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Contraband smuggling in GEO's San Antonio lock-up leads to guilty pleas & indictments

GEO Group's Central Texas Detention Center was in the news last week, with smuggling charges bringing guilty pleas and indictments.  From the San Antonio Express-News ("Mexican Mafia members had cell phones, drugs in fed jail," Feb 9) story on events at the facility:

"Two members of the Texas Mexican Mafia pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that they got cell phones and drugs smuggled into a federal jail with help from a guard. ...

Hernandez's plea deal said he made a number of phone calls while awaiting trial on drug-related charges at the Central Texas Detention Facility, a federal jail in San Antonio run by Florida-based The GEO Group. ... Hernandez also asked his wife to contact another Texas Mexican Mafia member to let him know that Hernandez had identified three “snitches” who cooperated with police, the plea deal said. One of the three was later found murdered, the deal said. ...

Three people were charged in the smuggling and await trial, including former GEO employee Jack Shane McNeal, inmate Antonio Molina-Ortega and Marisol Reyna Mermella, records show."

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Was CCA letter sent to Governor's office attempt to lessen worries about cell phones at Mineral Wells?

For years, a steady stream of reports have plagued Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells Pre-parole Transfer Center.  They have included prisoner injuries requiring hospitalization to reports of inappropriate sexual behavior between guards and prisoners, excessive use of force (including chemical spray) by guards, and at least one prisoner uprising.

By far the most common report coming out of the facility was the introduction of contraband - specifically cell phones - being thrown over the prison gates.  In fact, in 2008 alone, we reported four separate arrests of individuals throwing cell phones into the prison.  Mineral Wells was floated as a possible facility closure back in 2010, but avoided the ax and in fact was awarded a new contract in August of this year.

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Lawsuit against GEO's Central Texas Detention Facility alleges guards smuggled heroin to prisoner who overdosed

The San Antonio Express-News Guillermo Contreras had an article yesterday ("Heroin overdose in federal jail prompts lawsuit," March 21, 2011) about a new federal lawsuit against the GEO Group's Central Texas Detention Center in San Antonio. 

In the suit, the parents of Albert Gomez, Jr. seek information into their son's death, of an apparent heroin overdose, and allege that he may have died after being smuggled heroin by a GEO Group guard.  According to the article,

"The suit alleges guards are improperly trained to handle people with drug addictions and can freely participate in “black market sale of drugs to prisoners."

One of the Gomez couple's lawyers, Matt Wymer, said he has been informed that a criminal investigation has been launched, but the Marshals Service declined comment because the matter is in litigation. The GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment, but denied the allegations in a court-filed response."

The Central Texas Detention Facility is a Bexar County-owned detention center operated by the GEO Group that primarily incarcerates pre-trial detainees for the US Marshals Service and has also held immigration detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Another Death at LCS Corrections' Coastal Bend Detention Center

Earlier this month, a 27-year old man who was detained at the Coastal Bend Detention Center died from a brain tumor after going to the doctor for high blood pressure (Melissa Schroeder, KrisTV, "LCS Detention Center Inmate Dies at 27," June 2nd, 2010):

A Taft man who was detained at the LCS Detention Center in Robstown died this past Saturday.  Warden Mike Striedel said 27-year-old Leo Guajardo died from a brain tumor.

Striedel said Guajardo had been at the detention center since January for taking the weapon of a U.S. Marshal. Striedel says Guajardo saw a doctor Friday afternoon for high blood pressure, he was immediately put on medication, but a couple hours later he claimed to feel dizzy.

The Warden says he was taken to the hospital and doctors found a massive brain tumor. His condition worsened and eventually he was put on life support.

Striedel says the family decided to take him off life support Saturday night and he was pronounced dead.

The Texas Rangers will investigate the incident to make sure everyone at the detention center did what they could to help Guajardo.  The man's family is not ready to make a statement yet, as they are preparing for Guajardo's funeral. 

Earlier this year, the Coastal Bend Detention Center was found to have not known that the facility was supposed to report deaths of inmates while in custody. If the family or LCS have any more comments we will share them here.

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