Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights December 2019

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, October 12, 2009

Corrupt prison hustlers linked to Tohono O'odham prison plan

For-profit Prisons and Indian Country

By Frank Smith, Private Corrections Institute

Censored News Exclusive

Hardin, Montana has made national news twice this year, thanks to its poorly designed, long empty jail. The city’s industrial development authority, groaning under $27.4 million in defaulted jail bonds, solicited Guantanamo detainees to fill its speculative prison’s windowless, 24-bed dormitory cells. The proposal was laughable thanks to the lack of workforce and infrastructure, and its awful design, but the town’s elected and appointed officials hadn’t the faintest idea what they were requesting.

The jail was touted as supposed “economic development” five years ago yet a feasibility study showed it wasn’t viable. Still, the Texas promoters, led by James Parkey’s CorPlan Corrections, with Innovative Government Strategies (IGS) and Municipal Capital Markets Group (MCM), forged ahead taking millions in fees and commissions. Completed as a “temporary holding facility” in July 2007, it has never held a prisoner.

CiviGenics, the proposed Hardin operator was only paying Texas guards $7.00/hour last year, hardly a wage that would retain workers. In Texas, where CiviGenics operates many prisons, a recent state study found the for-profit prison industry had 90% annual employee turnover. Benefits are equally marginal.

Hoped-for Indian prisoners failed to materialize. The Crow Nation offered a possibility to take over the prison and rescue the default. The city’s industrial development authority brusquely rebuffed the Crow Tribal Chairman.
In 2008, Hardin begged Montana to place sex offenders in the jail but couldn’t demonstrate that it could attract treatment professionals to such a remote location.

Hardin is a majority Anglo (37% Native American), small town 47 miles from Billings. It abuts the Crow reservation that contains, along with the Northern Cheyenne rez, the bulk of Big Horn County’s population. The Sheriff is Cheyenne. Hardin feels it receives inadequate police services from that department.

A California confidence man solicited Hardin in August, promising to operate and expand the jail and to build a mercenary training center, and homeless and animal shelters, and provide a police force. The plan was announced on September 10th but PCI quickly exposed his company as a fraud.

However, state officials are anxious to determine how the jail was originally financed and constructed and then offered to an operator the Governor called a “huckster.”

“APF Withdraws Effort to Run Hardin Jail” Billings Gazette September 9, 2009

Hardin’s failures never slowed the same promoters who in 2007 tried a similar scheme presented to Lindsay city officials in Oklahoma. Lindsay is another impoverished city with many Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee residents. Their $40 million plans went nowhere, thanks to dedicated resistance by local residents.

In May, these promoters’ attempt to place a prison in the San Xavier District of the Tohono Reservation near Tucson failed thanks to adjacent community resistance. Despite a wealth of evidence that for-profit prisons retard economic development, officials were determined to keep the proposal alive by moving the prison site to the far northwest side of the rez.

“When asked about a 2004 report from Washington State University that says prisons hurt local economies, Parkey said he was unfamiliar with it.”

“Small Town Resisting Prison Built on Tribal Land” Arizona Republic May 21, 2009.
“The business group spearheading plans for a private prison near Tucson succeeded with a similar project in Texas years ago but only after a tangle of political intrigue and criminal indictments.”

“In 1999, IGS proposed a private detention center for federal inmates in Willacy County, Texas. Parkey, now heading the prison plan near Sahuarita on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, led the development team. Financing was handled by MCM, the same company now backing the Arizona venture.”

“The Texas prison was approved and built without competitive bidding.”

“In 2005, two Willacy County commissioners pleaded guilty to taking bribes for their votes on the project. A commissioner from another county, who worked as a consultant for Corplan, was convicted of passing the money to his co-defendants.”

“Parkey acknowledged that the commissioner convicted of paying bribes had worked for his company.” “Group’s Past Project Investigated by Feds” Arizona Republic May 21, 2009.

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