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Former GEO Employee found guilty of sexual abuse

In April, Juan Aguilar, a former GEO employee was charged with sexual abuse of a detainee. The victim of the abuse was being detained at Pearsall during his deportation proceedings. The two men were working in the kitchen when Aguilar pulled down the detainee's pants off and performed fellatio on him in the freezer.

On Wednesday, a jury took just over an hour to find Aguilar guilty, and he is nowawaiting his sentence. Aguilar’s lawyer reportedly argued that he had no authority over the inmate and that the act was “wrong but not a crime,” and likened it to someone having an extra-marital affair — morally wrong but not illegal. However, the law in Texas is clear that sex between inmates and employees is absolutely illegal.

This is not the first time that the GEO Group, and specifically the detention center in Pearsall, has been involved in a sexual abuse scandal.

Texas Tribune highlights poor health care in private detention centers

Emily Ramshaw at the newly-launched Texas Tribune has a series of three stories this week on the state of health care and mental health care in private immigrant detention centers in south Texas, including the GEO Group's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall and MTC's Willacy County "Tent City" lock-up in Raymondville. 

Ramshaw's first article ("Mental Hell," November 16) details the lack of mental health providers at the many large south Texas immigrant detention centers:

[GEO's] South Texas facility, one of several federally monitored Texas lock-ups for immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, is hardly the only one with mental health staffing problems. A Texas Tribune review of five of these facilities found just three had a staff psychiatrist, despite housing a combined 5,500 detainees.

In part two ("Health Scare," November 17), Ramshaw tackles health care and staffing problems at both GEO's South Texas facility in Pearsall and MTC's notorious Willacy "Tent City" prison in Raymondville, the country's largest immigrant detention centers.   

A 2007 review of medical care at the Willacy Detention Center in Raymondville found medical staffing was “barely adequate,” and that the facility’s clinic was too small to care for its 1,800 detainees. Twenty of the facility’s 46 health care positions were vacant. The detention center had no clinical director, dentist, pharmacist or psychiatrist. Half of Willacy’s licensed vocational nurses hadn’t even completed new employee orientation.

In part three (Andre's Story, November 19), the Tribune lets a former detainee, Andre Osborne, tell his own story in the form of a video.  Check it out:

 

Over all, this coverage is very promising from Ramshaw and the Texas Tribune.  We'll keep you posted on developments.

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Strike Averted at GEO's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall

A strike at GEO Group's Pearsall immigrant detention center was narrowly averted this week after close vote of union members, according to an article from KRIS TV ("Strike averted at South Texas detention center," February 11),

Guards at one of the nation's largest immigrant detention facilities have approved a new labor contract rather than strike.

Union workers at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall ratified the new deal late Wednesday that union leaders say promises improved equipment and increases the likelihood of wage increases. Chief union negotiator Howard Johannssen said the new three-year contract passed by a slight margin but declined to release the vote.

Negotiations with The GEO Group Inc. had been ongoing for months. Guards threatened to walk off the job unless a deal was reached this week, and brought about 100 picketing signs to the negotiating table.

About 1,400 detainees are being held at the South Texas facility because of their immigration status, and more than 300 workers there are union members.  A strike would have been the latest problem in Texas for GEO, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based private contractor disrupted by two recent inmate riots at a West Texas federal prison.

The Pearsall facility was rocked last year by allegations of sexual assault by guards on detainees as well as persistent accusations that health care at the facility is dismal.  Guards at the prison are organized under the Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America, and are the only union staff at a GEO prison in the United States, according to an article in the Associated Press ("Accord may avert guard strike," February 11),

Union workers said the safety of detention officers had been compromised by poor equipment and new guards who have not received proper training.

Located about 60 miles south of San Antonio, the Pearsall detention center is the only unionized GEO facility in the nation, union officials say. Workers sought increased wages, more affordable health benefits and improved working conditions.

We'll keep you posted on the latest from Pearsall.  

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