“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

GEO Guard Charged with Smuggling Marijuana into Val Verde County Jail

The Del Rio News ("Jailer Arrested" March 25) reports that a 20 year-old GEO Group guard at the Val Verde Correctional Center has been charged distributing marijuana within the prison. According to the article:

Jose Alberto Ybarra, 20, 102 Gilchrist Lane, was arrested Friday and charged with the offense of prohibited substances and items in adult or juvenile correctional or detention facility or on property of Texas Department of Criminal Justice or Texas Youth Commission, said Val Verde County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Larry Pope, who heads the VVSO’s criminal investigations division.
Pope said Val Verde County Sheriff A. D’Wayne Jernigan Friday asked him to meet with John Campbell, warden of The GEO Group’s Val Verde Correctional Facility, about Ybarra. “The warden suspected a jailer of bringing (marijuana) into the jail,” Pope said. “We set up a surveillance and when the suspect jailer arrived at work Friday, he was stopped and escorted into a conference room.”
Pope said Ybarra was found to be carrying 1.1 ounces of marijuana concealed in the rolled-up cuff of his left shirtsleeve. Pope said Ybarra was also carrying four $50 bills. “He later admitted that this is what he was being paid to deliver the marijuana,” Pope said.

While 1 ounce of Marijuana smuggled into a correctional facility doesn't seem particularly egregious, this incident is reminiscent of a more serious incident where another 20 year-old guard was charged with federal civil rights violations for repeatedly striking a prisoner in the face. It is also part of a long and growing list of problems at Val Verde, a reputation that earned it the "worst jail in Texas" award from the Texas Jail Project back in October 2007.

Selected previous Texas Prison Bid'ness coverage of the Val Verde Correctional Center:

What's Happening at CCA's Mineral Wells Prison?

Several readers have contacted us over the last month with concerns about developments at Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells pre-parole transfer facility. The facility, housing state prisoners awaiting transfer, was the site of a major multi-day disturbance last fall.

This time readers, including some with family members in the prison, are worried that CCA is constructing metal coverings over the dorm windows, creating a safety hazard. One reader sent pictures to illustrate the point.

Mineral Wells Dorm Before Metal On WindowsMineral Wells Dorm Before Metal On Windows

Mineral Wells Dorm with Metal Over WindowsMineral Wells Dorm with Metal Over Windows









Clearly, conditions that make prisoners and families feel unsafe are not good in prisons, a special importance at a facility like Mineral Wells which has experienced some major disturbances in the past years. We'll keep you posted on developments from Mineral Wells In the meantime, read our previous posts about Mineral Wells:

Laredo ISD Challenges Sale of Webb County Juvenile Detention Center

Laredo Independent School District trustee Jose A. Valdez expressed concern about the proposed sale of Webb County Juvenile Detention Center to Cornell Companies last week, citing the accompanying change in makeup of the facility from juveniles to adults as cause for concern due to the close proximity of the detention center to two elementary schools.

The Laredo Morning Times Reports:

"The detention center's location, in the 4100 block of Juarez Avenue, is too close to nearby schools and raises safety issues, Jose Valdez said.

"Our concern is that one block to the south is an elementary school, Santa Maria. On Chicago (Street), one block to the west is Farias Elementary," he said. "We don't want a prison there."

The proposed contract stipulates that the facility be used for re-entry of adult prisoners under jurisdiction of the United States Bureau of Prisons. Webb has been trying to sell its County Juvenile Detention Center for more than a year in order to pay for operation of a new juvenile detention center-- the Webb County Youth Village Complex.

On a slightly encouraging note, the issue of prison privatization seems to be getting a critical look in Webb County. Bob wrote earlier this month about the County Commissioner races going on in Webb, where some candidates are making opposition to Geo Group an important piece of their platforms. And this was in the LMT article:

"Martinez said the recent political climate and the controversysurrounding the GEO Group's new detention facility in south Laredo ishelping to fuel to the issue"

LISD trustee George M. Beckelhymer said it is always good to examine intent with respect to contracts, especially if one entity is a for-profit business.

Good indeed.

Hutto Resolution Passed Over 60 SD 26 Precincts

The Burnt Orange Report reports that the Hutto resolution, calling for alternatives to detention of immigrant children and their families, passed in over 60 Democratic precinct conventions in Senate District 26, covering Bexar County, and will be debated at Democratic County Conventions this Saturday.  If the resolution passes in a sufficient number of county conventions, it could become part of the state Democratic Party platform.  

According to BOR, the resolution passed in the following SD 26 precinct conventions:

Submitted to and Adopted by 61 precincts (1001, 1005, 1006, 1010, 1079, 1080, 1087, 1088, 1093, 1098, 1101, 1104, 1108, 1112, 1113, 2004, 2021, 2026, 2034, 2035, 2058, 2060, 2078, 2084, 2087, 2090, 2093, 2094, 2097, 2106, 2118, 2125, 2132, 2139, 3003, 3010, 3016, 3031, 3032, 3037, 3038, 3095, 3107, 3113, 3127, 3129, 3136, 3138, 3139, 3140, 3141, 3147, 3168, 3172, 4006, 4013, 4014, 4017, 4018, 4075, 4157); and Amended and Adopted by Precinct 2140, in Senate District 26, Bexar County, Texas, March 4, 2008. Amended by the Senate District 26 Resolutions Committee, March 16, 2008 and combined with resolutions that had been Submitted to and Adopted by Precincts 2045 and 2140 in Senate District 26, Bexar County, Texas on March 4, 2008. Amended by the Senate District 26 Resolutions Committee March 19, 2008.

We had already heard that the resolution passed in these other precinct conventions around the state:

Travis County - 136, 152, 235, 239, 250, 274, 410, 424, 426, 427, 423, 442, 431, 315, 334, 345

Harris County - 57, 268, 361, 732

Williamson County
- 427, 425, 357

Brazoria County - 58

Bexar County - 3024, 3098

We'll keep you posted on how the Hutto resolution fares at the Democratic Party county conventions this Saturday.

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