Coastal Bend Detention Center

Navy Flight School grad dies at Coastal Bend Detention Center

young man’s death  at the LCS-operated Coastal Bend Detention Center is causing quite a stir among law enforcement officials. 26-year old Trevor Nash, who allegedly committed suicide at the facility, had recently graduated from the Navy’s flight school at NAS -Corpus Christi. 

Sheriff Jim Kaelin received a call on Saturday, March 1, from the warden at the LCS facility. The warden reported that an incarcerated man, Nash, attempted suicide by hanging himself with a bedsheet. Nash was then transported to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. Nash was due to transfer to helicopter training school when he was arrested and charged with piracy.The death, currently ruled a suicide, is being investigated by the Nueces County Sheriff’s office. Detectives working for the sheriff’s office were refused entry into the facility by the U.S. Marshals Service, who claimed that the Texas Rangers would investigate the young man’s death.Sheriff Jim Kaelin had this to say:"The private prison LCS is under our charge, and we're responsible for the things that go on out there," Kaelin said. "Meaning that the U.S. Marshals service mandate that we make sure that we comply with rules, regulations and law." The Sheriff contacted the U.S. Marhsals in Houston in an attempt to find out why The Texas Rangers will be leading the investigation and not the sheriff’s office. No response has been received as of yet.

72% of an LCS Facility's Guards are Untrained or Tested

LCS Corrections' facility, the Coastal Bend Detention Center (CBDC) in Robstown, Texas recently underwent and passed two surprise visits in accordance with their "at-risk" status. The facility recently released an inmate because they mistook the identity of the man, who is still at large.

The Caller-Times ("Robstown private prison passes two surprise inspections," Feb. 1) covered the story of the surprise inspection and fire drill and had this to say:

"The inspection did not reveal any non-compliance issues. But [state inspector] Johnson noted that of 118 officers, 85 were working with temporary state jailer licenses. All must complete training and pass a state-mandated jailer certification course within their first year of employment.

A jail commission inspector was back at the facility Friday to conduct a surprise fire drill and to check on the status of training for jailers." (Caller-Times, February 1, 2010, "Robstown private prison passes two surprise inspections.")

According to the Texas Administrative Code 37.7.255 §255.1, a temporary jailer's license can be issued to someone who applies and pays the fee. The difference between a jailer's license and a temporary jailer's license is that the temporary license "meets all the minimum standards for licensure except for training and testing." Essentially, a temporary jailer's license allows one to act as a jailer for up to a year by applying and paying the fees and without taking any testing or training.

This insight about the amount of unlicensed guards at CBDC does not seem too surprising for this facility which was plagued with staffing issues in the past. In 2009 the facility had two rounds of layoffs. The first round released 35 facility employees from their jobs in order to compensate for their high rate of vacancy (and thus lower income). Then the facility hired more employees in order to compensate for a large influx of inmates that were supposed to help fill the facility, which resulted in an over-staffing problem and subsequently a second round of layoffs to the tune of 26 employees shortly after the prison failed their inspection and had a new Warden appointed. This facility's history of rapid employee turnover paired with every private prison's drive to profit makes the fact that the facility has 72% of guards still uncertified less shocking. What is shocking, however, is how a facility can even function with such a large percentage of untrained, untested guards.

Uncertified, greenhorn jailers are going to be cheaper to hire because they lack the necessary experience that would warrant higher pay, as opposed to a more seasoned veteran guard. Paying guards less in salaries means higher profits. With so many inexperienced guards in one facility it is no surprise that an inmate could walk out of a facility without falsifying their identity. However, this situation is still an improvement upon when the facility failed its inspection on 17 counts of misconduct. One of those violations entailed 24 guards not having a jailer's license at all -- temporary or permanent -- simply hired hands without any training or authority.

This situation is also dangerous because it holds the County liable for the actions of the jailers who are acting under the color of the law. The Dallas Morning News states, "If an inmate is injured in an encounter with a rookie guard, for example, the county could be held liable for failing to properly train the guard." The longer the facility goes without training these guards, the longer Nueces County is liable for the actions of ill-prepared prison guards. These types of hidden costs of private prisons are often overlooked when governmental agents construct new private prisons and expect them to be "no cost solutions" to their prison system woes.

The CBDC was deemed "at-risk" and will remain so for 90 days after its designation in late December of last year. I would expect more inspections to come and we will relay the information here as it develops.

2009 Year in Review - Top Private Prison Stories, #4 Small Companies, Big Scandals

Over the next few days, we'll be posting 2009's top six stories related to private prisons.  This is the fourth biggest story of the year. 

#4 - Small Companies, Big Scandals

Some of the smaller private prison corporations had the biggest controversies in 2009.  From debates over CEC's payments to the McLennan County Sheriff to LCS's flagship failure and big problems at Southwestern Correctional, it's been a tough year for the small private prison companies. 

1. LCS Corrections' "Flagship" Facility FailuresThe Coastal Bend Detention Center, LCS Corrections' so-called "flagship facility" had an assortment of problems in 2009. In January, LCS had to lay off 35 employees, who they re-hired in March.  In September, the facility failed a Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection, leading the normally diplomatic commission chief Adan Muñoz to say of the facility, "I have to bring any remedial order before the [jail] commission, but this borders really close to complete incompetence."   In November, Coastal Bend accidentally released an inmate, a mistake that wasn't noticed for three weeks.  The facility remains on "At Risk" status, meaning the TCJS has full authority to conduct unannounced inspections.

2. Southwestern Correctional Problems in Burnet County.  Southwestern Correctional's Burnet County jail rivaled LCS's Coastal Bend facility as the most rebuked private jail for 2009.  In November, the company drew a fairly sharp rebuke from Texas Commission on Jail Standards head Adan Muñoz for not providing medical care to a pregnant inmate or providing medication to inmates with mental health problems.  In September, the Burnet facility was deemed non-compliant by TCJS after an escape lead to an inspection.  At that point, Muñoz said “The best way to describe it is a lack of diligence, a lack of professionalism."  The facility drew broad opposition in Burnet County even before it was built with residents siting the pitfalls of jail privatization and the potential dangers in floating debt for private jail expansion.

3. Community Education Centers, the private prison corporation formerly known as CiviGenics, had another dramatic year.  For years CEC has been paying McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch (and his precedessors) a "stipend" for the nominal oversight of additional prisoners in the company's downtown facility.  According to state law, Sheriffs must authorize a private detention company's presence in the county under its jurisdiction. In 2008, Waco Sheriff Larry Lynch continued to receive the kickback despite a contentious debate over whether to build a new CEC facility in McLennan County.  Former State Representative Kevin Bailey, then Chair of the Committee on Urban Affairs, requested an opinion of the Attorney General, and a bill was filed in 2009 (though ultimately wasn't successful) to outlaw the practice.  Debate flared once again this September, when Tommy Witherspoon at the Waco Tribune reported that long-standing payment practice of the Sheriff by CEC would not expand despite a new CEC lock-up opening in McLennan. Witherspoon's investigative reporting also uncovered that Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson, whose county annual salary is $49,457, is paid a $24,000 stipend yearly by the county in its contract with CEC.

CEC also had problems in Kinney County, where a bribery lead to an escape and the facility's closure. On October 23rd, an inmate escaped from Community Education Centers' (CEC) Kinney County Detention Center in Brackettville, TX. Shortly after the escape, the warden of the facility, Mickey Hubert, resigned from his position on November 2nd. CEC closed down the facility temporarily with no word on if or when they plan to re-open, leaving all employees without work. The U.S. Marshals moved the remaining inmates who were left behind to other nearby facilities.

Stay tuned for the top three private prison stories of the year...

LCS's Coastal Bend Detention Center Moved to "At-Risk" Status

The Coastal Bend Detention Center, LCS Corrections' so-called "flagship facility," will be under extreme scrutiny over the next 90 days following a failed inspection and the unauthorized release of an inmate because of mistaken identity, which went unknown for three weeks. LCS hired Alberto Bravo as a new warden shortly before the failed inspection in hopes of changing the facility for the better and improving their standards. Bravo's work temporarily paid off as they passed their second round of inspections. However, shortly after passing the second inspection, they mistakenly released an inmate and did not realize what had happened for three weeks prior to the "escape."

Because of this, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has defined the facility as being "at-risk," meaning over the next 90 days the TCJS will have full authority to conduct unannounced inspections at any day or time. If no citations are filed from the inspections over this time, then the facility will be taken off the list. If there are citations or failures found, then more actions will be taken, depending on the offenses. Warden Bravo in investigating the release, and has narrowed his focus to specific employees. He told the Caller-Times, “We are trying to narrow it down to where it happened,” Bravo said. “It was human error. The procedures we had in place, they failed to follow the procedures" ("Robstown prison faces unannounced inspections after inadvertant inmate release," The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 18 December, 2009).

We will remain aware about the status of this facility and relay any information we find through these unannounced inspections.

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