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July 2012

Despite fines and failures, Texas contemplates more GEO Care contracts

Sunday's Austin American Statesman featured a front page story by Andrea Ball on fines being leveled against GEO Group's Montgomery County psych facility and plans to privatize a state mental hospital moving through an RFP process.  Here's the lead:

"Sixteen months after the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility opened in Conroe, the state's first publicly funded, privately run psychiatric hospital is facing at least $53,000 in state fines for serious shortcomings in patient care.

The private operator, Geo Care, is a subsidiary of Geo Group, a private prison company that has drawn attention in recent years because of deaths, riots and sexual abuse at some units in Texas and other states." ("As East Texas public-private psych facility struggles, state plans more privatization," July 21)

More disturbingly, the state is not considering pulling out of the contract with GEO, but actually privatizing a state mental health hospital.  According to Ball's article:

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New Report from The Sentencing Project on For-Profit Detention Growth

Dollars and detaineesLast week, The Sentencing Project*, released new report titled Dollars and Detainees: The Growth of For-Profit Detention.  The report documents how immigration enforcement and changes in policy have led to a 59% increase in the number of detainees being held by the federal government between 2002 and 2011.

Specifically, the report examines how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) have increasingly relied on private companies to detain these individuals, as well as the complex network of facilities that house federal detainees, and the failings of private detention. The report’s major findings include:

"Minor Fight" at GEO's Reeves County Detention Center

A "minor fight" between incarcerated immigrants at the GEO Group's Reeves County Detention Center is being reported by the Odessa American-Statesman ("Inmate fight results in injuries at Reeves County prison Sunday," July 16)

"A minor fight involving several inmates resulted in minor injuries at the Reeves County Detention Center Sunday, officials from the Geo Group, Inc., the private company that operates the facility, reported.

During the day Sunday, a minor “inmate-on-inmate fight” broke out in the recreation yard, reported Pablo E. Paez, vice president of corporate relations reported. The fight resulted in minor injuries to “less than half a dozen inmates.”

“Staff at the facility responded promptly to quell the fight which did not result in any injuries to staff or damage property,” Paez reported."

Premature baby born at CCA's Dawson State Jail with no medical personnel died after four days

Horrendous stories continue to pour out of Corrections Corporation of America's Dawson State Jail. According to another expose by CBS 11, a baby born to Autumn Miller, incarcerated after a drug crime and a probation violation, was born prematurely with no medical personnel on staff at the facility.  

Her baby, named Gracie, died after only four days she was born.  Miller's mother spoke to CBS 11:

"...  Burr says her daughter tells a chilling story of what happened during the early morning hours when she began to bleed and cramp inside the jail and had trouble walking.  “They took her down to the medical unit on a stretcher. When she got there, there was a doctor on the screen,” Burr said.

But Miller told her mother that the doctor, who was available through a teleconference, never had a chance to see her.

More private prison debt problems – this time in Montgomery County

Last weekend, the Conroe Courier reported (Feds investigate 2 county facilities, July 7, 2012) that Montgomery County’s decision to construct the Joe Corley Detention Facility may have left the County with a large financial burden.  The facility, operated by The Geo Group, was constructed using $45 million in bonds exempt from federal taxes.  But, there was a catch.  As the Courier reported:

“the approval by the Internal Revenue Service in 2006 was based on a ruling request stating federal prisoners – including those from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement – would occupy an average of 70 percent of the 1,100 beds in the facility, according to county documents. … In that same ruling request … after the initial five-year operating period, ‘(the) county expects that the number of county prisoners or prisoners of other local governmental entities in the county housed in the Jail will exceed 30 percent of the beds. Eventually, County expects that non-federal prisoners will occupy close to 100 percent of the beds in the Jail.’”

Well, the facility opened in August 2008 and guess how many county inmates are in the facility?  Zero.     

Another family accuses CCA's Dawson State Jail of neglect in prisoner death

In May, we reported that the death of Pam Weatherby at Corrections Corporation of America's Dawson State Jail in 2010 was the seventh death at the facility since 2004. Weatherby was serving a one year sentence for drug possession when her health conditions - she was a brittle diabetic - rapidly deteriorated.

Now CBS 11 is reporting ("Another Family Blames Dawson State Jail For Inmate Death," June 14) that an additional family of a young incarcerated woman at the facility is blaming jail administrators for her death.  According to the report, 30 year-old  Ashleigh Shae Parks died with six months remaining on her 18 month drug possession sentence.

Her family says Ashleigh had pneumonia and they believe her death could have been prevented if she had simply gotten antibiotics sooner.  Their suspicions are based, in part, on letters they received from inmates at Dawson.

“I thought all she needed was medication, and all my daughter needed was antibiotics,” said Reni Palmer, Parks’ mother.

Parks’ family blames the staff at Dawson State Jail for not recognizing Ashleigh’s illness sooner.  They say they filed a lawsuit but later dropped it.

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