A formerly incarcerated person at LaSalle Corrections' Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco has filed a lawsuit against the facility over a sexual assault incident, according to the Waco Tribune ("Former inmate alleges sexual assault at Waco Jail," December 11):
"A former jail inmate alleges she repeatedly was sexually assaulted at the private Jack Harwell Detention Center, where she claims a long-standing lack of institutional control has led to an environment of smuggling, extortion, drug abuse and sexual misconduct."
Based on our coverage of the facility, there certainly seems to be plenty of evidence that of persistent operational problems leading to major incidents, including sexual assaults and deaths. Following a suicide on November 1st, three private prison guards were arrested and charged with tampering with records that tracked how often they checked on the prisoner. The facility was also found non-compliant by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) following a review of the facility. The TCJS review (attached) found that private jailers violated the standard mandating that potentially suicidal or mentally ill prisoners be checked on every 30 minutes.
Last year, the facility's troubles — including being found in non-compliance and allegations of sexualt assault, made it one of the top private prison stories of the year. Unfortunately, it looks like facility's problems have not abated, despite a change in operations from Community Education Centers to LaSalle Southwestern Corrections.
We'll keep you posted on developments from this lawsuit and other stories related to the Jack Harwell facility.
A GEO Group supervisor has been charged with sexual assault of a detainee in the company's Val Verde Correctional Center in Del Rio, according to a report in the San Antonio Express-News ("Supervisor at detention facility indicted," October 15) last week:
"A federal grand jury on Wednesday charged a supervisor at the federal detention center in Del Rio with having sex with one of her prisoners. Leticia Martinez Garza, 58, of Del Rio is charged with one count of sexual abuse of a ward. She faces up to 15 years in prison if she’s convicted.
Martinez Garza was the laundry, property and supply supervisor at the facility, which is operated by the Geo Group Inc.
In an affidavit for her arrest filed last week, an FBI agent alleged that in September 2014, a prisoner at the detention center told officials he’d had sex with Martinez Garza. Witnesses, surveillance video and Martinez Garza herself backed up the claim, the affidavit alleges."
This is certainly not the first scandal in a GEO Group facility, nor even at the Val Verde Correctional Center. Back in 2007, when the state of Idaho moved prisoners to Val Verde, the facility had been plagued with scandal including employee who sued claiming racial discrimination after a superior displayed a hangman’s noose in his office and took pictures in KKK garb while posing in GEO Group (then called Wackenhut) uniform, and another lawsuit brought on behalf of the family of a detainee who committed suicide after reporting that she had been sexually assaulted, beaten, and denied medical care.
In 2009, two former GEO gaurds ended back in the facility on smuggling charges and in 2012 another guard was indicted on smuggling charges as well.
Last month, February 25th, an uprising over negligence, poor sanitation, and lack of medical care occurred at the “Tent City” criminal alien requirement (CAR) prison in Willacy County. Following the uprising, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) lost its contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and fired the nearly 400 employees that worked there. All of the 2,400 prisoners were transferred to other facilities around the country.
Although MTC is investigating the uprising, there are no immediate plans to reopen the facility. The damage, loss of the BOP contract, and the layoffs are piling up on top of the county's $63 million debt from the building of the facility.
All this has caused the Willacy County Local Government Corp. bonds to be downgraded to junk status by the S&P. The already struggling county will be left to fill the gaps in its budget, and will not be able to afford some of its planned expenditures — including a new hurricane shelter.
The model of MTC and other private prison companies is to find small, struggling towns and counties like Willacy and Raymondsville and promise them economic recovery. The aftermath of the Willacy uprising is one more example of how they do not deliver on their promises, and if anything goes wrong, the companies bail — leaving the vulnerable community to fend for itself.
Douglas Menjivar, an immigrant just released from the Polk County Detention Center in Livingston after 22 months in detention, says he was raped in September and October 2013 while detained at the Joe Corley detention center. Joe Corley is an immigrant detention center in Conroe, Texas run by the private prison corporation GEO Group.
Menjivar says he reported the rape to the supervising Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer known only as "Mr. Hernandez," immediately after it occurred, but was ridiculed and called “stupid” for "allowing himself to be raped."
Menjivar officially reported the incident to an ICE doctor in December 2014. The agency concluded its investigation in February, stating that the results of the investigation “do not corroborate the accusation.” However, Menjivar told Semana News that he couldn't provide the names of the four witnesses to the rape because he feard for the safety of his family in El Salvador.
While at the Joe Corley Detention Center, Menjivar participated in a hunger strike last year to call attention to the inhumane conditions at the facility. The hunger strike at Joe Corley was inspired by hunger strikes at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Shortly after protests in June 2014, ICE transferred some of the immigrant protesters detained at Joe Corley to other facilities, but the majority were deported.
Menjivar has been issued an order of deportation but says he fears for his life if returned to El Salvador. Menjivar's attorney appealed to the 5th Circuit Appellate Court to stop his deportation on the grounds that since he does not have a criminal record in this country, he should not be an enforcement priority. Though the legal process has not yet been successful, advocates credit Menjivar's recent release to a congressional letter by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee requesting a stay of deportation. Additionally, due to the danger he would face if deported, the Salvadoran consulate did not issue departure papers, which further delayed his deportation.