Frank Smith | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Frank Smith 
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Re: “Vermont Inmates Pine for Their Old Kentucky Prison

GEO's Baldwin prison had been closed for ten years, except briefly when it held a minimal number of California exports a few years ago. Governor Granholm, in response to the pork Baldwin and GEO demanded, gave employees the opportunity to work for the state. It is presumed few qualified, thanks to the low bar employed for background screening and lower still aptitude expectations held by GEO for its marginal guards. After it had been shut down, GEO expanded it betting on its contacts with the feds at ICE, the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service to provide enough human "profit centers" to fill it. When that didn't happen, it complained that the feds weren't locking enough people up.

March 2, 2010 Reuters Prison operator Geo Group said it is "disappointed" by the Federal Bureau of Prisons' decision to cancel a solicitation for a facility to house illegal aliens convicted of crimes, sending its shares down as much as 8 percent. Geo blamed a funding shortfall for the BOP withdrawing its proposal, which the company expected would fill its Baldwin, Michigan correctional facility. A 1,225-bed expansion of the existing 530-bed facility is scheduled to be completed in 2010. Robert Wasserman of Dawson James Securities said, the share falls of Geo and rival Corrections Corp of America (CXW.N) -- which was trading down 3 percent -- indicated investor fears of further cuts in federal prison business. "They all do business with the (BOP) and federal agencies have really been the strongest in the last couple of years -- better than the states," Wasserman said. But he viewed this as a short-term setback and said the private prison operators can expect more federal business next year.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Frank Smith on 12/03/2015 at 11:38 AM

Re: “Vermont Inmates Pine for Their Old Kentucky Prison

I didn't know about the rioting in the Arizona CCA prison where Vermont prisoners had been held.

The industry does a great job of suppressing the bad news. They have the media characterizing riots as "disturbances," or "incidents," if they cover them at all.

This is from the 2/15/12 Arizona Republic:

In the past three years, private prisons in Arizona have experienced at least 28 riots and more than 200 other "disturbances" involving as many as 50 prisoners. Many of these incidents had not previously been reported to the public. State law doesn't require the six private prisons that hold federal detainees and prisoners from other states to inform state or local authorities in the event of an escape, a riot or other disturbance, or a death in custody.​

MTC has three riots in the first four days of July at its Kingman, AZ, prison. GEO will be taking that over, thanks probably to at least $52,000 in 2014 campaign contributions to Governor Ducey, who signed the contract.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Frank Smith on 12/03/2015 at 11:08 AM

Re: “Inmates' Advocates Say They Have Little Access to Private Prisons

Vermont has shipped its out of state prisoners to the long vacant GEO Group facility in Baldwin, Michigan. This prison should never have been built, save for likely corruption of state officials back in the '90s. It is the mirror image of the CCA prison in Beattyville, Kentucky, where Vermont prisoners rioted to protest the horrific conditions. There's "not a dime's worth of difference" between the two.

Posted by Frank Smith on 06/23/2015 at 2:18 PM

Re: “Vermont Might Send Its Out-of-State Prisoners to Michigan

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire.

The rubes from Baldwin have zero experience in handling difficult prisoners, will get the same absence of useful oversight that CCA has enjoyed in Kentucky from the VT DOC. You can expect the same sort of results as the Arizona prisoners sent to GEO Group in nearby New Castle, Indiana, and who rioted weeks afterward.

I wouldn't bet against the possibility of the millionaire GEO executives having paid someone in the VT DOC for the business, or given someone a promise of a quid pro quo, like a post-retirement mahogany desk in Boca Raton, Florida.

10 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Frank Smith on 05/15/2015 at 6:49 PM

Re: “Inmates' Advocates Say They Have Little Access to Private Prisons

This excellent article still misses some crucial points.

I visited the Lee Adjustment Center prison in Beattyville, KY, not long after the September 2004 riot. It caused an enormous amount of damage to the community. Low paid CCA guards ran for their lives and left the riot to be quelled by the state of Kentucky DOC SORT team, state and local police and deputies, EMTs, firefighters, etc. Inmates rolled up poorly constructed fences like Venetian blinds and used yard gates and the timbers from a guard tower they'd torn down as battering rams. It was a miracle no one escaped that time though many had previously..

Prisoners had been treated so badly, they "voted with their matches," their only alternative to the failure to curtail abuses within the prison by both Vermont and the state of Kentucky. The Commissioner of Corrections in Kentucky, appointed by the notoriously corrupt and later indicted governor, had come directly from a CCA Vice Presidency. He only fined CCA $10,000 for the expenses borne by the Kentucky taxpayers.

To get some better understanding of the context, CCA operated a state prison in Idaho for over a decade. They deflected any interest in true ovoersight by giving the governor $20,000 in campaign contributions.

One reporter from the Boise AP was able to establish that the guards were in collusion with white supremacist gang members in smuggling, and that they allowed the neo-Nazis to be their "enforcers," savagely beating any inmates who informed on them to authorities, or who even refused or were unable to pay "rent" for cells.

She aired a video showing the horrific beating of a Muslim prisoner, in for attempting a robbery with a fake gun, in which a skinhead beat him so badly, within a dozen feet of three CCA staffers, that his assailant had to sit down midway through the beating to catch his breath and to take a drink of water. The prisoner was effectively lobotomized

She pressured the state to reveal its books for inspection and it was found that tens of thousands of hours supposedly spent by employees on the lightly staffed night shift during a single year were completely fabricated. CCA had claimed their guards were doing 32 and 48-hour shifts.

This was going on, not 16 hours and 1,000 miles away (the distance from Montpelier to Beattyville), but right under their noses in Kuna, 18 miles from the state capitol in Boise.

CCA was finally thrown out of the state, but fined a token amount and the governor and his cronies waived most of that.

If Vermont thinks it is getting what it is paying for in Kentucky, it's dreaming. CCA guards have sodomized its inmates and brutalized them, with little repercussions from the company. As you can imagine, though, the fate of these male prisoners were far better than what was experienced by Hawai'ian women in its Otter Creek, Kentucky, prisons, where CCA maintained a "rape room," and even the chaplain joined in the sexual abuse.

Eight years ago, CCA guards there were being paid $7.65 hourly while the CCA CEO was making almost $2 million a month. That $8.35 paid to guards now, when controlling for inflation, is actually much less in real dollars that what those guards were making in 2005.

Vermont needs to lower its prison population, not export inmates to a larcenous and mendacious for-profit corporation, far from family and friends, churches, employers and support systems, and almost certain prescription for recidivism.

13 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Frank Smith on 12/02/2014 at 3:53 AM

Re: “Vermont Lawmakers Quiz the State's Private Prison Company

Nine years ago, CCA was paying its poorly trained and screened, high turnover guards in Beattyville, KY, $7.65 an hour. Now they're paying them $8.35 an hour. That $7.65 in 2005, accounting for inflation, would be $9.32 an hour now. so CCA wages have risen at less than half the rate of inflation.

It's much worse than that, though. CCA employees all over the country, including at Beattyville, had to sue for money they had earned but which was never paid, so they filed many million dollar winning class action suits. Of course that only meant small number of workers who had been swindled of their wages were made whole.

Meanwhile, CCA top executives and its board chairman were making more than a million dollars a month.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Frank Smith on 10/22/2014 at 3:24 AM

Re: “Fracas in Arizona Prison Leads to Lockdown for Vermont Inmates

CCA and the corrupt for-profit prison industry has trained the media to accept their less inflammatory but intentionally less descriptive terms for prison riots. They're not "disturbances," or "incidents." They are what they are.

Vermont has never been very good at oversight of a corporation that will loot state, federal or municipal treasuries. In Idaho, they charged the state for tens of thousands of hours of staff time that was entirely fabricated. Butch Otter, the Idaho governor, who got $19,000 in campaign contributions from CCA, had no incentive to monitor the cash cow. Before giving CCA a prison to run, they had previously had endless difficulties with their prisoners in Texas and Oklahoma.

I visited Beattyville after the 2004 riot and talked to police, firefighters, neighbors and the Kentucky Department of SORT crew members who were sent in to clean up the mess. John Rees, the Kentucky DOC Commissioner and ex-CCA Vice President appointed by corrupt Governor Ernie Fletcher, only fined CCA $10,000 for suppression of a riot that must have costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to put down.

The prison in Florence has had endless problems and contributes little to the community. It has been staffed by a long string of incompetents and violent warders.

Vermont absolutely needs to implement the measures that have reduced jail and prison populations in other states: Bail reform, alternatives to incarceration, drug and mental health courts, and sentencing reform.

14 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Frank Smith on 10/01/2014 at 8:17 PM

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