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March 2011

NPR covers financial problems with speculative lock-ups in Texas, and the background is even more troubling

NPR's John Burnett has an excellent piece today ("Priv

ate Prison Promises Leave Texas Towns In Trouble," March 28) about several Texas communities that have been left high and dry by private prison deals gone bad.  The story is the second part of a two-part series on private prisons - Friday's story chronicled the GEO Group's extremely troubled Walnut Grove youth prison in Mississippi.

Today's story follows the fortunes of Littlefield, home to the Bill Clayton Detention Center, formerly operated by GEO Group.  That community has been paying back loans it floated to build the prison facility before its closure in 2008.  According to the story:

"For the past two years, Littlefield has had to come up with $65,000 a month to pay the note on the prison. That's $10 per resident of this little city.

...  To avoid defaulting on the loan, Littlefield has raised property taxes, increased water and sewer fees, laid off city employees and held off buying a new police car. Still, the city's bond rating has tanked.

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Rep. Armando Martinez files two private jail transparency bills

Representative Armando "Mando" Martinez has introduced two bills intended toi increase transparency and public participation when the a county attempts to privatization a jail:

Lawsuit against GEO's Central Texas Detention Facility alleges guards smuggled heroin to prisoner who overdosed

The San Antonio Express-News Guillermo Contreras had an article yesterday ("Heroin overdose in federal jail prompts lawsuit," March 21, 2011) about a new federal lawsuit against the GEO Group's Central Texas Detention Center in San Antonio. 

In the suit, the parents of Albert Gomez, Jr. seek information into their son's death, of an apparent heroin overdose, and allege that he may have died after being smuggled heroin by a GEO Group guard.  According to the article,

"The suit alleges guards are improperly trained to handle people with drug addictions and can freely participate in “black market sale of drugs to prisoners."

One of the Gomez couple's lawyers, Matt Wymer, said he has been informed that a criminal investigation has been launched, but the Marshals Service declined comment because the matter is in litigation. The GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment, but denied the allegations in a court-filed response."

The Central Texas Detention Facility is a Bexar County-owned detention center operated by the GEO Group that primarily incarcerates pre-trial detainees for the US Marshals Service and has also held immigration detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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GEO Care opens Montgomery County facility

The GEO Group has opened its Montgomery County mental health facility, according to a press release from the company issued today:

"GEO’s wholly-owned subsidiary, GEO Care will manage the county-owned Facility under a management contract with Montgomery County, Texas (the “County”) with an initial term effective through August 31, 2011 and unlimited two-year renewal option periods. The County in turn has an Intergovernmental Agreement with the State of Texas for the housing of a mental health forensic population at the Facility. GEO expects the Facility to generate approximately $12.4 million in annualized revenues for GEO."

As we've reported, GEO's state contract to operated this mental health facility raised eyebrows and concerns from mental advocates back in 2009.  Mental health advocates were upset about what appeared to be an allocation of money behind closed doors and without Department of State Health Services requesting funding for the contract.  See our previous coverage of the issue:

Opposition grows to GEO's Karnes County detention center

Last week, Grassroots Leadership (my organization and a co-sponsor of this blog) was one of 15 Texas-based civil and immigrant rights organizations to send a letter (PDF) to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano expressing opposition to the new GEO Group "civil" immigration detention center in Karnes County.  Here's an excerpt from the press release that accompanied the letter:

A year ago, ICE announced sweeping reforms to its immigration detention system and a desire to move away from isolated detention centers. The advocacy groups expressed disappointment that ICE had used its reform mandate to construct new detention facilities for people who could be released on bond or into alternatives programs.

The letter also criticized the choice of for-profit prison corporation GEO Group as a partner for the new immigration detention center.  ...

A number of GEO Group contracts were terminated in Texas in recent years after serious allegations of abuse and neglect. The suicides of Scot Noble Payne and Randall McCullough and subsequent investigations into squalid conditions preceded the closure of GEO’s Dickens County and Bill Clayton detention centers. In 2007, the Texas Youth Commission shuttered the GEO Group-run Coke County Juvenile Justice Center after a damning investigation into conditions at the youth detention center.

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State Budget Deficit Might Result in Termination of 2,000 Private Prison Beds

Texas' current budget deficit might result in a termination of private prison contracts.  According to the Financial Times:

The Texas budget plan includes closing 2,000 places in private prisons and more than 1,500 job losses.

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