Largest current US measles outbreak centered in for-profit prison system

Health officials in Arizona say the largest current measles outbreak in the United States is in part because some workers at a federal immigration detention center refuse to get vaccinated.

Authorities have confirmed 22 measles cases in Arizona since late May. They all stem from the Eloy Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility managed by the private Corrections Corporation of America.

Pinal County health director Thomas Schryer said the outbreak likely began with a migrant but that detainees have since been vaccinated. Convincing employees to get vaccinated or show proof of immunity has proven much tougher, he said.

“And so they’re actually the ones that are passing along the measles among each other and then going out into the community,” Schryer said.

The facility includes about 350 CCA employees and an unknown number of ICE staffers, although Schryer estimates it’s about 100. ICE doesn’t publicly release staffing levels, nor does it require employees to be immunized. There are currently over 1,200 detainees being held at the facility…

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ says the facility has been more responsive in the past few days and that a large number of CCA employees were immunized late last week. “Once they understand how important it is and the outcomes it can have on the community, they tend to cooperate. So we hope to get a cooperative response from ICE,” Christ said.

The problem is reckoned to be one of ignorance rather than stupidity.

Measles is highly contagious and preventable through vaccines. It was eradicated in the US in 2000. But the past couple of years have seen new cases in large part because of unfounded stupid fears that the vaccination causes autism in children, Schryer said. The symptoms are usually mild but can be deadly in babies, who cannot be immunized until they’re a year old…

In Arizona, health officials are providing free vaccines, sending physicians to the detention center and providing educational outreach to staffers in an effort to contain the measles spread.

Now, imagine a whole nation run by Reaganomics hustlers like CCA. Tax dollars diverted into for-profit replacements for public service systems. Increase the profit structure by hiring less-educated, less-qualified scabs. Cross your fingers and hope you don’t end up with so many people dying you attract attention.

Enough to make a Congressional Republican cry with joy.

Our government’s commitment to for-profit prisons wants to lock up more mothers and children

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is striking deals with private prison companies to lock up a “guaranteed minimum” of mothers with their children in euphemistically-termed family detention centers.

The 2009 congressional mandate for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to keep a minimum of 34,000 people minimum locked up at any given time is already well-established. But a new report by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Detention Watch Network reveals that this federal quota rests, in part, on aggressive deals with companies in the business of locking up families…

According to the investigation, which based its findings on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, such local quotas are “even more widespread than previously reported, covering at least 24 detention facility contracts,” accounting for at least 12,821 of the 34,000 beds established by the national quota. Ninety-three percent of those beds are in privately-run detention facilities…

Since 2014, the mass detention of families in these prison-like facilities has been a foundation of the Obama administration’s immigration policies toward refugees from Central America, many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty worsened by U.S. policies. The human rights violations at these camps have been condemned by human rights organizations and the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and some have compared them to Japanese internment camps.

❝ “Almost all guaranteed minimums are found in facilities that contract with private prison companies, and ICE actively collaborates with these companies to keep details of their contracts secret,” said Ghita Schwarz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights…“The public should have a full understanding of how ICE rewards and incentivizes profiteering off the detention of immigrants.”…

One thing is clear: profits are soaring for GEO Group and CCA, the two largest private prison companies in the United States. Both boasted to their shareholders recently that revenues are spiking, thanks in part to the windfall from locking up families.

Cripes. Bad enough we have a government, legislative and executive alike, that maintains bullshit like crop subsidies to agribusiness giants – just because we did do for small farmers in trouble 80 years ago. To see the absurd supply-side myths of Reaganomics perpetuated by a “liberal” White House is dumber than criminal. Privatization of our prison system has achieved nothing for crime reduction or recidivism among ex-cons. It’s only made money for firms who jumped on the Republican bandwagon.

Congress reinforces the myth with our tax dollars. The White House reinforces the corruption of the whole process by maintaining deportation quotas and continuing the sleazy guarantees to provide enough detainees to keep these for-profit prisons in business.

Thanks, NikiV

Why visit your boyfriend in the slammer when you can chat online?

Arizona mother Cathy Seymour’s 16-year-old son was arrested in August 2013 for allegedly shooting a detention officer to death and was charged with first-degree murder as an adult and held in a jail.

Now she uses her laptop and a video link to spring him from maximum security detention in the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix, take him on a virtual tour of some of his favorite places and visit with family and friends.

“If there’s Wi-Fi and you have a laptop, you don’t have to stay in your home,” she says of the recently installed pay-per-view system that links a video terminal in the jail to her laptop at a cost of $5 for 20 minutes.

“His favorite spot is McDonald’s, so we went to McDonald’s … I’ll show him, like, the street … He gets to see other people … He gets to see my mom and dad and church,” said Seymour, who spoke to Al Jazeera America on the condition that her son not be named.

She is among thousands of family members nationwide using pay-per-view video chats to connect with loved ones who are incarcerated. The technology is gaining traction in jail systems across the U.S. in a push by the for-profit prison industry to monetize inmate contact.

At the end of 2014, 388 U.S. jails — about 1 in 8 — offered pay-per-view video visits, and the service was also available in 123 prisons, according to a study by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative (PPI).

Since the report was published in January, the PPI has become aware of at least 25 additional jails that have implemented the technology. Once video visitation systems are in place, most jails eliminate in-person family visits, securing a captive market for private firms. Seven companies dominate the market, and for 20 minutes, they charge from $5 in Maricopa County, Arizona, to $29.95 in Racine County, Wisconsin…

For Seymour, the pay-per-view video visits help her maintain a relationship with her teenage son, with whom she shares as many as four video chats a day. “He’s in an ugly place now … I don’t agree with the sheriff on much, but there is benefit to it,” she said of the system…

The boom in for-profit video visitation is also transforming the way lawyers work with their clients. Some criminal defense attorneys, like Marci Kratter in Phoenix, find much to like.

Before the system went live in November, Kratter had to drive to a jail, park, sign in and go to a visitation area to wait for her client in what she described as an “at least a two-hour ordeal.” Now with video visitation, “it’s 20 minutes. You do it from your desk … As far as rapport building goes and trust, when you can check in with [your clients] every week, they know you’re thinking about them.”

RTFA. Many variations on the theme – as you would expect. A predictable number of jailers are more interested in vacuuming every last greenback from the wallets of relatives, friends, lawyers. Some are more interested in security. You ain’t smuggling in smack or a cell phone over an internet connection.

There is a lawsuit started by defense attorneys in Travis County against Securus, the sheriff’s office and other county officials. It charges that video visits were used to illegally record attorneys’ confidential calls with their clients…using the info gained against clients and other prisoners. I’d be shocked, shocked I tell you – if something like that actually happened.

Y’all know how deeply we trust law enforcement in America. Right?

Prison escape becomes campaign issue in Arizona

The escape of three convicts from a prison in Arizona last week has become an issue in the state’s campaign for governor.

Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democratic candidate, is accusing incumbent Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of increasing the risk of jailbreaks by favoring for-profit prisons over state-run prisons.

“The Brewer administration has consistently promoted private over public prisons, in spite of the public safety risk,” he said. “The escape of these two violent offenders makes it clear how dangerous this policy has been.”

Goddard is calling for a moratorium on putting violent criminals in for-profit facilities. “They’re going to cut costs wherever they can,” he told CNN Tuesday, “putting public safety at risk…”

The three inmates — all convicted of murder, second-degree murder or attempted second-degree murder — escaped July 30 from a for-profit prison in Kingman, Arizona. The prison is run by Management and Training Corp. of Utah. The facility was built to house minimum-security prisoners, but it was later modified to house medium-security inmates as well. Its current population includes 117 murderers classified as medium-security inmates…

State officials say the inmates escaped through a door at which the alarm failed to sound, then cut a hole in the fence with wire-cutters that had been thrown over the fence by an accomplice. They escaped undetected…

One of the three escapees, John McCluskey, remains at large.

McCluskey is implicated in the murder of a retiree couple from Oklahoma in Santa Rosa, NM – while they were on vacation trailering to Colorado.

As much as Arizona’s Republican governor tries to downplay the role of privatizing prisons in decreased safety and security, we went through the same experience in New Mexico. We had a beancounter Republican governor who sold off every prison he could to private for-profit corporations like the crew in AZ – with the same results.

We ran a monthly pool on escapes.