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Following jail suicide, Waco private prison found non-compliant, guards arrested

protest at Jack Harwell
protest at Jack Harwell
Following a suicide at a for-profit jail in Waco, three private prison guards have been arrested and charged with tampering with records that tracked how often they checked on the prisoner, Michael Martinez, who hung himself in his cell on November 1st.  

The prison — the Jack Harwell Detention Center operated by private prison corporation LaSalle Corrections — was also found non-compliant by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) following a review of the facility.  The TCJS review (attached) found that private jailers violated the standard mandating that potentially suicidal or mentally ill prisoners be checked on every 30 minutes.   

The Jack Harwell facility has long and troubled history dating back to before its construction.  The facility was publicly financed and built on speculation that it would win federal contracts to detain or incarcerate immigrants, but has largely failed to generate the revenue needed to make the facility financially profitable.  (Of course, in this case financial profitability relies on more people behind bars.)  The jail has also been plagued with allegations of abuse and mismanagement, including sexual assault allegations.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed detainees from the facility last year following an outcry from attorneys and activists.  

Suicides in county jails have endured more public scrutiny in recent months following the suicide of Sandra Bland and state legislators are currently looking into policy proposals to reduce the risk of suicide.   

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