Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 03:43:38 PM EST
Yesterday in Indiana, inmates took over part of the New Castle Correctional Facility, a privately run prison, in what was called a "full-scale riot" by the town's mayor and a "disturbance" by the Department of Corrections. Two employees of the prison and seven prisoners have been injured.
Whatever you called it, the news had lots of pictures and video of smoke pouring out of the prison, but there's more to the story. The riot was evidently precipitated by an influx of inmates involuntarily transferred from Arizona. Arizona says this was "necessary" due to overcrowding, yet was recently negotiating with California to take their overflow of inmates.
Is Arizona lying or is something else going on?
Last October, Gov. Schwarzenegger of California declared an emergency and was going to ship inmates to prisons in four states, including Arizona and the New Castle Facility in Indiana.
From the LA Times, October 21, 2006:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an emergency this month to speed up the no-bid contracts with two private companies. He said the transfers are needed to ease crowding in the nation's largest prison system, where more than 172,000 inmates are crowded into space designed for about 100,000, forcing some inmates to sleep in gymnasiums and auditoriums.
The GEO Group Inc. of Florida will be paid an estimated $28.7 million a year to house as many as 1,260 inmates at its New Castle Correctional Facility in Indiana.
Tennessee-based Correctional Corporation of America will be paid a projected $22.9 million annually to house as many as 1,000 inmates at four prisons in Arizona, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
All 2,260 medium-security inmates are to be moved by March under the contracts, signed late Thursday.
The plan was to ship 5000 volunteer prisoners out of state, but it quickly disintigrated. The prisoners didn't want to move away from their home and families and weren't volunteering. In response, California's prison system CCTV started showing what has to be one of the more bizarre marketing videos of all time.
From the LA Times, Jan. 28, 2007 (you can see excerpts of the video at the link):
SACRAMENTO -- Tasty meals! A room with a view! Ping-Pong! Cable TV!
In one of the more unusual marketing campaigns undertaken by state government, California prison officials are asking inmates to bid adieu to their cellmates and transfer to lockups elsewhere in the country.
As part of the recruitment drive, wardens are screening a film extolling the virtues of out-of-state prisons and reminding convicts of the violent, overcrowded, racially charged conditions they face in California.
"You get 79 channels here -- ESPN!" one tattooed California felon, now housed in Tennessee, says in the movie.
"They talk to us like humans," says another, "not like animals."
In the meantime, the prison lobby didn't want their jobs threatened and took it to the courts. In February, a judge ruled that the plan violated California's civil service protection laws. She also found that Schwarzenegger had misused the state emergency clause and that it did not apply in situations such as this.
By February of this year, only 360 prisoners had been moved to Arizona and Tennessee, to Correctional Corp. prisons. The contract with GEO was canceled by "mutual agreement." Which brings us to yesterday's riot at the GEO facility in New Castle.
From today's South Bend Tribune:
The fracas that eventually involved about 500 men from both states started in the courtyard because some of the newly arrived prisoners from Arizona were upset with the rules, officials said.
"Going to chow, they have to wear their green shirts, and they didn't want to wear their green shirts," said Trina Randall, a spokeswoman for GEO Group Inc., the Florida company that in January 2006 took over the prison's management.
Some of the new inmates had complained about a lack of recreation and other policies, she said.
"A lot of them didn't realize it was a non-tobacco facility until they got here," Randall said.
In Arizona, prisoners can smoke in the courtyard. In Indiana, tobacco is banned.
Randall also said that prisoners received slightly less food in Indiana than in Arizona.
Hmm, they didn't mention less food and recreation or no smoking in California video. Maybe Arizona has a different contract. The article goes on to say:
The disturbance occurred six weeks after the first of some 600 Arizona inmates began joining 1,050 Indiana prisoners at the prison about 45 miles east of Indianapolis. Arizona felt the transfers were necessary to alleviate overcrowding.
So why is Arizona still negotiating to take excess prisoners from California if they don't have room for their own? They're not -- the state of Arizona is as overburdened as the rest and the deals are being made with companies like GEO and ACC. California was going to pay $63 a day for their inmates. It seems they got a dollar break, probably for bulk.
The Star Press:
The average cost to house an inmate for one day in Arizona is $58. The Indiana DOC will collect $64 a day -- and about $13 of which will remain in state coffers -- $6.1 million total. The rest will be used to cover the actual daily expenses of housing each inmate.
The privatizations of our prisons has gone by largely unnoticed and unreported, but it's already huge.
Officials from the [California Corrections] agency signed contracts worth more than $51.6 million with Corrections Corporation and The GEO Group Inc. to send their inmates to the companies' prisons across the country, beginning with the Corrections Corporation facility in Tennessee, then moving to Arizona.
Both companies have prisons in Arizona that already have been used to hold inmates from other states, including Hawaii, Washington and Alaska, as well as federal detainees.
California inmates will not be released in Arizona, Grant said, because they will be returned to California communities.
The GEO Group has 63 prisons and residential treatment facilities in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. On Dec. 12, it announced the opening of a 1,000-bed Central Arizona Correctional Facility, also in Florence, which will house medium-security sex offenders from Arizona.
Adding a "for-profit" middleman between government and its functions never makes sense. It's ruined our healthcare system, is crippling our schools, transportation, and military, and is now turning inmates into a commodity. It's a bad idea and will have a bad outcome.
The only question that remains is whether we'll do anything to stop it, or if this "free market" will continue to correct itself with blood and fire.
Crossposted from Unbossed.