“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

Private prison guard caught sleeping on the job

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility
A private prison guard was photographed sleeping while guarding an inmate in a Texas hospital, reports KRGV 5 news.

 

The unnamed guard worked at the Willacy County State Jail, which is operated by the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America). The guard was watching over a prisoner on August 1 at the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas. CoreCivic launched an investigation into the incident following the picture, and had this to say:

 

"We can confirm that the photograph is of a CoreCivic/Willacy County State Jail correctional officer and this is certainly a behavior we do not condone. Due to the serious nature of his behavior and numerous policy violations, the employee has been terminated from his position with the company effective immediately.”

 

Unfortunately, this is not the first issue around the Willacy County Jail. In 2015, an uprising by prisoners due to inadequate medical care caused fires that led to the closing of the facility. Then, in November of 2016, two former guards were charged with bribery. Both guards were found guilty and were sentenced to jail time.

 

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Dozens are transferred to a private prison referred to as "Hell"

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is transferring dozens of women to a private prison in Texas, reports Buzzfeed News.

 

A spokesperson with DHS confirmed that the department had begun transferring women from a facility operated by CoreCivic in New Mexico. That facility is closing due to a consistently low number of prisoners. The women will be transferred to the West Texas Detention Facility, located in Sierra Blanca, Texas. Human rights activists said that the transfers began without DHS notifying the attorneys who represent the women being transferred.

 

The prison has been operated by numerous private companies since 2015, including Emerald Correctional Management and LaSalle Corrections. Last year the U.S. Marshals began to monitor conditions at the prison following prisoners’ complaints of inhumane treatment.  

 

In May, Martín Méndez Pineda, a Mexican journalist, was detained in the Sierra Blanca facility after seeking asylum in the U.S. Pineda decided to "self-deport" instead of staying at the facility. Pineda wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he made numerous complaints against the facility, and aptly described it as “Hell.”

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Thousands of sweltering prisoners to be moved to air-conditioned units

In Houston, a federal judge approved moving more than one thousand prisoners to various private prisons that have air conditioning, reports the Texas Tribune.

 

The judge signed off on Texas' court-ordered proposal to move medically sensitive prisoners from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Pack Unit, which has no air conditioner. The proposal was ordered in July following a judge’s ruling that air conditioning must be provided for vulnerable inmates. The judge also stated that TDCJ was "deliberately indifferent" to the risk of harm prisoners face at the scorching prison.

 

In Texas, almost 75 percent of prisons and state jails do not have air conditioning in prisoners’ living areas. Some prisons, including the Pack Unit, regularly reach above 100 degrees. Prisoners filed a class-action lawsuit against TDCJ that points to at least 23 heat-related deaths since 1998. The prisoners argue that housing should be kept at 88 degrees maximum.

 

The majority of these prisoners will be moved to the Diboll Unit, which is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company. Others will be transferred to the Travis County State Jail. Two hundred other prisoners will be transferred to nine different units across Texas. Unfortunately, the transfer of prisoners means that some prisoners will be transferred from facilities with air conditioning to those without it, such as the Pack Unit.

 

Jeff Edwards, lawyer for the prisoners at the Pack Unit, believes the transfers could happen more quickly than the two to three weeks TDCJ planned. He also said that the case was not over, hopes to find relief for all prisoners and staff in the Texas prison system, not just at Pack Unit. "It’s our hope that [TDCJ] will join us in the 21st century."

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For-profit transitional home won't pay their bills

A for-profit transitional home in Dallas County has not paid the county for emergency medical help since last October, reports Fox 4 News.

 

The Avalon Dallas Transitional Home, which houses individuals recently released from prison with no place to live, has made excessive 911 calls for medical aid. However, the for-profit company that operates the facility, CoreCivic (formerly called Corrections Corporation of America), has yet to pay Dallas County for the aid.

 

John Wiley Price, a commissioner in Dallas County, is angry that the private prison company has not paid its bills to county, despite getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state. Fox News 4 obtained documents showing that between October 2016 and July 2017, 243 emergency calls were made from the Avalon Dallas Transitional Home. Each time a Dallas County ambulance responded to one of these calls, it cost $450. The total cost of the calls in that period amount to $222,900. The county has yet to see a penny of that.

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