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Problems and Scandals in Texas' Private Prisons: 2000-2005

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Texas private prison corporations, like many private prison corporations, were beginning to see a dip in business until the windfall of September 11, 2001 opened up the market for immigrant detention. But the trend of scandals and problems continued to carry on largely uninterrupted. Here’s some of the problems and scandals in private prisons (and jails and detention centers) that were reported in Texas newspapers from 2000-2005.

For more recent scandals and problems, see our 2006-2007 page.

Ben Reid Community Correctional Facility (Houston, TX) -- Cornell

  • The director of employee training at this halfway house for parolees was indicted for intent to distribute drugs (2004)
  • Seven employees resigned after testing positive for drug use (2004)

Bi-State Jail (Texarkansas, TX) -- CiviGenics

  • A former CiviGenics jailer was arrested for violating the civil rights of a female prisoner; the jailer was accused of sexual activity with a person in custody (2005)
  • Three prisoners, including a murder suspect, escaped and were loose for 28 hours (2004)

Bill Clayton Detention Center (Littlefield, TX) -- CSC

  • Two Wyoming prisoners escaped from the Bill Clayton Detention Center; four people, including two CSC guards, were arrested for helping the inmates escape (2004)
  • This prison is now operated by the GEO Group and there's more on them on our 2006 - present problems page.

Bradshaw State Jail (Henderson, TX) -- MTC

  • An prisoner sued an MTC guard for maliciously slamming a door on his fingers causing two fingertips to be severed, and then showing indifference to the resulting medical condition (2003)

Brooks County Detention Center (Fallfurrias, TX) -- LCS Corrections

  • An immigrant detainee escaped from Brooks County Detention Center; the resulting manhunt involved over 100 officers from the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Public Safety, the Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the local fire department (2004)

Bartlett State Jail -- Corrections Corporation of America

  • Two escapes were followed by a high-speed car chase (2000)

Cleveland Pre-Release Center -- Corrections Corporation of America

  • The company pulled out of a contract to operate this prison, citing a disagreement with the local school board over money owed in lieu of taxes (1998)

Cornell Corrections

  • A class action lawsuit was filed alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act, and claiming that the company issued favorable but false and misleading statements about the Company's business (2002)
  • The company had to restate earnings because of an innovative off-the-books transaction that violated the same SEC rules that exposed Enron’s partnerships (2002)

Frio County Detention Center (Pearsall, TX) -- CSC

  • When five federal inmates with ties to the Mexican Mafia escaped, it was the fifth escape, involving a total of 14 prisoners since 1996 at the facility (2004) The U.S. Marshals pull their remaining prisoners from the prison citing security concerns (2004)

LaSalle County Federal Detention Center (Encinal, TX) -- Emerald

  • Speculative jail was built using nearly $22 million in high-yield revenue bonds issued by the county’s public facilities corporation; the county started project losing money after it could not fill all 624 beds (2002)
  • Backers of the controversial jail sued the top official in LaSalle County claiming that he had interfered with a $25 million contract to build the facility (2003)

Liberty County Jail (Liberty, TX) -- CCA

  • Three prisoners escaped after overpowering a guard; two guards were fired for violating a jail policy which lead to the escapes (2004)

McLennan County Detention Center (Waco, TX) -- CiviGenics

  • A guard was indicted for having sex with a female prisoner (2004) A prisoner who escaped was charged with killing a woman while he was a fugitive and a guard was charged with facilitating the escape (2001)
  • Four top detention center officials resigned (2001-02) Prisoners caused a disturbance and fire in the prison(2001-02)
  • The prison failed a jail inspection (2002)

Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility (Mineral Wells, TX) -- Corrections Corporation of America

  • 23 prisoners and 6 staff contracted e-coli due to poor kitchen hygiene (2000)
  • 17 prisoners were injured during a riot. The local sheriff’s department was called in when prison staff could not quell the disturbance. (2005)

Reeves County Detention Center (Pecos, TX) -- Wackenhut/Geo Group

  • Arizona prisoners stage fights and go on hunger strikes in order to be transferred back to Arizona (2004)

Tarrant County Community Corrections Facility (Mansfield Boot Camp) (Fort Worth, TX) -- CSC

  • The company was ordered to pay $38 million to the family of an 18 year-old inmate who died of pneumonia (2004)
  • A nurse was convicted of negligent homicide in the prisoner’s death (2002)
  • Accusations of sexual misconduct by male guards against female prisoners plagued the camp since its opening in 1992. Questions were raised about staff shortages and inadequate medical care. (2001)
  • Lawsuits were filed alleging sexual abuse; Sen. Chris Harris testified against company saying it was “cutting corners” because of the “corporate bottom line.” (2001)
  • Tarrant County canceled its contract with CSC (2001)

Willacy County State Jail (Raymondville, TX) -- Wackenhut/Geo Group

  • Following an escape, TDCJ learns that electronic sensors on the perimeter fence had not worked since the facility was built, six to eight of the security television monitors were inoperable, and a perimeter patrol officer was sleeping in a car the night of the escape. (2001)

Willacy County Federal Detention Center (Raymondville, TX) -- MTC

  • Three Willacy County Commissioners plead guilty after being indicted for receiving kickbacks during the construction of the Management and Training Corporation federal prison project (2005)
  • State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. suspends his consulting work with three companies, MTC, Corplan, and Aguirre Corp., associated with the prison project (2005)

This information is based on a document entitled "Highlights of Private Prison Scandals in Texas." This document 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. The information was updated by Bob Libal in March, 2005.

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