With Only Your Wits and an Empty Can of Pepper Spray to Protect You

Listen, Trousdale County, Tennessee, I get it: When a big, powerful corporation comes to town and promises 400 new jobs, that's a huge deal. Especially if you're a small, rural community of hardworking people trying to make an honest living.

So I get the impulse to be excited by the deal your commissioners just signed with the Corrections Corporation of America to open a new prison. But before y'all start submitting applications, let me tell you a little about working for the Corrections Corporation of America.

CCA has a track record of cutting corners to save money – often at the expense of their employees.

Just ask Sergeant Leonard King.

Like the people of Trousdale County, Leonard King just wanted to make an honest living working at a CCA prison over in Ada County, Idaho. At first, Sgt. King thought he'd work as a guard for CCA until he retired. Now he and his former co-workers are suing the private prison giant.

Sgt. King contends that staff were regularly put in harms' way so CCA could cut expenses – down to giving guards radios with dead batteries and containers of pepper spray with nothing inside, instructing them to "just fake it" if things got dicey. Understaffing was such a problem that at night, one guard would be expected to manage up to 300 prisoners by himself.

King says he was violently assaulted five times, sustaining a concussion while being beaten by a prisoner who'd threatened to attack the next person he saw. King's supervisor allegedly knew about the threat but didn't warn King when he sent him in to deal with the situation. The supervisor also reportedly told another employee who wanted to join the escort team to just "wait until the assault happened, and then respond."

And Sgt. King's not the only one to have a terrible experience working for CCA.

Take the guards and nurses at the CCA prison in Ashtabula County, Ohio, where prisoner-on-staff assaults skyrocketed more than 300 percent between 2010, when it was a state-owned prison, and 2012, after CCA took the facility over from the state. No wonder state inspectors found that staff had low morale and high turnover. You would too, if you hadn't received training on "how to handle inmate confrontations" and were regularly forced to work 12-hour overtime shifts, as the state reported these employees were.

Or take Catlin Carithers. He was just 24 when he was beaten to death at the CCA prison where he worked in Adams County, Mississippi. Called back into work on his day off, Catlin spent his final hours trapped in the middle of a prisoner protest over poor food, medical care, and bad treatment that spiraled out of control. His family is suing CCA too, alleging that CCA "created a dangerous environment for the corrections officers by depriving inmates of basic needs and treating them inhumanely." More damning, his parents also allege CCA failed to warn Catlin that he was on a prisoner "hit list" the day he died.

All of these CCA employees deserved better, and the people of Trousdale County do too. You deserve to have safe, rewarding job opportunities. You don't deserve to work for a company that demands its employees work overtime under dangerous conditions and looks the other way when its workers walk, protected only by their wits and an empty can of pepper spray, into life-threatening situations.

For these reasons and many others, we need to take action against CCA. Join our campaign to hit CCA in their home state, and tell Tennessee Governor Haslam it's time for CCA to get out of Tennessee.

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Anonymous

You have to be freakin' KIDding me. Where do these "people" get the hell OFF thinking they deserve to be treated with the absolute UTMOST reSPECT after they murdered or raped or robbed people? Some of them doing almost all those things at ONCE.
I was robbed, held hostage, forced to watch a shooting (of the teller who tried to alert authorities to what was happening), was shot and technically died. I had an out-of-body experience and all the medical equipment of the day corroborated that I was clinically dead and physically dying.
And for doing all that, guys like the one who did it can have the utterly GALLing nerve to use violence to demand to be treated like any OTHER human being who NEVER EVER committed a crime.
I say f*ck them and they can suffer through eternity for having no gd conscience whatsoever.
It's disgusting. Dis. Gus. Ting.

Frank Smith

Joe Jackson was a lifer in the CCA-operated Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, MS. Thanks to a series of blunders by CCA guards and supervisors, Jackson was notified of the time and place of an appointment at an outside eye clinic.

With a cell phone that had been easily smuggled inside, Jackson called his cousin in Louisville, KY, to come and break him out. The armed CCA guard who accompanied him to the clinic threw her gun down when Jackson's cousin arrived to help him escape. Jackson retrieved the ancient police special surplus pistol before fleeing.

A few hours later, a Metro Nashville Police Sergeant pulled the cousin over for a seat belt violation. Jackson used the CCA pistol to shoot Sgt. Mark Chesnut five times in the abdomen. Fortunately, the gun misfired when Jackson tried to shoot him in the head and Chesnut was able to throw his cruiser into reverse and survived the horrific murder attempt.

CCA denied having any fiscal responsibility for the escape and shooting and dragged out a settlement with the victim for two years.

Jackson is now serving 45 years at Tennessee taxpayers' expense, while his accomplice cousin Courtney Logan is serving 31 years for driving the getaway car.

Anonymous

Ok - no one is saying incarceration is not a necessary means to maintain law and order in our society.

I understand that there are many individual stories of heartbreak and sadness because another person committed a serious crime. For this I am truly sad.

What we (those who car about equality) are saying is that the American prison system today disproportionally affects the poor, mentally ill, black and Hispanic members of our community. This is a fact that cannot be ignored.

Read the book, "A Plague of Prisons" I will paraphrase Dr. Ernest Drucker a well respected Epidemiologist, "Overcrowding jails is a disaster -- but it is no accident. Indeed, it is the result of laws and deliberate public policies, fueled by the expenditure of trillion of dollars of public funds, and supported by powerful political and economic interests. This new epidemic exhibits all the characteristics of an infectious disease -- spreading most rapidly by proximity and exposure to prior cases."

Yes, we need a place to put people who cannot be trusted to live in our free world, but we need to stop punishing people because they aren't white and without the means to lawyer up and have charges dropped.

from Richard, V...

Before I say what's on the tip of my tongue, I must give the following personal detail: I'm independently wealthy, I became that way through a talent and enough luck to find the opportunity that made me a well-off person.
It's exactly because of my own position that I say I detest CCA and any other private corporation growing more profits at the cost of human suffering.
I think that once a person becomes insanely wealthy their responsibilities and sense of morals should take the same leap into being wildly evident. Otherwise, you don't deserve your good fortune. Not if you use and abuse it, and do things that look very damn much like human trafficking.
Certain people in my income bracket like to stare down their noses at veterans, most of them believing that war makes a man inhuman.
I think profiting from private prisons makes you as much inhuman as I've been told that war must have made of me. Which isn't true, incidentally; it made me feel disgust at the thought of human suffering, and I can't tolerate seeing someone being harmed without taking any action necessary to stop it.
I think people who see the horrors of war recoil from it unless they're plainly psychotic, in which case they appear to enjoy what they see and take an active participation in doing some of the same. Sometimes it happens because the "warrior" snaps emotionally but it can also occur because the person is plainly wrong in the head.
I think most of the people who run CCA are not right in the head. They care TOO much about money and profits, not enough about human beings.

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