Monday, May 07, 2012

Are Privatized Prisons on Walker Agenda?

Phil Scarr at Blogging Blue has been focused recently on what he describes as the U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex.  In a series of blog postings he gave some brief history of the industry and observations on how its growth seems to coincide with bad policy and massively disproportionate incarceration rates.

In laying out his case against privatized prisons Phil also introduced us to the Geo Group Inc. formally known as WCC (Wackenhut Correctional Corporation). It is one of the world's largest private corrections organizations.  He goes on to detail a specific horror story involving one of their facilities and he lists some of the various problems with a profit-driven approach to corrections in general.

The timing of Phil's blog postings on this topic couldn't have been better because I just happened to be examining the official calendar for Gary Hamblin, Scott Walker's Secretary for the Department of Corrections.  One thing that jumped out at me was that he met multiple times with Wackenhut and others.

Here is a sampling of meetings:
  • February 9, 2011: Cindy Archer, Bill McCoshen and Wackenhut.
  • March 15, 2011: Correctional Medical Services
  • March 21, 2011:  A'Viands (food service provider from Minnesota)
  • April 28, 2011: Dennis Schuh/Mueller Communications, Mark Schaefer and 3 staff from G4S Wisconsin 
It seems probable that his February 2011 meeting with "Wackenhut" was probably related to Scott Walker dropping his "bomb" on Wisconsin. Reports at the time seemed to suggest that Walker's administration was concerned about a possible strike or other labor unrest involving corrections workers.  That might also explain the presence of Walker right hand Cynthia Archer. However Hamblin also met in late April with "G4S Wisconsin" (purchased Wackenhut in 2002).  Note: Bill McCoshen served in the Tommy Thompson administration at the Department of Commerce and has been a political adviser to him more recently.  He is also the owner of Capital Consultants Inc. and a registered lobbyist.

You will notice that Hamblin and/or a key staffer also met with other private contractors including A'Viands, which was a Scott Walker favorite company in his efforts to privatize food services in Milwaukee County.

Speaking of Walker favorites in Milwaukee County, he was also fond of trying to eliminate public employee security officers positions and replacing them with Wackenhut.  He did this even though they didn't have the best track record with Milwaukee County.  However Walker illegally laid off the public employee security force at the Milwaukee County Courthouse and replaced them with Wackenhut.  Not all of the private workers that he installed were exactly of the best quality including some of the supervisors.

When you consider Scott Walker's knee jerk urge to privatize in Milwaukee County, his history with Wackenhut, his prison fascinations as a state representative and the curious calendar of his Secretary, you have to wonder what he might have in store for the Department of Corrections.  He is already showing his longtime pattern of dysfunction in that department so what comes next? Do corrections officers across the state have anything to worry about? I don't know the answer but given all of the circumstances I would suggest that they remain vigilant.

1 comment:

Alice F. Pauser said...

As an organization that advocates for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in WI, we can only surmise that Walker has no interest in the humane treatment of incarcerated individuals. If prison privatization comes to WI we will see an increase in abuse, neglect and deaths of inmates. Perhaps that is what Walker is hoping for as a way to reduce the prison population.