Thankfully, Private Prisons are on the Decline and Louisiana has None

Private prisons in the United States incarcerated 121,718 people in 2017, representing 8.2% of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 39%.

However, the private prison population reached its peak in 2012 with 137,220 people. Declines in private prisons’ use make these latest overall population numbers the lowest since 2006 when the population was 113,791.

States show significant variation in their use of private correctional facilities. Indeed, the New Mexico Department of Corrections reports that 53% of its prison population is housed in private facilities, while 22 states do not employ any for-profit prisons. Data compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and interviews with corrections officials find that in 2017, 28 states and the federal government incarcerated people in private facilities run by corporations including GEO Group, Core Civic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), and Management and Training Corporation.

Eighteen states with private prison contracts incarcerate more than 500 people in for-profit prisons. Texas, the first state to adopt private prisons in 1985, incarcerated the largest number of people under state jurisdiction, 12,728.

Since 2000, the number of people in private prisons has increased 39.3%, compared to an overall rise in the prison population of 7.8%. In six states the private prison population has more than doubled during this time period: Arizona (479%), Indiana (310%), Ohio (277%), Florida (199%), Tennessee (117%), and Georgia (110%).

The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains the nation’s highest number of people managed by private prison contractors. Since 2000, its use increased 77%, and the number of people in private federal custody — which includes prisons, half-way houses and home confinement — totaled 27,569 in 2017. While a significant historical increase, the population declined 15% since 2016, likely reflecting the continuing decline of the overall federal prison population.

Among the immigrant detention population, 26,249 people – 73% of the detained population – were confined in privately run facilities in 2017. The privately detained immigrant population grew 442% since 2002.

Political influences have been instrumental in determining the growth of for-profit private prisons and continue today. However, if overall prison populations continue the current trend of modest declines, the privatization debate will likely intensify as opportunities for the prison industry dry up and corrections companies seek profit in other areas of criminal justice services and immigration detention.

Read the full article here


Is Colorado Prepared to Divorce from the Dysfunctional Private Prison Relationship?

Colorado lawmakers for the first time are preparing to map out a possible divorce from the private prison industry, and a long-shuttered maximum-security prison could be part of the solution.

A committee tasked with managing the state’s prison population has been workshopping a proposal that calls upon the Colorado Department of Corrections “to study how to end the practice of using private prisons by 2025 in a responsible way.”

The proposed bill also calls for Colorado to begin housing inmates at the remodeled Centennial South as a way to reduce the number of private beds used. The Cañon City prison opened in 2010 to house prisoners in solitary confinement but closed two years later as the state phased out the practice.

The draft bill says that for every prisoner housed at Centennial South, another must be moved out of a private facility until Centennial South is full.

Three of the department’s 25 prisons are privately owned. GEO Group, the world’s largest private prison company, owns one in Colorado Springs, and CoreCivic, the second-biggest player in the industry, owns prisons in Las Animas and Olney Springs. Together, these facilities hold nearly 4,000 of the roughly 20,000 people in DOC custody, according to the department’s September report.

The bill comes as public outrage against the private prison industry has swelled, leading Denver leaders to end contracts with companies running halfway houses and California leaders to pass a law barring the use of private facilities.

State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat who chairs the committee on prison population management, said she assumes she would carry the potential bill in the House.

“We have to ensure that (prisoners) are set up to succeed and that there’s not profiteering that’s happening on the backs of our criminal justice system,” Herod said.

But ending the state’s use of private prisons wouldn’t be simple, said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. Even if the state uses all the beds available at Centennial South, she said, it would still have to find space for more than 2,000 other inmates or significantly reduce the overall prison population to make a switch feasible.

The cost of such a change is still unknown and will be a crucial factor in any decisions, she said. Generally, private facilities are able to operate at a lower cost per inmate.

“The bottom line is going to be what that fiscal note says,” Donner said.

Because of those unknowns, DOC Director Dean Williams declined to take a stance on the proposed bill. He said he “philosophically” opposes the private prison industry but that the size of the population he manages puts him “in a difficult situation.”

“I’m concerned about any part of the prison or correctional system where there’s a profit incentive,” he said. “At the same time, I realize that we rely upon three private prisons to provide bed space — beds that we need.”

For the rural communities where CoreCivic’s prisons are located, the loss of the facilities would be devastating for their tax base and the hundreds of prison employees, said Blaine Arbuthnot, Crowley County commissioner. The leaders of Crowley and Bent counties met with Herod last week to discuss their concerns.

“Literally the private prison here pays half our property tax,” Arbuthnot said. “It would be devastating to lose that, not only for our county but for our school district.”

CoreCivic leaders are aware of the possible legislation, company spokesman Brandon Bissell said in a statement. Bissell said the company was proud of its track record in Colorado. Representatives from GEO Group did not return requests for comment on the proposal.

The private prison industry is deeply entrenched in Colorado. The bulk of its business is in community re-entry programs, such as halfway houses and treatment centers. Twenty of Colorado’s 25 biggest cities have at least one facility operated by either GEO or CoreCivic.

The draft bill does not call for the elimination of these re-entry contracts and instead focuses exclusively on the state’s three private DOC prisons. It would not affect the Aurora ICE detention center owned and operated by GEO.

Following direction from state lawmakers early this year, the DOC has been working on a roughly $1 million retrofit of Centennial South. This project included new common dining areas, new outdoor basketball courts, infrastructure improvements and some modifications to some of the 948 cells in the prison.

As it stands, the DOC is only authorized to keep prisoners at Centennial South, also known as CSPII, in the event of severe overcrowding throughout the system. But concerns about population overflow have subsided, and it now appears unlikely that Colorado will exceed the threshold to trigger the facility’s opening any time soon.

Herod said using the prison instead of private facilities gives the state the option to at least start a private prison phase-out sooner than 2025. A clean divorce from private prisons now or in the near future isn’t feasible, she said.

“We currently are under contract with some of these facilities, and we have offenders housed there,” Herod added. “There’s not alternative places to put them, but for CSPII.”

Herod also said that she thinks a phase-out would “likely include buy-backs,” as in the state purchasing some or all of the three private DOC facilities from GEO and CoreCivic.

On Oct. 30, the committee that drafted the bill will vote on whether to refer it to the legislature next session, which opens in January.

Read the full article by : https://www.denverpost.com/2019/10/19/colorado-private-prisons-geo-corecivic/


Louisiana permits hundreds of businesses to sell CBD products

Louisiana has awarded business licenses to 775 companies that want to sell CBD products.

The state’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) received more than 1,000 permit applications after passage of a law outlining how retailers can sell products containing CBD. The ATC started the process in June.

Liquor stores, gas stations and CBD-specific shops were among the first businesses cleared to sell CBD.

Sellers must meet a lengthy list of requirements to receive licenses. The CBD products must carry scannable bar codes, QR codes or other information to verify the product’s certificate of analysis.

Smokable hemp products are banned in Louisiana.

Sales of beverages or food containing CBD are prohibited nationwide until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves cannabinoids as an ingredient for human consumption.

The FDA began its scientific review of cannabis-derived products with a public hearing on May 31.

The agency said it will report on its progress by this fall, though it has made no promises about expanding CBD access.

While the Louisiana law ended uncertainty about whether CBD products can be sold in the state, some have said the regulations are overly burdensome.

View full article here


Study Finds Cannabis Dispensaries Reduce Opioid Deaths by 21%

In a study published this week in the journal Economic Inquiry, researchers found that the legalization of adult-use cannabis reduced opioid overdose deaths by 21%.

The study, carried out by economists at the University of Massachusetts and Colorado State University, found that legalization had “particularly pronounced effects for synthetic opioids” such as fentanyl.

“Our principal finding is that recreational marijuana access significantly decreases opioid mortality, with the most pronounced effects for synthetic opioids,” the researchers concluded. The effect “stems primarily from access via dispensaries rather than legality per se.”

Confirms Previous Studies

This week’s study backs up previous work on the question. A 2014 JAMA study found that states with medical marijuana laws saw 25% fewer deaths from opioid overdose compared to states without.

Last year two further studies found lower opioid prescription rates in legal states. A University of Kentucky researcher found a 6% lower rate of opioid prescriptions for pain in medical marijuana states, and a 12% lower opioid prescription rate in adult-use states. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Georgia found that Medicare patients in medical marijuana states filled 14% fewer daily doses of opioids than patients in other states.

National Data, State Laws

In the latest study, economists from Massachusetts and Colorado examined mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control (1999 through 2017), and cross-checked that against data on the legal history of cannabis in each state. They then controlled for variables including income, race, ethnicity, sex, age, unemployment rates, and population.

The study’s authors point out that there were 47,600 deaths from opioids in the United States in 2017. A reduction of 21% would imply nearly 10,000 lives potentially saved.

“Our results have direct relevance for policy,” the researchers noted, “as they indicate that recent expansions to marijuana access have significant co-benefits in the form of reduced opioid mortality.”

“States with legal access to marijuana were far less affected by the opioid mortality boom of the past decade than those without,” they added. “Thus, our work provides important food for thought for state and federal authorities that continue to mull medical and/or recreational legalization of marijuana.”

Three Ways Cannabis Can Help

The Economic Inquiry study does not suggest the exact mechanisms by which cannabis helps reduce opioid deaths. But in a 2017 interview with Leafly, Canadian researcher Philippe Lucas laid out three primary avenues for amelioration.

Lucas suggested that pain patients might bypass the use of opioids altogether if physicians recommended trying medical cannabis first, rather than opioids first. If the cannabis provides sufficient relief, opioids would never need to come into the equation.

Second, cannabis may help patients using opioids to use fewer opioids or find more effective relief at lower dosage levels.

Third, cannabis may help those with an opioid dependency transition to replacement therapy with methadone.

The key, said Lucas, is a substitution effect that doesn’t have to be full and complete to be useful. Cannabis can be a therapeutic agent for some patients, and it can also act as a harm reduction agent for those who can’t completely stop their use of opioids. For those patients, cannabis may not be a complete substitute, but it may allow them to lower their opioid dosage and use and thereby stay alive.

read the original by: Bruce Barcott at www.leafly.com


Limited release’ of marijuana slated for May, with full supply in the fall, grower says

One of Louisiana’s two medical marijuana growers is planning to do a “limited release” of the drug in May, a move aimed at getting treatments to those most in need amid demands from frustrated patients and pharmacy owners.

GB Sciences, the firm hired by LSU to run its marijuana-growing program, will take product it has already made in a temporary facility and release it to the state’s nine licensed pharmacies, GB Sciences Louisiana President John Davis said at a medical marijuana stakeholder meeting at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture offices in Baton Rouge.

After that, the company’s first full harvest of plants in the main facility that it just moved into won’t happen until August. It will take about a month to turn that into tinctures for sale to patients, Davis said.

“We want to go forward with the pharmacies with a limited release so we can get medicine to the most critically in-need patients,” Davis said.

“In general we would like to aim for May,” Davis said. “We know there are a lot of things involved with that,” he added. “We know it’s not going to supply the whole market.”

While GB Sciences is working to produce marijuana in its main facility, it will also be doing several harvests in the temporary pod, Davis said. After August, the company will be fully operating.

Patients and advocates packed the room Monday for the second meeting in a row to complain about repeated delays of the state’s medical marijuana program. Lawmakers passed legislation outlining the program in 2015, and set the program forward in 2016.

The Louisiana Association of Therapeutic Alternatives, which represents the state’s marijuana pharmacies and some doctors and patients, demanded product hit the shelves by May 15.

“We need this medication,” said Doug Boudreaux, head of the association and owner of a north Louisiana marijuana pharmacy. “We’re desperate for this medication.”

The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy selected nine pharmacies to sell marijuana in different regions throughout the state last spring. The board has since issued five of nine permits, while four others are awaiting inspections, said Carlos Finalet, general counsel for the pharmacy board.

While GB Sciences said it will release the drug in May, it is not clear who will be eligible to get access to the drug if it does become available then, as Davis made clear the amount of product would not be enough meet the demands of the entire market. The company will know soon how much product it will have for the May release, Davis said in an interview.

View full article here


LSU fires back in cannabis flap, calls Strain’s accusations reckless, untrue

(Daily Advertiser)- LSU AgCenter Vice President Bill Richardson on Friday, March 8, 2019, fired back at Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, calling Strain’s accusation that LSU is breaking the law by expanding its medical marijuana program “untrue” and “reckless.”

It’s the latest volley in an escalating feud between LSU AgCenter and Strain over the state’s fledgling cannabis program.

“Commissioner Strain made reckless and unsupported public accusations against the LSU AgCenter and GB Sciences Louisiana (LSU’s private partner) and threatened litigation,” Richardson said in a statement. “The allegations made by Commissioner Strain are simply untrue.”

The LSU AgCenter and Southern University AgCenter are the only ones who can legally grow the cannabis and produce the medicine, but Strain is the regulator who must sign off on their ability to proceed.

Though medical cannabis has been legal for years, it has yet to reach pharmacies and patients because of regulatory hurdles for LSU and its private partner GB Sciences. Southern’s program lags LSU because of early issues with its original private partner.

LSU contends Strain’s agency granted permission last week to proceed with moving the first crop from a small temporary growing pod into the main facility, but Strain said the move was based on a proposed contract with conditions that LSU refused to sign.

“They’ve fought the law every step of the way,” Strain said Monday in an exclusive interview with USA Today Network. “We’ve sent them a notice that they’re in violation of the law and we’ll proceed to a (court hearing).

“It’s crystal clear the movement of the plants was contingent on signing the memorandum of understanding,” said Strain, who said LSU AgCenter has resisted oversight from the beginning.

Richadson said the written offer from Strain to move the plants wasn’t reliant on signing the memorandum of understanding, insisting that was separate from the permission to move the plants.

“Relying on this written approval from the LDAF, the LSU AgCenter moved plant material into the two specific rooms on Friday, March 1, 2019,” Richards said. “The following Monday, an LDAF inspector issued a deficiency notice to the LSU AgCenter for doing what Commissioner Strain expressly approved the week before.”

Richardson said patients are suffering while he contends Strain is unnecessarily dragging his feet.

“Commissioner Strain’s actions are preventing thousands of patients from receiving the medical relief that they are anxiously awaiting and deserve,” Richardson said. “The LSU AgCenter calls on Commissioner Mike Strain to immediately allow this program to proceed, so that the patients of Louisiana can receive the medicine to which they are legally entitled.”

Strain has said LSU and GB Sciences are resisting providing information to Louisiana State Police for a required “suitability study,” or extensive background check that must be complete before Strain gives his blessing.

“Nothing is being done to hinder production of medical marijuana,” Strain said Friday in a statement. “The reason for issuing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to allow LSU AgCenter, the licensee, to supervise its subcontractor, GBSL, during hours of operation at the facility until the suitability determination is approved.

“LSU, the licensee, is deemed suitable by law, but GBSL, the subcontractor, is not. Suitability, as required by law, includes but is not limited to criminal, civil and financial background checks. In accordance with the MOU, LSU can supervise GBSL, the subcontractor, until the suitability process is completed and approved by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).

“As of now, LSU-GBSL is not in compliance. Again, the LDAF cannot give LSU-GBSL the authority to break the law. However, LSU-GBSL can be in compliance to only move plant material into the requested rooms (Mother room and Vegetative room) by signing the MOU which was clearly a requirement as noted in the original letter dated February 28, 2019.”

Read the full article at klfy.com


Our opinion: Medical marijuana — State must work out the problems

Louisiana has had more than enough time to get its medical marijuana program up and running.

Not only does the state Department of Agriculture have guiding instructions in the form of the 2016 law regulating the effort, but it also has the collective experience of the many other states that have been down this road before us. And, most importantly, it has had two years to get it off the ground.

But still there are delays and confusion.





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