The Privatized Government

Sen. Hinojosa draws comparisons between private prisons and private wars - and why both are doomed to fail the state.

The Texas Youth Commission has had its share of scandals this year, to put it generously. Now there's revelations that the privately-operated Coke County Juvenile Facility has been shut down by TYC after an internal investigation and an ombudsman's report on horrific conditions. But for Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who lead the TYC reform drive earlier this year, this was bound to happen when public responsibilities are left to the market.

The big problem this time was that the reports they were getting from their quality assurance staff, which TYC is now calling unreliable: so unreliable that TYC has now sacked all four on-site quality assessors, and three of their superiors. But for Hinojosa, the real issue lay with Geo Group, the private prison company that ran Coke County for TYC, who let the facility collapse into grime and squalor, and failed to curb a rising gang violence problem.

Hinojosa made a point about Geo, and why it failed to live up to the standards expected: because it is in its very nature. “These companies are there to make a profit, but the state is there to comply with the constitution.” Kind of like Blackwater Security in Iraq, he added.

It's an interesting comparison. The number of private security consultants (don't call them mercenaries) in Iraq has doubled in the last two years to an estimated 48,000. To put that into context, during the First Gulf Conflict, there was roughly one PSC for every 100 allied troops in theater. Now that figure is closer to one to four. It is a matter of record that billions of dollars of Iraqi reconstruction cash has been funneled to Haliburton, just as their Kellogg, Brown & Root subsidiary was the builder of preference in Vietnam. A recent leak to Fox News about an alleged tape from Osama bin Laden confirmed the US intelligence community is using a private contractor - the SITE Institute - for data gathering and analysis.

Hinojosa's point about GEO seems relevant here too, and serves as a warning. “These companies are there to make a profit, but the state is there to comply with the constitution.” In the case of Coke County, profits came before child safety, at a terrible cost. What are the stakes when national security is privatized?

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Texas Youth Commission, Legislature, Blackwater Security, Juan Chuy Hinojosa, Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, GEO Group

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