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Idaho DOC Director to Visit GEO’s Troubled Val Verde Detention Center Before Sending Prisoners There

In what you’d think would be normal common-sense procedure, the Idaho Department of Corrections Director will actually visit GEO’s Val Verde Detention Center this Thursday before his state sends 56 prisoners there in September.

As we’ve reported, Idaho’s experience with Texas private prisons has been troubled, to say the least. Last August, Idaho moved prisoners from the Newton County Correctional Center, a GEO Group-run prison in east Texas, after reports of inmate abuse included prisoners being forcibly cuffed and maced. From Newton, the Idaho prisoners were transferred to GEO’s Dickens unit where an inmate escape and eventual suicide led to scrutiny and withdrawal of some of the prisoners from the “squalid” jail last month.

Now GEO is scheduled to move 56 prisoners to the Val Verde Detention Center, which has already been subjected to two well-documented lawsuits. In a 2005 suit, an employee reported that his superior displayed a hangman’s noose in his office and took pictures in his prison uniform donning KKK garb.

The second lawsuit was brought by a civil rights organization on behalf of the family of a detainee, LeTisha Tapia, who committed suicide after reporting that she had been sexually assaulted and denied medical care. GEO settled both suits.

After the problems with GEO facilities came to light in a series of stories by the AP’s John Miller, the Idaho DOC has announced its pre-transfer visit to the facility and the creation of a 13-member “virtual prison” team of Idaho DOC employees to oversee the more than 2,400 Idaho prisoners in county jails and out-of-state private prisons.

How effective these new oversight mechanisms will be is anyone’s guess. As Kathleen has pointed out, Idaho DOC’s own data shows that more effective substance abuse programs and paroling could largely reduce the state’s need to ship inmates to out-of-state private lock-ups. But instead, current plans are for them to ship yet more people to Texas.

Comments

I have seen several posts on this GEO and Idaho situation. You haven't mentioned the fact that most of the Idaho prisoners are at the BCDC in Littlefield. They sent 300 or so there and 100 or so to Dickens County when they moved them from Newton. They are moving more to Littlefield from Dickens County, looks like about half to Littlefield and half to Val Verde. But there have been no problems with the Littlefield unit, apparently.