Over Easy: Our Flawed Corrections System
Beginning Tuesday, Idaho will not be renewing its 29 million dollar per year contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). This is one small step in the right direction of doing something about our fundamentally flawed prison industrial complex. The US mass incarceration complex has performed perhaps one of the most brutal hatchet jobs imaginable on human rights.
This post is but a few thoughts on the subject, as I am doing some research and writing that takes me away from the computer. First of all, the entire prison system is profit driven. For example, in our county, the public defender and the prosecutor- both are paid by the DUI conviction. Also, many places have no speedy trial. The strategy is to warehouse one in the horrific jail, hide exculpatory evidence, threaten with a huge sentence, and extort a plea.
Care for the mentally ill incarcerated is non-existent and worse — the mentally ill are very often bullied or accused of malingering by unqualified state-appointed ‘experts’ during the trial phase. The subject of experts is worthy of a separate post.
On June 12, a woman died in a Pennsylvania jail for serving time, for fines. She died for being poor.
The constitution guarantees a defendant a right to confrontation of witnesses. This may sound simple, but there are endless tactics to get around this. In some cases, an ‘expert’ may testify regarding a defendant’s medical condition, for example. But, it is not exactly on the up and up, because the ‘expert’ in some instances either has had his or her license revoked, or in the alternate, never met the defendant. The two worst words in the English language will nearly always show up in an example like this, if it ever goes to appeal: “harmless error.”
So, no speedy trial. Many issues with witnesses once you get to trial. If a defendant loses at trial, which is virtually guaranteed, the laws are written so that there is almost no chance of a remedy. For one thing, you practically have to be a lawyer. And, good luck getting any discovery. All requests for anything reasonable like your own discovery will be denied and that will have to be appealed, until the statute runs out. The statute in this state, for perjury, falsified evidence, fabricated facts, outrageous, egregious juror misconduct, secret, ex parte meetings in chambers, altered dockets, and unbelievable HIPPA violations, is one year.
Imagine if you were mentally ill, trying to simply survive, much less collaterally attack a conviction and cite legal authority.
In addition to being a jailer for the mentally ill, the US is also locking up immigrants in growing rates. CCA reveals in its Form 10-K:
Management and Operation of Correctional and Detention Facilities
Our customers consist of federal, state, and local correctional and detention authorities. For each of the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011, and 2010, payments by federal correctional and detention authorities represented 43% of our total revenue. Federal correctional and detention authorities primarily consist of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or the BOP, the United States Marshals Service, or the USMS, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Our customer contracts typically have terms of three to five years and contain multiple renewal options. Most of our facility contracts also contain clauses that allow the government agency to terminate the contract at any time without cause, and our contracts are generally subject to annual or bi-annual legislative appropriations of funds.
We are compensated for providing prison bed capacity and correctional services at an inmate per diem rate based upon actual or minimum guaranteed occupancy levels. Occupancy rates for a particular facility are typically low when first opened or immediately following an expansion. However, beyond the start-up period, which typically ranges from 90 to 180 days, the occupancy rate tends to stabilize. For the years 2012, 2011, and 2010, the average compensated occupancy of our facilities, based on rated capacity, was 88.2%, 89.9%, and 90.3%, respectively, for all of the facilities we owned or managed, exclusive of facilities where operations have been discontinued.