During the heated public debates on the omnibus crime Bill C-10, Canadian progressives argued that the Harper Government’s controversial legislation was the beginning of the privatization of Canada’s prison system. Turns out that a leading U.S. prison profiteering company lobbied the federal Public Safety Minister and other Canadian officials.
So reveals a memo obtained by Bloomberg News under Canada’s freedom-of-information laws.
GEO Group Inc. lobbied Toews through Patrick Gagnon, a managing partner with the lobbying firm The Parliamentary Group. This record on the website of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada confirms it.
Says Bloomberg News: “Gagnon also lobbied John McBride, the chief executive officer of Public-Private Partnerships Canada, in June 2011, according to lobbying records. PPP Canada is a federal agency that manages a C$1.2 billion fund that invests in public infrastructure projects involving the private sector.”
Recently, Bird Construction Inc., a company linked to Enbridge, was awarded the first post-Bill C10 contract to build a $38.5-million prison in Nova Scotia.
The Guardian newspaper recently reported that Geo Group Inc. and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), two of the biggest U.S. private prison companies, had begun exploring opportunities in Canada.
The Conservative government is now “studying the use of private companies to deliver some prison services as it cuts spending and imposes tougher sentences on criminals, which may benefit companies like GEO Group Inc.” The company has profited from 9/11, the economic meltdown and recent anti-immigrant crackdowns in the U.S.
Gagnon, a Liberal MP from 1993 to 1997, wants us to believe that he was “hired by GEO Group and approached the government to inform officials of the company’s operations in Australia and the U.K.”
We know about the company’s stinky overseas human rights-abusing and profiteering operations. GEO has profited from privatized corrections and detention operations in Australia and the UK. In the late 1990s, GEO was involved with Australia’s notorious Woomera Immigration Detention Center, once described by UN officials as a “great human tragedy” and likened to a “Nazi concentration camp.” In South Africa, the company is connected with the African country’s unveiling massive prison privatization efforts.
In the US, GEO is currently the target of “a class-action lawsuit alleging that one of its youth facilities in Louisiana was plagued by sexual abuse. The suit alleges that guards engaged in sex with inmates – who at that facility range in age from 13 to 22 -and smuggled drugs into the prison. The facility allegedly denied health care and education services to inmates as well. A federal judge described the Geo Group prison as “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.””
Another lawsuit, brought forward by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU on behalf of the inmates of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, “spelled out in the lawsuit detail a culture of corruption and violence including staff setting up fights between inmates and betting on the outcome.”