Friday, April 15, 2016

Mississippi Jails Are Losing Inmates, And Local Officials Are ‘Devastated’ By The Loss Of Revenue

“If they do not send us our inmates back, we can’t make it,” said one county supervisor.

Fencing surrounds the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove, Mississippi, U.S., on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. In Mississippis four privately run prisons last year, the assault rate averaged three times as high as in state-run lockups. None was more violent than the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat. The culprit, say local officials, is state government and private prisons, which are looking to boost their own revenue as sentencing and drug-policy reforms are sending fewer bodies into the correctional system.
In the late 1990s, as the overcrowded Mississippi prison system buckled under the weight of mass incarceration, the state asked local governments to build local correctional institutions to house state prisoners. It was billed as a win-win: The Mississippi Department of Correction would foot the bill for each prisoner, and the counties would get good jobs guarding them. The state guaranteed that the local jails would never be less than 80 percent occupied, and the locals would get a 3 percent boost in compensation each year.
After a few years, say local officials, the state offered a new deal: Instead of the 3 percent bump, they would give the locals more and more prisoners, thus boosting total revenue. Today, the state pays $29.74 per day per prisoner to the regional facilities, a deal that worked for everybody as long as the buildings were stuffed full with bodies.
Scott Strickland, president of the Stone County Board of Supervisors, said reforms at the state and local levels have shrunk the prison population. “Federal laws took some part in that — allowing prisoners to serve only a certain percentage of their term,” he said. “Also, they’ve reduced prison sentences for certain drug-related offenses.”
As the wave of mass incarceration begins to recede, the Mississippi controversy has local and state officials talking openly about how harmful locking up fewer people up will be for the economy, confirming the suspicions of those who have argued that mass incarceration is not merely a strategy directed at crime prevention. “Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration, a social tool used for punishment, also became a major job creator,” Antonio Moore, a producer of the documentary “Crack in the System,” wrote recently.
“I don’t think it necessarily started out this way, but the inmate population has become the backbone of some of these counties that are involved,” said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher as the controversy heated up.
The prisoners have value beyond the per diem, county officials add, when they can be put to work. State prisoners do garbage pickup, lawn maintenance and other manual labor that taxpayers would otherwise have to pay for. Convict labor has made it easier for local governments to absorb never-ending cuts in state funding, as tea party legislators and governors slash budgets in the name of conservative government.
The state knows it, and now demands that local jails house state convicts who perform labor for free, George County Supervisor Henry Cochran told The Huffington Post. The counties take the deal. “You’re either gonna go up on everybody’s garbage bill, or you’ve gotta house those inmates,” Cochran said. “You’re using that inmate labor, so [taxpayers are] getting a little good out of that inmate for their tax dollars. You either gotta hire a bunch of employees or keep that inmate. It’s like making a deal with the devil.”
State lawmakers can claim to be acting conservatively, Cochran said, but they’re not responsible for the consequences of their decisions. “The state’s dumping responsibility on local government,” he said.
Fisher said in February the state Corrections Department would begin repossessing prisoners from local institutions in order to “reduce spending by $5 million to comply with Gov. Phil Bryant’s recent order.”
In a statement at the time, Fisher said that he was re-evaluating the agency’s spending, given “low pay, high turnover, critical staff shortages, and aging facilities.”
The state was paying prison guards so little that it couldn’t even find staff for its community work centers, which run the convict labor program, Fisher said. Mississippi, in other words, couldn’t even afford free labor. “I don’t like having to close community work centers, but we simply don’t have the staff to keep some of them operating. Until we improve the pay of corrections officers, staffing will continue to be a critical issue,” Fisher said.
Like Mississippi, neighboring Louisiana, as well as Kansas, have recently become laboratories for conservative policy, with hard-line Republicans slashing taxes and dramatically cutting spending. The argument was that the tax cuts would fuel growth. Instead, the states have become economic basket-cases — Kansas actually performed worse economically than its neighbors. Deficits in Kansas and Louisiana both soared and basic services have been cut beyond the bone.
The next to fall in Mississippi will be workers at regional jails that have lost 20 percent of their inmates. Officials in Stone County and George County said that around 40 employees in each would be laid off if the jails were forced to close, a necessity if the inmate population or the state reimbursement doesn’t increase. The counties are losing $72,000 per month each, officials said. Both counties still owe significant sums on bonds that financed the jails, so even if they shut them down to stop the bleeding, taxpayers will still be on the hook.
“It’s a game,” said Scott Strickland. “The commissioner of corrections wants raises for all his state employees, so he’s trying to cry wolf.”
Strickland noted that it costs the state roughly $43 per day to lock people in Mississippi facilities, and that none of the inmates in Stone County were looking forward to being moved. “They treat them rough up there,” he said of the state prisons.
Jeffrey Schwartz, a consultant who has advised jails and prisons, said Mississippi’s battle is a strange turn of events. “It is a state that has had lots of problems within corrections. This is quite a new twist,” he said. “In the great overcrowding days, there were battles between the counties and the state over whether the state had to take inmates from the counties, and the states said we’re not taking any more, and the sheriffs said, well you have to.” A sheriff, Schwartz recalled, once dropped inmates off at a state prison, handcuffed them to the fence, and drove off.
But local officials are investigating whether the state inmates are instead winding up in private prisons. “According to their reports, they have some private prisons that they are actually paying up to $80 a day. I think it’s political favors going around, the reason they’re doing that, but that’s neither here nor there,” Strickland said.
Mississippi contracts with a Utah company called Management and Training Corp. to house some of its prisoners. Stone County Supervisor Dale Bond questioned why the state would send inmates to the private prison at more than double the cost of transferring them to a county facility. “Some of these private prisons have got 1,000 inmates and they’re getting that large per diem,” he lamented. Management and Training Corp. wasn’t immediately able to comment.
“By the end of May, we’ll be well over a quarter-million in the red on that facility,” said Bond of Stone County’s facility. “If they do not send us our inmates back, we can’t make it.”
Bond said the county supervisors have asked for permission to bring prisoners from out of state to cover the shortfall, but he worried red tape will slow the flow of human traffic. “I don’t know how reliable that is. By the time we get that approved, we’re gonna be broke,” he said. 
At a recent meeting with state officials, Bond said, the state Corrections Department offered to pay off one sheriff’s bond and close the county facility, but he turned down the offer. “No, we don’t want that, we want the jobs,” the sheriff said.
For Strickland, something has to give. “In a way, we were sort of devastated. That revenue needs to be made up,” he said.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Study Shows How Low Corporate America’s Taxes Really Are

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) requested the Government Accountability Office study.
  • The presidential hopeful said the findings reveal that “there is something profoundly wrong in America.”
  • The report comes amid a rise in “corporate inversion” deals aimed at avoiding U.S. corporate taxes.
  • A new government report shows just how easy corporate America has it.
    Every year from 2006 to 2012, some two-thirds of U.S. corporations did not pay federal income taxaccording to a Government Accountability Office study released on Wednesday. In 2012 alone, 42.5 percent of businesses that the GAO defines as large did not pay federal taxes, including 19.5 percent of big corporations that posted a profit.
    The GAO said those corporations in the black that still did not pay federal taxes benefitted from loopholes and tax incentives, such as the practice of rolling over losses from previous years. That enables companies to deduct those losses from their tax burden.
    Profitable U.S. corporations paid, on average, an effective federal income tax rate of 14 percent over the slightly shorter period from 2008 to 2012, the federal government watchdog found.
    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who requested the report, immediately condemned the findings and touted legislation he has co-sponsored to curb corporate tax avoidance.
    “There is something profoundly wrong in America when one out of five profitable corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes,” Sanders said in a statement.
    Which companies did not pay taxes in the period the study examined varied from year to year, but the findings nonetheless paint a stark picture of light taxation overall.
    The findings are likely to affect an ongoing debate over corporate tax rates and the increasingly creative techniques big businesses use to avoid paying them. 
    The report also comes in the wake of the publication of the Panama Papers this month, a trove of leaked documents exposing massive tax dodging schemes by global leaders and businesses, which raised awareness of evasion issues.
    There is something profoundly wrong in America when one out of five profitable corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes.Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
    There has been a rash of “corporate inversions” in recent years, whereby U.S. companies acquire smaller foreign firms in order to reincorporate in countries with lower taxes.
    The Treasury Department enacted a rule change last week designed to crack down on inversions.
    Executives at these companies claim the top statutory corporate tax rate in the U.S. of 35 percent is so high relative to other countries, that they have little choice but to move overseas in order to remain competitive.
    But the GAO study provides new support for the arguments of fair taxation advocates, who have long noted that effective corporate tax rates are much lower than the statutory rates.
    Ireland, one of the most popular destinations for corporate inversions, has a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent. That is not much lower than the 14-percent rate paid on average by profitable U.S. corporations in recent years.
    However, in the United States, unlike most other countries, overseas profits are subject to domestic tax rates if corporations bring those earnings back to the country. As a result, corporations have an incentive to stash money overseas indefinitely. Avoidance techniques like inversions just enable them to get greater access to their hoarded cash.
    Most other countries have what is known as a “territorial” tax system, which allows companies to pay the tax rate of the country where profit was earned.
    President Barack Obama has laid out a “framework” for corporate tax reform that includes a transition to an arrangement that looks more like territorial taxation. As an interim step, the president has called for a one-time 14-percent tax rate for corporations that bring their offshore earnings back to the U.S.
    Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal group, criticized the White House’s proposed amnesty for corporations as a “wasteful giveaway to the biggest offshore tax avoiders.”
    Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that one in five profitable U.S. corporations (19.5 percent) paid no federal taxes. However, this was true only of large profitable corporations in 2012 alone.
  • Link:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mysterious death of dozens of birds leaves biologist perplexed

A mystery is unfolding in Shasta County hundreds of birds are found dead along Interstate 5. A wildlife biologist says this is highly unusual.
And Jim Wiegand is troubled.
“I’ve studied wildlife my entire life and I’ve never seen this, never seen this,” he said. “It's highly unusual.”
The wildlife biologist is trying to unlock a mystery that mystery lies in the form of dozens of dead birds all gathered within a 200 yard radius in the northbound lanes of Interstate 5, on the side of the road, and in the grass just south of the Mountain Gate exit in Shasta County.
“The majority of them are right in this area,” Wiegand said. “Only one or two across the center-divide on the other side of the road there's almost nothing that's another unusual thing.”
Wiegand drives this stretch of road all the time and, as a graduate of UC Berkeley, he's written numerous stories about birds.
“I don't see any signs of trauma disease,” he said. “And they are all in one tight location.”
As he picks up carcasses he plans to have examined, he wonders what could have happened.
“If they were all hit by a semi and a big group was crossing the road, where’s the signs of trauma,” he asked. “These guys look in perfect condition. Where’s the busted up smashed bodies? Where are the cripples? They're not all going to be dead, birds with broken wings can travel for miles on the ground.”
Many articles have been written about a phenomenon just like this one all over the country.
Starlings are considered a pest. They have been poisoned in the past. Wiegand said he doesn't believe that’s what happened here.
“Even if they were given poison seed, these guys would be scattered all over the place,” he said. “If they were shot with a gun they'd be going all different directions, they wouldn't just be all right here.”
Nor does he believe they were sick
“If it was an avian disease, why would all the bodies be in one place,” Wiegand said. "When birds are sick it takes them a long time to die. This is a sudden event.”
Whatever happened, is a mystery, one that may be hard to solve.
Calls to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Shasta County Animal Control were not returned.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Ñ Don't Stop - Trapped At The Airport Rahm Emanuel and Bernie in the Bronx

Ñ Don't Stop had the opportunity to do an impromptu interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after taking a flight together into New York City. He refused to talk to us when questioned about recent CPD murders and The Chicago Teachers Union strike. He said his reason was that he was with his family, yet we asked him what about Laquan McDonalds family? We also covered the Democratic Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders' historic visit to The South Bronx. We spoke to some of the people who attended, and question whether his campaign can lead to actual change in the poorest neighborhoods of the U.S.


FEMA to Perform 'Full-Scale Exercise' at Nuclear Power Plant

FEMA to Perform 'Full-Scale Exercise' at Nuclear Power Plant

Next week’s training will analyze response to a radiological release at the Seabrook Station; NH, Mass. emergency officials participating.

SEABROOK, NH - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct a “full-scale” training exercise at the NextEra Energy Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant located in Seabrook on April 8, 2016. The exercise if being organized by FEMA, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and state and local emergency management officials
“This exercise allows federal teams to examine the ability of the participating local, state and utility officials to protect the health and safety of the public living near the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in the event of a radiological release,” according to Bruce Brodoff of the FEMA. “FEMA will observe and evaluate governmental responses. The NRC will observe and evaluate the on-site performance of Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant staff.”
Officials from communities in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, within a 10-mile radius of the plant, are being requested to activate their emergency operations centers during the exercise, according to a press statement.
The organizations will hold a public briefing at 11 a.m. on April 8, at the end of the exercise, at the Courtyard Marriot’s Seacoast Ballroom in Portsmouth. Written comments and questions can be submitted from the public at that time or after the meeting, according to officials.