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September 2014

Texas Court Rules Corrections Corporation of America Subject to State’s Public Information Act

On September 15, a Travis County District Court entered a final judgment that held Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, is a “governmental body” for purposes of the Texas Public Information Act and is therefore subject to the “Act’s obligations to disclose public information.” 

This was the first time a Texas court had found that a private prison company was required to comply with the state’s public records law, joining courts in Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont. 

CCA has opposed compliance with state public records laws, but courts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont disagree.
CCA has opposed compliance with state public records laws, but courts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont disagree.
District Court Judge Gisela D. Triana entered the judgment in a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues and a project of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center. 

Former GEO Employee found guilty of sexual abuse

In April, Juan Aguilar, a former GEO employee was charged with sexual abuse of a detainee. The victim of the abuse was being detained at Pearsall during his deportation proceedings. The two men were working in the kitchen when Aguilar pulled down the detainee's pants off and performed fellatio on him in the freezer.

On Wednesday, a jury took just over an hour to find Aguilar guilty, and he is nowawaiting his sentence. Aguilar’s lawyer reportedly argued that he had no authority over the inmate and that the act was “wrong but not a crime,” and likened it to someone having an extra-marital affair — morally wrong but not illegal. However, the law in Texas is clear that sex between inmates and employees is absolutely illegal.

This is not the first time that the GEO Group, and specifically the detention center in Pearsall, has been involved in a sexual abuse scandal.

Advocates claim victory as immigrant detainees are removed from Jack Harwell Detention Center

In July, we reported protests about sub-standard conditions in the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco, Texas. The facility is privately run by LaSalle Southwest Corrections and was not originally meant for immigrant detention.

Protestors argued that officials denied the detainees basic rights like use of the telephone, reasonable access to visitation, or an adequate legal library. 

The protests by advocates and criticism from attorneys apparently worked.

Norma Lacey, from ICE’s San Antonio Field Office confirmed. "We are currently not utilizing the Jack Harwell facility," Lacy wrote in an email to advocates asking to visit immigrants at Jack Harwell earlier this week. "We can notify you should we need to utilize it again."

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CCA rumored to be getting back into immigrant family detention in South Texas

Dilley, Texas will be the site of a massive for-profit immigrant family detention center.
Dilley, Texas will be the site of a massive for-profit immigrant family detention center.
The Texas Observer reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are planning a massive new family detention center for immigrant families near San Antonio and that representatives of Corrections Corporation of America have already met with local government officials and landowners about it.

The faciltiy would sit on a 50-acre site just outside the town of Dilley, 70 miles southwest of San Antonio. The property is part of Sendero Ranch, a “workforce housing community,” more commonly called a “man camp,” for oilfield workers. Sendero Ranch is owned by Koontz McCombs, a commercial real estate firm.

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GEO Groups' Karnes County family detention center is targeted by advocates over locking up a little girl with cancer

Nayely and Sara2
Nayely and Sara2

The Karnes County family detention center, operated by the GEO Group, was at the center of a scandal over the denial of treatment for a seven year old girl with brain cancer detained inside with her mother. 

Last week Grassroots Leadership highlighted ICE’s refusal to release a Nayely, a seven-year-old with a life threatening brain tumor, from Karnes County Family Detention Center even after her mom, Sara, passed a Credible Fear Interview, the threshold for qualifying for asylum.

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Former Bartlett State Inmate is Suing CCA for Allowing Sexual Abuse during Three-hour Hazing Incident

San Antonio Express News reports that a lawsuit is being filed against Corrections Corporation of America for permitting a hazing tradition at Bartlett State Jail that ultimately led to the sexual assault of an inmate.

Barlett State Jail
Barlett State Jail

Bartlett State Jail is a prison facility for low-level inmates serving short-term sentences. The tradition of hazing inmates who are near to their release date involves forcibly removing their pants, turning them upside down and slamming them against the glass of the guard station. It is impossible for guards to ignore the behavior, as they are literally faced with the exposed backside of the inmate who is being hazed. Bartlett’s Warden Eduardo Carmona and other CCA executives were previously aware of the tradition and yet had never attempted to prevent it from happening.

According to the court documents, the hazing incident that resulted in the sexual assault was a three hour ordeal in which every single inmate in a 55-person block was subjected to the hazing practice while the single officer on duty — who was not only in charge of the victim’s block but three other 55-person blocks — did nothing to intervene.

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Welcoming new TPB blogger Emma Randles

TBP blogger Emma Randles
TBP blogger Emma Randles
Texas Prison Bid'ness is happy to welcome new blogger Emma Randles to our line-up. Emma is the Young Adult Volunteer-Presbyterian Church (USA) at Grassroots Leadership, one of the sponsors of Texas Prison Bid'ness.

Emma is originally from Claremont, California and graduated from Gettysburg College in 2013 where she studied psychology and Spanish. She is very excited to have been placed at Grassroots Leadership for her assignment as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) for the Presbyterian Church (USA). The YAV program is an opportunity for young people to serve others both internationally and domestically while they focus on social justice issues, community connection, simple living, and vocational discernment. 

“I first became aware of the massive injustice surrounding the national immigration policies as a senior in high school,” she says, “and after many years of wondering how to approach effecting change, working with Grassroots Leadership feels like a concrete step towards bringing about a shift towards a more just system.”