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February 2018

Audit Reveals ICE Failed to Follow Procurement Guidelines, High Cost for Texas Detention Center

The Texas Monitor reported this month that an audit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed financial irresponsibility that cost detainees and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The audit by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General states that ICE used the town of Eloy, Arizona as a middleman to contract with CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) for more detention beds in Texas. In 2014, when a surge of unaccompanied minors and families arrived to the United States from Central America, ICE demanded for more capacity to detain adults and minors in Texas. This wayward procurement led the way for CoreCivic to operate South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, now the largest detention center in the country.

The audit states: “Although ICE could have contracted directly with the private company that operates the South Texas Family Residential Center, CCA, it instead created an unnecessary ‘middleman’ by modifying its existing [agreement] with Eloy. Eloy’s sole function under the modification is to act as the middleman between ICE and CCA; Eloy collects about $438,000 in annual fees for this service.”

The audit also questions why families have children have been detained in Dilley when the agreement called for Eloy to operate a facility for adults, a “substantially different” term for modification.

We reported in August 2015 that Eloy was profiting from the contract with CoreCivic. Since then, South Texas Family Residential Center has been under fire from immigrants and advocates. In December 2017, a letter from the Women’s Refugee Commission and several coalition partners to the Office of the Inspector General raised concerns for the emotional toll of separating families, as parents and children have been divided between Dilley and other facilities. This private prison has also been flagged for making kids sick, detaining pregnant women, and violating immigrants’ due process rights.

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Lawsuit against CoreCivic Condemns Forced Labor

Hutto Detention Center has been in the spotlight since three women came forward last November to report complaints of sexual assault at the hands of guards in the facility. Now, a class action lawsuit against Corecivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) has been filed by Martha Gonzalez on behalf of detainees who have been forced to work in Laredo Detention Center and Hutto Detention Center. The lawsuit claims that the facilities have unlawfully forced detainees to work in violation of the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act.

 

According to the Austin American Statesman, the lawsuit states, “CoreCivic threatened detainees who refused to work with confinement, physical restraint, substantial and sustained restrictions, deprivation, violation of their liberty and solitary confinement. CoreCivic made frequent examples of individual detainees who complained or refused to work.”

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for their labor and to be paid “under the minimum wage and overtime guarantees of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”


This case is one of many that seeks to take down private prison companies for profiting off immigrant labor. Private prisons usually pay immigrants $1 per day for their work to maintain the facility, only increasing corporate profit. GEO Group currently faces two similar class action suits since the first of its kind was filed in March 2017. While GEO Group tried to dismiss the case, a federal judge ruled that Washington State can pursue its lawsuit for detainees to be paid minimum wage for their work.

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Congressional letter calls for investigation of T. Don Hutto

On Monday, February 26, a group of 43 Democratic representatives sent a letter urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take immediate action to stop sexual assault in Texas detention facilities. The letter calls for a review of the agency’s handling of sexual assault complaints and an expedited audit T. Don Hutto Detention Center following three women’s recent public complaints of abuse by guards.

Texas Congressmen Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro spearheaded the congressional letter as a call to action. Representative Doggett said in a press release, "Many of these victims are refugees seeking asylum, fleeing prior traumatic experiences. Basic human decency requires that they not be abused here."

Newsweek reported that the letter calls for an expedited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) audit of T. Don Hutto Detention Center, where Laura Monterrosa has been detained for nine months and faces increasing retaliation after speaking out about sexual assault. The article details the continual abuse that Laura is suffering from within detention: “Monterrosa was also reportedly denied mental health counseling on multiple occasions. Such action would be in violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which states that corrections facilities have to offer treatment and counseling to survivors of sexual assault while in detention.”

In February, Laura Monterrosa was put in solitary confinement for over 60 hours and was threatened with indefinite confinement unless she would recant her accusation of abuse. The Independent stated that ICE denied she was placed in solitary confinement.

In a recording published by Democracy Now!, Laura called Bethany Carson from Grassroots Leadership on an unidentifiable number once she was released. Laura was being pressured to cut ties with her advocates and retract her testimony. Carson stated, “This is incredibly egregious that they are trying to silence a victim of sexual assault in this way.”

Community advocates have since mobilized support to visit Laura to keep her out of solitary confinement. The Guardian reported that “50 people protested this week outside the Hutto detention center in Texas, in support of the woman, Laura Monterrosa,” according to Grassroots Leadership. Community members have also testified before Williamson County Commissioner’s Court to end their contract for the facility with CoreCivic given the troubling history of sexual assault in the facility (formerly Corrections Corporation of America or CCA).

Salon reported that, in addition to the congressional representatives, three Austin city council members wrote a letter to ICE. City council member Gregorio Casar was publicly turned away from visiting in the facility when officials “were worried he would speak to the press about his visit.” The three council members demanded that ICE "release Ms. Monterrosa immediately" and questioned the agency’s decision to turn away Casar’s visit. The video of the event has since gone viral with coverage by NowThis.

We will continue to report on developments to the congressional action and Laura Monterrosa’s case, as it remains under open investigation by the FBI.

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Littlefield Revealed for In-Correct Care

In a damning exposé, the Texas Observer reported on the insufficient treatment and inhumane conditions at Texas Civil Commitment Center in Littlefield, Texas. The Texas Civil Commitment Center is a lockdown facility for men who have been convicted of sex offenses, operated by Correct Care Recovery Solutions in the former Bill Clayton Detention Center. The story highlights the scandal of the “Treatment Industrial Complex,” the encroachment of for-profit prison contract to exploit new markets in healthcare, treatment, and re-entry.

While the facility operates with the principle to be restorative for people who have already served prison sentences, the center resembles a prison in every aspect and violates constitutional requisites. Littlefield lacks treatment for prisoners with no end date to their incarceration. “It’s got to be the worst therapeutic program in the history of sex offender treatment, far and away,” said Scott Pawgan, an attorney in Conroe.

In a blog by Cate Graziani with Grassroots Leadership, she commented on the article: “The specifics of the Littlefield story should horrify you. In 2015, about 200 men who had already completed their prison sentence were rounded up and dumped in a private prison in remote Texas, where most will be locked up for the rest of their lives. Under the guise of a civil treatment program, Correct Care runs a for-profit prison, from which almost no one will ever be released.”

The Bill Clayton Detention Center closed in 2009 when the GEO Group pulled out of the contract, leaving the City of Littlefield with a burden of debt. The Texas State Legislature awarded the contract to Correct Care Recovery Solutions (formerly GEO Care) in 2015. “Correct Care Recovery Solutions (CCRS), formerly known as GEO Care, is a spin-off corporation of GEO Group, the same corporation that operated the facility until 2009. This contract seems a consolation prize for CCRS, who lost the bid to take over Terrell State Hospital earlier this year,” Graziani wrote for Texas Prison Bid’ness in 2015.

This facility, the center of the state’s civil commitment program, its operator Correct Care Recovery Solutions has a history of scandals. “We had just told the state all about this company’s track record of serious problems, and then we turn around and they’re putting people in Littlefield months later,” Graziani told the Observer.

For more information on the Treatment Industrial Complex, see the report from 2016: “InCorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement.”

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Investors ‘Broke Out’ of Prison Profiteer

An investment firm Seeking Alpha announced this month that it would drop its investment in CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) citing that the prisons have become “dysfunctional.”

CoreCivic currently owns 34% of the market share in correctional facilities as the “largest player.” It contracts with the federal government to account for 51% of its revenue and states for 42% of revenue. The investors site a decrease in the federal prison population by 7% since 2012 as well as an impending government shutdown as reasons that this stock is too risky to invest in.

The analysis also cites incidents of scandals in CoreCivic prisons in Tennessee, including a recent scabies outbreak, a lawsuit filed against them, and a failure to address the healthcare outbreak for diabetic inmates.

CoreCivic currently lists 14 facilities in Texas, including Hutto Detention Center where sexual abuse allegations have drawn national attention to the unlawful and corrupt practices within private prisons.

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Fall at Bradshaw State Jail

The Bradshaw State Jail made news this month when SE TexasRecord reported that Charmayne Jett filed a complaint of negligence against Corecivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA).

Jett suffered injury and damages after she visited Bradshaw State Jail in 2016 and “slipped and fell in water that had accumulated on the visitor's restroom floor.” The allegation states that he suffered pain, impairment, medical expenses, and lost earnings due to the fall.  


The jail, with a capacity of 1,980 beds, is now operated by Management and Training Corporation under contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. CoreCivic lost its bid for the facility in 2017 after holding the contract for 13 years. Advocates with Grits for Breakfast named Bradshaw State Jail as an opportunity for state closure in 2017.

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Idaho prisoners moved to Texas (again)

Despite a history of catastrophe, CBS reported that 250 prisoners from Idaho will be transferred to Karnes County Correctional Center in Karnes City, Texas. The article cited a shortage of prison beds in Idaho as the state’s reason for the transfer. The Karnes County Correctional Center is operated by private prison corporation GEO Group. As we have previously reported, the long-distance separation of prisoners from their families can have devastating impacts.

The transfer of prisoners from Idaho to Texas, described as the GEO Group ‘shell game,’ was ended previously when two prisoners from Idaho died in two separate GEO Group facilities. These facilities were described as “squalid” and “horribly understaffed.”

One of those incidents took the life of Scot Noble Payne, who committed suicide in GEO’s Dickens County Detention Center after spending a year in solitary confinement. In 2007, Payne’s mother filed suit against the Idaho Department of Corrections for $500,000, the maximum amount allowed under the state law. For full coverage of Idaho to Texas prisoner transfer, see our archive here.

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