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The quick and dirty way CCA won the Dilley family detention contract

Photo from NPRPhoto from NPRImmigrant rights advocates and conservative U.S. congressmen alike were shocked and concerned about the speed with which the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) won and began to implement the contract for the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX.

The center, created in an existing "man camp" for oil field workers, is set to hold 2,400 people and is rumored to be opening in the early weeks of December. Plans for the facility were announced in September.

The unusual contract involves a lease agreement between real estate group Koontz McCombs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CCA, and the town of Eloy, AZ, which is nearly 1,000 miles away. 

As a result of the contract being "passed through" Eloy — which already contracts with CCA — the competitive bidding process, environmental impact report, and other safeguard measures were completely bypassed in the interest of opening the detention camp as expediently as possible. This deal streams revenue to Eloy, but leaves them free from any of the liability that comes with running a private detention facility. 

The contract has been the subject of protests at the University of Texas, where the business school is named for one of the partners in the deal — Red McCombs. 

Advocates protest UT alumnus Red McCombs' involvement in Dilley family detention center

UT Alumna Deborah Alemu; Image from the Daily Texan

Red McCombs, a well known alumnus of the University of Texas, is half of the partnership that makes up Koontz McCombs — the real estate group contracting the land with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for the new family detention camp in Dilley, TX.

The ominously named South Texas Family Detention Center will be able to hold 2,400 people, making it the largest immigrant detention center in the country and putting it on par with the internment camps built for Japanese families during World War II.

On Monday, November 17th, students, alumni, and other advocates gathered at UT's McCombs School of Business (named after McCombs in recognition of his financial support of the school) to petition Thomas Gilligan, dean of the school, to urge McCombs to reconsider the deal with CCA. 

According to some sources, Dean Gilligan agrees that the practice of detaining families is unjust. It's up to McCombs to determine the next move.

Texas Court Rules Corrections Corporation of America Subject to State’s Public Information Act

On September 15, a Travis County District Court entered a final judgment that held Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, is a “governmental body” for purposes of the Texas Public Information Act and is therefore subject to the “Act’s obligations to disclose public information.” 

This was the first time a Texas court had found that a private prison company was required to comply with the state’s public records law, joining courts in Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont. 

CCA has opposed compliance with state public records laws, but courts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont disagree.
CCA has opposed compliance with state public records laws, but courts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Vermont disagree.
District Court Judge Gisela D. Triana entered the judgment in a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues and a project of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center. 

PLN filed suit against CCA on May 1, 2013 after the company refused to produce records related to the now-closed Dawson State Jail, including reports and audits concerning CCA’s management of the facility. CCA operates nine facilities in Texas, including four state jails. 

PLN had argued that CCA meets the definition of a “governmental body” under the Texas Public Information Act because – among other factors – the company “shares a common purpose and objective to that of the government” and performs services “traditionally performed by govern-mental bodies.” 

In the latter regard, PLN noted that “Incarceration is inherently a power of government. By using public money to perform a public function, CCA is a governmental body for purposes” of the state’s public records law. 

The court agreed, noting that “CCA failed and refused to disclose the documents” requested by PLN, which were “public information” as defined by the Public Information Act. Accordingly, CCA was ordered to produce the records; Judge Triana also ordered the company to pay $25,000 in PLN’s attorneys’ fees and costs, plus another $5,000 if it unsuccessfully appeals. 

“That is the right result and clearly what the Public Information Act requires,” said PLN attorney Cindy Saiter. 

CCA has vigorously opposed compliance with state public records laws and has lobbied against the Private Prison Information Act on the federal level. 

“Although CCA acts as the functional equivalent of a government agency when it runs prisons and jails, it opposes efforts to hold the company accountable under public records laws to the same extent as government agencies,” said PLN editor Paul Wright. “It makes you wonder what the company is hiding, and why it doesn’t want to be held accountable to members of the public whose tax dollars pay for CCA’s private prison contracts.” 

“The public saw truly awful things when we began pulling the veil from the CCA-operated Dawson State Jail last year,” said attorney Brian McGiverin with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Today, allegations are coming to light of CCA’s complicity in a widespread sexual abuse hazing ritual at the Bartlett State Jail. Is it any wonder CCA opposes greater transparency?” 

PLN was represented by attorneys Cindy Saiter with Scott, Douglass & McConnico, LLP and Brian McGiverin with the Texas Civil Rights Project. The case is Prison Legal News v. CCA, Travis County District Court, 353rd Judicial District, Cause No. D-1-GN-13-001445. 

Former Bartlett State Inmate is Suing CCA for Allowing Sexual Abuse during Three-hour Hazing Incident

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.

Barlett State Jail
Barlett State Jail

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. 

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Former CCA employees indicted on bribery charges

The Lone Star News Group reported this week that two former CCA guards have been indicted on bribery charges ("Former prison employees plead guilty to bribery," 5/20/14). 

Carl James Guittard, 36, and Terrie Elaine Glover, 49, were both required to pay a $1000 fine, serve 240 hours of community service, and must serve 10 years of probation. Both were guards at the 2100-bed Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, which closed on July 30th, 2013 after the Texas Legislature cut its funding. The facility was operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). 

The indictments also claim that 10 people offered or gave money and prepaid debit cards to Guittard, Glover, or both guards. They also allegedly provided tobacco products to people incarcerated at the facility. A state prosecutor has deemed the investigation "extensive." 

Sixteen formerly incarcerated people were indicted in this investigation. 

Disagreement between CCA and Hidalgo Park owner ends

According to KEYE TV in Austin, there has been a disagreement between the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Manoj Naik, the owner of Hidalgo Park in Taylor, Texas. 

Naik claims that he wishes to hold special events, like weddings and quinceneras, at the park, and would like to host rodeos at the venue as well. 

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), who owns the T. Don Hutto Detention Center adjacent to Hidalgo Park, was not pleased with Mr. Naik's intentions. Prison officials declined to speak on camera, but claimed that late-night live music events held at Hidalgo Park could endanger the women detained at the facility.  

Naik claims that CCA is holding his business "hostage" with demands. He also says he has spent $25,000 to comply with CCA's and the city of Taylor's requests.

Jose Orta, president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens LULAC , has responded to the feud: 

"I believe Mr. Naik is being bullied by Correctional Corporation of America... They're impeding him by creating barriers." 

Orta brought these concerns to interim city manager Jeff Straub, who asserted that the city's objective was to mediate the situation. 

A Special Use Permit (SUP) was reviewed by the Taylor City Countil on April 24 and was issued to Mr. Naik on May 8 after he negotiatiated with the city of Taylor and CCA. 

 

Culbertson: Texas has a "very successful private prison industry"

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

CCA to host earnings call on May 8

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. 

CCA Declared a "Governmental body", must Disclose Records

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.

 

 

 

Bribery Charges Filed Against Former Officers, Inmates of Mineral Wells

According to CNHI News Service, a Parker Country grand jury has pressed charges against two former corrections officers, 11 former inmates and five other individuals for possible involvement in bribery and the intent to provide contraband to an incarcerated person in February 2013. 

Carl James Guittard, 36 and Terrie Elaine Glover, 49, who are both former employees of the Mineral Wells facility, are charged with bribery and intending to provide an incarcerated individual with tobacco. The charges allege that 10 people offered or gave money to both Guittard and Glover with a prepaid debit card. Information regarding the charges reached investigators at the beginning of the year. 

Mark Mullin, a special prosecutor, said it is uncommon for state prosecutors to seek this type of case with the number of defendants involved.

"This is a lot of folks," Mullin said. "You know we've seen it before but we don't deal with it very often and not this many of them." Mullin also stated that, though there have been a lot of contraband cases, none involve as many people as the one in question.

The Democrat was unable to reach the corporate spokeswoman for the Corrections Corporation of America, which operated the Mineral Wells Facility.  

The facility has a troubled history with contraband issues, which is reportedly a reason for the facility's closure in 2013. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice elected to close Mineral Wells for safety reasons, as well as the problems with contraband and capacity. CCA's contract with TDCJ was thus terminated. 

Despite the facility's permanent closure on July 30, 2013, Parker County grand juries have continued to press charges in the last few months regarding contraband violations that have occurred over the last few years.  

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