Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Private prison news and notes

Several informative, recent private prison stories caught my eye and deserve Grits readers attention:

Do private prisons save money?
While I agree most of his suggestions for saving money on state corrections costs, I dispute the final contention in a column by Marc Levin from the Texas Public Policy Foundation that greater reliance on private prisons would save the state money. Such savings may be illusory if vendors skimp on healthcare and other necessities, as happened prior to two recent prison riots at a privately run immigration detention facility in Pecos. The inmates were protesting inadequate healthcare. Texas Prison Business has more on the Reeves County riots, as does Tom Barry at the America's Program Report.

Sunset, TCJS, and private jails
Additionally at Texas Prison Bidness, Nick analyzes the Sunset recommendations for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards related to privately run county jails.

The Business of Detention
Also from TPB, Bob reports that "The Business of Detention website, a project of Columbia University journalism students Renee Feltz and Stokely Baksh which analyzes CCA's growing business in immigrant detention, has been selected as a 2009 Finalist in the "Student" category at the South by Southwest Interactive Web Awards."

More speculative jail building
According to the Central Texas Business Journal, a new privately run jail in Burnet County must find out-of-county inmates to pay for expanding far beyond the county's needs.


Anonymous said...

What sort of impact do you think the following will have on these private and county jails that are being built?

Rehab effort curbs prison population

By Mike Ward
Cox News Service
Friday, February 20, 2009
AUSTIN — Texas' prison population has stopped growing for the time being, thanks in part to changes in corrections policy two years ago that ballooned funding for rehabilitation programs, new statistics revealed Thursday.

That means Texas will not have to consider building new prisons at a time when the economic collapse is pinching the state budget, officials said.


Anonymous said...

The concept of a private company making a profit imprisoning people seems so wrong when I imagine the warden's opinion of an inmate's behvaior goes a long way to determining how soon he can be turned loose on parole... It just seems to me that this is a conflict of interest if the warden's employer is making money for each day the person is incarcerated.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not a lot of impact, 7:43. Overcrowding at county jails is caused mostly by expanded pretrial detention, while the state actually invested in new rehab capacity which is where most of the prison diversion is happening.

Anonymous said...

Ok 8:23.

It is good news isn't to see the Texas prison population has quit growing because of the rehab beds and efforts made here.

Perhaps this effort will at least keep these rehabbers from reoffending thus causing them not to be booked back into county and private jails.

PirateFriedman said...

We should always expect the private sector to outperform the public sector due to the profit motive. But there is even empirical evidence:


Anonymous said...

While I usually respect Levin's research and proposals, this article seems very simplistic in terms of logic and reasoning.

He cites a savings of over $10.00 a day to the state by using privatized facilities, yet he doesn't indicate where those savings originate. He only says that since the private facilities are required to provide the same service then this practice can be implemented without a sacrafice in quality.

Call me crazy, but my experience has been that any corporation is apt to stray from meeting contractual obligations if they believe that they can do it without penalty.

What will the cost be to the state in the form of oversight to make sure that these companies are providing adequate services? And what will be the penalty to the company be if they are found not to be in compliance?

It seems like a bad idea from the outset, an accident or incident waiting to happen.

Also, I find very hard to believe the figure quoted from Arizona that 77% of those completing a court ordered rehab program have successfully kicked their drug habit. I don't know of any figures like that from ANY rehab facility.

While I am hugely in favor of rehab -v- prison, I think it needs to be grounded in some evidence-based programs. Also, in a bit of in reality.

The entire article seems suspect.

Anonymous said...

Private prisons are not the way to go! A company in business only looks at the bottom line where the $ sign is and if too low the cuts begin. These companies are there for profit. If there is no profit, the first and foremost options are to cut services given to those who need them the most.

The health care in TDCJ is already so bad, people are dying, not get medical care for chronic problems and acute conditions this should never happen. These are people and should be treated as people, humans, Children of God and do not deserve the abuse dealt out by some guards. Those guards who tend to mistreat others, have problems themselves and have sometime in their lives been mistreated. Thus, why does TDCJ not require a psychological evaluation before hiring anyone? Especially someone from South America! This is absolutely insane.

Private prison companies are there for one purpose, to make money and if they do not see a profit, they tend to start reducing servies to Inmates who already are abused. They are there because of something they did outside the law and not to be abused and mistreated, that is not part of the punishment.Abuse is not part of their punishment, being away from their families, lives and jobs is punishment enought, stop the abuse!!

Lege, do not hire private companies to oversee our prisons!!

Anonymous said...

Private prison operators are required by contract to operate according to the policies of the detention agency. The prisons are regularly audited and there are severe financial penalties for non-performance. The majority of executives in private prison companies come from the public sector.
What passes for 'journalism' these days, and what bloggers rely on, is the Internet, the greatest proponent of bad information existing today. The rehashing of inaccurate reports, instead of real investigation, perpetuates these inaccuracies.
To continue to report that the inmates in Reeves County rioted because of poor medical care is wrong. These reports are false. The media used 'information' from a few inmates and families, (a handful out of more than 2,000 inmates) and now that bloggers have repeated these stories instead of doing research, everyone is accepting these stories as gospel truth. One day the real truth will come out.
Part of that truth is that the inmates at Reeves County - and illegal immigrants detained in any facility - get better health care than you do, and get it for free. Something free is often devalued and overused, because it is free. No one reading this blog gets free health care, and if you do, it is certainly not to the extent prisoners receive.
If the government could eliminate waste, streamline, and be held as accountable as private operators, they could do the job for the money that private operators receive.
Everyone acts like free enterprise is a sin, but I would imagine that many readers owe their employment to the free enterprise system.

Anonymous said...

11:12 - What is the truth about what did and is now happening at Pecos? Has anyone other than law enforcement officials been allowed inside to see or speak to the inmates? If you have first hand knowledge, please, I would like to hear it.

Anonymous said...

There has never been a generalizable study that concluded private prisons offer cost savings or better conditions of confinement than public facilities.

The "Empirical Evidence" cited by Passion and Lore is not generalizable, and it is cherry picked. The Reason Foundation, which authored the report (s)he cites, is a libertarian foundation, like Levin's TPPF. On privatization, both organizations have released poorly-conducted research by, most significantly, ignoring methodological problems with apples-to-apples comparisons inherent in the public/private debate over prisons.

I feel that Levin's insistence on privatization, without a solid base of research to back him up, undermines the credibility of TPPF. It's disappointing, because they do such good work otherwise.

The Geography Lady said...

Don't believe everything you read about the rehab program (SAFP). It was begun by Gov Richards, and the entire program (9 mth prison-based, 6mth TC halfway house, year-long aftercare) was great. bush did away with almost all the beds, and cut the time inmates spent in the program by 1/2. Most of the halfway houses closed, because $30 per day to provide food, housing, transportation to jobs, counseling and other required services is not enough. when the Lege expanded the program again last year, there were not enough halfway houses to met the needs of the increased population - and not a single entity responded to the RFP. The largest halfway house in the state, out of Houston (run by the Salvation Army) shut down during Ike and hasn't reopened. Inmates are being released directly from prison to their former homes.
LCDCs are no longer the counselors - people with GEDs can now monitor group therapy in the prison program.
If the Lege really wants to improve the outcomes and cut the prison population, they need to take a look at the program, and put a little money into it. It really works, but not like its being done now.

Anonymous said...

One thing about private facilities is that if they fail, the usually close. If anyone thinks that the state runs anything effeciently, think again. I can't even begin to tell you all the many ways your tax dollars and mine have been wasted. I also disagree that efforts in funding more rehabilitation programs has stopped prison growth. Rehab programs are great for people who have had enough and really wa, other than that people jsut go through the motions and talk the talk to get through the program. A good drug addict will also tell that they got some good drugs while they were in rehab. It amazes me how people take everything they see and hear at face value. That is such a dangerous thing to do. Journalists are notorious for reporting one side of the story especailly if supports their cause, little objectivity is involved. I can tell that drugs are readily available in county jails state prisons and many rehabs. Those released on probation go back into the same environment they were in before. Dealers go back to dealing, that are just a little more careful. Users continue to use, they just flush a few days before they have to report. Especially if it's coke or meth. Marijuana takes longer. Small counties can't afford hair tests. The probationers will attend the mandatory classes where roll is taken, but for AA and NA they go to one or two meetings and then have someone forge the required signatures. I know a guy who has 8DWI's and 3 possession charges and he has never been in jail. He paid his way out of everything. He is clean now, but it wasn't rehab that did it, It was his son stabbing him to keep him from killing his mom that did it. He couldn't stand himself anymore and was ready to quit. Rehab was great for him at that pont and he has done well. Look at it this way, Lindsey Lohan has been in Hazleton, considered to be one of the best in the US, and look at her. Always question everything you hear and read.
Blogs are fun and filled with alot of good information but take them for what they are. Don't depend on a blog or anyone else to be your main source of CJ information. Take the time to find out for yourselves. My information comes to you from years of being an addict an knowing that world first hand, the rest comes from post addiction and working in corrections.