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TYC has Interesting Definition of What is a "Problem" at Youth Private Prisons

In today's Houston Chronicle article (also available here) about neglect, physical and sexual abuse in private prisons for youth, Paula Morelock claims problems have never resulted in fining TYC contractors because, "If it comes to that, we'd just stop the contract." Yet when Morelock was responsible for contracting at the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), one of the worst cases of prisoner abuse in the history of privatization in Texas resulted in rewarding the contractor with a larger contract.

GEO Group (then called Wackenhut) hired Rufino Garcia, a man who’d been arrested in 1974 for a sex offense against a child, to work as a "lead careworker" at its Coke County prison, which then held young girls.

When Garcia met Sara Lowe at Coke County in 1994, he was 39 years old. Sara Lowe was just 15. In 1996, when he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecency with a child and two counts of sexual assault of a child (all second degree felonies), Garcia admitted that two weeks after he first sexually assaulted Sara Lowe—touching her breasts and making her perform fellatio—he submitted a “level change” request slip for her, writing that “Ms. Lowe has been very positive and has been improving every day.”

After Sara was released from the Wackenhut lockup, Garcia began telephoning her at her home. He told her family that he wanted to know how she was doing. When asked about his calls, Sara confided to her sister that she had been raped and molested repeatedly by Garcia, who had threatened that he would kill her sister and her mother if she told anyone about the abuse. Her family went into action and contacted TYC, who investigated the charges.

Horrified to learn of the sexual abuse of their daughter by a Wackenhut staffer, the Lowe family filed a lawsuit against the company. Eventually Wackenhut’s executives decided to settle the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money. But Sara was highly distraught because Wackenhut’s top managers had been allowed to avoid any admission of responsibility for her rapes. The day the settlement was finalized, Sara committed suicide.

Even before Garcia was convicted for his crimes, auditors had catalogued serious program deficiencies at Coke County. They determined that Wackenhut had failed to meet standards for medical care, casework services, recreation, education, and therapeutic interventions.

Yet even after receiving evidence of shocking abuse and contract failure, TYC’s top managers never closed their contract with Wackenhut. They did not take conclusive steps to prevent the abuse of girls placed at Coke County until 1998, when they switched the facility’s juvenile confinement population from girls to boys. They increased the number of contracted beds at the Coke County lockup from 104 to 200.

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