American prison investing in alternatives to prison

Private Prison

Private Prison

Private prison companies are facing up to the realities of criminal justice reform — and how it could hurt their bottom lines if they don’t rethink their approach soon.

As more states and the federal government have enacted reforms to decrease the number of people in costly, overcrowded prisons, private prison companies have invested in the services that many new criminals will be pushed to instead of prison — probation, parole, and halfway houses.

GEO Group in 2011 acquired Behavioral Interventions, the world’s largest producer of monitoring equipment for people awaiting trial or serving out probation or parole sentences. It followed GEO’s purchase in 2009 of Just Care, a medical and mental health service provider which bolstered its GEO Care business that provides services to government agencies. “Our commitment is to be the world’s leader in the delivery of offender rehabilitation and community reentry programs, which is in line with the increased emphasis on rehabilitation around the world,” said GEO chairman and founder George Zoley during a recent earnings call.

For $36 million in 2013, CCA acquired Correctional Alternatives, a company that provides housing and rehabilitation services that include work furloughs, residential reentry programs, and home confinement. “We believe we’re going to continue to see governments seeking these types of services, and we’re well positioned to offer them,” says Steve Owen, CCA’s ‎senior director of public affairs.

The common refrain, as outlined by a 2011 report from the Justice Policy Initiative, is that private prison companies have hugely benefited from mass incarceration, since they’re paid for each prisoner they hold. And as they’ve benefited, they’ve used the proceeds to lobby lawmakers to not carry out prison reforms, so they can keep a steady flow of prisoners.

But this diversification shows that private prison companies aren’t necessarily all in for mass incarceration anymore. They’re developing other options, too — although they’ll still rely on a steady flow of people under correctional supervision like probation, parole, and home arrest to boost profits.

Still, private prisons are poised to get increased profits from at least one kind of incarceration in which they’ve heavily invested: the detainment of undocumented immigrants. A 2014 Government Accountability Office analysis found that the number of non-citizens in immigrant detention nearly doubled between fiscal years 2005 and 2013. And US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a mandate to keep 34,000 detention beds available — although Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has said this is a mandate to keep the beds, not necessarily fill them.

Source:  Vox.com

Skeptic Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

 Brian Dunning Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

Brian Dunning Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

 

 

Brian Dunning, creator of the Skeptoid podcast and the world’s worst “science” rap video, pled guilty to wire fraud that had allowed him to collect more than $5 million. Sentencing has finally occurred, and the result is 15 months in prison starting on September 2, 2014, followed by three years of supervised release.

This is great news for the skeptic community at large, since it may be a long enough sentence for Dunning to fade from memory and stop publicly representing the very people who are supposedly trying to stop people from defrauding others.

Meanwhile, this case had brought to light an actual skeptical activist who appears to be smart, hilarious, and actually effective at stopping frauds: Assistant United States Attorney David R. Callaway. In the government’s sentencing recommendation to the court last week, Callaway* argued beautifully against the idea that Dunning deserves to be insulated from the consequences of his actions, saying that “There is no “Get out of Trauma Free” card for white-collar criminals or, unfortunately, their families.” In fact, Callaway argues that Dunning should be punished harshly in part because his crime wasn’t motivated by desperate need:

The crime in this case was motivated by pure greed….This was no “smash and grab,” motivated by poverty, hunger, or substance abuse, but rather a clever, sophisticated, calculated criminal scheme carried out over several years by a man who certainly had no pressing need for the money.

Callaway then cites scientific evidence suggesting that harsh sentencing for “white-collar” criminals may present a greater deterrence than “blue-collar” crimes, which tend to be more spontaneous crimes of passion compared to the pre-meditation of something like wire fraud.

Callaway points to Dunning’s “celebrity” in the skeptical community as a further reason to punish him harshly (emphasis mine):

The enhanced deterrence value of a prison term would be all the greater in Mr. Dunning’s case, as he is at least somewhat of a “public figure” by virtue of his podcast, “Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena,” which he claims has a weekly audience of 179,000 listeners. Mr. Dunning has written five books based on the podcast, and he even has a “rap” video.

On the plus side, this prison sentence could potentially do wonders for Dunning’s rap career. But let’s hope not.

2012 started in Mexico

Security forces have removed some 500 inmates from a prison in the northern Mexican city:

 

Security forces have removed some 500 inmates from a prison in the northern Mexican city

Security forces have removed some 500 inmates from a prison in the northern Mexican city

Security forces have removed some 500 inmates from a prison in the northern Mexican city of Gomez Palacio after 24 people died during a foiled jailbreak. The jail “has been totally emptied as a preventive measure,” an official said, adding that the prisoners have been brought to other regional facilities. At least 15 inmates and nine guards were killed in Wednesday’s shootout as the prisoners tried to escape. The Durango state jail has been at the centre of a series of scandals. The latest violence erupted when guards rang the alarm bell after seeing inmates climb the prison’s back fence, Public Safety Secretary Jesus Rosso said. The prisoners then opened fire on the guard towers and the warden’s office. The guards retaliated, initially shooting into the air before aiming at the inmates. Mr Rosso said soldiers deployed to the penitentiary eventually regained control of the situation. The prisoners have been moved to other facilities while an investigation is underway to establish how they got hold of the firearms. The jail already made headlines in July when prison director Margarita Rojas Rodriguez and 10 of her employees were arrested on suspicion of collaborating with the Sinaloa drug cartel. They were found guilty of allowing inmates to use the guards’ weapons to carry out executions of other prisoners. Wednesday’s shootout happened a day after President Enrique Pena Nieto unveiled a six-point strategy to combat crimes linked to drug violence, kidnappings and extortions.His plan includes a new militarised force of 10,000 officers. However, there has currently been no mention of reviewing the country’s antiquated and dangerous prisons, the BBC’s Will Grant in Mexico City says. Human rights groups say the penal system suffers from chronic overcrowding and is in urgent of an overhaul.