"People are as safe as they have ever been" in GEO Group's Val Verde Lockup

That's the word from a state health services doctor in charge of figuring out why two prisoners from GEO Group's Val Verde prison have died and two more are ill, according to the San Antonio Express News. I think the statement is supposed to be reassuring (unless you consider the experience of LeTisha Tapia at Val Verde).

According to the article, at least 50 people and several labs have participated in the investigation, although it still seems like there are big gaps in our knowledge about what's going on. One reason for this information gap is that one of the prisoners who died was not autopsied. But this article includes a surprising (or maybe not so surprising) detail about that:

The investigation produced little information on the fourth inmate. He was one of the two who died, and he did so shortly after becoming ill. He apparently was a Honduran whose body was embalmed and shipped to his country after the Bexar County medical examiner's office declined a request to perform an autopsy. (emphasis added)

Has anyone asked why the medical examiner's office declined to perform an autopsy?

Reassurances continue that there's probably nothing to worry about, even as it has emerged that the story does include TB, a theory that has been advanced by Scott over at Grits. But the four people's illnesses are not identical, and so the plan for now is to wait for test results but mostly continue with business as usual. As Forrest Wilder points out at the Texas Observer, GEO Group's profit margin is dependent on keeping their costs low, and the "steady drumbeat of scandal has done little to harm the company's bottom line."

So yes, we may already be back to business as usual at Val Verde... and people will be just as safe there as they have ever been.

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