Monthly Archives: August 2016

U.S. weighs pullback from use of private immigration detention

By Chico Harlan

The Otay Mesa detention center near San Diego is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. CCA is one of the largest private prison company in the country. (The Washington Post)

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday said it would reexamine the use of private operators for detention facilities, signaling a potentially major change in U.S. immigration policy.

Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that he has asked the Homeland Security Advisory Council to evaluate whether the use of private immigrant detention “should be eliminated.” He said the review will be finished within three months.

The move highlights how the government is considering a broad pullback from contracting with for-profit companies after decades of reliance on the operators for its immigration facilities and its federal prisons. Earlier this month, the Justice Department said it would gradually close its 13 private prisons, calling them both less safe and less effective than those run by the government. Johnson said Monday that the advisory council should look at whether to “move in the same direction,” considering “all factors,” including cost.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — a component of DHS — holds more than 60 percent of its 400,000 annual detainees at private facilities. Nine of the 10 largest detention centers are private, operated either by the Corrections Corp. of America or the GEO Group. The facilities hold individuals who have committed crimes, are awaiting deportation or are pressing legal claims to remain in the country. In 2014, both companies were also awarded contracts to house mother and child asylum seekers; the deals are unusual because the firms receive fixed payments no matter how many beds are occupied.

If the federal government eliminates or reduces the use of private facilities, it would be forced to undertake …read more

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Study: Medical marijuana changes how employees use sick time

By Christopher Ingraham

Cannabis plants grow at Vireo Health’s medical marijuana cultivation facility in Johnstown, N.Y., on Aug. 19. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Fact #1: Legalizing marijuana is bad for the workplace.”

That’s the stark warning from the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, a nonprofit that works to combat drug use among American employees.

“The impact of employee marijuana use is seen in the workplace in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale,” the institute writes. “This can and does seriously impact the bottom line.”

Does it really, though?

New research published in the journal Health Economics suggests that the argument is overstated. Darin F. Ullman, an economist who recently received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, wanted to know what effect, if any, the enactment of medical marijuana laws has had on employee absentee rates.

A fair amount of research has been done on the aggregate impact of illicit marijuana use on workplace productivity. Generally speaking, the most recent research — gathered and summarized in this 2014 paper — indicates that most marijuana use has little effect on workplace productivity, although chronic or heavy pot use can be a problem.

On net, the evidence is mixed. “It is simply uncertain as to whether there are negative labor market consequences of drug use in general, and cannabis use in particular,” the 2014 paper concludes.

But there hasn’t been a lot of research into the impact of licit marijuana use — particularly medical marijuana use — on the workplace. So Ullman decided to look into what happened to employee sick-day use in states that legalized medical marijuana, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS).

On the one hand, you might expect broader access to marijuana to result in more workers calling in sick, because …read more

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