Tag Archives: Gary IN

ACTION ALERT- GEO For Profit Prison plans still active Gary, IN

There is something called a Friday afternoon news dump– news items come out at end of day when comments and  statements are impossible to obtain.

Take note: The GEO Group and city officials have been working hard behind the scenes for over two years to build a For Profit detention center . Wednesday May 4th the Common Council is set to hear again, public testimony and vote.  More deals and MOUs are coming to light, despite feigned ignorance of those voting that they had no knowledge.

This weekend all major political candidates will be in Indiana , many in the Region. TAKE ACTION. show up- challenge- ask for public comments where they stand. Call their offices to clarify the information given,  Demand specifics about Indiana and about Gary. It IS Gary’s time.. we have much to offer instead of the empty promises of GEO group and back room dealings.

Bernie Sanders has always maintained he is against For profit prisons, saying at an Indpls rally “it is perverse for us to profit” from incarceration. Demand that Sanders addresses Gary and GEO

Hillary Clinton has taken money from GEO parent companies (or employees) demand she take a stand now, seeing the abuse and the economic havoc these facilities leave on communities when quotas cannot be filled.

Mike Pence and many GOP have also taken money from GEO- $20k to Pence this year alone. over $85k in the past 9 years. Ask questions!

John Gregg is mute on the issue.

Senatorial Candidates all over the state- some have taken contributions, some profited- some are publicly opposed. Eddie Melton declared his opposition weeks ago, others?

And perhaps most important. Educate yourselves. Don’t believe hype. Hell, don’t believe me –until you read the facts. And trust me, in the Region facts are hard to come by.

Basics: The day after the November 2015 election, the people of Gary first heard about the  GEO group plans for re-zoning land near our expanding airport for a  private prison.  (mind you GEO had been trying in nearby Hobart for years). Within  a few weeks, she  withdrew support .  GEO pulled the variance yet came back after new council seated. Most members  and city officials publicly stated they had no knowledge of any dealings.

Yet, thanks to FOIA, here is the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 23, 2015, before election GEO.

Note: while the numbers may sound good to a job thirsty market, there is NO contract with DOJ for inmates. None.  so it is empty wishful jobs– which is what we all want in the region- jobs.

I wouldn’t  be surprised  if some sort of contract would appear last minute- yet the MOU is based on occupancy rates. Many states have cancelled contracts with GEO, and cities have gone bankrupt as the cities are often on the hook for utilities, the tax increases, and property values diminish.  The Northwest Indiana Gazette, citizen journalism outlines these here. 

In November GEO withdrew their petition as citizens rallied. Blue collar, white collar, clergy collar.But when did they reapply? Who knows. But grab your scorecard.

At the April 12th Zoning Board meeting,  the vote was 3-1 against the variance. Testimony   included the chairman of the Airport Authority Board, former Lake county Sheriff, and Gary Diocesan Bishop Hying, Northwest Federation of Interfaith Clergy  chair Rev. Cheryl Rivera, and former Mayor Richard Hatcher- all against. 

The lone yes was from  BZA President Rinzer Williams.  Now Williams is also the legal counsel for the Gary Common Council.  At he next Common Council meeting, a tie vote on the proposal second reading essentially made it dead.

However, as the video from the April 19th common council meeting shows,  legal counsel, without being asked, approached a council member with information, That member, Herbert Smith, appointed to the council after a vacancy owns a Company that provides electronic monitoring – including to Lake County. Suddenly he brings to light  a section of the bylaws and then is helped word a motion to continue the discussion.

The citation from Atty Rinzer Williams deals with committee votes, not council votes. Williams reads from Bylaws

Sec 2-217.c (below) which states (midway through section)
 “.. in the event any ordinance is not reported favorably by a committee, prior to any meeting, any one member at the council meeting may request that the ordinance be brought out of committee at the next meeting, the ordinance shall be reported out favorably or unfavorably at the next regular meeting.”
This above section pertains to COMMITTEE reports and meetings.  This vote was  not a committee vote.  He states that by not sending the ordinance to committee that is the same as an unfavorable report BY the committee. It is not the same.
Bottom line- we need to maintain vigilance. Our state matters. Our city matters. Our lives matter. Stay connected and stay involved.
There are events and meetings all over the Region this weekend. DO your part-  we must be heard.

 

 

 

The joy of living is the joy of giving service to others.” Dolly Millender, 1920-2015

“The joy of living is the joy of giving service to others.” Dolly Millender, 1920-2015

Most everyone from the Region knows the name Dolly Millender. Then there are  those of  blessed with opportunities to have talked with her, read her works, and listen to the wisdom and encouragement she gave.

Called the historian of Gary, Dolly passed on Christmas at the age of 95. While some may automatically say “oh 95.. she lived such a long life.”, well yes, she did. And she was living it fully- in her nineties she was still very active in her city and her community. Dolly hosted a regular radio program on WLTH, she continued to meet with students and was a strong presence in the community. And she kept writing.

This blog cannot begin to give justice to the life and legacy of Dolly Millender . Our city and country has lost a powerful African American female voice- much needed today. Her motto, “The joy of living is the joy of giving service to others” is exemplified in her life. Among her accomplishments:

Indiana State University recently posted this bio and among her accomplishments:

City of Gary- Library board trustee (1960s and 1970s)

Gary City councilwoman (1980-1992)

Gary School board member (1992-2004)

Lutheran Church missionary team member (30 years)

Founder and CEO of the Gary Historical and Cultural Society, Inc. (GHCS) (1976-present)

Author of five books, 2 of which are on the history and culture of Gary, Indiana

Received her Master of Science degree in 1968 in Educational Media from Purdue University

Awards and Recognitions:

Gary Steel City Hall of Fame Award

The Governor’s Award (Governor Mitch Daniels) for Outstanding Historic Preservation in Indiana

I am sure there will be more tributes to come. Gary, IN has lost the presence of Dolly Millender, but her legacy lives on. Prayers to her family.

Blue Collar-White Collar-Clerical Collar- people of Gary and Region unite against ForProfit Prison

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Despite being in the works for months, the day after the elections the citizens of Gary found out their Mayor of Gary and one council member supported GEO Corporation  in their building and operating a ForProfit Detention Center in Gary. GEO operated as it always does- behind the scenes, financial contributions to local politicians,   and purchasing land when trying to fast-track re-zoning. Oh, and dangling the promise of jobs to a distressed urban area.

GEO has played this scenario over and over. In Texas, Colorado, IL, and in the past two years in Lake County IN. Hobart successfully stopped their plans so GEO snaked over to Gary, IN.  Purchased land near the airport, received support and then– they met  the good people of Gary.

Yes, good people of Gary, We are well aware of the jokes, the punchline our city has become. Mostly from folks who never have been to  Gary.  Or ones stuck in the hard, horrible times of the past.  But  we who still  live and work in Gary and surrounding Region know Gary IS on the move upward and beginning a resurgence in the Arts, historical education, and revitalization of her diverse culture. We have hope.  Its hard, but we are moving .

Which is why white collar , blue collar  and clergy  collar  folks- women and men joined together to rise up against the proposed ForProfit Detention Center, No doubt the detention center would target people of color and hispanics in the Region. Despite what media may portray, it was a unified coalition that made their voices heard when given less than a weeks notice of the hearing with GEO before Gary’s City Council .  MIGHT 219 -Mass Incarceration and GEO Halt team  (219 is area code of the Region) , Black Lives Matter NWI, Clergy of  numerous denominations: Lutheran, Unitarian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ., and Interfaith Coalition members.  Black Lives Matter NWI, citizens from Hobart and Crete IL, and many more individuals came together. No GEO in Gary.

Of course all these organizations and individuals want jobs for the area! But we can see through the smokescreen.  And our voices were heard. The day after the council meeting where the GEO project was tabled, Wilson withdrew her support.  Her statement can be found here.

It’s not over.  The city council can still approve the project. Next steps:

1. SIGN the online petition to stop this endeavor.
2.Attend the Tuesday Nov. 17th Gary City Council Meeting. 5Pm Prayer vigil, 6 PM meeting.
3. Attend the Gary Zoning Board Monday Nov. 23 at 1PM
4. Educate yourself on the facts- not the smokescreen:

There are two main reasons why such a facility would be detrimental to Gary. (and anywhere)

1.While the  promise of jobs to a distressed region such as Gary is enticing. GEO cannot promise , in writing, 200-300 jobs. The jobs would be based on the inmate population. There is no contract in place with ICE or Department of Justice that guarantees the number of inmates GEO is proclaiming, Recently Texas and other states have pulled out of contracts with GEO as the city has become responsible for paying the remainder of the note on the prison. Property tax increases, utility increases, all have decimated many towns in Texas.

GEO already operates the New Castle facility in Indiana. They cite the number of jobs there as proof they fulfill promises. Except  GEO merely took over the operations and maintained 90% of the workforce.

2. Aside from the empty promises of jobs and tax incentives, GEO has been successfully prosecuted for sexual harassment charges as we as human rights violations. Currently at least 3 GEO facilities have hunger strikes due to inhumane conditions, The EEOC as recent as September 2015 is again filing suit against GEO

The citizens of Gary will not condone such practices in our backyard. We will not house nor be complicit in treatment of human beings in this manner.
And if these atrocities are not enough, consider this. Detention Centers are exempt from Freedom of Information Acts.  (See page 16 of the  Citizens for Ethics report.  Obtaining actual practices – staffing levels, training, etc. are difficult to ascertain. While they may say detainees are only held 10-14 days, the reality is there are indefinite holds ( months to years) then release with NO CHARGES being filed.

Finally, GEO has lobbyists and has donated heavily in Indiana. In the past 10 years, over $83,000 has been donated to various political candidates- mostly Governors Daniel and Pence. Over $9,000 was donated to Rep. Saunders, who coincidently represents the district where the New Castle facility was awarded a GEO contract.)
This is only a brief synopsis of why GEO is bad for Gary. It is equally detrimental elsewhere, as outlined in citizen journalist Northwest Indiana Gazette.

GEO will not stop. They still own land. They still contribute to politicians. They know the distressed cities in the area and in the US.   But love has won  this far. As a local activist says, it IS Gary’s time. The citizens of Gary come from immigrant stock, from displaced peoples, that proverbial melting pot. And we are called Region Rats for a reason- we stay till the end, we don’t give up, we scrap, and  we remember.