San Antonio Express News reports that a lawsuit is being filed against Corrections Corporation of America for permitting a hazing tradition at Bartlett State Jail that ultimately led to the sexual assault of an inmate.
Bartlett State Jail is a prison facility for low-level inmates serving short-term sentences. The tradition of hazing inmates who are near to their release date involves forcibly removing their pants, turning them upside down and slamming them against the glass of the guard station. It is impossible for guards to ignore the behavior, as they are literally faced with the exposed backside of the inmate who is being hazed. Bartlett’s Warden Eduardo Carmona and other CCA executives were previously aware of the tradition and yet had never attempted to prevent it from happening.
According to the court documents, the hazing incident that resulted in the sexual assault was a three hour ordeal in which every single inmate in a 55-person block was subjected to the hazing practice while the single officer on duty — who was not only in charge of the victim’s block but three other 55-person blocks — did nothing to intervene.
Typically, in correctional facilities that follow best practices, there should be two officers on duty at all times so that one can intervene while the other calls for backup. Understaffing as a cost-cutting measure is routine at CCA run facilities and, clearly, it results in inmate-on-inmate violence with no intervention by staff.
U.S. Congressman John Culbertson said in a budget hearing that Texas has had a "very successful prison industry."
Culbertson also opined that that Texas has had "Great success...using private contractors" and that those contractors "operate at a significant savings to taxpayers." He also claimed that private facilities provided better food and services overall, and are liable for any issues that may arise.
Texas Prison Bidness, however, has reported several counter-examples of the "great success" portrayed in the recent BOP budget hearing:
The Corrections Corporation of America's witholding information regarding deaths at the Dawson State Jail, where a baby girl died prematurely after no medical personnel were assigned to oversee her mother's care;
The repeated sexual abuse and unsanitary living conditions reported at the Texas Youth Commission's Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, run the the GEO Group;
and the lawsuit filed against Reeves County, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the GEO Group following medical neglect that lead to the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo.
These are only three counter-examples among many that suggest that the "great success" of the private prison industry in Texas is merely a mirage.
The video of the Bureau of Prisons budget hearing is embedded below. The comments in question begin at 49:34.
The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has sheduled a first-quarter earnings call for May 8, according to Marketwatch ("CCA Announces 2014 First Quarter Earnings and Conference Call Dates," 4/23/14).
The conference call will take place at 10:00 am central time (11:00 am eastern) on Thursday, May 8, 2014. The call can be accessed through the CCA website. An online replay will be available following the live conference call, beginning at 1:00 pm central time (2:00 pm eastern) and will be available until the same time on May 16.
To access the telephonic replay, dial dial 888-203-1112 in the U.S. and Canada. International callers must dial +719-457-0820 and enter the passcode 2158209.
On March 19, a Travis County, Texas court has declared the the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) a governmental body, according to Prison Legal News ("Texas Court holds CCA is a governmental body in PLN public records suit 2014"). According to the Texas Public Information Act, CCA, as a governmental body, is required to disclose information to the public.
This ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication housed within the Human Rights Defense Center that focuses on criminal justice issues. PLN filed a lawsuit against CCA in May 2013 after the for-profit prison corporation refused to disclose information, such as audits and other investigations regarding the troubled Dawson State Jail, which Grassroots Leadership helped close that same year. The records in question would have been public had Dawson not been operated by a private company. CCA operated nine facilities in Texas, four of which are used to incarcerate state prisoners.
PLN managing director Alex Friedmann commented on CCA's secrecy:
This is one of the many failings of private prisons... By contracting with private companies, corrections officials interfere with the public’s right to know what is happening in prisons and jails, even though the contracts are funded with taxpayer money. This lack of transparency contributes to abuses and misconduct by for-profit companies like CCA, which prefer secrecy over public accountability.
PLN argued that CCA can be defined as a "governmental body" because the company performs duties that are also performed by the government. CCA rebutted, claiming that not all funds from Texas are allocated for Texas facilities, but are instead used to "to support CCA’s corporate allocations throughout the United States." PLN's has won a lawsuit against CCA in Tennessee and another is pending in Vermont.
Brian McGiverin of the Texas Civil Rights Project, who represented PLN along with Cindy Saiter Connolly, calls the ruling against CCA a "victory":
The conditions of Texas prisons have been the focus of intense public scrutiny for nearly 40 years... Today’s ruling is a victory for transparency and responsible government. Texans have a right to know what their government is doing, even when a private company is hired to do it.