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Past Scandals and Problems with Private Prisons

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Private prison scandals are in the news right now, but they are not new to Texas. Texas has had a number of problems with abuse, violence, mismanagement, and broken promises connected to the private prisons in the Lone Star state. Here's a brief list of some of the many problems that occurred during the 1990s and were reported in Texas newspapers.

Coke County Juvenile Justice Center (Bronte, TX) — Wackenhut/Geo Group

  • Several girls were sexually, physically, and mentally abused by Wackenhut employees, including a man with prior conviction for sexual abuse of a child; a lawsuit settled for $1.5 million (1999)
  • 15-year old female victim of sexual assault by Wackenhut employee committed suicide in wake of lawsuit settlement that allowed company to avoid accepting responsibility (1999)
  • TYC confirmed allegations that some staff members manipulated a “demotion/graduation” system to coerce girls into giving them sexual favors or dancing naked in front of them; some girls were raped or fondled, while others were made to disrobe and shower in the presence of male employees (1995)

Brazoria County Detention Center (Angleton, TX) — CCRI

  • Guards made a training video of themselves beating, stun-gunning, and unleashing dogs on naked prisoners from Missouri; injured inmates were dragged face down back to their cells (1997)
  • Hired convicted felons as guards (1997)
  • Typical menu was inadequate and inappropriate (1997)

Corrections Corporation of America -- Eden Detention Center

  • Daylong riot in which shotgun-toting guards clashed with 400 boisterous prisoners at a low-security facility and at least 17 people were hurt (1996)

Corrections Corporation of America -- Cleveland Pre-Release Center

  • Pulled out of a pre-release prison, citing a disagreement with the local school board over money owed in lieu of taxes (1998)

Dickens County Correctional Facility (Spur, TX) — Bobby Ross Group

  • Montana inmates housed here went hungry and had to wait days for medical care (1997)
  • Company does not fully comply with 15 of 22 provisions of the contract with the state of Montana; violations include food service, medical care, security, inmate transfers and disciplinary actions, according to a report by Montana prison officials (1997)
  • One inmate is killed in a brawl, a near-riot had to be halted by gunfire from guards, a warden was fired, and two Montana escapees remain on the loose (1996-97)
Travis County State Jail (Austin, TX) — Wackenhut/Geo Group
  • 11 former guards and a case manager are indicted on felony charges of sexual assault and improper sexual activity and misdemeanor charges of sexual harassment (1999)
  • TDCJ retakes control of the facility (1999)
This information comes from a document entitled "Highlights of Private Prison Scandals in Texas," which was originally prepared by independent criminal justice policy expert Michele Deitch in 2003 using newspaper reports and the database of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.


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