There has been another escape at GEO Group's Southeast Texas Transitional Center, according to the Houston Press Blog (Thomas Lee Elkins: GEO Group Lets Sixth Rapist Stroll Away From Halfway House in 24 Months, October 8, 2012):
"The rapist of a 16-year-old girl is the latest sexual predator to slip through the sieve that is the privately run Southeast Texas Transitional Center. Thomas Lee Elkins, convicted of aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault in 1991, absconded from the facility, 10950 Old Beaumont Highway, October 5, according to reports.
He's the sixth offender to float away from Southeast in 24 months. Formerly known as the Ben A. Reid Community Correctional Facility, Southeast is run by the Florida-based GEO Group, which, despite its appalling track record in Texas and elsewhere, keeps getting sweet state contracts."
The Associated Press (September 10) is reporting that six Laredo residents who plead guilty to buying automatic weapons were employees of the private prison corporation The GEO Group:
"Federal prosecutors say the six worked at the Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo. The center is privately managed by The Geo Group and holds federal detainees awaiting trial for the U.S. Marshals Service. The seventh was a close friend of one of them.
Prosecutors alleged that in 2011, the group acquired 16 guns, mostly semi-automatic rifles of the sort preferred by organized criminal groups in Mexico. In the purchases, they indicated they were buying the guns for their own use. However, they were being paid to buy them for someone else, a tactic known as straw purchases.
Prosecutors indicated that Geo Corrections cooperated in the federal investigation." ("6 federal detention center employees plead guilty to illegally buying guns in Texas," September 10, 2012.)
Here is some of our previous coverage of GEO's Rio Grande Detention Center:
Sunday's Austin American Statesman featured a front page story by Andrea Ball on fines being leveled against GEO Group's Montgomery County psych facility and plans to privatize a state mental hospital moving through an RFP process. Here's the lead:
"Sixteen months after the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility opened in Conroe, the state's first publicly funded, privately run psychiatric hospital is facing at least $53,000 in state fines for serious shortcomings in patient care.
The private operator, Geo Care, is a subsidiary of Geo Group, a private prison company that has drawn attention in recent years because of deaths, riots and sexual abuse at some units in Texas and other states." ("As East Texas public-private psych facility struggles, state plans more privatization," July 21)
More disturbingly, the state is not considering pulling out of the contract with GEO, but actually privatizing a state mental health hospital. According to Ball's article:
The problems come to light as the Department of State Health Services prepares to privatize one of the 10 public psychiatric hospitals it oversees. If Geo Care bids on the ongoing privatization effort — and it has expressed interest to public officials in doing so — its work in Montgomery County could be a harbinger of what taxpayers can expect if a for-profit company wins control of a public state hospital.
This week, the agency will accept bids from contractors seeking to run one of those facilities for at least 10 percent less than the current cost, a move that could save the state millions of dollars each year. If an offer is accepted, a private company could be running a state hospital by the end of the year.
We'll keep you posted on developments on the fight over privatizing a mental hospital in Texas.
A 21 year-old former LCS Corrections guard at that company's East Hidalgo Detention Center faces up to 15 years in prison on charges that he accepted bribes in return for smuggling a cell phone into the facility, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's office ("Former La Villa Corrections Officer Indicted for Smuggling Cell Phone to Federal Inmate," May 17):
"Jorge Luis Sandoval, 21, of Pharr, Texas, has been arrested on a bribery charge for smuggling a cellular phone into the East Hildago Detention Center located in La Villa, Texas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
... Sandoval is charged with one count of accepting a bribe while acting under the authority of the U.S Marshals Service as a correctional officer.
Sandoval worked as a corrections officer at the East Hildago Detention Center in La Villa, Texas. According to the indictment, Sandoval used his official position to enrich himself by accepting a cash payment from an individual acting on a federal inmate in exchange for smuggling a cellular telephone into the prison.
Bribery carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant United States Attorney Casey N. MacDonald is prosecuting the case."
The East Hidalgo Detention Center has already been in the news twice this year. In February, the warden of the facility was suspended while under federal investigation into fraud, bribery and theft allegations. In March, the facility was back in the news after the McAllen Monitor investigated potentially inadequate tuberculosis testing and treatment at the facility. And, last October, a nurse plead guilty to smuggling marijuana into the facility. We'll keep you posted on developments from East Hidalgo.