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.
We've now received documents (attached) that show that CCA contacted the Governor's office in an attempt to assuage concerns about cell phone smuggling, and to push a piece of national legislation that would give states more power to block cell phone signals near prisons.
According to CCA President and CEO Damon Hininger's cover letter (accompanied by pages of company propoganda):
"Cell phones are quickly surpassing tobacco and drugs as the number one contraband item in our nation's prison and jail system today. We need to look no further than the several recent examples of how contraband cell phones have played roles in serious criminal activity. These include threats to judicial and government officials, escape incidents and the furtherance of gang related crime, both inside and outside correctional facilities. Unfortunately, even the best operational security protocols within correctional facilities have been unable to deter 100 percent of this cell phone contraband.
As a leading correctional provider, CCA fully supports national efforts to combat prison cell phone contraband. In that regard, we wanted you to be aware that we are encouraging elected officials to support the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 (S. 251), authored by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. This legislation would enable correctional agencies to utilize existing technology to block cell phone signals within prisons, jails, and detention centers."
The full documents are certainly worth a thumb through to see what kind of materials CCA is sending elected officials in Texas.
A Community and Education Centers guard has plead guilty to smuggling drugs into the Liberty County Jail, according to a story in the Cleveland Advocate ("Liberty County jailer guilty of smuggling drugs," October 18th).
"James Allen Roach pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to attempting to provide a federal inmate with a prohibited object.
According to information presented in court, on Feb. 24, 2011, Roach, a correctional officer for the Liberty County Community Education Center (CEC), was arrested for arranging to deliver marijuana and tobacco into the Liberty County CEC to a federal inmate in exchange for money. Roach was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 2, 2011 and charged with federal violations."
This is not the first time that CEC's Liberty County Jail has had problems. Earlier this year, the facility failed its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection for multiple violations. The Warden at the facility was not licensed as a jailer at the time. See our previous coverage of the Liberty County Jail here:
- CEC's Liberty County Jail fails TCJS inspection; Warden is not properly licensed, April 13, 2011
- Contraband investigation at CEC's Liberty County jail, May 7, 2010
- CiviGenics Guard Resigns After Sexual Incident at Liberty County Jail, May 5, 2008 - 11:40am
The Coastal Bend Detention Center, the flagship facility of private prison company LCS Corrections, has failed its Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection yet again. According to the TCJS report, which is attached to this post, the facility has a number of deficiencies including a jailer without a license, that staff were exceeding time intervals for direct supervision of prisoners under observation, and that:
"A review of shift rosters and attendance logs revealed that The Coastal Bend Detention Center consistently did not have a sufficient number of jailers assigned to inmate housing areas to meet the mandated 1 officer to 48 inmate's ratio and provide for direct inmate supervision."
This is certainly not the first time that the facility has come under scrutiny. Last year, 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. Earlier that 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. The facility has also failed inspection before, most recently in 2010 after a prisoner was accidentally released.
Just yesterday, we reported on a wrongful death lawsuit filed against another LCS Corrections facility, the Brooks County Detention Center. Clearly, it has not been a good run for the Louisiana-based company. We'll keep you posted on developments. In the meantime read more about LCS Corrections and the Coastal Bend Detention Center.
A wrongful death suit by the family of Mario Garcia against LCS Corrections' Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, Texas will be going to trial in February, according to a new report from Andy Lizcano at KZTV ("Brooks Cty Dead Inmate Lawsuit," July 8):
"His family is suing the jail and some of it's officials. Kathy Snapka represents Garcia's family. 'It is our allegation that the prison disregarded his very, very serious medical condition and that's why days after he was sent to Brooks County he died,' she said. ...
According to the lawsuit, Garcia had a known seizure disorder and was on medication for it. And that he suffered from seizures and headaches while in jail. It also says jail officials 'breached their duty of care to Garcia by ailing to care for his medical needs.
The Brooks County Death Certificate lists Garcia's cause of death as seizure disorder. The nueces county medical examiner's autopsy says the same thing.
The defendants in the case are LCS Correction Services, which owns the jail, former jail warden Miguel Niderhauser, and Dr. Michael Pendleton, former head of the jail's medical staff.
On Janaury 23rd 2009, just days after Garcia's death, we reported that LCS President Dick Harbison told us Niderhauser resigned and Pendleton's contract was terminated."
We'll keep you posted on developments from this story. See our previous coverage of the Mario Garcia case:
- January death in LCS's Brooks County Jail results in lawsuit, July 28, 2009
- Inmate Dies at LCS' Brooks County Detention Center, January 16, 2009