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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.

Is LCS's Robstown Prison Being Bailed Out by Operation Streamline Detainees?

An influx of federal prisoners from the United States Marshals Service will help bailout a troubled south Texas private prison, according to a story in the Corpus-Christi Caller-Times ("Prison Firm Rehires 40," March 6th),

As federal prisoners began arriving at the privately owned LCS detention facility in Robstown on Friday, a company official said employees who were laid off in January have been rehired.  In response to the influx of prisoners into the 1,100-bed facility, which has sat empty since it opened in September, the prison has called back some 40 employees who were laid off in January, bringing the current number of employees up to 75, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations.

“It’s full steam ahead right now,” he said. And beginning Monday, the company plans to hire another 80 employees with starting pay at $11 an hour.  The news comes a week after Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal and the U.S. Marshals agreed on a temporary price tag for prisoner housing.

LCS will get roughly $44 per prisoner per day under the terms of an addendum to the contract already in place for housing prisoners in Hidalgo County.  Harbison on Friday could not confirm how many bus loads of prisoners were being delivered to the facility.

While the story doesn't make it clear where these prisoners will be coming from, U.S. Marshals prisoners are mostly pre-trial federal detainees, meaning people awaiting trial for federal violations.  As several sources have noted, an enormous increase in the number of low-level non-violent border-crossers being criminally prosecuted under a Department of Justice program called Operation Streamline has pushed the detention system to the max.   

In fact, as Bloomberg News-Service noted a year ago ("Bush Crackdown on Illegal Aliens Stretches Marshals to Limit," March 12, 2008), these criminal prosecutions are already overwhelming the U.S. Marshal system.

The 600 marshals stationed on the border with Mexico are dealing with as many as 6,000 new defendants a month. That's taking them away from other tasks such as capturing escaped prisoners and rounding up sex offenders, according to Justice Department documents obtained by Bloomberg News. 

Data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse and reported in the New York Times ("Push on Immigration Crimes Is Said to Shift Focus," January 11) confirms that the mandatory prosecution of border-crossers is taking resources away from other, more serious criminal prosecutions,

Immigration prosecutions have steeply risen over the last five years, while white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent, according to the Syracuse group’s statistics. Drug prosecutions — the enforcement priority of the Reagan, first Bush and Clinton administrations — have declined by 20 percent since 2003.

Of course, all these criminal prosecutions mean a drastic increase in detention bed capacity, and no one is making out richer on this policy in Texas than the private prison corporations.  According to the Department of Justice, U.S. Marshals detention bed capacity has increased from 18,282 to 56,290 between 1994 and 2007.

Companies like the GEO Group - with a new 1,500 bed detention center in Laredo, an expansion in Val Verde, and a new 500 bed detention center in Maverick County - and smaller companies like LCS - Robstown and Brooks County - are expanding capacity and making money off this trend. 

The question remains, however, will the Obama administration turn off the spiget and begin to reverse Operation Streamline and the ever-increasing demand for detention beds?  If it does, it could spell trouble for the private prison companies and communities like Robstown that have gambled their futures betting for prisoners.

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Contract Trouble for LCS Corrections Nueces County Detention Center

LCS Corrections will lay off some workers at its Robstown prison because of problems securing a federal contract for prisoners at the facility, according to an article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (LCS facility to lose 35 officers, January 24),

To start the intake of federal prisoners from agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol, LCS needs Nueces County to sign an agreement with marshals that will outline how much the federal government will pay for housing their prisoners. Congress also must pass a 2009 budget, which should occur when a continuing resolution allowing the federal government to operate under its 2008 budget expires in early March.

The prison company intends to rehire the laid-off employees and hire additional staff once prisoners start arriving, Harbison said.

Nueces County spent millions to clean up its jail's substandard conditions that led to the June 2006 removal of federal prisoners. The federal inmates haven't returned. County officials have been negotiating since January 2008 for a higher fee to house them at the jail. The contract also will include fees for housing federal prisoners at two LCS facilities.

Because the federal government doesn't deal with private detention contractors, LCS is dependent on a "pass through" contract, where the county gets a share of fees charged per prisoner for passing through overflow federal prisoners to the company's private facilities in Hidalgo County and Robstown.

The article doesn't mention whether Nueces County floated bonds to pay for the construction of the prison and my cursory search can't find a record of bonds.  See also, Forrest Wilder's coverage in the Texas Observer of the LCS's record of failing federal inspections.

Also check out our previous coverage on LCS Corrections:

Inmate Dies at LCS Brooks County Detention Center

LCS Moves to Ease Community Concerns Over Nueces Prison

LCS Opening 1,100 Bed Prison in Nueces County

A Closer Look at LCS Corrections

New LCS Prison Will Increase Environmental Hazard

Private Prison Company Adds Water Quality Concerns

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