Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Arizona May Put State Prisons in Private Hands

Published: October 23, 2009
New York Times

FLORENCE, Ariz. — One of the newest residents on Arizona’s death row, a convicted serial killer named Dale Hausner, poked his head up from his television to look at several visitors strolling by, each of whom wore face masks and vests to protect against the sharp homemade objects that often are propelled from the cells of the condemned.
It is a dangerous place to patrol, and Arizona spends $4.7 million each year to house inmates like Mr. Hausner in a super-maximum-security prison. But in a first in the criminal justice world, the state’s death row inmates could become the responsibility of a private company.
State officials will soon seek bids from private companies for 9 of the state’s 10 prison complexes that house roughly 40,000 inmates, including the 127 here on death row. It is the first effort by a state to put its entire prison system under private control.
The privatization effort, both in its breadth and its financial goals, demonstrates what states around the country — broke, desperate and often overburdened with prisoners and their associated costs — are willing to do to balance the books. Arizona officials hope the effort will put a $100 million dent in the state’s roughly $2 billion budget shortfall.
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” said State Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican who supports private prisons. “If we were not in this economic environment, I don’t think we’d be talking about this with the same sense of urgency.”
Private prison companies generally build facilities for a state, then charge them per prisoner to run them. But under the Arizona legislation, a vendor would pay $100 million up front to operate one or more prison complexes. Assuming the company could operate the prisons more cheaply or efficiently than the state, any savings would be equally divided between the state and the private firm.
The privatization move has raised questions — including among some people who work for private prison companies — about the private sector’s ability to handle the state’s most hardened criminals. While executions would still be performed by the state, officials said, the Department of Corrections would relinquish all other day-to-day operations to the private operator and pay a per-diem fee for each prisoner.
“I would not want to be the warden of death row,” said Todd Thomas, the warden of a prison in Eloy, Ariz., run by the Corrections Corporation of America. The company, the country’s largest private prison operator, has six prisons in Arizona with inmates from other states.
“That’s not to say we couldn’t,” Mr. Thomas said. “But the liability is too great. I don’t think any private entity would ever want to do that.”
James Austin, a co-author of a Department of Justice study in 2001 on prison privatization and president of the JFA Institute, a corrections consulting firm, said private companies tended to oversee minimum- and medium-security inmates and had little experience with the most dangerous prisoners.
“As for death row,” Mr. Austin said, “it is a very visible entity, and if something bad happens there, you will have a pretty big news story for the Legislature and governor to explain.”
Arizona is no stranger to private prisons or, for that matter, aggressive privatization efforts (recently, the state put up for sale several government buildings housing executive branch offices in Phoenix). Nearly 30 percent of the state’s prisoners are being held in prisons operated by private companies outside the state’s 10 complexes.
In addition, other states, including Alaska and Hawaii, have contracts with private companies like Corrections Corporation of America to house their prisoners in Arizona.
For advocates of prison privatization, the push here breathes a bit of life into a movement that has been on the decline across the country as cost savings from prison privatizations have often failed to materialize, corrections officers unions have resisted the efforts and high-profile problems in privately run facilities have drawn unwanted publicity
“We have private prisons in Arizona already, and we are very happy with the performance and the savings we get from them,” said Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and an architect of the new legislation authorizing the privatization. “I think that they are the future of corrections in Arizona.”
Under the legislation, any bidder would have to take an entire complex — many of them mazes of multiple levels of security risks and complexity — and would not be permitted to pick off the cheapest or easiest buildings and inmates. The state also wants to privatize prisoners’ medical care.
Louise Grant, a spokeswoman for Corrections Corporation of America, said the high-security prisoners would be well within the company’s management capabilities. “We expect we will be there to make a proposal to the state” for at least some of its complexes up for bid, Ms. Grant said.
In pure financial terms, it is not clear how well the state would make out with the privatization. The 2001 study for the Department of Justice found that private prisons saved most states little money (there has been no equivalent study since). Indeed, many states, struggling to keep up with the cost of corrections, have closed prisons when possible, and sought changes in sentencing to reduce crowding in the last two years.
As tough sentencing laws and the ensuing increase in prisoners began to press on state resources in the 1980s, private prison companies attracted some states with promises of lower costs. The private prison boom lasted into the 1990s. Throughout the years, there have been high-profile riots, escapes and other violent incidents. The companies also do not generally provide the same wages and benefits as states, which has resulted in resistance from unions and concerns that the private prisons attract less-qualified workers.
Then the federal government stepped in, with a surge of new immigrant prisoners, and began to contract with the private companies. The number of federal prisoners in private prisons in the United States has more than doubled, to 32,712 in 2008 from 15,524 in 2000. The number of state prisoners in privately run prisons has increased to 93,500 from 75,000 in that time.
With bad economic times again driving many decisions about state resources, other states are sure to watch Arizona’s experiment closely.
“There simply isn’t the money to keep these people incarcerated, and the alternative is to free many of them or lower cost,” said Ron Utt, a senior research fellow for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group whose work for privatization was cited by one Arizona lawmaker.

Read @ New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/24/us/24prison.html

A Death in Texas: Profits, poverty, and immigration converge

Tom Barry
Boston Review Nov/Dec 2009

County Clerk Dianne Florez noticed it first. Plumes of smoke were rising outside
the small West Texas town of Pecos. “The prison is burning again,” she
About a month and a half before, on December 12, 2008, inmates had
rioted to protest the death of one of their own, Jesus Manuel Galindo, 32. When
Galindo’s body was removed from the prison in what looked to them like a large
black trash bag, they set fire to the recreational center and occupied the
exercise yard overnight. Using smuggled cell phones, they told worried family
members and the media about poor medical care in the prison and described the
treatment of Galindo, who had been in solitary confinement since mid-November.
During that time, fellow inmates and his mother, who called the prison nearly
every day, had warned authorities that Galindo needed daily medication for
epilepsy and was suffering from severe seizures in the “security housing unit,”
which the inmates call the “hole.”
I arrived in Pecos on February 2, shortly
after the second riot broke out. I had driven 200 miles east from El Paso
through the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan desert.
Pecos is the seat of
Reeves County in “far west” Texas and home to what the prison giant GEO Group
calls “the largest detention/correctional facility under private management in
the world.” The prison, a sprawling complex surrounded by forbidding perimeter
fences on the town’s deserted southwest edge, holds up to 3,700 prisoners.
Almost all are serving time in federal lockup before being deported and are what
the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security (DHS) call “criminal
Although the term “criminal aliens” has no precise definition, its
broadening use reflects a trend in dealing with immigrants. With the post-9/11
creation of DHS and its two agencies—Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a wide sector of aliens increasingly
became the focus of joint efforts by immigration and law enforcement officers.
ICE’s Criminal Alien Program, working with local police, began targeting for
deportation both legal and illegal immigrants with criminal records. And CBP’s
Border Patrol began to turn over illegal border crossers to the justice system
for criminal prosecution, instead of, as in the past, simply deporting them.
Many criminal aliens are long-term legal residents of the United States and are
also the parents, children, or siblings of U.S. citizens and lawful residents.

Read more: http://bostonreview.net/BR34.6/barry.php

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Texas: Mexican Human Rights Official Held

Published: October 19, 2009
New York Times

A Mexican human rights official who has accused the Mexican Army of abuses has been detained by United States customs officials and is being held against his will in El Paso, said his lawyer, Carlos Spector. The official, Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, who works in Juarez for the Chihuahua State Commission for Human Rights, was taken into custody by customs agents Thursday night as he tried to cross into El Paso with his border-crossing card to visit friends. Though Mr. de la Rosa told customs officers he was not seeking asylum, agents took him into custody anyway after he acknowledged that he had received threats because of his work. In a statement, Mr. de la Rosa said the officers had told him he was being detained for his own safety. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said he was being held “due to mandatory detention provisions” but declined to explain why.

Read @ NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/us/20brfs-HUMANRIGHTSO_BRF.html

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Months to Live: Fellow Inmates Ease Pain of Dying in Jail

Published: October 17, 2009
COXSACKIE, N.Y. — Allen Jacobs lived hard for his 50 years, and when his liver finally shut down he faced the kind of death he did not want. On a recent afternoon Mr. Jacobs lay in a hospital bed staring blankly at the ceiling, his eyes sunk in his skull, his skin lusterless. A volunteer hospice worker, Wensley Roberts, ran a wet sponge over Mr. Jacobs’s dry lips, encouraging him to drink.
“Come on, Mr. Jacobs,” he said.
Mr. Roberts is one of a dozen inmates at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility who volunteer to sit with fellow prisoners in the last six months of their lives. More than 3,000 prisoners a year die of natural causes in correctional facilities.
Mr. Roberts recalled a day when Mr. Jacobs, then more coherent, had started crying. Mr. Roberts held his patient and tried to console him. Then their experience took a turn unique to their setting, the medical ward of a maximum security prison. Mr. Roberts said he told Mr. Jacobs to “man up.”
Mr. Jacobs, serving two to four years for passing forged checks, cursed at him, telling him, “‘I don’t want to die in jail. Do you want to die in jail?’ ”
“I said no,” said Mr. Roberts, who is serving eight years for robbery. “He said, ‘Then stop telling me to man up,’ and he started crying. And then he said that I’m his family.”
American prisons are home to a growing geriatric population, with one-third of all inmates expected to be over 50 by next year. As courts have handed down longer sentences and tightened parole, about 75 prisons have started hospice programs, half of them using inmate volunteers, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Susan Atkins, a follower of Charles Manson, died last month in hospice at the Central California Women’s Facility at Chowchilla after being denied compassionate release.
Joan Smith, deputy superintendent of health services at the Coxsackie prison, said the hospice program here initially met with resistance from prison guards. “They were very resentful about people in prison for horrendous crimes getting better medical care than their families,” including round-the-clock companionship in their final days, Ms. Smith said.
The guards have come to accept the program, she said. But still there are challenges unique to the prison setting. Some dying patients, for example, divert their pain medication to their volunteer aides or other patients, who use it or sell it, said Kathleen Allan, the director of nursing. She added that patients can be made victims easily, “and this is a predatory system.”
But she said the inmate volunteers bond with the patients in a way that staff members cannot, taking on “the touchy-feely thing” that may be inappropriate between inmates and prison workers.
At Coxsackie, 130 miles north of New York City, administrators started the hospice program in 1996 in response to the AIDS epidemic using an outside hospice agency, then changed to inmate volunteers in 2001. The change saved money and was well-received by the patients.
Perhaps more significant, said William Lape, the superintendent, was the effect the program had on the volunteers. “I think it’s turned their life around,” Mr. Lape said.
John Henson, 30, was one of the first volunteers. When he was 18, Mr. Henson broke into the home of a former employer and, in the course of a robbery, beat the man to death with a baseball bat. When he entered prison, with a sentence of 25 years to life, he said, “I thought my life was over.”
At Coxsackie he met the Rev. J. Edward Lewis, who persuaded him to volunteer in 2001. “You go in thinking that you’re going to help somebody,” Mr. Lewis said, “and every time they end up helping you.”
Before hospice, Mr. Henson said he had given little thought to the consequences of his crime. Then he found himself locked in a hospital room with another inmate, holding the man’s hand as his breathing slowed toward a stop.
Like many men in prison, the dying man had alienated his family members, who rejected his efforts to renew contact. In the end, he had only Mr. Henson for companionship. When the prison nurse declared the man dead, Mr. Henson broke down in tears.
“They just came out,” he said. “I don’t even know why I was crying. Partly because of him, partly because of things that died within me at the same time.”
Mr. Henson, dressed in prison greens and with his blond hair buzzed short, spoke directly and without hesitation.
“I was just thinking about why I’m in here and the person’s life that I took,” he said. “And sitting with this person for the first time and actually seeing death firsthand, being right there, my hand in his hand, watching him take his last breath, just caused me to say, ‘Wow, who the hell are you? Who were you to do this to somebody else?’ ”
Ms. Allan, the nursing director at Coxsackie, said that with a number of inmate volunteers, “You can identify in each of these guys something inside them driving them to do this. It’s a desire to redeem themselves, so even when it gets hard they’re able to plow through it. “
She added, “I think Mr. Henson made me a better mother.”
Benny Lee, 38, has spent half his life in prison for manslaughter, and for most of that time, he said, “the only thing I regretted was getting caught.” Four months ago he began as a hospice volunteer, feeling he needed a change. “I’m trying to offer some payback,” he said.
On a recent afternoon, Mr. Lee was scheduled to sit with Eddie Jones, 89, who was dying from multiple causes. Mr. Jones, who was convicted of murder at age 70, said, “I can talk with them better than staff members, because staff members have their minds made up about how things should be.”
Mr. Lee said he does not know how Mr. Jones’s death will affect him. “I’m hoping it will have an effect, period,” he said. “Growing up and in prison, I put up walls. But I have to be more emotionally receptive to these guys. This is going against everything I’ve tried to do. But I realize it’s a change I have to make.”
Mr. Lee said hospice was forcing him to learn to trust people.
“It’s helping me mature,” he said. “My views of life and death are changing. I was unsympathetic when it comes to death. I’ve had friends die, and I was callous about it. Now I can’t do that. I’ve come to identify with these guys, not because we’re inmates, but because we’re human beings. What they’re going through, I’ll go through.”

Read @ the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/health/18hospice.html

Wrong Paths to Immigration Reform

New York Times Editorial
Oct 11, 2009

All last week the people of Phoenix witnessed public outbursts by their sheriff, Joe Arpaio, as he railed against the Department of Homeland Security for supposedly trying to limit his ability to enforce federal immigration laws. He vowed to keep scouring Maricopa County for people whose clothing, accents and behavior betrayed them as likely illegal immigrants. He said he had already nabbed more than 32,000 people that way, and announced his next immigrant sweep for Oct. 16.

The spectacle raises two critical questions that the Obama administration is in danger of getting wrong.
One is the specific question of whether the federal government should keep Sheriff Arpaio in its 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement to act as immigration agents in street patrols and in jails. The answer is absolutely not. Sheriff Arpaio has a long, ugly record of abusing and humiliating inmates. His scandal-ridden desert jails have lost accreditation and are notorious places of cruelty and injury. His indiscriminate neighborhood raids use minor infractions like broken taillights as pretexts for mass immigration arrests.
To the broader question of whether federal immigration enforcement should be outsourced en masse in the first place, the answer again is no.
It was only days ago that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unveiled a plan to repair the rotting immigration detention system. The Bush administration had outsourced the job to state, local and private jailers, with terrible results: inadequate supervision, appalling conditions, injuries and deaths.
Ms. Napolitano wants to centralize federal control over the system that handles detainees. But she insists on continuing to outsource and expand the flawed machinery that catches them, including 287(g) and a system of jailhouse fingerprint checks called Secure Communities, which increase the likelihood that local enforcers will abuse their authority and undermine the law.
Rather than broadening the reach of law enforcement, using local police can cause immigrant crime victims to fear the police and divert the police from fighting crime. It leads to racial profiling, to Latino citizens and legal residents being asked for their papers. Responsible sheriffs and police chiefs across the country have looked at 287(g) and said no thanks.
Programs like 287(g) rest on the dishonest premise that illegal immigrants are a vast criminal threat. But only a small percentage are dangerous felons. The vast majority are those whom President Obama has vowed to help get right with the law, by paying fines and earning citizenship. Treating the majority of illegal immigrants as potential Americans, not a criminal horde, is the right response to the problem.

Read @ New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/opinion/12mon2.html

Monday, October 12, 2009

Talking About Insurrection

Tom Barry

Friday, October 9, 2009

Getting into the federal building in Pecos, Texas takes political sophistication – something I was apparently lacking when attempting to enter the building for the trial of a couple of immigrant inmates indicted for their role in the Dec. 12-13 incident, let’s call it, at the immigrant prison in this far West Texas town.It’s the same all over the country. After Sept. 11 the federal halls of justice have been on virtual lockdown status. To get into these buildings – which typically house the district courts and U.S. Marshals Service offices, you need to pass through metal detectors, present identification, and rid yourself of all electronic devices. As many as half dozen or more federal security guards – usually retired police officers and sheriff deputies – are usually in the courthouse foyer to block entry to criminals and terrorists.In Pecos, which has a privately run, federally supplied, and locally owned immigrant prison on the outskirts of town, people are feeling jittery about the criminal alien business. It’s a business that has for the past two decades been a source of a steadily expanding number of local jobs and increasing county revenues, as the prison has gone through three expansions to accommodate the ever larger number of immigrant inmates under Bureau of Prisons custody.I felt it as soon as I stepped pass the doorway: suspicion and outsider disdain. “What are you here for? Who are you,” one of the guards demanded.“Well, I am here for the trial of the immigrant prisoners indicted for the disturbance at the prison last December,” I said, handing the questioning guard my business card (from Center for International Policy).“Disturbance, there was no disturbance,” says he. (It wasn’t until later that I asked how HE was.) “There was a riot, and it’s costing us tens of millions of dollars.”During several trips to Pecos since the second inmate news event of Jan. 31 –Feb. 5, I had been alternating between “riot,” “protest,” “mutiny,” and “disturbance.”What happened at the Reeves County Detention Center in two separate occasions was that immigrant inmates – officially classified “criminal aliens” who will be processed for deportation upon completing their 1-5 year sentences – set fire to prison buildings to protest the deaths and untreated illnesses of fellow prisoners. In both cases, the main prisoner concern was that sick inmates were being placed in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) assigned for “medical observation.”The SHUs in modern prisons and detention centers are the modern equivalent of the old “solitary confinement” – intended as both punishment for disciplinary infraction and as deterrence to prevent unruly behavior. But, as the practice at the Reeves County Detention Center, SHUs are often used simply to better manage prison populations – to isolate and punish problem inmates whether they break the rules or not.At the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) – which since 1985 has expanded from 300-bed prison to one that holds up to 3700 inmates – the SHU is systemically and routinely used to house severely ill inmates. That’s because there is no infirmary at what the prison giant GEO Group (which the county contracts to run the BOP prison) calls RCDC “the largest detention/correctional facility under private management in the world.”The first incident was precipitated by the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, 32, who was serving a 30-month sentence for illegal reentry from Mexico. Galindo was picked up by the Border Patrol after an epileptic seizure at a convenience store near the borderland town of Anthony, NM, where he had lived with his family since he was in his mid-teens. The local police, who responded to the call for assistance from the clerk at the local 7-11, turned Galindo over to the Border Patrol after it was determined he was an “illegal alien.” Galindo, after being deported to Ciudad Juárez (about 20 miles from his home in the United States), attempted to return home to his extended and nuclear family (three children and second wife) – all of whom were legal residents or citizens -- two years ago after spending a month in the Mexican border town across from El Paso.But increased border security and a new “criminal alien” policy that criminalizes and penalizes illegal border crossing combined to put Galindo into the federal slammer in Pecos, where an estimated 75% of his fellow inmates were also serving time for illegal border crossings and the balance for nonviolent crimes, mostly drug violations.Another severe epileptic seizure in mid-November 2008 sent Galindo to an area hospital – and in the SHU. The greatest fear of inmates at the Reeves County Detention Center is getting sick and being consigned to the SHU – what they call “el hoyo” (the hole). It’s the hole not because it’s so dark or dirty, but rather because it’s where there is no relief from the walls, the loneliness, the emptiness.Galindo corresponded frequently with his mother, Graciela Galindo. His letters from mid-November until the day before he died tell of his fear and despair at being kept in the hole without any company, without the friends he made in prison. He tells his mother of the inhumanity of most of the guards who didn’t seem to recognize the humanity of the immigrant inmates. He writes of the urgency to get the right medicine to prevent his seizures – medicine, his mother told me, for which he had a prescription before he was imprisoned but was replaced by the nurses at Reeves with sedatives that kept him sleepy and unable to stand up. On Dec. 5 he wrote of being “afraid” of what would happen to him if he stayed in the hold any longer, of how his was being ignored by the guards and nurses, of his bruises from thrashing around during unattended seizures.The day before he died he wrote a letter to his mother that the family didn’t read until much later when they received his few personal belongings along with his body.In his Dec. 11 letter he wrote: “I told them that I have been here (in SHU) for a month, and I’ve gotten sick twice, and let’s see if they move me or do something quickly. All they say is 'yes, yes.' and they don't do anything.”What happened after two of his fellow inmates in the SHU saw his body being removed in a black body bag on the morning of Dec. 12 is a matter of interpretation and interests.The Dec. 12-13 incident resulted in some damage – several hundred thousands of dollars -- to the SHU and in a badly burnt recreation building. Reeves County attributed the property loss at the RCDC III prison (the most 2005 expansion of the immigrant prison) to a “disturbance.” Calling it a “riot” would have precluded the insurance company from covering the losses, said County Judge Sam Contreras.The inmates themselves referred to it as a “motín” or mutiny – a term that conveys the sense of an uprising against authority.After the Dec. 12-13 incident in Pecos and after the second closely related incident of Jan. 31-Feb 5 (when inmates also rebelled and set fire to prison buildings in an incident also sparked by medical malpractice and mistreatment concerns involving the use of the SHU for “medical observation”), the criminal justice system, the insurance system, and the financial system are providing most of the follow-up.Despite demands by the Texas ACLU and immigrant advocacy groups, the Office of Inspector General of the Justice Department has not initiated an investigation. But the criminal justice system did immediately kick in other respects. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Midland, Texas immediately began investigating the new crimes of the immigrant inmates who, in part out of solidarity with those sick fellow prisoners shut in the hole and in part out of fear that too would be released from prison in a body bag, took control of the two different sections of the prison to highlight their concerns.Like the inmates, the U.S. attorney called the incidents “mutinies” and like the media and the security guards in the federal building lobby is also referring to the incidents as riots. Twenty six inmates from the first incident have been indicted. At first, they faced two counts – causing a riot or mutiny, or aiding and abetting in a mutiny or riot. The first count declared that the defendants “and other persons known or unknown to the grand jury, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, did combine, conspire, confederate and agree together and with each other and others to instigate, connive, attempt to cause, assist, and conspire to cause a riot at the Reeves County Detention Center, a federal penal, detention, or correctional facility.”(Apparently, the U.S. attorneys are as confused as everyone else about what the Reeves County Detention Center really is, a prison or detention center. And while it does hold federal prisoners – all immigrants with orders for deportation – there is much confusion about whose prison is it. It is county owned – hence the Reeves County – but it is operated by GEO Group while the BOP contracts with the county to run it and the county subcontracts with GEO.)The second count was the essentially the same but in this count the defendants purportedly “aided and abetted by each other and others did instigate, connive, attempt to cause, assist, or conspire to cause a riot.” In brief, the criminal indictment described the incident as a “mutiny or riot.” Those two counts were filed April 9 and May 12.But they didn’t have the desired result. Not all the defendants were entering guilty pleas, thereby saving the U.S. attorney the trouble of presenting evidence and actually trying the case. Then, on July 14, the U.S. John Murphy came to the grand jury with a superceding indictment that includes a new charge: “the use of fire to commit a federal felony offense.”Mary Stillinger, one of the court-appointed attorneys appointed to represent the immigrants, said the new indictment “really hammered” the immigrants, since it came with a mandatory ten-year sentence.There was little hard evidence against the men, and even with the court-appointed defense attorneys, most of whom simply go through the motions of defending immigrants in the flood of criminal charges resulting from immigration violations that is overwhelming the judicial system along the border. As part of the prison reconstruction, GEO has insisted that the county install a comprehensive system of security cameras and video recording units so as to insure that the next time around, as was explained in a county commissioners meeting in Pecos by the architect directing the reconstruction: “Cameras and recording equipment are among the highest things on their list, because if say that if they had more security cameras, better recording equipment, when they had this disturbance, they would have been able to prosecute more, indict more people, if they had more proof of what everybody did.”No one in a position of responsibility– not in county government, not in GEO, not in the correctional healthcare subcontractor Physicians Network Association (of Lubbock, Texas), not in the BOP , not in the U.S. Attorney’s Office – is apparently concerned of prosecuting, indicting, gathering evidence, or even investigating the conditions at RCDC that sparked the riots and the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo.But the county has other concerns that involve high finance and keeping prison jobs in Reeves County.Since 1985 the county has issued approximately $115 million in revenue bonds to finance the construction and maintenance of the RCDC immigrant prison complex. Going into the riots/mutinies/disturbances, the county had $92 million in outstanding prison debt. This debt is in the form of tax exempt municipal bonds called project revenue bonds that are issued by a specially established county public facility corporation to create a project that brings revenue to the county.The county got off relatively easily from the first incident. The insurance companies paid by the county over the past couple of decades for the prison covered most of the rebuilding expenses. But then came the proverbial ‘fire next time.’Less than two months after the first inmate protest, inmates renewed the Dec. 12-13 protest with a much larger incident – one that completely destroyed the oldest prison unit and resulted in reconstruction and upgrading expenses project to approach $40 million. This time the insurance companies are expected to come through with only $25 million, leaving the county $15 million short.Here comes Barry Friedman of Carlyle Capital Markets, the bond underwriting firm that has been with Reeves County since the beginning of its prison enterprise. Friedman assures the county that he can sell another $15 million plus in bonds to cover the gap. “I have been on the side of Reeves County since 1986,” Friedman recently told the county commissioners, assuring them that he only wants what is good for the county.Not only is Friedman underwriting the new bond issue but after the prison disturbances he was hired as a special financial consultant to the county for about $15,000 a month. In addition to his commission for bond underwriting, he is also advising the county on what is in their best financial interest, as he told the commissioners. “As financial adviser, my responsibility is to the county,” he explained, angrily and righteously dismissing a complaint raised by County Attorney Alva Alvarez. “Do you represent the bondholders,” he was asked. “No, I represent the county,” he replied.Reeves County is angry, worried, and deep in debt – and going deeper. No wonder then the reaction of the elderly security guard at the federal building. After I asked who he was, he threatened to call the U.S. Marshals. Knowing about justice in Reeves County, I turned around and walked out. Just as well, the immigrants had all decided to plead guilty. The scheduled trial was cancelled.Tempers are also flaring in the county building across the street with conflict-of-interest charges swirling around having Carlyle’s Friedman work two sides of the prison business and with fears that if the county doesn’t get the prison back together the BOP might, as one county official noted, “bring in the buses and bring the inmates out.”That would leave Reeves County with massive prison bond debt, Pecos with any empty prison complex on the edge of town, and more than four hundred area residents without a job. It would be a near fatal blow to the county, where a quarter of the population lives in poverty and unemployment stands at 14.1%. Poor Reeves County.And poor immigrants who still suffer the same medical conditions that sparked the incidents.
Read @ Borderlines: http://borderlinesblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/talking-about-insurrection.html

Friday, October 9, 2009

Proposal to expand L.A. deputies' duties in deportation process draws criticism

Anna Gorman
LA Now

Los Angeles County sheriff’s staff would assume a greater role in the processing and deportation of illegal immigrants identified in the jails under a newly proposed agreement with the federal government, placing an “inordinate strain” on department staff, according to a new report.
The department signed an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 authorizing its custody assistants to check the immigration status of foreign born inmates.
The new agreement would require those same assistants to complete all of the required paperwork to process illegal immigrants for possible deportation, according to the report prepared by Merrick Bobb, a special counsel to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
The degree to which the proposed agreement turns the sheriff’s department into the “primary enforcer of federal immigration law is indeed breathtaking,” Bobb wrote in the nearly 50-page report. In addition, the county would not be reimbursed for the additional work, Bobb wrote.
More than a quarter of inmates transferred from the county lock-up to immigration custody from July 2008 to June 2009 had been charged with minor crimes, such as displaying a false identification or disorderly conduct, the report found. Some inmates had serious criminal records, but Bobb wrote that he didn’t believe that the supervisors intended for minor criminals to be turned over to immigration authorities.
“Some of the supervisors suggested that immigration enforcement in the jails should be limited to the more dangerous criminals committing felonies, in contrast to persons held for traffic violations or other minor misdemeanors,” Bobb said in an interview today.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

ICE project deal dead: Emerald says it will offer facility to other cities after City Council fails to support public financing proposal

ICE project deal dead: Emerald says it will offer facility to other cities after City Council fails to support public financing proposal.http://www.mineralwellsindex.com/local/local_story_281100232.htmlBy Christin Coyneccoyne@mineralwellsindex.comA two and-a-half year effort to bring an illegal immigrant detention center to Mineral Wells ended Tuesday night with several long seconds of silence from city council members. A resolution to continue negotiations with Emerald Correctional Management to build a detention facility funded by non-recourse revenue bonds issued by the Mineral Wells Local Government Corporation failed when council members failed to second a motion in support. “That’s a pretty clear message that the city council has no interest in doing this project,” Steve Afeman, chief operating officer of Emerald, said Wednesday morning. “We’re not about to go back.” The failure to move ahead with negotiations seemed to come as a surprise to several. Afeman said Emerald met with mayor Mike Allen, Industrial Foundation representative Steve Butcher and city manager Lance Howerton and was told they believed council would support the public finance proposal. Allen told those attending the meeting there would be no public comments. “This is for the council to understand,” he said before a presentation from Hull Youngblood, Emerald’s attorney and representative. “[While switching sites earlier this year], we lost that window to get private financing that you could use,” Youngblood said. Initially the city offered Emerald land near Mineral Wells Municipal Airport, but 11th-hour public opposition to the site forced its move to Wolters Industrial Park, with the Industrial Foundation buying land to accommodate the switch.Youngblood told the council the city would not be obligated if they authorized the local government corporation to issue non-recourse revenue bonds.“The LGC will not have to pay anything on the debt except what is generated by project revenue,” Youngblood said. “[If the bonds were defaulted on] think of it like lenders and they’ve got a lien on the building. They could sell it or refinance it.”Because the local government corporation would own the title to the building, the facility would also be exempt from ad valorem taxes. “We would now take that pool of money [that would go to the city and Parker County] and give it to the city [as the per diem fee per inmate],” Youngblood said. Councilman Bill Terry wanted to know if the facility went defunct how much control the city would have.“[Once the facility is foreclosed on] they could do whatever they want,” Youngblood said, but added they would have to abide by applicable law. “What kind of black eye is it to the city or the LGC [if they are unable to pay off the bonds]?” council member Tommy Blissitte asked.Howerton said they talked with the city’s financial advisor and were told a default on the bonds would not technically affect the credit rating and would not likely impair the city. However, the city might have to explain the situation and that could raise a red flag with other possible underwriters, Howerton said. “What risk, if any, does Emerald have?” council member Deartis Nickerson asked.“[There is] not additional equity being paid to the lender beyond the significant development costs [already incurred],” Youngblood said. “I’ve been dealing with this for about a month and I’ve come to a conclusion our liability (would be) no different than private financing,” Allen said. Allen noted unemployment is over 8 percent in the county and said the project would generate jobs and bring in at least $6 million for the city over a 20-year period. Afeman said they’ve received about 30 job applications for the proposed Mineral Wells facility, which was supposed to have created 140 jobs, though many of the applications were from people in other parts of the state looking to return to Mineral Wells.Council member John Ritchie moved to approve the resolution authorizing the local government corporation to continue negotiations for the publicly financed proposal but did not receive a second. After several seconds of silence from the council, Allen requested a second to the motion but did not receive it from the other four council members present. Chris Crawford was absent.“It’s been a long, hard journey,” Allen said after the meeting. “I’ve put a lot of time into it.”Richard Ball, president of the Industrial Foundation, said afterward it was time to replace some city council members. “I don’t think it’s the right thing at the right time,” Terry said. “I want to see the Baker Hotel situation [succeed] and I don’t want anything to get in the way … I just think there are better deals out there and eventually they’ll come. I feel that Emerald is not being up front with us.” Terry was the lone dissenting vote when the council agreed to accept a lower impact fee than Emerald announced they would pay the city before the site was moved, asking whether it would be a sign of things to come. “I don’t like the idea of the city having to issue bonds,” councilman Tommy Blissitte told the Index Wednesday. “It would look bad on the city if they defaulted.”Blissitte said he also had concerns that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement would still be interested in an detention facility for illegal immigrants when it came time to write an agreement after several months of issuing bonds and then the 16-month building phase. “If they got their own financing, I don’t have a problem,” Blissitte said. “I voted my conscience.”“It’s a business decision that the city made and we respect that,” Afeman said. “There are two other sites that we’ve been in contact with this week.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Report Critical of Scope of Immigration Detention

Published: October 6, 2009
New York Times

A report on immigration detention released Tuesday by the Obama administration paints a picture of a costly, inappropriately penal system that is growing without basic tools for management and monitoring, while the government office nominally in charge struggles with high turnover and a lack of expertise.
Though the administration has indicated that it wants to concentrate immigration enforcement on serious criminal offenders, the report shows that one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the population in detention is noncriminals picked up in the enforcement programs the government has embraced.
Those figures are among the surprises in the 35-page report, produced for Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, by Dora B. Schriro, an adviser who has since quit to become the correction commissioner in New York City.
The report shows that 60 percent of the 380,000 people detained during the 2009 fiscal year had been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement by state and local police, mostly through the Criminal Alien Program, which identifies possible immigration violators in local jails. Others were sent by local law enforcement officers deputized to enforce federal immigration law through a program known as 287(g).
Both programs have the stated goal of improving safety through federal-local partnerships that single out serious criminal offenders for deportation. But well over half the immigrants taken into custody under the programs had no criminal convictions, the figures show.
According to the report, 57 percent of the 178,605 people sent through the Criminal Alien Program in the 2009 fiscal year had no criminal convictions, an increase since 2008, when noncriminals were 53 percent of the 149,067 detainees sent through the program.
An even higher proportion of noncriminals were sent through the 287(g) program — 65 percent of 44,692 in 2009, down from 72 percent of 37,776 in 2008.
Those numbers are likely to fuel conflicts over both programs, which have been criticized by advocates for immigrants, who say they give license to racial profiling. The Schriro report warns that computerized information exchanges between federal immigration authorities and local police, which are being expanded, are likely to swell the number of noncriminals transferred into immigration custody. “This new technology has the potential to identify large volumes of aliens with low-level convictions or no convictions,” the report said.
In an interview before she left the administration, Dr. Schriro spoke of the “cognitive dissonance” between this system and the administration’s support for a path to citizenship for many of the country’s estimated 12 million unauthorized residents.
The tension has been heightened as Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, begins planning for that path, in case a bill authorizing one is passed.

Read @ New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/us/politics/07detain.html

Immigration Hard-Liner Has His Wings Clipped

Published: October 6, 2009
New York Times

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County sheriff, who has drawn scorn and praise for a running crackdown on illegal immigrants in this city’s metropolitan area, said Tuesday that federal officials had taken away his deputies’ authority to make immigration arrests in the field.
The sheriff, Joe Arpaio, whose high-profile sweeps have been cited in the fevered debate over the need for an overhaul of immigration laws, said he had sought a renewed agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to allow both field arrests and immigration checks at his jails. But a high-level department official presented a document a couple of weeks ago allowing only for jail checks, Mr. Arpaio said.
That prompted an angry, rambling outburst from the sheriff Tuesday at a news conference at which he called Homeland Security officials “liars” and vowed to press on with his campaign, using state laws, against illegal immigrants. He said he would drive those caught on the streets to the border if federal officers refused to take them into custody.
Homeland Security officials declined to comment, saying they are still reviewing their agreement with the sheriff’s department and the other 65 agencies that participate in a program that allows local and state officers to make immigration arrests.
Immigrant advocates and some lawmakers have called on the department to end the program, known as 287(g) after the section of the 1996 law that authorized it, saying it has led to racial profiling and other abuses. Several advocates put out statements Tuesday expressing dismay that the department was keeping any relationship with Mr. Arpaio.
Last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote to President Obama, urging him to “immediately terminate” the program because of the complaints.
A report this year by Congress’ watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, found that the program had not been closely supervised and that it had often led to the arrest of minor offenders instead of the criminals it was intended to pursue.
The Homeland Security Department has sought to mend it the program, not end it.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that runs it, this summer announced an overhaul of the program and sought to reach new agreements with the agencies involved. Two agencies in Massachusetts have since announced their withdrawal from the program.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, with some 160 federally trained deputies, is the largest in the program and the most closely scrutinized by people on all sides of the immigration debate.
Mr. Arpaio conceded that the vast majority of the 33,000 arrests of illegal immigrants his office has made in the past two years under the agreement followed a check on the immigration status of people in jails. About 300 have been arrested in the field during “crime suppression” operations, he said. He called those arrests symbolically important.
“It has to do with public perception,” he said, noting reports that some illegal immigrants are leaving the area in part because of his deputies. “I think the bad guys apparently are leaving because they know they are here illegally. This is a crime deterrent program, too.”
In March, the Justice Department’s civil rights division announced that it was investigating the department, but Mr. Arpaio has conducted sweeps since then and he predicted that he would be exonerated.
The Maricopa agreement was also being watched to see if Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a Democrat and the former governor of Arizona, would take the opportunity to rein in Mr. Arpaio, a Republican and one of the state’s most popular figures. Although they did not often clash publicly, their political supporters often lashed out at one another.
By the account of Mr. Arpaio and his aides, he signed a copy of a new agreement on Sept. 21, allowing for both field and jail arrests. But that evening, Alonzo Pena, a top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, called from Washington and said he would be arriving in Phoenix the next day to discuss it.
After he arrived, Mr. Pena presented Mr. Arpaio another agreement that allowed only for jail checks.
Mr. Arpaio signed it, but it still must be approved by the county’s governing board. The board has been sympathetic to Mr. Arpaio on immigration matters, but he suggested the vote was far from a done deal.
Either way, he and his supporters vowed to press on.
Andrew Thomas, the county attorney, appeared with Mr. Arpaio to voice his support and condemn the “setback in the fight against illegal immigration.” Mr. Thomas said, “The fight goes on.”
He and Mr. Arpaio suggested that deputies could use the state anti-human smuggling law to make stops and refer suspected illegal immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, though it was not clear whether the agency would take them.
If not, the sheriff said, “I’ll take a little trip to the border and turn them over to the border.”

Read @ New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/us/07arizona.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Guilty by Immigration Status: A report on U.S. violations of the rights of immigrant families, workers and communities in 2008

NNIRR's newest report couldn't come at a better time than the day Homeland Security head, Janet Napolitano, releases plans for reforming the immigrant detention system.

Guilty by Immigration Status: A report on U.S. violations of the rights
of immigrant families, workers and communities in 2008
calls for restoring
due process and suspending detentions and deportations, and urges a thorough
investigation into immigration enforcement practices.

The report was produced by HURRICANE, the Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network, an initiative of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR).
Guilty by Immigration Status details how the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) has built up over the last eight years an "immigration control regime,"
whose goal is to deport everyone who can be deported. According to the report,
DHS is almost exclusively promoting the criminalization of immigration status to
detain and deport persons, often for minor offenses.

Read the entire report published by National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights: http://www.nnirr.org/hurricane/GuiltybyImmigrationStatus2008.pdf

Salvaging Immigration Detention

New York Times editorial
Oct. 5, 2009

The Obama administration is unveiling on Tuesday an ambitious plan to
repair the immigration detention system, a scandal-plagued mix of federal, state
and local lockups that grew vastly and rotted under the enforcement crusade led
by former President George W. Bush.
The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, and John Morton, the
director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deserve credit for
proposing to clean up a system notorious for shabby and abusive conditions, poor
or nonexistent medical treatment and a trail of preventable injuries and deaths.
The reforms, if they work and are maintained, would be a necessary corrective to
years of willful neglect.
Ms. Napolitano and Mr. Morton say that they want to
make the system more efficient, more accountable and less costly. The whole
point of detaining immigrants, after all, is to quickly figure out which ones
should be deported and to deport them, not to let them languish and certainly
not to inflict punishment or undue suffering.
But immigration detention has
strayed far from that basic mission. Tuesday’s
includes statements of “core principles” so fundamental that
you have to wonder what they are replacing. Consider these:
• “ICE will
detain aliens in settings commensurate with the risk of flight and danger they
present.” That means the government has finally come to understand that
detainees are not all violent criminals. They include young mothers and their
children, asylum seekers, upright members of communities who, but for a lapsed
visa or bureaucratic snafu, would not be in trouble with the law. Those who can
make no case for staying here should be deported. But it’s gratifying to hear
Ms. Napolitano and Mr. Morton acknowledge that nonviolent noncriminals —
particularly those seeking refuge — should not be warehoused behind bars. They
have promised to increase alternatives to detention, and we expect them to do
that — even if it means a vast effort nationwide.
• “ICE will provide sound
medical care.” This fundamental government responsibility has been shamefully
neglected in centers around the country. The reform plan refers vaguely to a new
“medical classification system” for detainees that should improve treatment and
reduce unnecessary and disruptive medical transfers. ICE should make clear what
that means and how that will help those who become sick or injured only after
they are admitted and classified.
Perhaps the most important principle
behind these reforms is the reassertion of central control over the sprawling,
subcontracted system. The new plan asserts that central control is not only
smarter and more efficient but also cheaper. “Each of these reforms,” the agency
says, “are expected to be budget-neutral or result in cost savings through
reduced reliance on contractors to perform key federal duties.”
detention is a prime example of things going bad when the government
subcontracts a vital mission to poorly supervised outsiders. The Obama
administration, like its predecessor, is under ferocious political pressure to
be seen as tough on people who have been unfairly depicted as a fundamentally
criminal, dangerous crowd. It is pushing back with an effort to be sane and
proportionate. If the reforms announced on Tuesday work half as well as
promised, the country will be closer to a detention system it does not have to
be ashamed of.

Read @ New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/opinion/06tue1.html

Ideas for Immigrant Detention Include Converting Hotels and Building Models

Published: October 5, 2009
New York Times

The Obama administration is looking to convert hotels and nursing homes
into immigration
detention centers and to build two model detention centers from scratch as it
tries to transform the way the government holds people it is seeking to
These and other initiatives, described in an interview on Monday by Janet
, the secretary of homeland security, are part of the
administration’s effort to revamp the much-criticized detention system, even as
it expands the enforcement programs that send most people accused of immigration
violations to jails and private prisons. The cost, she said, would be covered by
greater efficiencies in the detention and removal system, which costs $2.4
billion annually to operate and holds about 380,000 people a year.
paradigm was wrong,” Ms. Napolitano said of the nation’s patchwork of rented
jail space, which has more than tripled in size since 1995, largely through Immigration
and Customs Enforcement
contracts for cells more restrictive, and expensive,
than required for a population that is largely not dangerous. Among those in
detention on Sept. 1, 51 percent were considered felons, and of those, 11
percent had committed violent crimes.
“Serious felons deserve to be in the
prison model,” Ms. Napolitano said, “but there are others. There are women.
There are children.”
These and other nonviolent people should be sorted and
detained or supervised in ways appropriate to their level of danger or flight
risk, she said. Her goal, she said, is “to make immigration detention more
cohesive, accountable and relevant to the entire spectrum of detainees we are
dealing with.”
Several of the initiatives Ms. Napolitano described, to be
formally announced on Tuesday afternoon, are steps on a road
outlined in August
, when John Morton, the assistant secretary for
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced an ambitious plan to transform
the penal network into a “truly civil detention system.”
But the corrections
expert he had put in charge of the overhaul, Dora B. Schriro, quit last
to become the corrections commissioner in New York City, after
delivering a report on her eight-month top-to-bottom review of the system. The
report had remained under wraps until now.
Dr. Schriro’s departure, and the
delay in making her report public, dismayed many of the dozens of immigrant
advocacy groups she consulted. Her 35-page report, provided to The New York
Times after the interview on the condition that it not be posted on its Web site
until Tuesday afternoon, calls for prompt attention to individual complaints
about a lack of medical care, and “a credible grievance process, sustained in an
environment free from intimidation and retaliation.”
In her interview, Ms.
Napolitano said little about medical care but promised that within six months
the Department
of Homeland Security
would “devise and implement” a classification system to
better place people with medical or mental health needs in the right detention
That vow puzzled some immigrant advocacy groups that deal with
seriously ill detainees, including some who have died in federal custody after
not getting proper treatment. The groups said they were concerned about the gap
between announced plans to improve medical care and the actions of immigration
Cheryl Little, the director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy
Center, pointed to the case of a woman she called Rosemarie, who, while being
detained at the Glades County Detention Center, has suffered severe daily
bleeding as a result of a fibroid tumor in her uterus.
“This has gone on for
more than the five months she has been in ICE custody,” Ms. Little said. “Since
June, we have tried everything to get her proper treatment. We started the
requests at the local level and escalated up to D.H.S. headquarters. Ultimately
we’ve had to file a lawsuit, and Rosemarie still hasn’t had the surgery she
Ms. Napolitano noted repeatedly that some of the initiatives she was
announcing were “easier said than done.” Plans to speed the implementation of an
online system for families and lawyers to locate detainees, for example, have
been complicated by privacy issues and by the fact that many detainees share
names and some stay in the system for only a couple of days, she said.
Likewise, though alternatives to detention are much cheaper than the jails
under contract — $14 a day at most per person, compared with more than $100 a
day — the overall cost is more complicated to calculate, she said.
19,000 noncitizens are supervised daily using alternatives like electronic
bracelets, but their immigration cases are moved to the back of the line for
adjudication. Homeland Security is working with the Justice Department, which
oversees immigration courts, to modify that practice, she said, and this fall
will submit a proposal to Congress to expand detention alternatives.
request for proposals to build two model detention centers, one in California,
will be issued within a year, said Mr. Morton, the ICE official. On Oct. 30, he
said, he will solicit proposals and market research about converted hotels,
nursing homes and other residential facilities that could serve as less
expensive and less restrictive detention centers.
Mr. Morton said that on
Sept. 18 the agency began housing nonviolent detainees, including new asylum
seekers, at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Fla., near free
legal help. But Charu al-Sahli, the statewide director of the Florida Immigrant
Advocacy Center, said the Broward center, run for profit by GEO, a large prison
company formerly known as Wackenhut, had been housing asylum seekers since 2003.
A former work-release center now surrounded by barbed wire, it is being
expanded to house 700, up from 530.
“Even though it’s a nicer environment
than a jail,” Ms. al-Sahli said, “these are still the people we would hold up
for release, not just nicer detention.”

Read article @ New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/us/politics/06detain.html