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October 2008

GEO Keeps Quiet on Murder Indictment

The GEO Group appears to be saying very little about last week's unprecedented indictment of the company for murder in the case of Gregorio de la Rosa at the company's former Willacy facility. According to an article in the Valley Morning Star ("Three count indictment accuses prison in murder," October 27),

Inmates killed de la Rosa, who was serving a six-month sentence for drug possession, on the prison grounds just four days before his scheduled release in April 2001. In 2006, a jury ordered the company pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment described as the largest jury award in Willacy County history.

A jury handed down the verdict against Wackenhut Corrections Corp., accused of negligence in de la Rosa's death. Ron Rodriguez, the attorney who represents de la Rosa's family, argued that inadequate inmate searches and short staffing led to the April 26, 2001 beating.

The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. The GEO Group did not respond to a message requesting comment Monday afternoon.

Similar non-statements were made by GEO officials in last week's AP story and as we've reported, the indictment is one of a growing string of scandals happening in GEO Group's Texas prisons over the course of the last several years. Some of those incidents include:

Mineral Wells Profile, Pt. 1

This is the first of a three-part report to Texas Prison Bid'ness based on research on the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility conducted by Grassroots Leadership. The Mineral Wells facility is a contract-facility under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. For more information, please contact Nick Hudson using our contact form.

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GEO Group Indicted for Murder in De La Rosa Case

The title says it all.  From the Associated Press ("Private Prison Company Indicted for Texas Murder," Houston Chronicle, October 24),

A private prison company based in Florida has been indicted in the death of a Texas prisoner just days before his release.

The indictment released Thursday alleges The GEO Group let other inmates fatally beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. with padlocks stuffed into socks.

He died four days before his scheduled release from a facility in Raymondville on the southern tip of Texas.

A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a 2006 civil judgment. He died in 2001.

Calls to The GEO Group and the Willacy County District Attorney's Office were not immediately returned Friday. The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp.

It's extremely rare that a private corporation is indicted for murder in the United States.  We'll keep you posted on this very important story as we hear more.   

Why Did TYC Spend $1.26 Million on Empty Private Prison Beds?

That's an excellent question asked in an article by Mike Ward in Saturday's Austin American Statesman (Lawmakers demand that TYC cancel contract that pays for empty beds," October 19).

As a new controversy exploded over the Texas Youth Commission spending more than $1.26 million to lease prison beds that remained empty for three months, key lawmakers demanded Friday that the contract be cancelled.

Although top Youth Commission officials stopped short of agreeing to do so, they vowed never again to use taxpayer money to pay startup costs for a vendor — as they did for Youth Services International, the Florida-based company that runs the lockup in Eagle Lake that is still mostly empty.

Youth Commission spokesman Jim Hurley said 18 youths were moved into the lockup Friday — far fewer than the 119 needed to cover the $22,500-a-day cost to taxpayers under the contract.

He also said that the agency would not provide startup costs in the future.

The controversy erupted after the American-Statesman disclosed details of the contract, which was set up for taxpayers to pay for empty beds for three months to cover the company's startup costs — something other state agencies prohibit.

The company, which operates programs for troubled youths in at least seven states, previously ran the lockup under a contract with the Youth Commission that ended about two years ago, a state report showed.

More Contraband Issues Outside CCA's Mineral Well's Facility

Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells pre-parole facility has had its third attempted contraband smuggling incident in recent months, according to a story in the Mineral Wells Index ("Man arrested after early morning chase," October 16),

A high-speed chase through Mineral Wells early Wednesday morning ended in the arrest of a Grand Prairie man on multiple charges.

The activity began when officers were responding to a call at 2:44 a.m. to Corrections Corporation of America regarding a man throwing contraband over the fence, Mineral Wells Police Lt. Patrick Adams said. CCA is located in the 700 block of Heintzelman Road in Wolters Industrial Park.

... This is the third time in three months CCA has discovered people throwing prohibited items over their fences. In August, a 14-year-old Lancaster youth was apprehended with two footballs stuffed with contraband – including marijuana - in his possession. A 15-year-old was caught in September attempting to throw a black duffle bag over the fence. He told authorities a Houston woman paid him $1,000 to toss the bag over but it was too heavy for him.

A request for comment to CCA was unreturned as of Wednesday afternoon.

 

While it doesn't appear that there was any wrong-doing on the part of CCA staff in this incident, there is clearly a trend of contraband smuggling being established here. Readers have alerted us to many alleged problems at Mineral Wells, and we'll be posting a multi-part report in recent weeks on the results of open records requests about the facility. Keep checking for those posts.

Idaho Removes Some Prisoners from Texas Private Prisons

This story is a few weeks old at this point, but it certainly is worth a mention.  Idaho, the state with the most out-of-state prisoners held in private lock-ups in Texas has decided to bring some of its inmates back to prisons within its borders.  According to the Associated Press ("Idaho brings 80 inmates back from Texas, Oklahoma," October 1),

For a decade, Idaho has been shipping some of its prisoners to out-of-state prisons, dealing with its ever-burgeoning inmate population by renting beds in faraway facilities.

But now some groups of prisoners are being brought back home. Idaho Department of Correction officials are crediting declining crime rates, improved oversight during probation, better community programs and increased communication between correction officials and the state's parole board.

The number of Idaho inmates has more than doubled since 1996, reaching a high of 7,467 in May. But in the months since then, the population has declined to 7,293 -- opening up enough space that 80 inmates housed in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., and at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, could be bused back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. The inmates arrived Monday night.

Of course, shipping inmates over 1,000 miles away to a largely unregulated private prison system can create pretty gruesome consequences.  Idaho's "virtual prison program" and Texas' private prison system more generally came under scrutiny after the tragic suicide of Scot Noble Payne, who died at GEO's Dickens County Correctional Center in 2007. 

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Update on Texas Treatment Prison Beds

Texas is currently undergoing a large prison bed expansion. During 2007, state lawmakers authorized more than 8,500 new beds in the form of treatment prisons. We have written previously that this expansion is a mix of public, private, and not-for-profit beds.

Scott, at Grits for Breakfast, recently posted that while the money is available private vendors are not bidding for the contracts.

We have attempted to provide a list of the treatment prison beds that are currently online in the table below. Note that of the 8,500 beds which were appropriated money in 2007, only 4,102 have been filled.

More Opposition to MTC's Nacogdoches Prison

Citizens Opposed to the Prison Siting (COPS) turned out in mass on Tuesday to a provide testimony against MTC's proposed federal prison in Nacogdoches at a 30-minutes public hearing called by the County Commission. It certainly appears to me that COPS has provided a thorough set of arguments against building a prison in their community. According to the article in the Daily-Sentinal,

MTC Big Winner in TDCJ's Private Prison Swap

Management and Training Corporation, the Utah-based private prison corporation most (in)famous in Texas for the operation of Raymondville's "tent city" immigrant detention center, has acquired three new state contracts to operate Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons. According to an MTC press release article in the Standard-Examiner ("MTC Adds Three Prisons in Texas," October 2nd),

Management & Training Corp. said Wednesday it has been awarded contracts worth a combined $62.6 million over 32 months to oversee the Billy Moore, Diboll and Estes correctional centers in northeast Texas.

The contracts, awarded by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, contain options that could extend their total combined value to $165.8 million through August 2015.

The company will take over the Diboll and B. Moore units from Corrections Corporation of America and Estes from the GEO Group. CCA and the GEO Group are the nation's two oldest and largest private prison corporations.

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