I'm Right Again Dot Com

                             A new commentary every Wednesday — Aug 17, 2016

How Illegal Immigrants Brought About a Boom in the Private Prison Business

     Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is a company co-founded in 1983 in Nashville, Tennessee by Robert Crants, T. Don Hutto and current CEO, Thomas A.  Beasley.  (Don't you just love those names? So...entreprenurial American.) CCA can incarcerate 90,000 criminals for committing all kinds of crimes.

    It came close to closing in the early years of its existence, but survived to become the Nation's Largest Privately Owned Prison System—running 74 prisons, with a net worth, according the Washington Post, of 3.18-billion bucks, due in no small part to the recent surge of illegal crossers from Latin America.

    In President Obama's first term, Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) maintained fewer than 100 beds for detained illegal crossers. By 2015, that number had risen to 3,000 beds. That is called exponential expansion by math majors.

    Two of CCA's facilities for illegal crossers are in Arizona—next to the towns of Florence and Eloy— both in Pinal County, the huge agricultural area between Phoenix and Tucson. The one in Florence was established 20 years or more ago, mainly to house male "crossers." (We called them "Illegal Aliens" back then.)

    There's a tale right out of Alice in Wonderland to be told about the one near Eloy,  a small town of 16,780, situated close to Interstate 10 and the halfway mark between the two major cities in Arizona. 

    It soon became evident about two years ago that there were many more families, some with children, and many teens and even younger children unaccompanied by adults, coming across all along the border in droves. They were led to believe that the U.S. had initiated a new "open door" policy.

    CCA convinced Homeland Security they had the answer to this problem: a new "family detention center" to be situated in Dilley, Texas—population, about 3,900—midway between San Antonia and the Mexican border to the south. The Washington Post says the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC), with 2400 beds, that once was the temporary camp for a passle of oil field workers, now holds the majority of the country's mother and child detainees."

     There was a small problem in the beginning: CCA didn't want risk their money. We don't know who did it, but someone came up with an imaginative, if not unique way to finance the Dilley project. Instead of a per diem cost, which is the norm for these privately owned prisons,  CCA is to be paid an "overall coverage fee" of $1-billion for running STFRC for four years, irrespective of the number of detainees it may or may not incarcerate in the Dilley prison, from time to time.

    And it gets even more weird when one learns the financing path.

    Again "The Washington Post" looked behind the looking glass. "In forging the deal, CCA and ICE found one major hurdle: the requirement for a public bidding process—one that threatened to significantly delay construction. In September 2014, CCA approached Eloy and asked its officials to amend its existing contract in order to permit Eloy to finance the facility in Dilley.

     Eloy gets a small percentage— roughly $1-million, 800 thousand dollars—termed "an administrative fee" over the life of the four year deal. This is all set down in two separate contracts, one between ICE and Eloy, the other between CCA and Eloy."

    You got it: the small town of Eloy, Arizona is financing a giant prison, over 1,000 miles away (Well, not really. You and I and all American taypayers are), in Texas. It's our money that's financing this slight of hand. We're talking about little or no oversight on the part of Eloy and at a cost that is not dependant on the number of inmates being served, at a flat rate of $1.8 billion over four years, whether there are or one or one thousand detainees inside it in any time frame.

      It isn't as if this was done without the knowledge and approval of Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, and the President of the United States.

    There is further cause for concern. CCA ran a facility in Taylor, Texas, where in 2007, it was found by the American Civil Liberties Union that small children incarcerated there wore prison uniforms, received little or no education and were allowed one hour of play time per day. Well yes, their mothers are illegal  crossers, but we as a Nation should not allow little children to suffer, for any reason. Obama finally closed the Taylor facility.

    We believe that there is a need for an audit of the CAA-Eloy arrangement to determine whether this odd workaround with Correction Corporation of America makes financial sense or not, and whether it should become the model for future federal projects. (Not!) 

    I will be instinctively judgmental. It's crazy. Let the stockholders in CCA who are making millions from their enterprise, finance further expansion of their firm.

      -Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Mencken


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