November 18, 2014


Eric Holder Shares His Feelings On The Death Penalty and Prisons. Q: How do you feel about the privatization of prisons, prison services, post-prison services like parole? Is that a good thing?  EH: You know, I suppose it can be done well. But I am a person who believes that that’s essentially a state function, a government function. I think it’s done best by well-funded, well-led governmental entities. That’s just where I come from.   Q: The country has been moving away a little bit from privatization on the prison side, but now there is a new burst of business from the surge in immigration detention going to private companies, some of which have rather checkered pasts. Are you comfortable with that?EH: No, I’m not. I’m concerned about what I hear about, documented cases that have been presented to me about the way in which people who are in the system for immigration reasons – as opposed to drug selling or violent crime – and the way in which people are treated, the conditions under which they are held. That is, I think, extremely troublesome. Huffington Post

MS: Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons. Mississippi has long struggled to fix its notoriously troubled prison system. In 2012, a federal judge called the conditions at one privately run facility “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.” Now the state is facing the possibility of a widening corruption scandal, a top-to-bottom reassessment of its prison-contracting system, and the removal of the powerful Mr. Epps from the political equation amid the rollout of an ambitious alternative-sentencing law that he helped devise. “You feel this hopeless despair,” said Jody Owens, a Jackson-based attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has sued Mr. Epps over prison conditions. New York Times

TX: North Texas transportation planners shift away from toll projects. The Regional Transportation Council on Thursday excluded a controversial rural toll road from its long-range plan and dropped efforts to involve the state Transportation Department in financing the divisive Trinity Parkway toll project. Those votes highlight a shift away from the planning entity’s years-long practice of using tolls to finance road construction as state lawmakers repeatedly failed to solve transportation funding shortfalls. The moves also come amid mounting public opposition to toll roads in North Texas, where virtually every major highway project under construction includes tolling. Dallas Morning News

TX: Public Charter Schools That Failed to Meet Texas Standards Are Still Operating. . . Honors Academy is among the first Texas operators to have its contract revoked under a law that broadens the state’s authority to shutter poor-performing charter schools. The provision, passed to help leaders grapple with the rapid expansion of publicly financed, privately managed charter schools, was intended to quickly free up state contracts for high-performing operators by severing ties with low-performing ones. Previously, the process could take years. . . . Honors Academy officials, who did not respond to a request seeking comment, decided to open their doors anyway. They have argued that the provision forcing closure is unconstitutional and that their campuses received poor academic ratings based on technicalities. New York Times

IN: Fitch Weighs in on Toll Road Bankruptcy.The bankruptcy of the Indiana Toll Road won’t remove the long-term value from the project nor diminish the importance of public-private partnerships (PPP) to US project finance, Fitch Ratings says. Inside Indiana

AZ: Editorial: Showdown over a shakedown: Fight Forest Service’s fee authority. . . . The agency did not routinely charge the public for recreational use of national forest land until 1996, when Congress cut its funding and ordered it to work with private partners to make up the difference. Under a supposedly temporary “fee demonstration” program, the Forest Service began charging for use of roads, parking areas, picnic tables and restrooms, and requiring “special use” permits for just about anything. Recently, a day-care center in Alaska was told it needed to purchase a permit to take children to a nearby forest. Going hand-in-glove with recreation fees is an under-the-table privatization process by which facilities are constructed or upgraded with public funds and then “outsourced” to private concessionaires who reap the profits.

OH: Ohio House Wants To Eliminate Minimum Salary Schedule For Teachers. The Ohio House Education Committee swiftly amended House Bill 343 this week to include a change that would eliminate the minimum salary schedule from Ohio Revised Code. This change was made under the guise of giving local school districts “much needed relief” and “more flexibility” to determine how they compensate teachers. Apparently the minimum salaries required by law are too steep. Let’s take a look. . . .Plunderbund

ME: Lewiston mayor asks AG to investigate charter school applicant. Mayor Macdonald said when the city looked further into the group’s application for a public charter school, they discovered letters of recommendation written by prominent members of the community were forged. WCSH-TV