Saturday, June 23, 2012

Private Prison Riots: Coming Soon To A Wisconsin Town Near You?

Scott Walker has a long standing love affair with privatization, which is to be expected given the fact that he is nothing more than a corporate stooge, a figurehead of a governor while his corporate masters pull his strings.

As a state legislator, Walker was a cheerleader for privatizing the state prison system.

As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker privatized many parts of the county.  He also developed a modus operandi to do so.  He would arbitrarily claim a fiscal emergency, which was usually contrived if not an outright falsehood.  Then to "balance the budget," he would lay off several workers, usually focusing on one department.  This would leave said department so understaffed that they were doomed to start failing.  He would then use their failing performance as a rationale to privatize said service, usually to a campaign donor.

He did this when he privatized the janitorial services at the courthouse, giving the contract to Edward Aprahamian, a campaign donor.  He laid off hundreds of parks workers and gave that work to KEI, another campaign donor (and one tied up in Walkergate).  He did the same thing with security guards, giving that contract to GS4, otherwise known as Wackenhut.

Now we are seeing the same thing in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

I have already written how he is shortchanging the state prisons, cutting the corrections officers pay, stripping them of their civil rights and making the prisons inherently more dangerous by taking away any chance for early release for good behavior.

Because of Walker's attack on the workers, many experienced corrections officers retired.  This left a staffing shortage which meant ramped up overtime costs.  The increasingly unsafe conditions caused there to be more injuries to officers, putting them on FMLA, leaving the prisons even further understaffed and running up costs ever higher, much more than Walker ever claimed to be saving.

This might shock the gentle reader, but when Walker made his pre-recall claim that he had actually knocked down the overtime costs, he was lying through his teeth.  The reality is that the prisons are still very much short-handed and are still racking up overtimes costs

Waupun Correctional Institution is down at least 40 officers.  At the Columbia Correctional Institution, they have 34 officers out on FMLA and have more than 30 vacancies on top of that.  Word is at CCI, you can count on automatically being forced to work a 16 hour day.  At the Jackson Correctional Institution, many of the younger people they had just hired are already leaving in droves, taking jobs at Ashley Furniture, Bush Beans or the brewery.  Stanley Correctional Institution also are losing lots of people for private sector work.

The state is unable to keep up with the vacancies.  They budgeted extra money to hold three separate jailers training courses, but couldn't get enough applicants to fill even one of them.  All three training sessions have been cancelled due to lack of interest.

And it's not just the corrections officers that are coming up short.  In Jackson, the state sent out 70 letters for three positions as Office Operations Assistant.  They got only three responses.  Likewise, at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution, they had three social worker positions open, but only got three responses.

With the high level of unemployment in the state and the way that the right wing has described public workers as having such high salaries and luxurious benefits, one might have thought people would have been pounding on the doors demanding a chance for these jobs.

But the fact is, people know the truth.  They know that the they would get treated like dirt and get paid less than dirt.  They also know that the few remaining benefits that might have made the job tolerable, if not appealing, will soon be under attack as soon as the legislature reconvenes in the new year.  And that's only if Walker doesn't call a special session to try to get it done before is arraignment and indictment.

So we have the recipe for disaster, a vast shortage of trained and experienced staff and an ever escalating overtime cost.  This fits right into Walker's formula for privatization.  Especially if a tragedy occurs, such as what happened in the Milwaukee County House of Corrections when Alexander Orlowski died due to staff being burnt out from too much overtime.

And we know that Walker has been thinking about this very thing.  Private prisons, even though they have a very poor track record regarding safety, abuse and neglect, are still very popular among Republicans.  Most likely this stems from the fact that private prisons is a goal of ALEC.

As a state legislator, Walker was key in getting inmates shipped out of state to private prisons owned by Corrections Corporation of America (how's that for an ominous name in Corporate Fitzwalkerstan), a company with a very bad track record in regards to safety and treating its workers fairly or even decently.  CCA still has a lobbyist in the state and is surely licking their chops at the thought of getting another helping of our tax dollars.

Earlier this year, CCA got a contract with the State of Ohio, and sent out a similar proposal to all of the other states.  The terms of their contract with Ohio is absolutely vulgar and appalling (emphasis mine):

In mid-January the corporation, which once handled some 5,000 overflow inmates that Wisconsin shipped out of state, sent out a letter to corrections officials in 48 states offering to buy and operate their prisons. The offer comes on the heels of a deal in Ohio where the state used $72.7 million in proceeds from the sale of one of its prisons to CCA to patch a budget hole.

To uphold its part of the deal, Ohio has promised to keep the prison at 90 percent capacity for the duration of the 20-year contract.

The CCA letter invites governments with "challenging corrections budgets" to consider the benefits, including the payment of property and sales taxes, potential for further job growth and vitality to the local economy. Ohio officials say they will save $3 million a year in prison operating costs.
Ohio just guaranteed to have a quota of people that will be arrested and jailed for 20 years?! How much do you want to bet that the targeted population to help them meet that quota will be the minorities and the poor, both of which are usually disproportionately incarcerated already? What if there is a drop in crime and they can't meet that quota? Will they have police start arresting people for jaywalking and slapping them in jail? Or will they just up the racial profiling and get more arrests for driving while black?  Maybe they'll outlaw public display of affections for homosexuals. It's utterly frightening when the government is guaranteeing a minimal amount of incarcerated persons.

We also know, via Cory Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin, that Walker's top aids have been meeting with officials from Wackenhut, another big name in the private corrections business and a favorite of Walker's for years.  They must be very generous with their campaign donations.

There are, sad to say, a lot of people out there that think privatization is a great thing and are under the false assumption that it actually saves taxpayers money without cutting services. This is, of course, utter hogwash and as far from reality as one can get.

The Corrections Project has done a study into the "benefits of private prisons. Needless to say, the come up pretty damn short:
Some claim that private prisons really don't save money, but like any for-profit business, attempt to maximize their own profit. This results in a reduction of essential services within the prison -- from medical care, food and clothing to staff costs and security -- at the endangerment of the public, the inmates and the staff.

Other critiques are concerned with the power and influence of for-profit prisons. At a time when much of public discourse is questioning the war-on-crime and the war-on-drugs being fought as wars, critics claim that the incentive of profit skews public discourse away from reasoned debate about viable solutions to social problems.

And finally, grasping the demographic make-up of today's prisons in the US and the history that's produced this make-up (roughly 50% African-American, 35% Latino and 15% White), the privatization of prisons threatens to re-institute a link between race and commerce that has not been seen since the 1800's.
And that is not all:
Although the predominant myths about PRIVATIZATION (whether of prisons or anything else) claim that privatization means tax savings for the public, it actually costs us more. Even though on paper a private agency or corporation may present a lower figure to do the same job, once that money has been taken out of the public's hands, it no longer remains ours.

In the public sector, tax money tends to make more of itself, meaning that each public dollar paid through one social service will spend itself four to eight times more elsewhere within the public sector. Once public money goes into private hands however, that money stays there and is gone for good. This is especially true if we consider that privatization corporations are usually given handsome tax breaks and "incentives," in the form of what some people call "corporate welfare," which means we are even less likely to see that money again.

And finally, if we remember that the people who privatize are generally wealthy, this reminds us of an old story where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer -- where the hard earned tax money from each of us is funneled into the hands of the wealthy few for their own personal gain. While we each like to think we don't live in a society like that, today this is justified to us through the myth that "free markets" are the same thing as democracy; that if everything is privatized and ruled by the law of the dollar then democracy will be ensured.

Add this to the fact that prisons do not make us safer and are by far the most expensive way of dealing with what we call "crime," we suffer other costs as well. Social costs of broken families and communities -- of both victims and perpetrators; hidden financial costs like paying for the foster care of prisoners' children; what we will only pay again when a prisoner re-emerges more desperate, addicted, uneducated and disenfranchised than they went in; the vengeance our society seeks through prisons and punishment will cost us twice the price of ensuring true equality, opportunity and social health at the roots of our society.

The PRIVATIZATION OF PRISONS is but one case in which a few people exploit our society's larger problems for their own gain, at a cost we all bear and get little in return.
Just last month, there was a prison riot in Mississippi. The prison was one owned by CCA.  One guard was murdered and a number of inmates were injured. If the gentle reader were to Google private prison riots, they would find scores of examples of this sort of thing happening.

And just to drive the point home, here is a video taken from another riot, this one in Eagle Mountain, a private prison in California.  During the riot, two people were beaten and stabbed to death:

Reports show that the riot was only quelled when state corrections officers came in to stabilize the facility.

The New York Times has been reporting about the problems that have been happening with privatized prisons in New Jersey.  Wouldn't you know that the private prison company as ties to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Paul Krugman lays out the reasons that private prisons are so popular, especially among Republicans, despite the obvious failures that they are:
So what’s really behind the drive to privatize prisons, and just about everything else?

One answer is that privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing, in which governments avoid recording upfront expenses (or even raise money by selling existing facilities) while raising their long-run costs in ways taxpayers can’t see. We hear a lot about the hidden debts that states have incurred in the form of pension liabilities; we don’t hear much about the hidden debts now being accumulated in the form of long-term contracts with private companies hired to operate prisons, schools and more.

Another answer is that privatization is a way of getting rid of public employees, who do have a habit of unionizing and tend to lean Democratic in any case.

But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?

Now, someone will surely point out that nonprivatized government has its own problems of undue influence, that prison guards and teachers’ unions also have political clout, and this clout sometimes distorts public policy. Fair enough. But such influence tends to be relatively transparent. Everyone knows about those arguably excessive public pensions; it took an investigation by The Times over several months to bring the account of New Jersey’s halfway-house-hell to light.

The point, then, is that you shouldn’t imagine that what The Times discovered about prison privatization in New Jersey is an isolated instance of bad behavior. It is, instead, almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.
In summary, even though the privatization of prisons is a bad idea and always has been, this is something that Walker and the Republicans are likely to try at the beginning of the next legislative period, presuming they don't try to call a special session.  They will do so because they were told this was a good idea from ALEC and even if they have qualms about it, there is a great likelihood that they are getting their palms greased enough that they can suppress their doubts.

We know what they are going to do. The question is how to stop it.  The best way is by not letting them get started on it, and that means we have to work are tails off to make sure we maintain a majority in the State Senate and work to get enough seats in the State Assembly.  Then we can work on getting rid of Walker.

That is if John Doe doesn't do it for us before 2014.


  1. Great content, and one of the most glossed over subjects lately.

    Perhaps prison riots are the next planned emergency which will require a special legislative session.

    A funny thing, in my own contacting of my state Senator, the reply letter makes sure to make note that they are done for this year.

    1. That is good that the yare done for the year, it gives them more time to complain about teachers "only working 9 months".

  2. Thanks so much for pointing this out. As a WI public school teachet, I see these same methods being used to lay off teachers and justify poor results in the classroom. Public schools are next and if anyone thinks that's crazy, they need to start investigating their own district's tactics toward their teachers.

  3. I watch W EYE when the officers at Waupon were giving testimony at a hearing in Madison. You are 100% correct. I was shocked to hear all that they were saying. A number of them told how the rules had changed at the prisons to the point of tying the guards hands in doing their jobs. And the overtime is one big old piss them off deal. Allowing some not others not going on a seniority list. The also said that with all that have left non of the posisions have been filled with new employees. Those expected to leave will leave more jobs unfilled. It was said that the employment standards has been dropped so much anyone that can breath qualifies. Yet no one wants those jobs. It was all stated that at Waupon thing have gotten so bad that one employee a day gets injured by a inmate. And they were warning of the situation was at the boiling over point and that a prison riot could be just around the corner.

    This is pretty much the same with all government departments from schools to parks to prisons and everything in between. Jobs are going vacant, all those empty posision are not being filled. In the schools maybe there were not that many that lost a job. But those that just gave up or retired early is huge and most all those jobs are not filled and will not be fill.

    I been saying this from the beginning. It had nothing at all to cutting taxes, as we still see no one got some noticeable cut. It was not to make state employees to pay a whole lot more for benefits. All these excuses were only cover to set all the departments to fail. And with this next cuts coming due very soon Walker's plan will be near completions. The schools will fail, teachers will just give up and leave early retirement will continue. Class sizes will increase and the quality of education will decrease each and every month. All Departments with state employees will begin to shrink and shrink state parks will into disaray, the badger, senior, family cares will be back logged. All this was walkers real plan and that was to make it all fail to justify selling them off to his corporate rich to swoop in and take it all over. Oh those unlike public that work with a budget are there only to make profit. The will cut our kids will not be educated. In anyone remembers walker does not want these private schools tested to see how they are doing. And in the name of profits they will have us by the short and curlies. They will up the charge and up it more and more and us tax payers will see taxes going up and up. It is after all for profit.

    It had nothing to do with unions it has everything to making huge fails to justify the sell off. Once the sale begins it will never be reversed we will never be able to start say a new school or prison system simply because we can not pay and pay taxes for private and be able to pay for a whole new system. If we do not get control of both houses we are screwed with out a kiss. Now is the time to fire up all the troops that worked the ground force to get out there and push for all dems going for election or reelection.

  4. This is a classic phrase:

    privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing

    - Suzymetta4

  5. only ones to blame for the poor working conditions, poorly staffed prisons, the overtime and the disgruntled employees are the employees themselves. the Ones who ran away from their jobs because they had to pay a little out of pocket for health care and retirement. They are the one who pout their fellow employees in danger, no one else. Take responsibility, be adults accept the facts and admit to the damage you have done.

    1. Please show where it was the corrections officers who enacted Act 38, cut their pay and benefits, set up to raid their own pension, took away their own rights.

      IF it's a little out of pocket money, I presume you won't mind giving up 20% of your income to support labor, right?

    2. Piss poor management combined with a lack of "owner" investment and constant updating, along with continuing cost cutting for years prior, all add up to a failing institution.

      The lack of consistent investment into any institution leads to decay. The DoC is an easy target, no one pays attention to it, and no one really wants to work there in the first place.

      I'd take a fast food job for half the pay over putting myself into the realm of caged animals.

      But, caged animals is how you treat them, they're going to react like animals.

      Wisconsin Against the Fist pays the workers personally, either way.
      So I suppose we should bow to this "job creator" for all he does for his fellow state neighbors.

  6. Wow, Against the Fist. Your logic is so poorly contrived it boggles the mind. If those jobs were cushy and overcompensated others would be lining up in droves to have them. For some reason they are not. Care to guess again?

  7. Good blog, really brings it all together. Prison privatization clearly is an example of how Walker Inc. is using the "shock doctrine" tactic of disaster capitalism to advance the agenda of his special interest pals. It's fascinating to watch Republican congressmen and Karl Rove pretending in DC that the flap over Operation Fast and Furious was an intentional design of the Obama administration to create a gun scare that would lead to more gun control. It's fair to say that if you want to know what Republicans are up to these days, keep an eye on their accusations against Democrats, a political jujitsu tactic favored by Rove.

  8. The same thing is being perpetrated on the WRS. Increase in contributions = decrease in take home pay. The new proposed employee contribution could be as high as 6.85%. At this rate, it won't be long before no one can afford to work as a public sector employee in Wisconsin. It will make a 401(k) look more appealing to those that can't afford to have nearly 7% deducted from their paychecks,as well, making the conversion from pension plan to 401(l) and easier sell. This is a blatant attempt to see the WRS fail. Here's hoping that enough WRS participants can see the traitorous moves that are taking place, and will continue to support and fight for the WRS system.

  9. 2014? I thought Walker was going to be indicted sometime this fall?

    1. Did you read the last line of the post?

      But even then, we would still have to contend with Gov. Kleefisch.

  10. So, how many prison uprisings have happened in public prisons/jails.
    Compare that to private companies. Not even close and most private prison don't have armed guards.
    In North Las Vegas, they had to shut down their jail and may off about 45 people because the city didn't have the money to pay the workers and the unions refused to budge on the contracts.
    The Fed's also took their prisoners out of the North Las Vegas jail and moved them to a private prison 60 miles out of Las Vegas. So, the Democrats are also playing this game.
    But nice try playing the class warfare game of private vs public. Too bad, you lose.

    1. Check it:

      "State law doesn't require the six private prisons that hold federal detainees and prisoners from other states to inform state or local authorities in the event of an escape, a riot or other disturbance, or a death in custody."

      Read more:

    2. Hey, Dan.

      Who are they paying to guard the prisoners, and where are they cutting costs?

      Do you feel good about letting a human, no matter what his crime, sit in extreme misery?

      Do you feel good about letting a human, in the United States, live on almost no food or water every day?

    3. Dan,

      It's against the law for the guards to have weapons in prison, at least in Wisconsin.

      And considering you don't offer any proof, mostly because you're lying through your teeth, I can't see how you can claim victory and be sane.

  11. Capper,As a 30+year veteran in Wisconsins maximum security,I can tell you there is no good in corrections right now.I survived the 83 riot at WCI and this is shaping up as worse.The public has no clue what we put up with every day.Society's dregs.We treat them like humans,but go home mentally exhausted.To Privatize is not the answer,It will cost tax payers more in the long run.We were hit hard with Walkers mandates and I saw all my friends walk.They deserve a good retirement and statistically probably won't live long to enjoy it.We have been to hell and back to serve the public and no thank you...I have seen so much more than the public could ever imagine,but I do it because it is my job.don't label me as some cry baby,I can scrap with anyone and I am 53,But time is not on my side,and I don't want to be fighting 20 something gang members anymore.Please respect us and we will do a great job of running your institutions. Peace!

    1. Thank you for your service. I'm sorry that you and all the other fine men and women have to experience this hatred and disregard.

  12. Remember when Tommy Thompson obtained the endorsement of the Wisconsin State Employees Union (AFSCME Council 24) by courting the prison guards? You can be sure that a lot of them voted for Walker thinking that he was a fellow socially conservative white guy. Now they see what the Republicans really think of them. Indeed, the open contempt of the Republicans has been a revelation for the WSEU leadership as a whole.

  13. Incarceration nation, baby!!!! WOOOOT!

    1. Remember that state senator who was pushing for prison labor in favor over the union county workers in the southeast corner?

      And what Presidential wannabe wants to get rid of the NLRB?

      Mr. IMBR and Mr. WAtF: The jobs are a-comin', the jobs are a-comin', hoooooo, boyS! Woot!

  14. Perhaps the delegation of visiting Chinese Communist investors, who share values such as flagrant corruption and totalitarianism with Wisconsin Republicans like Walker, will be interested in buying some prisons. With the rule of law destroyed, unionism repressed, a single party state media, potential slave labor, what's not to like from their perspective? They'll feel right at home.

    The Chinese have a reputation for being generous with bribes in their business transactions and now that Citizens United permits foreign governments to "fund" politicians anonymously, I expect Governor Sociopath and the Wingnut Rat Pack to do quite well financially on any deals.

    Chinese Communism, the future of Wisconsin! Brought to you by the party of Joe McCarthy and the guy who speaks to God.

    I can't wait to meet these fine human beings face to face. I've never been much good at foreign language but I'm willing to give it a try. What's Chinese for "Go to hell, murdering, bloodsucking A-holes"?

    1. Good point on the foreign funding courtesy, "Citizens united."

      It compares with Koch industries and their companies that overseas deal with Iran.

      The money could move from one group over there, to some tea party group over here, and then to some new public policy studying group or news agency.

      It must all be for Walker's Christian values, though.

  15. If privatizing can be done cheaper then having union guards then lets do it. Don't really care what the conditions are for prisoners they are in prions they already get catered to way too much and we waste too many resources on them. if they riot and cause harm to themselves, oh well just a nice way to trim the prison population.

    1. I hope these prisoners do their time, and move into your neighborhood after they are released.

      I hope you apply your same cost cutting logic to every roadway in Wisconsin, too.

      Roads don't make money, cowboy, maybe it is time for those toll roads?
      Keep the ni8888s off your street, wouldn't it?

    2. Y'know, WATF, it might help if you actually read the posts before you comment. Then you won't look so damn ignorant all the time.

  16. Signs you may be a sociopath:

    Disdane for the rights of others- *
    Sadistic pleasure in the pain of others- *
    Desire to exploit others- *
    Eliminationist rhetoric- *

    I think we have a winner.

  17. Another liberal cry out of things we need to look for. eliminate the union in our great state and get rid of the real crooks that should be behind bars. Too long you have screwed us over now listen to you cry!

    1. We'll see how hard you cry when Walker is arraigned and indicted.

  18. What you said can be applied to the Walker's voucher system baby right now. Good call! I am just starting a blog and included a link to your blog.