America’s Secretive Private Prison Industry Is About To Become Much Less Secret

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By Brad Poling for Occupy – Seventy-five miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas, in the expanse of desert between the U.S./Mexico border and nestled between oil boomtowns of yesteryear, is Dilley, the epicenter of a new battle over immigrants’ rights. The remote town of 4,000 people has enjoyed a hot local economy thanks to its most controversial feature: its private prison. Dilley houses the nation’s largest family detention center, a 50-acre complex that holds 2,400 detainees every night. The center has become a symbol of the resurgent private prison industry and a reminder of why the Justice Department abandoned these facilities in the first place. The private prison industry, which briefly went into free fall after President Obama’s Justice Department announced the government would end its use of private prisons in August 2016, has found new allies in President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions – and is making fast dividends on the new deal. Giants like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) have received billions in taxpayer dollars for renewed government contracts, and have leveraged their private status to closely guard the details of each deal.

Stop Using Inmates As Slaves

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By Annie McGrew and Angela Hanks for Talk Poverty – Last week, a Louisiana sheriff gave a press conference railing against a new prisoner release program because it cost him free labor from “some good [inmates] that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in the cars, to cook in the kitchen.” Two days later, news broke that up to 40 percent of the firefighters battling California’s outbreak of forest fires are prison inmates working for $2 an hour. Practices like these are disturbingly common: Military gear, ground meat, Starbucks holiday products, and McDonald’s uniforms have all been made (or are still made) with low-wage prison labor. Inmates are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that workers are paid at least the federal minimum wage. That makes it completely legal for states to exploit inmates for free or cheap labor. More than half of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons work while incarcerated, and the vast majority only make a few cents per hour. Most inmates work in their own prison facilities, in jobs such as maintenance or food service. These jobs pay an average of just 86 cents an hour, and are primarily designed to keep the prison running at a low cost. Others may be employed in so-called “correctional industries,” where inmates work for the Department of Corrections to produce goods that are sold to government entities and nonprofit organizations.

‘The Justice System In Its Current Form Destroys Families’

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By Staff of Generation Opportunity – A year ago, Weldon Angelos was released from prison after serving nearly 13 years of a 55-year sentence. Today, he’s leading the movement for criminal justice reform in the United States. Weldon’s story about facing over-criminalization and injustice is well-known. He was arrested for selling marijuana while in possession of a firearm and received an extraordinarily long punishment for a first-time, non-violent offender. Since his release, Weldon has worked tirelessly to reconnect with his family – his sister, his nephew, and his fiancée and two sons – while fighting to fix our broken criminal justice system. “I’m incredibly grateful to be out, but I’m going to continue to push for reforming mandatory minimum sentencing because it destroys so many families,” Weldon declared in an interview last year. “I witnessed that first-hand in prison. There are other people like me, even more deserving than me, that should be out.” Generation Opportunity caught up with Weldon during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he shared his story with lawmakers and urged them to make criminal justice reform a top priority. Weldon took a few minutes to talk to Gen Opp about adjusting to life after prison and what he considers the most important elements of criminal justice reform.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder, Partners With Orgs To Halt Los Angeles Jail Expansion

JusticeLA organizers during demonstration in front of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Los Angeles on Sept. 26, 2017 (Charles H.F. Davis III @hfdavis)

By Kirsten West Savali for The Root – Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Black Lives Matter co-founder, veteran organizer, artist and freedom fighter, has partnered with more than 30 organizations to launch JusticeLA, a human rights and abolitionist coalition organized around the collective goal of halting a proposed $2 billion jail-expansion plan in Los Angeles County. The coalition’s first action took place Tuesday morning with a powerful demonstration in front of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration ahead of the weekly Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting. Though the board’s Sept. 26 agenda included finalizing the county’s 2017-2018 budget, supervisors first approved, in 2015, the expansion plan, which outlines the construction of two new jails, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the coalition, the amount will be more in the ballpark of $3.5 billion once construction is completed and any additional expenses accounted for—$3.5 billion, which coalition members say should be reclaimed, reimagined and reinvested in the oppressed and occupied communities for whom the jails are being created.

Private Prison In New Mexico Demands More Prisoners Or It Will Close

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By Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet – The nation’s second-largest private prison corporation is holding New Mexico politicians hostage by threatening to close unless the state or federal authorities find 300 more prisoners to be warehoused there, according to local news reports. “The company that has operated a private prison in Estancia for nearly three decades has announced it will close the Torrance County Detention Facility and lay off more than 200 employees unless it can find 300 state or federal inmates to fill empty beds within the next 60 days,” the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported last week. The paper said that county officials issued a statement citing the threatened closure and emphasized that every virtually every politician in the region, from county officials to state officials to congressmen, were scurrying to save jobs—as opposed to shutting a privatized prison by an operator that has been sued many times for sexual harassment, sexual assault, deaths, use of force, physical assaults, medical care, injuries and civil rights violations. “This is a big issue for us,” Torrance County manager Belinda Garland told the Santa Fe newspaper.

Chicago Judge Rules Defendants Can’t Be Jailed Just Because They Can’t Afford Bail

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By Staff of Reuters – CHICAGO (Reuters) – Defendants who are not considered dangerous will no longer have to stay in jail if they cannot afford to pay bail while awaiting trial in the Illinois county that includes Chicago, a circuit court judge ordered on Monday. Before an initial bail hearing, information will be provided by the defendant in Cook County regarding his or her ability – within 48 hours – to pay bail, the order said. If the defendant cannot pay, he or she will not be held before trial. “Defendants should not be sitting in jail awaiting trial simply because they lack the financial resources to secure their release,” Timothy Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, which includes Chicago, said in a statement. “If they are not deemed a danger to any person or the public, my order states that they will receive a bail they can afford,” the judge said. The order goes into effect on Sept. 18 for felony cases and on Jan. 1, 2018, for misdemeanor cases in the circuit court. Defendants who are deemed dangerous, however, will be held in jail without bond, according to the court’s statement. Judges can also release defendants on individual recognizance or electronic monitoring, which do not require the defendant to pay money to be released, it said.

I Spent 14 Months In Jail Because I Couldn't Pay My Way Out

Lavette Mayes speaks outside Cook County Jail at a rally for incarcerated mothers on May 13, 2017. (Photo: CCBF)

By Lavette Mayes and Matthew McLoughlin for Truthout – On any given day, more than 7,000 people are incarcerated at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. Stretching over 11 city blocks, Cook County Jail is the largest single-site jail in the United States. Ninety-five percent of the people locked up in Cook County Jail have not been convicted of a crime. They are incarcerated pretrial — and 62 percent of them are there only because they cannot afford to pay a monetary bond. In Cook County, bond court hearings last a mere 37 seconds on average. In that time, a judge makes bail decisions that reshape the entire course of people’s cases, and often, their lives. For many people, the judge’s decision includes setting a money bond they must pay before they can be released from jail. The amount of that bond — and whether their family or friends can pay it — then determines whether they await their trial in freedom or in a cage. Felony cases in Cook County commonly take more than a year to resolve, and some take several years. Right now, more than 4,000 people are being incarcerated in Cook County because they cannot pay bonds that were set using less than a minute’s worth of information. After 24 hours of detention, people’s risks of rearrest and failure to appear for court increase.

National Movement Demanding End Of Monetary Bail

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By Sarah Lazare for AlterNet – For the nearly 8,000 people locked up in Cook County jail, and the 2,400 on house arrest, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty effectively does not exist. Roughly 95 percent of those incarcerated have not faced trial or conviction of any kind, the vast majority of them ensnared simply because they are unable to afford bond. Those forced to languish in indefinite detention are disproportionately African American, and their pretrial punishments can permanently set their lives off-course, causing them to lose jobs, custody of their children, their housing, and even their lives.

Newsletter - Outing The Prison-Industrial Complex

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. What do you call a system in which private entities partner with law enforcement to spy on peaceful protesters and arrest them, in which the poor and people of color are preyed upon to meet private prison quotas in order to provide slave labor, in which drug use is treated as a crime rather than the public health issue that it is, and in which police are heavily militarized and violate the law without being held accountable? Like the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex (PIC) has become a behemoth that feeds personal and corporate profits through human exploitation. Its tentacles reach into many parts of our society. It is necessary to understand how the many aspects of the PIC operate in order to confront it and stop it from swallowing up our families and communities.

Eliminate Profit From Punishment

Every time an organization broadcasts their commitment to deep social change, while instead prioritizing one-dimensional results for their wealthy funders, the task of dismantling multilayered systems of destruction is lost in translation. (Photo: JT)

By Cedric Lawson for Inequality – In July 2010, Marissa Alexander, a young Black woman from Florida, faced the fight of her life only nine days after giving birth to her youngest daughter. Her estranged husband, Rico Gray, attacked, strangled, and threatened to kill Marissa in her own home. To get rid of Rico, Marissa fired a warning shot into the ceiling. The single shot injured no one. And yet she was subsequently charged with several criminal charges and incarcerated for a victimless crime.

Executive Clemency Requested For 25 Deserving Women

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By Staff of The Clemency Report and CAN-DO Foundation – Note from Amy Ralston Povah, President – CAN-DO Foundation: “Thirteen of the original women on the Top 25 are NOW FREE – most due to clemency and a few for the two point reduction – this is progress. We’ve been told there will be “more women” on the next list coming out toward the end of July due to several of us who went to the White House complaining that there were only two women on the last list! We feel this short video helps explain why people end up with 10-LIFE for conspiracy even if they never sold drugs – and puts a face on it.”

Taking On America’s Prison Profiteers

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By Staff of Inequality.org – No place in the world imprisons people at a higher per capita rate than the state of Louisiana. And that incarceration pays — for the profiteers who run the state’s private prisons. For the incarcerated, a totally different story. In 1998, the New York Times described one of Louisiana’s privately run facilities, the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth, as possibly the worst such prison in the nation, a site “rife with brutality, cronyism, and neglect.”

Prison Sentencing As If Budgets Mattered

Abdul Rahman Shalabi, 39, was among the first prisoners taken to Guantánamo in January 2002. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

By Staff of Oregon Penn – In Oregon, where are we now spend more on prisons run by the Department of Corrections than on public four-year universities, what is right in front of our noses is that the way we decide how long criminals should spend in prison is not only bankrupting us in the present moment, it is sowing the seeds of economic inequality and social weakness for generations to come, because excessive spending on incarceration deprives us of public goods that promote prosperity.

As Prison Population Shrinks, Blacks Benefit More Than Whites

Prisoners wait in line for breakfast at California Men's Colony prison on Dec. 19, 2013. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

By Keith Humphreys for The Washington Post – After decades of growth, the U.S. imprisonment rate has been declining for the past six years. Hidden within this welcome overall trend is a sizable and surprising racial disparity: African-Americans are benefitting from the national de-incarceration trend but whites are serving time at increasingly higher rates. The pattern of results, evident in a series of reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is most stark among women.

Let’s End Torture In U.S. Prisons

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By John Kiriakou for Other Worlds – A prisoner is kept in a small cell — usually 6 feet by 10 — alone, for 23 hours a day. For one hour a day, he or she may be taken into a small cage outside, with the opportunity to walk in circles before being taken back in. Even the outdoor cage can usually be opened and closed remotely. The idea is to keep the prisoner from having any human interaction. Those who’ve been through it call it a “living death.” The United Nations calls it torture. The practice is widespread in the United States. And until recently, it was applied even to juveniles in the federal prison.