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AP on Idaho Inmates in Texas Private Prisons

Via Grits for Breakfast, The Associated Press's Andrea Jackson has an excellent expose ("Idaho's out-of-state prison population grows," September 21) on the state of Idaho's "Virtual Prison Project," the practice of sending its inmates to out-of-state private prisons, including a number here in Texas. The results of sending prisoners thousands of miles away from family members, support networks, and attorneys has been, predictably, not good:

Drashner, convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007. He was the first this year.

On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, was found dead in his cell at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough was serving time for robbery and authorities believe he committed suicide.

State Department of Correction officials say he left a note, although autopsy results.

His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all.

Two of the three deaths in out-of-state private prisons were suicides occuring in GEO Group facilities in Texas. Scot Noble Payne died tragically in the GEO Group's Dickens County Correctional Center after complaining of squalid conditions at the facility. A subsequent report from the Idaho Department of Correction's Health Director called the prison the worst facility he'd ever seen. This summer, Randall McCullough took his own life after spending more than a year in solitary confinement at the Bill Clayton Detention Centerin Littlefield, Texas after a fight in which no criminal charges were filed. According to the story, conditions at Bill Clayton are fairly appalling:

During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas — where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held — state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment of the facility.

"No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates.

"Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility — Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report.

The prison has since made improvements, the state said.

Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints center around the way they the were transported out of state.

Clearly, Idaho is making a mistake in sending prisoners to private prisons out-of-state. The state has options, including investing in drug treatment programs and alternatives to incarceration programs that might have a better success rate than sending folks to lock-ups across the country. As Kathleen reported last year here at Texas Prison Bid'ness, an enormous amount of Idaho's prison population is addicted to drugs or alcohol:

A more rational system would actually look first at whether or not these folks need to be incarcerated, and especially how many of them would benefit from drug treatment in the community. Both Montana and Idaho are stuffing their prisons with folks who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Idaho's Understanding Growth report from 2006 explained that over 85% of their offenders have substance abuse issues. Montana's in similar boat: they reported last fall that 93% of folks in pre-release have a substance abuse problem. Investments in treatment will get us more of the results we want, and stop the relentless swing of the "revolving door" on state prisons. But instead we get higher prison budgets and less money for drug treatment in and out of prison.
In addition to being poor policy on the part of Idaho's state lawmakers, it's also bewildering that the state of Texas, which has its share of private prison problems, would allow an out-of-state entity to continue to ship prisoners into the state. This especially true when at Texas agency, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, is charged with overseeing these facilities. It may be time for state lawmakers to revisit this policy. In the words of Randall McCullough's sister:

"Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams.

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2010 IS HERE - I APPEAL TO FAMILIES OF PRIONERS SUBJECTED TO THE SPITEFUL, EVEN CRUEL MANNER THE PRIVATE PRISONS TREAT THEIR UNFORTUNATE FELONS CONFINED  UNDER THEIR SAD CARE.'

WHEN A FAMILY MEMBER TELLS YOU SOME OF THE PROBLEMS, THE POOR FOOD, THE WAY THEY ARE TREATED WITH NO RIGHT MEDICAL CARE, LACK OF RECREATION TIME, <JUST BEING IN THE OPEN AIR,> NO CLASSES TO HELP WITH RELATED DRUG PROBLEMS, NO BEHAVIORAL TRAINING - BELIEVE THEM AND REPORT THE LACK OF CARE AND ATTENTION TO THE TEXAS SENATE, IN AUSTIN. (SEN. JUAN HINJOSA ) REALLY UNDERSTANDS JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE)    DON'T GIVE UP - DO NOT LET YOUR LOVED ONE MEET THE END BY SUICIDE OR MURDEROUS ATTACKS AS HAVE BEEN GEO HISTORY IN THE PAST FEW YEARS.  THE INMATES ARE THERE TO BE PREPARED FOR THEIR RETURN TO REALITY - GIVE THEM AS MUCH SUPPORT AND REPORT BAD TREATMENTS.

ONE WHOSE FAMILY MEMBER WAS TREATED  CRUELLY AND WITH GEO HELP, COMMITTED SUICIDE

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