Who is CoreCivic, one of Arizona’s for-profit prison contractors? Two-part series offers answers. Part one: Their side

Alexis Young

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Man sitting at a table in a dention facility.Getty Images

By Alexis Young / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

CoreCivic is a private prison and detention center owner and operator whose specialty is affordable options in “high-quality corrections and detention management” for correctional departments across the country, according to their website.

CoreCivic’s newest contract in Arizona will replace Florence state prison with La Palma Correctional Center. In almost 40 years of service, the Nashville company, once named Correction Corporation of America, has faced a plethora of complaints, accusations and lawsuits from inmates and employees alike.

With allegations ranging from ignored reports of sexual misconduct, retaliation against medical whistleblowers and excessive force used to disband peaceful protests, what can inmates, employees and their loved ones expect from CoreCivic and La Palma?

When NewsBreak emailed CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin for comments about the La Palma contract and allegations of CoreCivic’s misconduct, Gustin pointed to “a longstanding relationship” with the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry. Gustin went on to describe successful reentry programs at Red Rock Correctional Center, also in Eloy, AZ.

“The individuals being transferred to LPCC will have immediate access to life-changing reentry programming, and we have a strong track record of providing these services,” Gustin wrote. “For example, our Red Rock Correctional Center in Eloy has helped nearly 2,000 student-inmates earn their GEDs and/or industry-recognized training certificates, and it’s the first adult correctional facility in the state to implement the Arizona Career Readiness Credential program, an employment-focused initiative that teaches foundational career skills to participants.”

Though NewsBreak’s individual questions went unanswered in the email interview, Gustin referenced two reports that corroborate CoreCivic’s commitments to high quality care in what’s advertised as a progressive, private, prison system.

CoreCivic’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report revealed CoreCivic’s, “policies and procedures to prevent and detect misconduct related to corruption, fraud, bribery and kickbacks.”

The report went on to outline the “scope of care” CoreCivic provides, including medical, dental, optical and mental health services and 24/7 access inmates have.

Between opportunities like the Storybook Dads Program — which give inmates the chance to build and continue remote connections with their children — and vocational training from culinary arts to computer coding, CoreCivic also sent 700 letters of support for rehabilitation policies in 2021 and 24 reentry friendly bills, according to ESG report.

Though CoreCivic seemed to make notable strides in operations there was an incident that was followed by a new resolution in CoreCivic’s Human Rights Policy. The policy revision was adopted by the Board of Directors of CoreCivic, Inc. on December 15, 2021.

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CoreCivic’s logo.CoreCivic

Last April, La Palma Correctional facility made headlines after correctional officers used pepper spray, chemical agents and verbal abuse to dismand seemingly peaceful protests of detainees requesting proper PPE. The Department of Homeland Security published a 36 page inspection of the incident entitled, “Violations of Dentition Standard amid COVID-19 Outbreak at La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ.” DHS made eight recommendations to improve the facility’s and ICE’s oversight: take remedial action to “address detainee mistreatment by staff when warranted,” “ensure proper social distancing among detainees,” ensure segregated inmates retain access to things from laundry and haircuts to recreational time, “require staff to document” medical visits of segregated detainees, ensure detainees have proper access to needed medications, “review grievance policy, processes, and procedures,” “record and maintain a detainee request log,” and “ensure detainees consistent and appropriate access to ICE ERO deportation”

La Palma and Immigration and Customs only accepted three recommendations according to the DHS report. ICE said DHS’ findings were not corroborated by the facility staff. In addition, when investigators found 21 medical professional vacancies of the 72 available positions — in the pandemic — ICE said they weren’t needed since their centers were under max capacity by almost 1,000. Despite this, detainees were forced to wait 12-14 days before getting treated for fever, according to ABC News.

Seven months after the incident CoreCivic said it amended, affirmed and declared policies. Under “Human Rights Commitments” CoreCivic says they will prioritize human dignity, reflect on their commitment to human dignity, look for opportunities to improve and maintain human rights, asses their impact and progress on human rights, advocate for human rights policies, assess the impacts and progress of keeping their human rights commitments and prevent and react quickly to human rights violations.

While this article primarily focuses on who CoreCivic claims to be, the next installment of this profile will cover the public perception of CoreCivic based on prior news coverage, lawsuits, complaints and settlements.

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I found an unexpected comfort and interest in journalism. From storytelling to holding the powerful accountable to the more technical parts of the job, most all of it interests me. I’m using that interest to ignite lights that will illuminate truth.

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