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Ex-Waco jail employee arrested for orchestrating inmate fight

A former Jack Harwell Detention Center employee was arrested last week after being accused of orchestrating a fight between two inmates, reports The Eagle.

Wesley James Gillispie was arrested Wednesday, with the arrest affidavit stating that he misused his authority as an employee at Jack Harwell. Gillispie allegedly gave one inmate access to the housing area of another, who was supposedly “picking on” Gillispie. He gave access for the “sole purpose of having the first inmate assault” the inmate who was “picking on” Gillispie. It is not clear whether Gillispie was fired or resigned, but the detention center has said that he is no longer employed there.

The Jack Harwell Detention Center is a privately run prison that is operated by LaSalle Corrections. The center has a history of sexual assault, lack of institutional control, and poor conditions for immigrants detained there. Jack Harwell was previously owned and operated by Community Education Centers until June 2013.

 

Prisoner dies at McLennan County private jail

The death of a prisoner reported on May 30 at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County is under investigation by federal, state, and local officials. The private jail is operated by private, for-profit prison company LaSalle Corrections. 

Litte information is known about the incident, however, a news report stated:

"McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara did not return phone messages Tuesday. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong declined comment, saying the inmate was a U.S. Marshals Service prisoner and referring questions to the marshals service.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Bays also declined comment, saying the matter is under investigation. Bays declined to provide details of the inmate’s death, his or her identity or suspected manner and means of death."

This is not the first prisoner death at this private jail. In February, three former LaSalle Corrections employees were indicted after surveillance video showed that they lied about conducting head counts after a prisoner committed suicide last November. 

 

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Former guard at Jack Harwell pleads guilty to improper sexual relationship with inmate

A former guard at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, Melissa Corona, has pled guilty to charges of sexual misconduct with one of the inmates. Ms. Corona was indicted in March 2014, after allegations that she began a relationship with a male inmate in 2013 by kissing him more than 10 times.

Ms. Corona was the fifth person to be arrested in 2013 after an investigation into improprieties between staff and inmates. Three other female guards were arrested on charges of sexual misconduct, and a male guard was charged with bringing contraband into the facility.

This is not the first investigation into sexual misconduct at the facility. In fact, Community Education Centers (CEC), the private corporation responsible for the maintenance and staffing of Jack Harwell, is currently facing a lawsuit alleging that the company was grossly negligent by failing to screen, hire, train and supervise its employees to maintain a secure and safe facility. In this case, the allegation is that prolonged sexual misconduct occured between a male guard and a female inmate from November 2012 to March 2013.

The Jack Harwell facility was run by CEC until June 2013, when LaSalle Corrections took over management. Although LaSalle may have won the contract from CEC, the small Louisiana based company doesn’t have a clean record either.

Troubles at the Jack Harwell center are not confined to those held on local charges, either. Until last year, the facility also had a contract to hold detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but was at the center of controversy and protests over substandard conditions for those federal detainees as well. ICE pulled their detainees from the facility shortly after news broke of the conditions. 

Top Texas Private Prison Stories of 2014 - #5 - Rape and other problems plague the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco

The Jack Harwell Detention Center first made headlines this summer over complaints from attorneys over conditions for immigrants being detained at the facility for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In a letter to ICE, attorneys said the Jack Harwell Detention Center is not an appropriate place to house immigrants in detention and that ICE officials have not done enough to fix serious problems at the facility. They detailed how the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention,” the letter said.

This led to protests by Texans United for Families at the facility this summer. They delivered “know your rights” materials to the warden, demanded that the facility be closed and blamed the immigrant detention quota for the problems inside. 

Then in December, a woman who was previously detained at the Jack Harwell Detention Center filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually assaulted "on a number of occasions" while incarcerated there from November 2012 to March 2013.

According to the plaintiff in the case, CEC's negligence includes the failure to maintain sufficient staff, especially female staff to search female inmates. The suit also alleges that CEC “fostered an unsafe and relatively uncontrolled environment, which allowed smuggling into the facility, improper relations within the facility and generally created an environment where there was a lack of reasonable institutional control at the facility.”

The Waco Tribune reported that until June 2013, Jack Harwell was run by private prison corporation Community Education Centers (CEC), which is now facing a lawsuit alleging gross negligence that led to the conditions that permitted the assaults to take place.

As for the immigrants held in Jack Harwell, advocates claimed victory when an ICE official told Texas Prison Bid’ness in September that immigrants were no longer being held at the facility. 

CEC faces lawsuit over sexual assault allegation at Jack Harwell

Jack Harwell Detention Center
Jack Harwell Detention Center
A woman who was previously detained inside Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County recently filed a lawsuit alleging the she was sexually assaulted "on a number of occasions" while incarcerated there from November 2012 to March 2013, as reported by the Waco Tribune.

 

Until June 2013, Jack Harwell was run by private prison corporation Community Education Centers (CEC), now facing a lawsuit alleging gross negligence that led to the conditions that permitted the assaults to take place.

 

According to the plaintiff in the case, CEC's negligence includes the failure to maintain sufficient staff, especially female staff to search female inmates. The suit also alleges that CEC “fostered an unsafe and relatively uncontrolled environment, which allowed smuggling into the facility, improper relations within the facility and generally created an environment where there was a lack of reasonable institutional control at the facility.”

 

Sheriff’s Office Capt. M.R. “Bubba” Colyer confirmed that the allegations remain under investigation. The woman has reported the sexual assaults to the county Sheriff, but no arrest warrent has been issued.

 

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Advocates claim victory as immigrant detainees are removed from Jack Harwell Detention Center

In July, we reported protests about sub-standard conditions in the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco, Texas. The facility is privately run by LaSalle Southwest Corrections and was not originally meant for immigrant detention.

Protestors argued that officials denied the detainees basic rights like use of the telephone, reasonable access to visitation, or an adequate legal library. 

The protests by advocates and criticism from attorneys apparently worked.

Norma Lacey, from ICE’s San Antonio Field Office confirmed. "We are currently not utilizing the Jack Harwell facility," Lacy wrote in an email to advocates asking to visit immigrants at Jack Harwell earlier this week. "We can notify you should we need to utilize it again."

The Jack Harwell Detention Center had about 250 beds for ICE detainees. The average age of the detainees’ was about 19 years old.

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Jack Harwell Detention Center draws protests over conditions inside, Rep. Lloyd Doggett weighs in

The Jack Harwell Det

ention Center in Waco was the site of a protest on July 12. The detention center is operated by private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. 

Protestors came from Waco, Austin, Dallas, and Taylor to deliver know-your-rights materials to the facility after attorneys in Central Texas sounded the alarm overconditions in the center.

MyFox Austin reports

"Protestors said the detention center should not be used to hold ICE detainees.

"I would love to see our local jail, our local law-enforcement abide by the law and then just not even enforce those, because they don't have to," said Waco immigration lawyer Kent McKeever.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D) TX-35, agrees that detention centers aren't the answer.

"I think we should look for alternatives to detention centers. There's so many religious organizations and community service organizations that will be willing to host some of these families. That's the better approach," said Doggett.  

Protestors said the center lacks adequate medical care, doesn't provide access to a legal library, limits visitation and treats detainees like criminals.

"The families are being broken up for unfair, unjust and irrational reasons," McKeever said.

 

The Jack Harwell Detention Center said they are required to follow National Detention Standards. They said they meet those standards and strive to provide the best care they can for detainees."

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