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Big Stories of 2012 - #2 - GEO Group Loses Bid to Expand Mental Health Care Operations, Take Over Kerrville State Hospital

As we usher in 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of 2012, based on stories covered by our blog.  Our number two story of the year is GEO Group's failed attempt to take over operations at the Kerrville State Hospital.   

TPB Big Story #2 - GEO Group Loses Bid to Take Over Kerrville State Hospital

This summer, media in Texas reported tha

t GEO Care, a subsidiary of private prison corporation GEO Group, had plans to take over the management of a Texas State Hospital, where indigent people with mental illness and forensic patients incompetent to stand trial are rehabilitated.  The takeover would be pursuant to a rider snuck into the 2011 legislative session that mandated the privatization of one state hopsital.  It quickly was discovered that GEO Care had submitted the sole bid on to take over one facility - the Kerrville State Hospital. 

Pointing to GEO's troubled record, mental health care advocates and criminal justice reform groups immediately worked to stop the privatization effort.  A coalition of Texas organizations, including Grassroots Leadership, a co-sponsor of this blog, sent a sign-on letter urging state leaders to halt privatization efforts.  In September, more than 700 people from across Texas signed an online petition to stop private prison corporation GEO Group from taking over the Kerrville State Hospital.  State and local officials spoke out against privatization, and the media across the state ran exposés on GEO’s  troubled record operating prisons and jails.

The organizing efforts paid off.  In October, state leaders announced that they rejected GEO Group’s bid to take over the Kerrville State Hospital.  However, Kerrville and other state hospitals may not be out of the woods yet.  GEO Group continues to tell investors that they see opportunities in mental health facilities in Texas.  

GEO Group faces opposition in bid for state hospital

GEO protestor in Del Rio
GEO protestor in Del Rio
GEO Group is facing increasing opposition to its proposal to take over a state hospital in Texas.  We reported last week that the Austin American Statesman's Andrea Ball had reported on fines being leveled against GEO Group's Montgomery County psych facility and plans to privatize a state mental hospital moving through an RFP process.

Now, a coalition of mental health advocacy, civil rights, and criminal justice reform groups (including my organization Grassroots Leadership) has sent a letter to state officials opposing the take-over by GEO's subsidiary, GEO Care.  Written in the letter:   

"We are concerned that the requirement to cut 10% from the hospital’s budget through privatization can only be achieved by reducing the quality of care at a hospital run on an already austere budget.  Texas already spends the least per capita on mental health than any other state, at slightly less than 1/3 the national average. 

Furthermore, we are particularly concerned that the only respondent to the request for proposal was GEO Care, a subsidiary of private prison corporation GEO Group. GEO Group has a long history of mismanaging the facilities it is charged with operating."

The signatories site recent events in Texas and several other states: 

"The list of scandals to which GEO can lay claim is a long one.  In the past five months alone, the company has made local and national headlines over multiple scandals perpetrated at several different facilities it operates.  In April, GEO contracts at three facilities ended in Mississippi, including a youth facility that a federal judge described as having “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate.”  Last week, the Associated Press reported three gruesome deaths, including a patient who died in a scalding bathtub, at GEO’s South Florida State Hospital.  And in our own state, the Austin American Statesman reported that GEO has been fined by DSHS for problems at the GEO-run forensic psychiatric facility in Montgomery County, including “unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications and failure to report serious injuries to the state.”

GEO also has a long history of operational problems at its facilities in Texas.  In 2009, prisoners at GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center rioted over issues at the facility including poor quality of health care and multiple prisoner deaths.  In 2007, the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was shut down due to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions under GEO operation."

 

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