Thursday, August 21, 2008

CCA Shows a Flair for Creative PR Fiction

Posted By on Thu, Aug 21, 2008 at 5:43 AM

So this is hilarious. Corrections Corporation of America, the widely condemned prison company in Green Hills, has launched a Pravda-styled website aimed at providing “factual information” about its operations. The site makes out CCA to be as sweet and innocent a business as your daughter's lemonade stand. Sadly, as the company's PR push notes, a "local daily paper" has willfully mischaracterized the outfit's open and efficient approach to doing business. That’s right: Only The Tennessean has raised pertinent questions about CCA. No one else has said a word, correct? Well, actually there was The New Yorker, arguably the most respected magazine in the country, which reported that CCA dressed the young children of detainees at its immigration farm in Texas in prison garb. At that same facility, the magazine continued, CCA stored women and children in the same cell, where they would sleep on bunk beds next to an open toilet. Nice to see how the company (which maintains strong Republican ties) practices its family values. A Quick Addition: Let me also link to this incisive report from the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children about CCA's immigration internment camp in Taylor, TX. The link will take you to the non-profit's resource page. Scroll down to the report "Locking Up Family Values: The Detention of Immigrant Families." It's a very well-researched study. And yet it dovetails with what reporters around the country have written about CCA: That we all should be paying attention to how our Green Hills prison operator runs its business. For more horror stories, we turn to The New York Times, which wrote that CCA refused to divulge information about the immigrants who mysteriously die in its facilities. The Times chronicled how one inmate at a CCA facility in New Jersey—a man who had merely overstayed a tourist visa—found himself “shackled and pinned to the floor of a medical unit.” He moaned and vomited and was thrown in a disciplinary cell for 13 hours, even as he foamed at the mouth like a rabid raccoon. The man later died. Then there's Time magazine, which reported the astonishing tale of a former CCA insider who suddenly grew a conscience. He told the magazine CCA kept two sets of books: an accurate one that chronicled an array of prison disturbance—and a heavily doctored one designed to limit bad publicity and federal fines. Meanwhile, the man who oversaw CCA’s fraudulent reporting system was none other than Gus Puryear, the company’s hapless corporate counsel, whose nomination to the federal bench appears to have gone belly up. (A side note: The local bar, which would like to argue cases before a competent jurist, couldn't be happier at Puryear's demise.) Next, in the Scene's recent cover story about CCA, we reported that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division (ICE), a body hardly known for its vigilance, slapped the company for running its Texas immigration facility on the cheap. “CCA is losing staff as quick as they can hire them,” one internal memo said, tearing into the privatized prison company for paying its guards even less—much less—than the local county jail. “As long as CCA continues to hire employees at this rate per hour," the memo concluded, "they will continue to experience the problems they are currently experiencing on the floor.” Finally, in that same story, we also reported that the Tennessee Department of Correction investigated allegations of abuse at CCA's Hardeman County Correctional Facility. So what did they uncover? How about a warden who shoved an inmate to the ground and then punched him in the face? That warden, a refined 40-something gentleman named Glen Turner, later resigned and pleaded guilty to a charge of official oppression. My guess is that he’s now angling for the top job at Gitmo. His time at CCA would serve him well.

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