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June 2010 tracks stories from detention centers


friends Renée Feltz and Stokely Baksh, creaters of the Business of Detention website, are back with a new project - Deportation Nation - aimed at critically reporting on Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Secure Communities program.  Secure Communities utilizes an extensive database to track anyone booked into many local jails around the country for their immigration status, and has been criticized by immigrant rights and civil liberties organizations for streamling immigrants, even those only charged with minor offenses, into detention and deportation proceedings. Amongst the really interesting features at Deportation Nation is an ambitious effort to collected detained people's voices through a hotline system.  We'll keep you posted on Deportation Nation's progress, but for now, check out the terrific new site.

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GEO loses TDCJ contract to MTC

The GEO Group has lost a TDCJ contract to operate the Bridgeport Correctional Center in Bridgeport, Texas near Fort Worth, according to reporting by Mandy Bourgeois in the Wise County Messenger (Geo Group loses bid for prison, June 27),

A new management company will take over the Bridgeport Correctional Center beginning Aug. 31. The 520-bed facility has been managed by GEO Group Inc., since the center opened in August 1989. GEO was reawarded a three-year contract from Sept. 1, 2005, and also had two, one-year renewals.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice conducted a competitive bid process, and Management & Training Corp. won the seven-year bid. "There's a technical review of the bid and a financial review of the bid," said Jason Clark, public information officer for the TDCJ. Clark said that the reviews are done separately by different committees. "They score those reviews and compile the scores and a recommendation is made to the TDCJ."

CEC faces two lawsuits at Odessa lock-up

The Odessa American ("Civigenics faces multiple suits" June 18) reported last week two separate lawsuits against Community Education Centers jail in Odessa, Texas.  In the first,

A Midland man who claims he was beaten into submission while jailed in the Odessa Detention Center has not given up a years-long effort to be compensated for what he said was the use of excessive force after he ran out of his cell.

Larry Wesley Brown, a federal prisoner serving more than four years on a conviction of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, sought $8 million in damages from Civigenics — a private company also known as Community Education Centers — that operates the detention center — for injuries he said occurred while he was awaiting trial in July 2007. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in March, but this month, Brown appealed the district court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The second lawsuit involves a prisoner who claims that CEC negligence caused his loss of eyesight,

Colby E. Miller of Odessa claims in a federal lawsuit that Civigenics guards negligently allowed a fellow inmate to obtain a broom.

Miller’s attorney, Robert Swafford of Austin, said in the lawsuit that the inmate struck Miller in the eye with the broomstick, causing him to permanently lose his sight. Greeder declined to comment on the Miller case, citing the pending litigation. No trial date has been set in the Miller case.

We'll keep you posted on this and other lawsuits involving CEC and other private prison corporations in Texas.

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Upcoming changes to immigration detention centers leaked through email

Some of Texas' immigration detention facilities can expect some changes to give them a feel that is less prison-like, offering them internet, television, bingo games, and other amenities all for cheaper than it would cost to detain them. In an email leaked by the Houston Chronicle, a total of nine Corrections Corporation of America facilities nationwide will undergo these changes.

Of those nine, a few were mentioned in Texas, including the Laredo Processing Center, T. Don Hutto Residential Center, and the Houston Processing Center. All three of these facilities are contracted with ICE to detain low-risk immigrants who are not charged with a crime. This being the case, ICE is not focusing on punishment, rather focusing on the most humane way to hold these people while they await trial or deportation. ICE spokesperson Beth Gibson said, "When people come to our custody, we're detaining them to effect their removal. It's about deportation. It's not about punishing people for a crime they committed." 

The Houston Chronicle outlines some of the ways in which the facilities will change:

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Another Death at LCS Corrections' Coastal Bend Detention Center

Earlier this month, a 27-year old man who was detained at the Coastal Bend Detention Center died from a brain tumor after going to the doctor for high blood pressure (Melissa Schroeder, KrisTV, "LCS Detention Center Inmate Dies at 27," June 2nd, 2010):

A Taft man who was detained at the LCS Detention Center in Robstown died this past Saturday.  Warden Mike Striedel said 27-year-old Leo Guajardo died from a brain tumor.

Striedel said Guajardo had been at the detention center since January for taking the weapon of a U.S. Marshal. Striedel says Guajardo saw a doctor Friday afternoon for high blood pressure, he was immediately put on medication, but a couple hours later he claimed to feel dizzy.

The Warden says he was taken to the hospital and doctors found a massive brain tumor. His condition worsened and eventually he was put on life support.

Striedel says the family decided to take him off life support Saturday night and he was pronounced dead.

The Texas Rangers will investigate the incident to make sure everyone at the detention center did what they could to help Guajardo.  The man's family is not ready to make a statement yet, as they are preparing for Guajardo's funeral. 

Earlier this year, the Coastal Bend Detention Center was found to have not known that the facility was supposed to report deaths of inmates while in custody. If the family or LCS have any more comments we will share them here.

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Massive lawsuit filed against GEO, alleges bribery, neglect, and coverup


New Braunfels, Daniel McCullough has filed a $595 million lawsuit against the GEO Group (the total worth of company) following the 2008 death of his father Randall McCullough, who allegedly committed suicide while in custody at the Bill Clayton Detention Center. McCullough senior, an Idaho native, was in solitary confinement for over a year for a fight that was never criminally prosecuted. About a month later, the state of Idaho dropped their contract with GEO and stopped sending their inmates to the facility.

Now, two years later, Daniel McCullough seeks retribution for the illegal treatment of his father and perhaps question whether his death was a suicide or not, given the alleged record-keeping practices of some of the employees at the Bill Clayton Detention Center (Madison Venza, Courthouse News Service, "Corruption and Death Alleged at Private Jail," June 17, 2010):

CorPlan brings private detention center scheme to Italy, Texas

Argyle, Texas-based private prison development firm CorPlan has brought its much-rejected private detention center proposal to Italy, Texas - a small community just south of Waxahachi and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, according to the Italy Neotribune ("Italy City Council hears proposal for commercial development," May 18),

"James Parkey along with associates Kent Bratcher and Gary McKibben of James Parkey Associates presented their proposal of a detention center for illegal immigrants for all nationalities to be built in Italy. They would like to put it on fifty acres. He stated the building would look like a school. There would be no guard houses, no guard dogs, but would be a gorilla proof facility with a fence. The facility would only be used as a processing center and would be designed to current building codes.

Parkey explained it would be a five hundred bed facility and would provide approximately one hundred and fifty jobs. The hired employees would be put through training and at the end of their training they would be a licensed correction officer."

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Reactions to Hutto sexual abuse scandal

Several civil and immigrant rights organizations have issued condemnations of the reported sexual abuse of female detainees at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  The ACLU of Texas issued a statement that included the following:

“The continued occurrence of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities demonstrates the need for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to move more aggressively in implementing reforms like improving detention standards, strengthening federal oversight of private providers like GEO and CCA, or better yet, eliminating the use of contract providers altogether,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas.

In recent years guards have been accused of assaults of women at a number of immigrant detention facilities in Texas. Also at Hutto, another CCA guard was fired in May 2007 after he was discovered having sex with a detainee in her cell. In 2008, a guard employed by another private prison provider, GEO, at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall reportedly impregnated at least one detainee. Most recently, in April 2010, a guard at the Port Isabel Detention Facility in Los Fresnos, Texas was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually assaulting female detainees being kept in medical isolation.

The National Immigrant Justice Center of the Heartland Alliance also issued a statement that included this passage: