Deutch, Warren, Booker Investigate Private Prisoner Transport Company

Public reports have documented inhumane and unsafe conditions in company’s vehicles, including unsanitary practices, gross negligence, physical and sexual abuse, and inattentiveness to basic and urgent medical needs of prisoners 

(Washington) Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) and United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Joel Brasfield, President of Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC (PTS), a private prisoner transport company that contracts with state and local law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities to transport pretrial arrestees and prisoners across interstate or intrastate jurisdictional lines.

Text of the Letter (PDF)

PTS and its subsidiaries have come under scrutiny following reports published in the Marshall Project and the New York Times of inhumane and unsafe conditions in their vehicles, including reports of unsanitary practices, gross negligence, physical and sexual abuse, and inattentiveness to basic and urgent medical needs of prisoners, many of whom have not been convicted of a crime. Since 2012, at least five individuals have died while in PTS’s custody.

“A steady stream of troubling media reports and lawsuits have raised numerous questions about the safety and security of PTS’s private prisoner transport services and the company’s compliance with Department of Justice regulations,” wrote the lawmakers. “These reports and allegations raise serious questions about your company’s conduct and its ability to ensure the safety and well-being of the individuals law enforcement agencies have entrusted to your custody.”

In April 2017, Congressman Deutch asked officials from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to investigate reports of deaths and abuse of prisoners on for-profit transport vehicles.

In 2000, Congress passed the Interstate Transportation of Dangerous Criminals Act, which established minimum safety and security standards for the transport of violent prisoners and included requirements regarding prisoners’ health and wellbeing, as well as standards to ensure the safety of the general public. However, since then, the private prisoner transportation industry has been the subject of very little oversight and has received almost no scrutiny from Congress.

To ensure that PTS is meeting appropriate safety and security standards and federal regulations, the lawmakers requested answers to a series of questions about PTS’s policies and procedures no later than March 13, 2019.

Deutch Celebrates House Passage of First Gun Violence Legislation in Decades

Deutch Celebrates House Passage of First Gun Violence Legislation in Decades
(Washington) Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) to require universal background checks for all firearm purchases. This is the first major gun violence legislation passed by the House in decades.

Upon passage of the legislation, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), Chief Whip of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, issued this statement:

"This has been a long and hard-fought battle by so many advocates of gun violence prevention, and I thank them for their full-hearted commitment to making our communities safer. Finally, the House is catching up to the American people by passing a bipartisan, commonsense proposal that enjoys near-unanimous public support. We’ve waited too long to close loopholes that let people easily avoid background checks through private sales. I was proud to cast my vote today in memory of the 40,000 lives lost to gun violence every year, and I will continue my work on other initiatives to do more to prevent gun violence."

On February 6, Congressman Deutch spoke in support of gun violence prevention initiatives during a hearing on gun violence in the House Judiciary Committee.

On February 7, he participated in a bipartisan press conference on the legislation.

On February 13, during a Judiciary Committee markup hearing he voted in favor of the legislation and to send the bill to the House floor.

Click the image below to view Congressman Deutch's House floor statement.

Did Matt Gaetz Get His Cohen Marching Orders From Boss Trump?

You’ve now seen how Rep. Matt Gaetz, the far-right legacy Congressman from Florida, went on Twitter this afternoon and appeared to threaten Michael Cohen with revealing a purported affair or affairs in advance of Cohen’s public congressional testimony tomorrow. So is this just Gaetz, who loves the spotlight and loves being Trump’s best friend, trying to curry favor or bust Cohen’s chops. Or is it more direct? Did President Trump or perhaps a member of his family get Gaetz to go after Cohen in advance of his big testimony?
We can’t know with any certainty, at least not based on the current evidence. (Who knows with later investigations?) But let me point you in the direction of a few clues.
First, President Trump gabs with a number of members of Congress. But he talks to Matt Gaetz a lot. They talk about Bob Mueller and the Russia probe and whoever seems to be Trump’s enemy of the moment. Trump is 72 and Gaetz is 35. He’s like the son Trump never had, except for his three other sons.

From Josh Marshall Talking points Memo:

This bada boom bada bing style threat from Rep. Matt Gaetz is so specific and so careful to invoke Cohen’s father-in-law it is highly, highly likely that it originates from Trump or the Trump family.
An even more probable connection, as someone just flagged to me: Where do you think EnquirerTablord David Pecker fits into this?

Latest: Even better, Gaetz tells Sam Stein that his gangster threat is “what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas.”

Deutch Releases Data Showing Sexual Assault of Unaccompanied Minors in HHS Custody

Deutch Releases Data Showing Sexual Assault of Unaccompanied Minors in HHS Custody

During this morning's House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Oversight of the Trump Administration's Family Separation Policy," Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) released documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) exposing the extent of sexual assault cases of children in their custody.

Unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents at the border are held by HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). According to physical documents delivered by HHS to the Judiciary Committee, sexual abuse against minors continued at disturbing levels over the last three years.

For example, in each of the last two fiscal years, 49 allegations of sexual abuse by staff on minors were reported to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Over 1,000 sexual abuse allegations were reported to ORR each year. Yet in each of those years, far fewer allegations were reported to DOJ.

Click here to access the HHS document with tables of the number of sexual abuse allegations reported to ORR and DOJ from FY 2015 through FY 2018.

Click here to access the HHS document detailing sexual abuse allegations referred to DOJ.

Click here to access ORR's policy on responding to allegations of sexual abuse.

"These HHS documents detail a staggering number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in their custody," Congressman Deutch said. "Together, these documents detail an unsafe environment of sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied minors. With the number of allegations each year roughly breaking down to one sexual assault per week for the last three years, clearly this Administration is not equipped to keep these children safe inside their facilities. Congress and the public demand answers and a clearer understanding of how these allegations are being investigated and what is being done to protect these vulnerable children."

Click the image below to watch the Congressman's questions to Administration officials.

Broward County Remembers The Parkland 17

Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen with Parkland and Coral Spring Mayors joined together to remember those who lost their lives and those who are still recovering as the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School draws near. 
At the Broward Commission meeting today, Mayor Bogen was joined by Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, Coral Springs Mayor Pro Tem Joy Carter and city officials to read the names of the victims and to pause for seventeen seconds of silence in memory of those who were murdered at the school shooting on February 14, 2018.

“In two days, it will be February 14th.  Everyone can remember what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on that date one year ago,” said Mayor Bogen, whose district includes parts of Coral Springs and northwest Broward cities adjacent to Parkland.    

“It's hard for others to comprehend the depth of our loss. Thursday, we ask that everyone remember that long before they became victims, they were people.  Happy people with families who loved them. Some respected educators, coaches and figures on the school campus. All of the victims were beloved sons and daughters, excellent students, neighbors, athletes, artists, dancers and musicians.  They were ambitious and leaders with bright futures and a desire to make a difference in the world. If you knew any of these seventeen people, please try to recall the good times and maybe just maybe a smile will be able to break through our tears on February 14th,” said Commissioner Michael Udine, whose district includes Parkland and previously served as Parkland Mayor and a City Commissioner for thirteen years.

Commissioners also named February 12th, 2019 as Coral Springs Museum of Art, City of Coral Springs and City of Parkland Appreciation Day in Broward County.  The proclamation recognizes the collaboration of the three entities who were chosen to receive a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge Grant.  This grant will go toward creating five large scale public art projects centered around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gun violence and healing.  The goal of the art projects is to help the community find comfort and heal.  Proclamations were presented to Mayors Hunschofsky, Carter and Coral Springs Museum of Art Executive Director Julia B. Andrews. 

“Please remember the victims who are still living. While their physical scars are starting to heal, the emotional trauma of the entire northwest Broward County is still there one year later. I ask everybody to keep them in their prayers,” said Udine.

Broward County will conduct 17 moments of silence on Thursday, February 14th. The Broward School Board, through a collaboration with local municipalities and communities, is following the lead of MSD High School by honoring those lost with a Day of Honor in Service and Love and is encouraging everyone to participate.

Not sure what you can do? Any act of service or love is welcomed. You can volunteer at an animal shelter, donate food for the hungry, organize a drive to collect clothing and toiletries for the homeless in our community, or host a toy drive.  A moment of silence will be observed at 10:17AM. You'll find more at the Broward School's website.

Anthony Borges who was shot five times Feb. 14 during the school massacre.

This is Anthony Borges.
He saved the lives of 20 of his Parkland classmates. He used his body to keep the shooter from coming in to kill them.

Anthony Borges who was shot five times Feb. 14 during the school massacre. The photo features him shirtless with his surgical scars exposed while wearing a colostomy bag.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testified to Congress. in A Nutshell

  • Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testified to Congress under oath on Friday that he has not taken action to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election. [Vox / Jen Kirby]
  • In tense questioning led by House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Whitaker also denied ever speaking with President Trump or anyone in the White House about the Mueller probe. [NYT / Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, and Charlie Savage]
  • In a confusing statement last month, Whitaker said the Mueller investigation was “close to be[ing] completed.” This contradicted other accounts that Mueller needed more time to finish the probe. [Politico / Andrew Desiderio and Darren Samuelsohn]
  • Democrats on the panel asked about a range of topics, including whether Trump had lashed out against Whitaker over federal charges against Michael Cohen, how Whitaker even became acting AG, and whether he believes the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt.” [The Hill]
  • “Bring your popcorn,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the head GOP in the committee, calling the trial mere “political theater.” Collins even called to adjourn the hearing, but Democrats outvoted the move. [CNN / Jeremy Herb and Alex Rogers]
  • A snapshot of the contentious hearing: “Mr. Chairman, I see that your time is up,” Whitaker said to Nadler when asked if he ever approved actions taken by the special counsel. The Democratic panel responded with laughter at Whitaker’s avoidance of the question. The comment was also a breach of protocol — as chair, Nadler is the one who sets the talking time, not Whitaker. [Vox / Aaron Rupar]
  • There was even doubt that Whitaker would show up to testify; he refused on Wednesday to come to questioning unless Democrats promised they wouldn’t subpoena him, which Nadler eventually agreed to. The set of exchanges symbolizes the tense relationship between the Trump administration and the Democratic House. [Washington Post / Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky]


House Unanimously Passes Deutch, Meadows Bill to Protect Veterans from Scams

(Washington) Just now, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 417-0 to pass the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) and Congressman Mark Meadows (NC-11) to protect our nation's veterans from targeted scams and financial predators.

Currently, it is against the law for unauthorized agents to charge veterans a fee in exchange for assistance with claims or appeals with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, this crime carries no penalty. Financial predators pursue veterans, luring them with false offers to expedite their claims or benefits and charging them exorbitant costs.

The Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act would impose a fine or imprisonment up to five years or both for defrauding veterans. This legislation has twice passed the House of Representatives unanimously, in the 115th Congress (H.R. 506) and the 114th Congress (H.R. 4676). A one-pager can be accessed here.

"After veterans and their families have made such sacrifices for our country and our national security, it is so deeply reprehensible that people would seek them out to defraud them with these scams," said Congressman Deutch. "Congress must put a penalty to the crime so we can discourage this predatory behavior. Let's close this despicable loophole and protect our veterans from pension poachers and fraudsters."

“Congress has both a responsibility and an obligation to step up and protect our Veterans against financial predators," Congressman Meadows said. "Closing loopholes in existing laws and providing law enforcement with additional tools to crack down on criminals targeting Veterans’ benefits will be a needed reform to the process. It would send a loud and clear message of support to those who have served our country so faithfully and guard them against any effort to rob them of their hard earned benefits. I thank all my colleagues for their support and want to thank the gentleman from Florida, Ted Deutch, the lead Democratic cosponsor, for his leadership on this important measure.”

Deutch Invites Manny Oliver as State of the Union Guest

Ted Deutch (FL-22) invited Manny Oliver to be his guest at the President's State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, February 5.

Manny Oliver started the organization Change The Ref in memory of his son Joaquin, who was lost in the 
tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

"It's been almost one full year since the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, and the status quo has been shaken up," said Congressman Deutch. "The strength of the Parkland families had made a lasting impression on Washington and the entire country. I'm honored to have my friend Manny join me at the President's address. Manny and Patricia carry on the memory of their son and the 16 others lost on February 14 through their masterful artwork, passionate activism, and unyielding commitment to change. I hope the President will take note of how the American people voted to send a gun safety majority to Congress, and live up to his previous promises to stand up to the NRA and support meaningful policies to make our communities safer."

"I am enormously grateful that Congressman Deutch has invited me to attend the State of The Union," said Manny Oliver. "I look forward to listening for and hoping that the President will address the 40,000 gun deaths that steal the lives of so many Americans, including children like my son Joaquin. To date, we are disappointed by the President’s position on ending gun violence and changing the national control of the irresponsible gun culture."

The Stoneman Douglas community will be represented at the State of the Union by other guests as well. Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg who was killed in the attack and founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime, will attend as a guest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Cameron Kasky, a co-founder of the Never Again MSD group, will attend as a guest of Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15).

According to the website, "Change The Ref was formed to empower our Future Leaders. CTR gives the kids of today the tools they need to be empowered to make changes to critical issues that affect our nation, through education, conversation, and activism. It uses urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation to expose the disastrous effects of the mass shooting pandemic. It also brings focus to the NRA’s corrupt maneuvers to buy lawmakers, while forcing solutions which are essential to healing mass shooting victims’ families’ lifelong grief. Change The Ref’s ultimate goal is to give the young generation of survivors and victims a disrupting voice to help lead the way to change – a more peaceful future. #NeverAgain."