For-Profit Prison Accused of Subjecting Juveniles to ‘Disgraceful’ Conditions

G4S already stands accused of human rights violations from Israel to South Africa to the United Kingdom

bySarah Lazare, staff writer

A for-profit British private security firm whose human rights abuses have been documented around the world, from Israel to South Africa to the United Kingdom, stands accused by a grand jury of operating a horrific juvenile detention center in Florida where conditions are so poor, and hygiene so bad, that the prison “should cease to exist.”

The firm G4S operates the Highlands Youth Academy in Avon Park, Florida, where young men and boys from 16 to 19 years old are incarcerated. A riot at the prison two years ago prompted the investigation.

In a report completed in late June and unsealed earlier this month, referred to as a “presentment,” the Grand Jury of Polk County declared: “The existence of the Highlands Youth Academy in its current state is a disgrace to the state of Florida.”

“The buildings are in disrepair and not secured, the juvenile delinquents are improperly supervised and receive no meaningful tools to not re-offend, the staff is woefully undertrained and ill equipped to handle the juveniles in their charge, and the safety of the public is at risk,” the presentment states. “Yet, G4S has a 9 percent profit margin and expects to make $800,000 in profit this year from the operation of the Highlands Youth Academy.”

G4S runs 28 other juvenile detention centers in Florida alone. According to The Ledger, G4S has a $40 million contract to run the Highlands Youth Academy for five years. The presentment emphasizes: “While the citizens are essentially being ripped off—the juveniles are being even more poorly served.”

Source: For-Profit Prison Accused of Subjecting Juveniles to ‘Disgraceful’ Conditions | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Photo Credit for image below OWS on CC license.

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Vowing to #SayHerName and More, Hundreds Gather to Honor Life and Death of Sandra Bland

After being arrested in Texas following routine traffic stop earlier this month, many questions remain about untimely death of woman who has further galvanized national movement

by: Jon Queally

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Sandra Bland on Saturday at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois outside of Chicago to commemorate the woman whose untimely death in Texas jail cell on July 13 has further galvanized a national call demanding something be done about the extreme levels of police violence and the pervasive mistreatment of black women, men, and other minorities across the country.

Though an official autopsy report released Friday found that the available evidence suggests Bland hung herself inside her jail cell three days after being arrested following a confrontation with an officer who pulled her over for failing to signal, many of her family and friends—as well as members of the larger public—have questioned those findings and are demanding further investigation.

As the Chicago Tribune reported:

The majority of people attending Bland’s funeral Saturday had never met her. Yet mothers stood in line outside the Lisle church for nearly an hour under the unforgiving sun, a thick layer of sweat forming on their foreheads and those of the crying infants they held in their arms. Teenagers held handwritten signs with photos of Bland they found on Facebook; some young men had made T-shirts that read “#SandySpeaks.”

Those attending Sandra Bland’s funeral were joined by their fierce belief that, whatever the circumstance, the 28-year-old Naperville woman did not deserve to die.

Among those attending the funeral was local resident Hank Brown, who told the Tribune, “I don’t know Sandra, and I don’t know what happened. But I do know she didn’t have to die. There’s an epidemic of police terror in this country, and people need to stand up.”

When it was time for Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, to speak at her daughter’s funeral, she reportedly addressed those gathered without shedding tears, but with a steady voice as she called for justice.

“The fact is,” she said, “I’m the mom, and I still don’t know what happened to my baby… I want to know what happened to my baby. I’m gonna find out what happened to my baby.” Referencing her daughter’s role as an advocate for racial justice and her personal musings on the subject on social media under #SandySpeaks, her mother continued by saying, “My baby has spoken. She’s still speaking and no, she didn’t kill herself.”

According to the New York Times:

Ms. Reed-Veal spoke at length, telling mourners about a recent road trip she had taken with her daughter. On their way to visit relatives in Tennessee, Ms. Reed-Veal said, Ms. Bland told her she had found a calling and planned to pursue it by returning to Texas, where she had attended college.

“Her purpose was to stop all injustice against blacks in the South,” Ms. Reed-Veal said at the funeral.

Meanwhile, as the Movement for Black Lives Convening conference was being held in Cleveland over the weekend, where black activists and community organizers from around the country converged to assess and strategize over the national effort to address racial injustice, it was clear that Sandra Bland’s name—just like Ferguson’s Michael Brown, Staten Island’s Eric Garner, and Cleveland’s Tamir Rice—has become a new touchstone, especially among black women, for the growing drive to politicize and affect change around issues of police violence, mass incarceration, and social inequities that pervade modern society.

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

The conference is happening amid an escalating national discussion about law enforcement’s interaction in black communities. Those issues are illustrated through several high-profile incidents that began in the summer of 2014 with the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer and continue through this month when Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell where she was being held after a routine traffic stop.

The conference is being held in Cleveland, a city where two police officers remain under investigation in the Nov. 22, 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The Cleveland police department is now operating under a federal reform agreement that came after the U.S. Justice Department’s two-year-long probe of the department’s use-of-force practices and policies.

Local organizer Malaya Davis is a Cleveland native and a member of the Ohio Students Association. She said that while other cities were considered to hold the convening, Cleveland stood out because of Rice’s death and the death of 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson. Anderson, who suffered from mental illness, died after she was placed in a retrain hold by an officer in the street outside her family’s home. 

Tamir’s and Anderson’s deaths occurred within one week of each other.

“Cleveland looks just like Ferguson, looks just like Baltimore, looks just like all of these places that have high oppression,” Davis said. “We wanted to highlight that and bring some attention to what’s going on in this city and the state of Ohio as well.”

Source: Vowing to #SayHerName and More, Hundreds Gather to Honor Life and Death of Sandra Bland | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

 

Image below used via CC license OWS.

 

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Fox News Seizes Control Over GOP Primary, Still Claims to be Non-Partisan “News” Source

© Josh Sager – July 2015

During the 2016 election cycle, Fox News is trying to simultaneously control the primary process and steer it towards their desired outcome, while still trying to be seen as a “neutral” press observer that has no political biases. While this is nothing new, the 2016 GOP primary promises to bring this hypocrisy to record, undeniable, levels.

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On one hand, Fox claims to be a legitimate news organization that provides “fair and balanced” reporting and analysis. They claim to be non-partisan, completely disconnected from the messaging apparatus or control structure of the Republican Party, and a straight-shooting factual organization.

On the other hand, Fox has taken an active role in not just covering the 2016 GOP primary, but also acting as the gatekeeper for who is allowed to even enter the race. By controlling the 2016 primary debate entry requirements and claiming the power to deny candidates entry into the debates, Fox can essentially destroy a campaign before it gets off the ground. This basically gives them veto power over each primary candidacy and the ability to compel candidates to comply with their demands.

Because they have set an arbitrary 10-person limit on the official GOP debates and plan to select candidates from the truly massive field based upon arbitrary characteristics, they can summarily destroy any campaign that they don’t approve of.

Fox News plans to use national poll numbers to determine the top 10 candidates who will be allowed into the debates—this is flawed for three main reasons:

First, a 10-person limit is absolutely arbitrary, and would virtually cut the 18 candidate field in half. This will necessarily eliminate many viable candidates for no legitimate reason.

Second, national polls so early in the primary process are completely pointless and have absolutely no bearing on seriousness or eventual success. Polling that occurs so early in the race benefits people with high name recognition and people who say extreme things that stir up the base but re completely unrealistic or toxic to moderates (case in point: Trump).

Third, Fox hasn’t even revealed which national polls it will be using, thus it can cherry-pick polls that say what it wants them to while still cloaking their choice in a thin veil of objectivity.

The fact that Fox news can control the GOP debate process and that the GOP “leadership” seems content to let them take control over the party reveal that Fox is not just a TV network, but also the corporate entity at the center of the GOP establishment. They are not just a right-wing opinion or propaganda network, but the true brain of the Republican Party.

Put simply, nobody who is even marginally informed and in possession of functional cognitive faculties can claim that Fox News is anything but right-wing propaganda. Fox has hired an unbelievable number of GOP politicians and presidential candidates as “analysts” and has spewed an endless stream of GOP talking points for decades. Additionally, FOIA requests have revealed a memo that Roger Ailes wrote a for Nixon detailing the blueprint for Fox as the GOP’s news network. In this memo, Ailes detailed plans for a Republican propaganda organization that actively tricked viewers into accepting propaganda as fact by claiming to be straight news—in fact, he literally picked the slogan “fair and balanced” as the tagline for this propaganda mill.

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This is the first paragraph of the Ailes Memo—it goes on to argue that TV is the perfect medium for propaganda because people will believe will produced AV propaganda more than print propaganda.

With its actions during the 2016 GOP primary, Fox News has proven itself to not just to be aligned with the GOP, but actually a part of its internal power structure. In the face of this, we must demand that politicians and media figures stop treating Fox as just another news outlet. They are not neutral, nor are they real news. They are the voice of the GOP establishment and are no more of a news organization than the PR department of the Democratic National Committee.

In addition to destroying the illusion of Fox as a real news source, this situation illustrates a worrying conflict of interest caused by the flood of money in politics. If a Republican wants to improve their poll numbers and have a chance of getting into the debate (or just preserve their spot if they already have one), they must spend massive amounts of money to advertise their candidacy. As the GOP base almost exclusively relies upon Fox News for information, this means that these candidates are forced to buy Fox ad spots if they want to be effective. Fox has an economic incentive to create competition to get into the debate because it increases the value of their advertising and forces candidates to pay Fox in order to get a voice.

Ironically, this situation makes me agree with people like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina, who I would normally spend my time deriding as lunatics. These second-tier candidates for the 2016 GOP primary will almost certainly not make the Fox cut for the debates, thus will never even have a chance to make their positions known to the GOP electorate. They are being excluded from the race by an unelected, for-profit, entity that doesn’t even have the integrity to admit what it is. In response to this exclusion from the debate, these candidates have begun to protest, but to little effect (after all, Fox isn’t composed of elected officials who can be voted out).

While I disagree strongly with what the GOP primary candidate are likely to say, this is a democracy and they should have a reasonable platform to state their opinions. The GOP primary race is currently so large and volatile that it is simply wrong to exclude everybody but the top ten from the process. According to the most recent polling, Donald Trump is absolutely crushing the competition with 24% support among likely GOP voters, while Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are trailing at 13% and 12% respectively. Beyond these three at the top, Huckabee, Rubio, Carson and Paul are standing at between 8% and 6% support, while Cruz, Perry and Christie have between 4% and 3% support. If Fox uses this poll to determine who gets into the debates, they will cut off everybody below Christie, despite the fact that candidates like Kasich, Pataki, and Santorum have support just marginally under Christie and well within the poll margin of error (which is usually between 3% and 6% in either direction).

A fair system for the current GOP primary field would create a platform for ALL candidates who have measurable levels of support and ensure that Fox executives weren’t the ones deciding who Republicans get to vote for. Unfortunately, Fox is unlikely to do this, as the power to control who can even compete for the 2016 GOP nomination in such a weak field, is the power to indebt whoever the eventual nominee is to the Fox leadership.