About two months ago, the LCS Corrections-owned facility, Coastal Bend Detention Center (CBDC) had just finished its "at-risk" status probationary period due to a failed inspection and an inmate walking out of the facility. Despite their new warden and good behavior during the "at-risk" status period, it appears that the problems are not over for this struggling facility. Earlier this month, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) ruled that the facility does not meet state-defined standards, skipping the "at-risk" status altogether after the facility failed to report the deaths of two inmates, while the warden and deputy warden still lack jailers' licenses (along with 72% of the guards). The Caller-Times reports:
Discussions with the deputy warden and the chief of security of the facility revealed that neither official knew of the requirement to notify the state agency of the deaths in custody, Muñoz said.
Jail commission assistant Director Shannon Herklotz told prison officials their lack of reporting was a noncompliance issue.
LCS’ vice president of operations Dick Harbison said the warden and assistant warden were recent hires from out of state who did not know they were required to report the deaths.
Herklotz discovered neither of the top two prison managers had proper state licenses, also a violation of state standards.
“Both the lack of the jailer licenses by the warden and deputy warden, the lack of properly or entirely filling out the inmate screening form and failing to report the April 18, 2010, death in custody within 24 hours as required will immediately result in a notice of noncompliance with minimum jail standards for the Coastal Bend Detention Center,” Muñoz said.
Harbison said after 10 years in the Texas private prison business, he had never been told that his wardens needed jailers' licenses. (Jaime Powell, "Robstown private prison fails state standards again," Caller-Times, 3 May 2010)
With CBDC's rocky history of not faring well with the TCJS, I wanted to find out what this finding meant for the facility and what could happen in the future if CBDC continued to fail their inspections. The TCJS Assistant Director Shannon Herklotz told me that "officials at the Coastal Bend Detention Center have submitted a plan of action and are working towards achieving compliance." However, given that CBDC has a rocky history and continues to promise positive change for the future, I take these promises from CBDC with extreme skepticism.
He also told me that:
The Coastal Bend Detention Center, along with any other facility found to be in non-compliance, will be give a reasonable amount of time to correct their deficiencies. If they fail to initiate corrective action, then the Commission has other options that we can pursue.
The Commission meets once a quarter to determine if the actions taken by facilities such as CBDC were sufficient enough to make up for the failed aspects of their inspection. If the responsible party fails to initiate corrective action (in this case, if CBDC fails to get their warden and deputy warden licenses) to the notice of non-compliance, the Commission may issue a remedial order. This order mandates that all or any of the inmates confined in a jail be transferred to and maintained in a compliant facility at the cost of the non-complying entity (the county or the company). According to Herklotz, there is no policy of TCJS stating a limit to the number of times a facility can fail before getting shut down.
CBDC will remain under the eye of scrutiny as the facility systemically fails inspections. Whether or not it will come to a remedial order has yet to be seen. We will continue to bring you the latest news on CBDC to see if LCS Corrections lives up to their promised improvements.
LCS Corrections' facility, the Coastal Bend Detention Center (CBDC) in Robstown, Texas recently underwent and passed two surprise visits in accordance with their "at-risk" status. The facility recently released an inmate because they mistook the identity of the man, who is still at large.
The Caller-Times ("Robstown private prison passes two surprise inspections," Feb. 1) covered the story of the surprise inspection and fire drill and had this to say:
"The inspection did not reveal any non-compliance issues. But [state inspector] Johnson noted that of 118 officers, 85 were working with temporary state jailer licenses. All must complete training and pass a state-mandated jailer certification course within their first year of employment.
Over the next few days, we'll be posting 2009's top six stories related to private prisons. This is the fourth biggest story of the year.
#4 - Small Companies, Big Scandals
Some of the smaller private prison corporations had the biggest controversies in 2009. From debates over CEC's payments to the McLennan County Sheriff to LCS's flagship failure and big problems at Southwestern Correctional, it's been a tough year for the small private prison companies.
1. LCS Corrections' "Flagship" Facility Failures. The Coastal Bend Detention Center, LCS Corrections' so-called "flagship facility" had an assortment of problems in 2009. In January, LCS had to lay off 35 employees, who they re-hired in March. In September, the facility failed a Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection, leading the normally diplomatic commission chief Adan Muñoz to say of the facility, "I have to bring any remedial order before the [jail] commission, but this borders really close to complete incompetence." In November, Coastal Bend accidentally released an inmate, a mistake that wasn't noticed for three weeks. The facility remains on "At Risk" status, meaning the TCJS has full authority to conduct unannounced inspections.
2. Southwestern Correctional Problems in Burnet County. Southwestern Correctional's Burnet County jail rivaled LCS's Coastal Bend facility as the most rebuked private jail for 2009. In November, the company drew a fairly sharp rebuke from Texas Commission on Jail Standards head Adan Muñoz for not providing medical care to a pregnant inmate or providing medication to inmates with mental health problems. In September, the Burnet facility was deemed non-compliant by TCJS after an escape lead to an inspection. At that point, Muñoz said “The best way to describe it is a lack of diligence, a lack of professionalism." The facility drew broad opposition in Burnet County even before it was built with residents siting the pitfalls of jail privatization and the potential dangers in floating debt for private jail expansion.
3. Community Education Centers, the private prison corporation formerly known as CiviGenics, had another dramatic year. For years CEC has been paying McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch (and his precedessors) a "stipend" for the nominal oversight of additional prisoners in the company's downtown facility. According to state law, Sheriffs must authorize a private detention company's presence in the county under its jurisdiction. In 2008, Waco Sheriff Larry Lynch continued to receive the kickback despite a contentious debate over whether to build a new CEC facility in McLennan County. Former State Representative Kevin Bailey, then Chair of the Committee on Urban Affairs, requested an opinion of the Attorney General, and a bill was filed in 2009 (though ultimately wasn't successful) to outlaw the practice. Debate flared once again this September, when Tommy Witherspoon at the Waco Tribune reported that long-standing payment practice of the Sheriff by CEC would not expand despite a new CEC lock-up opening in McLennan. Witherspoon's investigative reporting also uncovered that Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson, whose county annual salary is $49,457, is paid a $24,000 stipend yearly by the county in its contract with CEC.
CEC also had problems in Kinney County, where a bribery lead to an escape and the facility's closure. On October 23rd, an inmate escaped from Community Education Centers' (CEC) Kinney County Detention Center in Brackettville, TX. Shortly after the escape, the warden of the facility, Mickey Hubert, resigned from his position on November 2nd. CEC closed down the facility temporarily with no word on if or when they plan to re-open, leaving all employees without work. The U.S. Marshals moved the remaining inmates who were left behind to other nearby facilities.
Stay tuned for the top three private prison stories of the year...
The Coastal Bend Detention Center, LCS Corrections' so-called "flagship facility," will be under extreme scrutiny over the next 90 days following a failed inspection and the unauthorized release of an inmate because of mistaken identity, which went unknown for three weeks. LCS hired Alberto Bravo as a new warden shortly before the failed inspection in hopes of changing the facility for the better and improving their standards. Bravo's work temporarily paid off as they passed their second round of inspections. However, shortly after passing the second inspection, they mistakenly released an inmate and did not realize what had happened for three weeks prior to the "escape."
Because of this, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has defined the facility as being "at-risk," meaning over the next 90 days the TCJS will have full authority to conduct unannounced inspections at any day or time. If no citations are filed from the inspections over this time, then the facility will be taken off the list. If there are citations or failures found, then more actions will be taken, depending on the offenses. Warden Bravo in investigating the release, and has narrowed his focus to specific employees. He told the Caller-Times, “We are trying to narrow it down to where it happened,” Bravo said. “It was human error. The procedures we had in place, they failed to follow the procedures" ("Robstown prison faces unannounced inspections after inadvertant inmate release," The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 18 December, 2009).
We will remain aware about the status of this facility and relay any information we find through these unannounced inspections.