Corp. began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when he agreed to have all of PPCT stocks purchased by Homeland Security Corp. Crants founded Homeland Security Corp. in 2001 after he was ousted from Nashville-based prison operator Corrections Corporation of America.

Working together, Siddle and Crants went after contracts, including a deal that involved training 80,000 baggage screeners for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration after the Sept. 11 attacks. The company also trained air marshals for Delta Air Lines.

Embezzlement alleged
Siddle sued Crants last year, alleging in part that Crants bilked Homeland Security Corp. of more than $41 million through self-dealings and embezzlement.

Siddle also listed others as defendants — including Crants' son, D. Robert Crants III, as allegedly defrauding Homeland Security Corp. and others who allegedly assisted the racketeering activity. That case is still pending in federal court in Nashville.

Bill Brewer, the attorney for Crants' son, said the claims against his client "lack any merit at all."

"It's one of these filings where fiction seems to have overtaken an investigation of the facts," Brewer said.

An attorney representing Crants did not immediately return a call for comment.

Wendy Lee can be reached at 615-259-8092 or

Monday, May 25, 2009

Does Hall County Know Something That Stewart County Does Not?

Recently I was asked how the story I posted last week on Hall County could apply to Stewart County. In order to understand that you have to look at many different factors. Will also look at some other factors that could influence emergency situations at the Stewart Detention Center that are not addressed by the Hall County specific article.

First off you have to look at the actual correctional officers CCA employees at SDC. CCA Detention Officers at SDC are not certified by the State of Georgia or the Federal Government. In my opinion there is a huge divide in corrections between certified and non-certified detention/corrections officers. I like to think of state or federally certified corrections officers as being professionals who have received better training and usually been screened better prior to employment. Certified correctional officers are professionals whose training and standards are close to those of police officers and other law enforcement professionals. The non-certified ones to me are more like mall cops who just took a brief course to enter into a new "profession" in private corrections. While individual state certification results vary, in most cases certified officers are given more authority and power in conducting actual correctional duties. Sometimes this can be reflected in arrest powers or in legal/financial coverage in cases of serious incidents.

If an escape was to happen at SDC then would CCA staff members be able to actually go out and legally "capture" the escapee? Keep in mind that the detainees at SDC are not being held as criminals. They are instead "civilly" committed. That however does not mean that some detainees did not come to SDC immediately after completing long prison sentences for prior crimes. I imagine that the vast majority of the detainees at SDC are of very good morale standing, However just like in the free world a certain percentage of them could be "bad apples" at any time.

It might seem odd that I would even wonder whether CCA employees could actually legally detain a captured escapee. But please keep in mind that it was not against the law for private detention staff members to have sexual relations with detainees until after CCA staff at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center forced a very quick law through because of a CCA employed Detention Officers own sexual activity with a female detainee.

If an escape happened then how many staff members are available to actually search for an escapee? Even if SDC could somehow immediately come up with 5-10 staff members to go hunt for an escapee it would most likely be at least an hour before they could get more CCA staff members to arrive and be organized into a search. It seems to me like the vast majority of CCA officers live outside of Stewart County. If they were needed then time could be easily wasted while they were contacted, travelled to the facility and then received instructions. In the case of a hostage or riot this wasted time could be even more crucial. Sure ICE staff might be found at the facility but how well do they know the area around Stewart County? In my opinion CCA has shortchanged the safety of Stewart County by not hiring a greater percentages of locals who might be more familiar with the area.

Stewart County and the rural towns located in it have very small city police agencies and a very small sheriff's office. The small numbers of individuals employed by these organizations could also be a significant factor. That statement is not meant as a slight to those organizations. It is just a natural consequence of CCA placing such a large facility in such a small rural area. Sure officers from other counties and towns might be made available but they would also have significant travel times and delays in arriving.

I wonder if CCA has actually conducted any significant escape drills with local law enforcement? I personally can't think of ever hearing of any. How ready is SDC/CCA to actually deal with these types of situations? Has anyone in Stewart County actually seen any CCA staff conducting any escape drills in the areas around the facility? It might even be a good idea for Stewart County to conduct a no notice escape drill with CCA and observe the possible results for themselves. From what I understand it is Stewart County that has a contract with CCA and not the other way around.

What Hall County seems to be saying is that if CCA wishes to run a prison then they can run it without response or help from any Hall County law enforcement. Some people might consider this childish behavior. But others might say they are just being prudent and protecting the citizens of Hall County from possibly catastrophic financial repercussions. By citing legal liability they seem to be very upfront about saying that Hall County does not wish to become financially liable for CCA's problems or mistakes. This is an issue that Stewart County might wish to examine very closely before an incident happens and it becomes financially tied into potential CCA/Stewart County liability. By acting as the middle man in an ICE/CCA contract they could very well be opening the door to future financial hardships for all of the taxpayers of Stewart County.

Friday, May 15, 2009

North Georgia Law Enforcement Agency Refuses to Help CCA

This article was found on the Gainsville Times website here.

Gainesville says its police won’t assist private jail
City, Hall County still at odds

By Ashley Fielding

POSTED May 14, 2009 10:28 p.m.

The private entity that soon will run the North Georgia Detention Center in Midtown Gainesville has asked the Gainesville Police Department to provide police assistance when the facility opens this summer.

It doesn’t appear that city officials have any intentions of doing so.

Police Chief Frank Hooper told the City Council Thursday that Corrections Corporation of America sent him a memorandum of understanding that requests assistance from the police department. The agreement would call for the police department’s assistance in quelling riots and other criminal activity at the immigration detention center, he said.

City Council members opposed the idea. City Attorney James E. "Bubba" Palmour also advised them against entering into the agreement, which offered the city police department indemnification from any wrongdoing, Hooper said.

Palmour said no amount of indemnification would protect the city if a "full-blown problem" arose at the facility, which will be housed in the old Hall County Jail on Main Street.

"Once you have a death or a serious injury in a jail, it will take you five or six years to get through the litigation," Palmour said.

Hooper said the city police department is not equipped with the training or equipment to deal with jail riots.

"We shouldn’t be, because we’re a municipal police department," City Manager Kip Padgett said.

Most council members said that any police protection should be the responsibility of the Hall County government, which is leasing the facility to CCA.

"It sounds like the county commission needs to step up and accept full responsibility for that facility," said Councilman George Wangemann.

Councilman Danny Dunagan also said any security responsibilities at the facility should fall on the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

He said the county should use the $2 million in annual revenue it receives from leasing the facility to CCA on providing police assistance.

But sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said the county agency this week signed a similar agreement with CCA and a separate agreement to house the North Georgia Detention Facility’s inmates in an emergency if there is room at the Hall County Jail.

The agreement the county signed states that the Gainesville Police Department will be the agency that is primarily responsible to respond to incidents at the facility, Strickland said.

"These (memorandums of understanding) are basically for emergency situations, which of course, the Gainesville Police Department does have the primary responsibility for," Strickland said. "However, if the Gainesville Police Department requested our assistance, then, of course, we would respond accordingly."

Steve Owen, director of marketing and communications for the private jail operator, said if the city does not sign the agreement, it will not cause any problems for the North Georgia Detention Center. He said the memorandum of understanding sent to Gainesville officials was an effort to "get a working relationship" with local law enforcement agencies.

Although Owen would not comment on specific concerns city officials cited Thursday, he said CCA officials were "more than happy to continue to have dialogue" with the city.

"We want to be good neighbors," Owen said.

The road to a working relationship between the city and CCA has been a rough one thus far. CCA’s plans to start operating the detention facility on Main Street conflict with the city’s dreams of a redevelopment in Midtown chock full of high-rise hotels, office buildings and walking trails — dreams that don’t include razor wire.

Many of the problems between the city and CCA spring from a conflict the city has with the county over the future of the jail property. City officials announced their intentions to buy the property in late 2007. The deal never went through and both the city and county disagree on why the contract allowing the city to purchase the property was never signed.

In the last round, city officials halted inspections and refused to issue building permit for renovations on the Main Street Jail, but later reneged "in the spirit of moving forward."

However, Thursday, there still seemed to be some kinks in the relationship between city, county and CCA officials as Dunagan commented that the corporation taking over the Main Street jail is "notorious for mistreatment" of inmates — an allegation to which Owen responded that the fact that CCA operates in nearly half the states in the country, many of which have increased their utilization of CCA services, should speak for the company’s track record, he said.

"I hope the county commission is real happy with what they’ve done," Dunagan said.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu and the Stewart Detention Center

I have had a few very concerned Stewart Detention Center (SDC) officers ask me about the swine flu epidemic. Which is only natural I guess with all of the Swine Flu hype in the media. A few people have even gone so far as to ask me if they should wear a mask on the job at SDC. Evidently there is some concern regarding Swine Flu that the SDC administration is not adequately addressing.

It is my understanding that all of the intakes at SDC receive chest x-rays for TB. While I am far from a medical expert, it is my understanding that swine flu would also be detected through this test if it existed in the individual being checked for TB. Since apparently CCA/SDC administration is not answering your concerns regarding swine flu then I would instead consider checking with medical directly. I would hope that the medical authority in place at SDC would give you medically correct information if you asked them directly.

I do not think that staff at SDC really need to be overly concerned with Swine Flu. Just because you are around someone from Mexico does not mean that they have Swine Flu. That's just a silly way to think. Look at it this way, In New York City I understand that a large number of school students now have (and have spread) Swine Flu. It appears that they caught Swine Flu while on a school trip to Mexico. From what I have seen and read the majority of these Swine Flu carriers to the United States were Caucasian. Using the same type of logic that says "OMG Mexicans have swine flu! Run for your lives!" Would you therefore need to run in terror every time a white school aged child approached you in the North East? From what I have read New York City so far has way more Swine Flu cases than have been found in the rest of the US. So if it would be absurd to run from a teenager in New York then it would be equally absurd to prejudge a Mexican just based on his country of origin as being a swine flu carrier. Also keep in mind that many (if not most of the Mexicans) being held at the SDC have not been to Mexico for several years. Most of them were working and living in the United States since before this outbreak.

It is a shame that the Administration in place at SDC is either not adequately addressing staff concerns or just does not realise how concerned some SDC staff members are with this whole Swine Flu situation. Often it is more than a few crash gates that separate the administration from the line staff at SDC. While it appears that the staff morale situation has improved some since Warden Vance Laughlin (Good luck Adams County Correctional Center!) left SDC it also appears that it still has a way to go. It sounds to me very much like a failure of SDC management to address your concerns that has apparently created the fear and unknowing situation that seems to be in place with at least some SDC staff. I would like to encourage the leadership of SDC to make it a priority to alleviate the Swine FLu concerns of the SDC employees before it turns into something worse. The best way to do that might even be for some middle and upper level managers to not hide out behind a desk and make the rounds in the facility that they should be doing anyway. This would at least demonstrate to line staff that you are not scared of a phantom swine flu virus in intake or a housing unit.

Seems like we just might be learning something about ourselves out of this whole Swine Flu mess. Don't fall for the media hype. Swine flu is not a biblical plague sent from Mexico to kill us all. It is not Captain Trips/Project Blue. Don't panic and lets all treat each other well. If we do that then we should all get through this just fine.