The Liberty County Jail, operated by Community Education Centers, is under investigation by the Texas Rangers for alleged sexual misconduct involving a male guard and a female prisoner, according to Jessica Willey at KTRK in Houston:
"Right now the Texas Rangers are investigating a claim of inappropriate behavior inside the Liberty County Jail. Now we're talking to a woman who says what's happening in the jail has to stop.
The allegations are of a sexual nature. As Texas Rangers investigate, we know there is a personnel shakeup at the Liberty County Jail. One warden is out and there is a new one -- a female -- now on the job. We are not identifying the accuser because she says she's a victim of sexual assault.
"It's his integrity that's the issue," the woman said.
When this 32-year-old woman went to the Liberty County Jail this time last year for not paying child support. She was vulnerable, going through a divorce. The jail's chief of security, she says, zeroed in." ("Texas Rangers investigating a claim of inmate-jailer relationship inside Liberty County Jail," September 18)
This is not the first time that Liberty County Jail has run into controversy. Earlier this month, we reported that, in an effort to save money for the county, the Liberty County Commission was debating de-privatizing the jail. Perhaps this latest incident will aid the county's de-privitization efforts.
In May, we reported that the death of Pam Weatherby at Corrections Corporation of America's Dawson State Jail in 2010 was the seventh death at the facility since 2004. Weatherby was serving a one year sentence for drug possession when her health conditions - she was a brittle diabetic - rapidly deteriorated.
Now CBS 11 is reporting ("Another Family Blames Dawson State Jail For Inmate Death," June 14) that an additional family of a young incarcerated woman at the facility is blaming jail administrators for her death. According to the report, 30 year-old Ashleigh Shae Parks died with six months remaining on her 18 month drug possession sentence.
Her family says Ashleigh had pneumonia and they believe her death could have been prevented if she had simply gotten antibiotics sooner. Their suspicions are based, in part, on letters they received from inmates at Dawson.
“I thought all she needed was medication, and all my daughter needed was antibiotics,” said Reni Palmer, Parks’ mother.
Parks’ family blames the staff at Dawson State Jail for not recognizing Ashleigh’s illness sooner. They say they filed a lawsuit but later dropped it.
“The medical personnel in ICU told me there was basically nothing they could do for her. And these are the people at the hospital (who) told us that the prison killed my sister,” said Grady. His anger and grief was renewed in April when he saw a CBS 11 investigation which raised troubling questions about a lack of medical care at Dawson State Jail.
CBS 11 says they've spoken to 20 people formerly incarcerated at Dawson who wanted to talk about medical conditions at the facility. We'll keep you posted on developments in this ongoing story.
Corrections Corporation of America shareholder and prison reform activist Alex Friedmann has submitted a shareholder resolution that would require the private prison corporation to issue bi-annual reports on its efforts to reduce incidents of prisoner rape and sexual abuse at CCA-operated facilities.
The resolution seems like a fairly straight-forward attempt to show that the company is serious about reducing sexual assault in its facilities. After all, sexual assault is a serious problem highlighted by a recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Texas after several asylum-seeking women were sexually assaulted at the company's T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.
However, CCA objected to the resolution to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC ruled against CCA, and the resolution will be heard at the company's next annual meeting on May 10, 2012. CCA's board of directors, including Thurgood Marshall, Jr., has recommended that stockholders vote AGAINST the resolution.
Alex has launched a petition to inform CCA executives that prison rape is a serious issue that it should address in a transparent way. We expect the issue to gain more media attention in Texas and beyond in coming weeks.
(Orginally posted on the ACLU of Texas Liberty Blog)
Today, the ACLU of Texas filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of women immigrants seeking asylum from sexual abuse and violence who have suffered sexual assault at the hands of detention officers. Horrific as these women’s cases are, they are symptomatic of a much larger problem.
Last night (Oct. 18, 2011), PBS Frontline correspondent Maria Hinojosa took a penetrating look at the Obama administration’s vastly expanded immigration net, punitive approach to immigration enforcement, and the secretive world of immigration detention that is so rife with serious problems and abuses. Among those problems is the sexual abuse of immigration detainees, which the ACLU has helped expose by acquiring government documents through the Freedom of Information Act that provide a first-ever window into the breadth of this national shame. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero was featured during the program, titled "Lost in Detention," discussing those FOIA documents and the Obama administration’s record on immigration more generally.
ACLU of Texas Senior Staff Attorney Mark Whitburn said, “Unfortunately, we believe these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. Government records reveal that since 2007, 185 complaints have been made to the Department of Homeland Security about sexual abuse in ICE custody, 56 of which were from facilities in Texas. Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and those holding them in custody know it,” Whitburn added. “Many do not speak English, many – like our plaintiffs – have fled violence in their home countries, and are terrified of being returned. They may not be aware of their rights or they may be afraid to exercise them.”
The ACLU today launched a page on the www.aclu.org website devoted to the issue of sexual abuse of immigration detainees and a special blog series that will run through October examining the consequences of locking up tens of thousands of civil detainees every day.
Also last night (Oct. 18, 2011), CNBC debuted a new documentary entitled "Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prison Industry," a critical investigation of the multi-billion dollar corrections industry and how mass incarceration is a windfall for one particular special interest group: the private prison industry. Among other things, the program featured an ACLU case challenging the brutally violent conditions at the Idaho Correctional Center, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison company. As part of its promotion of the documentary, CNBC has posted on its website an op-ed by the National Prison Project's David Shapiro discussing the nefarious reality that private prison executives rake in multi-million dollar compensation packages while over-incarceration continues to harm the nation as a whole.
Later this month, ABC will air a special program on immigration detention that will feature several pieces of ACLU work, and as more information about air time becomes available we will let you know.