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ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) Report: Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility

The fifth and final criminal alien requirement (CAR) prison featured in the ACLU's recent report is Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility. The facility is located in Post, Texas and is operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC). Originally built in 1999 and suggested by Judge Giles Dalby, the prison was intended to spur economic growth in the surrounding community. Currently, 1,900 men are incarcerated there. 

The first major finding is that prison staff harasses people incarcerated at Dalby. Emmanuel, a blind man, is regularly harassed by guards in the recreation yard and in the cafeteria line, where a guard shines a barcode scanner in his eyes and laughs. A man who could not walk notified a guard that he could not climb the stairs to his housing unit. As a result, the man was placed in solitary confinement.

The report alleges that racial slurs are also routinely uttered to prisoners. Guards have reportedly used slurs such as "wetback" and "Mexican nigger." Prisoners are also sent to the solitary housing unit (SHU) for not speaking English. Because guards give commands in English, many of the men are not able to follow orders and are punished. Other prisoners claim that they cannot communicate with guards. When the majority of guards need to speak to a Spanish-speaking prisoner, another prisoner is often asked to translate. 

Guards also allegedly use homophobic slurs against all the men, and target openly gay men specifically by giving them tickets for "engaging in sexual acts."  Prisoners also allege that guards threaten them with physical violence. Guards also reportedly threaten to send anyone who files complaints in light of such threats with the SHU. 

Guards also appear to be insufficiently trained. The only mandatory training is 24 hours of "disciplinary hearings." Other training is available, but only at the expense of the contractor. According to the report, guards at private prison facilities have less training, a higher turnover rate, and are paid less than their public sector counterparts. 

Like the other facilities featured in the report, medical care at Dalby is delayed and insufficient. Martin, an asthma sufferer, had an asthma attack, during which he had to wait 25 minutes for MTC staff to respond, and another 20 minutes to be escorted to the medical wing. Upon his arrival, there was no doctor and a nurse who did not how to properly intubate him. On a different occasion, a guard decided that an epileptic prisoner who was having a seizure was faking. On yet another occasion, a prisoner had a heart attack in the yard. Medical personnel did not reach him for 15 to 20 minutes, and it took MTC staff yet more time to clear away the witnessing prisoners. That man died as a result.  

ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) Report: Big Spring Correctional Center

The Big Spring Correctional Facility is the fourth in a series of five criminal alien requirement (CAR) prisons featured in the ACLU's recent report, which covers abuses in such facilities. Big Spring is located in Big Spring, Texas and is operated by the GEO Group through a contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). 3,500 people are incarcerated there. 

As with the other facilities covered in their report, the ACLU reports that Big Spring's medical care was insufficient. For example, Luis, who injured his knee when a Border Patrol agent pushed him off a ledge in 2010, only received painkillers at three other facilities before being transferred to Big Spring. When he was interviewed in 2011, he was on crutches and was in visible pain. Experiences like Luis's are common and due to lack of staff, prisoners report that there is only one doctor for the entire facility. Nurses who are over-worked typically provide medical care. Prisoners can wait weeks or months to receive medical care after a nurse's evaluation. Because "sick-call" lines are often long, prisoners sometimes must choose between eating and receiving medical care, which is problematic for prisoners with chronic illness, such as diabetes. Prisoners reported that they think medical personnel are trying their best to help them, but are not able to due to understaffing.

Prisoners with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, thyroid disease and others, reported that they do not receive testing or refills of medication for weeks at a time. Miguel, who has diabetes and high cholesterol, was told that he would not receive his medication until three months before his release, and would only receive Tylenol. Miguel submitted six requests to see a doctor, for which GEO charged him two dollars per submission.

The report also notes the over-use of solitary confinement. Prison staff often send prisoners to the solitary housing unit (SHU) for small infractions, or infractions that do not exist at all. One prisoner was sent to the SHU for a week because he went to the soda machine when he was not allowed to do so. Another man was sent to the SHU for 89 days while staff investigated whether or not he had a cell phone. The contract between GEO and the BOP states that ten percent of the prison's population be allocated to the SHU. Henry, who had been in isolation for five months at the time of his interview, claimed that he slept on dirty bedclothes and was fed rice, beans and meat three times a day on dirty dishes. The food portions are reportedly insufficient, because he claims to have lost a notable amount of weight. Men taken to the SHU are denied medical treatment as well. One man claimed that someone with suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues only had two options: to speak with a counselor through the tray slot in the door, or submit a written request to a guard to be reviewed by medical staff. "They don't take us seriously," the man said. "It's all money for them."  

ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) Report: Willacy County Correctional Center

The Willacy County Detention Facility in Raymondville, Texas is the third criminal alien requirement (CAR) facility covered in the ACLU's recent report about abuses inside such facilities. The prison in Willacy County is operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC) as per the company's contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). This facility is also known at "Tent City" because detained people actually live in tents. 

The ACLU found that the detained men lived in in extremely tight and unclean quarters which, along with the lack of educational or occupational activities, presents an environment that is not safe for incarcerated people or prison staff. Tensions can, and often do, arise quickly between the detained men, who are bored. Prisoners report that there are 200 beds packed into each Kevlar tent, with only three feet between each bed. There are only five toilets, which are exposed with no walls or curtains, and only eight televisions. Prisoners also reported that spiders and insects come in through holes in the tents and bite them. Uniforms are allegedly washed without detergent and are washed with mops and other cleaning supplies. The men attempt to keep their areas clean with the two ounces of solution allocated to each tent. One prisoner recounted, "They treat us like animals." 

The stench from the five exposed toilets, which reportedly overflow and leave a putrid smell in the tents, provoked prisoners to strike in July 2013 when staff initially refused to repair them. The toilets were fixed later that day, but strike organizers were taken to solitary as punishment. 

The report also alleges that solitary confinement is overused at Willacy. Prisoners report that, of the 3,000 men detained at  there, 300 are held in the SHU at all times. Extreme isolation causes some men mental distress, which can manifest itself in screaming and kicking doors, suicide and self-harm. Showers in the SHU are only available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Recreation, which is available for an hour each day, takes place in an enclosure with fencing on all sides and on top. New arrivals, as well as men who claimed that they had not done anything to merit being placed in the SHU, were sent there due to the lack of room in the tents. Such small requests as asking for new shoes and food could result in a prisoner being sent to the SHU. 

Willacy staff also deny prisoners medical care. Zavier, 52, who was formerly incercerated at the Eden CAR prison, has been denied medical care for an infected vericose vein on his ankle, which has led to discoloration and swelling. He has also been denied dentures at Willacy after having his teeth removed because of an infection at Eden. Preventative dental care is not provided at Willacy in order to cut costs. The only method of treatment for infection or cavities is extraction. Zavier recounts that a guard once yelled, "Don't forget that you're a prisoner here! And that the medicines you get here are given to you for free!" Others who report medical problems are often given Tylenol and sent away. Santiago, 45, who was diagnosed with Hepatitis C while at Eden, had not yet received treatment at the time of his interview with the ACLU. He had waited two years. 

Texas Prison Bidness writers have covered Tent City in the past. Check out our coverage of protests, the facility's transition from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility to one mangaged by the BOP, and guard misconduct at the facility. 

ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) report: Eden Detention Center

The second detention center covered in the ACLU's report on criminal alien requirement (CAR) prisons is Eden Detention Center, located in Concho County, Texas, south of Abliene. 

According to the report, overcrowding is a problem at Eden. Eden was built to house 950 prisoners and has been operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) since the early 1990s. But it currently house 1,550 people. Cubicles originally intended to accommodate four beds now hold six. Beds overflowing into the hallways are called the "freeway." Water often leaks from underneath toilets, leaving the freeway smelling like urine and feces.  Showerheads and toilets often break and go unrepaired. Many showers also don't have hot water. In addition to poor ventilation, mice, scorpions and cockroaches inhabit the facility, and units often leak when it rains. 

Other unsanitary conditions plague the prison as well. Prisoners reported that, upon their arrival at Eden, they were issued used clothing and underwear, which is thought to have contributed to a scabies outbreak. In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that Eden's drinking water contained excess levels of radioactive radium contamination than the acceptable levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA issued a notice via the city of Eden which stated that people who drink water with these levels of radium are at risk of developing cancer. The only alternate source of water is available through the commissary at 80 cents per bottle, a cost that many of the prisoners cannot undertake. One man claimed that he felt like he was "dying slowly" when he drank the contaminated water. Another man, who must drink a large amount of water each day due to a medical condition and asked for another water source, was denied by CCA officials. The city received a grant to remove contaminants from the water, though prisoners still suspect it may be contaminated. Prisoners still claim that showering in the water produces an itchy rash on the skin. 

The report also says that Eden has a disturbing history of violence. In 1996, 400 prisoners staged a sit-in in the prison yard to protest conditions at the facility. CCA guards allegedly used pepper spray and shot prisoners with shotgun pellets in an attempt to cause prisoners to return to their bunks. Fourteen prisoners were injured, two of whom were hospitalized. Three guards also required medical attention, one of whom suffered a broken jaw. The other two suffered heat exhaustion. A similar incident occured in 2010. In reponse to prisoners' protest of conditions, guards used tear gas. One prisoner reported to the ACLU that, following this incident, a guard asked him, "Did you see me? I was the one with my foot on your head." 

Guards also allegedly punish prisoners for filing grievances on their own behalf or for helping others file complaints. Two prisoners recounted that they were sent to the solitary housing unit (the SHU) for doing exactly that. Leonardo, a prisoner who repeatedly helped fellow prisoners and spent eight days in the SHU, was allegedly told by a CCA guard that he would "lock his ass up again" for aiding others.  

CCA officals reportedly obstruct prisoners' access to confideltial visits and phone coversations with legal counsel. Prisoners have reported that guards open confidential legal mail. When one prisoner attempted to add his lawyer to his list of approved people to call, CCA denied him. Another prisoner said that CCA would not grant him access to unmonitored phone calls with his attorney until he filed a complaint with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  CCA also created problems for the ACLU as they conducted research for the report; in 2011,when attempting to interview prisoners, the warden at Eden would not allow ACLU representatives to speak with prisoners outside of visiting hours. There was allegedly no way to build relationships with prisoners based on confidentiality, as ACLU attorneys were only allowed to meet with prisoners in a crowded meeting room. One man who had initially agreed to speak with the ACLU declined because he did not want to discuss his legal business in a room full of crowded people. When the ACLU tried to schedule a visit for December 2013, the warden denied the ACLU visitation, and a complaint had to be filed with the BOP. It took two months of correspondence between the ACLU, the BOP and CCA for access to be granted. That warden has since been promoted to oversee all five of the BOP's contract facilities. 

The SHU at Eden is always full, according to prisoners. Ten percent of Eden's contract beds are in the SHU, a rate that is higher than other BOP facilities. This percentage is allocated in CCA's contract with the BOP, thus incentivizing the use of solitary confinement. In January 2014, almost every prisoner reported that, upon their arrival at Eden, they spent anywhere between several days to a month in the SHU. As stated above, prisoners can be sent to the SHU for assiting other prisoners in writing grievances. Prisoners also claim that three to four prisoners are forced to sleep in a solitary cell at a time, when the cell was only designed to accomodate a maximum of two people. Conditions in the SHU are reportedly deporable with prisoners reporting only one hour of recreation each day, which is offered at 5:00 am; a tinted window that does not provide a view outside; a toilet per cell, but often no toilet paper; and showers offered at 1:00 am, which are often skipped due to the hour. 

Medical care is also reportedly denied to prisoners. Many prisoners reported not receiving care or medication, and many ailments are treated only with ibuprofen. Prisoners who receive care at all must wait a week to see medical staff. Dental care is allegedly limited to tooth extractions. Medical staff also only speak English, limiting Spanish speakers' access to care. Medications are not refilled in a timely manner, leaving prisoners to wait for days for their medicine. Prisoners with hernias are denied surgery, and diabetics are given insulin and then forced to eat last. 

New report exposes shocking abuse in Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facilities in Texas

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report on the five "Criminal Alien Requirement" (CAR) facilities in Texas. According to the abbreviated report, 25,00 immigrant men are detained under CAR in thirteen detention centers throughout the country. In Texas, approximately 14,000 men are living in CAR prisons. The ACLU documented numerous cases of abuse, neglect, copious use of solitary confinement, and the separation of families. 

The incarceration of people in CAR facilities is due to mass incarceration, for-profit incarceration and the criminalization of migration. These three unnverving norms have all contributed to immigration detention. 

Over the next few days, we will examine the five CAR prisons in Texas that the ACLU included in its report: the Big Spring Correctional Center, Big Spring, TX; the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility, Post, TX; the Reeves County Detention Center, centers 1 and 2 and 3, Pecos, TX; the Willacy County Correctional Center, Raymondville, TX; and the Eden Detention Center, Eden, TX. 

Why o why o why o did CCA think it could make stuff up in Ohio

Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) letter offering to purchase state and local prisons/jails in return for a 20-year deal and 90% guaranteed occupancy rate (probably making the hotel lobby very jealous) continues to gather press.  Last week, an AP story (Corrections firm offers states cash for prisons, Greg Bluestein, Associated Press) about the facility was picked up by a number of newspapers around the country. 

 In defense of the deal, CCA continues to point to its “successful” purchase of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Ohio.  Did CCA think no one would check to verify this claim? Unfortunately for CCA, the ACLU of Ohio did.  Quoting Mark Twain, they wrote "’[t]here are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.’ A recent letter sent out by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to 48 governors offering to buy state prisons included a little of each.”

 Here are some highlights from the ACLU of Ohio’s blog:

 · “While CCA claims it will save Ohioans $3 million per year, a recent report analyzing the state's contract shows that taxpayers will actually lose money over the next 20 years.  Of course, this is not earth-shattering news, as other fiscal analyses in Ohio and Arizona have produced similar results.”

· “CCA also leads readers to believe there was no drama behind the transition to private ownership, but the people of Conneaut may disagree.  As CCA took the reins of the Lake Erie facility, Conneaut city officials were informed that it would be the duty of local police officers to investigate crimes at the private prison.  Typically, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) handles all investigations at state prisons, but private properties are under the jurisdiction of local police forces.  This could cost the city of Conneaut taxpayer dollars it just doesn't have.”

· “CCA also points out that 93 percent of the previous staff from the Lake Erie facility was retained in the ownership transfer — the implication being that governors shouldn't worry about privatization because most state corrections officers will be hired back.  What it does not explain is that Lake Erie has been a privately operated facility for over a decade.  … Certainly, if the facility had employed state corrections officers, many of those workers could not afford to continue working there.  It's no secret that private prisons pay employees far less than state workers and provide few benefits, leaving doubt that privatization of a state facility would be as ‘seamless’ as CCA describes in its letter.”

On the bright side, I imagine CCA’s management and shareholders made out quite well.  Stay tuned to Texas Prison Bid’ness for more on this story. 

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Broad Coalition Urges States to Reject CCA's Offer to Purchase State Prisons

Last week, a broad coalition, including the ACLU and The Sentencing Project, urged state governors to reject Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) offer to purchase state and local jails.  As Texas Prison Bid'ness noted in its coverage of CCA’s offer a few weeks ago, this is a horrible deal for Texas.  Here are some excerpts from a letter sent by a broad coalition of worker and human rights organizations: 

“We understand that Harley Lappin, Chief Corrections Officer at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), recently sent a letter to nearly every state announcing the Corrections Investment Initiative – the corporation’s plan to spend up to $250 million buying prisons from state, local, and federal government entities, and then managing the facilities.  The undersigned coalition urges you to decline this dangerous and costly invitation.

The letter from Mr. Lappin states that CCA is only interested in buying prisons if the state selling the prison agrees to pay CCA to operate the prison for 20 years – at minimum.  Mr. Lappin further notes that any prison to be sold must have at least 1,000 beds, and that the state must agree to keep the prison at least 90% full.  In other words, CCA would be buying not only a physical structure but a guarantee that your state will fill a large prison and continuously pay the corporation taxpayer money to operate the institution for two decades.  While a prison sale might provide a short-term infusion of revenue, taxpayers in your state would be left paying for this short-term windfall until at least 2032.  In short, this proposal to sell a valuable state asset is a backdoor invitation for your state to take on additional debt, while increasing CCA’s profits.   

Moreover, the requirement to keep a large prison 90% full for twenty years would pose an obstacle to more serious criminal justice reform.  The United States imprisons far more people – both per capita and in absolute terms – than any other nation in the world, including Russia, China, and Iran.  Over the past four decades, imprisonment in the United States has increased explosively, spurred by criminal laws that impose steep sentences and curtail opportunities for probation and parole.  The current incarceration rate deprives record numbers of individuals of their liberty, disproportionately affects people of color, and has at best a minimal effect on public safety.  Meanwhile, the crippling cost of imprisoning increasing numbers of Americans saddles government budgets with rising debt and exacerbates the current fiscal crisis confronting states across the nation.  

As this sprawling and costly system of mass incarceration damages the nation as a whole, CCA reaps lucrative benefits.  As the corporation admits in SEC filings: ‘The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by … leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices … .’

… 

The selling off prisons to CCA would be a tragic mistake for your state.  Mr. Lappin’s proposal is an invitation to fiscal irresponsibility, prisoner abuse, and decreased public safety.  It should promptly be declined.”

The Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network sent a similar letter to governors last week as well, urging states not to hand over control of prisons to CCA. 

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ACLU of Texas Defends Against Sexual Abuse of Immigrant Women; Just Tip of the Iceberg, Says Attorney

(Orginally posted on the ACLU of Texas Liberty Blog)

Today, the ACLU of Texas filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of women immigrants seeking asylum from sexual abuse and violence who have suffered sexual assault at the hands of detention officers. Horrific as these women’s cases are, they are symptomatic of a much larger problem.

Last night (Oct. 18, 2011), PBS Frontline correspondent Maria Hinojosa took a penetrating look at the Obama administration’s vastly expanded immigration net, punitive approach to immigration enforcement, and the secretive world of immigration detention that is so rife with serious problems and abuses.  Among those problems is the sexual abuse of immigration detainees, which the ACLU has helped expose by acquiring government documents through the Freedom of Information Act that provide a first-ever window into the breadth of this national shame.  ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero was featured during the program, titled "Lost in Detention," discussing those FOIA documents and the Obama administration’s record on immigration more generally.

ACLU of Texas Senior Staff Attorney Mark Whitburn said, “Unfortunately, we believe these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. Government records reveal that since 2007, 185 complaints have been made to the Department of Homeland Security about sexual abuse in ICE custody, 56 of which were from facilities in Texas.  Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and those holding them in custody know it,” Whitburn added.  “Many do not speak English, many – like our plaintiffs – have fled violence in their home countries, and are terrified of being returned.  They may not be aware of their rights or they may be afraid to exercise them.”

The ACLU today launched a page on the www.aclu.org website devoted to the issue of sexual abuse of immigration detainees and a special blog series that will run through October examining the consequences of locking up tens of thousands of civil detainees every day.

Also last night (Oct. 18, 2011), CNBC debuted a new documentary entitled "Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prison Industry," a critical investigation of the multi-billion dollar corrections industry and how mass incarceration is a windfall for one particular special interest group: the private prison industry.  Among other things, the program featured an ACLU case challenging the brutally violent conditions at the Idaho Correctional Center, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison company.  As part of its promotion of the documentary, CNBC has posted on its website an op-ed by the National Prison Project's David Shapiro discussing the nefarious reality that private prison executives rake in multi-million dollar compensation packages while over-incarceration continues to harm the nation as a whole.

Later this month, ABC will air a special program on immigration detention that will feature several pieces of ACLU work, and as more information about air time becomes available we will let you know.

CNBC Special on "Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prisons" explores Prison Privatization

Last night, CNBC aired "Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prisons,".  The special focused on the profit motive involved in various aspects of the corrections industry including prison privatization. 

Specifically, the CNBC show explored the relationship between the private sector and government and raised issues on whether private prison contracts are good public policy.

CNBC's website features two articles from Dave Shapiro with the ACLU's National Prison Project and Leonard Gilroy with the Reason Foundation write opposing views on prison privatization. 

Shapiro's piece, For-Profit Prisons: A Barrier to Serious Criminal Justice Reform.  In the article Shapiro charts the growth of the private prison population nationally,

As incarceration rates skyrocket, the private prison industry expands at exponential rates. The number of inmates in private prisons increased by roughly 1600 percent between 1990 and 2009. In 2010, the two largest private prison companies alone took in nearly $3 billion in revenue, and their top executives each received annual compensation packages worth well over $3 million.

Gilroy's article, Embrace Competition to Lower Costs, Improve Performance in Prisons, continues to support the use of private prisons and cites Texas as an example:

research by the Texas Legislative Budget Board found that, since 2003, the average cost of housing inmates in private prisons has been 3 percent to 15 percent lower than in comparable state-run prisons.

Yet we know that other researchers have concluded that the savings achieved from private prisons are not as significant as Gilroy claims.  A 2001 study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) found that “rather than the projected 20-percent savings, the average saving from privatization was only 1 percent” and “the promises of 20-
percent savings in operational costs have simply not materialized.” The study found that these modest savings “will not revolutionize modern correctional practices.”

The CNBC special is a good overview of different issues related to the money that drives the nation's corrections industry.  It airs again on October 21st at 8pm EDT and program highlights can be found here at the station's website. 

 

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