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August 2010

Two upcoming hearings on TCJS's future

Two hearings will be held in the next week that could effect the size, effectiveness, and purview of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the state agency charged with overseeing Texas' massive county jail system, including a number or privately-operated jails and detention centers.

1) Joint Budget Hearing: Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 1st, from 9am-10:30am in the Capitol Extension, Room E2.028 will see a budget hearing in which the agency will most likely be fending off budget cuts.  Check out Ana Yañez-Correa's excellent guest-post over at Grits for Breakfast for why this hearing is important.  Here's the highlight:

In the face of a potential 15% budget cut (including across-the-board 5% agency budget cuts and an extra, requested 10% budget cut), TCJS could potentially lose 2-3 staff members, possibly inspectors (out of a current total of 5 inspectors). Without inspections, TCJS will not be able to fully realize its critical mission to set constitutional jail standards, conduct facility inspections, and enforce compliance with rules and procedures - all of which keep Texas jails safe, well regulated, and run by educated, professional leadership.

Human Rights Watch report details sexual assaults in ICE-contracted detention centers

A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday identifies numerous cases of sexual assault against immigrants detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's vast and largely private immigrant detention system.  As we reported, last week a former supervisor at Correction Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center was arrested and charged in a case of sexual assault of many detained women being transported from the facilities. 

HRW's report, Detained and at Risk: Sexual Abuse and Harassment in United States Immigration Detention, details several cases of abuse at many of Texas' private immigrant detentio centers.  About Hutto, the report says:

CCA chief John Ferguson gives back to company, but only after making $11 million last year

While Corrections Corporation of America is dealing with the fallout from the indictment of one of its former supervisors for sexual abuse of detained female immigrants at the company's T. Don Hutto detention center, another interesting article in the Nashville Post (Geert De Lombaerde, "Out of options," August 17) caught my eye:

Former Corrections Corp. of America CEO — and current chairman — John Ferguson has taken one for the team. Ferguson has signed a deal with the prison management firm to hand over almost 166,000 stock options so the company can divvy them out to other employees. The options would have expired in 2017 and 2018. It’s a magnanimous gesture, to be sure, and consistent with Ferguson’s request last year that he not be given equity awards.

But it’s also worth pointing out that Ferguson, who led CCA for more than nine years, last year pocketed $11 million from the exercising of options and still controls another $13 million in company stock. Plus, the surrendered options had strike prices above $26, where CCA (Ticker: CXW) hasn’t traded since September of 2008.

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Former CCA Supervisor arrestested in sexual assault cases at Hutto

A former Corrections Corporation of America supervisor at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor has been indicted on several counts of sexually assaulting women in his custody while the women were being transported to the facility.  According to the story in the Austin American Statesman (Isadora Vail, "Former supervisor charged in sexual assaults of detainees," August 20),

Williamson County officials have charged a resident supervisor at a Taylor immigrant detention facility in the sexual assaults of three female detainees who were being driven to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Donald Dunn, 30, was arrested and charged Thursday with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint.

He is accused of inappropriately touching several women as they were being taken from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to the airport. He remained in the Williamson County Jail on Thursday with bail set at $35,000.

The allegations were first reported to Austin police May 11 after one of the victims told an airport employee that Dunn had inappropriately touched her on the outside of her clothing, according to the Williamson County sheriff's office.

Sheriff's deputies interviewed Dunn on May 20, and he confirmed that the allegations were true, officials said. According to a news release from the sheriff's office, Dunn "explained to detectives that he told the women he was going to 'frisk' them and then inappropriately touched their breasts, crotch and buttocks. Mr. Dunn advised that he didn't do this for safety concerns but as self gratification. Mr. Dunn indicated to detectives that he had done this to numerous other women while performing his duties as a transport officer."

GEO Group completes takeover of Cornell

The GEO Group completed its takeover of Houston-based Cornell Companies last week, and yesterday announced the results of Cornell shareholder vote on the takeover.  There has been little analysis of this deal, and how it will effect exisiting Cornell facilities, including its 10 facilities in Texas or otherwise. 

The exception is, as usual, Scot Hensen at Grits for Breakfast, who argues that the deal may add to GEO's problems being highly leveraged:

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TDCJ to lay off thousands of employees and not close a single prison (private or otherwise)?

The title basically says it all, and I'm stealing it almost verbatim from Scot over at Grits for Breakfast, who is has been covering this issue with his usual terrific coverage.  Here's his take,

GEO Executive Calabrese selling millions of dollars in property

The private prison industry makes good sense for at least one group of well-heeled individuals - executives at the biggest private prison corporations who make big bucks operating these companies.  We reported last month GEO Group CEO George Zoley and chief operating officer Wayne Calabrese were amongst the highest paid south Florida executives

Now, Calabrese is selling two South Florida homes for a combined value of more than $3 million.  The first, a modest 1,810-square-foot house in the Boca Raton Riviera subdivision, is going for a mere $575,000.  The second is a 6,105-square-foot house Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club subdivision that is on the market for a less modest $2.475 million. Clearly, the prison business has been good to Mr. Calabrese.

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CCA investor call reports an excess of 12,500 beds

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) held its quarterly conference call last week.  We have previously reported that CCA has excess capacity and that trend continues; company officials mentioned they had unoccupied 12,500 beds in their system.  As a result there are no immediate plans to build new CCA prison beds.

CCA currently operates 65 prisons, including 44 company-owned facilities that include 89,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia.  Currently, the company’s biggest customers are the state of California and the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  

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Attorney who won major settlement against GEO named Public Interest Lawyer of Year

Ronald Rodriguez, the attorney who won a more than $40 million lawsuit for the familiy of Gregario de la Rosa against the GEO Group, was recently awarded Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Public Justice Foundation.

According to a recent cover story in the alternative-monthly Laredos,

Attorney Ron Rodriguez – just back from ceremonies in Vancouver, B.C. at which he was named 2010 Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Public Justice Foundation (PJF) – said he is all at once proud and humbled by the recognition for the law-making case he built and won against private prison operator Wackenhut Corrections (now the GEO Group) on behalf of the family of murdered inmate Gregorio de la Rosa. In 2006 a Willacy County jury verdict awarded $47.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages for malicious and wrongful death against Wackenhut and one of its wardens.

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GEO's record comes under scrutiny as North Texas parole facility comes up for renewal

We're a little late on

this one, but Darren Barbee at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an excellent story ("Private company wants to keep operating Fort Worth prison for parole violators," July 22) about the GEO Group's bid for a contract renewal at it's North Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility:

A private prison for parole violators is bidding for a new contract to continue operating at 4700 Blue Mound Road. The facility is run by The GEO Group, which has had a spotty record with some of its other Texas prison facilities the past several years. Before the contract is awarded, a public hearing will be held.

"Their contract is set to expire ... and GEO is in the process of bidding on those beds again," said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "The hearing is a chance for the public [to] provide feedback." The hearing is scheduled for Aug. 24 at La Quinta Inn & Suites at 4700 North Freeway. (emphasis TPB)

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