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October 2012

Jury awards $2.25 million to family of man who died at LCS' Brooks County Detention Center

A fe

deral jury in Corpus Christi has awarded the widow of a man who died at LCS Corrections' Brooks County Detention Center $2.25 million, according to a story in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times last week (Federal jury awards $2.25 million to widow of inmate who died at Brooks County Detention Center, October 24): 

"The federal jury decided unanimously to award $2.25 million to the widow of 42-year-old Mario Garcia, who died of a seizure while on suicide watch at the center.

Garcia's family contends he was denied prescribed medications while at the facility, which led to his death 12 days after being brought there.

His condition began to quickly deteriorate after being jailed, though he was never sent to a physician or a hospital, according to the family's counsel. Garcia left behind a wife and a 10-year-old son.

Kathy Snapka, lead counsel for the Garcia family, called the death preventable and said facility staff disregarded his condition. Snapka said the family hopes the verdict in Garcia v. Niderhauser will send a message to other facilities that they will be held accountable for neglect."

Study: As Liberty County reduces jail population, ending privatization would save money

A new study by Texas A&M researcher Lynn Greenwood has found that de-privatization of the Liberty County Jail would help the county to manage its jail costs as it continues efforts to reduce the population in its jail, according to a story in the Liberty County Vindicator (County Jail Study results presented, October 24): 

"The county instituted a bond supervision program and successfully reduced the jail population, “undermined by the increased cost of housing inmates”, says Greenwood. The current management company, Correctional Education Centers (CEC) increased their per person per day (PPPD) with lower jail population. In Tuesday’s court meeting, commissioners approved a payment for September 2012 to CEC for $333,972, a cost of $72 PPPD. The study determined the appropriate PPPD cost for Liberty County should be $43.70."

Greenwood's study, initiated after county officials were approached by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership last spring, illicited strong reactions from county officials, according to the Vindicator:

"Judge Cain commented after the presentation, “My observations are that we are being way overcharged. We are subsidizing CEC to house federal inmates. The bond program is working well. We have reduced the jail population from around 215 down to between 130 and 150. We can further reduce the population to 100 by instituting an ankle monitoring system, that tracks alcohol use and has GPS. The monitoring system would allow us to take 30-50 inmates out of jail, letting us reduce the number of employees and reduce the costs significantly.” Cain continued, “I can save taxpayers between one to two million dollars. It’s that simple. It’s time to take the jail back. We can operate it. We’ve got the skills. We can make things better. It’s time we took control.”

County Judge Craig McNair added, “The take away is that Liberty County is the exception to the rule. I think 100 jail population is not far-fetched. We need to be proactive.”

Commissioner Melvin Hunt (Pct. 3) commented, “It used to work.” Commissioner Charlotte Key Warner (Pct. 2) stated, “We would have more control of the costs.”"

We'll keep you posted on developments from Liberty County. 

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Daily Show takes on private prisons

Comedian D.L. Hughley took on the private prison industry last night on The Daily Show.  Take a look:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
DL Hughley
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Deaths at Dawson State Jail Investigated by Dallas News Station

Amongst the major problems with private prisons are misguided attempts to control costs.  The problem with containing expenses is that cutting corners has serious consequences that can compromise public safety and well being.  This recent news report about the Dawson State Jail, (CBS 11, Guards Come Forward in Dawson Jail Investigation, October 8, 2012) makes that clear. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) runs the prison.  

The Dallas News station has covered several deaths that occurred at the prison, including that of Pam Weatherby.  The recent news report cites two guards who believe the deaths could have been prevented.

For-profit prison companies are known to face the challenge of maintaining public safety while cutting costs in the provision of services including health care.  CCA has a pretty bad track record when it comes to in-prison health care that includes:

  • In 2001 a Florida grand jury found that CCA facility staff, including a nurse, “failed to demonstrate adequate health training,” which contributed to the death of an inmate who swallowed several Ecstasy pills; and 
  • Another complaint against CCA’s medical services involved an inmate who died after officials allegedly refused to fill a $35 prescription for his hereditary angioedema.  

An audit of health services at the Dawson State Jail highlights that there are systemic problems in the provision of health services at the prison.  The document assesses compliance with several health metrics including:

  • The prison was found to be only 15% compliant in providing an annual physicalexam to eligible prisoners who are 50-years of age or older;
  • The prison was found to be only 45% compliant in providing annual well-woman exams to eligible prisoners;
  • The prison was found to be only 33% compliant in referring eligble HIV-infected prisoners for specified treatment protocols; and
  • The prison was found to be only 33% in providing the flu vaccine to eligible prisoners.  

In CBS 11’s report, a CCA spokesperson is quick to point out that CCA does not provide medical services, but rather the prison’s healthcare is provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) under contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).  This goes to show that contracting out prison services is a slippery slope that can lead to shifting responsibility and an inability to accept responsibility for poor management practices.

One thing is clear, in spite of any contract, TDCJ is responsible for health services at Dawson State Jail and all of its facilities -- private or not.  The loved ones of those prisoners who have died under circumstances related to their ability to receive adequate healthcare are entitled to answers. We hope that continued news reports will uncover them.

We will keep y’all posted as this story unfolds.  Stay tuned.

 

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Sixth escape at Houston halfway house operated by GEO Group

There has been another escape

at GEO Group's Southeast Texas Transitional Center, according to the Houston Press Blog (Thomas Lee Elkins: GEO Group Lets Sixth Rapist Stroll Away From Halfway House in 24 Months, October 8, 2012): 

"The rapist of a 16-year-old girl is the latest sexual predator to slip through the sieve that is the privately run Southeast Texas Transitional Center.  Thomas Lee Elkins, convicted of aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault in 1991, absconded from the facility, 10950 Old Beaumont Highway, October 5, according to reports.

He's the sixth offender to float away from Southeast in 24 months. Formerly known as the Ben A. Reid Community Correctional Facility, Southeast is run by the Florida-based GEO Group, which, despite its appalling track record in Texas and elsewhere, keeps getting sweet state contracts."

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Congrats to Grits for Breakfast on 8th Blogoversary

Congrats for our friend Scott Henson at G

rits for Breakfast on eight years of insightful blogging on the Texas criminal justice system.  Scott is hands down the most prolific, and often the most astute, Texas writer on a incredibly wide array of criminal justice issues.  

He also has been a consistent critic of the private prison system, including some of these gems of posts:

Please join us in congratulating Scott on the first 8 years of Grits for Breakfast.  Here's to many more!