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May 2012

LCS guard faces up to 15 years in prison for bribery in cell phone smuggling case

A 21 year-old former LCS Corrections guard at that company's East Hidalgo Detention Center faces up to 15 years in prison on charges that he accepted bribes in return for smuggling a cell phone into the facility, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's office ("Former La Villa Corrections Officer Indicted for Smuggling Cell Phone to Federal Inmate," May 17):

"Jorge Luis Sandoval, 21, of Pharr, Texas, has been arrested on a bribery charge for smuggling a cellular phone into the East Hildago Detention Center located in La Villa, Texas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

...  Sandoval is charged with one count of accepting a bribe while acting under the authority of the U.S Marshals Service as a correctional officer.

Sandoval worked as a corrections officer at the East Hildago Detention Center in La Villa, Texas. According to the indictment, Sandoval used his official position to enrich himself by accepting a cash payment from an individual acting on a federal inmate  in exchange for smuggling a cellular telephone into the prison.

Bribery carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant United States Attorney Casey N. MacDonald is  prosecuting the case."

The East Hidalgo Detention Center has already been in the news twice this year.  In February, the warden of the facility was suspended while under federal investigation into fraud, bribery and theft allegations.   In March, the facility was back in the news after the McAllen Monitor investigated potentially inadequate tuberculosis testing and treatment at the facility.  And, last October, a nurse plead guilty to smuggling marijuana into the facility We'll keep you posted on developments from East Hidalgo.   



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Texas Prison Bid'ness Celebrates Five Years

Dear Friends –

This year our humble blog turns five. The bloggers of TPB appreciate your support and interest in following developments related to Texas private prisons!  Over the years we have worked to post information about the growing prison-for-profit industry in Texas.  The lone star state continues to embrace private prisons.  We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy writing it.

We continue to be proud of many of the elements of our blog, including:

So far this year has been great and we will continue to provide you with information on Texas private prisons.  Y’all stay tuned!

CCA Holds Investor Call. Still Pursuing Harris County Contract.

Corrections Corporation of America held its quarterly conference call earlier this month.  Despite the spin that company officials project a mix of declining crime rates, state budget problems, and stabilizing prison populations have contributed to a reduction in average compensated occupancy for CCA prisons around the nation. 

The company is actively pursuing an RFP in Texas as Harris County (Houston) considers bids by prison profiteers to assume the management of the state’s largest county jail system.  According to CCA officials, a final proposal was submitted in April and they expect the county to make the decision by this summer.  Of course we know the county has other options.

CCA representatives also stated that the Bureau of Prisons added capacity to its overall system this year in two states – California and Texas.  Given the nation’s austerity framework, company reps don’t expect the BOP to be appropriated funding for future prison capacity over the next few years.  However, the agency is projected to grow by 5,000 prisoners per year increasing demand for capacity which has the private profiteers actively seeking new federal contracts.  Currently, the federal prison system is 35% over capacity.

Despite the economy the company is still adding capacity.  CCA officials reported investing in new prison construction during 2012 – approximately $30 million to $35 million in on-going prison construction and expenditures related to potential land acquisitions.  Earlier this year, former BOP official and now CCA representative – Harley Lappin – sent a letter to state governors offering to buy state prisons with the agreement that they remain 90% occupied. The letter follows the company's effort to purchase a prison in Ohio during 2011 -- a move that may prove to be a trend. 

Finally, CCA reported engaging in negotiations with eight undisclosed states on contracting prison capacity for their overcrowded prison systems.  Folks in Texas will have to continue to monitor CCA’s developments to see if any negotiations are going on.  And we will too. 

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GEO Group earning call highlights contract bids in Texas

GEO Group's quarterly conference call was held on Monday.  The calls are a great way to see how the private prison industry thinks about the prison system and where expansion opportunities may lie.  

On this call, GEO executives talked to investors about recent company developments and where it sees its future business opportunities, including several in Texas.  Here are some of the highlights, as it relates to Texas' private prison industry:

  • GEO has activated the 600-bed Karnes County Civil Detention Center, the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement-contracted facility, which the company expects will bring $15 million annualized revenues.
  • GEO Care, a GEO Group fully owned subsidiary, is planning on bidding for on a formal RFP to operate one state mental health hospital.
  • GEO's transport division is bidding on contracts with ICE in the Dallas area and a Customs and Border Patrol contract along the SW Border.  These were described as the two largest transport procurement options currently in bidding.
  • GEO's BI electronic monitoring subsidiary is poised to increase profits if a recommended 40-50% budget increase goes through to expand Immigration and Customs Enforcement's electronic monitoring contract.

The company mentioned that they are closely monitoring developments on all of these fronts, and so will we.  We'll keep you posted on developments.  

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Death at CCA's Dawson State Jail raises broad concerns in CBS expose

The death of Pam Weatherby at Corrections Corporation of America's Dawson State Jail in 2010 may be symptomatic of much bigger problems at the facility.  An expose by CBS 11 ("Mysterious Jail Death Raises Questions," April 26th) in Dallas shows that the facility has experienced seven deaths since 2004.   

Weatherby was serving a one year sentence for drug possession when her health conditions - she was a brittle diabetic requiring constant care - rapidly deteriorated.  According to the story:

“She was to the point where you couldn’t hold a conversation with her,” said Anne Roderick. Roderick lived in the same dorm cell as Weatherby.  “She was sick, very, very sick. We would go to the guards. They would give us gloves. We were washing her sheets in a bucket in the shower.”

Roderick says she and other inmates took care of Weatherby’s medical needs because no one else would.  “She was defecating and vomiting. “ She says taking care of Weatherby became a full-time job.

Weatherby's parents reported making 28 phone calls to the jail in an effort to get their daughter help.  However, on the night of her death, CCA did not make a call to a nurse, despite facility policy. We reported that more damning is that initial reports about her death describing CCA staffing as inadequate were changed. According to the new report:

"CBS 11 has obtained internal CCA documents that show the chief of security, at the time of Pam Weatherby’s death, reported that the supervisors “did not follow proper procedures, in that they did not call a medical professional and advise them of the offender vomiting, prior to the medical staff arriving on the faculty at 0500 hours.”  The supervisor recommends “termination” for the shift supervisor on July 15, 2010.

But, eight days later, on July 23, 2010, Senior Warden Raymond Byrd signs document for the state which state, “The actions by employee were consistent with TDCJ policy and procedure. No training needs have been identified at this time.”

CBS interviewed more than a dozen women at the state jail, contracted by TDCJ, that described dangerous and neglectful conditions at the facility: 

"Abby is one of 14-women who have talked to CBS 11 news about what they experienced or witnessed while serving time at Dawson State Jail.

“Finally they stick me in a cell thinking I had a stomach virus,” explains Danna Parker. Parker, facing time for a DWI, said she stayed in segregation for 10 days without any medical treatment and without a doctor ever coming to check on her.

“I’m [sic] laying on a concrete steel frame, unable to move. I don’t have any liquids, “explains Parker.

Lorraine Brown wrote a bad check and was sentenced to time at Dawson.  “They go wherever they go to pay for their crimes. They didn’t need to pay with their lives.”


As we've reported, the Dawson State Jail was one of the TDCJ-contracted facilities originally slated for possible closure during the last legislative session.  Instead, TDCJ quietly renewed CCA's contract for the facility.  Perhaps this latest report will reignite efforts to close the facility.


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