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Alexander Youth Services Center
(AKA Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center)
Alexander, Arkansas
Group 4 (formerly run by Cornell)

January 26, 2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The state's youth detention center near Alexander has been accredited for the first time by a national correctional association. But while officials expressed optimism that the center's beleaguered past was nearing an end, two days later they were explaining a Jan. 19 incident involving mistreatment of a teenager that resulted in the firing of three staff members. The private Virginia-based company, G4S, operates the 140-bed detention center under a contract with the state Youth Services Division. Officials said Wednesday the American Correctional Association inspected the quality of life, security, food service, medical care and educational programs in November at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center, and later accredited the facility. Center administrator Todd Speight said he viewed accreditation as a sign that the center was making progress. "I see this as turning a corner," Speight said. "We've got a long way to go, but we're making good progress." The previous contractor, Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc., was fired in late 2006. G4S has run the center for about a year. Previously known as the Alexander Youth Services Center or the Alexander Juvenile Correctional Facility, the center is the state's largest youth residential treatment facility. Two days after announcing the accreditation, officials said one staff member lost his job for using inappropriate physical force and two others were fired for trying to protect him. Speight said a male employee physically restrained a 17-year-old boy in a dormitory in a manner that was "completely inappropriate." He said two others were fired for misleading investigators because the original report attempted to conceal the nature of the scuffle. Speight, who did not disclose the employees' names, said he was disappointed by the firings, but stressed that center employees are hard workers who try to do their best. "These three did something inappropriate and were held accountable," he said. The Bryant Police Department and the Arkansas State Police are investigating. Scott Tanner, a state ombudsman for juvenile justice issues, said the teenager apparently suffered a sore ankle but his safety was not an issue. "This doesn't seem to be standard operating procedure, but something out of the ordinary," Tanner said. The center's history includes incidents of abuse, mismanagement and educational shortfalls. In 2003, the state and the U.S. Justice Department signed a court agreement to improve shortcomings in fire prevention, suicide prevention, religious policies and educational programs.

July 25, 2007 Arkansas News
The state is developing a plan to improve special education programs at an embattled state lockup for troubled youth, officials told lawmakers Tuesday. Special education at the Alexander Juvenile Correction Facility were found lacking in a report last month. "Yes, we intend to fix the problems out there," former state Rep. Steve Jones, now deputy director of the state Department of Human Services, told lawmakers at a meeting Tuesday. DHS oversees the Division of Youth Services, which runs the Alexander unit and other juvenile facilities in the state. During the meeting, legislators expressed concern with a June report by the state Department of Education, which found that DHS is not in compliance with several state and federal regulations regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Act. The report found procedures for the evaluation of specific learning disabilities were lacking at the Alexander facility, which houses some of the state's most violent youth offenders. Other problem areas included individualized education programs and, in some cases, children were advanced a grade even though DYS was not providing an appropriate education to them. Also, parents of the children were not being informed of their rights regarding special education programs. "Just because a kid is in jail doesn't mean they don't deserve a good education," said Sen. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, upset with DYS. About 500 children a year stay at the 143-bed facility in Saline County. Marcia Harding, associate director of special education for the state Department of Education, told lawmakers DYS is supposed to present a correction action on how it plans to deal with some of the problem on Aug. 1. A plan to address the rest is due Sept. 15. The officials addressed a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs. Also during the meeting, Hendren and other lawmakers said they did not understand why the special-needs education deficiencies identified in a study two years ago have still not been addressed. "Who is in charge of getting this mess fixed?" Hendren asked, saying he did not want to "beat this up time and time again." DHS Director John Selig agreed the problems should have been addressed, but he said a variety circumstances, including the firing of the facilities management, Cornell Cos. Inc., in November, and the hiring of G4S Youth Services in January, were partially to blame.

June 19, 2007 The Morning News
A new report identifying problems in the special education program at the former Alexander Youth Services Center -- some of which were previously identified in a 2005 study -- drew frustrated comments Monday from legislative panels that oversee the state's youth lockups. "It seems we're planning ourselves to death but we're not getting anything accomplished," said state Rep. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan, during a joint meeting of the House and Senate committees on children and youth. In a report released this month, the state Education Department cites about 50 practices at the facility, now known as the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center, that don't comply with state and federal regulations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The department has directed the Division of Youth Services to develop a plan of action for correcting the problems. Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, said that on visits to the facility in Saline County she has been "extremely unimpressed" with the educational practices she saw, which she said seemed to consist of youths playing on a computer. "Do we have any way of determining if they're really learning something, or if we're just letting a computer baby-sit them?" she asked. The House chairwoman, Rep. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said a lack of sufficient information gathering is one of the problems highlighted in the report. Chesterfield said scrutiny is needed for the educational services the state provides to all youth in custody, not only those in need of special education. Scott Tanner, ombudsman coordinator for the state Public Defender Commission, testified that the Division of Youth Services has had chronic problems with its education system at least since 2000, the year he became an ombudsman. Education services at the facility are provided by Group 4 Securicor, the private company that took over operation of the facility in January. The state fired the facility's previous operator, Cornell Companies, in November after a state investigation found evidence that psychotropic drugs may have been administered improperly to some youths as a restraint. The facility also was investigated in 2005, after 17-year-old Lakeisha Brown died from a blood clot in her lungs two days after complaining to staff that she felt ill. Cornell was ordered to revamp some of its policies as a result of that investigation. Madison asked Monday whether it would be more appropriate for the education of youth in custody to be undertaken by the state rather than a private company. Education Department attorney Scott Smith said he did not believe it would. Trying to incorporate students in custody into the state's public education system would require compliance with numerous state and federal mandates that currently are waived, he said. "The reason I ask is, there's something wrong with the picture in my mind when you have state agencies ..... firmly committed to a free public education, and then we turn around and hire a private company to deliver that," Madison said. "I just have a hard time thinking that that's a good idea." Steve Jones, a former state representative who recently became deputy director of the Department of Health and Human Services, told the committee the Division of Youth Services is working on a plan to correct the problems. Rep. Dawn Creekmore, D-Hensley, noted that the division developed a plan of action previously, after a 2005 report cited problems with the facility's educational system. "It's time to quit putting plans of action on paper and time to bring something to the table, take some action, physical action, for improvement. These children are still here, and we're just letting them down continuously, year after year after year," she said. "It is children that the state Department of Education is all about, and it is children that DYS is all about," Chesterfield said. "Somewhere the bureaucratic -- we're not going to use the alliterative -- the bureaucratic stuff, if you will, has got to be overcome for the children." Jones assured the committees the division would achieve real results.

April 21, 2007 AP
Two employees at the Alexander Juvenile Correctional Facility have been fired after allegations that they physically abused a 15-year-old girl, the lockup's administrator said. Todd Speight, facility administrator, said two employees were fired because of an incident involving the girl, but emphasized there are many more employees who are trying hard to be a positive influence on the youths. "Our philosophy is we will treat kids right. We truly believe we will turn Alexander around. Not a doubt," Speight said. "We understand there are going to be some negative things at a program that large but we are all about correcting those things with oversight and supervision." The girl, who had been at Alexander for about four months, called advocacy group Disability Rights Center in early April to report the abuse. The teen told the group's investigator that on March 25 she lost consciousness while she was restrained on the floor of her dorm, according to a report released by the Disability Rights Center. While the group was investigating, the girl's family called and reported that she had bruises on her body from another restraint on April 10. This is the fourth incident at Alexander investigated by the Disability Rights Center, which has released reports on the allegations of abuse to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "It's not just one bad thing that we can say, 'It happened but we fixed it,' and can go on," said Dana McClain, a senior attorney with Disability Rights Center. "It's an ongoing thing." The center is run by G4S Youth Services, which took over after the state fired the previous contractor, Cornell Cos. Inc. Cornell was fired after allegations that nurses inappropriately gave anti- psychotic medications to calm bad behavior. Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Human Services, said the agency is closely watching G4S' work at Alexander. "We want to send a very clear message that change is still going on out at Alexander, very positive change," Munsell said. "We've seen a change in the demeanor not only of the staff but also of the campus as a whole."

March 16, 2007 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Advocates investigating a claim of abuse by a teenager at the Alexander Juvenile Correctional Facility say employees failed to help the boy even as his screams could be heard behind a closed door in an office without a surveillance camera, according to a report released to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday. In its eight-page report, the Disability Rights Center claims the 15- year-old boy was restrained on the ground for too long during an obscenity-laced encounter with staff members. The advocacy group released its report to the state and to G4S Youth Services, the company that runs the facility, and is calling for disciplinary action against some employees. G4S is investigating the incident with renewed vigor, said John Morgenthau, the company’s chief operating officer and vice president.

January 18, 2007 KATV
Lawmakers said Thursday they plan to study the future of the Alexander youth lockup--and whether they should continue using private companies to run the facility. The Joint Budget Committee reviewed a $4.9 million contract for G4S Youth Services of Virginia, which will take control of the Alexander juvenile facility beginning Sunday. John Selig, director of Department of Health and Human Services, told lawmakers he's confident the company will provide better management than Cornell Companies, which was fired last year for inappropriately injecting children with antipsychotic medications. State Senator Shane Broadway, a Democrat from Bryant, says he wants the Legislature to have more oversight of the youth facility. Broadway says he hopes there is further discussion on the future of the lockup.

January 11, 2007 Arkansas News Bureau
The state Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to enter into a short-term contract with a company to operate the troubled Alexander Juvenile Correctional Facility in Saline County, agency officials said Wednesday. The agency has signed a $4.5 million contract with G4S Youth Services in Richmond, Va., a division of the British-based Group 4 Securicor, for the company to operate the facility from Jan. 21 through June 30, DHHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell said. The contract is pending approval by the Department of Finance and Administration. At the end of the six-month period, the state will have the option of renewing the contract for an additional year, Munsell said. Munsell said no bids were taken because the agreement was reached under emergency procedures. The agency considered the situation an emergency because of safety and welfare concerns for the 143 youths at the facility, she said. The state fired Cornell Companies, the Pennsylvania-based company that previously ran the facility, in November after a state investigation indicated psychotropic drugs may have been administered improperly to some youths to restrain them. Munsell said Cornell is still at the site, but the state has been in charge since Nov. 3.

December 12, 2006 Arkansas News
Discussions are going well with a British-based corporation that may be asked to take over operation of the problem-plagued Alexander Youth Services Center in Saline County, officials told legislators Monday. John Selig, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the agency is in discussions with Group 4 Securicor, or G4S, about the possibility of assuming operation of the center. The British first would take over for Pennsylvania-based Cornell Companies. DHHS terminated its contract with the Cornell this summer after announcing an investigation discovered that staff at the center may have administered psychotropic drugs to some youths as a restraint. Speaking at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor, Selig said the agency contacted health services agencies in other states for advice on replacing Cornell, and G4S' name came up.

November 5, 2006 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
An advocacy group that has been monitoring Alexander Youth Services Center for months said Saturday that Arkansas isn’t meeting the mental health, education and special education needs of the children at the troubled facility as required by the U. S. Department of Justice and state law. Problems at the center are systemic, said Dana McClain, a senior attorney with the Disability Rights Center, a federally funded Little Rock nonprofit that assists disabled Arkansans. “We don’t think this is rehabilitation, and state law says it is supposed to be [for youthful offenders ]. I think it’s punishment,” she said. “I feel like these children are being set up to go to adult prison.” At some point, she said, the youthful offenders at the lockup will get out, “and you hope when they do they’ve got a better shot at being productive members of society.” A draft copy of the group’s lengthy report detailing “failures” at the center in Saline County was given to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Saturday — a day after the state unexpectedly ended its contract with Cornell Cos. Inc., a Houston company that ran the center for the past five years. An internal investigation found that employees were “inappropriately” drugging youthful offenders with psychotropic drugs to control bad behavior. The state was paying Cornell about $ 10 million annually. News about the forced medications, sometimes given without a doctor’s order, prompted some legislators and others to renew calls Friday to shut down the state’s largest lockup for youthful offenders. The Disability Rights Center report, which outlines about 50 problems, is expected to be released publicly later this week. McClain said her group will meet with the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday to discuss the findings. Monitors for Disability Rights have been making unannounced visits, as allowed by federal statute, to the center at least three times a month since March. “Under the contract these are things Cornell was responsible for providing,” McClain said. “I hope [Health and Human Services ] doesn’t just address that one issue [about the medication ]. This is a good time to do more because they are starting anew.” The agency has been responsive so far, McClain noted. Cornell, however, didn’t address some of the major concerns that Mc-Clain said she repeatedly talked to company employees about. Julie Munsell, Health and Human Services spokesman, said her agency has received a copy of the report but she declined to comment about the details until it is published and officials meet with the group’s representatives. Health and Human Services is the umbrella agency over the Youth Services Division, which now operates the youth lockup. In general, Munsell said, the state has made many strides since entering into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice in March 2003 after a federal investigation found civil rights violations in the delivery of mental-health care, education, fire safety and freedom of religious expression at the center. Still, more work is needed, particularly with the center’s education system, she acknowledged. “We do still struggle with education issues at Alexander, and we’ve been working with the Department of Education to improve those issues,” she said. “We will always strive to get to an ideal setting, but it will take us time to get there.” The Justice Department hasn’t visited the center since January. Over the years, the youths at the Alexander center have complained that employees kicked, slapped and even threatened them with death. Others killed themselves. One boy, known for days to be suicidal, was able to hang himself a few years ago with a bedsheet. An investigation later found that his guard didn’t check on him. Another boy hanged himself in the same cell just a few months later — just as the state hired Cornell to take over the facility and fix its problems. And last year, a 17-year-old girl at the center died of blood clots in her lungs. She complained to nurses and supervisors that she was ill, but they didn’t believe her, even as she lay dying, according to a subsequent investigation. Munsell said her agency plans to work with the Disability Rights Center to address the group’s concerns. The Department of Justice couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday. During visits to the lockup, McClain said monitors found: Youths watching Harry Potter movies during science class on more than one occasion. A student sleeping on his keyboard, even though a teacher was sitting at a desk in the same classroom. No teacher-led reading program, even though at least 50 percent of the youthful offenders at the center have difficulties reading, and in some cases, can’t read at all. (An ombudsman who regularly visits the center said the youths are supposed to use a computer-based reading program at their own pace, but he has seen no evidence that such a system has.

November 4, 2006 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas terminated its contract with Cornell Cos. Inc. to run the troubled Alexander Youth Services Center on Friday after learning that employees were drugging youths to control unruly behavior — in many cases without doctors ’ orders, in violation of facility policy and against the children’s wills. A preliminary investigation found that from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15, nurses at the center gave 63 injections ofanti-psychotic drugs that have a sedative effect, including Thorazine, to 25 children in the center’s custody. “There is an appropriate circumstance under which you can give a chemical restraint,” said Julie Munsell, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. “Our concern is that in many of these cases, they appear not to have been appropriate.” The internal investigation into the use of chemical restraints triggered a series of events: The Health and Human Services Department placed three Alexander employees on administrative leave, the state Board of Nursing was notified, and Gov. Mike Huckabee ordered a review of Cornell’s policies as well as an Arkansas State Police investigation into what happened. State police investigators are working through the weekend so that they can give Huckabee a preliminary report Monday. Munsell said her agency gave state police its investigative file, which is a foot thick. “Although we hired a nationally reputable contractor to provide services, this appears to be a second major breakdown in the facility’s medical system, and we are no longer confident in the management at the Alexander campus,” Health and Human Services Director John Selig said Friday afternoon. Last year, investigators with the Health and Human Services Department uncovered widespread problems with the medical system at Alexander after 17-year-old inmate Keisha Brown died from blood clots to her lungs. Brown had repeatedly complained that she was ill but some nurses and supervisors at the center did not believe her — even in the last minutes of her life. “Some of us have had concerns with the contract ever since the incident of Keisha Brown’s death,” said Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville. “We were concerned that her medical care was not what it should have been.” After Keisha’s death, Sen. Terry Smith, D-Hot Springs, urged the Health and Human Services Department to end its contract with Cornell and blasted state officials for not better monitoring the for-profit company. Upon learning about the state’s decision Friday night, Smith said, “I told you so. “Apparently this company is not on top of things, and the state employees [who ] are over this are not on top of things. No one is checking on anybody, and this is what happened. It’s just terrible.” In a five-page summary, Health and Human Services Department internal investigators outlined several policy violations and other findings from the 45-day review: Evidence of “falsifying” doctors’ orders on at least two occasions to show that the child should receive injections “as needed.” The original orders did not include that option. Evidence from video surveillance tapes and interviews with the children that some of the inmates were given the injections against their will. Policy allows youths to refuse the injections so long as it is not an emergency situation in which the child may endanger himself or others. Physician order sheets for some of the children that did not include orders for the injections. Eleven incidents during which the doctor gave a verbal order to use the medication but never signed any documents, which is required. No evidence that orders for use of “PRN medications,” which means give as needed, were reviewed annually as required. No evidence that a second physician reviewed orders for forced injections as required. No evidence that an independent psychiatrist reviewed the orders for forced injections, as required to ensure the children’s right to due process. Evidence that employees did not properly document the use of the injections. The lack of documentation made it harder for investigators to piece together exactly what happened during those 45 days, Munsell said. Over the years, the inmates at Alexander have complained that employees kicked, slapped and even threatened them with death. Others killed themselves while there. One boy, known for days to be suicidal, was able to hang himself with a bed sheet because his guard didn’t check on him. Another boy hanged himself in the same cell just a few months later — just as the state hired Cornell Cos. Inc. to take over the facility and fix problems there. In 2002, the U. S. Department of Justice found that dozens of problems remained. Most have since been resolved. The center also is used as an intake facility for all children who come into the state detention system.

December 29, 2005 Benton Courier
A report on the escape of two 17-year-old prisoners in the state youth lockup at Alexander says guards sleeping on the job was one of the reasons the boys were able to break free. The report also says someone inside the facility may have known of the escape plans. Four staff members have been fired from the facility run by the private Cornell Companies. The 12-page report by the state Division of Youth Services says staff members lied about a head count and that a number of guards were asleep when the two escaped. In the short time before Bryant police caught Villegas and Lamberth, the two allegedly burglarized and vandalized Zion Lutheran Church in the Avilla community. The teenagers allegedly stole $140 and took off in the church's van. The report says one of the boys admitted taking a key from the staff desk and unlocking the door to their dorm a week before the escape. The report said the boys got over razor wire by putting a bath mat over it. State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said the agency is addressing the problems outlined in the report. "It does show them walking past the staff member who was not moving at the time which indicates perhaps that employee was asleep and, according to interviews with clients, that's what happened at the time," Munsell said. "We had multiple system failures; that's what we really want to address," Munsell said. Munsell said one worker falsified a log "because she did not know how long the youth had been gone. ... She was nervous about the outcome of that." "It is very disconcerting. I think that you have employees exhibiting gross negligence on the job, which is why the expectation is that you take aggressive action," Munsell said.

December 10, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Two 17-yearold boys face adult prison time, and a private corrections company suspended five employees without pay after an early Friday morning escape from the Alexander Youth Services Center near Bryant. Police said they tracked Benjamin Lamberth and Rusty Villegas as they attempted to flee toward Lamberth's home in Cherokee Village by intercepting cell phone calls, nabbing them about nine hours later in a stolen church van near Cave City. Lamberth and Villegas asked to go to the bathroom, then reportedly bolted through an emergency exit door at Alexander about 1 a. m. They scaled the perimeter fence, draping a shower mat over the razor wire, said Julie Munsell, spokesman for the Department of Human Services. The emergency exit door should have been locked, she said, guessing that the boys had a key. "This was not something spontaneous. They had been planning this for several weeks," she said. Apparently, the teenagers opened the doors without touching a bar that would have triggered a security alarm, she said. Bryant police were not notified until 4 a. m., when the boys were found missing during a routine check. The three hours it took for center officials to realize the boys had escaped will be the subject of an internal investigation. Several security checks should have been made during that period, Munsell said. The state reached a legal agreement with the U. S. Department of Justice in 2003 to eliminate deficits in training and unsafe conditions at the youth lockup. Some minor education and health record issues remain to be resolved before the state can be released from federal supervision, Munsell said Friday. In April 2005, 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown died of blood clots to her lungs while at the center. State and company investigations found lapses in care and violations of state and facility policy in her treatment. A programs supervisor and nursing manager resigned and three employees were disciplined.

October 26, 2005 Record Times
LaKeisha Brown likely had been suffering from blood clots in her lungs for at least two days and possibly as long as two weeks before she collapsed at the Alexander Youth Services Center and then died on April 9, the state medical examiner said Tuesday. A preliminary autopsy report released soon after 17-year-old "Keisha" died listed the cause of death as blood clots from her legs that traveled to her lungs. Last week, her mother, Juana Michelle Brown, gave the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette a copy of the final autopsy report, which she had just received. Autopsies are not public records in Arkansas. Dr. Charles Kokes, the state medical examiner, explained aspects of the final report in an interview Tuesday. "I think if she somehow had been diagnosed in the days prior to her death, it's possible she could have survived," Kokes said, but added that a pulmonary thromboembolism - the medical term for a blood clot in the lungs - can be difficult to detect. Keisha's medical records show that both nurses and some facility managers believed she was faking sickness for attention at the time of her death. An investigation this summer by the state Board of Nursing found that nurses at Alexander did not provide the teenage inmate with adequate medical care in the days before her death and violated facility policy and state nursing laws. Another investigation by the state Youth Services Division found that senior management "was negligent" because it did not ensure systems were in place to provide Keisha the medical care she needed. Because of Keisha's death, the Youth Services Division of the state Department of Health and Human Services uncovered widespread problems with the medical system at the state's largest lockup for youthful offenders, the head of the Youth Services Division told state legislators this summer. The problems, Kenneth Hales explained, have been or are being corrected. For one, the state, which has contracted with the private company Cornell Cos. Inc. to run Alexander, has begun auditing medical files of youths at the facility to ensure they are receiving proper care. Before Keisha's death, the state only audited the company to make sure it was meeting contractual obligations in operating the facility. This summer, Cornell fired two contract nurses, the center's nurse manager and its program supervisor, who also is the second-in-command at the Alexander center, Jane Miller, director of behavioral health services for Cornell, has said. Three other employees were disciplined, and more than a dozen quit. Cornell has apologized for Keisha's death but maintains it is not at fault.

October 22, 2005 Arkansas News
The company that operates Alexander Youth Services Center has revamped many of its medical policies in response to the death of a teenager at the center earlier this year, a company representative said Friday. Testifying before the Arkansas Legislative Council, the employee of Cornell Companies Inc. said more nurses were hired and "sick call" rules for youth housed at the facility were changed following the April death of 17-year-old Lakeisha Brown. A state investigation found nurses at the 349-bed juvenile detention center may not have immediately responded to Brown's health complaints. The cause of Brown's death was a blood clot in her lungs. An investigation by Cornell found no direct link between Brown's death and inaction by Cornell personnel. Four employees resigned and one was fired after the incident. According to Cornell's corrective action plan, no nurses employed at Alexander at the time of Brown's death are still working at the center.

August 11, 2005 AP
The death of a 17-year-old at the Alexander Youth Services Center in April, and the investigation that resulted, uncovered widespread problems at the facility, a state official says. Kenneth Hales, director of the Division of Youth Services in the state Department of Human Services, told state legislators Wednesday that "systematic weaknesses" turned up when officials took a close look at the circumstances of LaKeisha Brown's April 7 death, after she had collapsed at the youth lockup from a blood clot in her lungs. "It was not just LaKeisha," Hales said. Investigations showed that staff members violated the policies of the facility, operated under contract by Cornell Companies Inc. of Houston, as well as DHS regulations and state regulations for nurses. Julie Munsell, a spokesman for the agency, said DHS had regularly audited the Alexander center to confirm that Cornell was meeting its contractual obligations. But she said those auditors were not trained to evaluate the medical procedures and policies being used by the company. "That is something that we have had to ask for some additional assistance to evaluate, because our auditors are not clinicians," Munsell said. "The audit is just not designed to do that." Hales told the Legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee that a review of procedures showed that, when an inmate reported being sick, "it was difficult to tell what the response to that sick call was." "When the nurses examined a youth, you couldn't tell what they saw or what they concluded to do following that examination," he said.
The investigations also found that nurses at the facility lacked supervision, were poorly trained and weren't given good instruction on what their supervisors expected of them, Hales said.

August 3, 2005 AP
Two top managers lost their jobs at a state youth lockup where a teenager died and three other employees received reprimands, according to the private firm that runs the facility. Houston-based Cornell Cos. Inc. also said Tuesday that, in response to the April death of 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown, it had put in place an action plan that includes better orientation and training procedures for all staff and an organizational chart with clearly defined lines of authority. DHS spokesman Julie Munsell said Tuesday evening that Cornell officials had informed the agency that program director Joann McCoy and nurse manager Polly King were no longer employed at the Alexander center. She said the officials did not say whether the two were fired or resigned. Additionally, three employees received written reprimands: licensed practical nurses Holly Clark and Kim Clough and an unnamed member of the facility's clerical staff, Munsell said. The company found more than a dozen problems with Brown's care. Among them were: The center's top managers did not adequately review Brown's care after her death and nurses inadequately responded to her when she collapsed repeatedly and complained of shortness of breath and exhaustion in the days and hours before her death.

July 28, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Disciplinary action expected against some employees at Alexander Youth Services Center for the way they handled 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown has been delayed, a spokesman for a private company that runs the youth lockup facility for the state said Wednesday. Cornell Cos. Inc. spokesman Lisa Tauser had said Tuesday that a team of company employees were meeting that night to implement personnel changes recommended after the Houston-based company investigated the April 9 death of "Keisha." In a report released Tuesday, a team of Cornell employees suggested the company suspend nurses who responded to or cared for Keisha when she collapsed repeatedly and complained of shortness of breath and exhaustion in the last days and hours of her life. A preliminary autopsy report shows that Keisha died of blood clots to the lungs. The team also said "senior management" should be held "strictly accountable" for failing to ensure the necessary systems were in place so that Keisha would receive the proper medical care. An unidentified clerical employee also should be "disciplined" and placed under stricter supervision for making a decision about Keisha's care without calling a doctor or nurse, the report shows. Cornell's investigation found more than a dozen problems with her care. The team noted that the facility's top managers did not adequately review Keisha's care after her death and that nurses "inadequately" addressed Keisha's medical concerns. Her records show that the nurses did not believe she was really sick and did not call a doctor until she was unconscious. Keisha had been at Alexander, the state's largest juvenile lockup, for nearly two years after being adjudicated for drug possession, rape and inciting a riot. Last week, the State Board of Nursing released a report saying that six nurses at the center violated state nursing regulations in the way they dealt with Keisha. The board now is conducting additional investigations to determine discipline for each nurse.

July 27, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Senior management at Alexander Youth Services Center should be "held accountable" for failing to ensure 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown received the proper care before she died, and nurses there should be suspended for inadequately addressing her needs, a private company that runs the facility for the state has decided.  A clerical employee working in the facility's medical unit also should be "disciplined" and placed under stricter supervision for making a decision about the care Keisha received without consulting a doctor or nurse, according to a Cornell Cos. Inc. report released by the Department of Human Services on Tuesday evening.  Facility Director Bob McCracken, a Cornell employee, did not return a message for comment Tuesday.  The recommendation to dole out punishment is part of a twopage report detailing the investigation Cornell conducted last month of its own operations after Keisha died April 9 of a suspected blood clot to the lungs. Cornell's investigation comes after critical investigations by the state Division of Youth Services and the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, both of which found that employees and nurses broke protocol in the way they handled Keisha. Cornell's investigation, conducted by a team of employees of the Houston-based company, found more than a dozen problems with her care. The team noted that the facility's top managers did not adequately review Keisha's care after her death.  The Cornell investigation also found that nurses at the facility "inadequately" responded to Keisha's needs when she collapsed repeatedly and complained of shortness of breath and exhaustion in the days and hours before her death. Keisha's medical records show that the nurses did not believe she was really sick and did not call a doctor until she was unconscious. Keisha had been at Alexander, the state's largest juvenile lock-up, for nearly two years after being adjudicated for drug possession, rape and inciting a riot.  The report also states that the facility's ability to handle medical emergencies at the time was "inadequate or nonexistent," that "senior management" was negligent when it failed to ensure all systems were in place to provide Keisha with the care she needed and that nurses were more focused on dealing with Keisha's complaints internally than evaluating her medical condition. The Nursing Board investigated the actions of nurses at the facility. Last week, the board released a report saying that six nurses at the center violated state nursing regulations in the way they dealt with Keisha.  The Nursing Board is now conducting additional investigations to determine what discipline each nurse will receive and whether they will be able to keep their licenses.  State legislators also have been critical of the company. In the past two months, they have called for additional investigations into Keisha's death, leading to the Nursing Board report. Other legislators suggested that the state find another company to oversee the Alexander center, but no such action has been taken.

July 25, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Now that we know that workers at Alexander Youth Services Center broke the rules, what are we going to do about it?
Someone in a position of real power and authority ought to be asking this question, because breaking rules is serious business, you know. Break enough of them, or at least the wrong ones, and somebody could get hurt or even die.
Which, of course, somebody did. Her name was LaKeisha Brown. She was 17. The official cause was blood clots in her lungs, but just between us, I believe she was ignored to death.  The state Board of Nursing has completed its inquiry and found that a state law and several regulations were violated by some of Keisha's purported caretakers. Altogether, four staff nurses and two contract nurses were identified as being involved in one or more of the infractions.  In case you missed reporter Amy Upshaw's comprehensive report, found in Thursday's editions, here are the highlights of the board's inquiry.  No evidence has been found that the registered nurses on duty when Brown repeatedly collapsed before succumbing were supervising the licensed practical nurses on the scene.  Three of the workers who assessed Keisha's condition and made decisions about her (lack of) medical care were LPNs, not RNs as required.  Five workers knowingly or consistently failed to accurately or intelligibly report or document Keisha's condition. Five staffers failed to notify the designated physician of Keisha's worsening condition over the course of three days.  Now that this inquiry is over, what's next? According to Upshaw's report, the nursing board now plans to investigate each nurse's particular involvement in the case with an eye toward considering whether to take some action against them. Isn't that special?  OK, so due process is the path we follow in these parts, and it's better to take things one step at a time rather than jump the gun. But a 17-year-old girl is dead and someone needs to answer for that. Clearly, state law enforcement officials, who also investigated this "sudden" death that was several days in coming, have closed the books on it and no prosecutors have been heard from. Apparently, continued investigation by the nursing board is the only avenue still open.  State Sen. Shane Broadway, one of the handful of lawmakers who have expressed shock and outrage at Keisha's death, the details of which were first publicized by Upshaw, understands that there are two points of concern here. The first, obviously, is the death of one person. The second is the quality of the care given to others still in her circumstances, i.e., consigned against their will to the juvenile detention facility at Alexander.  "You're talking about a lot of children's lives," Broadway said last week. "The quality of care is very important. It's important that we treat each child even though they have many difficulties. They're still in state custody, and they are our responsibility." I suppose technically they are in state custody. Practically speaking, they are in the custody of people who work for a private company that operates Alexander under a contract with the state. And the private company, Cornell Companies Inc., of Houston, Texas, doesn't seem too exercised about the situation. Oh, they say that they're "very sorry" about Keisha's death, of course, and that "corrections and revisions" are being made to policies and procedures, but so far the company honchos have mad e no decisions concerning personnel.  I'm very sorry Keisha is dead, too. I'm very sorry every time someone confined at Alexander dies. What I want to know is when someone in authority is going to do something about it. Apparently there is no such person at this time, so it's up to us, the voting public, to find someone. It'll take time-the next election is more than a year away-but if we start with the next prosecutorial, legislative or gubernatorial candidate we meet, if we ask that person what he or she intends to do to make Alexander fit for human habitation, and if we keep asking this of candidates, we'll get it cleaned up.  Frankly, I don't hold out much hope. I've been writing about that hell hole for almost a quarter-century, so my main consolation today is that I won't be around long enough to do it for a quarter-century more. But hope dies hard. There must be someone somewhere who expects more for tackling the Alexander problem than a cush ride on a fast track to higher office.

July 21, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The state Board of Nursing has found that the way six nurses at the state's largest juvenile lockup handled 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown as she fell ill and died violated a state nursing law and several regulations, according to a report released Wednesday afternoon.  The Nursing Board, which was asked by state officials to investigate how the nurses dealt with Brown, now plans to investigate each nurse's involvement in her care at Alexander Youth Services Center and could discipline them or revoke their licenses, said Deborah Jones, assistant director of nursing practices for the state. As of Wednesday evening, all six nurses still were working at the Alexander center, said Lisa Tauser, a spokesman for Cornell Cos. Inc., the Houston-based private company that runs the lockup as a contractor for the state. The company still is trying to decide whether any of the nurses or other employees should be punished regarding the April 9 death.  Meanwhile, the Arkansas Medical Society, which was asked to review pediatrician Robert Choate's involvement in Brown's care, said it was not "possible" to do so because the nurses failed to tell Choate about her worsening condition on April 7, 8 or 9. Choate could not be reached Wednesday for comment.  Among the Nursing Board's findings: There's no evidence that the registered nurses on duty when Brown repeatedly collapsed before her death "supervised" the licensed practical nurses, who have less training and are required by the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act to work under RNs, physicians or other more qualified medical professionals.  Five nurses violated facility policy and the Board of Nursing rules and regulations for "knowingly or consistently failing to accurately or intelligibly report or document a patient's symptoms, responses, progress, medications and/or treatment."  Five nurses violated center policy and Nursing Board rules and showed "unprofessional conduct" by failing to notify Choate of Brown's condition.  A Youth Services Division internal investigation into her death found evidence that facility employees violated several policies in the days and hours before her death. On the day Brown died, for example, a supervisor dismissed an employee's request to call an ambulance, and nurses did not call a doctor until Brown was unconscious.

July 8, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
A private company that runs the Alexander Youth Services Center for the state released details Thursday about how it will address problems found after the April death of 17-year-old inmate LaKeisha Brown, but the company has yet to decide whether any employees will be disciplined for how they treated her.  Any disciplinary action or personnel changes will take another three months, according to a letter and a preliminary corrective-action plan the company sent the state Youth Services Division on July 1. Some are calling for a more speedy decision.  The plan shows that Houston-based Cornell Cos. Inc. will provide additional training for employees, require more extensive documentation about medical complaints and treatments, and conduct medical emergency drills.  The company also will require nurses to consult a doctor if an inmate complains about the same symptoms twice in a 24-hour period, as "Keisha" did.  Though Keisha's mother and legislators say they are happy that Cornell is learning from what happened, they believe the company needs to hold someone accountable for the poor decisions made regarding Keisha's medical care.  "I am appalled about them not reprimanding anyone. How long will it take?" Keisha's mother, Juana Michelle Brown, said Thursday evening. "You need to go ahead and do something because you're saying, `It's OK' about what happened."  State Sen. Sue Madison also said Cornell is moving too slowly. "They should have started that process the minute she died," Madison, D-Fayetteville, said.  A Youth Services Division internal investigation into her death found evidence that facility employees violated several policies in the days and hours before her death. On the day Keisha died, for example, a supervisor dismissed an employee's request to call Keisha an ambulance, and nurses did not call a doctor until Keisha was unconscious.  As a result of its investigation, the state asked Cornell to provide a plan within 30 days detailing how they would better train employees and ensure better documentation is kept regarding medical concerns and treatment. The corrective action plan released Thursday is in response to the state's request.  The Arkansas State Police also investigated Keisha's death but found no criminal wrongdoing.  When legislators learned details of the last days of Keisha's life, some called for additional investigations into her medical treatment and suggested the state find another company to oversee the Alexander facility.  "Somebody needs to answer for what happened to Keisha," Madison said. "If they were following proper procedures, then they better change their procedures. If they weren't, then there ought to be some ramifications there.  "Surely, surely, their proper procedures are better than the way she was treated," she said.

June 18, 2005 The Associated Press State & Local Wire
A Houston-based company responsible for managing the Alexander Youth Services Center has apologized for the death of a female teenage inmate who died while in Arkansas custody. "On behalf of my company and all of the employees at Alexander, we're sorry," said Jane Miller, director of behavioral health services for Cornell Cos. Inc. "There's nothing more horrible than a child dying in our care." LaKeisha Brown, 17, died from a blood clot that traveled to her lungs on April 9. The girl was to be released May 1. An internal investigation by the Arkansas Department of Human Service's youth division suggested that medical personnel and others at the center may not have responded properly to the girl's repeated complaints about her health condition.

June 16, 2005 AP
The state fired a prison guard for having sex with an inmate. Now, the man has been hired by state- and county-run youth lockups. John Berry, 40, monitors children part-time at the Alexander Youth Services Center, which the state runs through a private contractor, and full-time at the juvenile detention center in Pine Bluff, a Jefferson County facility. Berry has denied allegations from an internal affairs investigation that he had sex with an inmate at the Tucker maximum security prison. The 16-year Department of Correction employee rose to the rank of sergeant before he was fired in October 2002. Alexander Youth Services director Bob McCracken was surprised when asked Wednesday by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper about Berry's rehiring Wednesday. He said a criminal background check, a child-molestation registry check and reference checks were conducted on Berry and turned up nothing.

June 16, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
State legislators Wednesday were critical of Alexander Youth Services Center employees responsible for 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown on the day she died and said her death should be investigated further. "No one was satisfied with the results of the investigation so far," Sen. Sue Madison, D- Fayetteville, said of the Youth Services Division internal investigation into the case. "I think we are going to be monitoring Alexander a lot more closely." The Youth Services Division investigation found credible evidence that employees violated several policies in the days and hours before "Keisha" died. Specifically, the investigator found that a supervisor dismissed an employee's request to call an ambulance for Keisha and that nurses did not call a doctor for Keisha when they should have. But no one has been disciplined in connection with her death. The private company that runs the Alexander lockup, Cornell Cos. Inc., has been asked by the state to better train employees and to ensure that better documentation is kept in regard to medical concerns and treatment. "Why hasn't someone been terminated?" Madison asked after a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House interim Committee on Aging and Legislative Affairs. "The nurse just turned a deaf ear to this because she was tired of her." Madison said neither Cornell nor the Youth Services Division provided her with the internal investigation or detailed information about Keisha's death. Instead, she found details from reading the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Keisha, who had lived at the lockup for youthful offenders for nearly two years, collapsed at least three times and complained of tiredness during the two days before her April 9 death, records show. However, nurses said nothing was wrong with her. On the day she died, Keisha could barely walk or get out of bed, according to records. She had lost color in her lips and complained of being cold, having difficulty breathing and of being tired. Again, the nurse said everything was fine. A preliminary autopsy report shows that Keisha died of a blood clot in her lungs. As legislators peppered Hales and McCracken with questions, Sen. Terry Smith, D-Hot Springs, interrupted the meeting so the two officials could speak to a committee down the hall that was reviewing Cornell's contract. "From one oil pan to another," Smith told Hales and McCracken. As he walked to the other meeting, Smith said he wants to end Cornell's contract with the state because of the way Keisha was treated. "What happened was totally unprofessional. They didn't follow their own protocols," he said. "[Keisha] wasn't sent down there with a death sentence. Madison also said Scott Tanner, a juvenile-services ombudsman with the state Public Defender Commission, could have done more to help Keisha. "It seems to me that your office was created to prevent this kind of incident," she said. "Something doesn't seem to be working here."

April 16, 2005 Arkansas Democrat Gazette
A day after Lakeisha Brown collapsed at the Alexander Youth Services Center and died, her mother, Juana, found a white envelope with penciled script on the dresser at the family’s home in Luxora. The return address: Keisha Brown, Alexander, Ark. Keisha, as she was known to her family, had written the letter to her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth "Granny Pooh" Brown, on Feb. 19. At the time, "Granny Pooh" clung to life on round-the clock oxygen in a hospital. So Juana kept the letter but didn’t open it, respecting the bond her mother and daughter shared. But now she had to know what her only daughter had written. "Hey Granny Pooh," Keisha begins, drawing a smiley face next to the salutation. Three lines in, the letter turns somber. "Things are getting a little shaky for me. I plan on hanging in there though.... I been sick a lot lately. These nurses suck here. My back hurts a lot. When I breathe a certain way it hurts in my left rib. They tell me I’m not hurting but I stay strong anyhow." Forty-nine days later, on April 9, 17-year-old Keisha Brown died at Southwest Regional Medical Center in Little Rock from a blood clot that traveled to her lungs, according to a preliminary cause of death released Friday by Pulaski County Coroner Mark Malcolm. Elizabeth and Juana Brown wonder whether Keisha received the medical care she needed during her two-year stint at Alexander, the state’s largest juvenile jail. Scott Tanner, a juvenile services ombudsman with the state Public Defender Commission, said Keisha complained to him within the last nine months that she wasn’t receiving proper treatment for the irregular periods. Nurses monitored Keisha, Tanner said, but it took two months to get center medical staff to send her to a gynecologist. The U.S. Department of Justice criticized the Alexander unit in a November 2002 report for violations of several civil rights, including the right to religious freedom, mental health treatment, educational services and a safe environment. State officials signed a settlement with the Justice Department in March 2003 agreeing to correct problems found. In addition, the Youth Services Division conducted an internal review Oct. 4 that found several problems, including a delay in responding to medical needs. The youth lockup is operated by a private company called Cornell Cos. Inc.

June 5, 2003
Four teenagers who escaped from the state’s largest youth lockup face from 10 years to life in prison if convicted of felony kidnapping counts filed against them Wednesday.  The four youths — three age 17 and one age 15 — are accused of locking a worker at the Alexander Youth Services Center inside a cell during the April 10 escape.  On Wednesday facility director Bob McCracken said some of those improvements already have been made. For example, security personnel now take the keys of all visitors and personnel before they enter the facility. Installation of extra lighting and a new guard building also have been completed, Mc-Cracken said.  The April escape was the second since Cornell took over the Bryant facility in September 2001. The first happened the evening of March 16, 2002, when authorities said two 16-year-olds broke away from a group of inmates and ran from the facility.  (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

June 4, 2003
The last of four juvenile inmates who escaped from the Alexander lockup nearly two months ago was arrested early Tuesday morning, the state Department of Human Services said.  North Little Rock police caught Tony Brooks, 17, of Pulaski County after a pursuit. Relatives turned in the other escapees shortly after the escape.  Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld said Tuesday that he planned to file charges today. The four are expected to be arraigned Thursday on felony counts of escape, criminal mischief, theft of property and false imprisonment, he said.  The group fled the lockup on April 10 after they overpowered a guard, locked him in a cell and stole a car, which they crashed through the lockup’s front gates.  Brooks had been held on a charge of carrying a prohibited weapon.  (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

April 11, 2003
Four inmates at the state’s largest youth lockup escaped early Thursday morning after threatening a guard, stealing her car and driving it through the facility’s front gate, authorities said.  Two of the four teenage boys who escaped from Alexander Youth Services Center were caught several hours later. Authorities, however, believe the remaining escapees, ages 17 and 15, had a gun and could be dangerous. "There is concern that they feel desperate enough to do something bad," said Julie Munsell, a spokesman for the Department of Human Services, which oversees the lockup. "We hope not. The hope is that they do not hurt or injure anyone  Alexander holds about 140 youths, including the state’s most dangerous juvenile offenders. The lockup is situated at Bryant in Saline County.  "From the initial details, it looks like it was planned at least to some extent," said Bob McCracken, Alexander’s director, adding that no employees were injured.  McCracken said it is too early to determine whether the escape represents a shortcoming in security at Alexander, which is managed by a private corporation — Cornell Cos. Inc. "It’s not a facility designed to be like Tucker," McCracken said, referring to one of the state’s maximum-security prisons in answer to a question about possible holes in security. "It’s the most secure juvenile facility in the state. But it’s still a facility designed for juveniles."  Alexander has had a history of problems managing the state’s youthful offenders. In 2001, two teenagers killed themselves only a few months apart. Since spring 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating possible violations of inmates’ civil rights at the lockup.  In March the Youth Services Division, Cornell and the Justice Department agreed to a court settlement that required improvements in education, mental health care and fire safety.  Thursday’s escape was the second in just over a year. When two 16-year-olds escaped March 16, 2002, neighbors of the lockup complained they had not been notified. The teenagers scaled the fence and were found early the next morning.  (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

February 14, 2003
Failure to deal properly with allegations of abuse of two teen-age boys at the state's largest youth lockup have resulted in the dismissal of four workers.  The three life-skills workers and a treatment supervisor at the Alexander Youth Services Center were fired last month after a Department of Human Services investigator looked into the matter.  The boys, 16 and 17 years old, were reportedly taken from the facility's main campus to the high risk offender unit Dec. 16 after they had misbehaved.  The two boys said that, once there, they were put in a small room with about seven other inmates who threatened them, and one of the two reported being hit, though no marks were found.  A report issued this week also said that the boys said the other youngsters in the high-risk unit threatened to sodomize them with a broom handle.  DHS investigator Gary Staggs found "credible evidence" that two members of the Alexander center's supervisory staff failed to report the allegations or failed to ensure that they were reported.  The actions described in the report also violated the policies of Cornell Companies Inc., the private, Houston-based company that began running the Alexander center for the state in 2001.  The state pays Cornell about $13 million a year.  One state legislator said Thursday that some "harsh action" should be taken as a result of the Dec. 16 episode.  "That's such a primitive method, you would expect a private provider that held itself out to be the most professional and experienced organization... would never let that type of situation exist.  But it has," said state Rep. Jay Bradford, D-White Hall.  One of the terminated employees, Matthew Williams, 41, killed himself last week after fatally shooting his estranged wife and another man at a Little Rock residence.  (AP)

February 3, 2003
Arkansas State Police are investigating an incident at the Alexander Youth Services Center involving alleged scare tactics that led to the firing of three employees. The employees, along with a supervisor who first looked into the incident, were fired last week after accusations that they used prohibited scare tactics on two youths on Dec. 16. In a letter to legislators, state juvenile ombudsman Scott Tanner wrote that a 16- and 17-year-old each was misbehaving and taken to the high-risk offender unit and the youths were confronted by eight other youths. Internal reports say that the group of eight was allowed to verbally scare the pair about life in a unit that houses youths who have committed violent crimes. The entity that runs the center, Cornell Cos., said neither of the boys was harmed, although one claims he was hit in the head. Tanner, who visits the facility weekly, said he informed legislators because he felt the youths were put in peril. "The General Assembly needs to know about incidents that not only put juveniles at risk, but put the state at risk," Tanner said. Facility director Bob McCracken said Cornell prohibits the alleged tactics. "We really focus on treating the kids with dignity and respect and helping them get better," McCracken said. Investigations by the Arkansas State Police and the state Youth Services Division are also ongoing as to why it took Cornell officials until Dec. 20 to report the incident. Houston-based Cornell runs the youth lockup under a contract with the Youth Services Division of the state Department of Human Services. The Alexander lockup has been plagued by problems. The Justice Department is investigating the center after a series of problems in recent years, state officials said. In November, a counselor at the lockup resigned after she was charged with making up credentials. In October, a state investigation concluded that Cornell failed to supervise inmates at risk of suicide while the staff conducted a meeting. A 15-year-old boy hanged himself on Sept. 15, 2001 . That death came after a 16-year-old died the previous May in the same cell and by the same method, while a guard was supposed to have been watching him. In August, a DYS guard was convicted of third-degree battery in a case involving a juvenile inmate at Alexander. (Go Memphis)

November 23, 2002
A counselor at a youth lockup who resigned after questions arose about her qualifications has been charged with making up credentials.  Carolyn Skaggs was a counselor at the Alexander Youth Services Center, but resigned after officials found out she didn't have a counseling license, as she had claimed.  Cornell Companies Inc. of Houston runs the youth lockup under a contract with the Youth Services Division of the state Department of Human Services.  The Saline County prosecutor's office filed a misdemeanor charge against Skaggs last week.  The Alexander lockup has been plagued by problems.  The Justice Department is investigating the center after a series of problems in recent years, state officials said.  (AP)

October 3, 2002
The Justice Department is investigating the state's Alexander Youth Services Center after a series of problems at the facility, a state official said Wednesday. Doyle Herndon, director of the Division of Youth Services of the state Department of Human Services, told a legislative committee Wednesday the agency is enacting new policies to quell concerns about the Alexander facility and to offer incarcerated youth more rehabilitative programs. Herndon said Justice Department officials began the investigation after visiting the Alexander facility in June. Justice Department spokesman Casey Stavropoulos said the investigation would fall under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and is meant to "see if there's a pattern or practice of misconduct." In October, a state investigation concluded that Cornell Companies Inc. of Houston, which runs the Alexander center under a DYS contract, failed to supervise inmates at risk of suicide while the staff conducted a meeting. (Go Memphis)

September 30, 2002
Is the Youth Services Center at Alexander snake-bit or what? Last week, the chronically troubled facility was back in the news because the folks contracted to run it for the state hired an unqualified person for a position of great responsibility, clinical supervisor. According to the state Nursing Board, the center's personnel director was warned before hiring her that Carolyn Skaggs' nursing license had been revoked in August 2001 and that she lacked a master's degree in psychology. The nursing license is not a prerequisite for the job. The master's degree is. Skaggs was hired anyway, and before resigning about five weeks later after someone finally questioned her credentials, she'd already "counseled" 15 youthful offenders housed at the center and testified at one court hearing. Not as an "expert" witness, we can only hope. The contractor, Cornell Companies Inc., took more than a year to fill the post occupied by Skaggs from July 15 to Aug. 20 of this year. It is understandable, then, that she was not properly vetted before hiring. Not acceptable, but understandable. Having a full-time psychologist to oversee behavioral health services--counseling--at Alexander is one of the requirement's of Cornell's state contract, and someone must have been getting mighty desperate after a yearlong search. But despite later claims from Alexander's director, Bob McCracken, that officials conducted a criminal background check, a child mistreatment registry check and a reference check and "all that stuff came back fine," no one thought to check her educational and professional credentials. Had they done so, they might have discovered sooner rather than later that both the license and the master's degree she showed them apparently were bogus. The position Skaggs held is critically important, not only because of the supervisory responsibilities but because of complexity and severity of the problems that afflict Alexander's adolescent population. Alexander is what is known in polite company as a "youth lockup," the largest in Arkansas. Most, if not all, of the young people there have serious behavioral and emotional "issues." For many, Alexander is the last stop before prison. Others stand at least a fighting chance of rehabilitation if they get the proper treatment. In any case, placing their mental and emotional health in the wrong hands is tantamount to throwing them to the wolves. There is absolutely no excuse for the sloppy hiring process that put a non-credentialed, unqualified person in this key position. According to the state Nursing Board's decision revoking Skaggs' license last year--she was then going by the name Carolyn Sue Okrie--she was found to have altered her licensed practical nurse certificate on two separate occasions to read "registered nurse" and to have obtained at least two jobs by claiming to have a master's degree in applied psychology. Reportedly, she made the same claims to snag the job at Alexander. By the way, Skaggs' former employers at Cornell told our reporter, Traci Shurley, last week that since the controversy erupted, they had been unable to verify her educational background. Shurley was able to verify one thing--the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which Skaggs claimed had issued her master's degree, has no record of anyone named Carolyn Okrie or Carolyn Skaggs ever being enrolled there. At this writing, no one from the Huckabee administration has expressed much concern about the situation. "I really think this is still an issue between Cornell and their personnel person," said Julie Munsell, a spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, which was in charge of screwing things up at Alexander before passing the buck--more than 13 million bucks a year, actually--to Cornell last September. That's precisely what some politicians and bureaucrats like about privatization; when things go wrong, they can blame someone else. "This is not the normal way that we run Alexander or any of our other facilities," David Monroe, a spokesman for Cornell, said last week. I earnestly hope not. The troubled young people housed at Alexander could use a break. Associate Editor Meredith Oakley is editor of the Voices page. (The Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

September 25, 2002
A woman hired in July to supervise counseling at the state's largest youth lockup saw about 15 youths and testified in one court hearing before officials say they learned her credentials were fake. Carolyn Skaggs resigned Aug. 20 after an employee at Alexander Youth Services Center questioned whether she was licensed, as she claimed and even provided a wallet-sized license card as proof, said Bob McCracken, director of the facility. Her resignation leaves Cornell Companies Inc., the Houston company that runs the facility, still searching for a full-time psychologist, a requirement of Cornell's $13 million annual contract with the state. Cornell hired Skaggs on July 15 after searching nearly a year for a qualified psychologist to oversee counseling services for the 130-140 youths housed there each day. Skaggs, who was stripped of her nursing license in August 2001, never had a counseling license, and Cornell officials now say they can't even verify her educational background. State Rep. Jo Ellen Carson, D-Fort Smith, said the situation with Skaggs is especially disappointing because the state hired Cornell in September 2001 to bring a better level of service to the troubled center. "Given the history and then the immediate problems Cornell experienced when they came in, including a suicide, you'd think that every decision they made would be backed up by double checks," said Carson, a member of the House Juvenile Justice Subcommittee. Less than a month after Cornell took over, a 16-year-old boy hanged himself in the serious offender unit. The U.S. Department of Justice also began an investigation earlier this year into mental health care, safety and education services at the center in Saline County. A report detailing the investigation's findings is expected within a few months. Upon learning that Arkansas law requires people calling themselves counselors to be licensed with the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling, Cornell officials also changed the titles of four employees previously referred to as "master's level counselors," McCracken said. He said those changes arose from an "issue with job titles" and not anyone purposely misrepresenting himself. Arkansas Code 17-27-104 says anyone "engaged in the practice of counseling or marriage and family therapy" without a license may be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $ 1,000 fine. After notification of Skaggs' position at Alexander, the board sent both Alexander and Skaggs a cease-and-desist order. The board demanded that she stop using the title "counselor," said Dr. Ann Thomas, executive director of the licensing board. Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Barbara Webb confirmed Tuesday that a complaint had been filed with her office. However, she said, a decision on whether to charge Skaggs has not been made. Faith Fields, director of the Arkansas Nursing Board, said Skaggs, then using the name Carolyn Sue Okrie, was a licensed practical nurse until August 2001. The board revoked her license at that time after determining that she had altered it twice to read "registered nurse." The final decision in the disciplinary case also said she had misrepresented her credentials to gain employment with the Levi Hospital in Hot Springs and Correctional Medical Services in Pine Bluff. The decision also says Skaggs told officials at Correctional Medical Services she had a master's degree in applied psychology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She made the same claim to Cornell, even providing a copy of a diploma, McCracken said. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

August 27, 2002
The director at Alexander Youth Services Center recently sat down side by side on a bunk with a teen-age boy at the serious-offender unit, quietly talking about the boy's troubles.  Less than two years ago, the Alexander center had been beset with two highly publicized suicides as well as allegations of abuse and mismanagement.  McCracken is part of a team that began running the lockup last September, as the state turned to a private company, Cornell Cos. Inc., to bring in reforms and higher standards.  Plenty of other interested parties are following Cornell's progress, including state legislatures and the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently began an investigation into the facility's health, safety, and educational policies.  Legislatures have also quizzed company officials about whether Cornell is meeting the terms of its contract with the state.  Though progress has been made, the company hasn't followed through on all the improvements they promised, said state Rep. Jay Bradfor, D-Pine Bluff, one of a group of legislatures who has monitored Cornell's takeover.  "On a scale of 1 to 10, they're at a 6, and they ought to be at a nine," Bradford said, noting that the education curriculum needs improvement.  "The change in the culture is going to take some time," said Scott Tanner, who as youth ombudsman coordinator for the state bears responsibility for the state's monitoring of the Youth Services Division.  Just 6 months ago, Tanner warned that "the current conditions are ripe for tragedy," especially in the Juvenile Upward Mobility Program, which houses serious youthful offenders.  As Cornell continues to search for a training coordinator, Tanner worries staff members aren't being schooled in appropriate ways to deal with every situation.  Judging from a list of documents the U.S. Justice Department recently requested, it's apparently an area investigators are exploring as well.  (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

May 26, 2002
In the suicide letter he left in a cell at Alexander Youth Services Center a little more than a year ago, 16-year-old James Baumbach Jr. said one last time what he felt the staff there refused to hear -- he needed help. The help didn't arrive in time to prevent him from hanging himself with a bed sheet tied to an overhead sprinkler cover. Officials acknowledge Baumbach, who was placed on suicide watch days before he carried out his threats, wasn't monitored as he should have been. State officials admitted at the time that the facility's suicide prevention plan hadn't been followed. A guard responsible for monitoring Baumbach eventually was convicted of falsifying logbooks and fired. But the admitted bungling did not bring measures to prevent another suicide, and neither did turning management of the facility over to a private company, Houston-based Cornell Inc. On Sept. 16, less than a month after Cornell took over from the Department of Human Services, 15-year-old Kenneth McClain II committed suicide by hanging himself in the same cell where Baumbach took his own life. Cornell officials still haven't hired a full-time psychologist, as the company's contract with the state requires, he said, adding the facility also needs to provide more group and individual counseling. Since Cornell took over in September, finding qualified workers has been difficult, company officials say. Cornell officials still haven't hired a full-time psychologist, as the company's contract with the state requires, he said, adding the facility also needs to provide more group and individual counseling. Since Cornell took over in September, finding qualified workers has been difficult, company officials say. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

April 19, 2002
A private company that runs the state's historically troubled Alexander youth lockup clearly has improved conditions there since it took over late last year, a watchdog agency official told lawmakers Thursday. Scott Tanner, coordinator of the state Juvenile Ombudsman Division, noted that Cornell Companies of Houston still hasn't filled key jobs to train new employees and supervise delivery of psychological services to inmates. Tom Jenkins, Cornell's senior vice president and chief operating officer, testified Thursday before two legislative committees that deal with children's issues. The Youth Services Division struggled in 1998. There were reports of sexual and physical abuse of children in the state's care. Three boys have committed suicide since 1997 at youth lockups, two last year at the Alexander center and one of those occurred after Cornell was in charge. The state Department of Education in January threatened to withhold $2 million in education funds from the division's parent agency, the Department of Human Services, unless the division showed progress toward meeting federal special-education regulations. The most recent reported lapse in suicide-prevention procedures at the Alexander center was Oct. 19, 2001, about a month after Kenneth McClain, 15, hanged himself using a sheet in his cell. A state investigation found that while Cornell workers attended a staff meeting Oct. 19, there was not proper supervision of youths who had been identified as suicide risks. The previous day, Jenkins assured lawmakers that in the wake of McClain's suicide, "we have people watching the people watching the people." Sen. Kevin Smith, D-Helena, on Thursday reminded Jenkins of his assurances. He asked whether Jenkins could confidently make them now. "That's the infamous comment that I will never live down, will I?" Jenkins responded. "We've had some mistakes, and we've had some malfeasance. Where malfeasance has been there, we've made some immediate steps to remove people from our employment." Regarding the special-education rules, a state Department of Education official told legislators that some progress has been made, although the Alexander center is still not in compliance. In terms of overall compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Cornell and the division "still have a long, long way to go," he said. According to a 73-page report presented to lawmakers by Cornell, noncompliance issues include reporting serious incidents at the Alexander center to the division within one hour, forwarding a youth's records once he leaves the facility, and developing plans to help keep youths from relapsing into previous violent or substance-abuse behaviors. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

April 9, 2002
Two teen-agers accused of escaping from a youth lockup last month will appear  in court April 22 for a judge to consider transferring their cases to juvenile  court.  Stephen Andrew Menasco of Conway and Bennie David Guy of Marion are accused of  breaking away from a group of inmates at Alexander Youth Services Center about 7:30 p.m. March 16. They were apprehended the next morning about 6:30 a.m. in  Bryant. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

April 3, 2002
A former Alexander Youth Services Center guard set to go to trial today on a charge he falsified logbooks instead pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received a suspended sentence. Eugene Girley, 54, of Pine Bluff was arrested in July. He was accused of lying in documents to make it appear he monitored a 16-year-old who committed suicide in his cell at the youth lockup May 13. Girley was charged with falsifying public records, a class D felony. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

March 28, 2002
The Saline County prosecuting attorney's office plans to treat two 16-year-olds accused of escaping from a youth lockup last week as adults, a spokesman for the office said Monday. Bennie David Guy and Stephen Andrew Menasco are accused of breaking away from a group of inmates at Alexander Youth Services Center about 7:30 p.m. March 16. The department's Youth Services Division oversees Alexander Youth Services Center. Cornell Companies Inc., a Houston-based company, began running the facility for the state Sept. 1. Last week, Cornell officials and Youth Services Division Director Doyle Herndon also met with neighbors of the facility who complained they weren't contacted soon enough after the escapes. Some said they weren't contacted at all. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

March 23, 2002
A Division of Youth Services guard accused of trying to hurl a juvenile inmate to the ground is charged with third-degree battery and terroristic threatening. The alleged incident at the Alexander Unit occurred last August, though Saline County authorities did not bring charges until Tuesday against Keith Kelley, 34, of North Little Rock.  Authorities say a surveillance videotape shows Kelley lifting a 15-year-old boy over his head and trying to throw him. Court papers say Kelley administered body and head blows to the boy, twisted his genitals and told the youth, "I'm going to kill you." Several months before the Kelley incident, an inmate hanged himself inside the facility. A short time after Cornell took control, a second youth committed suicide in the same cell. Last week, two inmates escaped and were captured the next day. (AP)

March 22, 2002
Lawmakers questioned Thursday whether a company awarded a $ 13 million contract to run the states Alexander lockup for troubled youths is living up to the deal, given the company's lack of compliance with federal special-education regulations. "I think you need to be as mean as a junkyard dog and go out there and tell Cornell you've got a contract, now you're going to keep it, starting today", state Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, told Herndon. Rep. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, said legislators have asked the division several times for a copy of the contract but never got it. Herndon promised Thursday that copies would be provided. The Alexander center has been out of compliance with the education regulations for more than three years. Marcia Harding, the state Education Departments associate director for special education, told lawmakers that she doesn't think Cornell is trying hard enough. She said the company hasn't posted the jobs on the states employment Web site or advertised out of state. Harding told the subcommittee last month that the deteriorating quality of special-education services at the Alexander center put the Department of Human Services in jeopardy of losing $ 2 million in education funding because the state ultimately is deemed responsible for providing the services. A Dec. 12-13, 2001, inspection by Department of Education monitors showed that the Alexander center was out of compliance in eight of nine areas. "Children were not in classes, there were no textbooks and there was a shortage of teachers", Harding told lawmakers the day before the most recent inspection. Crowley, administrator of the special-education monitoring unit, later told Harding in a memo that the bottom line is Cornell isn't anywhere close to compliance. "Information provided by Cornell about its efforts to secure additional qualified staff was far short of compliance with either the spirit or intent of federal law", Crowley wrote. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

March 13, 2002
The private company running Alexander Youth Services Center fired a youth services employee last week after he was accused of trying to sell drugs to a guard at the facility, officials there said. Chandler Armstrong, 22, of Benton was arrested and charged with possessing a controlled substance after security officers at the center alerted police. Scott Tanner, juvenile ombudsman coordinator for the Arkansas public defender's office, said Cornell handled the situation appropriately. However, he was concerned he hadn't heard about the incident until contacted by a reporter. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

February 21, 2002
The state Department of Human Services could lose access to all state and federal education dollars if the agency does not quickly correct deficiencies in special education and mental health services for youths in state custody, legislators heard Thursday. State Department of Education monitors planned to inspect special education services at the Alexander unit Friday after giving youth services official 30 days on Jan. 28 to correct educational shortcomings that included $100,000 in missing textbook and educational equipment. "When our staff visited, we had children not in classes, no textbooks and limited numbers of teachers," Marcia Harding, the Education Department's special education director, told a joint meeting of legislative Joint Performance Review subcommittees. She said conditions are worse now than four years ago, when the DHS' Division of Youth Services began employing private contractors to provide education services at Alexander, the state's biggest juvenile facility. "It has steadily declined to the point where we can no longer accept it in any form or tolerate it. It simply has to change," Harding said. Rep. Jay Bradford, D-White Hall, questioned whether the private company hired to run the Alexander unit was fulfilling its contract. Cornell Companies Inc. of Houston, a private company, began operating the center under state contract Sept. 1. (AP)

February 2, 2002
Two guards at the Alexander Youth Services Center were suspended Friday pending an investigation into their conduct during a fight among detainees. Three boys beat up a fourth Wednesday night in the bathroom of the facility's serious offender unit -- called the Juvenile Upward Mobility Program -- while two of the facility's staff stood by, according to police reports. Joe Quinn, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said the allegation that guards failed to intervene is "a tremendously serious situation." (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

January 24, 2002
The state's historically troubled facility for delinquent youth at Alexander doesn't comply with state and federal rules mandating special education courses be offered, lawmakers learned Wednesday. Legislators meeting at the Alexander Youth Services Center also heard from the head of the state's watchdog agency for children in the care of the Youth Services Division. Ombudsman Coordinator Scott Tanner said the most serious offenders at the facility -- such as murderers and rapists -- aren't getting the counseling and psychiatric treatment they need to adjust to society when they're released. Alexander's continued lack of compliance in eight of nine areas of state and federal special education mandates could result in the state Department of Education cutting off its funding to the center, according to a Jan. 2 letter from the Education Department. Members of the Joint Performance Review Committee spent almost two hours Wednesday grilling Doyle Herndon, director of the Youth Services Division, and Bob McCracken, facility director at Alexander, on how they plan to address these issues. "To me, there's a real problem here," said Rep. Jay Bradford, D-White Hall, of Tanner's concerns about lack of mental health services. "The time bomb is ticking. The fuse is lit," Bradford said. Cornell Companies Inc. of Houston, a private, for-profit firm, took over administration of Alexander on Sept. 1. The lockup previously was operated by the Youth Services Division, which still decides which youths are placed there for observation and assessment and possible transfer to other state facilities for delinquent children. Herndon said he, McCracken and other Cornell employees will meet with state Education Department officials Monday to address the facility's lack of special education courses. Additionally, Herndon said he is meeting Friday with Cornell managers to discuss the need to improve and increase mental health services at Alexander. The Jan. 2 letter regarding Alexander's noncompliance with special education rules was presented to the committee by Sen. Sharon Trusty, R-Russellville. The letter was from Janet Estes, the Education Department's special education supervisor for state-operated facilities, to Barbara Marsac, the division's assistant director of contracts and community programs. Estes wrote that that Alexander in September 2001 was found to be out of compliance with special education regulations in seven of nine areas. Similar noncompliance had been a problem since January 1999, Estes wrote. Division officials on Dec. 4 assured the department in writing that corrective actions had been implemented, Estes said. However, a Dec. 12-13 inspection by department monitors showed that Alexander was out of compliance in eight of nine areas. Bradford suggested that the committee ask Attorney General Mark Pryor to issue an opinion on whether Cornell is fulfilling all the terms of its contract with the state to run Alexander. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

October 31, 2001
A state investigation has concluded that the private firm that runs the juvenile lockup at Alexander failed to supervise inmates at risk of suicide while the staff conducted a meeting. A 15-year-old boy had hanged himself on Sept. 15. That death came after a 16-year-old died last May in the same cell and by the same method, while a guard was supposed to have been watching him. On Oct. 19, staff at the facility run by Houston-based Cornell Co. had a two-hour meeting, and left the at-risk youths without someone watching, according to a report by the Division of Youth Services, which is an arm of the state Department of Human Services. "We are tremendously frustrated that we are once again discussing an issue like this with Cornell," DHS spokesman Joe Quinn said Tuesday. "There is no excuse at all for juveniles not being checked in an appropriate time frame." Quinn said the lapse was "inexcusable." Cornell issued a statement questioning the findings in the report. Legislators complained that Cornell was not correcting problems it was hired to fix. Tom Jenkins, the executive director of Cornell, had promised legislators a day before the most recent lapse that the company made changes to ensure the safety of the youths. In the DHS probe, investigator Barbara Ausbrooks reviewed video surveillance tapes from the day after Jenkins addressed legislators. She found that the at-risk youths were not watched. Her report also said dormitories were not adequately staffed. "There were several children on suicide and close observation," Ausbrooks wrote. "It was clear that mandatory 15-minute checks were not being done. The children on suicide precaution were not in constant line of sight." Cornell's statement said that one inmate at risk of suicide was moved into a hall and was in view of a staff member. Cornell said it is reviewing the n report to see whether it needs to make changes or discipline employees. Jenkins said in a Tuesday news release that the Alexander center is troubled and it will take time to correct all problems. "There will be mistakes and difficulties encountered along the way; however, these mistakes do not mean that positive changes at the facility and in the lives of our clients are not occurring," he said. Youth Services director Doyle Herndon said he would review Cornell's corrective plan. State Rep. Jay Bradford, D-White Hall, said Cornell must improve. "I'm just totally surprised that someone who is supposedly in this business and has been for many years and is a national concern would make such basic mistakes," Bradford said. State Rep. Jan Judy, D-Fayetteville, defended Cornell, saying the company is making improvements. "They are working very hard," she said. "It wasn't that they didn't have staff on premises. They were doing an important training session and trying to better their program." (AP)

October 19, 2001
The private firm that runs the Alexander Youth Services Center has beefed up its facilities, security and training since a teenager committed suicide there last month, the company's director said.  Cornell Companies Inc. personnel also have removed bags of contraband from the living quarters of juveniles assigned to the youth lockup, Tom Jenkins, the company's senior vice president, said Thursday after presenting a report to legislators.  The report outlined steps the Houston-based company has taken to improve security and programs since taking over the Alexander unit Sept. 1.  "All the things you're talking about in your report ... don't mean anything," said Sen. Kevin Smith, D-Stuttgart, "unless you can tell me, straight-forward and honestly, do you have people observing these kids 24 hours a day who don't have criminal records, who don't fall asleep on the job and who are being backed up in some way?"  Kenneth McClain, 15, was found hanging in his cell Sept. 15. A report on the apparent suicide stated the youth was taunted by other inmates but no one looked in on the boy for more than an hour on the night he died.  McClain died in the same cell in which a 16-year-old hanged himself in May while a guard was supposed to have been watching him.  (AP)

October 4, 2001
It was shocking enough to read about another suicide at the Alexander Youth Center.  This was the third suicide at a state youth center since 1997, and these deaths are getting no easier to explain.  In this case, according to the report from the private company that now runs the center, the details are nightmarish: A frenzy of other inmates shouting "Do it.  Do it."  Guards who called to the inmate but didn't bother to look in on him even when he failed to respond.  Scheduled checks that weren't made.  A staff new to their jobs and unprepared for their duties.  Any suicide in detention is awful, but this one was worse than we thought.  It was worse than we could have imagined.  If its own report is accurate, the private outfit contracted to operate the youth center -- Cornell Companies Inc. -- has painted a damning picture of its own stewardship.  What does the Huckabee administration have to say about all this?  "We still are extremely troubled by the suicide," says Joe Quinn, who's become an expert by now at making apologies for the state's ironically named Department of Human Services.  Anybody would be troubled by what has happened.  The mystifying part of poor Joe Quinn's statement was the next sentence: "But we still have confidence in Cornell."  Why, for the love of Heaven?  No wonder Joe Quinn draws big bucks.  Imagine being called on to express confidence in the company that presided over this macabre mess.  Here's one question not addressed in Cornell's otherwise admirably candid report and painful recitation of one terrible mistake after another: Why should the people of Arkansas have confidence in an administration that contracts with such an outfit to guard its troubled young people?  Confession is good for the soul, but it shouldn't guarantee a state contract.  (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

October 2, 2001
A report on the apparent suicide of a 15-year-old boy at a juvenile lockup says the youth was taunted by other inmates but no one looked in on the boy for more than an hour.  Kenneth McClain II heard calls of "Do it, do it," and "Kill yourself, kill yourself," prior to his death on Sept. 16, according to a report by Cornell Companies Inc. The private for-profit firm had just taken over management of the facility.  The report says McClain, who had threatened to take his own life, covered his cell windows. Guards called to him but none looked inside despite policy that requires checks ever 15 minutes, the report said.  (AP)

September 22, 2001
If a fire breaks out at the state's Alexander Youth Services Center, most of those detained there can't count on sprinklers to douse the flames.  That's because most of the cells at the lockup for troubled youths don't have sprinklers -- a situation that concerns both the private company hired to run the facility and state officials responsible for monitoring construction by state agencies.  The four detention buildings at Alexander were built years ago -- nobody with the state is quite sure when -- well before the fire code required sprinklers in such facilities.  Jerry Evans, the assistant director of youth services, said installation of sprinklers now will become part of broader plans to refurbish three of the older detention buildings, joining efforts already underway to install sprinklers in a newly-constructed detention unit.  The work is expected to cost about $ 379,000, Evans said.  That amount is well below the amount that Cornell Companies Inc., the Houston, Texas-based for-profit operator of prison, estimates will be needed.  Cornell took over Alexander from the state on Sept. 1.  A report from John Stephens, the regional facilities manager for Cornell, estimated the fire-prevention work would cost about $ 610,000, or almost half of the $ 1.41 million in repairs he says are needed at the Alexander lockup.  (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

September 20, 2001
The father of a 15-year-old boy who was found hanged at a juvenile lockup said officials refused to let him visit his son on the day the youth died.  Kenneth McClain Sr. said Wednesday that staff at the Alexander Youth Services Center told him on Sunday that his son had been moved to a serious offender unit after being involved in an altercation. The visit was denied.  Monday, the father was told his son, Kenneth McClain Jr., hanged himself with a bed sheet.  "If they would have just let me visit with my son," McClain said, "I think that would have made all the difference in the world to him."  McClain Jr. wanted to be a rap star, and his father said he'd bought the youth a karaoke machine and a keyboard for last Christmas. McClain Jr. had written one song.  "All he wanted to do was write songs," the elder McClain said. "I wish the world could have heard them."  McClain's suicide was the third at a state youth center since 1997 and the second this year. State police are investigating McClain's death.  Cornell Companies Inc., a Houston-based operator of prisons, had assumed control of the lockup a few weeks ago. Cornell spokesman Paul Doucette said the company is working with state officials to find out how the boy died.  "We are working cooperatively with the state to make the Alexander Youth Services Center a model juvenile program," Doucette said.  McClain Jr. attended what is now Fuller Middle School. He was incarcerated after he violated probation he received for a burglary, McClain Sr. said.  McClain Sr. said he divorced the boy's mother while his son was very young and did not participate in the boy's early life. McClain Sr. said he had served prison time on an assault and battery conviction.  He said he was stunned when his sister told him the youth was dead and regrets not having been able to visit the boy on Sunday.  "He probably would have loved to have just seen my face," McClain Sr. said.  "That would have been like the sunshine after a rainy day."  (AP)

September 17, 2001
A 15-year-old boy found hanging in his cell at a Department of Human Services youth detention facility is the third apparent suicide of a youth inmate in DHS custody since 1997.  DHS spokesman Joe Quinn said Sunday night's death at the Alexander Youth Services Center is being investigated by the Arkansas State Police, the DHS Division of Youth Services and Cornell Companies, which took over management of the youth detention facility on Sept. 1.  "We thought we had made the necessary adjustments after the suicide earlier this year, but obviously that was not the case," Quinn said. "This suicide raises some very serious questions. Basically everyone here is shocked that this has happened again."  (AP)

June 17, 2001
Arkansas' experiment with privatization of an adult prison facility was a bust.  Now the state is going to have another go at it with a juvenile facility.  Responsibility for the snake pit known as the Alexander Unit is about to be turned over to the third private owner-operator of correctional facilities in the nation, Cornell Companies Inc. of Houston, Texas.  Under the initial two-year contract, the state will pay Cornell about $13 million to do a better job, presumably, than the state could do at almost twice the cost.  Although no sound estimate of the projected cost-savings exists, since the state will continue to pick up the costs for medical insurance associated with Alexander's young inmates, DHS officials anticipate a minor windfall that they say they'll use to build still more juvenile detention facilities.  Sen. Kevin Smith of Stuttgart, who has been in the Legislature since 1993, is one of the skeptics.  The thought that a for-profit company can do much better for much less must boggle his mind.  (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Arkansas Legislature
Cornell
, Correctional Medical Services, Emerald
February 22, 2009 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Some Arkansas lawmakers traveled to Guatemala, Turkey and Seattle on somebody else's dime last year. The trips were educational, they said. And sometimes legislation follows, as in the current Arkansas legislative session....DBH Management Consultants, which includes lobbyist and former Rep. Bruce Hawkins of Morrilton, paid for travel and meals for June 24-25 to tour Emerald Companies' prison in Texas for Rep. George Overbey, D-Lamar; Nathan George, D-Dardenelle; and Lance Reynolds, D-Quitman, according to their reports. Overbey, George and Reynolds each reported the expenses at $1,502.31. Emerald Companies, a Scott, La., private corrections company, has pitched privatizing some of Arkansas' prisons to lawmakers. But Beebe has opposed that idea. Reynolds said he's not sure whether he supports privatizing Arkansas prisons.

September 23, 2008 The Leader
What does it take to bury a bad idea? The Legislative Council last week undertook a study of turning Arkansas’ prisons over to a private company, an idea suggested by Rep. Johnny Hoyt of Morrilton. Hoyt was not around, at least in the legislature, the last time this hare-brained but appealing idea was raised. The state contracted with a private national company, Wackenhut Correction Corp., to operate a couple of the state’s penitentiaries. Arkansas’ prisons already were about the most cheaply run in the country, but Wackenhut said it could do it even more cheaply, and that was enough to sell the lawmakers. The prisons’ cost was rising sharply every year, although the reason was no mystery. The number of inmates climbed every year, and the state had to pay for new prisons and bigger staffs and it had to reimburse cities and counties for holding prisoners for whom there was no room in the penitentiaries. There also was no mystery about how a private contractor could do it. It calculated the profit that the investors needed, then reduced the number of employees, salaries and insurance costs and services to a level that would fit within the state appropriation. That is what Wackenhut did and in three years the scandal was so electrifying that the state canceled the contract and every lawmaker swore off privatization. Arkansas prisons are a fair-sized city, roughly 15,000 inhabitants housed in close proximity and needing many of the necessities a city needs: food and medical assistance among others. They didn’t get much medical help. Who, after all, would feel any compassion for a whining criminal? Arkansas spends far more on corrections than any civilized society should, and under the existing criminal code it is going to have to spend tens of millions of dollars more every year. But privatization is not the answer. Reforming the criminal code to shorten the sentences of non-violent offenders and resort to alternative sentences for some victimless crimes would help. It would end the massive glut in the correctional system and make punishment certain once again. That is the best deterrent of all, and the cheapest, too.

September 20, 2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Prison officials said Friday they oppose a proposal by four legislators to consider privatizing Arkansas prisons. State Rep. Johnny Hoyt, D Morrilton, said the proposal is a way “to open up some dialogue.” “Right now, our prisons are full. They’re sending state prisoners to our county jails. We’ve got to find another way,” Hoyt said after a meeting of the Legislative Council in Little Rock. On Friday, 14, 816 inmates were state prisoners, including 1, 247 that are being housed in county jails around the state until prison beds become available, said Dina Tyler, spokesman for the Department of Correction. Tyler said neither Hoyt nor his co-sponsors, Reps. Nathan George, D-Dardanelle, George Overbey, D-Lamar, and Lance Reynolds, D-Quitman, had talked to prison officials before filing their proposal with the council Thursday. The issue didn’t come up for discussion at the council’s meeting Friday. Hoyt commented on the proposed study when asked about it by reporters. “That’s OK. We’re happy to participate,” Tyler said. “I will say our department is not overly eager to step back into privatization.” Tyler cited the state’s experience with the Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which ran the Grimes and McPherson units in Newport from 1998 to 2001. “That experiment didn’t go well. The state had to assume management of those two facilities because the company couldn’t do what it said it could do,” Tyler said. Wackenhut performed poorly in sanitation and maintenance issues, she said. Tyler also pointed to a U. S. Department of Justice probe into the McPherson and Grimes units in November 2003 which characterized conditions at the two prisons as “unconstitutional” because of inadequate medical care and unsafe living conditions. “That happened right after we stepped back in,” Tyler said. Hoyt, who is in his first term as a state representative, said “if I’d been here a hundred years like everyone else, I’d know that. But is Wackenhut OK now ? Let’s revisit all aspects of that.” A subsequent agreement between the state and the Justice Department to remedy conditions at the prisons has been completed, releasing the state from federal oversight, Tyler said. Wackenhut officials didn’t return a telephone call for comment on Friday. The two largest private corrections companies in the United States are Wackenhut, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, Tenn. Corrections Corporation officials didn’t return a telephone call for comment about any possible interest in expanding their operations into Arkansas. State law requires the Board of Corrections to approve the building of any private state correctional facility, Tyler said. That board is appointed by the governor. And Gov. Mike Beebe’s main priority in the field of prison issues remains searching for alternative sentencing programs for nonviolent inmates to save beds, said Matt DeCample, his spokesman. And Beebe is mindful of the earlier Wackenhut era. “You learn from experiences like that,” DeCample said. “But we’re always open to new proposals and studies.” The “ultimate solution,” DeCample said, is to continue to improve the state’s schools “to reduce the need for those beds.” Prison growth has spurted this year, Tyler said, although no one factor adequately explains that growth.

November 18, 2007Arkansas News
Several companies with ties to state legislators have contracts with the state. The deals involve more than $ 700, 000, most of the contracts were awarded after competitive bidding, the arrangements are legal, and they were publicly disclosed in recent reports to lawmakers because of a law the Legislature enacted this year. Sen. Percy Malone, an Arkadelphia Democrat and a legislator since 1995, is president and the majority stock owner of W. P. Malone Inc., which owns Pharmacy Care of Arkansas. That company does business as Allcare Pharmacy, which has a $ 25, 000-a-year pharmacy services contract with the Department of Human Services’ Alexander, Arkadelphia and Jonesboro Human Development Centers, said the state’s procurement director, Joe Giddis. It was awarded Jan. 20, 2005. Allcare also has had a contract with the department for the Arkansas Health Center at Benton since July 2004, said Julie Munsell, a spokesman for the department. That’s for $ 200, 000 a year, Giddis said. Allcare was paid $ 437, 890 from July 2004 to Nov. 8 this year for drugs under the contract, Munsell said...Malone’s firm also is a subcontractor to the Department of Correction for inmate medical care, Giddis said. That arrangement, too, began before he was a legislator, Malone said. The firm provides prescription drugs and other services through Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis. He and Correctional Medical Services declined to say how much business Allcare does each year with Correctional Medical Services. “It’s proprietary [information ],” Malone said.

July 1, 2005 Miner News
In the closing days of the regular legislative session, Republican Sen. Gene Therriault of North Pole amended an elections bill to allow big corporate money into Alaska politics. Undeterred by the fact there had been no public notice or public hearing, Senate Republicans approved the change. But the state House balked, and the amendment was removed. A triumph for democracy, right?  So what's Therriault really trying to do? Simple. Alaska law does not allow corporations to make political contributions to candidates or groups. Therriault wants to change that because the Republican Party would get more corporate money than other parties. This is about nothing more than fattening the Republican Party's bank accounts. Would it? You bet. How do we know? Well, a court ruling allowed corporate contributions for a brief period in 2001, and the Republican Party mistakenly reported some of what it got: $25,000 from Veco, $12,000 from Cornell Companies Inc., $10,000 from Gray Line of Alaska, $8,000 from Philip Morris USA, $7,500 from Holland America and so on. Selfless giving? Hardly. Veco and Cornell wanted a private prison; Gray Line and Holland America didn't want a cruise ship tax; Phillip Morris didn't want higher tobacco taxes. You get the picture. Alaskans don't want big money in their state's politics. They've said so at the polls. But Gene Therriault doesn't care about that. He wants the dough for his own partisan purposes. Better keep an eye on him.

Arkansas Nuclear One
Wackenhut (Group 4)

May 16, 2005 Courier News
After Friday’s negotiations between Arkansas Nuclear One security force representatives and Wackenhut Corp., there’s a good chance no strike will occur at the plant. According to Darrell Williams, president of the United Government Security Officers of America Local 23, the second meeting between the two parties was more productive than the first. However, the final decision on whether Friday’s revised contract will be accepted is up to the 79 unionized security guards. That decision will be made later this week when Williams and his negotiations committee present the new information. “I really think the new contract will be accepted,” Williams said. “We’ve done all we can do without going to even more drastic measures, so hopefully we will have a contract by the end of (this) week.” After the guards’ threat of a strike in mid-April with claims of low wages and poor benefits, Wackenhut, who has contracted with Entergy since 1991 to guard Arkansas’ only nuclear power plant, brought some new contract plans to the table.

Craighead County Jail
Craighead County, Arkansas
Correctional Medical Services

September 27, 2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
An inmate at the Craighead County jail died after medical officers ignored his urgent requests for attention to a painful blood clot in his left leg, a federal lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit, filed this week in federal court in Pine Bluff, says that Kevin Lakes, 24, of Jonesboro died on Sept. 27, 2006, of what an autopsy later determined was a pulmonary embolism caused by a deep-vein thrombosis, or a blood clot, in his left leg. “The doctor could have put him on drugs, or easily done something that would have saved his life, but instead he fell through the cracks,” said Little Rock attorney John M. Hardy, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lakes ’ younger sister Dominique King, 23, of Jacksonville. Lakes was taken to the Craighead County jail on Aug. 7, 2006, to await transfer to the Correction Department to serve time for a cocaine-possession conviction, Hardy said. On Aug. 12, Lakes submitted a medical request form. “I have acquired a blot clot in my left calf area and it’s unbearable,” he wrote. “It’s constant pain whether I’m lying down, sitting, or standing. And it’s swelling up very badly. I need immediate medical attention.” A medical officer didn’t respond for two days, at which point Lakes thought he was improving, and no tests or examination were performed, the lawsuit states. But two days later, on Aug. 16, Lakes submitted another medical request saying the leg was still swollen and was causing “extreme pain.” Two days later, a “medical officer” without any formal medical training saw Lakes, the suit states. “Even though a blood clot in the leg is a potentially deadly condition and should be treated as an emergency, [the medical officer ] treated the blood clot with an ankle wrap and Naproxen and failed to inform a physician of Kevin’s condition or to transport Kevin to a physician or hospital,” the suit states. The defendants in the lawsuit are the medical officer, Benny Ford, and the jail’s medical administrator, Steve Metcalf, who, according to the lawsuit, is a licensed paramedic but not a doctor. The lawsuit also names Craighead County officials and Correctional Medical Services Inc., which contracted with the state to provide medical services in the prison system, including the Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff where Lakes was taken on Sept. 22, 2006. A day earlier, Lakes had fainted while playing basketball in a jail yard and reported that his heart rate was abnormal, his chest burned and that he was dizzy, the suit says. Jail personnel refused to take him to a hospital or allow him to see a doctor, the suit says. At the Diagnostic Unit, Lakes didn’t receive a required initial health-care screening, the suit alleges. Although Lakes informed medical personnel that he had a serious health problem and needed to see a doctor, he “was told he would have to wait until his scheduled ‘health assessment, ’” the suit says. But he never made it. On Sept. 27, Lakes suddenly collapsed, and he went by ambulance to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, where he was pronounced dead. The lawsuit alleges that inmate medical personnel were deliberately indifferent to Lakes’ constitutional rights. It alleges various “constitutional deficiencies” at the jail, including: a lack of medical intake screening; a requirement that inmates pay for all medical services or go without; absence of staff nurses; no contract with a doctor; and an inadequately trained medical administrator.

Cummins Unit
Lincoln County, Arkansas
Correctional Medical Services

September 8, 2005 Northwest Arkansas News
An inmate died last year after a prison doctor neglected to effectively treat an ailment that caused his lungs to fill with infected pus, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court. Willliam Jobes died at Jefferson Regional Medical Center after being transferred from the Cummins Unit in Lincoln County on Feb. 9, 2004. About two months later, he received a posthumous pardon by Gov. Mike Huckabee. Five days before he died, Jobes, 50, had been admitted to the Cummins infirmary after complaining of pain in his left side and back for three weeks. Dr. Olabode Olumofin ordered a chest X-ray, which showed a buildup of fluids in Jobes’ chest. Olumofin tried to drain the fluid, but it would not flow through a catheter. The lawsuit contends that the lab reports "were blatantly and willfully disregarded" by Olumofin, who "wholly failed to take any action in response to save Bill Jobes’ life." Olumofin works for Correctional Medical Services Inc., a St. Louis-based company that provides medical care for Arkansas’ 13,000 inmates under a $38 million contract. The company has contracts for prison and jail health in 26 other states and is responsible for 212,000 prisoners nationwide. According to federal court records, Correctional Medical Services has been named as a party in about 200 suits in the Eastern District of Arkansas. A suit filed Aug. 16 in Little Rock against the company contends that incompetent medical care provided by Dr. Craig Bardell at the McPherson Unit in Newport led to the Oct. 23, 2004, death of 47-year-old Virginia Morris. Morris, the mother of two grown sons, was seven months into a 10-year sentence on drug charges when she died after months of neglect by Bardell, who resigned in late July 2005, according to the suit. The Morris suit alleges that the company "has a history and reputation of customarily cutting corners in prisoner health care to maintain high profits" and trains its personnel "to be deliberately indifferent" to prisoners’ health needs.

Hot Spring County
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Correctional Medical Services
April 20, 2002 A wistfulness hung over a tour Friday of the modern state prison unit under construction. When completed in October, the 948-bed medium-security unit will be the first in Arkansas' prison system to house inmates entirely in cellblocks, not the barracks-style housing that inmates and prison staff dislike. But with mounting expenses and a new round of budget cuts, prison officials said Friday, the facility will remain empty until they can figure out a way to come up with the money needed to operate it. Rising medical expenses loom as well. The prison system's medical contractor has asked for a 23 percent increase to renew its contract with the state, prompting a call from prison officials to review alternatives. The prison system is now being charged $179.58 per inmate each month to pay for health services. That figure will rise to $184.52 under the final year of the contract, which begins July 1. Under the proposed contract for the next fiscal year, the cost per inmate per month would rise to $227 per inmate, or 23 percent. The prison system contracts health care with Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis. The current agreement expires in June 2003. More than a dozen other providers expressed interest in taking over, but in the end, only Correctional Medical Services offered a bid. Correctional Medical counted on holding downs costs, but the company couldn't save enough to overcome rising medical expenses, which ranged from 4.5 percent to more than 5 percent, Max Mobley, prison system deputy director, said. While praising Correctional Medical, board Chairman Mary Parker directed two other board members to lead a special committee to study alternatives for delivering health care to the system's 12,400 prison inmates and the nearly 1,000 residents of the community corrections centers. Saying the board owed it to taxpayers, Parker said no idea should be left off the table, including the "drastic" measure of the prison system operating its own health-care system. Mobley and other prison officials had met Thursday with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences chancellor to discuss a possible partnership. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

McPherson Prison
Newport, Arkansas
Correctional Medical Services (formerly run by Wackenhut Corrections)

September 23, 2008 The Leader
What does it take to bury a bad idea? The Legislative Council last week undertook a study of turning Arkansas’ prisons over to a private company, an idea suggested by Rep. Johnny Hoyt of Morrilton. Hoyt was not around, at least in the legislature, the last time this hare-brained but appealing idea was raised. The state contracted with a private national company, Wackenhut Correction Corp., to operate a couple of the state’s penitentiaries. Arkansas’ prisons already were about the most cheaply run in the country, but Wackenhut said it could do it even more cheaply, and that was enough to sell the lawmakers. The prisons’ cost was rising sharply every year, although the reason was no mystery. The number of inmates climbed every year, and the state had to pay for new prisons and bigger staffs and it had to reimburse cities and counties for holding prisoners for whom there was no room in the penitentiaries. There also was no mystery about how a private contractor could do it. It calculated the profit that the investors needed, then reduced the number of employees, salaries and insurance costs and services to a level that would fit within the state appropriation. That is what Wackenhut did and in three years the scandal was so electrifying that the state canceled the contract and every lawmaker swore off privatization. Arkansas prisons are a fair-sized city, roughly 15,000 inhabitants housed in close proximity and needing many of the necessities a city needs: food and medical assistance among others. They didn’t get much medical help. Who, after all, would feel any compassion for a whining criminal? Arkansas spends far more on corrections than any civilized society should, and under the existing criminal code it is going to have to spend tens of millions of dollars more every year. But privatization is not the answer. Reforming the criminal code to shorten the sentences of non-violent offenders and resort to alternative sentences for some victimless crimes would help. It would end the massive glut in the correctional system and make punishment certain once again. That is the best deterrent of all, and the cheapest, too.

September 20, 2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Prison officials said Friday they oppose a proposal by four legislators to consider privatizing Arkansas prisons. State Rep. Johnny Hoyt, D Morrilton, said the proposal is a way “to open up some dialogue.” “Right now, our prisons are full. They’re sending state prisoners to our county jails. We’ve got to find another way,” Hoyt said after a meeting of the Legislative Council in Little Rock. On Friday, 14, 816 inmates were state prisoners, including 1, 247 that are being housed in county jails around the state until prison beds become available, said Dina Tyler, spokesman for the Department of Correction. Tyler said neither Hoyt nor his co-sponsors, Reps. Nathan George, D-Dardanelle, George Overbey, D-Lamar, and Lance Reynolds, D-Quitman, had talked to prison officials before filing their proposal with the council Thursday. The issue didn’t come up for discussion at the council’s meeting Friday. Hoyt commented on the proposed study when asked about it by reporters. “That’s OK. We’re happy to participate,” Tyler said. “I will say our department is not overly eager to step back into privatization.” Tyler cited the state’s experience with the Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which ran the Grimes and McPherson units in Newport from 1998 to 2001. “That experiment didn’t go well. The state had to assume management of those two facilities because the company couldn’t do what it said it could do,” Tyler said. Wackenhut performed poorly in sanitation and maintenance issues, she said. Tyler also pointed to a U. S. Department of Justice probe into the McPherson and Grimes units in November 2003 which characterized conditions at the two prisons as “unconstitutional” because of inadequate medical care and unsafe living conditions. “That happened right after we stepped back in,” Tyler said. Hoyt, who is in his first term as a state representative, said “if I’d been here a hundred years like everyone else, I’d know that. But is Wackenhut OK now ? Let’s revisit all aspects of that.” A subsequent agreement between the state and the Justice Department to remedy conditions at the prisons has been completed, releasing the state from federal oversight, Tyler said. Wackenhut officials didn’t return a telephone call for comment on Friday. The two largest private corrections companies in the United States are Wackenhut, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, Tenn. Corrections Corporation officials didn’t return a telephone call for comment about any possible interest in expanding their operations into Arkansas. State law requires the Board of Corrections to approve the building of any private state correctional facility, Tyler said. That board is appointed by the governor. And Gov. Mike Beebe’s main priority in the field of prison issues remains searching for alternative sentencing programs for nonviolent inmates to save beds, said Matt DeCample, his spokesman. And Beebe is mindful of the earlier Wackenhut era. “You learn from experiences like that,” DeCample said. “But we’re always open to new proposals and studies.” The “ultimate solution,” DeCample said, is to continue to improve the state’s schools “to reduce the need for those beds.” Prison growth has spurted this year, Tyler said, although no one factor adequately explains that growth.

March 2, 2006 New York Times
Shawanna Nelson, a prisoner at the McPherson Unit in Newport, Ark., had been in labor for more than 12 hours when she arrived at Newport Hospital on Sept. 20, 2003. Ms. Nelson, whose legs were shackled together and who had been given nothing stronger than Tylenol all day, begged, according to court papers, to have the shackles removed. Though her doctor and two nurses joined in the request, her lawsuit says, the guard in charge of her refused. "She was shackled all through labor," said Ms. Nelson's lawyer, Cathleen V. Compton. "The doctor who was delivering the baby made them remove the shackles for the actual delivery at the very end. The experience of giving birth without anesthesia while largely immobilized has left her with lasting back pain and damage to her sciatic nerve, according to her lawsuit against prison officials and a private company, Correctional Medical Services.

January 13, 2006 Arkansas News
A legislative committee Thursday questioned the state Department of Correction's use of $8 million in salary savings from open positions for other needs within the prison system. Prison officials went before lawmakers seeking permission to take the money from the agency's regular salaries account. Prison Director Larry Norris said about $5.5 million of the money would be placed in the system's medical assistance account. Rep. Horace Hardwick, R-Bentonville, asked Norris if he would consider privatization. Norris said he did not want to consider privatization because it has not worked in the state in the past. Two prison units in Newport, the Grimes Unit and McPherson Unit, were managed by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. of Coral Gables for several years, but management problems forced the state to retake control, the prison director said. "We've tried it and it did not work," Norris said. "In my opinion, they can't do it better for less."

August 21, 2005 Arkansas Gazette
A doctor who recently left his job as medical director at the state’s prison for women in Newport was so incompetent and indifferent to patients’ needs that he caused an inmate’s death last year, according to a federal lawsuit. In the negligence lawsuit filed last week in Little Rock, Larry Morris Sr. of Rosston in Nevada County blames Dr. Craig Bardell, 54, for the Oct. 23, 2004, death of his 47-yearold wife, Virginia Morris. The mother of two grown sons died seven months into a 10-year sentence for a conviction of possessing and selling crack cocaine. The suit also names as defendants a registered nurse, Cheryl Pigg, who worked under Bardell at McPherson Unit in Jackson County; and Correctional Medical Services, the St. Louis-based company that employed Bardell and that has been the target of numerous lawsuits across the country alleging improper inmate care. At least 199 cases have been filed against the company in the Eastern District of Arkansas, according to federal court records. One lawsuit, settled in November 1997, involved the July 29, 1995, death of a diabetic inmate at the Pulaski County jail, where the company then provided medical care. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette filed a successful lawsuit in 1995 against the sheriff’s office to get access to the company’s medical guidelines. The company currently provides medical services to more than 13,000 Arkansas inmates under a $38 million contract. With contracts in 26 other states, the company is responsible for the health care of more than 212,000 prisoners nationwide, according to the lawsuit filed last week. Bardell previously worked as medical director of a women’s prison in Pennsylvania where, according to a lawsuit settled in May for $2.15 million, a 26-year-old woman died in 2002 from an asthma attack after he withheld her medication.
Court records show that, after Bardell pleaded guilty in 2001 to federal Medicare fraud charges, the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine eventually suspended his medical license for five years, retroactive to Nov. 6, 2002, with the suspension stayed in favor of five years’ probation.

December 8, 2003
Inmates at two Arkansas prisons "experienced deliberate indifference towards their serious medical needs" and had "inadequate protection" from physical harm and sexual misconduct, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded after an 18 month investigation.  In a report released Wednesday, federal authorities described inadequate health care and safety precautions at the McPherson and Grimes units in Newport that amount to "unconstitutional conditions."  Inmates lived in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, the department concluded.  Federal investigators described several examples of what they consider inferior care at the McPherson unit, the state’s only women’s prison, and at Grimes, which houses young men.  After complaining of chest pains, one inmate who had recently undergone open-heart surgery was given Tylenol and sent back to his unit. Another inmate who was sick with symptoms of appendicitis was not referred to a doctor.  A number of inmates also complained that they were disciplined because their symptoms diminished between the time they requested medical attention and the time they saw a nurse.  The Justice Department suggested several remedies, including increasing staff and developing new policies and procedures. Larry Norris, director of the state Department of Correction, denied that conditions at the two prisons were as egregious as federal officials contend. He did acknowledge some failings by previous management of the prisons. Wackenhut Corrections Corp., a private company, operated the Grimes and McPherson units from 1998 until July 2001. "We know that we had some problems up there, and we were working on them when [investigators] were up there, and we have continued to work on them since," Norris said. "Some of [the report] we agree with. Some of it we don’t."  Norris declined to discuss specific aspects of the report.  St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services began providing for Grimes and McPherson in July 2001. Spokesman Ken Fields said the Justice Department report does not reflect the care the company provides. "It’s an initial report, and it’s based on a few visits to the prisons conducted as far back as 18 months ago," he said. "Based on our initial review, it contains a number of inaccuracies and does not reflect fairly the medical care being provided each day to inmates."  INADEQUATE CARE The state pays Correctional Medical Services $32 million per year to care for its 13,000 inmates in Arkansas’ 18 correctional units. That contract also includes the care of inmates in centers run by the state Department of Community Correction. McPherson and Grimes are about a quarter mile apart. McPherson was designed to house about 600 women, but during the Justice Department’s inspection, the facility held about 700 women. The Grimes unit houses about 600 young men ages 16 to 24.  The Justice Department inspected the two facilities during three- and four-day visits in July, August and September of 2002. Investigators interviewed administrators, security staff, medical and mental health care providers, and inmates.  When asked what prompted the investigation, Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez referred the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the report, which is written in the form of a letter to Gov. Mike Huckabee. The letter, dated Nov. 25, makes no mention of the Justice Department’s motivation.  The 35-page letter focuses primarily on the inmate health care that federal investigators found lacking. Some of those include: Inmates not receiving proper referral and follow-up services. For example, an inmate at McPherson never saw a doctor even though she sought care for asthma-related breathing problems three times in less than 10 days. Inmates with critical diseases not getting proper care, including those with diabetes, HIV and seizure disorders. Specifically, the investigators found that neither facility regularly tested diabetic inmates ’ blood or urine. They also found that staff did not adequately communicate results to inmates who had been tested for diseases like HIV. Inmates with acute medical needs were not seen quickly enough. Federal authorities said nurses at the prison admitted many patients were not seen within 24 hours.  Inmates at the McPherson Unit, especially, were subject to mental health care that was unconstitutional. Investigators said prison staff didn’t attempt to identify women in need of mental health care.  The Justice Department said problems in the two units mostly stem from inadequate staffing, lack of supervision and the failure to consistently implement medical policies and protocols. Norris said he "feels pretty good" about the medical care that inmates in the state’s prisons receive. When asked if he doubted the validity of some examples in the report, Norris said: "I’m not saying that... We don’t know yet." I’m just not going to sit here and tell you we were wrong on these things until I get into it. "  ACCREDITED FACILITIES Norris pointed out that the American Correctional Association has recently accredited both prisons and almost 40 staff positions have been added at the prisons since 2001. The American Correctional Association has conducted a comprehensive review of both prisons, including health-care services, CMS’s Fields said." As a result of that evaluation the accrediting organization gave both facilities high marks on key issues such as staffing and other medical measures, "Fields said, though he could not provide the Democrat-Gazette a copy of the review late Wednesday.  CMS recently added a second physician to the prisons ’ staff and has made other improvements, including eliminating the backlog of inmates waiting for mammograms and pap smears.  In addition to medical concerns, the Justice Department investigators found that both prisons had problems detecting contraband like homemade knives and tobacco. The report also said the Grimes Unit failed to prevent inmate-on-inmate violence. Both units, the investigators said, had" serious problems" in their investigation and monitoring of sexual misconduct and privacy violations.  The state plans to respond to the Justice Department’s letter and its recommendations. Justice Department officials then will meet with state prison administrators to determine the best course of action, Martinez said. Though it’s possible the federal government could sue the state to force improvements, Martinez said such an action is a last resort.  Rita Sklar, head of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, was pleased to hear that the Justice Department was calling attention to the quality of care at the two prisons. Sklar said Wednesday that she’s not surprised by the findings with regard to medical care. "This is an ongoing problem. I’ve got a file cabinet full of complaints."  (NWA news)

June 30, 2001
Two prisons here managed by a private company under contract to the state were scheduled to become state operations early Sunday.  Wackenhut Correction Corp. announced in February that it had opted not to renew the contract under which it had operated the Grimes Unit for men and the McPherson Unit for women since they opened on Jan. 15, 1998.  Wackenhut's management of the prisons had drawn fire from the state since late last year over issues that included inmate idleness and the facilities' cleanliness, and from employees who accused Wackenhut of inmate abuse and security breaches.  (AP)

February 16, 2001
The private company operating two state prisons for the Arkansas Department of Corrections said Thursday it wouldn't do so anymore, citing the high cost of medical care and higher wage demands. the state Board of Correction and Community Punishment already was scheduled to discuss Wackenhut Correction Corp.'s performance, but Wackenhut's decision not to renew its contract eliminated that need. Instead, the board placed the two Newport-area prisons under the Correction Department. As part of regular meeting, the board was to discuss sanitation problems and allegations of inmate idleness at the two facilities. He citied growing medical care costs for female prisoners and increased staff wages as reasons for not renewing the Arkansas contracts. (Postnet - News & Commentary)

February 14, 2001
The Board of Correction and Community Punishment will decide today whether private prisons in Arkansas stay or go. The decision culminates a 90-day probation period during which the community that manages two of the state's lockups was ordered to make drastic improvements to the prisons -- or else. Among the concerns cited by the board last fall were dangerous staffing shortages, unsanitary living conditions, poor maintenance and lack of work and educational programs. These worries -- combined with request for more money by Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the company that manages the state's private prisons -- have prompted board members to contemplate taking control of the two units. Chairman Mary Parker said, "I'm just not sure Arkansas is the place for long-term private prisons." But last year state prison officials questioning how the units were managed. Their inquiries began when a litany of complaints from inmates proved credible after surprise visits to the two prisons. When Wackenhut's president, Wayne Calabrese, arrived at board meeting on Oct. 21, 2000, to discuss renewing the company's contract at a higher cost to the state, board members were somewhat irate. Offering up a lengthy list of problems at both units, they request for more money but also they weren't sure the state should even renew the contract, which expires June 30. Calabrese told the board he was unaware such problems existed. Inmates at grimes and McPherson don't ever seem to work. Instead they loiter around unclean barracks in equality dirty clothes. The "inmate idleness" at the Newport prisons stems from a serious staff shortage, said Larry Norris, director of the department. Because there aren't enough guards to supervise work crews, inmates spend most of there time in living areas, making them not only unproductive but more likely to get bored and into trouble, Norris said. "You have got to get them out of there." Max Mobely, the department's deputy director for health and correctional programs, told board members that substance-abuse programs at the Newport units were lacking and devoid of security measures. He first became worried about McPherson's female inmates two years ago, when he learned that 70 percent of the women there were taking some type of psychotropic medication, drugs designed for those with mental problems or conditions. By comparison, when the state was housing women at the Tucker Unit, only 7 to 9 percent were ever on these types of medication at any time. Charles Allen, head of the prison system's school district, said his teachers and principals were often afraid because of lack of security. There just aren't enough guards, he added. This is a good example of how Wackenhut seems to typically handle difficulties, she said, offering reasons but failing to fix things. The same was true for the eletronic panel at one of the units, she said. When the portion that unlocks and opens gates broke, it took much longer then it should have to get the control board repaired, Parker said. The problem, Parker says, is that private companies cuts costs to make a profit, which means they don't always meet state standards. Wackenhut salaries start at 8dollars an hour. By comparison, guards working for the state are making minimum of $10.11 and they get hazardous-duty pay and better benefits. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

October 21, 2000
Prison officials unleashed a barrage of complaints about the way the Newport prison is being run. Serious staffing shortages, unsanitary living conditions, poor maintenance, and a lack of educational and substance-abuse programs for inmates were among the concerns brought up by the Board of Correction and Community Punishment. The near-constant staffing crisis at the unit means prisoners aren't participating in work crews. Instead, they remain in their living quarters at all times. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

August 2, 2000
A former prison guard for the private company that runs the state prison for women has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an inmate. Marcus King who worked for Wackenhut Correctional Corp. in Newport admitted he had sexual contact with the woman. At a meeting last week, prison board members discussed staffing shortages at the prison, unsanitary living conditions, poor maintenance, and a lack of educational and substance-abuse programs for the inmates. (The Associated Press, Oct. 24, 2000)

Prisoner Transport
North Atlantic Extradition Service
, US Extradition Services
June 29, 2010 AP
The parents of a Utah inmate killed in a southern Arkansas van rollover in 2008 have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a private company that contracts with law enforcement to transport prisoners across the country. Court papers filed in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court Friday claimed U.S. Extradition Services of Stockton, Calif., was negligent in the June 27, 2008, accident that killed Shawn Robert Talbot. The lawsuit filed by Robert and Linda Talbot contended the driver fell asleep at the wheel before the van drifted into oncoming traffic on U.S. 167. Another employee grabbed the wheel of the van and overcorrected. The van then hit a culvert and went airborne before rolling twice and coming to a stop, an Arkansas State Police officer told a newspaper at the time. Court papers said Talbot, 29, was handcuffed and shackled, but not wearing a seat belt. He died at the scene. Seven inmates and two guards were in the van, which was headed to Little Rock, the state police said. One other inmate was killed, and four were injured. A telephone message left at U.S. Extradition's corporate office was not immediately returned Tuesday. David Morgan, a Utah attorney for Talbot's parents, told The Associated Press he believes U.S. Extradition employees were not properly trained. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are company President and Operations Director Gordon Brooks and employee Gregory Reed. A company website said U.S. Extradition has offices nationwide, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.

January 21, 2010 TMJ4
Waukesha County's DA has told Today's TMJ-4 the county is ending its relationship with North Atlantic Extradition. The county's contract expires within days and it will not be renewed. Guards for North Atlantic were transporting accused hitman Justin Welch from California to Wisconsin when Welch escaped earlier this month. Welch has been charged with killing a woman from Oconomowoc in her home last year. He was caught a day after his escape and has since been returned to Wisconsin. He is behind bars awaiting trial. North Atlantic staffers apologized and told Waukesha County the escape was a mistake and it happened because company policies were not followed. The county's law enforcement officials say they're planning to review what happened in depth once a complete investigation is done but for now they do not intend to renew the prisoner transportation contract with North Atlantic.

January 14, 2010 Press Argus-Courier
A Wisconsin homicide suspect who escaped Wednesday from a transport van in Dora was recaptured shortly after noon Thursday in Sallisaw. Justin Welch hitched a ride with a trucker Thursday, and the way he was acting made the driver "suspicious," Van Buren Lt. Brent Grill said Thursday afternoon. He said the trucker either called or texted a family member to express concerns, and the family member alerted Sallisaw police, leading to Welch's capture. Grill said Welch was currently being held at the Sallisaw Police Department, and he was not sure if he would be booked into the Sequoyah County Jail or taken elsewhere. Grill said he was still gathering details, including where Welch spent Wednesday night after reportedly being seen headed east in a private prison transport van Wednesday. Grill said the van has not been located yet. Welch was one of five prisoners being transported by North Atlantic Extraditon Service, a private transport company from Mississippi. The van stopped at the I-40 rest stop in Dora so Welch and the other four prisoners could use the restroom. Grill said Welch stabbed and beat one of the guards, taking his gun and fleeing to the van, where he struggled with the other, unarmed guard, firing a shot at him but missing.

January 13, 2010 Press Argus-Courier
A manhunt is on for a California man accused of murder who escaped Wednesday morning from a private prison transport van at a rest stop in Dora on Interstate 40. According to the Van Buren Police Department, Justin Welch was being transported along with four other prisoners when the driver stopped at the I-40 rest area in Dora around 2:45 a.m. The five prisoners were in the bathroom when Welch is believed to have stabbed the guard in the hand and started beating him in the head area. Van Buren Lt. Brent Grill said Welch then took the handgun from the guard and fled from the bathroom to the van, where he confronted the second, unarmed guard, firing a shot at him in the struggle. Welch then left the area in the transport van, possibly heading east on the interstate. The van is a white 2007 Dodge, marked on both sides with the letters NAES, as well as the words "North Atlantic Extradition Service" Since the transport company is out of Columbus, Miss., the van has Mississippi license plates LTC537. The guard who was stabbed was taken to Summit Medical Center, where he was treated and released. The other guard was not injured.

Pulaski County Jail
Pulaski County, Arkansas

July 3, 2006 Arkansas Leader
Although Pulaski County can’t afford to add more beds to its jail, the county is willing to spend $100,000 for a special election for a sales tax to almost double the number of beds at the county jail. On Tuesday, the Pulaski County Quorum Court threw out the idea of a private jail, and on Wednesday a task force opted to push for a quarter-cent sales tax. The Pulaski County Jail task force believes the sales tax would give the county enough money to quickly build or reopen space to house 1,618 inmates. Currently the jail can only house 880 prisoners. On Tuesday, the quorum court said no to the idea of a privately-operated detention facility after the presenter failed to answer numerous questions and told the task force that they had no plans to take in felons. “We don’t accept felons,” said Greg Caldwell, a marketing representative for the Central Arkansas Regional Detention Facility, which is being built in Lonoke County. “Well, everyone at our county lockup is a felon,” said Justice of the Peace Charles Roberson. “Why are we even having this discussion, and why didn’t any of us know this before now?” Caldwell’s presentation offering a “private solution to a public problem” – the county jail crisis — came as a special request by the court and took place before new business on the agenda, resulting in a court apology for time wasted. Caldwell held the interest of the standing-room-only audience and court members with a barrage of pie charts and bar graphs. His slide presentation comparing operational expenses between CARDC and the overflowing county jail in Little Rock painted a convincing portrait, with estimates of daily costs per bed, total cost per day-per inmate and projected savings by the county of $4.5 million a year. Caldwell essentially claimed That CARDC could reduce the county’s $52,000 annual cost per inmate to $39,600. But he was stymied once the floor was opened for discussion. Questions regarding previous clients, job opportunities, county contract fees based upon specific criminal charges, bed reservations, financial stability and verification of the company’s performance record dealt a staggering blow to Caldwell’s momentum. He refused to disclose any financial numbers and said privately held companies have no obligation to do so. Caldwell’s routine replies of, “I’ll have to re-fer you to my supervisors and operations manager David Hamilton,” prompted Justice of the Peace Phil Stowers to ask for the job titles and roles of the CARDC office-management team and said he would be contacting them soon. “Why isn’t Hamilton here then, if he has all the answers?,” Stowers asked. When asked simple questions, such as how long had his employers been in business, Caldwell replied, “We have over 75 years of management experience,” and fell quiet when a court member asked, “Managing what?” The final salvo to Caldwell resulted when asked how contract fees were rated according to levels of charges against inmates, such as how much more it would cost to reserve a certain number of misdemeanor or felony beds.

Ouachita River Unit
Malvern, Arkansas
Correctional Medical Services

September 5, 2005 Northwest Arkansas News
Over the past five months, at least eight staff members have resigned or been dismissed from their jobs at the Ouachita River Unit in Malvern over allegations of improper relationships with inmates, smuggling contraband or personal drug use. In late April, two nursing assistants were ordered off prison grounds, also for becoming "too friendly" with inmates. Both women worked for Correctional Medical Services, a St. Louis company that provides health care to more than 13,000 inmates under a $38 million contract. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained a copy of a disciplinary report that cites a sexual relationship between an inmate and one of the nursing assistants. The report said that a sergeant found letters printed on an infirmary computer by the nursing assistant that were intended for the inmate and that provided evidence of a sexual relationship.
Department officials referred all questions about the nursing assistants to the St. Louis-based company that employed them. Company officials declined to comment about why the women were barred from prison grounds.

Scott Grimes Correctional Facility
Diaz, Arkansas
Wackenhut

September 23, 2008 The Leader
What does it take to bury a bad idea? The Legislative Council last week undertook a study of turning Arkansas’ prisons over to a private company, an idea suggested by Rep. Johnny Hoyt of Morrilton. Hoyt was not around, at least in the legislature, the last time this hare-brained but appealing idea was raised. The state contracted with a private national company, Wackenhut Correction Corp., to operate a couple of the state’s penitentiaries. Arkansas’ prisons already were about the most cheaply run in the country, but Wackenhut said it could do it even more cheaply, and that was enough to sell the lawmakers. The prisons’ cost was rising sharply every year, although the reason was no mystery. The number of inmates climbed every year, and the state had to pay for new prisons and bigger staffs and it had to reimburse cities and counties for holding prisoners for whom there was no room in the penitentiaries. There also was no mystery about how a private contractor could do it. It calculated the profit that the investors needed, then reduced the number of employees, salaries and insurance costs and services to a level that would fit within the state appropriation. That is what Wackenhut did and in three years the scandal was so electrifying that the state canceled the contract and every lawmaker swore off privatization. Arkansas prisons are a fair-sized city, roughly 15,000 inhabitants housed in close proximity and needing many of the necessities a city needs: food and medical assistance among others. They didn’t get much medical help. Who, after all, would feel any compassion for a whining criminal? Arkansas spends far more on corrections than any civilized society should, and under the existing criminal code it is going to have to spend tens of millions of dollars more every year. But privatization is not the answer. Reforming the criminal code to shorten the sentences of non-violent offenders and resort to alternative sentences for some victimless crimes would help. It would end the massive glut in the correctional system and make punishment certain once again. That is the best deterrent of all, and the cheapest, too.

September 20, 2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Prison officials said Friday they oppose a proposal by four legislators to consider privatizing Arkansas prisons. State Rep. Johnny Hoyt, D Morrilton, said the proposal is a way “to open up some dialogue.” “Right now, our prisons are full. They’re sending state prisoners to our county jails. We’ve got to find another way,” Hoyt said after a meeting of the Legislative Council in Little Rock. On Friday, 14, 816 inmates were state prisoners, including 1, 247 that are being housed in county jails around the state until prison beds become available, said Dina Tyler, spokesman for the Department of Correction. Tyler said neither Hoyt nor his co-sponsors, Reps. Nathan George, D-Dardanelle, George Overbey, D-Lamar, and Lance Reynolds, D-Quitman, had talked to prison officials before filing their proposal with the council Thursday. The issue didn’t come up for discussion at the council’s meeting Friday. Hoyt commented on the proposed study when asked about it by reporters. “That’s OK. We’re happy to participate,” Tyler said. “I will say our department is not overly eager to step back into privatization.” Tyler cited the state’s experience with the Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which ran the Grimes and McPherson units in Newport from 1998 to 2001. “That experiment didn’t go well. The state had to assume management of those two facilities because the company couldn’t do what it said it could do,” Tyler said. Wackenhut performed poorly in sanitation and maintenance issues, she said. Tyler also pointed to a U. S. Department of Justice probe into the McPherson and Grimes units in November 2003 which characterized conditions at the two prisons as “unconstitutional” because of inadequate medical care and unsafe living conditions. “That happened right after we stepped back in,” Tyler said. Hoyt, who is in his first term as a state representative, said “if I’d been here a hundred years like everyone else, I’d know that. But is Wackenhut OK now ? Let’s revisit all aspects of that.” A subsequent agreement between the state and the Justice Department to remedy conditions at the prisons has been completed, releasing the state from federal oversight, Tyler said. Wackenhut officials didn’t return a telephone call for comment on Friday. The two largest private corrections companies in the United States are Wackenhut, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, Tenn. Corrections Corporation officials didn’t return a telephone call for comment about any possible interest in expanding their operations into Arkansas. State law requires the Board of Corrections to approve the building of any private state correctional facility, Tyler said. That board is appointed by the governor. And Gov. Mike Beebe’s main priority in the field of prison issues remains searching for alternative sentencing programs for nonviolent inmates to save beds, said Matt DeCample, his spokesman. And Beebe is mindful of the earlier Wackenhut era. “You learn from experiences like that,” DeCample said. “But we’re always open to new proposals and studies.” The “ultimate solution,” DeCample said, is to continue to improve the state’s schools “to reduce the need for those beds.” Prison growth has spurted this year, Tyler said, although no one factor adequately explains that growth.

January 13, 2006 Arkansas News
A legislative committee Thursday questioned the state Department of Correction's use of $8 million in salary savings from open positions for other needs within the prison system. Prison officials went before lawmakers seeking permission to take the money from the agency's regular salaries account. Prison Director Larry Norris said about $5.5 million of the money would be placed in the system's medical assistance account. Rep. Horace Hardwick, R-Bentonville, asked Norris if he would consider privatization. Norris said he did not want to consider privatization because it has not worked in the state in the past. Two prison units in Newport, the Grimes Unit and McPherson Unit, were managed by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. of Coral Gables for several years, but management problems forced the state to retake control, the prison director said. "We've tried it and it did not work," Norris said. "In my opinion, they can't do it better for less."

December 8, 2003
Inmates at two Arkansas prisons "experienced deliberate indifference towards their serious medical needs" and had "inadequate protection" from physical harm and sexual misconduct, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded after an 18 month investigation.  In a report released Wednesday, federal authorities described inadequate health care and safety precautions at the McPherson and Grimes units in Newport that amount to "unconstitutional conditions."  Inmates lived in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, the department concluded.  Federal investigators described several examples of what they consider inferior care at the McPherson unit, the state’s only women’s prison, and at Grimes, which houses young men.  After complaining of chest pains, one inmate who had recently undergone open-heart surgery was given Tylenol and sent back to his unit. Another inmate who was sick with symptoms of appendicitis was not referred to a doctor.  A number of inmates also complained that they were disciplined because their symptoms diminished between the time they requested medical attention and the time they saw a nurse.  The Justice Department suggested several remedies, including increasing staff and developing new policies and procedures. Larry Norris, director of the state Department of Correction, denied that conditions at the two prisons were as egregious as federal officials contend. He did acknowledge some failings by previous management of the prisons. Wackenhut Corrections Corp., a private company, operated the Grimes and McPherson units from 1998 until July 2001. "We know that we had some problems up there, and we were working on them when [investigators] were up there, and we have continued to work on them since," Norris said. "Some of [the report] we agree with. Some of it we don’t."  Norris declined to discuss specific aspects of the report.  St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services began providing for Grimes and McPherson in July 2001. Spokesman Ken Fields said the Justice Department report does not reflect the care the company provides. "It’s an initial report, and it’s based on a few visits to the prisons conducted as far back as 18 months ago," he said. "Based on our initial review, it contains a number of inaccuracies and does not reflect fairly the medical care being provided each day to inmates."  INADEQUATE CARE The state pays Correctional Medical Services $32 million per year to care for its 13,000 inmates in Arkansas’ 18 correctional units. That contract also includes the care of inmates in centers run by the state Department of Community Correction. McPherson and Grimes are about a quarter mile apart. McPherson was designed to house about 600 women, but during the Justice Department’s inspection, the facility held about 700 women. The Grimes unit houses about 600 young men ages 16 to 24.  The Justice Department inspected the two facilities during three- and four-day visits in July, August and September of 2002. Investigators interviewed administrators, security staff, medical and mental health care providers, and inmates.  When asked what prompted the investigation, Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez referred the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the report, which is written in the form of a letter to Gov. Mike Huckabee. The letter, dated Nov. 25, makes no mention of the Justice Department’s motivation.  The 35-page letter focuses primarily on the inmate health care that federal investigators found lacking. Some of those include: Inmates not receiving proper referral and follow-up services. For example, an inmate at McPherson never saw a doctor even though she sought care for asthma-related breathing problems three times in less than 10 days. Inmates with critical diseases not getting proper care, including those with diabetes, HIV and seizure disorders. Specifically, the investigators found that neither facility regularly tested diabetic inmates ’ blood or urine. They also found that staff did not adequately communicate results to inmates who had been tested for diseases like HIV. Inmates with acute medical needs were not seen quickly enough. Federal authorities said nurses at the prison admitted many patients were not seen within 24 hours.  Inmates at the McPherson Unit, especially, were subject to mental health care that was unconstitutional. Investigators said prison staff didn’t attempt to identify women in need of mental health care.  The Justice Department said problems in the two units mostly stem from inadequate staffing, lack of supervision and the failure to consistently implement medical policies and protocols. Norris said he "feels pretty good" about the medical care that inmates in the state’s prisons receive. When asked if he doubted the validity of some examples in the report, Norris said: "I’m not saying that... We don’t know yet." I’m just not going to sit here and tell you we were wrong on these things until I get into it. "  ACCREDITED FACILITIES Norris pointed out that the American Correctional Association has recently accredited both prisons and almost 40 staff positions have been added at the prisons since 2001. The American Correctional Association has conducted a comprehensive review of both prisons, including health-care services, CMS’s Fields said." As a result of that evaluation the accrediting organization gave both facilities high marks on key issues such as staffing and other medical measures, "Fields said, though he could not provide the Democrat-Gazette a copy of the review late Wednesday.  CMS recently added a second physician to the prisons ’ staff and has made other improvements, including eliminating the backlog of inmates waiting for mammograms and pap smears.  In addition to medical concerns, the Justice Department investigators found that both prisons had problems detecting contraband like homemade knives and tobacco. The report also said the Grimes Unit failed to prevent inmate-on-inmate violence. Both units, the investigators said, had" serious problems" in their investigation and monitoring of sexual misconduct and privacy violations.  The state plans to respond to the Justice Department’s letter and its recommendations. Justice Department officials then will meet with state prison administrators to determine the best course of action, Martinez said. Though it’s possible the federal government could sue the state to force improvements, Martinez said such an action is a last resort.  Rita Sklar, head of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, was pleased to hear that the Justice Department was calling attention to the quality of care at the two prisons. Sklar said Wednesday that she’s not surprised by the findings with regard to medical care. "This is an ongoing problem. I’ve got a file cabinet full of complaints."  (NWA news)

June 30, 2001
Two prisons here managed by a private company under contract to the state were scheduled to become state operations early Sunday.  Wackenhut Correction Corp. announced in February that it had opted not to renew the contract under which it had operated the Grimes Unit for men and the McPherson Unit for women since they opened on Jan. 15, 1998.  Wackenhut's management of the prisons had drawn fire from the state since late last year over issues that included inmate idleness and the facilities' cleanliness, and from employees who accused Wackenhut of inmate abuse and security breaches.  (AP)

February 16, 2001
The private company operating two state prisons for the Arkansas Department of Corrections said Thursday it wouldn't do so anymore, citing the high cost of medical care and higher wage demands. the state Board of Correction and Community Punishment already was scheduled to discuss Wackenhut Correction Corp.'s performance, but Wackenhut's decision not to renew its contract eliminated that need. Instead, the board placed the two Newport-area prisons under the Correction Department. As part of regular meeting, the board was to discuss sanitation problems and allegations of inmate idleness at the two facilities. He citied growing medical care costs for female prisoners and increased staff wages as reasons for not renewing the Arkansas contracts. (Postnet - News & Commentary)

February 14, 2001
The Board of Correction and Community Punishment will decide today whether private prisons in Arkansas stay or go. The decision culminates a 90-day probation period during which the community that manages two of the state's lockups was ordered to make drastic improvements to the prisons -- or else. Among the concerns cited by the board last fall were dangerous staffing shortages, unsanitary living conditions, poor maintenance and lack of work and educational programs. These worries -- combined with request for more money by Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the company that manages the state's private prisons -- have prompted board members to contemplate taking control of the two units. Chairman Mary Parker said, "I'm just not sure Arkansas is the place for long-term private prisons." But last year state prison officials questioning how the units were managed. Their inquiries began when a litany of complaints from inmates proved credible after surprise visits to the two prisons. When Wackenhut's president, Wayne Calabrese, arrived at board meeting on Oct. 21, 2000, to discuss renewing the company's contract at a higher cost to the state, board members were somewhat irate. Offering up a lengthy list of problems at both units, they request for more money but also they weren't sure the state should even renew the contract, which expires June 30. Calabrese told the board he was unaware such problems existed. Inmates at grimes and McPherson don't ever seem to work. Instead they loiter around unclean barracks in equality dirty clothes. The "inmate idleness" at the Newport prisons stems from a serious staff shortage, said Larry Norris, director of the department. Because there aren't enough guards to supervise work crews, inmates spend most of there time in living areas, making them not only unproductive but more likely to get bored and into trouble, Norris said. "You have got to get them out of there." Max Mobely, the department's deputy director for health and correctional programs, told board members that substance-abuse programs at the Newport units were lacking and devoid of security measures. He first became worried about McPherson's female inmates two years ago, when he learned that 70 percent of the women there were taking some type of psychotropic medication, drugs designed for those with mental problems or conditions. By comparison, when the state was housing women at the Tucker Unit, only 7 to 9 percent were ever on these types of medication at any time. Charles Allen, head of the prison system's school district, said his teachers and principals were often afraid because of lack of security. There just aren't enough guards, he added. This is a good example of how Wackenhut seems to typically handle difficulties, she said, offering reasons but failing to fix things. The same was true for the eletronic panel at one of the units, she said. When the portion that unlocks and opens gates broke, it took much longer then it should have to get the control board repaired, Parker said. The problem, Parker says, is that private companies cuts costs to make a profit, which means they don't always meet state standards. Wackenhut salaries start at 8dollars an hour. By comparison, guards working for the state are making minimum of $10.11 and they get hazardous-duty pay and better benefits. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

December 1, 2000
The FBI is reportedly taking a look at allegations of brutality against inmates in this privately operated unit of the State Correction Department. Current and former guards and employees and inmates alleged that beatings of prisoners were a regular occurrence, especially at the Scott Grimes Correctional Facility which houses about 600 young men between the ages of 16-24. The Ronald McPherson Correctional Facility houses about 600 women inmates of all ages in a nearly identical facility. Wackenhut Senior Warden John Maples said FBI agents have been to the facility recently, but he said he didn't know what they were investigating. The Times first learned of the allegations in letters from inmates who contend that Wackenhut guards brought in temporarily guards form Louisiana were terrorizing inmates with what they called "Swamp Beatings." Prisoners were often handcuffed for minor infractions, sprayed with chemical agents and then punched, kicked and rammed into doors, the inmates said. One officer, Joe Tagliaboschi, 62, of Diaz said he believed other officers falsified documents to cover up the beatings. The guards also complained that Wackenhut frequently ran both units with a skeleton staff far below the "critical post" limits required by the company's contract with the state. Guards and inmates also complained Wackenhut did not feed the inmates adequate rations and hid deficiencies from the state. Officials gave Wackenhut until February 2001 to correct deficiencies at the two prisons. (Arkansas Times, Dec. 1, 2000)

Tucker Maximum Security Unit
Tucker, Arkansas
Correctional Medical Services

June 18, 2008 AP
Authorities say they’ve arrested the director of nursing at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit on suspicion of smuggling bags of tobacco into the prison. Police say 33-year-old Rolanda Barron was arrested June 9 after a routine search at the prison turned up seven bags of loose tobacco concealed in her umbrella. Prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler says the umbrella also contained a cell phone, charger and four D cell batteries — all of which are considered contraband. Arkansas State Police arrested Barron on suspicion of furnishing prohibited articles, a felony. Barron has been released from the Jefferson County jail on a $2,500 bond. Barron worked for Correctional Medical Services, which provides medical services to state prisons under a $44 million contract. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.

University of Central Arkansas
Conway, Arkansas
Aramark

August 30, 2012 Northwest Arkansas Business Journal
Former University of Central Arkansas president Allen Meadors is facing a misdemeanor charge stemming from a deal with food vendor Aramark. The office of Faulkner County Prosecutor Cody Hiland filed the charge on Wednesday, nearly a year after the UCA board began an investigation of Meadors. Hiland was out of the office Thursday morning and unavailable for comment. Meadors and board Chairman Scott Roussel apologized last year for not revealing that Aramark offered $700,000 for renovating the UCA president's home if its contract with the school was renewed. Several trustees have they didn't know the Aramark offer was tied to the renewal of its contract with UCA. The trustees said they thought the $700,000 was a gift. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Wednesday that Meadors' charge was solicitation of tampering with a public record, which "carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine." Meadors "is accused of urging a vice president to destroy a letter that said the offer would be in exchange for renewing Aramark's contract," the newspaper said.

June 19, 2012 AP
University of Central Arkansas officials are saying little about the resignation of chief of staff Jack Gillean. Gillean has not returned messages left on his cell phone and a UCA spokesman told the Log Cabin Democrat on Monday only that Friday’s resignation is not related to an investigation into money given UCA by food vendor Aramark. Former UCA President Allen Meadors and board President Scott Rousell each resigned following revelations that $700,000 given by Aramark last August to renovate the president’s home was dependent upon Aramark’s contract being renewed for seven years. UCA spokesman Jeff Pitchford said Gillean’s duties included overseeing the campus police department and the affirmative action program. Pitchford said interim UCA President Tom Courtway was not available for comment.

April 27, 2012 Log Cabin
University of Central Arkansas Faculty Senate members are calling for a trustee’s resignation. The group voted Thursday on a resolution requesting Scott Roussel, a real estate business man of Searcy appointed to the board for a second term in 2008 by Gov. Mike Beebe, to leave his post. The action follows the board’s approval of a new deal with Aramark, one that would “wipe clean” $6.7 million in unamortized funds and interest. Roussel voted to approve the contract along with other trustees as it was presented, though governing groups on campus said they believed the trustee should recuse. Thursday’s resolution states that Roussel “was cognizant of the conditions described by Aramark in the acceptance of $700,000 in return for a seven-year, no bid contract for food services on the UCA campus...” It further explains that Roussel “would or should have been aware” of potential damage to the university’s reputation when he announced the large “gift” from the university’s food vendor, and did not disclose, by his account without purpose, that the pledge was contingent upon the renewal of the company’s contract. The money would have furthered renovations under way at the UCA president’s home that was occupied by former president Allen Meadors, who resigned last September after trustees learned of the stipulation. UCA conducted its own interviews shortly after the discovery, but then turned the investigation into possible improprieties by university staff over to Arkansas State Police. State police gave a “lengthy” case file to Twentieth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland earlier this month. Hiland said Friday that his office is still reviewing the file to determine if a criminal act has been committed.

September 23, 2011 Booneville Democrat
A prosecutor Thursday asked Arkansas State Police to investigate the University of Central Arkansas’ contract with a food vendor that hastened university president’s departure from the school. The contract with Aramark included a $700,000 donation for renovations of the president’s residence contingent upon UCA retaining Aramark as the university’s food service vendor. The UCA board of Trustees earlier this month voted to buy out the rest of UCA President Allen Meadors’ contract after board members apparently felt he misrepresented the offer to them as a gift. State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said Thursday that Faulkner County Prosecutor Cody Hiland asked the state police to investigate the contract. “The request transmitted to us by was to investigate the contract between the University of Central Arkansas and Aramark,” Sadler said. “Once the agent is assigned ... his first assignment will be to meet with the prosecutor and receive some more specific information.” Hiland did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. A committee created by the UCA board to look into the contract issue voted to ask the university’s internal audit office to review the arrangement.

September 7, 2011 Arkansas Times
"There's right and there's wrong and there's UCA." I don't even know what that means. I doubt that the Conway insider who uttered it to me Friday afternoon does either. I use it, though, because it conveys the relevant utter frustration. A few years ago the University of Central Arkansas was the hottest college in the state. It was located in a booming suburban college town. It had a politically astute president. Enrollment was skyrocketing. Television advertising was Landersesque. Then that politically astute president, Lu Hardin, got caught cutting ethical corners to gin up some bonus money for himself to pay gambling debts. He will be going to prison any day now, surely. The UCA Board of Trustees, looking around for the anti-Lu, found its man in Dr. Allen Meadors, a campus graduate with experience as a small-college president and a meek manner. Not long ago I made a crack about Hardin's ethical wasteland in the presence of a leading UCA staff member. It angered her. She explained that she loved the school and that it was steadily righting itself and, essentially, that a smart-aleck press commentator ought to watch his mouth. But now this: Meadors was revealed this week to have misrepresented to the UCA board that the campus food vendor, a company called Aramark, was donating $700,000 to fix up the president's official home across the street from the campus. The board, initially as blindly obeisant to administrative happy talk as with Hardin before, said sure, yes, without delay, we accept this gift for this most urgent academic need and we authorize preliminary architectural designs and cost estimates. Then came that pesky reporter for the statewide daily, famous for bedeviling Hardin, and still wielding the Freedom of Information law like a switchblade. She asked board members if they had known a little detail: Aramark actually would donate the money from one hand only if it was guaranteed that it would reel more money from UCA into the other hand by getting its food service contract renewed without competitive bidding for a period at least long enough for a guaranteed realization of enough profit to get back the gift. Why, no, we didn't know that, said some of these board members, and, by golly, we are just a little bit ticked. They called themselves to a special meeting. This was not charity, but amortizing. It was a food service vendor seeking to escape a new round of competitive bidding by going into the home improvement lending business on the side. It was an advance on marked-up grub the kids would eat later in their hostage environment. I'm advised that this kind of arrangement is not uncommon. But it ought to be. And if it is common, why conspicuously neglect to mention it? Meadors, going all-in for damage control, told the board in this second special meeting that he had erred and that he would recommend that the school not accept the money as offered. He recommended that the school open the food service contract for bidding. The board withdrew its previous approval for a housing allowance by which Meadors and his wife could rent suitable quarters elsewhere until the presidential home was renovated. Meadors' wife, a stronger personality, has been spending quite a bit of time with family in North Carolina. Just 24 hours later, on Friday afternoon, the board met in special session again, this time by phone. Then the board reconvened in public and bought out Meadors' contract. The board could have restored Meadors' authority to live temporarily off campus. But that might simply have kept matters festering — a la Hardin — and nobody wanted to go through that again. Meadors may be a bit of a victim, just as UCA. He clearly erred by not revealing the full nature of the arrangement with the food vendor. But it is entirely possible that he considered such deals commonplace. He may have felt some pressure close to home about inadequate living arrangements, the short-term solution to which got sacrificed in this fast-roiling controversy. So now UCA will start trying again to right the ship.

September 1, 2011 AP
A $700,000 gift from Aramark to the University of Central Arkansas came with a condition that Aramark's food service contract with the university be renewed. At least five members of UCA's Board of Trustees say they did not know about the condition. A letter from Aramark district manager to UCA vice president Diane Newton calls the money an unrestricted grant contingent upon a seven year extension of Aramark's food service contract. UCA President Allen Meadors told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he takes responsibility for the trustees not knowing the terms of the gift. Meadors says such conditions are not unusual. Trustee Rush Harding III told the Log Cabin Democrat agreed the transaction is common — but said trustees should have been informed.