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Lack of institutional control cited in sexual assault lawsuit against LaSalle Correctional's Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco

A formerly incarcerated person at LaSalle Corrections' Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco has filed a lawsuit against the facility over a sexual assault incident, according to the Waco Tribune ("Former inmate alleges sexual assault at Waco Jail," December 11):

"A former jail inmate alleges she repeatedly was sexually assaulted at the private Jack Harwell Detention Center, where she claims a long-standing lack of institutional control has led to an environment of smuggling, extortion, drug abuse and sexual misconduct."

Based on our coverage of the facility, there certainly seems to be plenty of evidence that of persistent operational problems leading to major incidents, including sexual assaults and deaths.   Following a suicide on November 1st, three private prison guards were arrested and charged with tampering with records that tracked how often they checked on the prisoner.  The facility was also found non-compliant by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) following a review of the facility.  The TCJS review (attached) found that private jailers violated the standard mandating that potentially suicidal or mentally ill prisoners be checked on every 30 minutes. 

Last year, the facility's troubles — including being found in non-compliance and allegations of sexualt assault, made it one of the top private prison stories of the year.  Unfortunately, it looks like facility's problems have not abated, despite a change in operations from Community Education Centers to LaSalle Southwestern Corrections.  

We'll keep you posted on developments from this lawsuit and other stories related to the Jack Harwell facility.  

 

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Top Texas Private Prison Stories of 2014 - #5 - Rape and other problems plague the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco

The Jack Harwell Detention Center first made headlines this summer over complaints from attorneys over conditions for immigrants being detained at the facility for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In a letter to ICE, attorneys said the Jack Harwell Detention Center is not an appropriate place to house immigrants in detention and that ICE officials have not done enough to fix serious problems at the facility. They detailed how the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention,” the letter said.

This led to protests by Texans United for Families at the facility this summer. They delivered “know your rights” materials to the warden, demanded that the facility be closed and blamed the immigrant detention quota for the problems inside. 

Then in December, a woman who was previously detained at the Jack Harwell Detention Center filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually assaulted "on a number of occasions" while incarcerated there from November 2012 to March 2013.

According to the plaintiff in the case, CEC's negligence includes the failure to maintain sufficient staff, especially female staff to search female inmates. The suit also alleges that CEC “fostered an unsafe and relatively uncontrolled environment, which allowed smuggling into the facility, improper relations within the facility and generally created an environment where there was a lack of reasonable institutional control at the facility.”

The Waco Tribune reported that until June 2013, Jack Harwell was run by private prison corporation Community Education Centers (CEC), which is now facing a lawsuit alleging gross negligence that led to the conditions that permitted the assaults to take place.

As for the immigrants held in Jack Harwell, advocates claimed victory when an ICE official told Texas Prison Bid’ness in September that immigrants were no longer being held at the facility. 

Advocates claim victory as immigrant detainees are removed from Jack Harwell Detention Center

In July, we reported protests about sub-standard conditions in the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco, Texas. The facility is privately run by LaSalle Southwest Corrections and was not originally meant for immigrant detention.

Protestors argued that officials denied the detainees basic rights like use of the telephone, reasonable access to visitation, or an adequate legal library. 

The protests by advocates and criticism from attorneys apparently worked.

Norma Lacey, from ICE’s San Antonio Field Office confirmed. "We are currently not utilizing the Jack Harwell facility," Lacy wrote in an email to advocates asking to visit immigrants at Jack Harwell earlier this week. "We can notify you should we need to utilize it again."

The Jack Harwell Detention Center had about 250 beds for ICE detainees. The average age of the detainees’ was about 19 years old.

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Jack Harwell Detention Center draws protests over conditions inside, Rep. Lloyd Doggett weighs in

The Jack Harwell Det

ention Center in Waco was the site of a protest on July 12. The detention center is operated by private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. 

Protestors came from Waco, Austin, Dallas, and Taylor to deliver know-your-rights materials to the facility after attorneys in Central Texas sounded the alarm overconditions in the center.

MyFox Austin reports

"Protestors said the detention center should not be used to hold ICE detainees.

"I would love to see our local jail, our local law-enforcement abide by the law and then just not even enforce those, because they don't have to," said Waco immigration lawyer Kent McKeever.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D) TX-35, agrees that detention centers aren't the answer.

"I think we should look for alternatives to detention centers. There's so many religious organizations and community service organizations that will be willing to host some of these families. That's the better approach," said Doggett.  

Protestors said the center lacks adequate medical care, doesn't provide access to a legal library, limits visitation and treats detainees like criminals.

"The families are being broken up for unfair, unjust and irrational reasons," McKeever said.

 

The Jack Harwell Detention Center said they are required to follow National Detention Standards. They said they meet those standards and strive to provide the best care they can for detainees."

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