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Judge Orlando Garcia

Debate over prison privatization hits San Antonio court room

The national debate over private prisons may soon heat up a San Antonio court room sometime soon, according to a WOIA from this morning:

"A national debate over for-profit prisons has boiled over in San Antonio, where the warden of a unit run by The GEO Group was hauled before a federal judge and dressed down in open court over accusations that defendants were not receiving adequate health care.

"Your company gets millions and millions and millions and millions of dollar and we should get quality care," Judge Orlando Garcia sternly noted, announcing that a federal hearing would be held, where prison leaders would have to answer questions about the healthcare provided.

Companies like the GEO Group have recently been under fire for everything from poor conditions to cronyism to, in San Antonio's case, a lack of medical care.  The warden, in court, said a doctor was only on staff Monday through Thursday.  On Fridays and weekends, there were physician assistants available.  The day before, Federal Judge Fred Biery lashed out at the lockup, saying he believes some of the problems are because the prison is privately owned.  Assistant Federal Public Defender Donna Colthorp agrees.

"It appears that decisions are made based in how much things cost."  

The debate is part of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders platform.  This year, he authored the Justice Is Not For Sale Act."

Certainly, cutting corners at for-profit prisons in Texas is nothing new and has real and sometimes deadly consequences.  As we reported way back in 2009, state-contracted private prisons had an astounding 90% annual staff turnover rate.  These cost-cutting measures can lead to volatile facilities and Texas has sure seen its host of them, including in federally-contracted facilities like the Central Texas Detention Facility, the GEO Group facility in question.   

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