“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

Family detention centers struggle to get licensed

The GEO Group, a private prison company who operates a family detention center in Texas, is struggling to get their center licensed, reports the Associated Press.

As reported earlier, state lawmakers in Texas have proposed a bill that would license two family detention centers near San Antonio. The licensing was made necessary after a federal judge ruled that children held longer that 20 days must be housed in "non-secure" facilities with child care licenses. Because of this, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issued an emergency licensing to the two facilities so they would not close. This licensing was then challenged by immigrant families and allies, with a Austin judge ruling that the facilities could not be licensed, giving hope that this facilities would close down.

Now legislators are considering easing requirements for child care facilities so the two family detention facilities could be licensed. However, opponents say the bill would license the centers without improving conditions. Attorneys have warned that it could invite a costly lawsuit. A state representative who introduced the measure acknowledged that the proposed legislation came directly from GEO Group, the nation's second-largest private prison company, which operates Karnes.

"I've known the lady who's their lobbyist for a long time ...That's where the legislation came from," said state Rep. John Raney, a Republican from the rural town of Bryan. "We don't make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help."

According to a report by Texans for Public Justice, GEO Group's political action committee has spent up to $320,000 lobbying the Texas Legislature since January and contributed $193,000 to Texas lawmakers' campaigns since 2013. Despite GEO Group's heavy lobbying, neither the Senate or House version of the licensing bill are likely to pass.

Immigrant women in detention with their children say the lockdown buildings could never qualify as child care providers. That includes Suyapa, a 35-year-old Honduran mother who was detained with her three children and grandson in February in Karnes.

"A jail isn't a school," said Suyapa, who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used since her asylum case is pending. "My son got sick and turned yellow, and they said the doctor didn't have time to see my child."

Willacy County prison to be inspected next week

The owners of the Willacy County Detention Center are taking a step forward in reopening the facility after more than two years with an upcoming inspection, reports KRGV 5.

The Willacy County Detention Center is known by critics as "Ritmo" — short for Raymondville's Guantánamo prison. It is owned by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. Though it has been closed for more than two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had expressed interest in reopening the facility following presidential orders increasing border security and immigration enforcement. Officials from MTC and the city of Raymondville, where the facility is located, will inspect the facility Monday at 10 a.m.

Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said MTC officials were eager to reopen the facility. “They’re going to start working on the facility itself right now to start repairing the damage, and also to make sure they’re up to specs. We’ll have our code enforcement officer here,” he said.

The reason for the inspection and subsequent repairs is due to a prisoner uprising in 2015. The uprising began when prisoners did not eat breakfast to protest the inadequate medical care they were receiving at the facility. The fires that occurred during the incident destroyed a large portion of the facility, which led MTC to tear down what was left in hopes of gaining a new contract. A new contract for the facility has not been signed yet, due to the prisoner uprising and the facility having a history of guards being charged with bribery, drug smuggling, and deaths of prisoners.

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GEO Group awarded contract for new immigrant detention center in Texas

The GEO Group released a press release today stating that the company had been awarded a contract for a new 1,000 bed detention center in Conroe, Texas.

The GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the U.S., has been awarded the contract by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The facility is expected to cost over $100 million. GEO will design, finance, construct, and operate the facility for ICE. Including renewal options, the contract between ICE and GEO is a ten-year contract, and is expected to generate $44 million in annual revenue for the company. GEO is planning on having the facility completed by late 2018.

The GEO Group has been contracting with ICE since the 1980s.  GEO’s facilities are used to detain both undocumented immigrants and federal prisoners. Their facilities have a troubling history of issues, including sexual abuse of youths, prisoner suicide attempts, and prisoners escaping.  There have also been multiple cases of employees of GEO being charged with smuggling contraband into the facilities.  

GEO Group closes purchase of Community Education Centers

The GEO Group, a private prison company, has finalized the purchase of Community Education Centers, reports Seeking Alpha.

As reported earlier, GEO Group spent $360 million in an all-cash transaction to purchase Community Education Centers (CEC), another for-profit prison company that owns or manages over 12,000 beds in jails and detention centers. CEC operated 8 different facilities in Texas, where there have been wrongful deaths, contraband in jails, and breakouts from their facilities.

 

GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the United States, did not purchase CEC to revamp or improve the facilities however. Facilities operated by GEO Group have their own history of mistreatment, including sexual assault, prisoner suicide attempts, and smuggling drugs into the facilities. GEO Group is expecting a revenue boost of $250 million.

This isn't the first time that GEO has bought out a competitor. In 2010, they bought Houston-based Cornell Companies for $374 million. Then in 2015, GEO purchased a smaller private prison company, LCS Corrections, for another $350 million. These purchases, along with the recent purchase of CEC, give GEO a huge hold on prisons in Texas.

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