Articles Posted in Business of Prisons

So titled is an article in yesterday’s News Progressconcerning potential federal interest in a Virginia state prison that closed earlier this year due to economic pressures:

Representatives of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) paid a visit recently to the site of the former Mecklenburg Correctional Center (MCC) as part of a nationwide effort to reduce crowding at federal prisons.
A nod to the former MCC as a future site for a federal prison would result in a reversal of the hard hit sustained by the Town of Boydton, which suffered a swift and seemingly permanent one-two punch just weeks before Christmas of 2011 when Governor Bob McDonnell announced the prison would close in May of this year.
According to a February story in the South Hill Enterprise, local interest in having the federal government purchase the facility started soon after the governor’s announcement:

As discussed hereand here, competing Congressional delegations, along with the House Appropriations Committee, have been engaged in a longstanding struggle over the use of prison-related funds. At the heart of the debate was the purchase of an Illinois state maximum-security prison, the Thomson Correctional Center, that was built in 2001 but never opened (i.e., was never activated or went online). As reported in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere (see hereand here), the Justice Department, at the White House’s direction, has bypassed Capitol Hill and purchased the Thomson facility, a move that has election undertones:

At President Obama’s direction, the Justice Department purchased a never-opened state prison on Tuesday, cutting a $165-million check to cash-strapped Illinois and bypassing the objections of a powerful Republican congressman who had blocked the sale.
“At this point, the president had to intervene and do this directly. I hope people understand he’s doing it for his state,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator and the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. Durbin acknowledged that it was “rare” to bypass a high-ranking House Appropriations Committee member to proceed with the purchase of Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.[…]

As reported by CorrectionalNews, a former Bureau of Prisons’ HR official has joined the private prison industry ranks:

Kim White is the new managing director of inmate programs at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). With more than 30 years of industry experience, she will bring fresh ideas to both the company and the field of inmate rehabilitation and reentry programming. White will work to oversee CCA’s inmate programming department, which offers recidivism-reducing programs and is designed to prepare inmates for a successful life upon release. White most recently served as assistant director of the human resources management division for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Over the weekend, the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel (Scottsboro, AL) published an op-ed concerning UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries, FPI) being awarded a contract to produce clothing for the military, highlighting the oft-debated use of prison labor at the cost of private sector jobs:

Government never ceases to amaze.
An Associated Press story earlier this week that likely drew little notice from the average citizen points out again the absurdity of some government programs.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has secured a contract to make military clothing through the Federal Prison Industries system. The move effectively cost 260 people their jobs in Alabama and Mississippi and thus the ability to provide for their families.

A previous post touched on the dispute between the Illinois congressional delegation and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, over the BOP’s proposed purchase of a shuttered Illinois state prison, as well as controversy surrounding a new federal prison for female offenders slated to open in rural Alabama. Recent media accounts reveal an intersection of the issues centered on money.

On July 27, “Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn sent letters () urging a veteran Republican congressman from Virginia to lift his opposition to the federal purchase of the unused Thomson prison in western Illinois,” a request that came on the heels of a Justice Department request to appropriate funds:
Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement that Wolf was allowing “tortured logic and his personal feelings” to get in the way.

This excellent AP article details how private prison companies have grown revenues from contracting to incarcerate immigrants concurrent with investing millions in lobbying lawmakers:

The cost to American taxpayers is on track to top $2 billion for this year, and the companies are expecting their biggest cut of that yet in the next few years thanks to government plans for new facilities to house the 400,000 immigrants detained annually.[…]
The growth is far from over, despite the sheer drop in illegal immigration in recent years.

In February, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report, Bureau of Prisons: Eligibility and Capacity Impact Use of Flexibilities to Reduce Inmates’ Time in Prison, in response to a request that it address “(1) the extent to which BOP utilizes its authorities to reduce a federal prisoner’s period of incarceration; and (2) what factors, if any, impact BOP’s use of these authorities.” In April, the Federal Public and Community Defenders issued a reportanalyzing the GAO’s findings.

Last Friday, the GAO posted a letter and accompanying briefing prepared in response to further Congressional inquiry concerning “methods for estimating costs of housing inmates in BOP facilities, Residential Re-entry Centers (RRC), and home detention, as well as the evaluation of and results of the Elderly Offender Pilot Program (the Pilot) and any cost savings to the federal government.” Among other things, the GAO offers:

   The Bureau of Prisons underreports the cost of incarcerating prisoners at standard prison facilities (i.e., FPCs, FCIs, USPs) by not factoring in “construction of new prisons, modernization and repair (M&R) projects costing over $10,000, or depreciation of its existing facilities.”

is the name of a new report from Cody Mason of The Sentencing Project:

In 2010, one in every 13 prisoners in the U.S. was held by for-profit companies, despite evidence that private prisons often provide inadequate levels of service and are no more cost-effective than publicly-run facilities. In addition, private prisons operate on a business model that emphasizes profits over the public good, and benefit from policies that maintain America’s high incarceration rate.
Nonetheless, these companies could count on predictable growth in the number of state and federal prisoners until 2008, when budget crises and policy changes led some states to reduce their prison populations and private prison contracts. The resulting losses for private prison companies were more than offset by expansion of their management of federal detainees under the jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service.[…]

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) has announced a contract, valued at $24.7 million for the first year and possibly $136 million through 2016, “to manage comprehensive medical services to approximately 4,900 inmates at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) located in Butner, North Carolina.”

UMMS’s Health and Criminal Justice Program, part of its Commonwealth Medicine division, will manage the contract. The Medical School’s work at FMC Butner will begin later this month.[…]
The contract calls for UMMS to coordinate both inpatient and outpatient physician and hospital services. The Medical School will manage care at the correctional facility and in community settings, through a partnership with Duke University Health System, which will provide most of the direct care services.
UMMS […] has also provided comprehensive health services for the past 12 years at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ medical facility located in Devens, Mass. In addition, the Medical School has a long track record of providing care at 17 state-run prisons in Massachusetts, serving the health needs of approximately 11,500 inmates.

The federal prison population has increased “from 24,252 in 1980” to more than 217,000 today, making the Bureau of Prisons the nation’s largest correctional system. Of course, more prisoners means more prisons. The BOP operates 117 institutions and anticipates activating two more in the next year: the secure female facility in Aliceville, AL and FCI Berlin, NH. As highlighted by a New Hampshire Union Leader articleconcerning a job fair held yesterday for the Berlin facility, prisons have sadly become economic engines for some local economies:

The Federal Bureau of Prisons job fair at New Hampshire Employment Security in Berlin drew more than 50 interested job seekers from all over New Hampshire.
‘This crowd made us happy,’ said Diana Nelson, employer services representative for New Hampshire Employment Security. ‘I don’t think any of us expected this. I think people want to talk to real, live people from the talent team and the Bureau of Prisons.’[…]
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