Co-published by Fast Company
A Boeing 787 with a cracked high-pressure duct was serviced in Chile, then arrived in Chicago with the duct held together by tape and wire.
Critics of outsourcing say the rush to replace the wages and benefits of public employees with lower-paying, private-sector jobs has taken its toll on America’s middle class.
“No whining, no griping, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” That’s how Susan Story describes the hard lessons she learned growing up in rural Alabama. Then why is the corporation she leads as chief executive officer, American Water, complaining about opposition to its plans in West Virginia?
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, has refused to release his tax returns since running and being elected in 2010. It wouldn’t matter so much if Haslam were your run-of-the-mill governor. But he’s the country’s richest politician, with a net worth of $2 billion.
Did you know that one speeding ticket in Kansas could land you in jail? That’s what happened to David Jackson in 2011 after he couldn’t afford a $100 fine for speeding. Collection had been outsourced to a private contractor, and his bill quickly ballooned to $2,200 with court costs, jail fines and the contractor’s extra fees.
Last Wednesday was a big day for In the Public Interest. We released one of our longest and most wide-ranging reports, How Privatization Is Increasing Inequality. The report describes how the privatization of public goods and services disproportionately impacts poor individuals and families, and people of color.
Transportation is the backbone of a thriving and sustainable economy. Therefore, a public transit system should be judged by how it treats those that need it most, especially people with disabilities and our most marginalized communities.
Eight years ago the world changed. The financial crisis kicked off a recession that left deep scars on the U.S. economy, including making it tougher for many cities and counties to pay for basic public goods like infrastructure and emergency services.
House Speaker Paul Ryan recently released a new “anti-poverty” plan that would only make it tougher for poor and working families to get by.
What do 82 public libraries, a Texas beef-processing company and a string of Pizza Huts across Tennessee and Florida have in common?
One thing I’ve learned from decades of fighting for the public good is that winning comes in different forms.
A recent audit found that First Transit, the contractor hired by the city to operate the D.C. bus system, is cutting corners on maintenance.
Today is Earth Day, and it’s sure to be historic. More than one hundred world leaders plan to sign the Paris Agreement, the first global pact that commits nearly every nation to take action on climate change.
Last Monday the U.S. Department of Justice announced a powerful new effort to stop local practices that unfairly target poor people by trapping them in “cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.” Courts across the country are requiring people arrested with minor misdemeanor charges—like driving with a suspended license—to pay fines before getting their day in court. If they can’t afford the fine, they are forced to wait behind bars until they can.
In a statement and letter, the DOJ shed light on what the agency calls a “bureaucratic cover charge for the right to seek justice,” but also on another alarming practice: the use of for-profit companies to collect fines and manage probation.
On top of fines collected on behalf of courts, many private probation companies charge their own fees for things like drug testing and supervision. If people can’t pay these fees—which can be as high as the fines themselves—they can be sent back to jail.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education are shining a light on troubling conditions they uncovered in the state’s property services industry. Their new report, Race to the Bottom: How Low‐Road Subcontracting Affects Working Conditions in California’s Property Services Industry, was released last week.
Women janitors and security guards in the industry— a rapidly growing sector of the state’s economy– are at increased risk of violence and sexual harassment, due to a combination of factors that allow the problems, as the study claims, “to occur and to remain unchecked.”
According to program coordinator for the Labor Occupational Health Program at U.C. Berkeley, Helen Chen, “Janitors and security officers at risk tend to work alone at night in empty buildings…isolated from almost everyone except their immediate supervisors.” Chen, who contributed to the report, announced the study’s findings at a press conference on March 8,
Last week, the country’s two largest private prison operators, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, released their annual financial reports. The numbers were what we’ve come to expect — staggering. Combined, the two publicly traded companies collected $361 million in profits last year. That’s profit — taxpayer money that could be going to fixing our criminal justice system, which is badly broken.
In the Public Interest ran the numbers and that means CCA made $3,356 in profit for every person it incarcerated, and GEO Group made $2,135. What if we spent that money on mental health care, drug treatment, education or job training for those prisoners? What if, instead of lining the pockets of private prison corporate executives and shareholders, that money was invested in cultivating safer conditions in our jails and prisons?
Most agree that our criminal justice system is in crisis.
In the Public Interest is happy to be kicking off 2016 with good news. Pushed by students and workers, the University of California has announced it will divest from private prison companies such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.
This is yet another win for criminal justice reform—Columbia University divested from CCA last summer. The private corrections industry, which makes more profit when more people are in the system, is an obstacle to the changes many of us want to see.
The industry doesn’t want change. An executive with GEO Group, the second largest private prison operator in the U.S., recently boasted that the country would continue to “attract” crime. He shared the “good news” to investors: “The reality is, we are a very affluent country, we have loose borders and we have a bad education system.”
Private prison companies claim to do a better job more cheaply,
It’s unusual for a private contractor to terminate its own contract, especially a contract for $1.2 billion. But that just happened in Florida.
After two years of controversy, Corizon, America’s largest for-profit prison health care provider, just decided to end its care of 74,000 prisoners in the state. The company—which is owned by a private equity firm—says it is leaving because the contract terms aren’t flexible enough. But Corizon’s time in Florida has a familiar ring to it: understaffing, poor service and hundreds of lawsuits by prisoners.
Last year, 346 prisoners died in Florida prisons—the highest number in the state on record, even though the total number of prisoners has declined. Of those prisoners, 176 were listed with no immediate cause of death.
A recent state audit found nursing and staffing shortages, “notable disorganization” among medical records, and “life threatening” conditions.
In the Public Interest has made exciting progress over the past few years. Our team has worked incredibly hard, so I’d like to take a step back and share what we’ve been up to.
Even I was surprised by how much we’ve accomplished. We get calls every week from organizations around the country asking for campaign help; from state and local policymakers looking for model bills or support on legislative proposals; and from journalists needing background or quotes. Just recently, a Barcelona TV station interviewed me about private prisons in the U.S. (There are zero in Spain!)
When we added it up, we found that we’ve directly helped state and local organizations in 32 states, and our research and commentary have been cited in over 150 publications, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and local papers across the country like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Bakersfield Californian.
Like many states in the “tough on crime” era, Minnesota is struggling to reduce overcrowding in its prisons and jails. For now, the state’s government is paying counties to house over 500 incarcerated people that its prisons can’t hold. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the notorious private prison operator, says they have a long-term solution for Minnesota.
But Minnesotans, backed by the criminal justice reform movement sweeping the country, are responding with “No thanks!”
CCA wants to reopen the shuttered Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, MN, and lease space to the state. They deny they’re lobbying in Minnesota, but a politically connected lobbying firm, Goff Public Affairs, is pushing state officials to reopen the prison. That would be a costly mistake for both moral and economic reasons.
The company has a long rap sheet of cutting corners for the sake of profit,