California used to be a private prison-free state, but as overcrowding, unconstitutional conditions and budget crises have gripped, Governor Brown and legislators have increasingly turned to the quick-fix of leasing private facilities.
“One out of 10 California inmates is serving time in a leased or private prison,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Women’s prisons are the most cramped: the Central California Women’s Facility at Chowchilla is listed at 182% capacity in last week’s state prison census report, with 1,600 prisoners more than it was intended to hold.”
The latest addition to California’s archipelago of lockdowns is McFarland Women’s Prison operated by GEO group, one of the two largest private prison corporations in the U.S. This is a backward step, not only because it is the reopening of a prison the state doesn’t need, but because profits will be made off of the back of those imprisoned. GEO Group has a history that includes sexual abuse and poor medical care in its jails and prisons.
Grassroots organising is to protest the new prison at the end of this month. From the organisers:
RALLY AT MCFARLAND PARK, 100 FRONTAGE RD, MCFARLAND, CA, THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2014, 5 PM
Rally against McFarland Women’s Prison the GEO for-profit women’s prison recently opened in McFarland, California. Demand that the CDCR cancel its contract with GEO, release all prisoners through available alternative programs and divert the money being used to fund the prison to community-based services.
We will be linking up in McFarland with the Trail for Humanity, women and children marching across California to demand the protection of immigrant women and their families, comprehensive immigration reform and an end to racial profiling, and with members of the California Prison Moratorium Project who are joining the march.
Car caravan in the Bay Area is leaving from MacArthur BART, at 11 am, Thursday July 31, 2014. Information about other meeting sites to come soon.
For more campaign information and to sign up to caravan to McFarland, go to http://womenprisoners.org/ or email email@example.com or call the California Coalition for Women Prisoners at 415-255-7036 ext. 4.
Women and trans people at two of California’s women’s prisons provided the following statement for our education on the matter.
STOP THE MCFARLAND GEO WOMEN’S PRISON!
We the undersigned incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and the California Institution for Women (CIW) are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA by fall of 2014. We call upon California State Legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!
Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels (CCWF is now at 185% capacity), even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population. This is discrimination against people in women’s’ prisons! As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.
CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as: Alternative Custody Programs (ACP); Elder and Medical Parole; and Compassionate Release. Instead, on April 1, 2014 GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260 bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.” This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.
GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!
GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: assaults are 49% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.
• GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities. In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk..”
• In March 2014, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center. Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas and Stewart, Georgia.
• The city of McFarland is located in an area known as an environmental cancer cluster and breeding ground for Valley Fever. Instead of opening new prisons in this area, all of them should be shut down.
• In January of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.
• GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.
• In McFarland, CA, GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
• GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center at in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland. Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life.
It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assembly Members and Senators, please intervene! Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based (not for-profit) reentry programs.
Thank you for listening to this urgent request,
Natalie DeMola, CCWF
Jane Dorotik, CIW
Fonda Gayden, CCWF
Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF
Valerie Juarez, CCWF
Terah Lawyer, CCWF
ChiChi Locci, CCWF
Maydee Morris, CCWF
Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF
Patrice Wallace, CCWF
If you can make it to McFarland (a typically remotely-located prison) in California’s central valley, I urge you to do so.