“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

Texas Senate Committee To Hold Private Prison Hearings on November 13

From the Texas Senate Commitee on Criminal Justice's website,

GEO Group Indicted for Murder in De La Rosa Case

The title says it all.  From the Associated Press ("Private Prison Company Indicted for Texas Murder," Houston Chronicle, October 24),

A private prison company based in Florida has been indicted in the death of a Texas prisoner just days before his release.

The indictment released Thursday alleges The GEO Group let other inmates fatally beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. with padlocks stuffed into socks.

He died four days before his scheduled release from a facility in Raymondville on the southern tip of Texas.

A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a 2006 civil judgment. He died in 2001.

Calls to The GEO Group and the Willacy County District Attorney's Office were not immediately returned Friday. The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp.

It's extremely rare that a private corporation is indicted for murder in the United States.  We'll keep you posted on this very important story as we hear more.   

Why Did TYC Spend $1.26 Million on Empty Private Prison Beds?

That's an excellent question asked in an article by Mike Ward in Saturday's Austin American Statesman (Lawmakers demand that TYC cancel contract that pays for empty beds," October 19).

As a new controversy exploded over the Texas Youth Commission spending more than $1.26 million to lease prison beds that remained empty for three months, key lawmakers demanded Friday that the contract be cancelled.

Although top Youth Commission officials stopped short of agreeing to do so, they vowed never again to use taxpayer money to pay startup costs for a vendor — as they did for Youth Services International, the Florida-based company that runs the lockup in Eagle Lake that is still mostly empty.

Youth Commission spokesman Jim Hurley said 18 youths were moved into the lockup Friday — far fewer than the 119 needed to cover the $22,500-a-day cost to taxpayers under the contract.

He also said that the agency would not provide startup costs in the future.

The controversy erupted after the American-Statesman disclosed details of the contract, which was set up for taxpayers to pay for empty beds for three months to cover the company's startup costs — something other state agencies prohibit.

The company, which operates programs for troubled youths in at least seven states, previously ran the lockup under a contract with the Youth Commission that ended about two years ago, a state report showed.

More Contraband Issues Outside CCA's Mineral Well's Facility

Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells pre-parole facility has had its third attempted contraband smuggling incident in recent months, according to a story in the Mineral Wells Index ("Man arrested after early morning chase," October 16),

A high-speed chase through Mineral Wells early Wednesday morning ended in the arrest of a Grand Prairie man on multiple charges.

The activity began when officers were responding to a call at 2:44 a.m. to Corrections Corporation of America regarding a man throwing contraband over the fence, Mineral Wells Police Lt. Patrick Adams said. CCA is located in the 700 block of Heintzelman Road in Wolters Industrial Park.

... This is the third time in three months CCA has discovered people throwing prohibited items over their fences. In August, a 14-year-old Lancaster youth was apprehended with two footballs stuffed with contraband – including marijuana - in his possession. A 15-year-old was caught in September attempting to throw a black duffle bag over the fence. He told authorities a Houston woman paid him $1,000 to toss the bag over but it was too heavy for him.

A request for comment to CCA was unreturned as of Wednesday afternoon.

 

While it doesn't appear that there was any wrong-doing on the part of CCA staff in this incident, there is clearly a trend of contraband smuggling being established here. Readers have alerted us to many alleged problems at Mineral Wells, and we'll be posting a multi-part report in recent weeks on the results of open records requests about the facility. Keep checking for those posts.

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