When the Corrections Corporation of America bought two halfway houses in San Diego for $36 million in 2013, the company seemed committed to maintaining the status quo. CCA said it hoped guards and other employees at the facilities, known as “residential reentry” centers, would stay on. The company also announced that it would continue operating the facilities under the old owner’s name, Corrections Alternatives, because of its “strong and positive reputation.”
Yet according to a former guard, CCA’s acquisition led to cutbacks in staff, food, and programming meant to help inmates reintegrate into the community. “The transition was ridiculous,” says Mark Bartlett, who worked at the Ocean View reentry facility until he was fired in 2015. “It’s turned into a business where they’re cutting corners on everything. Whether it’s with cutting staff on payroll, cutting food, the lack of nutrition, cutting programming.”
Bartlett, a 33-year-old who served as an Army prison guard in Afghanistan and grew up near the San Diego facility, kicked off a hunger strike on Tuesday evening to protest what he sees as poor conditions at Ocean View. He and a group of local activists have drawn up a list of demands, compiled with the input of current inmates. Their top demand is that San Diego County end its contracts with CCA—and they want federal and state agencies to do the same. Bartlett says he will not eat until the demands are met.