April 2012

GEO Group subject of lawsuit in prisoner death at Central Texas Detention Center

The GEO Group and Warden James Copeland are the subject of a recent lawsuit after the December 29, 2011 death of Darrell Clayton Delany at company's Central Texas Detention Center in San Antonio.  

According to the petition (attached) filed in the 37th District Court, Delany suffered "suffered severe trauma, extreme physical injuries, extreme pain and suffering, and death" at the facility.  The suit further claims that his death was caused by "specific breaches of duty by defendants GEO, and Copeland, and as a result of direction given by GEO's corporate officers which include grossly inhuman treatment, abuse, neglect, illegal and malicious conditions of confinement, and subsequent cover up of wrongdoing."

We'll keep you posted on developments with this case.

The Ballad of Liberty County

This post is a guest entry by Jane Atkinson, an MSSW intern working with Grassroots Leadership.  

After twice temporarily extending its jail contract with Community Education Centers, the Liberty County Commissioners Court voted last Monday to renew the contract for two years (Cleveland Advocate, "County approves jail contract for approximately $4 million annually," April 16), with an option to break the contract in six months. Though the decision to renew is disappointing, there is hope that the county will push for de-privatization of the jail over the next six months. 

Liberty County has had a rough relationship with CEC. After Liberty County implemented some smart-on-crime tactics and lowered its jail population, CEC raised the per diem rate of each person in the jail, keeping Liberty County from saving money (Cleveland Advocate, "County’s jail inmate population down, but companies now asking for more money per inmate," January 21).

In addition to bad financial deals, CEC has also raised concerns over its ability to properly manage its facilities, from failed inspections as recently as 2011, to the recent indictment of a CEC guard for smuggling drugs to inmates. An op-ed I wrote two weeks ago further details the tenuous relationship between Liberty County and CEC. These troubles led to the county considering a new private manager (LaSalle/Southwest Corrections) or taking over jail operations themselves.   

Furthermore, a feature by Sarah Beth Bolin of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition in the Vindicator makes common-sense recommendations on how the county can decrease the jailed population and save money by not contracting with a private company. 

The new contract with CEC comes with a hefty price tag. Last year the county spent $3.2 million on the jail. The new contract is for $4 million annually. That’s an increase of $800,000 when the jail population is actually lower than it was last year. With this contract the per diem rate is on a sliding scale, so if there are fewer inmates the rate increases, which takes away the financial incentive for the county to reduce the inmate population. It was this poor dealing that had the county looking for other options in the first place. 

Liberty County Sheriff Patterson said, “I think it will be a win-win situation for employees and the contractors.” But how does the county or taxpayers win in this equation? 

On the bright side, a Liberty County official with whom I have been in contact let me know that, according to one Commissioner, Liberty County will pursue a study to determine if the County should run its own jail. With six months to consider a county take-over of the jail, it’s possible the commissioners and the sheriff may yet make a better decision for the county. It is an election year, after all, so there may be some pressure on the commissioners.

 

Why does Corrections Corp. of America object to reporting on efforts to reduce prison rape?

 

Corrections Corporation of America shareholder and prison reform activist Alex Friedmann has submitted a shareholder resolution that would require the private prison corporation to issue bi-annual reports on its efforts to reduce incidents of prisoner rape and sexual abuse at CCA-operated facilities.

The resolution seems like a fairly straight-forward attempt to show that the company is serious about reducing sexual assault in its facilities.  After all, sexual assault is a serious problem highlighted by a recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Texas after several asylum-seeking women were sexually assaulted at the company's T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  

However, CCA objected to the resolution to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  The SEC ruled against CCA, and the resolution will be heard at the company's next annual meeting on May 10, 2012. CCA's board of directors, including Thurgood Marshall, Jr., has recommended that stockholders vote AGAINST the resolution.

Alex has launched a petition to inform CCA executives that prison rape is a serious issue that it should address in a transparent way.   We expect the issue to gain more media attention in Texas and beyond in coming weeks.

GEO guard indicted for contraband at Val Verde Correctional Center

A GEO Group guard has been indicted for smuggling contraband into the Val Verde Correctional Center in Del Rio, according to an article in the San Antonio Express-News: 

"Isau Juarez, 20, was arrested Thursday in San Antonio. The indictment by a grand jury in Del Rio said Juarez provided the items to an inmate identified only as B.H. at the Val Verde Correctional Facility, which is run by Florida-based The GEO Group.

The indictment said Juarez smuggled the cell phone on Dec. 19, 2011, and the drugs on Aug. 11, 2011 and Feb. 13, 2012. If convicted, Juarez faces up to five years in prison." (Guillermo Contreras, "Ex-jailer charged with smuggling cell phone and pot to inmate," April 19)

This is certainly not the first problem the Val Verde facility has had.  Back in 2007, we published a piece called "Problems haunt GEO's Val Verde Correctional Center" after a 19-year old guard was indicted on a felony count of deprivation of rights under the color of law after twice punching a prisoner.  Here is some of our previous coverage of the Val Verde Correctional Center:

Fifth escape from GEO's Southeast Texas Transitional Center in 18 months

A prisoner escape last week at GEO Group's Southeast Texas Transitional Center is the fifth escape from that facility in 18 months, according to a devastating write-up on the facility in the Houston Press  ("Michael Elbert Young: Fifth Escapee in 18 Months from GEO Group Facility," April 6):

"A high-risk child rapist who hopped over his halfway house's barbed wire fence Thursday night is the fifth sex offender to abscond from the privately run Southeast Texas Transitional Center in 18 months.

According to the Houston Chronicle story linked above, authorities say Michael Elbert Young, who might be "mentally unstable if not taking medication," removed his electronic tracking monitor. He was "released from prison after serving eight years for two aggravated assault convictions. Both were sex related. He also served a 20-year term for sexual assault of a child and attempted aggravated sexual assault." Oh, and he has a history of using knives.

Owned and operated by Florida-based GEO Group, the facility at 10950 Old Beaumont Highway was formerly known as the Ben A. Reid Community Correctional Facility. Apparently, since GEO can't keep track of its convicted sexual predators, it just figured changing the name would solve the problem. After all, it's much cheaper than hiring a competent staff and improving security."