GEO Group is facing increasing opposition to its proposal to take over a state hospital in Texas. We reported last week that the Austin American Statesman's Andrea Ball had reported 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.
Now, a coalition of mental health advocacy, civil rights, and criminal justice reform groups (including my organization Grassroots Leadership) has sent a letter to state officials opposing the take-over by GEO's subsidiary, GEO Care. Written in the letter:
"We are concerned that the requirement to cut 10% from the hospital’s budget through privatization can only be achieved by reducing the quality of care at a hospital run on an already austere budget. Texas already spends the least per capita on mental health than any other state, at slightly less than 1/3 the national average.
Furthermore, we are particularly concerned that the only respondent to the request for proposal was GEO Care, a subsidiary of private prison corporation GEO Group. GEO Group has a long history of mismanaging the facilities it is charged with operating."
The signatories site recent events in Texas and several other states:
"The list of scandals to which GEO can lay claim is a long one. In the past five months alone, the company has made local and national headlines over multiple scandals perpetrated at several different facilities it operates. In April, GEO contracts at three facilities ended in Mississippi, including a youth facility that a federal judge described as having “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate.” Last week, the Associated Press reported three gruesome deaths, including a patient who died in a scalding bathtub, at GEO’s South Florida State Hospital. And in our own state, the Austin American Statesman reported that GEO has been fined by DSHS for problems at the GEO-run forensic psychiatric facility in Montgomery County, including “unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications and failure to report serious injuries to the state.”
GEO also has a long history of operational problems at its facilities in Texas. In 2009, prisoners at GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center rioted over issues at the facility including poor quality of health care and multiple prisoner deaths. In 2007, the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was shut down due to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions under GEO operation."