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May 2010

ICE investigating CCA for sexual assaults against women detained at T. Don Hutto

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement yesterday that it is investigating Corrections Corporation of America for repeated incidents of sexual assault against female detainees at the company's T. Don Hutto detention center.  According to the AP story ("ICE investigating alleged sex assault of detainees," May 28) by Suzanne Gamboa,

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating allegations that a guard at a central Texas detention facility sexually assaulted female detainees on their way to being deported.

Agency spokesman Brian Hale said Friday the guard has been fired and Corrections Corporation of America, which manages the prison, is on probation pending the investigation's outcome.

Several women who were held at T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor, Texas, were groped while being patted down and at least one was propositioned for sex, ICE said.

"We understand that this employee was able to commit these alleged crimes because ICE-mandated transport policies and procedures were not followed," David Sanders, the Homeland Security Department's contracting officer said in a letter to Corrections Corporation of America obtained by The Associated Press.

ICE has ordered Corrections Corporation of America to make changes, including not allowing male guards to be alone with female detainees.

There are many questions still to be answered about this deeply troubling incident.  As readers of the blog will remember, Hutto was the site of another sexual misconduct case in 2007.  We will be following up on this story with much more over the next few days.

Texas lock-ups part of GEO Group strip search class action settlement

Several current and former Texas GEO faciltiies are subject to a class action lawsuit settlement challenging the company's strip search policy of low-level inmates.  I first saw the story as part of a Philadelphia Inquirer story ("Settlement reached over Delco Prison strip-searches," May 20),

A company that formerly operated the Delaware County Prison has settled a federal class-action lawsuit involving strip-searches of incoming inmates charged with minor crimes.

The $2.9 million settlement awards up to $400 each to about 10,000 inmates at six GEO Group facilities.

Prisoners at the Delaware County facility, now operated by Community Education Centers of West Caldwell, N.J., who were strip-searched between Jan. 30, 2006, and Jan. 30, 2008, may be eligible for settlement awards.  The lawsuit named five other GEO Group prisons, in Texas, New Mexico, and Illinois.

... Those eligible to apply for settlement include prisoners who were not accused of drug, weapons, or violent crimes; those involving probation or parole violations; and those who did not behave in a manner that would give guards cause to conduct strip searches.

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Death at GEO's Central Texas Detention Facility

A federal inmate has died at GEO Group's Central Texas Detention Facility in San Antonio, according to a report last week from KENS 5 ("Heroin overdose suspected cause of inmates death,' May 21)

Guards found the 25-year-old dead in his cell early Wednesday morning. His family wants to know what went wrong. Federal authorities arrested Albert Martin Gomez Jr. On January 20. He was accused of making and passing fake $100 bills. He and a co-defendant were charged in a counterfeit-money ring.

Gomez was released, but was back at a federal holding facility in March, awaiting sentencing. Around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday guards found Gomez unresponsive. Sources say Gomez died from an apparent drug overdose, but nobody is talking.

Meanwhile, toxicology reports are pending. Bexar County records show Gomez was also arrested in 2005 on an assault charge.

The autopsy was completed, but details aren't being released. The Central Texas Detention Facility where Gomez was being held is operated by the GEO Group, Inc.  A spokesperson had no comment on the death, only to say it is under investigation.

Employee lawsuit at MTC detention center in Raymondville

The Brownsville Herald ("10 guards suing Management & Training Corp," May 21) reported last week that guards are suing the Management and Training Corporation for wrongful termination.  According to the Herald story,

Ten former security guards at Willacy County Regional Detention Facility have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, and two company officials claiming they were fired for refusing to make false statements.

Peter Zavaletta, the attorney for 10 of the 11 guards who were fired, said his clients lost their jobs for refusing to sign statements saying other guards were gambling while on duty.

"None of my clients were gambling and when they refused to sign statements accusing each other of gambling, they were terminated," he said.

Zavaletta said he doesn’t know who the 11th guard is or who his attorney is, but was told by MTC there is an 11th guard who was fired. None of the guards had ever been disciplined and several had been promoted to supervisory positions at the privately owned and operated prison, the lawsuit states.

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CCA releases their 2010 first quarter federal lobbying expenditures

Corrections Corporation federal lobbying figures were recently released for the first quarter of 2010, and CCA was reported to have spent a quarter of a million dollars this quarter alone. According to Forbes (Associated Press, "Corrections Corp. spent $250,000 on 1Q lobbying," May 13, 2010):

The company reported lobbying officials on provisions in a Homeland Security funding bill dealing with immigration detentions. It also lobbied on Justice Department funding related to private prisons.

Corrections Corp. also lobbied on a bill by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, to require private prison operators to comply with open-records laws.  And it lobbied on a bill by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to let states request the jamming of wireless signals in prisons. Federal law lets federal agencies jam phone signals, but doesn't extend that power to state or local agencies. Hutchison's bill passed the Senate last year but is stalled in the House...

...Corrections Corp. lobbied Congress, the Homeland Security Department and the Bureau of Prisons.

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The GEO Group's 2010 Q1 Conference Call Focuses on Cornell Merger

The GEO Group Logo
The GEO Group Logo
The GEO Group's 2010 Q1 call was fairly uneventful, filled with more of the common prepared remarks to reassure shareholders. The big news was obviously their planned merger with Cornell Companies which they hope will "prove beneficial to both parties," as they said about five times. GEO also said that once the merger is completed they will go under some re-branding to think of a new way to market their company. During the question and answer session, one of the investors asked about their customers and whether or not they disapproved of the deal. GEO stated that no customers disapproved of the deal when GEO called them.

To get into the details, their Q1 revenue was $288 million, up from $259 million this time last year. With regards to their stock buyback program, 2.7 million shares were bought up at $54 million of the available $80 million. 

Wayne Calabrese did the business overview section, and he had some notable quotes about speculative building in Michigan and Colorado (which was also covered in the 2009 Q4 call):

Problems continue to plague the Coastal Bend Detention Center

LCS Corrections
LCS Corrections
About two months ago, the LCS Corrections-owned facility, Coastal Bend Detention Center (CBDC) had just finished its "at-risk" status probationary period due to a failed inspection and an inmate walking out of the facility. Despite their new warden and good behavior during the "at-risk" status period, it appears that the problems are not over for this struggling facility. Earlier this month, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) ruled that the facility does not meet state-defined standards, skipping the "at-risk" status altogether after the facility failed to report the deaths of two inmates, while the warden and deputy warden still lack jailers' licenses (along with 72% of the guards). The Caller-Times reports:

CEC ditches contract in Johnson County for lack of profit

After signing a three year contract with Johnson County, CEC is using an escape clause to end their contract over the next six months because the company was losing money in its operation of the jail. The Johnson County Jail has a capacity of 776 beds with an average yearly inmate population of 450 to 500 people.  It was the empty beds that CEC expected to fill with a contract from Immigration and Customes Enforcement (Pete Kendall, "CEC bailing out," Cleburne Times-Review, 24 March 2010),

“The average population is 450 to 500,” [Warden] Duke said last year. “There are empty beds. That’s attractive to us. We take those empty beds and help the county get contracts with other entities such as Immigration Customs Enforcement. Corrections 2 [block] has 176 beds. We put ICE detainees in those beds. ICE pays Johnson County, and the county reimburses us.

“The county makes $5 off every detainee. The county makes money, and we make money.”

That wasn’t the way it worked out, [County Judge] Harmon said.


Contraband investigation at CEC's Liberty County jail

Liberty County has opened an ongoing investigation into contraband found in it's privately operated jail, according to a story in the Liberty Vindicator (Contraband found in Liberty Co Jail, May 7):

Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Steve Greene recently reported ongoing investigations regarding contraband found in the Liberty County Jail. 

The jail is managed by a contractor, Civigenics, a subsidiary of Community Education Centers, Inc.

Greene said “basically, we have been getting information that there was a lot of contraband in the jail, and some of it was being brought in by corrections officers. Thursday, (April 29) we searched the evening shift as they were coming in and we had a drug dog pass by their cars. For those cars that the dog alerted on, we asked for consent to search. We searched the vehicles. We have ongoing investigations regarding a couple of guards. Two or three were terminated.” 

Back on approximately April 8, one guard was arrested by US Marshals for taking contraband into the jail. He is being held at a detention facility in Beaumont, on charges equivalent to “prohibitive substances in a correctional facility."