December 2010

Senate confirms Stacia Hylton, former GEO consultant, to head U.S. Marshals

US MarshalsUS MarshalsThe Senate last week confirmed Stacia Hylton, a former consultant for the GEO Group, to head the U.S. Marshals Service, a government agency with multiple contracts with the company (TPM Muckracker, "Senate Confirms U.S. Marshals Director With Private Prison Ties,' December 24th).

Critics said that Hylton, was too cozy with private prison companies that work with the U.S. Marshals Service in part because she worked as a consultant for the GEO Group, the second largest private prison company in the U.S. But Hylton defended her work during her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that she followed all ethics requirements and regulations before she left federal service in early 2010.

A coaltion of groups, including Private Corrections Working Group, Detention Watch Network, The Alliance for Justice, Human Rights Defense Center, Private Corrections Working Group, Grassroots Leadership, National Lawyers Guild, International CURE, Detention Watch Network and Justice Policy Institute had opposed Hylton's nomination based on her ties to GEO. According to the coalition's press release:

Hylton, a former Marshal and Acting Deputy Director of the U.S. Marshals Service with a lengthy career in law enforcement, was employed from June 2004 to February 2010 as the Federal Detention Trustee, where she oversaw the detention of federal prisoners awaiting trial or immigration proceedings. Following her retirement she was nominated by President Obama on September 20, 2010 to direct the U.S. Marshals Service.
 
During Hylton’s tenure as Federal Detention Trustee, GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest for-profit private prison company, was awarded a number of lucrative contracts to house federal prisoners. These included a sole-source ten-year contract at GEO’s Western Region Detention Facility in San Diego, generating approximately $34 million in annual revenue; a 20-year contract to operate the 1,500-bed Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo, Texas with an estimated $34 million in annual revenue; and a 20-year sole-source contract to manage the Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility in Lovejoy, Georgia, generating $16-20 million in annual revenue.
 
As reported by the Washington Times in an October 25 article, after retiring as Federal Detention Trustee earlier this year, Hylton quickly accepted a consulting job with GEO Group through her Virginia-based company, Hylton Kirk & Associates LLC, of which she is the president and sole owner. In her financial disclosure statement, Hylton reported income of $112,500 for “consulting services for detention matters, federal relations, and acquisitions and mergers.” GEO Group is the only company listed in her disclosure statement in connection with such consulting services.

The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Immigration Forum also opposed the nomination. We'll keep close watch to see how the Marshals deal with private prison corporations under Hylton's direction.

See our previous coverage of the Hilton confirmation:

 

Chemical spray used, two prisoners injured in disturbance at CCA's Mineral Wells facility

Corrections Corporation of America's troubled Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility was the site of a disturbance this week that drew the use of chemical spray by guards, according to the Mineral Wells Index ("Two inmates hurt in CCA disturbance" December 21):

Two inmates reportedly received minor injuries during a disturbance Friday night at the Corrections Corporation of America Pre-Parole Transfer Facility but facility personnel were able to gain control of the inmates within a short time. “At about 8:45 p.m. Friday evening, approximately 30 offenders refused to go to their assigned housing locations on the north side [of the facility],” facility manager Maria White said.

The inmates reportedly encouraged others to join them, according to White.  “With minimal use of chemical agents, supervisors maintained control of the unit and quelled the incident within an hour,” White said. “At no time was public safety threatened as the incident was quickly contained by staff.”

Two of the 48 inmates believed to be involved received minor injuries, were transported to the hospital for treatment and released back to the facility.

The Mineral Wells facility has been plagued by repeated problems in recent, including a major disturbance in 2007, a similar report in 2008, reports of sexual assaults and mis-conduct, and multiple incidents of contraband smuggling.  Nick Hudson did a three part series on Mineral Wells for Texas Prison Bid'ness in 2008.  Senator Whitmire publicly floated the idea of closing Mineral Wells back in February.  With the incoming legislature facing major budget shortfalls, perhaps its time legislative leaders and TDCJ revisit the idea. 

CEC's Dickens County Jail contract expires, inmates sent to Lubbock

On Friday, Community Education Centers (CEC) decided to let their contract with the Dickens County Jail expire. All the inmates from that facility were transferred to the Lubbock County Detention Center. The US Marshals will pay the city of Lubbock a $40 per diem rate, and $10 per hour for guards, but the jail's Chief Deputy said they would negotiate for a higher rate in order to recover the cost of Lubbock's sending to Dickens in the first place. Now that Lubbock has a new and larger jail, they want their inmates back:

As of Friday the Lubbock County Detention Center hold [sic] 105 inmates with more on the way. Chief Deputy Downes said all the federal inmates should be transferred by the end of next week.  "The Lubbock County taxpayers are seeing some return on what they spent on this facility," said Chief Deputy Downes.

But for Dickens County, a community of 2,700, having the federal inmates transferred has led to all 489 beds empty and more than120 jobs lost.

This comes after the privately owned company that operated the Dickens County Jail did not renew their three year contract and is in the process of transitioning the operation of the jail back to Dickens[.]

"We've been working diligently for the last 8 months to ensure this day would never come. Unfortunately it has," said Lesa Arnold, Dickens County Judge.

The Dickens County Judge said possible loss of the jail is not an effect of less inmates. It's also due to the economy and location.

"I think a lot of it had to do with geography. It was just closer for the U.S. Marshals to the court system in Lubbock," said Judge Arnold.

The Dickens County Judge will find out Monday if another private company will operate their jail. (Christie Post, "Lubbock County Detention Center offsets cost by receiving federal inmates from Dickens County," 10 December, 2010, KCBD.)

Check back here after next Monday for any news regarding if another private company will take over Dickens.

GEO Group sued over death at Reeves, awarded new ICE contract on same day

It was an interesting day for the GEO Group, perhaps Texas' most troubled private prison corporation.  Yesterday morning, the ACLU of Texas said it was suing the company over the death of Manuel Galindo at the Reeves County Detention Center in west Texas: 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and El Paso co-counsel Mike Torres and Leon Schydlower today the filing of a lawsuit against the federal government and administrators of a West Texas for-profit prison on behalf of the survivors of Jesus Manuel Galindo. Mr. Galindo, 32, died on December 12, 2008, after suffering a seizure in solitary confinement where he had been placed for complaining about the facility’s failure to provide him medication to control his epileptic seizures. ...

The suit names as defendants individual employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, The GEO Group (which operates the for-profit prison), Reeves County and the facility’s contracted medical provider, Physicians Network Association (PNA).

This is the latest in the long and tragic case of the Reeves County Detention Center.  At least nine immigrant prisoners have died in the facility in the last five years. Two uprisings that broke out as a result of the Galindo death cost the county, which owns the facility, over $1 million in repair costs.  In the wake of the riots, the ACLU of Texas requested a Department of Justice review of the facility, and attorney Juan Angel Guerra was denied access to clients in Pecos. A year ago, family members of those incarcerated at Reeves joined protests at the Reeves Detention Center.

The GEO Group has had at least six facilities in Texas shuttered or contracts canceled  Notable incidents include the state of Idaho pulling its inmates from the Dickens County Correctional Center in the spring of 2007 in the wake of the suicide of inmate Scot Noble Payne and a subsequent investigation into "squalid" conditions at the lock-up.  Idaho also cut its contract the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas after the 2008 suicide of Randy McCullough. In October 2007, the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was shuttered by the Texas Youth Commission after a damning investigation into conditions at the youth detention center.

Despite that record, the company was today also awarded an Intergovernmental Service Agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate a new 600-bed "civil" detention center in Karnes County.  The ink hasn't dried on that contract, and there will undoubtedly be a fight over the expansion of ICE's already massive detention system.  We'll keep you posted on developments.

Private prison corporations hiring well-connected lobbyists in Texas

In the wake of NPR's story that Corrections Corporation of America played a major role in writing Arizona's controversial "show-me-your-papers" immigration law, we posted a list of campaign contributions that private prison corporations made in Texas in the run-up to last month's election. 

Now that the election is over, we thought we'd take a look at who is lobbying for private prison corporations here in Texas.  This was of particular interest as it has also been reported that CCA lobbyists have been political advisors to Arizona governor Jan Brewer.

According to the Texas Ethics Commission, here is the list of lobbyists working for private prison corporations thus far in 2010.  It should be noted that lobbyists in Texas report a range of fees they may draw from their clients, thus the "Low" and "High" numbers. 

Company Lobbyist Name Low
High
CCA Lara Laneri Keel $50,000.00 $99,999.99
CCA Michael Toomey $25,000.00 $49,999.99
      
The GEO Group Frank R. Santos $50,000.00 $99,999.99
The GEO Group Luis E. Gonzalez $0.00 $9,999.99
The GEO Group Laura McPartland Matz $0.00 $9,999.99
The GEO Group
Lionel "Leo" Aguirre $200,000.00 $249,999.99
The GEO Group
William J. Miller $25,000.00 $49,999.99
The GEO Group
Michelle Wittenburg $25,000.00 $49,999.99
       
MTC Allen Place $25,000.00 $49,999.99
       
Avalon William G. "Billy" Phenix $0.00 $9,999.99
Avalon Walter Fisher $50,000.00 $99,999.99
       
Total   $450,000.00 $779,999.89

The overall number isn't as large as in 2007, but this isn't a year the legislature meets, so we'll probably see a ramp-up next year.

The GEO Group had by far the largest expenditures on state lobbying, spending between $300,000 and $470,000 already this year.  (Here, I've included figures reported by Cornell, which was the third largest private prison corporation until it was purchased by GEO this year).  More than half of that, and more than a quarter of all private prison lobbying money spent in 2010 in Texas, was paid to Leo Aguirre, the widower of Lena Guerrero, former Texas Railroad Commissioner.

Corrections Corporation of America spent less than GEO, between $75,000 and $150,000, but hired two powerful lobbyists in Mike Toomey and Lara Laneri Keel.  Toomey is a former state representative and chief of staff for two governors - Rick Perry and Bill Clements.  Keel married the cousin the cousin of former state representative Terry Keel. Both are lobbyists with the Texas Lobby Group.

Management and Training Corporation hired only one lobbyist in 2010Allen Place, a Gatesville attorney and former state representative chaired the House Committee on Jurisprudence during the boom in prison building the 1990s, was paid between $25,000 and $50,000 by MTC in 2010.

We'll keep you posted on how these expenditures affect legislation in the spring.