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Federal Bureau of Prisons

Rep. Lloyd Doggett Investigates Treatment of Prisoners during Hurricane Harvey

Photo by NASA/Randy Bresnik

 

Rep. Lloyd Doggett has submitted an inquiry to the Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding the treatment of prisoners in Beaumont facilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Tribune. This inquiry came once advocates received testimonies from prisoners that they were denied food, water, and sanitation during and following the storm. As the Federal Bureau of Prisons chose not to evacuate the Beaumont prisoners, this inquiry exposes the human rights abuses that occur in both privately and publically operated Bureau of Prison facilities. When the Bureau of Prisons denied that the facility had flooded, Grassroots Leadership organizer Jorge Renaud advocated for leaders to “default on the side of the vulnerable populations.” He said, “When things rise of the level of someone actually being woken up to say something about a condition ... and is willing to go on the record, it’s usually indicative of quite a few more inside who are actually experiencing the same stuff.”

This incident recalls the treatment of detainees in private detention facilities during Hurricane Dolly in 2008, when 1,000 detainees at Willacy Detention Center were not evacuated. Those who were evacuated were denied adequate housing, food, access to legal counsel and communications, and protection from the elements.

The treatment of prisoners in Beaumont during Hurricane Harvey raises concern for the immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in private detention centers along the Texas coast, including Karnes County family detention center  and Brooks County Detention Center operated by GEO Group. Detainees were not reported to have been evacuated, leaving them in the path of the historic and devastating storm.

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State Senator accused of accepting bribes from private companies

Federal prosecutors have indicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti for accepting bribes from a private prison medical contractor, reports the San Antonio Current.

Federal prosecutors revealed last week that the senator had been involved in a lawsuit against the Reeves County Detention Center following the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo. When Galindo was first detained in the facility, he told prison staff that he had a history of epileptic seizures. He complained about not receiving his medication and ended up in solitary confinement. He begged to guards to not put him into solitary in case of another seizure. The ACLU, which sued on behalf of Galindo's family, listed Physicians Network Associates (PNA) as a defendant. PNA was the private medical company that the detention center had contracted with to provide their medical care.

After Reeves County won the contract to work with the Bureau of Prisons, they needed to find a medical provider for the prisoners. The indictment claims that Jimmy Galindo, then a judge in Reeves County, agreed to push through the contract for the PNA to work at the Reeves County Detention Center in return for kickbacks. It is then believed that Sen. Uresti was brought in to act as a middleman for PNA and Judge Galindo. The lawsuit alleges that PNA and its successor companies paid Uresti $10,000 each month from September 2006 to September 2016. It is believed he pocketed half of the money and gave the rest to Jimmy Galindo.

It is particularly upsetting knowing that state officials profited off the Reeves Detention Center, which has a history of denying access to attorneys, riots, and the death of prisoners in their custody.

Willacy prison could return to original purpose under ICE

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has expressed interest in re-opening the Willacy County Correctional Center, reported the Brownsville Herald.

County officials say that comments from President Trump surrounding increased border security have led to increase interest in immigrant detention centers, as ICE looks for more bed space to detain undocumented immigrants. County Judge Aurelio Guerra said "I’m optimistic we should be able to arrange something out with an operator and a branch of government."

He also said "There seems to be a lot more interest here with this presidential administration. The demand is more toward ICE. Where we are geographically, with our proximity to the border, plays a big role."

However, county officials have yet to make statements on any potential economic impact or the number of jobs created.

The facility was operated by a private prison company, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), for a number of years before losing their contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The contract was canceled following an uprising from the immigrants detained at the facility, who cited poor medical care as one of the reasons that led to them taking over parts of the prison and setting fire.

However, this facility has had numerous problems before the contract was canceled, including prisoners escaping, guards being accused of immigrant smuggling, sexual assault, and others being charged with bribery. Willacy County also went millions of dollars into debt following an expansion of the private prison in 2007, with the eventual closing leading to 400 employees laid off.

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Limestone County still paying bills on empty private prison

In February, we reported that Limestone County officials had hopes of reopening the shuttered Limestone County Detention Center by potentially contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The private prison for immigrants, owned by the county and operated by Management and Training Corporation, has been empty since 2013.

On March 24th, according to a report from the Groesbeck Journal, rather than discussing the reopening of the facility, Limestone County Commissioners were asking why the county should be paying invoices for costs associated with the empty prison rather than the prison operator. 

According to the report:

"The county paid three invoices in 2015, totaling $464, but has now received two new invoices, one for $1,250 and another for $40.

“Why should we pay these?” asked Commissioner Pct. 2 W.A. “Sonny” Baker, pointing out that the invoice was addressed not to the county but to a company that ran the prison previously.

Commissioner Pct. 4 Bobby Forrest noted the same thing, that the invoice was marked “Attention: Mike Sutton,” the name of the man who ran the prison for many years through Continuing Education Centers, then later through a company he formed.

The commissioners agreed to delay a decision on paying any more invoices until they are certain it's a final bill. 

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Family sues GEO Group over wrongful death of man in federal immigrant prison

On March 4, the family of Nestor Garay filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that private prison operator GEO Group negligently left Garay in the care of unqualified medical staff who failed to respond properly when Garay suffered a stroke while incarcerated at the Big Springs Correctional Center in June 2014. It took two days after Garay was found moaning and unresponsive in his bed, covered in sweat and urine, for GEO Group to send him to the emergency room in Midland, 40 miles away from the facility, where he eventually died handcuffed to the hospital bed.

GEO Group subcontracts medical care at the facility to Correct Care Solutions (CCS), who had only a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) on hand the night that Garay suffered his stroke. LVN licenses require only one year of training, so they typically serve as support staff for more highly trained doctors and nurses. That night, the LVN contacted the on-call Physicians Assistant who gave Garay anti-stroke medicine and sent him back to bed rather that ordering him to the emergency room. By morning, Garay’s face was drooping and right arm was contracted and he was ordered to the ER. It took another hour to actually leave the facility.

Doctors who treated Garay say that the window of treatment for the type of stroke he suffered is about 3 hours, so there was little to be done once he arrived at the hospital more than six hours after the initial stroke.

Big Springs is a Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prison, one of 11 facilities around the country incarcerating exclusively noncitizens convicted of federal crimes. The prisons operate under less strenuous standards than other Bureau of Prisons facilities. They have also come under fire from civil rights groups for their lack of adequate medical care, food, and other inhumane conditions and have been the sites of recent prisoner uprisings.

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Limestone County hopes to re-open private prison

Limestone County’s 1,000-bed private prison has been closed since 2013, but local officials are hoping to change that. Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen is working with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to fill the prison once again with immigrants. 

According to KWTX, the facility closed in 2013 because federal immigration policy shifted to more deportations rather than detention. Community Education Centers ran the prison until March that same year, exiting the contract for unknown reasons. Management and Training Corporation took over, but only operated it for a few months before firing all employees and leaving it empty. The prison will continue to be run by Management and Training Corporation if the feds agree to renew the contract. 

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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