Remember when maggots were found in potatoes about to be served at a Michigan prison? That was just the tip of the iceberg.
A new report released this week details widespread cost-cutting by the food service company Aramark, whose contract was terminated by that state last year. Kitchens were not only unsanitary but dangerous. The company hired inexperienced staff, allowing prisoners to steal makeshift weapons and control the lunch line. Food shortages were especially common.
Michigan eventually replaced Aramark with a new contractor, but the report comes to an unambiguous conclusion: The underlying problems that ended the contract are “likely to resurface under any contract relationship.”
This is because, in a drive for profits, private corrections companies like Aramark routinely cut corners to lower costs. In private prisons, this drive often leads to more prison violence, lawsuits and staff turnover.
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.
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.
Yesterday, state leaders scrapped a bill that would have made it easier for private corporations to buy municipal water and sewer utilities across the state. The bill, introduced at the request of a for-profit water company based in Pennsylvania, would have made it more difficult for Wisconsin residents to vote on who controls their water.
The evidence against privatization is plain as day. Customers of Wisconsin’s only privately owned system—which services the city of Superior—pay the highest rates in the state. On top of the costs of water and infrastructure maintenance, Superior’s residents pay an additional nine percent to cover their private operator’s profit margin and higher private-sector debt costs.
And Superior isn’t an outlier. A new report released on Tuesday by Food and Water Watch shows that,
As many as five million undocumented immigrants are waiting in limbo as the Supreme Court reviews challenges to President Obama’s 2014 executive actions, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA). But there’s one group that’s more than happy with the status quo.
A new look under the hood of the nation’s immigration detention system reveals a staggering trend: Immigrant detention has become increasingly reliant on facilities and services provided by private companies, which are driven by profit to keep or even expand existing services.
Companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — the nation’s two largest private prison companies — are benefiting from our bloated immigration detention system, which has grown by 75 percent over the last decade. Together, CCA and GEO Group operate eight of the 10 largest detention centers.