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Are detention facilities residences? Texas judge says no, demands GEO pay up on extra taxes.

A lawsuit by a private prison company seeking a refund of sales tax has been denied, according to documents from the Third District of the Texas Court of Appeals.

 

The GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the U.S., filed a lawsuit against Glenn Hegar, Comptroller of Public Accounts for the State of Texas, and Ken Paxton, the state Attorney General. The lawsuit was seeking a refund of sales tax on gas and electricity used in GEO's detention facilities. GEO Group said it was entitled to the sales tax exemption for residential use under a specific section of the State Tax Code.

 

Following an audit, the Comptroller found that GEO needed to pay additional sales and use tax for the period of May 1, 2001, to April 30, 2005, due to a disagreement on the GEO facilities being residential and therefore tax exempt. GEO paid the extra funds under protest. They then filed the suit against the Comptroller after he denied their request to refund the amounts paid. GEO sought $1,367,377.14 plus interest as their refund.

 

Former GEO guard given jail time over sexual abuse

A former GEO Group prison guard has been given jail time after sexually abusing a prisoner, reports KSAT 12 out of San Antonio.

 Barbara Jean Goodwin was sentenced to five months in jail, followed by five months of home confinement. She will also serve a two-year supervised-release, and must register as a sex offender. She could have served up to 15 years in jail.

 Goodwin pleaded guilty in March, where testimony from her victim and other inmates said she forcibly performed oral sex on a prisoner over 30 times during a six month period.

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Private prison's scheme to license baby jails fails in Texas

Karnes County Civil Detention Center
A proposal written by a private prison company to license baby jails as child care facilities has failed, according to a press release from Grassroots Leadership.

The federal government is looking to increase private prison beds

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking to increase the number of beds prisons, reports CNN.

In April, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) issued a notice stating they were looking to increase the number of beds in Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facilities. These facilities are operated by private prison companies and are used to incarcerate non-citizen immigrants who are mostly convicted of low-level drug offenses or civil immigration offenses. In the U.S. there are 11 such facilities, operated by three private companies: CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation. The addition of over 1,500 beds would take the overall population of immigrants in CAR prisons to over 22,000.

This shift is the opposite of what the Obama administration planned for the future of these federal prisons. Last August, then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released a memo stating that the DOJ would begin to phase out the use of private prisons in the federal prison system. The original goal from the Obama administration was to reduce 7,000 beds by May 1st. That memo and plan was overturned by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded Yates’ previous memo.

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Private prison stocks: the ups and downs

Stock in private prison companies has been changing a lot in the past few months, reports the Motley Fool.

Two of the nation’s largest private prison companies, the GEO Group and CoreCivic, have been experiencing a fluctuation in their stocks over the past few months. Following the announcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) last August saying they would begin phasing out the use of private prisons, stock in those private companies dropped dramatically. It seemed that private prison companies were on the decline and would soon lose a large source of their profit.

Then Donald Trump was elected President. Running on a platform of “law and order” and an increase in immigration enforcement, his election seemed a boon to private prison companies. After the election, stock in private prison companies soared, with stock in CoreCivic increasing by 34% while the GEO Group saw an increase of 18%.

According to the Motley Fool, sentiment is changing as investors believe that the president will be ineffective in pushing policy, and the thought of his possible impeachment during his term. This has led investors to move away from private prison companies, with stock in CoreCivic dropping by about 12%. The GEO Group saw their stock drop by about 9%.

Bill that would license "baby jails" dies in the Texas House

A bill before the Texas House of Representatives that would allow the licensing of family detention centers as child care facilities has died, reports The Eagle.

The bill, which was authored by by Rep. John Raney, was not heard before Thursday's midnight deadline to hear bills. The bill, House Bill 2225, would have allowed the two family detention centers located in Texas to be licensed as child care facilities. By licensing the facilities, the women and children detained in these detention camps could have been detained for even longer periods of time. The Senate version of the same bill was passed 20-11 along party lines and was referred to a House committee, where it could still be sent to to the House floor for a vote.

Family detention centers are mostly empty — so why license them?

According to KUT, the two family detention centers in South Texas are mostly empty, leaving immigration judges who had been relocated to the centers with nothing to do.

Due to a low number of people being detained at the border, the number of individuals in the two family detention centers in Texas has dropped dramatically. Between the two facilities, there are only a few hundred people detained. The two facilities have a total capacity of more than 3,000.

Another reason for the low numbers is due to a federal ruling that stated that children could not be held in a secure, jail-like facility. To comply with the ruling, Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the federal agency that contracts with the family detention centers — must release the children and their mothers in a short amount of time.

To bypass that decision, Texas State lawmakers this year proposed a bill that would allow the state to license this family detention camps as child care facilities. This bill, if signed into law, would be used to circumvent the ruling that an Austin-area judge made in a lawsuit but forth by immigrant families and allies against the licensing.   

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Reeves County Detention Center cancels visits under "precautionary" lockdown

The Reeves County Detention Center has been turning away visitors to the facility due to a "precautionary" lockdown, reports CBS 7.

The Reeves County Detention Center is run by the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the U.S. While there has been no word on the cause of the lockdown, individuals told CBS 7 that visitation to the prison has not been allowed for the past month due to the "precautionary" lockdown.

When contacted about the lockdown, Pablo E. Paenz, of GEO Group, said "while we’re not able to comment on specific security matters, we can confirm that the center is under a precautionary lockdown. During this time, medical services and regularly scheduled meals are being provided to the population. The center is committed to keeping those entrusted to our care safe and secure."

This is not the first time the Reeves County Detention Center has been in the spotlight. In the past, the facility has been the site of multiple riots, mysterious deaths, and has denied entry to attorneys.

We will post updates as we learn more.

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"Precautionary" lockdown finally lifted at Reeves Detention Center

The lockdown on the Reeves County Detention Center has been lifted, reports News West 9.

As we reported earlier, the detention center was under "precautionary" lockdown. Visitors to the center were denied, and some reported that visitation had not been allowed for almost a month. Officials from the GEO Group, the private prison company that operates the facility, confirmed that there had been a lockdown but gave no reason as to why.

In an email sent to News West 9, GEO officials said the lockdown had been lifted. However, they were unclear on when the lockdown was lifted or how long it had been in effect.

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Immigration enforcer promises to be "a strong advocate" in new role at private prison company

A top official for Immigration and Customs Enforcement is moving on to a new job with one of the largest private prison companies, reports the Daily Beast.

Daniel Ragsdale is currently second-in-command at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Before becoming deputy director, Ragsdale was temporarily the head of the agency until President Trump named his replacement in January. He will now move on to a new role with the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the U.S.. GEO Group operates facilities for both federal prisoners and undocumented immigrants who have been detained by ICE.  

In a letter to his ICE colleagues, Ragsdale said, "While you may be losing me as a colleague, please know that I will continue to be a strong advocate for you and your mission."

Ragsdale is not the first official at ICE who has made the move from the public to private sector. Various GEO Group executives, including David Venturella and Mary Loiselle, were both ICE officials before landing top posts at GEO.

Employing former immigration enforcement agents seems to be working for GEO Group, which recently bought two correctional facilities and landed a contract to construct and operate a new $100 million dollar detention center.

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