The Treatment Industrial Complex 

As California transitions away from mass incarceration, a notorious private prison company has landed a multimillion-dollar state contract to provide inmate reentry services.

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GEO officials interviewed for this report declined to answer questions about the company's detention facilities. But in a statement to CBS4 in Denver regarding the class-action case, GEO officials said they planned to defend against the claims and that the "voluntary work program" at the center of the suit is directed by the federal government.

And in a Los Angeles Times report about the alleged mistreatment of detainees at the Adelanto facility, GEO Group officials said the company was handling issues there "with the utmost seriousness" and that it will "implement prompt corrective actions" when necessary.

During the Obama administration, top Department of Justice officials grew increasingly concerned about privatized corrections and its numerous problems. In August 2016, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates instructed the DOJ to end its use of private prisons and reentry centers, after investigations found such facilities to be less effective — both in terms of safety and security — than those run by the government. It was a blow for GEO Group. According to Newsweek, the day after Yates' announcement, GEO's stock fell from $21.53 a share to $13.01.

However, after Donald Trump took office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Yates' decision and GEO's stock prices soared. (Trump also fired Yates after she refused to implement his Muslim travel ban.) Both GEO Group and its main competitor, CoreCivic, each donated $250,000 to Trump's inauguration festivities and spent more than $1 million in political giving during the 2016 presidential election.

In late 2017, ICE issued what's called a request for information for new detention sites in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, and Salt Lake City, indicating the Trump administration's intention to build five new immigrant detention centers across the country (a similar request was sent out for South Texas the previous month). GEO Group, which already pockets $32 million a year from ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service, would stand to benefit from this expansion as well.

Since Trump became president, the corporation's stock spiked to $34.42, its highest yet. In its latest financial results, GEO reported a total revenue of $569 million for the last quarter of 2017, up from $566.6 million from the year before. Last week, the company's stock value hovered at about $20.

GEO Reentry's
multi-year contract with the CDCR to run the seven new day-reporting centers in California is modest in comparison to its large federal contracts but is by no means insubstantial. GEO Reentry will earn a total of $26 million over the three-year term. The agreement, which will come up for potential renewal in June 2020, includes centers in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange counties.

The Contra Costa Day Reporting Center in Richmond comprises about 10 percent of the total contract. With a capacity of 30 parolees, GEO Reentry makes about $74 each day for each former offender who walks through the doors of its Broadway location.

But this isn't the first instance of GEO profiting off of the formerly incarcerated population in the Bay Area. GEO Reentry also runs the Taylor Street Center, a transitional housing facility in San Francisco that's been in operation for over 30 years. Located at 111 Taylor St. in the Tenderloin district, it's a residential center that serves both federal and state parolees, including serious and violent offenders.

According to Katcher, Root & Rebound's legal defense hotline receives many calls from people who have stayed at Taylor Street Center, complaining about their experiences under GEO's supervision. Though the operation is different from a day reporting center like the one in Richmond, Katcher said the experiences at the San Francisco facility illustrate GEO's troubling corporate philosophy and reentry approach.

Marvin Mutch, who was released from San Quentin state prison in February 2016 after serving 41 years of a life sentence for murder — for which he maintains he was wrongfully convicted — said the terms of his parole mandated that he stay at GEO's Taylor Street Center for six months.

Mutch is now a passionate criminal justice advocate and works in different capacities for prison reform and prisoner rights — something that he started while still incarcerated. As a policy consultant for Root & Rebound, he is also concerned about the privatization of reentry services and is critical of Taylor Street's efficacy. Mutch said many of the required group classes and treatment were unnecessarily time-consuming and hindered people's ability to find jobs or continue their education. "It's so important that we reintroduce these guys and bring them back into the fold in a legitimate way," he said of ex-inmates.

Another former lifer, Mark M., who stayed at Taylor Street Center for 10 months after serving 36 years behind bars asked: "When does the self-help end and the living begin?"

The sentiment was echoed by other participants like Carmen Garcia, who served the remainder of her federal prison sentence under GEO Care's supervision, including living nearly six months at Taylor Street.

"It was troubling, because I couldn't take this class at City College, because I had this other 'life skills' class that I didn't need and that I'd already taken time and time again," Garcia said. "It's mandatory, because what they can say is, 'If you don't take these classes, you're going back to prison.'"

Maria Richards, facility director at Taylor Street Center, defended the group's classes, saying they're designed to provide curriculum that participants can apply to their lives outside of jail. "While they're in custody, they're not really practicing a lot of those skills," said Richards, explaining the necessity of repeating curriculum participants had already learned while incarcerated.


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