Scandals

More problems - this time TB screening - at LCS's East Hidalgo Detention Center

Jared Taylor at the McAllen Monitor continues his paper's excellent coverage of ongoing problems at the LCS Corrections-operated East Hidalgo Detention Center, this time with a story on an investigation into the adequateness of inmate tuberculosis testing at the facility.  Early in the week, the Monitor reported that the LCS warden at the facility, Elberto E. Bravo, had been suspended as he faced a federal criminal investigation into fraud, bribery and theft allegations.

In Saturday's Monitor ("Tuberculosis concerns at La Villa prison irk officials," March 3) story details a multi-agency meeting about problems in screening of TB patients at the prison located in La Villa.  According to the story:

"The Monitor learned of a meeting between several federal, state and local agencies and LCS Corrections, which owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa. Questions about the facility came after the prison’s warden was suspended late last month.

Health officials questioned the prison doctor’s assertion that it was safe for possible carriers of tuberculosis — including inmates who had tested positive in the past — to be kept with the rest of the prison’s population, said Adan Muñoz, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

...  The meeting came after Hidalgo County Health Department officials learned a federal inmate at the facility recently who tested positive for tuberculosis, was released to Border Patrol agents and deported to Mexico without treatment, Sheriff Lupe Treviño said.  “He was deported without any precautions or advisories put out,” the sheriff said.

In another instance, county health officials learned of four inmates at the prison who had tested positive for tuberculosis or were possible carriers of the infection and were among other inmates, said Shannon Herklotz, assistant director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, who attended the meeting last month.

County officials raised their concerns with LCS, but received little response from the prison’s management."

Accountability and transparency appear to be problems at the facility.  We'll keep you posted on updates.

LCS warden suspended while under federal investigation

This is how Jared Taylor's recent article in the McCallen Monitor ("Criminal inquiry into East Hidalgo warden prompts suspension," Feb. 27) begins: 

"The warden at Hidalgo County’s only privately owned detention center has been suspended with pay amid a federal investigation into criminal allegations.

Elberto E. Bravo, 52, was suspended with pay from his post at the East Hidalgo Detention Center late last week amid a federal inquiry into fraud, bribery and theft allegations, a law enforcement official familiar with the situation said.

The federal inquiry into Bravo came after the U.S. Marshals Service began investigating the privately owned detention center last month. Further details about the federal inquiry were unavailable late Monday evening."

Last October, a nurse was of smuggling marijuana into the facility.  However, there is no indication the two investigations are related and there is clearly much more information needed on this story.  We'll keep you updated as we find out more.  In the meantime, check out our 2007 article, "A Closer Look at LCS Corrections," about the company that operates East Hidalgo.

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."

Burnt Orange Report covers Littlefield private jail debacle

Former Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger Nick Hudson has a new post over at the Burnt Orange Report ("For-Profit Lock-Up Leaves Littlefield Taxpayers With Texas-sized Headache," February 8) on the Bill Clayton Detention Center.  Here's an excerpt from Nick's piece:

"For the past three years, the small West Texas town of Littlefield has had to come up with $65,000 a month to service a loan on an empty prison it never needed. To avoid defaulting on its prison loan, Littlefield has laid off workers, cut every department's budget, raised property taxes, increased fees, raided its municipal sewer and water fund, and even delayed its purchase of a new police car.

With just 6,507 residents during the 2000 census, Littlefield did not need a new prison. The city's elected officials decided to build one anyways. Littlefield issued $10 million in revenue bonds for construction of a 310-bed for-profit detention center as part of the city's economic development strategy in 1999. Revenue bonds are a special type of municipal bond that do not require voter approval, because they are backed by the expected revenue a project will generate. Littlefield's politicians built the prison believing it would pay for itself, pump money into the local economy, and expand job opportunity.

As a result of this experience, Littlefield's bond rating was downgraded to junk status, and Littlefield taxpayers were saddled with millions in debt after discovery of mismanagement by for-profit prison operator Geo Group led the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) to terminate its contract and remove its prisoners in 2009. When IDOC cancelled its contract, Geo Group bailed on Littlefield by terminating its contract and laying off 74 workers."

Here's hoping that Nick continues to blog on these topics at BOR.  Nick even rounds out the post with a Molly Ivins quote that inspired this blog's name:

"You get nightmare public policy consequences, as well. What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons. The result is even more idiocy, like the three-strikes law and long terms for small-time drug possession."

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