Scandals

Employee lawsuit at MTC detention center in Raymondville

The Brownsville Herald ("10 guards suing Management & Training Corp," May 21) reported last week that guards are suing the Management and Training Corporation for wrongful termination.  According to the Herald story,

Ten former security guards at Willacy County Regional Detention Facility have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, and two company officials claiming they were fired for refusing to make false statements.

Peter Zavaletta, the attorney for 10 of the 11 guards who were fired, said his clients lost their jobs for refusing to sign statements saying other guards were gambling while on duty.

"None of my clients were gambling and when they refused to sign statements accusing each other of gambling, they were terminated," he said.

Zavaletta said he doesn’t know who the 11th guard is or who his attorney is, but was told by MTC there is an 11th guard who was fired. None of the guards had ever been disciplined and several had been promoted to supervisory positions at the privately owned and operated prison, the lawsuit states.

The Willacy County Regional Detention Facility is one of two large MTC prisons in Raymondville.  The other, the Willacy County Processing Center, labeled by the press "Tent City" after being built of a series of Kevlar pods, is the nation's largest and one of its most notorious immigrant detention centers. "Tent City" has come been protested many times by immigrant, faith, and human rights organizations. 

We'll keep you posted on developments from this lawsuit. 

LCS's Coastal Bend Detention Center Moved to "At-Risk" Status

The Coastal Bend Detention Center, LCS Corrections' so-called "flagship facility," will be under extreme scrutiny over the next 90 days following a failed inspection and the unauthorized release of an inmate because of mistaken identity, which went unknown for three weeks. LCS hired Alberto Bravo as a new warden shortly before the failed inspection in hopes of changing the facility for the better and improving their standards. Bravo's work temporarily paid off as they passed their second round of inspections. However, shortly after passing the second inspection, they mistakenly released an inmate and did not realize what had happened for three weeks prior to the "escape."

Because of this, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has defined the facility as being "at-risk," meaning over the next 90 days the TCJS will have full authority to conduct unannounced inspections at any day or time. If no citations are filed from the inspections over this time, then the facility will be taken off the list. If there are citations or failures found, then more actions will be taken, depending on the offenses. Warden Bravo in investigating the release, and has narrowed his focus to specific employees. He told the Caller-Times, “We are trying to narrow it down to where it happened,” Bravo said. “It was human error. The procedures we had in place, they failed to follow the procedures" ("Robstown prison faces unannounced inspections after inadvertant inmate release," The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 18 December, 2009).

We will remain aware about the status of this facility and relay any information we find through these unannounced inspections.

Coastal Bend Detention Center Inmate "Escapes", Unknown for 3 Weeks

The LCS Corrections-operated Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown, TX has been in the public eye recently. After initially failing their first jail standards inspection, the facility, equipped with a brand new Warden, passed their second inspection with the commendation of Adan Muñozthe Texas Commission on Jail Standards director. However, the CBDC is not out of the woods yet.

Jamie Powell at the Corpus Christi Caller Times first reported on the problem of an inmate who "escaped" from the facility ("Robstown prison discovers three weeks later that prisoner is missing," The Caller Times, December 11, 2009). The inmate escaped on November 19th, unknown to the facility until December 10th. To make matters worse, the inmate didn't dig a hole and crawl to freedom like in the movies, rather, the facility willingly released him because they confused his identity. The facility failed to return Ms. Powell's telephone calls, as well as my own personal attempts via telephone and email.

The escape of this prisoner is interesting because one of the reasons that CBDC failed their initial inspection was because they failed to perform the required face to face check-ins with each inmate. Additionally, the facility also failed to correctly classify the inmates. These two reasons combined are a recipe for incidents like this where an inmate walked out the door because of poor organization and classification, and why it took so long for the facility to realize what had happened.

Where once Muñoz was impressed with the facility's turnaround after failing the inspection, he now appears disappointed withthe facility:

It doesn’t appear that Estrada Martinez escaped on purpose, said Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director, after reviewing LCS’s preliminary escape report. He was released.

“What transpired between the wrongly released inmate and the releasing officer is something that LCS will have to investigate,” Muñoz said. “There is no overt action shown by the mistakenly released inmate to indicate he made any statements to the releasing officer that he was attempting to disguise who he was while being released.

“And why the receiving transport service did not verify the inmate’s identity is also something that needs to be ascertained and investigated,” Muñoz said.

LCS contacted the jail commission within 24 hours of the discovery, which is required by law. The company must submit a written report detailing why and how the escape happened, Muñoz said.

The release counts as an escape and could pose problems for the prison, Muñoz said. ("Robstown prison discovers three weeks later that prisoner is missing," The Caller Times, December 11, 2009)

Questions still remain: why would a facility, shortly after passing an inspection with Texas jail standards, let this seriously negligent event happen? Are the guards falling back into their old routines prior to their inspection? What is happening within LCS Corrections to prevent this sort of release/breakout from happening again?

LCS Corrections calls the Coastal Bend Detention Center their "flagship" facility. If CBDC is their flagship, and inmates are walking out without disguising their identity or breaking through a wall, I am surprised the rest of their "fleet" is even able to stay afloat.

Texas Tribune highlights poor health care in private detention centers

Emily Ramshaw at the newly-launched Texas Tribune has a series of three stories this week on the state of health care and mental health care in private immigrant detention centers in south Texas, including the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall and MTC's Willacy County "Tent City" lock-up in Raymondville. 

Ramshaw's first article ("Mental Hell," November 16) details the lack of mental health providers at the many large south Texas immigrant detention centers:

[GEO's] South Texas facility, one of several federally monitored Texas lock-ups for immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, is hardly the only one with mental health staffing problems. A Texas Tribune review of five of these facilities found just three had a staff psychiatrist, despite housing a combined 5,500 detainees.

In part two ("Health Scare," November 17), Ramshaw tackles health care and staffing problems at both GEO's South Texas facility in Pearsall and MTC's notorious Willacy "Tent City" prison in Raymondville, the country's largest immigrant detention centers.   

A 2007 review of medical care at the Willacy Detention Center in Raymondville found medical staffing was “barely adequate,” and that the facility’s clinic was too small to care for its 1,800 detainees. Twenty of the facility’s 46 health care positions were vacant. The detention center had no clinical director, dentist, pharmacist or psychiatrist. Half of Willacy’s licensed vocational nurses hadn’t even completed new employee orientation.

In part three (Andre's Story, November 19), the Tribune lets a former detainee, Andre Osborne, tell his own story in the form of a video.  Check it out:

 

Over all, this coverage is very promising from Ramshaw and the Texas Tribune.  We'll keep you posted on developments.

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