May 6, 2008

Lawsuits raise questions about private prisons
Death by detention – NYT editorial
U.S. seeks contractors to train Iraqi military
States get in on calls for gas tax holiday
DOT secretary: Allow private dollars for roads
Corporations ignore equal, fair treatment – opinion
SF accused of trying to privatize golf courses
NY: Old ruling adds to pension dispute
IL: Third try at leasing lottery

News Summaries
Lawsuits raise questions about private prisons
As immigration laws have become tougher, the federal government has
found itself with a logistical challenge: where to house a population
that has swollen to more than 30,000 detainees. The solution? Turn them
over to the private sector. Detention contracts have helped turn
once-ailing private prison companies into a multibillion-dollar growth
industry with record revenues, healthy stock prices and ambitious
expansion plans. One of them, Corrections Corporation of America, or
CCA, has applied to build a nearly 3,000-bed prison in Otay Mesa, where
it now runs a facility holding up to 700 detainees awaiting deportation
or decisions on their immigration cases. The company is the nation’s
largest private prison operator. In the past year, ICE and its
contractors have come under fire for alleged mistreatment of
immigrants. In San Diego last year, the American Civil Liberties Union
twice sued the agency and CCA. Union-Tribune (San Diego)
Death by detention – NYT editorial
A chilling article by Nina Bernstein in The Times on Monday recounted the
secrecy, neglect and lack of oversight that are a few of the shameful symptoms
of the booming sector of the nation’s prison industry — the detention of
undocumented foreigners. In the case of Mr. Bah, records were marked
”proprietary information — not for distribution” by the Corrections Corporation
of America, a private company that runs the Elizabeth Detention Center
and many others under contract with the federal government. The government
urgently needs to bring the detention system up to basic standards of decency
and fairness. That means lifting the veil on detention centers — particularly the
private jails and the state prisons and county jails that take detainees under
federal contracts — and holding them to the same enforceable standards that
apply to prisons. The New York Times
U.S. seeks contractors to train Iraqi military
U.S. commanders in Iraq are for the first time seeking private contractors
to form part of the small military teams that train and live with Iraqi military
units across the country, according to a notice for prospective bidders
published last week. Washington Post
States get in on calls for gas tax holiday
Economic studies have shown that high gas prices disproportionately
affect lower-middle-class Americans. And these appear to be the voters
politicians are trying to appeal to. All of these plans come as other
states resist letting go of gas tax revenue, which typically finances
road construction and maintenance. Minnesota’s Legislature, after the
deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis last August, enacted a law this
year raising its gas tax by 5.5 cents per gallon, to be phased in
through October. And Georgia, which briefly shelved its gas tax after
Hurricane Katrina, has no plans for a sequel. Instead, Gov. Sonny
Perdue, a Republican, has pushed to expand state bus service and is
relying on new tax incentives for telecommuting that give people “the
option not to buy gas,” said Bert Brantley, his spokesman. The New York Times
DOT secretary: Allow private dollars for roads
Plans to expand and improve I-94 through Jackson County, Michigan are
expensive and overdue. To help solve that, U.S. Secretary of
Transportation Mary Peters visited Jackson on Monday to encourage the
state to allow the use of private dollars, and she promised to expedite
reviews of I-94 plans by her department. Peters said there is more
than $400 billion in private funds available worldwide for public
transportation projects. Department of Transportation spokesman Brian
Turmail said the $400 billion figure is an estimate from several
analysts and economists on the availability of private funding from
companies and banks that have dedicated infrastructure capital funds.
The state Legislature would have to approve the use of private funds
for state road projects. Jackson Citizen Patriot
Corporations ignore equal, fair treatment – opinion
Privatization is used frequently to describe the shifting of government
managership to private managership. Privatization seemed, theoretically, like
a good practice to and for many people. Conservative criticism, primarily and
often heard, has made government a bad word in many circles. How often
have we heard the statement, “Get government off our backs!” Sounds great
until the day your interest is equal treatment for people involved. The Daily Telegram
(Superior, Wisc)
SF accused of trying to privatize golf courses
Desperate to improve San Francisco’s aging and perpetually underfunded
golf courses, city officials are quietly soliciting information from
private companies interested in operating three of the city’s public
courses. But members of a new task force charged with pondering the
fate of golf in San Francisco are accusing officials of surreptitiously
moving forward with privatization attempts, a controversial proposal in
a city that is normally wary of handing over control of public assets
to private companies. "I think it’s a bum rush to do what the
department has been trying to do all along, which is privatize golf
courses," said Isabel Wade, a parks activist and a task force member
who has advocated closing some of the courses and using the land for
other recreational activities. "We need to have a thoughtful public
discussion about the allocation and disposition of 400 acres of public
park land." The San Francisco Chronicle
NY: Old ruling adds to pension dispute
With private lawyers under state scrutiny for getting themselves listed
as public employees in order to get into New York’s pension system, a
2004 court case has come to light that clearly stated the practice was
not allowed. Times Union (Albany)
IL: Third try at leasing lottery
After two failed attempts to privatize the Illinois Lottery, Gov. Rod Blagojevich
is taking another stab at it with a revamped plan aimed at pumping billions
of dollars into construction projects. Journal-Register (Springfield)