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Idaho to Send Inmates to Scandal-ridden GEO Val Verde Prison

John Miller at the AP has reported that the Idaho Department of Corrections will move inmates to the GEO Group’s Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas. This comes just days after the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) announced it was moving its prisoners out of another Texas GEO Group prison in Dickens County. That move came after a prisoner suicide and a national story (also by Miller) in which he revealed that IDOC’s health care director described Dickens as “beyond repair” and the worst prison facility he had ever seen. The IDOC's health care director made that statement months before Idaho announced that they would move the prisoners.

Why does IDOC think that Val Verde will be any better? Their record doesn’t look good. The facility has been subjected to two well-documented lawsuits. In one suit, an employee claimed racial discrimination after a superior displayed a hangman’s noose in his office and took pictures in KKK garb while posing in GEO Group (then called Wackenhut) uniform.

The other lawsuit was brought on behalf of the family of a detainee who committed suicide after reporting that she had been sexually assaulted, beaten, and denied medical care. GEO settled both cases and both are mentioned in today’s article.

So why the infatuation with Texas private prisons? Lewiston-based KUXO just ran an interesting story about GEO Group's contributions to Idaho policitians:

The GEO Group entered Idaho politics in 2005, when it hired its first lobbyist - a year later, it divvied up $8,000 between campaigns for Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and drug czar Debbie Field. Since then, GEO has won contracts worth $8 million annually to house more than 400 Idaho inmates in Texas, including at two prisons where problems became so severe that Idaho demanded inmates be relocated.

Idaho officials will say that this business boon for GEO Group is all about relieving Idaho's overcrowded prisons. But, as Kathleen points out, Idaho’s prison capacity problems are largely coming from a broken prison system in which close to two out of every three prison admissions are inmates returning for parole (and probation) violations. IDOC’s own numbers also say that 85% of inmates have substance abuse problems and that substance abuse is a major contributor to recidivism (people returning to prison after release).

Idaho lawmakers could deal with the problem of Idaho's gowing prison system by strengthening their substance abuse programs and focusing on lowering recidivism rather than sending even more inmates to poorly operated, scandal-ridden Texas private prisons. But that's not what's happening this week.

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The payoffs for contributing to (bribing) politicians are incredible. ********** The GEO Group entered Idaho politics in 2005, when it hired its first lobbyist - a year later, it divvied up $8,000 between campaigns for Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and drug czar Debbie Field. Since then, GEO has won contracts worth $8 million annually to house more than 400 Idaho inmates in Texas, including at two prisons where problems became so severe that Idaho demanded inmates be relocated. ********** Getting back $8 million for an $8,000 investment is a 1,000 to 1 return on the money. Buying politicians is the best investment going. R Givens