Thursday, September 2, 2010

Brewer Linked To Private Prisons Housing Illegal Immigrants

Originally found here.

Brewer Linked To Private Prisons Housing Illegal Immigrants - Phoenix News Story - KPHO Phoenix

Brewer Linked To Private Prisons Housing Illegal Immigrants
New Questions Raised About Lobbyist Advice
Morgan Loew, CBS 5 Investigative Reporter

POSTED: 10:03 pm MST August 31, 2010
UPDATED: 11:58 am MST September 2, 2010

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Gov. Jan Brewer’s campaign chairman and policy adviser is also a lobbyist for the largest private prison company in the country.

Chuck Coughlin is one of two people in the Brewer administration with ties to Corrections Corporation of America. The other administration member is communications director Paul Senseman, a former CCA lobbyist. His wife still lobbies for the company.

According to campaign finance records, CCA executives and employees contributed more than $1,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign. The company’s political action committee and its lobbyists contributed another $60,000 to Brewer’s top legislative priority, Proposition 100, a sales tax to help avoid budget cuts to education.

Caroline Isaacs from the American Friends Service Committee, which advocates for social justice issues, said the money is evidence of influence the company has on the governor.

Isaacs said private prison companies have been buying influence in Arizona politics for years. The number of private prisons and jails operating across the state shows the result of that influence, he said. Currently, there are at least 12 for-profit prison, jail and detention facilities in Arizona.

Isaacs said the state has something else that attracts these companies.

“The other Holy Grail, if you will, of private prison construction is immigrant detention,” Isaacs said.

Corrections Corporation of America holds the contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to lock up illegal immigrants picked up in Arizona. Tough immigration laws such as Arizona's SB 1070 could send thousands of new bodies its way, and millions of dollars.

Coughlin told CBS 5 News and other media outlets that there is no connection between Brewer and illegal immigrants arrested by local law enforcement.

Coughlin appeared on KAET TV’s “Horizon” two weeks ago. “When somebody gets arrested, they go to jail. There are no private jails. Those are public jails. ICE has said they are not taking prisoners arrested under that, so there would be no transport into the state prison system when this happens,” he told the host of “Horizon.”

But ICE’s spokesman in Phoenix told CBS 5 News the agency gets most of its detainees from local law enforcement. Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show Arizona agencies turned over 23,000 illegal immigrants to ICE over the past three years. Hundreds of them ended in up CCA facilities.

“Anyone who is a serious criminal or is a flight risk is more than likely going to end up in detention here in Arizona,” said Vinnie Picard from ICE.

CBS 5 News invited Coughlin to explain what he told the governor about the effects of SB 1070 on CCA, but after weeks of negotiating through e-mail, Coughlin backed out of an on-camera interview.

He sent CBS 5 News e-mail from CCA, which stated: “CCA has neither directly, nor indirectly attempted to influence immigration policy, including SB 1070, and absolutely did not engage anyone in the Governor’s Office on signature of that bill.”

People such as Isaacs, who study the private prison industry, said they don’t buy it.

“My reaction to that statement is then why did they give them all that money?” she said.

Coughlin’s company has canceled all of the governor’s campaign advertising on CBS 5 News.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hernando commission withholds payment to CCA

This story can be found here.

Hernando commission withholds payment to jail contractor

By Barbara Behrendt, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BROOKSVILLE — With the cost and responsibility for repairs at the Hernando County Jail still up in the air, the County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to hold on to $1.86 million billed by Corrections Corporation of America.

Lisa Hammond, the purchasing consultant for the clerk of the circuit court, recommended the action, citing a provision in the jail contract that spells out a process for disputed payments. Last week, the county notified CCA that the commission would consider withholding payment of the company's July and August invoices and placing them in a third-party escrow account on Tuesday.

But CCA officials balked. In a letter dated Monday, Natasha Metcalf of CCA, the private company that operated the jail for the past two decades, stated that the contract "does not provide for the withholding of payment in the manner you are proposing.''

She added that she hoped that County Administrator David Hamilton would not recommend withholding payments and asked Hamilton to send to CCA detailed invoices for $34,000 worth of jail repairs for which the county believes CCA is responsible so far.

"Under a complete reservation of the rights and remedies available under the contract, at law and in equity, CCA remains willing to work through any outstanding maintenance issues cooperatively with the county,'' Metcalf wrote. "We can be available to meet with you to discuss these issues at your convenience."

But the commission wanted a much better picture of what was wrong with the facility before releasing the money.

The county is in the process of assessing the quantity and seriousness of problems with the jail facility. CCA vacated operation of the jail last Thursday, and Sheriff Richard Nugent assumed responsibility for running it.

It was Nugent who brought the deteriorating condition of the facility to the commissioners' attention in April, and since that time various investigations have been conducted inside the building. Problems with water infiltration, rusty doors, frozen hinges, an improperly sloped roof and floor surfaces, and a variety of other issues have been identified.

Last month, the county agreed to hire HDR Engineering Inc. to provide a proposal for the jail upgrade at a cost of $239,000. The firm is expected to produce a report in about 40 days, Hammond told commissioners.

With payment to CCA tied into the conclusion of that report, Commissioner Jim Adkins urged Hammond to have the firm work as quickly as possible. Hammond said she would talk to officials from HDR when she meets with them Thursday, and she agreed that the county doesn't want to hold on to CCA's money any longer than it has to.

County Attorney Garth Coller urged commissioners to limit their discussion about the issue because the county could land in litigation.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

[Last modified: Aug 31, 2010 06:16 PM]