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July 2011

Bill Clayton Detention Center hits auction block tomorrow

UPDATE, July 28, 11:50am: Former Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger and current Texas Tech law student Andrew Strong attended today's auction and the facility was sold apparently for $6 million to an unknown, online bidder.  More info as we get it. 

The troubled Bill Clayton Detention Center goes on the auction block today at 11am central time. 

I just wrote a piece over at Grassroots Leadership's new organizational blog. As we've reported before Littlefield has been paying back loans it floated to build the prison facility well before its closure in 2008. That year, the state of Idaho pulled its prisoners from the facility, then operated by GEO Group, after the suicide of Randall McCullough, who, according to news reports, had spent more than a year in solitary confinement. GEO was later hit with a massive lawsuit over in the McCullough case.

Since the facility's closure, Littlefield has had its bond ratings dropped and turned to two different private prison companies in an effort to fill the prison beds.  One has to wonder why, given this history, a different owner would be more successful in turning this "turn-key detention center" into a financial success.

I'll also be attempting to live tweet the auction (using @Grassroots_News) if I can get access to the auction online (still working on it).  We'll provide you details as they come. 

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Jones County prison sits empty at a cost of $35 Million

A prison in Jones County built by Community Education Centers for $35 million in local revenue bonds sits empty according to a new story at KTXS ("New Detention Center in Jones County Awaits Inmates," July 15).

County officials have said that they hope to fill the prison with state prisoners even though the state state has adopted various policy reforms (PDF) that have lessened the demand for state prison capacity.  The story is a little murky here -- we will do some digging to see if we can follow the money. From this report ("Jones County officials await word from the state on detention facility funding," Abilene Reporter-News, May 23), it appears that even though policies were adopted to lessen the need for prison space, state authorities were assuming the need for expansion:

"The state approved a contract for the prison to be built in Jones County in 2008. Revenue bonds were approved by the county to pay for construction, which began in May 2009."

In recent years, the Texas prison population has declined and the state plans to close a public prison next month. Jones County officials are looking for contracts to fill their $35 million prison.  It seems that the Governor's office and county officials have phoned folks in California in the hopes of helping that state alleviate prison overcrowding due to a recent Supreme Court order.  But new polling suggests that California voters support easing penalties as a way to address the state's incarceration problem instead of expanding capacity. 

We'll look into this a bit more and update y'all when we get more of the story. 

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ALEC Exposed Wiki releases previously restricted documents

I was recently alerted to the ALEC Exposed Wiki which is an amazing resource for all things about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) including materials that were restricted to non members for years.  We have recently reported on ALEC's connections in Texas.

Folks have been suspecting for a long time now that ALEC's influence has a correlation to expanding prison privatization.  Part of the organization's mission is to:

advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.

The wiki makes model legislation available and provides a forum for it's audience to review and post comments.  Legislation includes this model bill relating (PDF) to authorizing state prison agencies to contract out incarceration and other related services.  Take a look and join the discussion.  This is an exciting development in the effort to make the lawmaking process more transparent as it relates to prison privatization.

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LCS' Coastal Bend Detention Center fails TCJS inspection again

The Coastal Bend Detention Center, the flagship facility of private prison company LCS Corrections, has failed its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection yet again.  According to the TCJS report, which is attached to this post, the facility has a number of deficiencies including a jailer without a license, that staff were exceeding time intervals for direct supervision of prisoners under observation, and that:

"A review of shift rosters and attendance logs revealed that The Coastal Bend Detention Center consistently did not have a sufficient number of jailers assigned to inmate housing areas to meet the mandated 1 officer to 48 inmate's ratio and provide for direct inmate supervision." 

This is certainly not the first time that the facility has come under scrutiny.  Last year, 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.  Earlier that 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.  The facility has also failed inspection before, most recently in 2010 after a prisoner was accidentally released.

Just yesterday, we reported on a wrongful death lawsuit filed against another LCS Corrections facility, the Brooks County Detention Center.  Clearly, it has not been a good run for the Louisiana-based company.  We'll keep you posted on developments.  In the meantime read more about LCS Corrections and the Coastal Bend Detention Center.

 

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Trial set in wrongful death suit against LCS' Brooks County Detention Center

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wrongful death suit by the family of Mario Garcia against LCS Corrections' Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, Texas will be going to trial in February, according to a new report from Andy Lizcano at KZTV ("Brooks Cty Dead Inmate Lawsuit," July 8):

"His family is suing the jail and some of it's officials. Kathy Snapka represents Garcia's family. 'It is our allegation that the prison disregarded his very, very serious medical condition and that's why days after he was sent to Brooks County he died,' she said.  ...

According to the lawsuit, Garcia had a known seizure disorder and was on medication for it. And that he suffered from seizures and headaches while in jail. It also says jail officials 'breached their duty of care to Garcia by ailing to care for his medical needs.

The Brooks County Death Certificate lists Garcia's cause of death as seizure disorder. The nueces county medical examiner's autopsy says the same thing.

The defendants in the case are LCS Correction Services, which owns the jail, former jail warden Miguel Niderhauser, and Dr. Michael Pendleton, former head of the jail's medical staff.

On Janaury 23rd 2009, just days after Garcia's death, we reported that LCS President Dick Harbison told us Niderhauser resigned and Pendleton's contract was terminated."

We'll keep you posted on developments from this story.  See our previous coverage of the Mario Garcia case:

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In These Times and D.B.A. Press Expose Publicopoly

Independent media outlets In These Times and D.B.A. Press recently published an exposé of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s work to privatize government.  TPB readers will remember that we have published stories related to the organization's role in prison privatization. 

According to the report, ALEC asserts that government agencies have an unfair monopoly on public goods and services.  The organization engages in efforts to counter this assertion through various policy initiatives via privatization that shifts government functions to the private sector.  The report mentions that ALEC openly advocates privatizing several services including the surveiling and detaining of convicted criminals among other services.

ALEC identifies several initiatives by title that is open to public view from its website.  However, the specifics of such legislation are restricted to member access.  An assessment of the section entitled "Corrections and Reentry" from ALEC's website indicate that the organization is supportive of criminal justice reform concepts like justice reinvestment and efforts to eliminate in prison sexual assault.

In recent years bipartisan efforts have successfully enacted criminal justice reform efforts in Maryland and Texas and other states.  In several of these initiatives ALEC public sector members engaged in reform efforts.  For example, Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden who heads the Corrections Committee was the public sector chair of ALEC's Corrections and Reentry subcommittee in 2009. 

The strategy promoted to reform state criminal justice systems in several states is consistent with the strategy outlined in the recent exposé that:

"call for the creation of state "councils" or "committees" tasked with streamlining state agency performance and identifying services to be outsourced to the private sector."

Salient to many of these efforts have been sentencing reform that includes modifying probation and parole policies; there has also been a reliance on alternatives to incarceration that relies on the private and sometimes nonprofit infrastructure of residential treatment programs.  While in many instances sentencing to these alternative prison settings are initiatives that criminal justice reform organizations support, the current framework that relies on alternatives should also be met with a critical review and continue to identify solutions that ends the nation's reliance on incarceration completely.

Protestors to Wells Fargo: Divest from GEO Group!

On Friday, I joined a protest by Texans United for Families against Wells Fargo's investment in private prison corporation GEO Group.  The protests, part of a larger private prison divestment campaign initiated by immigrant and worker rights organization Enlace, took place in more than 13 cities aroun

d the country including in Tennessee, Florida, Colorado, and other locations. 

Wells Fargo is one of the largest institutional investors in GEO Group, holding more than 3.5 million shares or $92 million dollars in the private prison corporation.  Protestors are particularly critical of GEO Group's lobbying and role in building new immigrant detention centers, including the a new prison in Karnes County, Texas

According to the protesters press release:

"'The private prison industry relies on taxpayers for its income and then lobbies for policies that benefit its bottom line,' said Dave Kalloor of Texans United for Families. 'Harsh immigrant incarceration policies and new detention centers, like one Karnes County, Texas, are some of the most lucrative policies for GEO and other private prison corporations.'  ...

Wells Fargo’s support of the GEO Group is even more troubling in light of GEO’s history in Texas. GEO’s facilities include prisons, immigration detention centers, and juvenile detention centers where people have suffered from inadequate medical care and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Deaths, riots, and hunger strikes at GEO’s facilities are indicative of GEO’s culture of cruelty and underscore the need to end construction of new GEO facilities.

GEO is currently constructing a new immigration detention center in Karnes County, Texas. 'GEO and Wells Fargo profit from the detention and deportation system that separates families and tears our communities apart. Wells Fargo claims to support community-building and value ethics, yet they are investing in an industry with unethical practices that harm immigrants, people of color, and youth,' said Rocío Villalobos of Texans United for Families."

Check out Austin Indymedia's post for audio and additional coverage of the protest.  We'll keep you posted on developments from the private prison divestment campaign.

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