Tuesday, June 9, 2009

HispanicNashville.com covers CCA reactions to Hutto Criticism

Hispanic Nashville interviews Louise Grant, public relations officer for CCA360.com, CCA's new website aimed at improving CCA's public image. Should we take it as a compliment that CCA has an image problem?

The Hispanic Nashville Notebook asked CCA how the company views the detention of children and families, or allegations of overincarceration - and whether the board or the company wrestles with the moral issues raised by opponents, or whether there is a limit to the kind of policies the company is willing to help implement. Here is the response of CCA VP of Marketing and Communications Louise Grant:

Our government customers don't ask us our opinions on the moral implications. ... They make public policy decisions. ... Once those decisions have been made, they decide "Is the public government sector going to manage these individuals, or is the private sector?" ... We are not in the business of making moral decisions on U.S. public policy. ... Where we can have an influence is in our own facilities.

When describing the moment when ICE approached CCA to turn Hutto into a family facility, Grant said that CCA initially turned the government down:

Grant: Specifically in regard to Hutto, I can say our customer - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, again, they have been our customer for 25 years, they trust us - they came to us and asked us to operate a family detention center. We said no initially.

Hispanic Nashville Notebook: Why was that?

Grant: We said we have not had that expertise before - you know, we've managed adults. We've had a few juvenile facilities, but we have not managed a family detention center. Obviously, there was only one at the time in the country, in Pennsylvania, and we said no. And ICE came back to us and said, we've made the public policy decision that we are going to do this, and we want to partner who we trust; you've been a good partner for 25 years; we know you have high standards, you have integrity and strong ethics, and we would like you to do this. And we knew it was going to be an evolutionary process, because it was new for ICE and it was new for us, but we said OK we will do this. And we knew that there would be scrutiny. There was obviously the concern about safety and security to say, how can we ensure the absolute safest, most humane environment for these individuals. And our staff, who already goes through very rigorous training, went through a great deal more specialized training, and all of our counselors. And it has been an evolutionary process.

I've been to that facility several times. The warden Evelyn Hernandez is a wonderful woman from Puerto Rico who has the greatest sensitivity, and her staff has the greatest sensitivity to the mothers and the children and the fathers. We do believe that keeping those children with their families is something we're proud of. Again, we've worked extremely hard not to get involved in the public policy decisions...

...and check out the great timeline at the end of the full article.