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GEO Keeps Quiet on Murder Indictment

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The GEO Group appears to be saying very little about last week's unprecedented indictment of the company for murder in the case of Gregorio de la Rosa at the company's former Willacy facility. According to an article in the Valley Morning Star ("Three count indictment accuses prison in murder," October 27),

Inmates killed de la Rosa, who was serving a six-month sentence for drug possession, on the prison grounds just four days before his scheduled release in April 2001. In 2006, a jury ordered the company pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment described as the largest jury award in Willacy County history.

A jury handed down the verdict against Wackenhut Corrections Corp., accused of negligence in de la Rosa's death. Ron Rodriguez, the attorney who represents de la Rosa's family, argued that inadequate inmate searches and short staffing led to the April 26, 2001 beating.

The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. The GEO Group did not respond to a message requesting comment Monday afternoon.

Similar non-statements were made by GEO officials in last week's AP story and as we've reported, the indictment is one of a growing string of scandals happening in GEO Group's Texas prisons over the course of the last several years. Some of those incidents include:

  1. In August, Idaho inmate Randall McCullough committed suicide at GEO's Bill Clayton lock-up in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough had been held in solitary confinement for over a year as administrative punishment for a fight that was not criminally prosecuted.

  2. In May, WOAI reporter Brian Collister reported allegations of widespread sexual abuse of female immigrant detainees at the company's South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall. The allegations were verified by a number of former guards at the facility. The same Pearsall detention center was the subject of a lawsuit in September, 2007 alleging that a mentally disabled prisoner was proper denied medical care and generally mistreated.

  3. The Texas Youth Commission shuttered GEO's Coke County Juvenile Correctional Center "filthy" and "unsafe" conditions including feces on walls and fire exits chained shut were found at the facility. In the wake of the scandal revelations that the TYC monitors at the facility were former GEO employees, State Senate John Whitmire called hearings on private prison oversight. GEO Group responded by sending in lobbyists, and substantially increased its lobbying expenditures in the state over the following months. Seven youths then sued the company over conditions at the facility.

  4. The suicide of Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne last spring at GEO's Dickens County Correctional Center lead to an investigation into the facility's operation. The Associated Press's expose on the prison described the facility as "squalid" while Idaho's Department of Corrections Director of Health Care called the prison the worst he's ever seen and "beyond repair." Noble Payne's family has subsequently sued GEO over conditions at the prison.

  5. In November 2007, a former GEO Group guard has been indicted on federal civil rights
    for twice striking a federal detainee while employed at the Val Verde Correctional Center. The Val Verde Detention Center had been subjected to two well-publicized lawsuits in the past several years. In a 2005 suit, an employee reported that his superior displayed a hangman’s noose in his office and took pictures in his prison uniform donning KKK garb. The second lawsuit was brought by a civil rights organization on behalf of the family of LeTisha Tapia, a detainee who committed suicide after reporting that she had been sexually assaulted and denied medical care. GEO settled both suits. The settlement from the Tapia suit included a full-time county monitor to the prison.

  6. This summer, Val Verde was again rocked after four inmates came down with a mysterious illness. Three of the inmates later died, but a state investigation could find nothing at the prison linking the prison to the illnesses.

  7. In March 2008, a 20 year-old Val Verde GEO Group guard was indicted for smuggling marijuana into the correctional facility. Similar charges were filed against two other GEO Group jailers who attempted to smuggle liquor and contraband into the facility.