Amongst the major problems with private prisons are misguided attempts to control costs. The problem with containing expenses is that cutting corners has serious consequences that can compromise public safety and well being. This recent news report about the Dawson State Jail, (CBS 11, Guards Come Forward in Dawson Jail Investigation, October 8, 2012) makes that clear. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) runs the prison.
The Dallas News station has covered several deaths that occurred at the prison, including that of Pam Weatherby. The recent news report cites two guards who believe the deaths could have been prevented.
For-profit prison companies are known to face the challenge of maintaining public safety while cutting costs in the provision of services including health care. CCA has a pretty bad track record when it comes to in-prison health care that includes:
An audit of health services at the Dawson State Jail highlights that there are systemic problems in the provision of health services at the prison. The document assesses compliance with several health metrics including:
In CBS 11’s report, a CCA spokesperson is quick to point out that CCA does not provide medical services, but rather the prison’s healthcare is provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) under contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). This goes to show that contracting out prison services is a slippery slope that can lead to shifting responsibility and an inability to accept responsibility for poor management practices.
One thing is clear, in spite of any contract, TDCJ is responsible for health services at Dawson State Jail and all of its facilities -- private or not. The loved ones of those prisoners who have died under circumstances related to their ability to receive adequate healthcare are entitled to answers. We hope that continued news reports will uncover them.
We will keep y’all posted as this story unfolds. Stay tuned.