Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cheney, Gonzales, Vanguard Group in "Prisonville"

Private prison corporations are a good place to put money – if you are interested in making good money from companies that imprison people for profit. As the two leading private prison firms like to tell investors, it’s a booming business these days not because crime rates are rising but because of the new opportunities in immigrant detention.
So it’s not surprising that Vanguard Group, one of the country’s largest mutual funds companies, puts its investors money into private prison firms, including the country’s two largest: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (originally incorporated as Wackenhut). Vanguard Group is also a major investor in Correctional Services Corporation.
Willacy County, Texas is the epicenter of the private prison phenomenon that is sweeping the country, fueled in recent years by the immigrant crackdown. Over the past three years, over 3,000 new “prison beds” have come on line in Raymondville, the county seat, as politicians and Texas developers have attempted to cash in on the federal government’s demand for prison space for detained immigrants. The largest operator is the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, although GEO Group also has prison operations in Raymondville, commonly called “Prisonville” by locals.
The recent indictments of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for private prison-related crimes highlighted the controversial role of private prisons in immigrant detention. The indictments were filed by outgoing County Attorney Juan Angel Guerra but have not yet been signed by the county judge.
Cheney is charged organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, while Gonzales is charged with using his position as attorney general to stop investigations of prisoner abuse at private prisons in the country. Also indicted are GEO Corp, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (profiting from public office by accepting honoraria), two district judges, and a former U.S. attorney.
The country’s largest private prison company, CCA, has no business in Willacy County. However, County Attorney Guerra had protested the country contracts with Management and Training Corporation, contending that CCA would be a better partner for the country. In particular, he charged that Senator Lucio was lobbying for MTC and, as a private prison consultant, was benefiting from his favoring the Utah firm.
For more on Willacy County and private prisons, see an excellent report in the Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder.
Photo: Private Prison in Raymondville

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