The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Idaho prisoners on the way to Val Verde Correctional Facility were delayed due to further review of contract obligations by local officials.
Prisoners were being moved to Val Verde after an investigation following the suicide of Scot Noble Payne at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. That facility was managed by GEO Group and Mr. Payne's suicide has resulted in increased scrutiny by Idaho and Texas public officials.
Despite the reported transfer the details had not been finalized by county officials in Del Rio where the prison is located.
Because a Texas county official has yet to approve the contract to house Idaho prisoners at Val Verde, they have first been sent 100 miles away to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas.
GEO also manages the Val Verde prison and according to reports has a strong incentive to protect the company’s relationship with the Idaho Department of Corrections.
The company hopes to win contracts with Idaho to build a large new prison here [Texas] to help accommodate the state's 7,400 inmates.
It is quite remarkable that despite the list of GEO prison scandals in Texas, states are continuing to contract with this company. Even more striking is that Idaho continues to do so.Recently, Texas lawmakers looked into scandals at the state's private prisons. We hope that the Texas Senate under the scrutiny of Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa will continue to monitor the contracts and develop policies and procedures that hold these private prison companies accountable.
Governor Perry appointed a new conservator to manage the Texas Youth Commission. The Austin American Statesman reported that Richard Nedelkoff has an extensive resume in corrections. Recently, Nedelkoff served as chief executive officer for Eckerd Youth Alternatives, a private nonprofit organization based in Clearwater, Fla.-based that manages residential programs for at-risk youth in 10 states.
Nedelkoff intends to stay on with Eckerd, dividing his time as necessary to do the job at the commission, he said. He succeeds Ed Owens, a conservator in semi-retirement who had been waiting for several weeks for a replacement.
Comments on Grits for Breakfast suggest that the Nedelkoff appointment will lead to an increase in contract care for TYC. Time will tell. In the wake of recent scandals such as at Coke County, the agency ended its contract with the GEO Group. TYC reports that 17 facilities are managed by private contractors.
We will continue to monitor how Nedelkoff's tenure impacts contract care capacity.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Harris County will send an additional 200 prisoners to a private facility in Louisiana. We have recently discussed why this is bad policy and it's implications for the local community.
Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to send an additional 200 county inmates, including 180 women, to a private Louisiana detention center to reduce overcrowding.
The Louisiana facility is owned by Emerald Correctional Management and tax payers will pay $9 million a year to incarcerate 600 prisoners from Harris County. The story states that the cost of incarceration in Louisiana is $37/day -- $5 less than in Harris County. However, officials do not explain whether those expenses include transportation and other costs. Given the history of private prison financing it is highly unlikely.
It is a shame that Harris County officials continue to rely on jail expansion rather than diversion as a strategy to contain capacity. Our pal at Grits for Breakfast has a written extensively on public policies that county officials can use to control for local jail populations.
We will continue to monitor the bad decision-making in Harris County that results in sending prisoners to private facilities out of state.
The Laredo Morning Times recently covered the Webb commissioners court's consideration of a contract with GEO Group. According to an attorney for GEO Corp.:
The violation of GEO Group policies by some of its employees, which court documents allege led to the suicides of former inmates in GEO-run prisons, should be reasonable to expect from a company that employs 10,000 people worldwide. That defense of the company was offered by GEO Group attorney Carlos Zaffirini at the Monday meeting of the Webb County Commissioners Court.
In the hearing, concerned citizens gave testimony relating to the county's "non-standard service contract" with GEO Group to provide water and sewer lines. Concerned citizens raised the issue with Pct. 4 Commissioner Sergio "Keko" Martinez following a series of scandals at GEO prisons in Texas.
Apparently, GEO officials do not believe citizens have the right to oversight of correctional facilities:
Zaffirini .. [stated] the outcries were "steeped in emotion and void of logic," and added the merits of GEO's current troubles in Texas, which include a current lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a GEO prison guard in Coke County, should be discussed in those courts and not in Webb County.
The debate lasted for more than two hours with Commissioners deciding not to investigate the matter further. Commissioners then returned after a lunch break and decided to instruct County Attorney Homero Ramirez to study the county's obligation to provide water services to the private prison corporation.
We will continue to monitor the developments of GEO's activities in Laredo and throughout Texas.