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“You just sell it like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers.

In the early 1980s, the Corrections Corporation of America pioneered the idea of running prisons for a profit. “You just sell it like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers,” one of its founders told Inc. magazine. Today, corporate-run prisons hold eight percent of America’s inmates. Here’s how the private prison industry took off:

1983

Thomas Beasley, Doctor R. Crants, and T. Don Hutto start Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s first private prison company.

1984
CCA begins operating a county jail and a juvenile detention center in Tennessee. It also opens its first privately owned facility in Houston, a motel hastily remodeled to hold immigration detainees.

1985
A federal judge orders Tennessee to stop admitting inmates to its overcrowded prisons. CCA offers, unsuccessfully, to pay $250 million for a 99-year lease on the state’s entire prison system.

1986
CCA goes public, saying its facility design and use of electronic surveillance mean it can operate larger prisons “with less staff than the public sector would have needed.”

Dog team at Winn Correctional Center

A guard dog at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana
1987
Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, later known as the GEO Group, gets its first contract to run a federal immigration detention center.

1990s
Among the “model” bills ?to emerge from the American Legislative Exchange Council‘s criminal justice task force, which CCA later co-chairs, are truth-in-sentencing and three-strikes legislation that help fuel the ’90s prison boom. (CCA says it did not vote on or comment on any proposed ALEC legislation.)*

1997
Arguing that it’s in the property business, CCA becomes a real estate investment trust for tax purposes. A new affiliate, Prison Realty Trust, raises $447 million for a prison-buying spree.

Private And Public Prison Populations 1990-2014

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1998
The Justice Department investigates a CCA prison in Youngstown, Ohio, following a spate of escapes, stabbings, and killings. In addition to finding inexperienced and poorly trained guards, the probe reveals that CCA took on maximum-security inmates at a facility designed for a medium-security population.

2000
As prison occupancy rates drop, Prison Realty Trust nearly goes bankrupt. CCA stock, once nearly $150 a share, falls to 19 cents. The company drops the trust and restructures.

CCA Stock Price, 1997-2016

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2004
A Justice Department report finds a “disturbing degree” of physical abuse by staff and underreporting of violence among inmates at a Baltimore juvenile facility run by the private prison operator Correctional Services Corporation. CSC is later acquired by GEO.

2005
Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) introduces the Private Prison Information Act, which would require private prisons holding federal inmates to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. It died, as have at least seven similar bills opposed by CCA and GEO.

2007

A drawing by an immigrant child held at CCA's T. Don Hutto Center.

A drawing by an immigrant child held at CCA’s T. Don Hutto Center. ACLU

CCA’s and GEO’s stock prices jump as both companies jockey to run the federal government’s expanding immigration detention centers. Meanwhile, the ACLU settles a case against Immigration and Customs Enforcement for conditions in the CCA-managed T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas, where about half the detainees are kids. Under the agreement, children no longer wear prison uniforms and may move more freely.

2008
The New York Times investigates the deaths of immigration detainees, such as a Guinean man at a CCA-run facility who fractured his skull and was placed in solitary confinement before being taken to a hospital. He died after four months in a coma.

2009
A CCA representative attends a meeting where ALEC members draft the legislation that will eventually become Arizona’s notorious anti-immigration law. CCA denies having a hand in writing the bill. It cuts ties with ALEC the following year.

2010
An ACLU suit alleges rampant violence at a CCA-run Idaho prison known as “gladiator school.” The lawsuit claims the prison is understaffed and fosters an environment that “relies on the degradation, humiliation, and subjugation of prisoners.” The FBI investigates but doesn’t pursue charges. In Kentucky, the governor orders all female inmates removed from a CCA prison after more than a dozen cases of alleged sexual abuse by guards.

2011
 

Inmates at Winn Correctional Center

Inmates at Winn Correctional Center

CCA becomes the first private prison company to purchase a state facility, buying Ohio’s Lake Erie Correctional Institutionas part of a privatization plan proposed by Gov. John Kasich and supported by his corrections chief, former CCA Director Gary Mohr.

 

2012
CCA offers to buy prisons in 48 states in exchange for 20-year management contracts. The same year, a GEO-operated youth facility in Mississippi where staff sexually abused minors is described by a judge as a “cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.” At another Mississippi facility, a 24-year-old CCA employee is killed during a riot over prisoners’ complaints about poor food, inadequate medical care, and disrespectful guards.

2013
CCA converts back to a real estate investment trust, as does GEO. Mother Jones reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $2.2 million in GEO.

2014
As it did during at least the previous five years, CCA’s annual report flags criminal justice reform—including drug decriminalization and the reduction of mandatory minimum sentences—as a “risk factor” for its business.* Chris Epps, Mississippi’s prison commissioner and the president of the American Correctional Association, is charged with taking kickbacks from a private prison contractor.

2015
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) co-sponsors the Justice is Not for Sale Act, which would ban all government contracts with private prison companies. After Hillary Clinton is criticizedfor using campaign bundlers who’d worked as lobbyists for CCA and GEO, she promises to no longer take their money and says, “We should end private prisons and private detention centers.”

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* This item has been clarified.

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4,900 people from Maine are behind bars today – Prisonpolicy.org

Pie chart showing that 3,800 Maine residents are locked up in federal prisons, state prisons, local jails and other types of facilities

Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years

graph showing the number of people in state prison and local jails per 100,000 residents in Maine from 1978 to 2015Also see these Maine graphs:

Graph showing the number of people in Maine jails who were convicted and the number who were unconvicted, for the years 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1999, 2005, and 2013.

Today, Maine’s incarceration rates stand out internationally

graphic comparing the incarceration rates of the founding NATO members with the incarceration rates of the United States and the state of Maine. The incarceration rate of 698 per 100,000 for the United States and 363 for Maine is much higher than any of the founding NATO membersIn the U.S., incarceration extends beyond prisons and local jails to include other systems of confinement. The U.S. and state incarceration rates in this graph include people held by these other parts of the justice system, so they may be slightly higher than the commonly reported incarceration rates that only include prisons and jails. Details on the data are available in States of Incarceration: The Global Context. We also have a version of this graph focusing on the incarceration of women.

People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails

2010 graph showing incarceration rates per 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic groups in Maine

racial and ethnic disparities between the prison/jail and general population in ME as of 2010See also our detailed graphs about WhitesBlacks, and American Indians/Native Americans in Maine prisons and jails.

Maine’s criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails

Pie chart showing that 10,000 Maine residents are in various types of correctional facilities or under criminal justice supervision on probation or parole

Which Jailbreak went smoother?

 

 

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Incarceration in the United States is the main form of punishment for the commission of a crime. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the second-highest per-capita incarceration rate, behind Seychelles (a tiny island country off the coast of East Africa, which in 2014 had a total prison population of 735 out of a population of around 92,000). 

In 2013 in the US, there were 698 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population, with (According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics ) 2,220,300 adults incarcerated in US federal and state prisons, and county jails.  That’s one out of every 110 citizens of the United States, or  about 0.91% of our adult population.  That’s not counting the 4,751,400 adults in 2013 (1 in 51) on probation or on parole!  In total, 6,899,000 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2013 – about 2.8% of the adults (1 in 35) in the U.S. 

Oh, almost forgot: there were also 54,148 juveniles in jail (“juvenile detention”) in 2013.

According to a 2014 Human Rights Watch report, “tough-on-crime” laws adopted since the 1980s, most especially Bill Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (the largest crime bill in the history of the United States and consisted of 356 pages that provided for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs, which were designed with significant input from experienced police officers) have filled U.S. prisons with mostly nonviolent offenders. This insane policy has completely failed to rehabilitate prisoners and many are worse on release than before incarceration.

Rehabilitation programs for offenders can be more cost effective than prison.  According to a 2016 analysis of federal data by the U.S. Education Department, state and local spending on incarceration has grown three times as much as spending on public education since 1980.

Why? Watch the Netflix documentary “13.”

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Body camera video produced Wednesday appears to show a Baltimore police officer plant drugs in late January, an act that later resulted in a criminal arrest.

The 90-second Baltimore police body camera video, which was made public by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, belongs to Officer Richard Pinheiro, who appears to hide and later “find” drugs among trash strewn on a plot next to a Baltimore residence. Two other officers appear to be with the Pinheiro as he hides the drugs.

Play

 Body Camera Shows Baltimore Police Officer Allegedly Planting Evidence 1:53

“I’m gonna go check here,” Pinheiro announces in the video from a morning in late January. He then picks up a can in which he placed a plastic bag of pills earlier in the video and retrieves them.

“This is a serious allegation of police misconduct,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. “There is nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for one second that police officers … would plant evidence of crimes on citizens.”

One of the officers has been suspended, and two others have been placed on “nonpublic contact” administrative duty, Davis told reporters.

Police said the Office of Professional Responsibility Ethics Section was investigating.

Pinheiro is a witness in about 53 active cases, and he was even called to testify in a case earlier this week, the Public Defender’s Office said.

The new video has led to that case’s dismissal after an assistant public defender forwarded it to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, according to the Public Defender’s Office.

Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, said the prosecutor took “immediate and appropriate actions” and dropped the case against the man who was charged.

“Currently, this case is under investigation and has been referred to internal affairs of the Baltimore Police Department,” she added.

Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender’s Special Litigation Section, said that Baltimore police have long had a problem with officer misconduct but that the city does not hold individuals accountable.

Play

 Public Defender Says Bodycam Shows Baltimore Cop Planting Drugs 2:31

“We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts,” Levi said.

Police played four other videos for the media on Wednesday afternoon to provide additional context.

In the first two videos, officers procure two gel capsules of heroin. The third video has officers approaching the alleged seller of the heroin and shows them arresting the man on whom they found marijuana and a gel capsule of heroin, police said.

In the fourth video, officers undertake an extensive search of a yard identified by the dealer for more drugs. Police said they recovered a plastic bag with 25 gel capsules of heroin.

Davis and Deputy Police Commissioner Jason Johnson suggested that it implied that they were re-enacting the recovery of drugs for the body camera — which is also inappropriate, Davis said.

“The release of [this body camera video] tells me and hopefully [the public] that there was a little more to this,” Davis told reporters.

Johnson and Davis told reporters that there was a four- to five-minute gap in the video.

According to police policy, officers are required to record all activities that are “investigative or enforcement in nature.”

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, a component of the U.S. Justice Department, concluded in a 296-page report that there is not enough research to understand the impact of body cameras but that “the ultimate purpose of these cameras should be to help officers protect and serve the people in their communities.”

Davis said the department would get to the bottom of the matter because he fears the effect it would have on the community.

“Perception is reality,” Davis said. “If our community thinks that there are officers planting evidence in the course of their duty, that is something that will keep me up at night.”

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Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

Only your vigilance on the outside can guarrentee that justice goes on on the inside.

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