GEORGIA
 HALL OF SHAME


If you find our website useful, please consider sending us a contribution!!!

PCWG, 1114 Brandt Drive, Tallahassee FL 32308

 


AmericaMart
Atlanta, Georgia
Aramark

August 27, 2002
An argument between two employees led to the stabbing death of a man at AmericaMart on Thursday, police said.  the body was discovered about 6 p.m. in a restroom at the exhibition facility on 250 Spring St.  The 53-year old man, whose name was not released, had been stabbed multiple times.  Atlanta police Sgt. John Quigley said the death resulted from a dispute between employees.  James L. Shaw, 37, of Atlanta was charged with murder in the incident.  (The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Atlanta Public Schools
Aramark

July 9, 2002
Aramark-Gourmet Services, the private company that has handled Atlanta Public Schools' food service program since 1999, appears certain to hold onto the job for another year.   That's despite a string of controversies, from complaints of poor food quality to underuse of government surplus food that culminated last fall when more than $200,000 of surplus turkey, cheese, powdered milk and other items was tossed out by the company.  (The Atlanta Journal)

Augusta Youth Development Campus
Augusta, Georgia
Unique Solutions

March 30, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A former Juvenile justice manager has filed a civil rights lawsuit against two top officials, alleging they forced him to resign after he refused to destroy a memo citing problems at a youth prison. Frank Berry filed suit Friday against Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Albert Murray and Deputy Commissioner Thomas L. Coleman. Berry ran mental health services for the department for nearly three years. Seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, Berry claims that Coleman ordered him in February 2004 to destroy a memo he had written, and that he refused. The memo cited mental health care shortfalls at the Augusta Youth Development Campus, which housed "the most vulnerable youth in our system," including some who were prone to suicide. The department's previous commissioner, Orlando Martinez, had put the troubled Augusta youth prison into the hands of a private company. Unique Solutions. But then Youth Services International of Sarasota, Fla., won the contract and was due to take over in February 2004. To ensure a smooth transition, Berry led an all-day meeting at the youth prison with officials and staff from the contractors and the Department of Juvenile Justice and uncovered problems. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. It states that in March 2004, Murray asked Berry if he had considered the consequences of his memo before drafting it and told Berry, "I don't like to be embarrassed." Murray also told Berry that if Murray were asked to destroy a document, he'd have two choices: destroy it or resign. A week later, Berry received a letter from Coleman. It informed him that his last day of employment would be that April 15. Murray was copied on the letter. Berry resigned. The February 2004 memo, which Berry wrote with another staff member, concluded that a private company poised to take over the youth prison wasn't prepared to manage it. It warned that the company's plans for providing medical and psychological care were inadequate. Just before the scheduled takeover, Murray abruptly closed the Augusta facility after Unique Solutions protested the bidding process. The youth prison reopened last November under state control.

July 7, 2004
A former juvenile justice manager says top officials forced him to resign for refusing to destroy a memo that cited shortfalls in mental health care at a youth prison.  Frank Berry, who ran mental health services for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice for nearly three years, says Deputy Commissioner Thomas Coleman told him in February to get rid of a memo that outlined Berry's concerns about the Augusta Youth Development Campus.  The memo concluded that a private company, which was about to take over the prison that houses the state's most disturbed youngsters, was unprepared to manage a facility that "serves the most vulnerable youth in our system."  The memo -- co-written by Berry and Dr. Shawn Allen, the agency's administrative psychiatrist -- warned that the company's plans for providing medical and psychological care were inadequate. "We were told to destroy the document by one of the deputy commissioners and ultimately the commissioner," Berry said. "I refused to destroy it.  It would have been unethical at best and illegal at worst."  One year ago, then-Commissioner Orlando Martinez put the troubled Augusta youth prison into private hands after a GBI probe into allegations of sex and drug sales between staff and inmates. Since August 2003, Unique Solutions ran the youth prison. But in February, Youth Services International of Sarasota, Fla., won the contract and was due to take over Feb. 15.  To ensure a smooth transition, Berry chaired an all-day meeting at the facility with officials and staff from the contractors and the Department of Juvenile Justice.  According to Berry, he and Allen left that meeting believing the contractor was not ready to take over the facility. The company's staff had not been adequately trained, it had retained only a part-time psychologist and it still lacked 24-hour nursing care for emergencies -- all in violation of the contract, Berry and Allen wrote in their memo.  "These were the sickest kids in the state, the kids who had significant mental health problems," Berry said. "We felt a strong obligation to the kids to report our concerns about their care."  Just before the scheduled takeover in February, Murray abruptly closed the Augusta youth prison after Unique Solutions protested the bidding process and threatened to seek a temporary restraining order to stop Youth Services International from taking over.  The governor recently announced the Augusta facility would reopen in the fall under state control.  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

February 17, 2004
The threat of legal action prompted state officials to temporarily shut down the Augusta Youth Development Campus, a long-term detention center for mentally troubled boys.  The threat of litigation led to the state's decision, Albert Murray, commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, said in a statement. "DJJ remains committed to the long-term viability of the Augusta YDC," Murray said. "Under consideration will be the return of the campus to state operations and bringing back staff as state employees.  "Florida-based Youth Services International was to take over operation of the campus this past weekend. But Unique Solutions Inc., the contractor running the campus, threatened legal action Friday to stop Youth Services from taking over, Vickers said.  Acting on advice from the state attorney general's office, the Department of Juvenile Justice decided to shut down the campus. "In effect, we ended up with no vendor at all," Vickers said. "The issue is, is the state going to operate it, or are we going to re-bid?"  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

July 3, 2003
The state Department of Juvenile Justice has handed control of the Augusta Youth Development Campus to a private company on an emergency basis.  The transfer, done without bids for the $5.5 million contract, had been scheduled for Aug. 1 but was pushed up a month because of suspected criminal activity by the staff at the youth center, officials said.  About 120 employees have been suspended with pay until Aug. 1 while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation completes an inquiry. Its report is expected to be released later this month.  The GBI is looking into possible illegal behavior at the long-term prison for juvenile offenders -- children and teens who have been found guilty of crimes as minor as unruly behavior or as serious as murder.  The new contractor, Unique Solutions, will have a staff of 200. Some of the workers might be former facility employees, but they must have a background in mental health or education, according to the department.  "There are some serious problems" at the youth center, said state Sen. Don Cheeks (R-Augusta), who has been in several meetings between employees and agency officials. "But part of the problem is from management. Part of it is from employees. Part of the problem is from the top [in the department]. . . . They have serious problems [at the center] that need to be addressed."  Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Orlando Martinez picked the company that already was providing mental health services to run the entire facility.  The long-term detention center has "had continuing problems," agency spokeswoman Jaci Vickers said. "The commissioner . . . felt he had to act now, as opposed to later."  The department will choose a private provider to take over full time after it develops a request for proposals and solicits bids, Vickers said.  The center, one of nine long-term juvenile facilities in Georgia, has reported an increasing number of inmate assaults and suicide attempts, including one successful suicide in March. Five of the state's eight other youth facilities are run by private companies.  The Augusta facility is authorized to have a staff of 300 to deal with 150youths. Because of the various problems, the number of boys there has been reduced in recent months to about 50.  Serious problems at the Augusta facility have been noted in reports released as long ago as 1998 by monitors the U.S. Department of Justice sent to Georgia. The problems noted in those federal reports have been augmented by preliminary accounts of the GBI's findings.  GBI spokesman John Bankhead said Wednesday the bureau probe is "still an ongoing investigation" that will take two to three weeks to complete. Only then will the specifics of the findings, including any resulting criminal charges, become public.  But the problems at the Augusta center portray it as the worst of the nine long-term juvenile facilities in Georgia.  Before the wholesale suspensions this week, six youth correctional officers were suspended with pay in February and March, including one who was on duty when a teenager from Jonesboro committed suicide; four of the six eventually were fired.  Martinez said at a volatile meeting with staffers Monday that the ongoing GBI investigation was turning up evidence of criminal activity, including sexual contact between staffers and inmates and the use of marijuana.  Since the plan to change management was announced a month ago, Vickers said, security cameras in the units and radios used by officers have been damaged and agency officials allegedly have received harassing telephone calls at their homes.  "That's not true. That's an outright lie," said Ralph Williams, president of the State Employees Union, which has been trying to save the state jobs. He said workers turned in a nurse suspected of having a sexual relationship with one of the boys and reported the staffer who was bringing marijuana into the facility.  "Unique Solutions has been a part of the problem," he said. "They were on the campus when all these things were happening."  Brett Brannon, who founded Unique Solutions five years ago, is the new director at the campus. Telephone messages left for him were not answered.  Cheeks and other Augusta area legislators said they are upset with the changes at the Augusta facility and the way they came about.  Martinez made the decision to privatize the center and then got approval from Gov. Sonny Perdue's chief operating officer, Jim Lientz.  The governor found out after the fact, and legislators said they were not told 60 days in advance of the change, as the law requires.  "What was done was wrong," state Rep. Henry Howard (D-Augusta) said.  Howard said he asked the governor to delay the privatization until the GBI investigation is completed.  Derrick Dickey, a spokesman for Perdue, said the governor thinks "privatization is the right answer" at this time.  Cheeks said, "We think the people they are planning to give the contract to are part of the problem. . . . I'd rather see the U.S. Justice Department take over than see Unique Solutions take over."  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Bridge Institute
Athens, Georgia
First Corrections Corporation

March 1, 2002
The Bridge Institute, an Athens facility for juvenile offenders with serious mental health problems, is under orders from the state to start providing ''proper care for our youth.''    In a letter written Tuesday, state Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Orlando Martinez gives the private Virginia-based First Corrections Corporation a Monday deadline to establish ''a firm timeline to become fully operational.'' First Corrections Corporation operates The Bridge Institute, on Mitchell Bridge Road in Athens ,
under contract with the state.  In the past few weeks, DJJ has become aware of operational problems at the facility, and over the weekend, four employees, including the director, resigned, according to DJJ spokeswoman Jaci Vickers.  Martinez 's letter asks the company to address five issues of concern: the physical plant, admission process, staffing, medical services, and communication and support from the corporate office.  The staffing problems, according to Vickers, stem at least in part from ''hiring kids straight from college.'' The Bridge Institute currently has 10 teachers, as well as at least one psychiatrist and 39 counselors who rotate through on a weekly basis.  Martinez 's concern over ''medical services'' stems from delays between the time a child reports a sickness and subsequently sees a doctor, according to Vickers.  (Online Athens)

Chatham County jail
November 14, 2014

Georgia workers canned for criticizing inmate health care provider Corizon, lawsuit says

Former workers at a Georgia jail are saying that inmate health care provider Corizon fired them for bringing up their medical malpractice concerns to the sheriff, myfoxal.com reported. According to the report, attorney Will Claiborne said his clients were let go when they criticized the firm's method of providing care at Chatham County jail. Corizon, a leader in the correctional health care industry, has a 34-month $224 million contract to provide health care to Alabama's inmates. It inked the contract, which has since been called into question by a top Alabama legislator, with the Alabama Department of Corrections in late 2012. The Southern Poverty Law Center is currently suing Alabama, stating that the state's inmate health care is inadequate and unconstitutional. Corizon and MHM Correctional Services, which provides mental health care for Alabama's inmates, are paying to defend the state against the lawsuit. The Georgia lawsuit claims that the Chatham County jail's top three medical officials noticed last summer that an offsite third party manager needed to approve a doctor's request if an inmate needed to go to the hospital, according to the report. Initially, the employees complained to Corizon, but they went to the sheriff when the problem wasn't addressed, according to the report. They were fired three days after they met with the sheriff. Corizon issued a statement that stating that they had not been served with the lawsuit but they are committed to "providing quality care," according to the report.

Clarke County Jail
Athens, Georgia
Prison Health Services

December 6, 2004 Athens Banner Herald
The denial of medical care to a Clarke County Jail prisoner who later died from a heart attack was tantamount to the woman being "punished by death on a misdemeanor charge," according to a lawsuit filed by her husband in Clarke County Superior Court.
In the lawsuit, Muscogee County resident Stephan Lamar Hubbard Jr. claims his wife, 40-year-old Laverne Rose Hubbard, died two years ago after repeatedly pleading for jail personnel to take her to the hospital because she was suffering with chest pain. In the lawsuit, however, Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards, Athens-Clarke County and the jail's contracted health care provider, Tennessee-based Prison Health Systems Inc., are all alleged to have been negligent in the training of jail personnel on proper emergency medical response and treatment procedures. Eight hours after arriving at the jail, the lawsuit states, Mrs. Hubbard was taken to the hospital after being found unconscious on the floor of her cell. "Mrs. Hubbard died of a heart attack, which would have been avoided if (jail personnel) had not denied Mrs. Hubbard medical care," the lawsuit states. "(Their medical) policy violated contemporary standards of decency."

Clayton County Jail
Clayton County, Georgia
Aramark

November 25, 2009 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Extra officers had to quell a small protest of Clayton County inmates upset about cold meals at the jail. About a dozen male inmates were eating lunch in a common area at the jail on Tuesday when they began complaining about the meal, which was cold. “They were upset about the potatoes being undercooked and initially didn’t return to their cells,” Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough told the AJC on Wednesday. Guards summoned more corrections officers who were able to calm the inmates and get them back in their cells. The ordeal took only “a matter of minutes,” Kimbrough said. No injuries were reported and there was no force used, the sheriff said. “Once the extra corrections officers entered the section, everyone went to their cells without any resistance,” Kimbrough said. The protest occurred the day after the AJC visited the Clayton jail and interviewed disgruntled inmates about the cold food. On Sunday, the AJC reported that the 1,900 Clayton inmates have been eating cold meals for five weeks because of broken kitchen equipment. Five weeks ago, officials deemed the jail’s three large kettles -- used to cook rice, pasta and potatoes -- unsafe to use because of broken equipment. Last week, the county commission allocated $60,000 to purchase new kettles, but they won’t be installed until mid-January. The jail has also been operating for about a year without four stoves and three large skillets, which all broke down, food services manager Ricky Jordan said. Georgia law requires inmates be served two hot meals a day. The sheriff said inmates are still getting three meals a day and the same portions. Despite the lack of hot meals, Kimbrough said there has not been an increase in illness or complaints from inmates. Food vendor Aramark, which runs the kitchen at the jail, is working to heat some food in the sheriff’s staff dining area, Jordan said.

Coffee County Correctional Facility
Nicholls, Georgia
CCA

May 10, 2012 AP
Corrections officials have placed parts of a south Georgia prison under lockdown after a fight involving several inmates. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan says authorities locked down parts of Coffee County Correctional Facility after a fight on Saturday left several inmates hospitalized. She says the inmates received non-life threatening injuries and were returned to the facility the same day after being treated at local hospitals. Hogan would not immediately say how many inmates were involved. A spokeswoman for the Corrections Corporation of America, the private firm that runs the prison, did not return calls and emails seeking comment. The prison is a medium-security facility with 2,628 beds.

College Park Jail
Atlanta, Georgia

June 19, 2004
Murder charges have been filed against a supermarket security guard in the shooting death of a College Park teenager the guard suspected of stealing her car.  Kathryn Smith, who had been charged with aggravated assault in the shooting of Courtney Wright, 16, officially was charged with murder at a hearing Saturday morning, hours after Wright was removed from hospital life support systems and declared dead.  In addition, Smith is charged with aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license.  Clayton County police Capt. Jeff Turner said Smith told detectives she had gotten off a bus and was walking to her job as a security guard at Wayfield Foods in College Park when she saw the Pontiac Grand Am that had been stolen Monday from her and her domestic partner. It was parked at an auto parts store.  Investigators say Smith, 30, confronted Wright and they began arguing.  When he tried to drive off, Smith shot him once with her .38-caliber revolver, said Turner.  Maureen McLeod, an attorney representing East Coast Security, Smith's employer, said the agency issued a gun to Smith and that she completed training to carry the firearm at the store.  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

September 24, 2003
Sabrina Byrd's lack of money ultimately landed her a 17-day stay in the College Park Jail this summer.   Byrd, a 27-year-old single mother of three children, was cited by the south Fulton County city 11 times for allowing her three dogs to run the streets without a leash and for not having them vaccinated for rabies.  She couldn't afford to pay the $852 in misdemeanor fines she had accumulated, so Municipal Court Judge George Barron put Byrd on probation and allowed her to pay the fines in 10 monthly installments. Because Byrd also would have to pay a $39 monthly fee to a private probation company, her monthly tab reached $124, according to legal documents filed on her behalf.  Byrd, who is unemployed and receives food stamps and spotty child support payments, couldn't pay the fines, so she stopped showing up for her probation meetings. Eventually, she was arrested for violating her probation, and Barron sentenced her to 25 days in jail.  Palmer Singleton, a lawyer for the Southern Center for Human Rights, contends that Byrd -- a soft-spoken woman who has no criminal record -- wouldn't have spent one day in jail if she could have come up with the $39-a-month probation fee. Singleton challenged Byrd's jailing in Fulton County Superior Court and alleged that her imprisonment for inability to pay a fine violated her constitutional rights to equal protection. She was released the day of the court filing.  The center argues that the probation fees amount to unfair treatment for poor people: Someone with money would have paid the fines and fees and moved on, while poor people, such as Byrd, suffer great consequences, including jail.  The center is considering filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such fines, Singleton said.  But Barron and others say that Byrd bears the responsibility of her predicament. The judge said this week that he jailed Byrd for her repeated flouting of the legal system, not for her failure to pay the probation fees. He said Byrd failed to appear for a court hearing to answer to the charges of violating the leash laws and also failed to appear for her probation meetings.  "She was not put in jail because she didn't pay a fine," Barron said. "She absconded from probation. She had 11 offenses. She also owned a particularly vicious chow. [Authorities] were very concerned about it attacking a child."  The judge said he would have held a hearing to determine whether Byrd was indigent but her court-appointed lawyer never asked for one.  'Taxed for being poor'  Even though Byrd is free, Singleton still maintains that the legal system focuses too much on punishing offenders, rather than helping them rectify the problems that got them in trouble. It wasn't until Singleton sought out the help of local pet stores and veterinarians that he was able to get Byrd's dogs spayed and vaccinated. One of the dogs was put to sleep while another was sent to a pet sanctuary in Utah. Byrd kept the mother of the two dogs, Ta-ta.  "The amazing thing is the probation company did nothing to help this woman with the dogs," Singleton said. "They just taxed her for being poor. Once we tapped into the right resources, we can help the dogs. We can't do that for Sabrina Byrd?"  Joseph Lowery, of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, said he considers Byrd's punishment "medieval."  "I thought debtor's prison had been outlawed in this state," said Lowery, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that has put such probation fees on its agenda. "Poverty is no crime, and the court ought to find a way to let her work this situation out some kind of way."  People who violate the law in Georgia and are sentenced to probation must pay a monthly fee to be monitored. The Georgia Department of Corrections supervised probationers until 1997. But the state Legislature passed a law that year to place supervision of misdemeanor probationers in the hands of private companies. Now, 37 companies supervise about 200,000 misdemeanor state probationers.  Corrections still supervises felony probationers for fees ranging from $23 to $29 per month. Currently, there are about 130,000 convicted felons on probation in the state, according to Michael Nail, director of the department's probation division. Depending on the risk level, some probationers are visited at least three times a month at home or work by an officer. Low-risk offenders simply place a phone call or mail in a form once a month to an officer.  Probationers who cannot afford the monthly fee can apply for a hardship exemption. If the probationer is found to be legitimately indigent, the monthly fee is waived, said Nail, who recently became one of 11 members on the statewide County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council.  "It's a rarity that we return someone to the court solely based on their inability to pay," Nail said.  Clay Cox, chief executive officer of Professional Probation Services, the company that handled Byrd's probation, said it was difficult to offer Byrd any form of help, because she repeatedly failed to show up for her probation meetings.  Had Byrd worked with the company to prove her poverty, she could have appealed to the judge for an alternative sentence, such as community service, Cox said. His company even would have helped Byrd with a job search, he said.  "We love taking people's cases very seriously," he said. "But they've got to take their orders seriously and get it done."  'It went way too far'  Cox said about 9 percent of the cases his company supervises in the Atlanta Municipal Court system are considered indigent and that the monthly fees have been waived.  Byrd said she accepts responsibility for many of her problems. But she doesn't understand why someone such as herself spent 24 hours a day in a cell where she got two meals a day served to her through bars.  "At some point in life, we can sometimes just have a heart or a listening ear or a concerned spirit about a person, about their situation, rather than taking your job overly serious or passing too many unnecessary rules, where it disturbs or makes matters worse than they really have to be," Byrd said.  "I think a lot of things could've been resolved by caring about a person. I think it went way too far. I don't think the punishment fit the crime."  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

DeKalb County Children's Center
Georgia
WestCare

November 18, 2004 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nearly two years ago, state child welfare officials closed the troubled DeKalb County emergency children's shelter and promised a new facility that would keep kids safe. Now an advocacy group says that promise has been broken. Lawyers at Children's Rights Inc. said children at the DeKalb County Children's Center face some of the same kinds of problems that plagued the previous shelter. Some children are not getting adequate medical care, clothing or education. And many languish there for long periods without proper treatment, the group said. "This is another frightening example of the Perdue administration's failure to address known dangers to children in the [state] foster care system," said Ira Lustbader, associate director of the New York-based advocacy group. Specifically, Lustbader said the center failed to do a required criminal background check on an employee who was a felon, and who later sexually assaulted a child at the center in May. Also, he said a school safety officer was so concerned about safety issues at the center that he refused to leave a child there in September.
WestCare spokesman Jeff Dickerson said the facility is still working out some problems. Lustbader said an independent consultant's review of the facility last June, performed at the state's request, said WestCare's "support of the DeKalb County Children's Center borders on neglect."

DeKalb County Jail
Georgia
CMS/CHS

December 8, 2004 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
If Adams v. Dorsey were an old movie instead of a lawsuit, calendar pages might blow past the camera, stopping briefly at the turn of the years from 1999 to 2004. Now it appears the story will continue past one more New Year's Day, because some disputes remain in the long and costly battle over medical care at the DeKalb jail. By mid-December, Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller will receive written arguments on one aspect of what may be the final steps in the lawsuit. Lawyers for the Southern Center for Human Rights, representing jail inmates, want to send in their own expert to review the care provided by the jail's private medical contractor. Lawyers for the county government and Sheriff Thomas Brown oppose that request. Also this month, the inmates' lawyers are to meet with the jail's medical staff in the first of what a court-appointed monitor recommends should be monthly meetings to review any complaints. The case began in 1998, finally yielding a settlement in March 2001. At the time, Fuller said that inmates with life-threatening diseases weren't being treated and that the jail's failure to adequately protect against contagious diseases posed a hazard to guards and the public. Later, Fuller ruled the agreement wasn't being followed. He found the county government in contempt and said he would continue to oversee the jail medical program until the agreement's conditions were met. Since the settlement, the jail's annual medical bill has increased from about $7 million to about $11.5 million. The county's legal bills for the lifetime of the case total more than $700,000.

February 16, 2004
A new court-appointed inspector says medical care at the DeKalb County jail has improved enough that a costly six-year legal battle could end soon.   The county has spent more than $700,000 in legal expenses on the case that began when inmates sued over poor medical care. Meanwhile, county jail medical costs have jumped to about $11 million this year from $7 million in 2001.  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

March 17, 2003
Georgia Philpot knows her complaints about her son's medical treatment by the DeKalb County sheriff's Department won't get the attention of many county residents.  Her youngest child, 21-year old Alan D. Philpot, has been held in the DeKalb jail since September for violating probation on a drug conviction.  He has a history of ear infections that required surgery, and began telling jail officials in October that he had a new infection, his mother said.  She said it took more than three months and at least 10 phone calls to various jail officials to find someone who made sure Philpot got the antibiotics he needed.  "The public is generally unconcerned about the medical care rendered to inmates," Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller wrote in a 2001 ruling in which he nonetheless tried to spell out reasons the public should care.  He cited society's moral duty to treat humanely and health risks to guards, jail visitors and the outside world.  Such charges and countercharges are part of an ongoing 3 1/2-year old battle over health care for the 2,700 men and women housed in Georgia's largest jail.  Tamara Serwer, lawyer representing inmates, insists inmates are still at risk and the public sector could be too, from inmates released with communicable diseases.  Failure to control communicable diseases, including tuberculosis, has been a frequent criticism in reports by Dr. Robert Greifinger, a former chief medical officer for the New York Department of Corrections.  He was appointed by Fuller to monitor the jail's compliance with its 2001 agreement to improve medical care at the jail.  Even as Greinger praised a new management team installed at the jail by private contractor Correctional Medical Services in his latest report in February, he said he found cases in  which there was not "timely and appropriate follow-up" for inmates whose chest X-rays showed a risk of TB.  (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

February 25, 2003
Sheriff Thomas Brown on Monday said the DeKalb County Jail's much-criticized medical care system is close to earning national accreditation.  Brown called a recent positive review by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care a welcome counterpoint to a series of critical reports by a court-appointed inspector.  Brown described medical care at the jail as in a crisis when he took office two years ago. The jail has operated under a court-approved settlement of an inmate lawsuit over inadequate care since March 2001.  As recently as last week, the inspector appointed to monitor the settlement reported that minimum standards were not being met, though there were signs the jail's private medical contractor was trying to improve.  Brown said the reports by the inspector, Dr. Robert Greifinger, have focused on problems with individual inmates, while the accrediting commission review shows that the jail's overall approach to health care is sound. In a jail with 2,700 inmates, "you can miss one and not do something just right," the sheriff said. But, he said, "We think we're well on the way to solving this particular litigation."  That assessment was disputed by Tamara Serwer, a lawyer for the inmates who brought the medical care lawsuit. She said Greifinger reviews random cases and that the examples he has cited show "the system is not functioning."  She said the commission focuses on written policies. "It's a great thing to be accredited by the NCCHC, but it doesn't tell you anything about the way patients are actually treated." She said it was "amazing" that it took two years to get adequate policies in place. Actual improvement will take months more, she said.  (The Atlanta Journal)

January 24, 2003
A court-appointed inspector says some diabetics inmates haven't been getting proper doses of insulin at the DeKalb County Jail and the jail medical staff has been slow to react to potential tuberculosis and HIV cases.  Dr. Robert Greifinger, a former medical director of the New York State Department of Corrections, made the criticisms in a report after visiting the jail last week.  Greifinger visits the jail to monitor compliance with a 2001 settlement in a lawsuit over inmate medical care.  Greifinger said one diabetic inmate received no insulin for three days and "developed a life-threatening condition" that required emergency hospitalization.  He said he reviewed the records of four other inmates with diabetes that was "seriously out of control."  Two had foot ulcers and "none have had insulin adjustments to get them in control," according to the report.  Ken Fields, a spokesman for CMS, the company contracted to provide jail medical care, said it was not clear if some of the diabetic inmates Greifinger cited were recent arrivals.  Fields said CMS officials do not agree with Greifinger's assertion that no HIV tests had been ordered at the jail since Dec. 25.  He said he could not comment specifically on five cases in which Greifinger said CMS did not appropriately follow up on chest X-rays "suspicious for tuberculosis."  Tamara Serwer, staff attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed the original lawsuit, said Greifinger's report signaled a need for further action to improve conditions at the jail.  (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

August 9, 2001
Earlier this month, the court-appointed monitor released a scathing report about medical care at the jail and said that Healing Touch was doing little to improve it. The lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have filed a motion to put the jail's medical care under control of the courts.  DeKalb County hopes its newest contractor finally will improve medical care at the jail and get the court system off its back.  The County Commission Tuesday hired Correctional Medical Services Inc. of St. Louis to provide medical care to inmates at the state's largest jail. The contract, which is for up to five years, is worth at least $8.16 million a year, an increase of $1 million over the last contract.  In 1998, a group of inmates sued the county over poor medical care. Under a settlement agreement signed in March, the county agreed to improve the care and the court appointed a monitor to oversee the progress.
  In April, the county's medical care provider ---Correctional Healthcare Solutions --- walked away from its $7 million contract. A local company, Healing Touch Inc., was given an interim contract.   Earlier this month, the court-appointed monitor released a scathing report about medical care at the jail and said that Healing Touch was doing little to improve it. The lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have filed a motion to put the jail's medical care under control of the courts.  (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution)

Department of Human Resources/Department of Youth Services
July 16, 2003
State officials with the Department of Human Resources and Department of Youth Services should be giving a for-profit Shelby County youth services center a very thorough review after Jefferson County Family Court stopped the transfers of three girls to the center.  While Family Court officials wouldn't say much, other than to question conditions at Oak Mountain Youth Services, that should be enough to raise flags with state officials. Certainly, there's enough smoke to justify an inquiry by state officials, just to be sure there's no fire.  (Birmingham News)

Devereux Center
Cobb County, Georgia
September 6, 2003
Two 16-year-old boys charged with raping a 25-year-old Kennesaw woman early Thursday are only the latest in a regular series of runaways from a private center for emotionally disturbed teenagers, police records show.  Since Jan. 1, police have received 12 calls reporting runaways from the co-educational north Cobb County campus of the Devereux Center on Stanley Road in Kennesaw. In the last three years, police have responded to the center at least 114 times, including two reports of sodomy, Cobb police records show.  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Deyton Detention Facility
Clayton County, Georgia
GEO Group

May 22, 2007 Business Wire
The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO : 53.08, +2.03, +4.0% ) ("GEO") announced today that it has signed an initial 20-year agreement, with two five-year renewal options by mutual agreement, with Clayton County, Georgia (the "County") for the leasing and utilization of the existing County-owned 576-bed Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility (the "Facility") with the ability to expand the Facility by an additional 192 beds, which GEO is currently considering. The Facility is expected to be used by Federal detention agencies with a targeted date of occupancy of year-end 2007 after the completion of an estimated $3.0 million renovation. GEO believes that the Facility could generate approximately $14.0 million in annual operating revenues at full occupancy of 576 beds.

D. Ray James Prison
Folkston, Georgia
GEO Group (bought Cornell)
May 14, 2014 charltoncountyherald.com
The GEO Group has other plans for the detention facility they’ve been sharing with the sheriff’s office — and that means the county will be without a jail again after the end of the month. The county and sheriff were informed in writing recently of the prison corporation’s intent to terminate a contract that’s been in place for six years and allows for the housing of Charlton County inmates in a separate detention facility at the D. Ray James Prison. “They’re looking for different partners now,” County Commissioner Jesse Crews said. The initial agreement to house county prisoners was with Cornell Corrections.When the GEO Group took over several years ago, they continued the arrangement. From 1995 to 2008, Charlton’s prisoners were housed in other counties after a federal judge threatened to shut down the old jail due to its deteriorated condition. For the complete story, see this week's Herald.

October 19, 2011 Florida Independent
John Edmonson, a businessman from Jacksonville, tells The Florida Independent that his HIV-positive partner has not received adequate medical treatment after being arrested in early April. Edmonson says his partner — whom he asked us to keep anonymous — was diagnosed with AIDS in 1998, and since then has had an average body weight of 185 pounds. ”During his first 30 to 45 days in lockup he lost six to eight pounds,” Edmonson says, and because of his HIV status, “we brought this to the court’s attention.” “The [facility] doctor testified that some body weight loss was normal because of the stress for someone who has never been incarcerated before,” he says. Since the man’s arrest on April 1, he has lost 61 pounds and the loss of body weight “still has not been explained,” Edmonson says, adding that staff doctors at the detention centers have promised to do something, but nothing positive has happened. According to Edmonson, his partner was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla., and indicted on eight counts of receipt, possession, advertising and distribution of child pornography. His partner has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Edmonson’s partner was first held at the D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, Ga., owned and operated by The GEO Group, “a world leader in the delivery of private correctional and detention management,” with facilities in the U.S., Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Edmondson says that, since late September, his partner has been detained at the Irwin County Detention Facility, owned and operated by Croft Michael Enterprises. Both are located in Ocilla, Ga.

July 11, 2011 The Province
Canada’s “Prince of Pot” has contracted a serious bacterial infection while serving a five-year prison sentence in the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds. Vancouver marijuana activist Marc Emery was diagnosed with MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureu — a painful infection that often appears on the skin — after he was transferred from a private prison in Georgia to Mississippi in late spring. According to Emery’s wife Jodie, the trouble first began when Emery was bitten by a brown recluse spider while serving time in Georgia and the bite took several months to heal. He was given antibiotics for the bite, but then developed a painful boil on his backside while transferring by bus to a Mississippi prison. Doctors tested the boil and discovered the skin infection, Jodie said. “I was worried sick to hear it,” she said, adding that he was forced to fight the antibiotic-resistant infection without medication. Jodie said the infection has since stabilized but the bug remains in his system. “I’m still very concerned. He has to be extra vigilant with any cuts or scrapes.” Emery, the founder of the B.C. Marijuana Party, was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2010 after being extradited from Canada.

July 27, 2010 Charlton County Herald
For years Charlton County Schools got well over $1 million annually in state funds to make up for the county's low tax base. Those dollars have fallen dramatically this year, however to just $27,000. Superintendent Steve McQueen believes local system funding has changed because of errors in the county tax digest. Because of the drop, the Charlton County Board of Education voted unanimously last week to appeal the digest to the state auditor’s office. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is get the equalization board to exercise their discretion and adjust our funding,” explained BOE
Attorney Kelly Brooks. “When the state auditor’s office receives our appeal, they will notify the state department of education to hold off on the final determination of our funding for 2011.” The lawyer says this will buy the school system 45 more days, time enough the school board hopes, for the Charlton County Tax Assessor’s office to come up with an accurate tax digest. “There have been substantial post-levy reductions in the digest through timber tax appeals and Cornell’s appeal [on the D. Ray James Prison valuation],” said Brooks. “Call me skeptical but for six years in a row the county’s certified digest has meant nothing.” Last year for example, Charlton County’s certified digest was $332 million but the county, school board and cities never collected taxes on that amount. After the state approved the digest, but before payments started coming in, the digest dropped by $16.5 million because of the prison appeal. That one reduction amounted to a loss in property tax revenues to the school system last year of $252,000.

January 22, 2010 Times-Union
The Charlton County Commission, the county school system and Folkston are all hastily adjusting their budgets after a single successful appeal of a property assessment. Commissioners are expected to approve an "error and relief" agreement in February to reduce the assessed value of privately owned D. Ray James Prison from $97 million to $55 million. The successful appeal by Cornell Companies, owners and operators of the prison, will cost the city, county and school system at least $730,000 in anticipated tax revenue. County Manager Steve Nance said Cornell appealed the assessed value of the prison after it nearly doubled in 2009. Two new structures - an addition that will house 700 inmates this year and another facility for 300 prisoners from both Charlton County and the U.S. Marshals Service - were on the tax rolls for the first time this year, likely leading to the increase in value, Nance said. During the appeal, Cornell officials didn't dispute the accuracy of the appraisal of the facility. Instead, they argued it would be impossible to sell the sprawling prison complex for what the company invested because the structures are for very specialized purposes - to securely house inmates. They also claimed the original part of the prison, more than a decade old, had depreciated in value, Nance said. "They contended the value did not equal the cost," he said. The property appraiser who determined the appraised value never visited the prison until after Cornell filed an appeal, Nance said. Instead, the appraiser determined the value from manuals, he said. "She did not actually tour the facility until the appeal was made," he said. "After the tour, she agreed the value was too high. It was a lot more austere than she thought." Despite the hardship losing an estimated $334,000 in anticipated tax revenue, Nance said county officials have no plans to contest the ruling by the Board of Assessors. "It would be difficult for us to appeal our own valuation," he said. Also, there is no appeal process unless the complaint is taken to the Board of Equalization by the property owner, Nance said. "Is there any recourse [for Folkston and the school district]?" Nance asked. "I don't think they have the right to challenge this." Now, the already cash-strapped county will maintain a "continuous evaluation process" to cut spending to make up for the shortfall, Nance said. Folkston City Manager Pender Lloyd said the appeal will cost his city at least $108,000 in anticipated tax revenue - nearly a 5 percent cut to the city's $2.4 million budget. "We knew Cornell was probably going to appeal," Lloyd said. "We certainly had no idea it [the prison's value] would drop by $42 million." Lloyd criticized the timing, saying one appeal should not have so much impact to local governments. An appeal of the magnitude of Cornell's should have been resolved before the county digest was completed to give local governments an accurate estimate of how much revenue would be generated in taxes. The city will delay some projects planned this year, including construction of a new park, he said. Travel to conferences and training is also canceled, unless it is required by law, Lloyd said. "We have some revenues built up, so we can handle it," he said. "We're all affected and we've got to work through this thing. We've got to deal with it."

May 20, 2009 Yahoo.com
Cornell Companies, Inc. (NYSE:CRN) today announced that it has been informed by the Georgia Department of Corrections that the Department will not start using the Company's recently completed expansion at its D. Ray James Prison in Georgia. The Company's previous guidance, included in the first quarter earnings release, provided a base case that assumed that the 700-bed expansion at D. Ray James Prison would begin to ramp at the beginning of the third quarter of 2009, and an alternate case that, if the expansion was to remain empty for all of 2009, earnings for the full year would be reduced by up to approximately $0.08 per share. Today's updated guidance assumes that the expansion will remain empty for the remainder of the year. As a result, the Company now expects earnings per share for the full year of $1.62 to $1.70. The Company also reaffirmed the earnings guidance range for the second quarter of $0.42 to $0.46 per share.

September 6, 2008 Savanna Now
A Savannah man serving a life sentence for a 1984 slaying recently helped save a prison counselor being assaulted by another inmate. Arthur Lee "Leechain" Scott, an inmate at D Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, rushed to the aid of a female mental health counselor on Aug. 24, officials said. Another inmate who had been working with the woman in a one-on-one session had her in a choke hold, said Charles Seigel, spokesman for Cornell Companies Inc., a private corporation in Houston that operates the medium-security prison for the state. Seigel said Scott got there first and "really helped." "He and others reacted well, and he was very gallant and deserves praise for what he did," Seigel said. The unidentified counselor was taken to a hospital but suffered no serious physical injuries, Seigel said. The attacking inmate has been transferred to another facility, he said. The incident remains under investigation.

March 24, 2008 News 4 Jax
Federal prisoners at the D. Ray James Prison near Folkston, Ga., were locked down on Monday after prisoners resisted orders to return to their cells, Channel 4 learned. Prison officials said there were no injuries. The Charlton County Sheriff's Office said the prison did not request assistance. A spokesman for Cornell Companies, the private firm that runs the prison, said the lockdown is only in a newly opened pod that houses federal prisoners and does not affect the entire prison. Only 50 to 60 inmates of the prison's capacity of 1,640 were involved. Since the prison opened in 1998, it has expanded to become the largest privately run prison in Georgia.

Forrest Hill Academy
Douglas County, Georgia
Community Education Partners
May 7, 2008 Creative Loafing
Patti Welch was living in Douglasville when she went through a divorce last year. Atlanta was her chance to start over. Weary of her one-hour, 20-minute commute to the northside law office where she works as a paralegal, Welch found a duplex in the West End only 20 minutes from her job. But the move also was about her 15-year-old son, Patrick. He was a smart kid, a B student entering the 10th grade. But he'd gotten into fights. One took place just off school grounds and involved several kids, so officials labeled it "gang-related." That meant Patrick would be sent to Douglas County's alternative school. Even though she was confident her son wasn't in a gang, Welch didn't bother to appeal the school district's decision. She thought an alternative school might help him. And she hoped the 10 days Patrick spent in jail after his last fight would serve as a wake-up call. Welch knew her son would be sent to an alternative school when they moved to Atlanta. But she thought it would be temporary. Instead, officials told her that because Patrick had a gang-related fight on his record, he'd never be allowed to enroll in a regular school in Atlanta. She tried to make the best of it. When told he'd be sent to Forrest Hill Academy, she looked at her son and forced a smile. "Wow," she said hopefully. "They're putting you in an academy." Six months later, Patrick became one of eight student plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union's Racial Justice Program in New York City. The suit alleges that Forrest Hill – which is operated by a for-profit company called Community Education Partners – is little more than a pathway to prison for Atlanta's unwanted students. "It would be a stretch to even call this a school," says Reggie Shuford, an attorney with the ACLU's Racial Justice Program in New York. "There is little to no academic instruction, and its students are treated like criminals. It is nothing more than a warehouse, largely for poor children of color." The ACLU contends that Forrest Hill students, 97 percent of whom are African-American, spend most of their days filling out worksheets, for which they get no feedback. According to state figures, nine out of 10 students at the school are unable to pass the standardized state test for math proficiency. The figures also show that Forrest Hill is the most violent school in Atlanta. "It is a national disgrace that the Atlanta school system has handed over its constitutional responsibility to a private, for-profit corporation," says Emily Chiang, the case's lead lawyer. Forrest Hill wasn't quite the academy that Patti Welch had hoped for. The idea of putting problem children into an "alternative school" is a recent phenomenon in the world of education. Before a federal law that took effect in 1978, public schools had no legal requirement to provide education to special needs kids. If a child was violent, or continually disrupted the class, schools could kick him or her out. When the law took away that option, teachers and school systems faced the chore of trying to tame disruptive students. The trend of taking those kids out of regular classrooms and putting them into "alternative" schools began to take hold. That practice quickly led to allegations that some systems – under increasing pressure to churn out higher scores on standardized tests – were simply "warehousing" their undesirable students, out of sight and out of mind. "Those schools weren't about education, but just getting through the day," says Eric Freeman, assistant professor of educational policy studies at Georgia State University. "Those were the 'expendable kids.' It's no longer acceptable to have schools where kids are warehoused, but we still have a long way to go." When it was founded in 1996, Community Education Partners touted itself as a way to get expendable kids back into the mainstream. From the start, however, there were indications CEP's considerable political weight was as responsible for its rise as were its education programs. CEP was formed in Nashville by four men with heavy Republican connections.CEO Randle Richardson, was chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 1992 to 1995 and oversaw a 1994 electoral sweep in which Bill Frist and Fred Thompson won Senate seats and Don Sundquist was elected governor. Another co-founder, John Danielson, would become chief of staff for Education Secretary Rod Paige under George W. Bush. One of the initial investors, Tom Beasley, had chaired the Tennessee GOP before Richardson did. Beasley also founded the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs privatized prisons. Founded in 1984, CCA has grown to become the sixth-largest prison system in the country – trailing only the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and four states. But the company also has faced criticism for understaffing, high turnover and lax security. According to a 1999 state audit, neglect of medical care and security at CCA facilities in Georgia amounted to "borderline deliberate indifference." The two companies – CCA and CEP – have turned out to share some parallels. Both had business plans that relied on obtaining contracts to operate government services. Both were started in Nashville by major Republican Party players. And both went to Texas to make their mark. Texas was a natural entry point for CEP. In 1995, George W. Bush had become governor, and his administration was brimming with ideas to reform schools. The bundle of changes would be touted during Bush's 2000 presidential run as the "Texas Miracle." In that environment, George Scott, president of a Texas nonprofit education reform group, helped CEP gain a foothold. "I got pulled into it by the former superintendent for the Houston school department," Scott says. "It's a sinister manipulation of reality to say that public education is meeting its constitutional and moral obligation to these children; we throw at-risk kids into alternative centers and forget about them. Then along came a company that said it was going to do something different." Scott says he first used his political connections to help the company land a contract to take over the education services at a juvenile detention center. He was impressed by CEP's pitch that its methods could help problem children get up to speed academically so they go back to mainstream schools. "You have kids in the ninth grade who can't do fractions," Scott says. "If a kid is in the ninth grade but is at the fifth-grade level, giving them an algebra book is useless. Under this program, we would start them at the level where they are at, and build from there. CEP promised two years of academic growth for every year a student was in their school." In 1997, Scott says, he used his relationship with Paige, then Houston's school superintendent, to help CEP land its first public school contract. Under the future education secretary's stewardship, the Houston Independent School District was becoming a cradle of the so-called Texas Miracle. Paige had put a system in place that held individual principals accountable for dropout rates and test scores. Then, the district signed a $17.9 million contract to turn the education of as many as 2,500 children to CEP. Initially, the corporation hired Carl Shaw – who was the former chairman of the Texas Education Agency's assessment committee – to develop an independent test to grade the progress of the CEP students. "I will never forget the day the school board approved the CEP contract," Scott says. "Randle Richardson and I were walking out of the building and I told him that not all the kids in this are going to make two [years of progress] in one. But that is going to be your strength. You'll say that you're being held accountable for the program." Before CEP's contract with Houston took effect, however, the first test results from the juvenile detention facility came back. Scott recalls that they showed the students weren't making much progress – some had even regressed. CEP blamed the test, and fired Shaw. Richardson disputes that account. He says Scott let his friendship with Shaw intrude on his judgment and that the scores showed 20 student inmates had regressed in math but that most had made great progress. His own expert looked at the test and determined it was flawed, an opinion seconded by the Texas Education Agency. Whether it was over a principle or a friendship, the incident left Scott with strong feelings about CEP. He now says the one thing he's most ashamed of in his professional life is helping the company get into the Texas schools. The absence of Shaw's test, he says, left the company devoid of the very thing that had attracted him to the concept in the first place: accountability. Instead, Scott says, CEP began to cull its political connections. A sitting Houston school board member was hired as a consultant. Sandy Kress, who later authored Bush's No Child Left Behind program, was hired as a lobbyist. And when the company opened the campus of its first alternative school, in Houston in 1997, former President George H.W. Bush was at the opening ceremony to offer his endorsement. "They put together a very powerful, politically juiced operation in Texas," Scott says. CEP followed its Houston deal with a five-year, $10 million-a-year contract in Dallas. Then, it moved on to Florida and Philadelphia. And all along it followed a familiar pattern: It hired well-connected lobbyists to sell the program and courted elected officials with generous campaign contributions. CEP claimed it had found the key to educating a student population that was thought to be beyond help. The schools used a computer-based education program called PLATO that CEP said enables students to quickly catch up to their age level in reading and math skills. The company was swept up in the middle of what became a nationwide education reform movement. Bush campaigned for the presidency heralding his "Texas Miracle" of low dropout rates and high test scores. When he was elected, he named Paige to his Cabinet and pushed through Congress the No Child Left Behind Act, which instituted high achievement goals for the nation's public schools. But even as it rode the wave of its association with Bush's education changes, CEP became a target of criticism. Some parents complained of prison-like conditions inside CEP schools. Others claimed CEP was, in reality, doing little more than warehousing problem students. There were official rebukes as well. An internal evaluation in Dallas found that "the model of education provided by [CEP] was untenable." "The reliance on non-certified teachers for the bulk of the student- teacher interaction was useful for the company to save money, but was not a design in the best interest of the students," the report went on to say. "Students who attended Community Education Partners did not do very well academically." CEP had even refused to provide its budget data to the school district, the report said, which made it impossible to know just how it was spending the money it received. In 2002, the Dallas school system fired CEP. By then, however, the company was developing its relationship with a new customer: Atlanta. It's unclear exactly how CEP came to acquire a $6.9 million contract to open an alternative school in Atlanta. Richardson says the school system contacted the company in 2001. Citing the pending ACLU lawsuit, Atlanta school officials won't even talk about CEP. At the time the contract was signed, Atlanta officials brushed aside concerns already brewing in Dallas. They cited a "task force" report that supposedly recommended the district privatize its alternative schools; when the AJC requested a copy of that report, however, school officials said they couldn't find one. It didn't take long for concerns to crop up in Atlanta. In August 2002, CEP opened its alternative school in temporary quarters at the old Archer High School. Parents of some of the students attended the Rev. Darryl Winston's southeast Atlanta church. "We were hearing allegations of mistreatment and a prison environment," says Winston, president of the Greater American Ministerial Council. "We met with the staff, and they admitted that 90 percent of what we described had to do with the building. The Archer High School campus was extremely chaotic. They told us the building did not give us an accurate picture of what the program was about." CEP even flew Winston and other community leaders to Houston to tour their schools there. "We were impressed by what we saw," he says. The company assured Winston the problem was that the Atlanta school had yet to find a permanent location. The company prefers a specific design for its schools. Kids are segregated into male and female classes, and the classes are isolated inside pods within the building. "In school, kids get in trouble in the hallway or the cafeteria or going to the restrooms," says Anthony Edwards, a CEP vice president. "So we control that. There are restrooms and water fountains in each of the common areas. It eliminates movement. Kids get in trouble when they're moving." Three properties had already been identified, but each was scuttled by community opposition to an alternative school in the neighborhood. CEP asked for Winston's patience, and he was willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, the company did what it could to strengthen its political ties in Atlanta. When school board members faced re-election in 2005, CEP and its executives gave money in four races. According to Fulton County records, Randle Richardson made a $250 contribution to Mark Riley, who easily won re-election. He also contributed $500 to Brenda Muhammad, a former board member who ran successfully to regain a seat. CEP's chief financial officer, Phil Baggett, contributed another $250 to Muhammad. CEP was more generous in two other contests: Richardson and Baggett each made three separate contributions to incumbent Eric Wilson that totaled $2,000, and newcomer Yolanda Johnson received a total of $2,500. Although Georgia law requires candidates to list the occupations and employers of their contributors on their disclosure forms, none of the school board candidates did that for the CEP executives. Muhammad says she had no idea Richardson and Baggett were CEP executives until CL told her. "If they were standing in front of me, I wouldn't know them," she says. "No campaign contribution will influence me from making my decisions based on the best interest of the children of Atlanta." Riley also said he was unaware that Richardson led CEP. "That's a little embarrassing," he says. "I make a point of never accepting contributions from vendors. I've even returned checks before." Six months after the school board began its new term, it extended CEP's contract to 2009. When school opened in August, Patti Welch and her son got their first look at Forrest Hill. Welch went through a 90-minute orientation, where the rules of the school were laid out. Patrick wasn't to bring anything onto campus that was considered contraband. The list included watches, jewelry, purses, combs, brushes, keys and money in excess of $5. Paper and pens weren't allowed either; the school would provide everything that was needed, even tampons for female students. Patrick would go through a metal detector each morning and be patted down by a security guard to ensure he didn't have weapons or drugs. Backpacks weren't allowed, and books couldn't be taken home. In fact, there was no homework for Forrest Hill students. Patrick went through a weeklong orientation that included tests on the PLATO computer system to determine where he stood academically. On his first day, he sent his mother a text message: "This school is so bad." He found the lessons boring. He complained that the teacher would simply put an assignment on the board; then the kids would be expected to do it on their own. Once the students were finished, they were given crossword puzzles to fill out. "Patrick found it totally uninteresting and totally unmotivating," Welch says. "He kept sending me text messages, and I didn't believe him. He started missing days, so I went up there." What Welch saw alarmed her. The building was new and well-maintained, but the pods where students were segregated reminded her of a jail. "There's one steel door to the classroom, no windows. It looked like a mini-prison." Not long after that, she heard the ACLU wanted to interview parents with children at Forrest Hill Academy for a potential lawsuit. Welch decided to talk to the organization. Two years ago, a special education lawyer in Atlanta called the ACLU and suggested they investigate the CEP school in Atlanta. "As soon as we began to scratch the surface, we were so outraged by what we found," says the ACLU's Chiang. "The standardized test scores are really shocking. No one was passing." State statistics show the school has made few strides toward improving its students' academic standing. According to state Department of Education figures from the 2006-07 school year, 91 percent of CEP's students failed the state's assessment test in mathematics; 66 percent failed the reading portion. In its latest contract with Atlanta, CEP agreed to a performance goal of making measurable progress in 31 categories for the 2005-06 school year, based primarily on results from the state's Criterion Referenced Competency tests. Of those categories, six couldn't be measured because there were too few students enrolled to get a proper study group, and CEP students showed improvement in 11 from the previous year. But in 13 categories, the students tested worse. In the final category – ninth grade physical science – there was no change: 100 percent of the students failed both years. "They cannot deny their standardized test scores are abysmal," Chiang says. Shirley Kilgore, a former Washington High School principal in Atlanta who now consults for CEP, counters that it's unfair to evaluate the program based on state tests. "Students in an alternative program are transient," she says. "We had a girl come in here last week. She's been here a matter of days, but her score belongs to us. Some of these students taking the tests have not been with us for any length of time." Richardson, the company's CEO, points out that almost 90 percent of students sent to Forrest Hill are at least two grade levels behind in reading and mathematics: "You wouldn't pass it either, if you're reading at the fourth grade level and you're taking a ninth grade competency test." The ACLU claims the heart of the problem is that Forrest Hill cuts corners when it comes to academics. The teachers don't teach, Chiang says, but instead hand out worksheets for the students to fill out. She also notes that CEP has a practice of hiring inexperienced teachers. According to state figures, the average level of experience of the teaching staff at Forrest Hill is less than a year. Kilgore, the CEP consultant, argues that few quality teachers want to work at an alternative school. "They are either committed to making a difference," she says, "or else a new teacher starting out." But at least one other alternative school attracts far more senior teachers: The average level of experience at Fulton County's McClarin Alternative School is 19 years. The ACLU also alleges that students often are manhandled by the school's staff, that teachers have even thrown textbooks at the children in their rooms. CEP denies there is any student mistreatment. "Inexperienced teachers are a recipe for problems," says GSU's Freeman. "These kinds of schools are special places and full of a challenging population of kids." Most of CEP's teachers aren't instructing in their fields of expertise either. According to state records, of the 76 total core classes taught at Forrest Hill, only 45 percent are taught by "highly qualified" teachers – those who have majored in the subject they teach. The statewide average is 96 percent. "We're very deeply concerned, especially in an alternative school setting where you need highly-qualified educators to work with the children," says Georgia Association of Educators President Jeff Hubbard, whose group has lobbied against privatizing schools. "We don't think students should be put in a situation where a company is trying to make a profit off their education." CEP says it spends $9,300 per student compared with $12,406 per pupil for the rest of the students in Atlanta's public school system. The company contends the school saves money because it doesn't have to offer such activities as sports or music programs that are required in regular school programs. But Freeman's skeptical. While the savings sound efficient, he stresses that, in education, you generally get what you pay for: "These kids need a lot; they're needy kids. You need to spend more money on them than typical schools. If they are spending less, I'd want to know why it costs less to educate a student with exceptional needs. Where are they saving money? What are they subtracting and is it good? Are they saving money by hiring less experienced teachers who have no training in dealing with these kids?" Freeman is careful to say he hasn't studied Forrest Hill enough to make an ironclad assessment. But, he says, "I know people who teach in alternative schools. It's not an easy environment. It usually requires very special teachers who can work with those kids. It's a big challenge." The Rev. Darryl Winston is angry that he sees many of the same issues raised in the ACLU lawsuit that led him to confront CEP officials four years ago. And his anger isn't just directed at the company. "We need a statement from Superintendent Beverly Hall that she takes these allegations seriously and that the APS is looking into them," he says. "All we got was a statement from the press person that amounted to kind of 'dismissing' it. I've been told as recently as last week that the APS position is to wait and see what comes out in court." What especially frustrates him is that no one who isn't behind the walls at Forrest Hill can really know what's going on there. "CEP has denied every one of the charges, but there's no way to verify that," Winston says. "We need experts. I've called on the board of education to launch its own investigation and see if the charges are true. If they can't, they need a task force appointed by the governor to see what is going on at CEP." As far back as Houston, CEP officials have had to deal with complaints that the company's performance needed to be evaluated by independent parties. "We want to be held accountable for attendance and behavior and academics," insists CEP's Anthony Edwards. "It's very important to us that we are a standards-based program." CEP claims students who attended Forrest Hill in the 2006-07 school year were, on average, performing math and reading on the third-grade level when they arrived. The school claims that students who were at the school for at least 150 days made remarkable progress: an increase of 3.2 grade levels in reading and four years in math. Under its Atlanta contract, however, CEP both administers and grades those tests. There's no independent verification of the results, but longtime educators say making those kinds of academic strides in one year is virtually impossible. For a certain percentage of students who are highly motivated, yes, it can be done; for an entire student population, unlikely. "Kids with emotional and behavioral problems don't do well in school," Freeman says. "And kids aren't just going to snap to and start learning." Chiang says lack of progress on standardized tests make it clear the PLATO test scores are skewed. Students have told the ACLU that they take the PLATO tests unsupervised and can ask each other for the answers they don't know. "CEP claims a pronounced spike in the test scores, but we believe it is because of PLATO," she says. "In reality, there's no teaching going on." Edwards downplays PLATO's results. "We are not judged by these," he says. "It's just a mechanism, a diagnostic tool. The student is given a grade level of functionality." But the contract with the Atlanta school system says that Forrest Hill's success or failure will be measured by a combination of results from PLATO tests and state standardized tests. In addition, if a student who attends CEP for at least 120 days doesn't show growth in reading and mathematics of at least one year on the PLATO system, the contract mandates that CEP must educate that student at no additional cost to the school district until he or she has reached that level. Patti Welch says her son continues to struggle at Forrest Hill, and has missed extended stretches of school because he doesn't want to be there. But she says his disciplinary problems now seem to be behind him. She plans to take him out of the alternative school at the end of the year; she wants to home-school him. But ACLU lawyers say the federal lawsuit – which names the school system, board members and CEP as defendants – is about more than just eight kids in one school. It cuts to the heart of a public school's responsibilities to kids who are in the margins, and it raises questions about the risks of privatizing public education. "We see it as a broader national problem, the trend of privatization of government functions and warehousing kids in a school-to-prison pipeline," Chiang says. For the students at Forrest Hill, it's also about not being forgotten by the officials who sent them there. "The problem is that Atlanta didn't build in an adequate system for oversight and evaluation," Freeman says. "You want it written into the contract to have a good program evaluation. It's got to be done by people who know how to do it, people not connected to the school department or CEP so there's no conflict of interest." Freeman says there should be an annual independent review of Forrest Hill. Evaluators would go into the school, see the teaching methods, and interview students and teachers and the administrators. "I hope the CEP school is investigated by people who know what they're doing," he says. "There are good questions to ask, and they deserve good answers. The school can't answer those question, they can only provide the information. Somebody else has to be the evaluator."

Fulton County Jail 
Fulton, Georgia
Trinity Services Group (formerly run by Aramark)

July 18, 2007 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fulton County can't seem to resolve a $4 million deal to provide food service to county jail inmates, a contract marked by allegations of corruption and employee misconduct. The board failed to end the controversy again Wednesday with a deadlocked 3-3 vote on a proposal to keep the current company, Trinity Services Group, for another year. Commissioners, who have discussed the deal at length half a dozen times in the past several months, didn't bother Wednesday. They simply took the latest vote with no discussion. The deal has gone through several attempts to bid and rebid with three main groups seeking the work all being ranked No. 1 at different times. The controversy has generated bid complaints and lawsuits from spurned bidders that continue. Evaluators recommended Trinity in the latest round of bids completed June 15 over teams from Gourmet/Aramark and Meat Masters. Meat Masters has filed suit challenging the bids and the process and seeking award of the deal. The company's lawyer, Charles Mathis, accused county staff of improperly manipulating bid results to keep Meat Masters from winning the bid. County attorney O.V. Brantley said he looked into the allegations but found no reason to call in criminal investigators. The third bidder, Gourmet-Aramark Correctional Services, also says it was cheated out of the contract. The company filed a formal bid protest with the county. The firm also alleged collusion involving the other two bidders because Meat Masters filed a bid but also was included as a subcontractor on the winning bid by Trinity.

March 22, 2007 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fulton County will take a step back and ask more companies to bid on a contract to feed inmates at the Fulton County Jail. Fulton's County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday for a 90-day deferral on a vote to hire a food service provider for the jail and satellite facilities. County purchasing officials are to use the delay to advertise the contract in national publications that cater to the corrections industry. Commissioners weren't pleased by a staff recommendation to hire Gourmet-ARAMARK Correctional Services, which the county fired two years ago. Some commissioners drilled into the county's purchasing guidelines because they give a big bonus to companies that have an office in Fulton County. Commissioner Robb Pitts said Gourmet-ARAMARK would have won the contract even if all three bidders had scored the same in every category but one — location. For the sole reason that it was the only company with a physical address in Fulton County, the company outscored its competition and won the staff's recommendation, Pitts said. Chairman John Eaves said he didn't understand why Gourmet-ARAMARK got the nod when its $4 million bid was the highest of the three that were submitted. It was about $1 million higher than the low bidder. Eaves made the motion to defer the vote. Felicia Strong-Whitaker, a deputy director of the county's purchasing department, said the county's purchasing guidelines state that cost makes up 25 points of the formula used to recommend a company for this type of contract. A company gets an automatic 10 points if it has an office in Fulton County, she said.

February 21, 2007 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Amid allegations of bid rigging and corruption, Fulton County commissioners agreed Wednesday to rebid a lucrative food service contract at the county jail. County Attorney O.V. Brantley said Wednesday she's launched a probe into the allegations, but Commissioner Robb Pitts said any investigation should be turned over to state or federal agents. "Someone seems hell bent on giving the contract to this firm," Pitts said. "I'm going to find out why.... This is serious stuff...This needs to be investigated, not in house but by someone outside." The Trinity Services Group won the original contract in 2005, but it expired more than a year ago. When it was rebid in December, Trinity received the recommendation, even though it was the highest bidder of the three, according to county records. One of the firms that was rejected filed a formal protest with the county, and the other filed a letter, also with the county, claiming employees were pressured to change bid evaluations to ensure that the deal stayed with Trinity. Charles Mathis Jr. said his client, Meat Masters Inc., was the rightful winner of the contract with a bid that was $850,000 lower than Trinity's $4.1 million offer. They only failed, Mathis said in his letter, because county employees were pressured to doctor the bid evaluations. "Meat Masters should legitimately be awarded the contract," Mathis wrote. Two county employees, Sgt. Chandra Hall and former Chief Jailer Charles Felton, provided written statements to Meat Masters that they had been directed to change the contract evaluations to boost the results for Trinity. The Board of Commissioners has copies of the letters, which were also obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Both said they were threatened that if they went before commissioners with Meat Masters as the bidder they would be hammered. The other bidder, Gourmet-Aramark Correctional Services, has alleged collusion involving the other two bidders since Meat Masters was included as a subcontractor on the winning bid by Trinity. Lawyer Michael Coleman, who served as hearing officer for the complaint, issued a ruling on Feb. 16 that recommended Fulton rebid the deal. "Due to the questions raised by the county's rejection of Gourmet-ARAMARK's proposal and the collusion claims involving Trinity and Meat Masters, the appropriate remedy is to cancel the current RFP and re-issue a new RFP," Coleman found.

August 4, 2004
A company accused of serving bad food to senior citizens is moving on.  Aramark has voluntarily given up a $700,000 contract to prepare food for seniors and the homebound in Fulton County.  An 11Alive News investigation last month revealed numerous complaints about the company’s services ranging from spoiled and outdated milk to deliveries of fish that were not fully cooked, clumps of grease on food and one report of a roach found embedded in meat.  Earnestine Yarborough, a senior citizen, said she got chicken that was badly undercooked. "It was pink water running out of it and pink next to the bone,” Yarborough said.  (11alive.com)

Gainesville Jail (North Georgia Detention Center)
Gainesville, GA
CCA
Jun 19, 2014 gainesvilletimes.com

The fallout from Gainesville’s purchase of the old Hall County jail in 2012, and the subsequent exodus of the Corrections Corp. of America the following year, has left the city treading water on the debt payments it owes. Of the $7.2 million purchase price, the city’s debt on the jail currently stands at $6.945 million. In approving the 2015 fiscal year budget Tuesday night, city officials agreed to spend about $594,000 on this debt. The city’s total debt entering the new fiscal year, which also includes payments owed on the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center and downtown parking deck, is $19.9 million. “The income from CCA offsets that,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “We are not having to take any money out of the taxpayers’ pocket to pay for that note this year and next year.” CCA’s upfront rent payments will help the city cover annual debt costs on the jail through the 2015 calendar year. But this also means the money cannot be used to fund other city services. Moreover, City Manager Kip Padgett has said upkeep of the jail costs between $120,000 and $150,000 annually. Unless another business occupies the jail, the debt could fall on the backs of city taxpayers come 2016, a prospect no one in local government cares to consider. In an executive summary outlining the budget, Padgett wrote, “With the departure of CCA, the city must replace the revenue stream in order to make debt obligation payments for the property. Afterwards, the city will have to identify other funding sources to cover this gap.” Councilman George Wangemann was the only council member to vote against the city’s purchase of the jail. He said he would not support tax increases to cover this debt. “So I have concerns about paying that debt down unless we get another tenant to take over the jail,” Wangemann said. “That’s the goal.” Padgett told The Times officials have been negotiating since February with two private companies that provide jail services. He would not elaborate nor specify a timeline for hatching a deal. “We’ll just have to see,” Dunagan said.

Dec 16, 2013 gainesvilletimes.com

Gainesville must continue paying for a bond used to buy the old Hall County jail on Main Street, but the income it expected to receive from the tenant of the facility will dry up in 2015. And the 14-year lease agreement between the city and the Corrections Corp. of America shows there is no penalty to the CCA for pulling out of the facility early. The private prison has operated at the 622 Main St. building since 2009, originally through an agreement with Hall County and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Re-named the North Georgia Detention Center, the facility largely holds those detained for immigration violations. In October 2012, Gainesville financed the purchase of the facility from Hall County for $7.2 million. The bond has a 2.5 percent interest rate. The CCA entered into a lease agreement with Gainesville with yearly rent payments through 2026 in the amount of $1 million the first year and $825,000 in subsequent years. Danny Dunagan, mayor at the time of the purchase, said those payments would more than cover the expense of the purchase and CCA could not get out of the agreement unless ICE decided not to use the property anymore. CCA cited a continued vacancy problem in its Dec. 2 announcement that the company was shuttering operations at the building. CCA representative Tommy Alsup told the Gainesville City Council in August that the 502-bed facility was housing 189 inmates, hurting the prison’s bottom line. City Attorney Bubba Palmour said he didn’t have the lease in front of him but did not recall any terms subjecting the CCA to a financial penalty for terminating the lease early. “I don’t recall — like I said I don’t have it in front me — I don’t recall a penalty in this lease other than they would have to pay whatever they were obligated to pay in the time they had the building,” he said. The lease reads: “(The) Tenant shall have the right to terminate the Lease at any time, for any reason or no reason, by giving the Landlord at least ninety (90) days’ prior written notice of such termination.” Palmour said any lease agreement is a negotiation for both parties. “Of course there’s negations that go on, certainly, about the terms and provisions in the lease,” Palmour said. “Any lease is whatever you agree to do. Some leases have a penalty for leaving early, some don’t.” “Everything was discussed out in the open. We had a lease. The lease was terminated,” he added. Cale Rogers, a Gainesville real estate attorney, said terms of commercial lease agreements vary widely. “It’s pretty much whatever the parties negotiate, especially in a commercial setting,” Rogers said. “There’s nothing that’s really commonplace or standard.” Although, he said, “very few” commercial leases don’t explicitly address possible termination consequences, which are by default minimal. “If the lease is silent, then once the lessee — or tenant — vacates the property, the landlord has no other remedy against them,” he said, citing state law. “Once they leave the property, whether they breach the lease or not, then generally Georgia law provides that the landlord has no damages because they have the property back.” “If they have the property, they can lease it to somebody else, and so there’s no damages,” he added. A penalty could be in the form of rent until the landlord leases the property or some set dollar amount, he said. “It’s typically written in as some sort of liquidated damages clause, which says something to the effect of — if the lessee breaches the lease, then they’re still responsible for x-number of dollars,” he said. Barring the facility is occupied soon by new tenants, the city will have to tackle how to make up for the lost revenue. The CCA said it will make a rent payment for 2014, which gives officials some time to mull their options. “The payment CCA is making in January will be applied to our bond payment due in the fall of 2014,” City Manager Kip Padgett said. “We will have to look at other revenue options for the bond payment beginning in the fall of 2015.” Padgett said the city is open to all options. One possibility is leasing the facility back to the county, which is now considering the detention center as a potential home for the Hall County Correctional Institute. The Hall County Board of Commissioners is temporarily shelving a proposal to build a new $3 to $4 million facility next door to the aging Barber Road building in order to consider the soon-to-be-vacant Main Street building. The feasibility of that arrangement has yet to be explored, Padgett said. “The county does not yet know if that facility and its layout is suitable for its needs,” Padgett said. County officials will be touring the building in the near future, he said.


Dec 5, 2013 gainesvilletimes.com

Immigration attorneys are welcoming the shuttering of a Gainesville immigration detention center, owned by the city and operated by the Corrections Corp. of America. “For us, any time they close a detention center, that’s good news,” Atlanta immigration attorney Charles Kuck said. “We shouldn’t profit from detaining people.” Gainesville immigration attorney David Kennedy agreed enthusiastically. “I’m thrilled that unholy place is closing,” he said. “CCA is an evil corporation that represents the worst aspects of corporate greed as a justification for misanthropy.” Arturo Corso, an immigration attorney in Gainesville, said he had more mixed feelings to the Monday announcement by CCA, which cited a continuous decline in population at the facility. “My initial reaction to the facility closing: I was glad because it’s really kind of an eyesore as a resident of Gainesville,” Corso said. “I don’t want a prison in the middle of our downtown area.” However, he said, it won’t improve the lives of immigrants detained, or the larger effort to achieve legal status for immigrants. “I think closing that awful prison is a great thing for the city of Gainesville, but it doesn’t really change the lives of people seeking to change their immigration status,” Corso said. Kuck said he wasn’t surprised that the Gainesville facility, which seemed to be intended for short-term stays, didn’t thrive like the Stewart facility in South Georgia, also owned by CCA. Clients detained in Gainesville originated anywhere from neighboring counties to neighboring states, he said, and most ultimately ended up at Stewart. “From our perspective, it seemed to be a transitory place. I’ve had people in Stewart eight, 12, 15 months — it was much more long term,” Kuck said. “ICE wasn’t filling it up; obviously it was more expensive to run,” Kuck added. Vincent Picard, Eastern Seaboard spokesman for ICE, said ICE employees at the detention center will move to other offices. “Corrections Corp. of America has decided to withdraw from the intergovernmental service agreement to house ICE detainees at the North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville,” Picard said in a statement. “In accordance with that decision, ICE will relocate remaining detainees currently housed at the facility to other detention centers within Georgia prior to the end of 2013.” Lawyer and family visits will be a bit tougher, Corso said. “The only upside was that if you were from Gainesville, your family could visit you, or your lawyer could go and see you, and now we’re going to have to drive about three hours to the Stewart detention center,” Corso said. “That’s the only thing we’ve lost — the convenience.” For the city, the closure may mean the loss of millions of dollars. The CCA paid the city rent for the space, bought from the county as part of a plan to control future midtown development. Gainesville financed the purchase of the North Georgia Detention Center from Hall County for $7.2 million in October 2012. The city projected to get $825,000 in rent from the company for the 2014 fiscal year. The bond has a 2.5 percent interest rate. City Manager Kip Padgett didn’t respond to questions about the lease. The Times has requested the contract through the Open Records Act. Another group impacted by the closure is about 125 employees of the center. CCA spokesman Steven Owen said the company will help them find other positions. “We will be offering all of them the opportunity to transfer to other CCA facilities,” he said. “For employees unable to transfer, our team will coordinate opportunities to help them find jobs in the local area.” Kuck said the benefits of the closing pale in comparison to any drawbacks in the end. “Any time a jail is closed down, it should be good news for everybody — it means you don’t need it,” Kuck said. He also dismissed the notion that fewer detainees were the result of ICE easing immigration enforcement. “Trust me, ICE is doing their job,” he said, with a laugh. “I’ve been witness to that.” ICE still makes citations, but is detaining fewer people, he said, exercising more discretion to release people on bond. “About six months ago, ICE started using a new computer program that helps them determine what a bond should be for somebody. They put in all the response data, and the program spits out, ‘This is what the bond shall be,’” he said. “It went from being subjective to a computer program, and my understanding is that if the program set less than $10,000, they would simply release them.” Corso agreed, and said law enforcement measures have not changed — simply detainment policy. “People shouldn’t get the idea that the sheriff has gone soft on crime, or gone soft on undocumented immigrants,” Corso said. In Hall County, detainees can be referred to ICE based on a criminal accusation in a program called 287(g). Currently, ICE has 287(g) agreements with 36 law enforcement agencies in 19 states. “If you were pulled over and you got arrested, that was it. They wouldn’t agree to a bond in any circumstances,” Corso said. “They had this hard and fast rule until they were completely overwhelmed with detainees.” He said backlogs piled up, with some detainees being held for a year or longer. “What they’ve started to do is for really low-risk people, they’re granting bonds,” he said. “It’s just a cost savings measure from ICE — the taxpayers don’t want to pay to clothe and feed you day after day.” Kuck estimated it costs ICE about $75 dollars a day to detain a person. There are harsh consequences for missing an immigration court hearing, Corso said. “If you don’t come to court on the day of your notice to appear, the judge issues a removal order, and they do that in absentia,” he said. “The next time you come to immigration court, or the next time you get pulled over driving without a license at a roadblock, they’re going to know.” The government proceeds with what Corso said is essentially “an expedited deportation hearing.” “You can’t talk to your lawyer, no questions asked — you’re gone,” Corso said. Corso said the immigration detention and deportation model in general has been a “cruel, one-size-fits-all dragnet,” in particular for more technical violations. “I know the post on some blog will say ‘What part of criminal don’t you understand?’ but really a lot of people come here on a student visa, and then return on a student visa not knowing they needed a different type of visa,” he said. Like both Kuck and Kennedy, Corso denounced the larger moral implications of the facility, and what it represented. “In the bigger picture, we should never have privatized immigration detention facilities — the government should not be in the habit of making a profit from the incarceration of human beings,” he said.


Dec 3, 2013 gainesvilletimes.com

The city of Gainesville may lose millions of dollars it was expecting to generate from the downtown jail it bought last year after Corrections Corp. of America announced Monday it was pulling out. CCA spokesman Steven Owen said the company had decided to close the facility before the end of the year because of a continuous decline in population at the facility, which houses mostly immigration detainees. Gainesville financed the purchase of the North Georgia Detention Center from Hall County for $7.2 million in October 2012. The city projected to get $825,000 in rent from the company for the 2014 fiscal year. The bond has a 2.5 percent interest rate. Owen, CCA senior director of public affairs, said the center employed about 125 people who the company will help find other positions. “We will be offering all of them the opportunity to transfer to other CCA facilities,” he said. “For employees unable to transfer, our team will coordinate opportunities to help them find jobs in the local area.” Gainesville and CCA had a 14-year lease agreement on the building at 622 Main St. City Manager Kip Padgett said the jail firm told the city of the closing Monday morning. He didn’t respond to questions about the lease. The Times has requested the contract through the Open Records Act. “We will be exploring all options for future use of the facility,” he said in an emailed response. Owen said the company gave the city a 90-day notice of its plans to end the lease agreement. Gainesville had been looking to control the future of the property, located in the heart of midtown redevelopment plans. In August, CCA sought to fill more beds at the facility by housing those in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. A CCA representative, Tommy Alsup, told the Gainesville City Council at the time that 189 people were being housed there. The facility has 502 beds. Alsup said CCA thrives on its facilities being at capacity. “It is our understanding that (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will soon begin transitioning the detainees out of this location to other detention facilities,” Owen said. Vincent Picard, Eastern Seaboard spokesman for ICE, declined to provide the current number of detainees, saying “they are in flux.” ICE employees working at the detention center will move to other offices. “Corrections Corp. of America has decided to withdraw from the intergovernmental service agreement to house ICE detainees at the North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville,” Picard said in an statement. “In accordance with that decision, ICE will relocate remaining detainees currently housed at the facility to other detention centers within Georgia prior to the end of 2013.”

April 9, 2012 Gainesville Times
After weeks of silence about the future of the old Hall County Jail in Gainesville, the Hall County Board of Commissioners moved to put the ball in the Gainesville City Council’s court. The Times acquired a draft letter Monday from Hall County Chairman Tom Oliver to Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan saying that the county would not consider Gainesville’s offer to buy the jail unless the city agreed to assume all liability if a lawsuit were brought by the current tenant, Corrections Corp. of America. CCA has been using the facility to house detainees of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Concerns have been raised that if ownership of the detention center switched from Hall County to Gainesville, then ICE may temporarily close the facility and CCA would lose revenue. Monday’s draft letter, which county officials indicated would change before it was sent, sets an April 20 deadline for response from the city. However, Dunagan said Monday night that the city is currently in negotiations with CCA on lease modifications if Gainesville took ownership of the jail.

March 22, 2012 Gainesville Times
Elected officials are spending nearly as much time in back-door discussion as they are in front of the public lately at meetings of Hall County Board of Commissioners and the Gainesville City Council. Executive sessions, which legally allow the officials to hold private meetings to discuss some items (such as real estate sales and purchases), are being held fairly frequently as Hall County government attempts to negotiate the sale of the old county jail to the city of Gainesville. So far, stakeholders in the sale of the old county jail — Hall County, the city of Gainesville and the building's current lessee Corrections Corp. of America — are saying little about the progress of the behind-the-scenes negotiations taking place this week. The Hall County Commission met in its second executive session this week to discuss real estate issues before its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday. However, commissioners did not discuss or vote on matters involving the jail at the meeting. Commissioner Ashley Bell said negotiations involving the sale of the jail are still under way with an effort to involve all of the stakeholders. CCA has leased the midtown Gainesville building since 2008 to house detainees of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. CCA operates at the detention center under a contract Hall County has with ICE. Before these recent negotiations between the city and county, it was CCA that was close to a deal to buy the jail, now called the North Georgia Detention Center. A lease-for-purchase agreement approved by the commission last month would have given CCA full ownership after seven years for $7.2 million. But Gainesville officials, who have said they would like to get rid of the old jail to make way for their midtown redevelopment plans, pushed to purchase the facility instead. Last week, CCA's deal with Hall County was put on hold by the Gainesville-Hall Development Authority to give the city enough time to make its own written offer. On Tuesday, the city matched CCA's $7.2 million offer, according to a Hall County government source. But hang-ups do remain. For now, Bell and Commissioner Billy Powell have been designated to help foster a deal between the three parties: Hall County, the city of Gainesville and CCA. "We'll move along to pull together a deal," Bell said. "We've got to put all the options on the table and see what we can get resolved." One stumbling block in a deal between the city and county is the question of liability if CCA chooses to sue. The county is seeking to avoid liability if it cancels the previous deal with CCA. If the county sells the jail, it would have to transfer the current agreement with ICE. "If the ownership of the facility housing the North Georgia Detention Center changes, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the new owners would have to renegotiate the Intergovernmental Service Agreement that forms the basis of the current contract," wrote ICE spokesman Vincent Picard in a statement. That means if Gainesville purchased the facility and decided to allow CCA to remain in the facility, city officials would have to come to an agreement with federal immigration officials. CCA senior director Tommy Alsup said last week the change could mean that ICE would suspend its operations at the detention center until the new agreement is reached, meaning the company could lose at least two months of revenue and about 145 jobs would be in jeopardy. ICE officials would not speculate on what conditions could cause the detention center to temporarily suspend operations. But if that occurred, Commissioner Scott Gibbs said CCA could sue the county for lost income. As a precaution, the county wants the city to assume liability if the county breaks its existing agreement with CCA. This week, as city and county officials have negotiated a possible deal, CCA has been publicly silent. A CCA representative said on Thursday the corporation has not been in contact with Gainesville city officials and said it was "premature to comment to the media." However, county officials said CCA has made its position clear to them. "CCA has been very adamant about what they want and this (sale to Gainesville) is not what they want, so we assume there would be repercussions ..." Bell said earlier this week.

March 20, 2012 Gainesville Times
A source with Hall County has confirmed that Gainesville offered $7.2 million for the old county jail on Main Street that is currently leased by Corrections Corp. of America. Commissioner Scott Gibbs wouldn't confirm that number but said the county's attorneys must review the offer further to determine the county's liability. He said it is possible CCA could sue the county for loss of income if the county sells the property to the city. "I would like to see them get it, but it's got to be a competitive offer for the good of all the taxpayers," Gibbs said.CCA
 

March 16, 2012 Gainesville Times
The old Hall County jail doesn't belong to a private corrections company just yet. The Gainesville-Hall Development Authority put on hold Friday one of the final steps in the sale of the midtown jail to Corrections Corporation of America, giving Gainesville some time to make its own offer to purchase the property. Verbally, Gainesville has offered to pay $6.5 million for the property. City officials have been given a flexible deadline to come up with a written offer. That deadline is at noon Tuesday, but Hall Commission Chairman Tom Oliver said if the city asks for an extension, the county would grant it. The development authority originally met Friday morning to consider CCA's offer to purchase the jail from the county in a $7.2 million lease-purchase agreement. County tax records show the property is worth about $8.76 million. Friday's decision was the first public demonstration of cooperation between the city and the county government on the issue of the midtown jail since the county leased it to CCA in 2008. CCA houses detainees for the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in the old jail, a use the city sees as an impediment to the future of midtown's redevelopment.

February 22, 2012 Gainesville Times
Officials with Hall County and a private company charged with housing immigration detainees in Gainesville say the market conditions have changed. Four years ago, the two made a 20-year deal: Corrections Corp. of America would rent the county's old jail, housing detainees for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and pay about $2 million a year for it. Today, the Hall County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to decide whether to just give the property, now called the North Georgia Detention Center, over indefinitely for $7.2 million. County tax records show the property is worth about $8.76 million. Commission Chairman Tom Oliver calls it a county "business decision." And while it seems the county might lose millions of dollars by changing the deal, Oliver said private jails housing immigration detainees were experiencing a "soft market." And the county's 2008 agreement with the private prison company gave CCA an out if its financial conditions changed, said Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix. Originally, CCA expected to be at full capacity most of the time, but Nix said the jail keeps about 350 inmates on average. A spokesman for Corrections Corp. of America confirmed that the population in the jail has declined in the last year for reasons he left to ICE to explain. ICE did not respond to requests for information on the detention center's population by press time Wednesday. "For that reason ... they're able to come to us and say ‘we're going to close this place down unless we renegotiate a new lease,'" Nix said. The county and CCA have been negotiating since fall on a new agreement; until they reach one, CCA will not pay its rent for 2012.

February 21, 2012 AccessNorthGA
Hall County Commissioners Tuesday agreed to approve a lease amendment that allows Corrections Corporation of America to buy the old county jail. Commissioners said they would vote yes during Thursday’s voting session on the six year installment sale agreement for the old jail at 622 Main Street in Gainesville. CCA leased the jail as a holding facility for illegal aliens in 2008; Assistant County administrator Marty Nix said selling instead of leasing is a better deal for the county. “Hall County would receive a more stable source of income for the next six years,” Nix said. Nix added the sale eliminates capital funds and contingency cost and Hall County holds title until the entire $7.2-million is paid by CCA.

May 10, 2011 AccessNorthGA
About 30 people attended a candlelight vigil Monday night outside the immigrant detention center in Gainesville for a Salvadoran immigrant who died there last week. Georgia Detention Watch sponsored the vigil. Organizers say 54-year-old Miguel Hernandez collapsed and died after being returned to the North Georgia Detention Center on Main Street after being treated for a blood clot. A spokesman said the group is calling for "accountability" from the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which operates the detention center. Georgia Detention Watch says Hernandez is the second death it is aware of in recent years at a CCA-operated facility in Georgia. The group said ICE and CCA have yet to provide answers about the death of 39-year-old Roberto Martinez Medina at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin which happened more than two years ago.

July 31, 2009 Gainesville Times
Attorney David Kennedy says clients of his who have been held in immigration detention centers in South Georgia and eastern Alabama routinely are denied fundamental rights. "I have had clients who have had no access to phones for extended periods of time. I have had clients being questioned and induced into signing things they did not understand," said Kennedy, a Gainesville immigration lawyer. "I have had clients complain they were stuck in their cells for 23 hours a day. There’s definitely a problem with immigration detention in this country." On the eve of a new immigration detention center opening in Gainesville, a report issued this week by National Immigration Law Center appears to validate Kennedy’s complaints. The report, based on confidential Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents obtained in litigation, alleges there are pervasive problems throughout the country’s immigration detention facilities, many of which are operated by private contractors. Detainees are routinely denied visitation with family members, access to legal materials and regular recreation, according to the report. Many never get an explanation of their rights while being detained, the report claims. "The conditions are much more harsh than they ought to be," said the report’s co-author, Ranjana Natarajan. "This is a civil detention, and these folks are being treated like hardened criminals." The Corrections Corporation of America could begin boarding immigration detainees at its new North Georgia Detention Center on Main Street as soon as next week. The site of the old county jail adjoining the Hall County Sheriff’s office underwent $4 million in renovations and is being leased from Hall County for $2 million a year. CCA operates the detention center through an agreement with ICE and the county. This week, ICE officials did not deny the allegations contained in the report, vowing to continue to improve conditions. But Department of Homeland Security officials recently decided against creating uniform detention center standards that the National Immigration Law Center wants. ICE is supposed to conduct yearly evaluations of every detention center, but has no enforceable, binding legal rules on how inmates are treated, according to the report. "It creates a lot of gray area," Natarajan said. "Because (detention centers) are not expected to follow the rules, they’re all over the map." ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said agency officials "feel the NILC put together a very thoughtful report, and we will carefully review and take seriously this report, as we would any report. We are committed to continuously improving our immigration detention system." Gonzalez noted that within 10 days of taking office, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ordered all immigration enforcement policies to undergo a review, "including detention." In February, Napolitano appointed former Arizona Department of Corrections director Dora Schriro as a special advisor for detention and removal. "Her position was created to focus exclusively on the significant growth in detention and detainment in the last few years," Gonzalez said. On any given day, ICE holds about 33,000 immigration detainees in facilities across the country, and supervises another 17,000 people facing deportation through electronic monitoring and other means. The National Immigration Law Center estimates that in 2008 about 220,000 people were held in detention centers prior to deportation. The typical stay is 30 to 90 days. The Gainesville facility operated by CCA is expected to hold about 500 low- and medium-security immigration detainees, many of them from North Carolina. CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant referred questions on this week’s report to ICE officials, but noted that "CCA does adhere in every one of our ICE detention facilities to the detention standards set by our customer." The company also has ICE officials on site for detainee access, Grant said. This week’s report prompted two U.S. senators to call for a change to the system. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Thursday introduced the "Strong Standards Act," a proposed bill that would set minimum detention standards and require the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that laws concerning the treatment of detainees are enforced. "These legislative initiatives will help reinforce what our great country has always stood for: liberty, the rule of law and basic human rights," Menendez said in a statement. To Kennedy, anything would be an improvement. "If we’re comparing these (detention centers) to their Turkish counterparts, they’re pretty good," Kennedy said. "But by U.S. standards, they’re pretty poor."

May 14, 2009 Gainesville Times
The private entity that soon will run the North Georgia Detention Center in Midtown Gainesville has asked the Gainesville Police Department to provide police assistance when the facility opens this summer. It doesn’t appear that city officials have any intentions of doing so. Police Chief Frank Hooper told the City Council Thursday that Corrections Corporation of America sent him a memorandum of understanding that requests assistance from the police department. The agreement would call for the police department’s assistance in quelling riots and other criminal activity at the immigration detention center, he said. City Council members opposed the idea. City Attorney James E. "Bubba" Palmour also advised them against entering into the agreement, which offered the city police department indemnification from any wrongdoing, Hooper said. Palmour said no amount of indemnification would protect the city if a "full-blown problem" arose at the facility, which will be housed in the old Hall County Jail on Main Street. "Once you have a death or a serious injury in a jail, it will take you five or six years to get through the litigation," Palmour said. Hooper said the city police department is not equipped with the training or equipment to deal with jail riots. "We shouldn’t be, because we’re a municipal police department," City Manager Kip Padgett said. Most council members said that any police protection should be the responsibility of the Hall County government, which is leasing the facility to CCA. "It sounds like the county commission needs to step up and accept full responsibility for that facility," said Councilman George Wangemann. Councilman Danny Dunagan also said any security responsibilities at the facility should fall on the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. He said the county should use the $2 million in annual revenue it receives from leasing the facility to CCA on providing police assistance. But sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said the county agency this week signed a similar agreement with CCA and a separate agreement to house the North Georgia Detention Facility’s inmates in an emergency if there is room at the Hall County Jail. The agreement the county signed states that the Gainesville Police Department will be the agency that is primarily responsible to respond to incidents at the facility, Strickland said. "These (memorandums of understanding) are basically for emergency situations, which of course, the Gainesville Police Department does have the primary responsibility for," Strickland said. "However, if the Gainesville Police Department requested our assistance, then, of course, we would respond accordingly." Steve Owen, director of marketing and communications for the private jail operator, said if the city does not sign the agreement, it will not cause any problems for the North Georgia Detention Center. He said the memorandum of understanding sent to Gainesville officials was an effort to "get a working relationship" with local law enforcement agencies. Although Owen would not comment on specific concerns city officials cited Thursday, he said CCA officials were "more than happy to continue to have dialogue" with the city. "We want to be good neighbors," Owen said. The road to a working relationship between the city and CCA has been a rough one thus far. CCA’s plans to start operating the detention facility on Main Street conflict with the city’s dreams of a redevelopment in Midtown chock full of high-rise hotels, office buildings and walking trails — dreams that don’t include razor wire. Many of the problems between the city and CCA spring from a conflict the city has with the county over the future of the jail property. City officials announced their intentions to buy the property in late 2007. The deal never went through and both the city and county disagree on why the contract allowing the city to purchase the property was never signed. In the last round, city officials halted inspections and refused to issue building permit for renovations on the Main Street Jail, but later reneged "in the spirit of moving forward." However, Thursday, there still seemed to be some kinks in the relationship between city, county and CCA officials as Dunagan commented that the corporation taking over the Main Street jail is "notorious for mistreatment" of inmates — an allegation to which Owen responded that the fact that CCA operates in nearly half the states in the country, many of which have increased their utilization of CCA services, should speak for the company’s track record, he said. "I hope the county commission is real happy with what they’ve done," Dunagan said.

April 2, 2009 Gainesville Times
Gainesville City Council members met Thursday with the operators of the North Georgia Detention Center, and some say they still aren’t impressed with the efforts the jail operators are making to dress up the building’s exterior. The facility sits in the heart of Gainesville’s Midtown — an area where city officials have their sights set on beautification projects and redevelopment. Razor wire isn’t in those plans. The City Council has expressed its disappointment that Corrections Corporation of America, the private jail operator that soon will house immigration detainees in the old Hall County Jail, has no plans to take down the razor wire surrounding the facility. A CCA spokeswoman told The Times last week that razor wire is standard for all the company’s facilities. The company met with council members separately Thursday, showing them efforts to beautify the property. Councilman Robert "Bob" Hamrick said the company had plans to lower the razor wire, paint the fence surrounding the facility and plant junipers around it. "Well, it’s not exactly what we wanted," Hamrick said. "We were laboring under the thought that the fencing and the razor wire, this sort of thing, would be taken down." Councilman Danny Dunagan said he was not impressed, either. Dunagan and Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner met with CCA officials together. He said CCA officials told him of plans to plant Leyland cypress trees around the fence to eventually help cover the appearance of a jail. "In my eyes, that’s not enough," Dunagan said. "I don’t want to wait two or three or four years for the cypress to get big enough to hide it. I want it hid right now." Bruner and Councilman George Wangemann did not return calls requesting comment Thursday night, but Dunagan said Bruner "didn’t seem to think it was enough for her, either."

March 28, 2009 Gainesville Times
The Gainesville City Council is refuting comments made by Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver to The Times regarding an agreement for the city to purchase the old county jail on Main Street. Oliver told The Times on Thursday that a 2007 contract securing the city’s purchase of the jail property expired in February 2008 and the city never signed it. But city officials said in a statement Friday that Hall County Attorney Bill Blalock instructed them not to sign the contract, which Blalock denies. In December 2007, the city announced plans to buy the jail from the county for $4 million with the understanding that the county could lease the facility to Corrections Corporation of America for seven years. The city would then have the option of razing the facility to make way for new development. Oliver said Thursday the contract for the purchase was hand-delivered to the city. "I don’t know what they did with it once they got it," he said. But city officials say they were told to hold off on signing the agreement until further notice from the county. "As the agreement was being finalized, (Blalock) told the city not to sign it because they were still working out some issues," according to the statement. "Blalock said if the city signed the agreement first, the city’s portion would be null and void. Blalock further commented that he would let the city know when the county had worked out the issues." Blalock denied the statement Friday, however, and said there would have been no reason for him to tell city officials not to sign the contract. Oliver also said he was unaware of any instructions against signing the contract. "That’s absolutely not true," Blalock said. "I don’t give city advice. I represent the county; they’ve (city officials) got their own lawyer." Blalock said, according to his records, the arrangement with CCA was finalized Jan. 24, 2008, and the final draft of the contract was delivered to the city’s former manager, Bryan Shuler, on Jan. 30. "I sent it to Bryan Shuler," Blalock said. "It was hand-carried to his office, and there were no instructions about not signing it. It was for them to consider whether or not they wanted to go forward with it. I never heard another word from them." Late last year, the county announced a 20-year lease for the jail property with CCA at a rate of $2 million a year. The newly renamed North Georgia Detention Center is expected to open in April or May. City officials said they knew nothing about the county’s agreement with the private prison operator until they read it in The Times. City Manager Kip Padgett said city attorney James E. "Bubba" Palmour and Shuler handled the deal. When CCA officials met with city officials, they indicated they had no prior knowledge of an agreement between the county and the city, Padgett said. The statement city officials released Friday said Palmour is "evaluating the situation of CCA and says the city will act accordingly based on local ordinances involving zoning, building and a business license."

March 27, 2009 Gainesville Times
Hall County officials say Gainesville City Council members who are unhappy about a private prison company’s long-term plans for the old county jail were given a chance to buy the property in a formal contract but never followed through. This week, council members Ruth Bruner and Danny Dunagan and City Manager Kip Padgett made public their disappointment in future plans for the jail adjacent to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office on Main Street. The building will house about 500 immigration detainees through an agreement between Hall County and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and a county contract with private corrections company Corrections Corporation of America. Padgett and Gainesville Planning Director Rusty Ligon met Tuesday with CCA officials. They referred questions about the meeting to City Attorney James “Bubba” Palmour, who said he was unavailable to comment Thursday. Council members said after the meeting they had hoped that the company would take down the razor wire surrounding the facility, and that they had believed the facility would hold low-risk, minimum security detainees. City officials said the razor wire creates an aesthetic eyesore in an area of midtown the city plans to revitalize. Dunagan also said city officials were under the impression that when county officials signed a lease agreement with CCA, they also would finalize a purchase agreement with the city. That plan, as first made public in December 2007, called for the city to buy the jail for $4 million, with the agreement that the county could lease the facility to CCA for seven years. The city would then have the option of razing the facility to make way for new development. Late last year, the county finalized a 20-year lease for the property with CCA at a rate of $2 million a year. The newly-renamed North Georgia Detention Center is expected to open in April or May. “The county went ahead and signed the contract with CCA with no communication with the city as to what was going on and what their intentions are,” Dunagan said. “We had to find out the hard way that they’d already signed the agreement.” Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver on Thursday pointed to a contract prepared late in 2007 that was hand-delivered to city hall. The purchase agreement negotiated between the city and county had an expiration date of February 2008. It was never signed. “It was couriered to them,” said Oliver, who provided a copy of the 25-page contract to The Times. “I don’t know what they did with it once they got it.” Louise Grant, a spokeswoman for CCA, said Thursday that the company will house low and medium-security detainees, but no maximum-security detainees. Certain security measures, including razor wire, are standard for all CCA facilities, she said. “When we operate a facility, we operate it at a certain level, period, because we’re one of the safest, most secure correctional systems in the United States, and we’re very proud of our record,” she said. “Razor wire is part of our security protocol, and ICE has come to expect that.” Grant said she believes there may be a misunderstanding as to the type of detainees to be housed at the old jail. “Using the term ‘maximum security’ would be completely inaccurate,” she said. Most of the immigration detainees at the facility will have not been convicted of a crime, she said. Those that have would have already served out their jail sentences at sites such as Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County Jail, she said. “If ICE wasn’t detaining them for their administrative (deportation) process, they would already be out on the street,” she said. “They’re going to be held in our facility for a short duration of time while they’re being processed.” The average detainee will stay at the facility between 30 and 90 days, she said. Grant said CCA officials are sensitive to the concerns of local leaders.

March 25, 2009 Access North GA
Gainesville City officials said Wednesday Nashville, Tennessee based Corrections Corporation of America plans to house maximum-security convicted felons in addition to illegal immigrants awaiting deportation at its leased facility in the former Hall County Jail on Main Street downtown. CCA announced March 9th under a five-year Inter-Governmental Service Agreement between Hall County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE),CCA will house up to 500 detainees at the facility. CCA said it would lease the site from the county for an initial term of 20 years with two five-year renewal options; The company currently anticipates opening the facility possibly the end of April and expects it to be fully occupied year’s end. “We found out yesterday (Tuesday) they’re going to house convicted felons and that we’ll have to have maximum security so the razor wire will not be going way,” Councilman Danny Dunagan said. “That’s not what we were told in the beginning.” “Also we were told in the beginning we’d be able to buy the property and the jail would go away in eight years and evidently that went by the wayside also.” Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner said she had hoped Midtown would eventually be rid of the jail with its fence and razor wire in the heart of Midtown. “Now it’s a security issue,” Bruner said. “And it seems to me a blatant lack of concern on the county’s part about the citizens of Gainesville to want a corrections facility with maximum security prisoners right in downtown Gainesville in the part we’re trying to beautify right next to a park and where a hotel could look down on razor wire.” City Manager Kip Padgett said it was Council’s understanding CCA would be running a minimum-security facility for illegal aliens. “The understanding Council had was that it would a minimum security type facility house people awaiting deportation,” Padgett said. “Now we’re not so sure.”

March 23, 2009 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A new detention facility planned for the heart of its Midtown district has some Gainesville officials wringing their hands. The city, in talks with Hall County and Corrections Corporation of America, wants to insure that the new prison, which will house up to 502 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, meets its idea of urban revitalization. The city began a project 10 years ago to clean up the rundown area and invested $250,000 in a study to map out a revitalization strategy, said City Councilman Danny Dunagan. That strategy did not include razor wire. Nashville-based CCA signed a five-year agreement to lease the old county jail from Hall County to operate the center on Main Street. The 20-year lease, with two 5-year renewals, will pay Hall County $2 million annually. “The last thing we want in downtown for 20 years is a prison,” Dunagan said. The city has invested a lot in its Midtown revitalization, including a new police/fire station. Plans also call for a 13-story hotel and two nine-story office buildings. The city had even worked out a verbal agreement with the county to buy the old jail, Dunagan said. The plan called for the city to then lease the facility back to the county so it could sub-lease it to CCA, he said. But that deal would have run for eight years, Dunagan said, then the city would have the option of shutting it down. Councilman George Wangemann said the city is behind the economic boost the prison could bring to the city, but he wants it to fit in with the aesthetics. Louise Grant, CCA marketing and communications director, said that while the company is in the business of operating prisons, it is working to resolve the aesthetics issue with the city. “Safety and security is our first and foremost priority,” she said. “We’re making a $4 million investment to upgrade the facility.” Grant said razor wire is common at all its 60 facilities, but alternative fencing is being discussed. Since last week’s announcement of the prison opening, CCA has received some 500 applications for the approximately 120 jobs available, Grant said. Since last week’s announcement of the prison opening, CCA has received some 500 applications for the approximately 120 jobs available, Grant said. Officials with Hall County did not return phone calls.

Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles
Jan 21, 2014 theatlantic.com

Largely lost with a Sunday posting during a holiday weekend were two pieces of excellent reporting by Rhonda Cook in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Cook shone a light on private probation companies and the damage they have wrought in Georgia. Both pieces, sadly, are still hidden behind the Journal-Constitution's paywall (I've asked the good folks there to "tear down those walls!") but this is a national scandal—other states have tried to privatize their probation services—and it deserves national attention. The main piece from Cook is titled "Spotlight Falls on Private Probation Companies Over Fees, Supervision," and it tells the story of how one state has outsourced its probation services to private companies, the executives of which have huge financial incentives for charging as many people as much as possible for "services" that would keep them out of jail. The result is a form of  the statewide "debtors' prison" you've probably read about in Dickens (whose father, incidentally, spent time in such a prison). Cook's story begins with this: In 2000, Georgia cleared the way for private companies to supervise low-level offenders, claiming it freed up overburdened state probation workers while costing taxpayers nothing. But records reviewed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution show some in the industry have pocketed large fees while, in at least some cases, doing little to supervise those under their watch. And despite promises that taxpayers would pay nothing to supervise the offenders, they have footed the bill when the probationers are arrested and jailed because they owe money to the company, not the courts. A string of lawsuits argue the system effectively criminalizes poverty and that some companies have illegally forced offenders to pay for things, such as electronic monitoring and drug testing, beyond what was ordered by the courts. Siding with that argument, a Georgia judge last year temporarily stopped the state's largest private probation company from doing business in east Georgia. the Georgia Bureau of Investigations is also looking into whether another company has illegally tacked on fees. This is not exactly a new development and Georgia officials can hardly claim to be surprised by what the Journal-Constitution has found. In November 2012, for example, the Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta, issued a report warning of the dangers of the state's move to privatize its prisons and probation services. "There are 35 private probation companies in Georgia operating in over 600 courts that enjoy minimal oversight because of a state statue that excludes them from open records requests," the SCHR report noted. When you have a lack of transparency and public accountability, when you have perverse profit motives, you get optics like these. Cook writes: "For example in Cobb County State Court, which supervises its own probationers, charges $22 a month to supervise felony probationers. The private companies, however, charge nearly double—$39. There are also add-on fees, and probationers can be required to pay even more for drug testing, electronic monitoring and classes." Probationers like Kathleen Hucks: Hucks was walking her dog early on Memorial Day 2013 when an officer stopped to question her in an unrelated case and discovered an outstanding warrant from a $156 debt to Sentinel from years earlier. Hucks had completed 24 months on probation for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and traffic offenses in 2008 She had also paid more than $3,200 in fines and restitution, and then continued to pay Sentinel a monthly supervision fee and for drug testing through the end of the year even though that was not part of the judge's sentence, according to documents. Hucks said she thought she owed Sentinel nothing until she was picked up more than 4 1/2  years later. The 58-year-old woman was in jail for 20 days—at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1,000 plus medical care—until her husband could raise the $156 to resolve her debt to Sentinel. "Georgia's gone back to being a debtor's prison state," said attorney John Bell, who represents more than a dozen people who were jailed because the private companies said they still owed supervision fees. In some ways, Cook's sidebar piece, titled "Connections Matter in Private Probation Industry," may be even more disturbing than the main story for in it she explains precisely how all of this happened. It's the eternal story of American politics: money, lobbying and special interests all combining to make life more difficult and unfair for the poor and the dispossessed-- those who most need the law's protections. Cook writes: Politics have figured in the private probation movement from the beginning. Two of the most powerful allies of the idea were Board of Pardons and Paroles Chairman Walter Ray and board member Bobby Whitworth, also once the commissioner of the Department of Corrections. Whitworth and Ray were accused of taking money from a company founded by two former Department of Corrections officials. Whitworth said the $75,000 that Detention Management Services paid him was for consulting and not lobbying, but he was still convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, but he was sentenced as a first offender so he has been cleared of the conviction. Ray was forced to resign. DMS, headed by two former prison officials, Lanson Newsome and Bud Black, was then sold to Sentinel Offender Services for $8.2 million just a few months after the law took effect. Another official who left his government job to start a private probation business was former Deputy Corrections Commissioner Walter Zant, who died in 2009. He secured contracts for ZSI Probation Services with several small towns just south Atlanta—Barnesville, Hampton, Jackson, Locust Grove and Molena to name a few. And so on. There is the Private Probation Association of Georgia, which plans a legislative "presence" this session to try to fight back against these doubts. There are beleaguered state court judges, who have begun to express skepticism about Georgia's experiment even as they note there is nothing unconstitutional about a state outsourcing one of the key functions of its criminal justice systems (the Georgia Supreme Court is expected this year to wade into the dispute). And then, from Cook, there is this wonderful passage: Tony Moreland, the co-owner of Georgia Probation Services, said the industry is filling a need yet has an image problem. "We have become the big, bad bogey man," he said. In response to allegations that some companies have used the threat of jail to get more money out of probationers by requiring extra services, Moreland said, "It doesn't mean the whole industry is crooks and thugs." America's new love-affair with private prisons is bad enough. But here we have private entities, acting under color of law, protected by law from having to be transparent or accountable, preying on people who traditionally have had little access to the courts or political power. Georgia's lawmakers should end this experiment now, before it gets worse and before the state judiciary, or the federal courts, put an end to this grim business.  Public probation has never been perfect. But private probation, and debtors' prisons, went out with Oliver Twist.   Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, 60 Minutes' first-ever legal analyst, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He is also chief analyst for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal journalists.

June 2, 2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former prisons chief and parole board member Bobby Whitworth has been ordered by a Fulton County judge to begin a six-month sentence June 12 on a felony conviction for taking illegal payoffs. Whitworth, convicted in December 2003, had asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville that he be allowed to serve the six months in the Gwinnett County jail — about two miles from his Lawrenceville home. Glanville's order, which was signed Tuesday, was made public Friday. The Department of Corrections, which Whitworth headed from 1990 to 1993, has made arrangements for Whitworth to serve his time in a federal prison in Florida. Peggy Chapman, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, said officials will move forward to place Whitworth in federal custody. "We do have a contract with the Federal prison system to place high-profile prisoners," Chapman said in a statement. "We will continue work with them to decide placement." Whitworth was convicted of taking a $75,000 payoff to influence legislation that could financially benefit a private probation company while he was on the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. In addition to the six month sentence, Whitworth must serve the remainder of a five-year sentence on probation and pay a $50,000 fine.

October 12, 2005 Atlanta Journal Constitution
Former state prisons chief Bobby Whitworth seemed upbeat in June as he appeared before the state Court of Appeals to ask that his felony conviction for illegally influencing legislation be tossed out. But the appellate court recently affirmed his conviction. A jury convicted Whitworth in December 2003 of taking a $75,000 payoff while he was a member of the state parole board to initiate and push through 2000 legislation that financially benefited his friend's private probation company. He was ordered to serve six months behind bars but remains out on bond while appealing the sentence and conviction.

June 3, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former state prisons chief Bobby Whitworth seemed upbeat Thursday as he appeared before the state Court of Appeals to ask that his felony conviction for illegally influencing legislation be tossed out. More than a dozen relatives and friends came to support Whitworth as defense attorney Jack Martin argued that the prosecution appeared to be tainted from the outset. A jury convicted Whitworth in December 2003 of taking a $75,000 payoff while he was a member of the state parole board to initiate and push through 2000 legislation that financially benefited his friend's private probation company. He was ordered to serve six months behind bars but remains out on bond while appealing the sentence and conviction. Martin said special prosecutor J. Tom Morgan, who had been appointed to the case by Gov. Sonny Perdue, had a hidden agenda to secure a criminal conviction against Whitworth, once one of Georgia's most influential state officials. "Mr. Morgan had a bias, an interest, a stake in the case," Martin argued. Morgan, then-DeKalb district attorney, was in negotiations for a lucrative job with Balch & Bingham, a law firm that once had represented Lisa Thompson, the whistle-blower in the case who testified against Whitworth.

June 2, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former state prisons chief Bobby Whitworth, once one of Georgia's most influential state officials, will be back in court today to ask the state Court of Appeals to toss out his conviction for illegally influencing legislation. A jury convicted Whitworth in December 2003 of taking a $75,000 payoff while he was a member of the state parole board to initiate and push through a 2000 bill that financially benefited a friend's private probation company. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Whitworth, 56, to serve six months in the prison system he once oversaw.
Whitworth also was ordered to remain on probation for 4 1/2 years, to perform 100 hours of community service, and to pay a $50,000 fine and $50 a month in probation service fees. Whitworth's was the first known conviction in Georgia under a rare statute that makes it a felony to accept anything of value in exchange for influencing the passage or defeat of legislation. Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed then-DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan as special attorney general to handle the Whitworth case. Martin alleges that Morgan had a conflict of interest because he was in negotiations for a "lucrative job" with Balch & Bingham, a law firm that once had represented Lisa Thompson, the whistle-blower in the case. Morgan, now in private practice, accepted a job with the firm after Whitworth's trial. Whitworth has acknowledged accepting $75,000 from DMS, the private probation company formerly co-owned by his close friend, Lanson Newsome. But Whitworth insists the money was for providing guidance and connections to help Newsome expand DMS into Gwinnett, Clayton and other counties. Prosecutors allege that the money was a reward for initiating and ensuring the passage of a 2000 bill that removed misdemeanor offenders from state prison and probation systems and returned them to individual counties to complete their jail time or probation stints. Prosecutors contend that the bill was a financial windfall for private probation companies — like DMS — that would seek contracts with counties to provide those services.

January 8, 2004
Former state parole board member Bobby Whitworth was sentenced Thursday to serve six months in jail and to pay a $50,000 fine. Whitworth was convicted last month under a corruption statute that makes it a felony crime for a state employee to accept anything of value in exchange for influencing the passage or defeat of a bill.  Whitworth, 56, a former state corrections commissioner, was convicted of accepting a $75,000 payoff in March 2000 from a private probation company to initiate and ensure the adoption of legislative that could financially benefit the company.  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

December 19, 2003
Former Gov. Roy Barnes testified Monday he would not have signed legislation had he known of a business relationship two state officials had with a company that could benefit from its passage.  In a rare court appearance by a sitting or former Georgia governor, Barnes told Fulton County jurors that he had a policy against even the appearance of a conflict of interest. He testified in the public corruption trial of Bobby Whitworth, a former member of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

December 11, 2003
Prosecutors delivered their final blow Friday to a former state parole board official on trial for public corruption -- and it was a wallop.  The surprising testimony of the state's final witness prompted defense attorneys to make repeated requests for a mistrial.  Tracy Masters, director of legal services for the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, testified that defendant Bobby Whitworth, a former influential parole board member, wasn't forthright about his business dealings with a private probation company.  Masters told jurors that if he had known all of Whitworth's financial dealings, he would have told him "it was improper, a direct conflict of interest and was unlawful."  Whitworth, also a former state corrections commissioner, is charged with accepting money while a state employee in exchange for influencing legislation. A conviction could bring up to five years in prison.  Prosecutors allege that Whitworth accepted a $75,000 check in March 2000 from Detention Management Services, a private probation services company co-owned by a close friend of Whitworth, Lanson Newsome. Legislation that was considered a windfall for private probation companies such as DMS passed that same month.  On Thursday, a California businessman testified that Newsome told him Whitworth received $75,000 from DMS to help with the legislation.  On Friday, Masters testified that he drafted the bill at the request of Whitworth. He also said Newsome sat in on parole board staff meetings about the bill during the legislative session.  Whitworth maintains he is innocent. He acknowledges taking the $75,000 from DMS but claims the money was for consultation work unrelated to the legislation.  Whitworth, considered an expert on the corrections system, helped Newsome's firm grow by giving him guidance and contacts, his attorney, Jack Martin, told jurors.  Masters said then-parole board Chairman Walter Ray and Whitworth came to him for legal advice in 1999. Ray asked if there was an ethical problem with his helping a private probation company expand into South Georgia.  "I said: 'If you have been offered this position because of your position on the parole board . . . I know that is improper and unethical,' " Masters testified.  Masters said Ray assured him that wasn't the case. Masters said he still cautioned Ray and Whitworth that the arrangement gave the appearance of a conflict of interest and that such an appearance alone violated an executive order by the governor.  Whitworth asked Masters for legal advice in 2001, after several news reports questioned why he and Ray were paid consultants for a private company when they were state employees.  Whitworth told Masters he had been on a retainer to advise DMS and he was supposed to get paid $25,000 a year, the lawyer testified. Payments stopped when Newsome's business slowed.  Whitworth "told me he wouldn't be paid until the business sold or the business improved," Masters told jurors. The legislation brought more business, and Newsome soon sold DMS for $8.2 million.  Whitworth initially said he needed the money to pay his income tax bill, Masters testified. Whitworth later claimed that Newsome might transfer a lakeside lot to Whitworth as payment for his services to avoid income taxes, Masters testified.  "He [Whitworth] immediately said: 'I guess from now on I need to say I was paid the money with intent to use it to purchase a lot,' and from then on, that was the story," Masters testified.  Claiming he had been "blindsided" by the testimony, Whitworth's attorney bolted from his seat and asked for a mistrial. Martin claimed prosecutors were accusing Whitworth of possible income tax evasion or at least "a bad act" unrelated to this case.  Fulton Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner told the jurors to disregard that portion of Masters' testimony, but she didn't declare a mistrial.  The defense will begin calling witnesses Monday.  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

January 5, 2003
If the former head of Georgia's prison system is sentenced to do time, he probably won't spend it behind the bars of a state institution.  Bobby Whitworth was convicted Wednesday by a Fulton County jury of using his position as a member of the state parole board to influence the passage of legislation in exchange for $75,000. Whitworth's sentencing on the felony charge is scheduled for Jan. 8. He could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.  Whitworth worked for the Corrections Department for 20 years, and was commissioner from 1990 to 1993.  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

September 26, 2003
A Gwinnett County grand jury indicted former state parole board member Bobby Whitworth on Thursday on two felony counts of influencing another state official in exchange for money, according to court records.  Whitworth is accused of attempting to influence action by Orlando Martinez and Ronnie Lane, who in 1999 were, respectively, commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice. Whitworth -- who was then a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles -- allegedly tried to get Martinez and Lane to prevent a juvenile detention facility in Ocilla from closing. Whitworth was a paid consultant for the Bobby Ross Group, a company that had a contract to operate the South Georgia facility.  The Ocilla center was eventually turned into a facility for adult parolees, and was closed in 2002.  Jack Martin, Whitworth's attorney, said Thursday his client expected the indictments. "We're anxious to get in court and present our case, and we believe the charges are totally unfounded and when all the facts are considered he will be cleared."  Whitworth also faces one felony count in Fulton County. On Thursday, he pleaded not guilty to attempting to influence legislation in exchange for money.  In that case, Whitworth is accused of using his position on the parole board to influence passage of legislation in 2000 that financially benefited Detention Management Services, a company from which Whitworth had accepted consulting fees.  (The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

July 27, 2003
Bobby Whitworth, who spent nearly three decades keeping Georgia's convicted criminals behind bars order deciding which ones could go home early, was indicted Friday on a felony charge of public corruption.  Whitworth, as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections and later a member of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, earned a reputation as one of the most powerful and knowledgeable figures in the corrections industry.  It is the first time a parole board member or Corrections commissioner has been charged with a felony related to his duties, according to spokesmen for each agency.  Whitworth, 56, turned himself in and was booked into the Fulton County Jail at 2:41 p.m. Friday, just a few hours after special prosecutor J. Tom Morgan secured an indictment from a county grand jury. Whitworth was released about 5 p.m. on $5,000 bond, according to Lt. Clarence Huber of the Fulton Sheriff's Office.  If convicted, Whitworth could spend as long as five years in the prison system he once oversaw.  Whitworth's attorney, Jack Martin, said the charge against his client is "false" and that Whitworth is looking forward to a trial to be cleared.  The felony charge follows a lengthy corruption investigation into the actions of Whitworth and former Board of Pardons and Paroles Chairman Walter Ray.  Both resigned in June 2002 after widespread publicity about the investigation. Morgan did not seek an indictment against Ray, a former state senator from Coffee County. Ray cooperated in the case and will testify for the prosecution in Whitworth's trial, Morgan said.  The prosecutor said he determined that Ray broke no laws. "We did not find any evidence that Walter Ray was guilty of a crime," Morgan said.  The prosecutor also said the investigation of Whitworth is continuing. "There could be charges pending in other counties as well," he said.  Fees questioned  Whitworth, whose career in state government spanned almost 30 years, is accused of violating a Georgia statute related to the conduct of state employees, said Morgan, who is DeKalb County district attorney. He was appointed in April by Gov. Sonny Perdueto investigate the case.  The law prohibits state employees and state officials from taking money to influence the approval or defeat of legislation.  Morgan told the grand jury that Whitworth used his position to illegally influence the adoption of a bill that could have financially benefited Detention Management Services, a company from which Whitworth accepted consulting fees.  Whitworth accepted $75,000 from DMS the day before the state Senate passed the bill, Morgan said. The company was owned by Lanson Newsome, a friend and former Corrections deputy commissioner under Whitworth. Newsome is not under investigation because making such payments is not illegal, Morgan said.  The legislation "did nothing for the Pardons and Paroles Board, but DMS profited tremendously from the passage of this," Morgan said. He noted the company was sold later for $8.2 million.  The legislation turned over supervision of thousands of probationers to private companies, such as DMS. Whitworth allegedly had instructed parole staffers to lobby for it.  "Bobby has never accepted a dime in order to influence anyone in state government," said Martin, his attorney. "All he ever did was urge what he thought was best for the state, and more often than not he was right."  Martin said Whitworth has acknowledged accepting consulting fees from DMS and the Bobby Ross Group, a private prison company based in Texas. But the payments were for Whitworth's vast knowledge of the state's corrections system, not for help in winning enactment of laws favorable to the companies, Martin said.  "Bobby Whitworth is recognized nationally as an expert in corrections and prisons," Martin said. "Private companies have retained him to get his expertise and to have the credibility of his experience on their letterhead."  Martin said prosecutors offered Whitworth a plea deal but that Whitworth turned it down because he felt strongly he had not committed any crime.  Martin would not discuss details of the offer but characterized it as a "more than acceptable deal" if Whitworth had committed the crime.  According to several persons familiar with the deal, it would have allowed Whitworth to avoid a prison sentence by paying a $50,000 fine and serving five years' probation.  Arrangement defended  Martin said Whitworth had checked with parole board attorneys before entering into the consulting arrangement and that they had advised him it was legal, because the two companies had no contracts with the parole board. In an interview last year, Tracy Masters, director of legal services for the parole board, said, "I did not know which companies they were working for and who the managers of those companies were. I had no idea Lanson Newsome was involved in it."  Martin described Whitworth on Friday as "upset, confused, angry and ready to have his day in court."  Allegations of corruption at Pardons and Paroles arose in the summer of 2001, when the board's legislative liaison, Lisa Phillips Thompson, told then-Gov. Roy Barnes of possible wrongdoing. The parole board decides which of Georgia's 47,000 prison inmates are released early. The board also is the sole authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence.  Thompson was married at the time to Barnes' Senate floor leader and childhood friend, Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Powder Springs).  She told Barnes that Ray had accepted thousands of dollars from Newsome shortly after she and other parole board staff members were instructed to lobby for a bill that was a potential windfall for private probation companies, including Newsome's.  'Whistle-blower' lauded  Whitworth eventually acknowledged receiving $75,000 from DMS and $135,000 over five years from the Bobby Ross Group, while Ray said he got $24,500 from Newsome over four years.  On Friday, Morgan commended Thompson for being the "whistle-blower" who started the investigation. "If she had not come forward with information, state officials would never have known about this," he said.  Thompson said Friday she had mixed feelings about the indictment.  "I was damaged by this, both personally and professionally," she said. "While I'm fine now, I'm very sad to see this happen, especially to someone I've known for so many years. But I did my legal constitutional duty in reporting what I knew to Governor Barnes and his chief of staff, Bobby Kahn. At that point, it was out of my hands."  Kahn said Friday the government had done what it had to do. "Our goal from the start was to make sure this was handled in a proper manner," Kahn said. "I hate to see anybody undergo legal troubles, but if that's what's required, that's what's required."  Attorney General Thurbert Baker declined comment Friday. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment because our office has recused itself from this investigation," his spokesman said. Baker stepped aside last year after it was alleged that his office had sought to destroy evidence of improper contact with the parole board on behalf of an inmate.  Barnes then appointed Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Pete Skandalakis as special prosecutor to take over the investigation. Skandalakis eventually cleared Baker of any wrongdoing.  Pension not at risk  Whitworth began his corrections career in 1973 with the department's Farm Services division. He became commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections in 1990, but then-Gov. Zell Miller removed him from that job in 1993 over the handling of a women's prison sex scandal. Miller appointed him to the paroles board.  Whitworth recently started drawing an annual pension of $104,400. State law terminates pension payments to any employee hired after July 1, 1985, who commits a felony related to his duties. Whitworth's service began in 1973, according to the state retirement system, so his pension would be unaffected if he were convicted.  In an interview in April 2002, Miller praised Whitworth for how he dealt with prison overcrowding during a budget-breaking recession.  "Bobby Whitworth had the knowledge and the ability that no one else had at that time to figure future prison space accurately," said Miller, now a U.S. senator. "He had a very good ability to figure exactly what you could do with the space you had. It helped me, it helped Georgia, and it helped the system over some very rough spots."  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)  

June 14, 2002
The two most influential members of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles resigned Thursday as Gov. Roy Barnes appointed a special prosecutor to investigate them -- as well as Attorney General Thurbert Baker.   Barnes named Coweta County District Attorney Pete Skandalakis the special prosecutor whose job will be to untangle a budding -- and complicated -- election year scandal that includes allegations of trading influence for money.   Parole board Chairman Walter Ray and member Bobby Whitworth are under investigation for allegedly lobbying the Legislature on behalf of a private probation company that had paid them tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.  Ray and Whitworth have acknowledged they were paid consultants for Detention Management Services, which supervises offenders sentenced to probation for misdemeanors.   Two years ago, the Legislature enacted a law shifting responsibility for managing misdemeanor offenders from the state to local governments, a step some said would help companies such as Detention Management Services. Ray and Whitworth deny they personally pressed legislators for the change.   Ray was appointed to the board by Gov. Zell Miller in 1996 and had been chairman since 1997. A former state trooper, Ray was a state senator for 12 years and had risen to president pro tem of the state Senate.   Whitworth, said to have the most influence on the board, was appointed in 1993 by Miller. Before that, he had been head of the state prison system.  (The Atlanta Journal)

June 14, 2002
The state's investigation of two top parole officials began last August following reports that a firm in the corrections business paid the men tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.  Parole board member Bobby Whitworth and Chairman Walter Ray. Both men acknowledge they were paid nearly $100,000 between them as consultants to a private probation company, Detention Management Services. Whitworth said he received a lump-sum payment of $75,000, and Ray said he was paid $24,500 over a four-year period. Whitworth and Ray said they were paid to help Detention Management drum up business to supervise minor offenders sentenced to probation in city and county court systems around the state. They say they had no conflict of interest because DMS was working with probationers and not parolees. But, during the same period that the two men were working for DMS, lobbyists for the parole board were pushing a bill in the state Legislature that shifted responsibility for supervising all misdemeanor offenders in Georgia to those same city and county courts. The 2000 law reduced state probation officers' caseloads and created a windfall of business opportunities for DMS and other private probation companies. (The Atlanta Journal)

April 12, 2002
One day after a newspaper series reported allegations of corruption at Georgia's parole board, two Athens parole officers showed up at the home of James "Tommy" Morris with a "message" for the former board chairman. Morris, quoted in the articles as saying the board should be "cleaned up or abolished," was no longer welcome to stop by the parole office near his home outside Athens. The order had come down through a chain of command that started with top parole officials in Atlanta. "I guess it was just to show their displeasure with him," said David McCranie, chief of the Athens district parole office, who was ordered Tuesday to deliver the message. Morris, who retired in 1995, had served 22 years on the parole board and was elected chairman three times. He called the move "childish" and a "knee-jerk reaction by some emotional people." "It just gave me a feeling that they're sending a Scud missile out and they're directing it to me," he said. "They blame me for picking up where Lisa Thompson left off." Last summer, Thompson, a former member of the parole agency's inner circle, went to the governor with allegations of wrongdoing by board members Bobby Whitworth and Chairman Walter Ray. The five-member board decides which inmates can leave prison early. Thompson's allegations, which surfaced during an employee dispute, have led to an eight-month criminal investigation by the attorney general. Investigators are looking into whether Whitworth and Ray illegally influenced legislation for payment or broke the law when they accepted tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from private companies doing criminal justice business. Whitworth and Ray deny doing anything wrong. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

April 8, 2002
Eleven years ago, Gov. Zell Miller publicly berated Bobby Whitworth for hiring his son Chris to work in the Department of Corrections. "Nepotism should be stopped, and it should be stopped by department heads," Miller said in 1991, railing against "family trees" and threatening to fire anyone who hired relatives. Commissioner Whitworth promptly fired his boy. But with no laws against nepotism in Georgia and few other restrictions on hiring, Whitworth and other members of the Georgia parole board continue to dole out jobs and contracts to friends, relatives and legislators. Whitworth may have fired his son Chris a decade ago, but today his son Kenny earns more than $62,000 a year managing the unit that oversees parole's electronic monitoring program. Just as the Department of Corrections under Whitworth was called the "department of connections," the Board of Pardons and Paroles could become known as "pardons and payrolls." Among those on the board's payroll have been the House speaker's grandson, the son of a secretary for Gov. Roy Barnes, the daughter of the former House Rules Committee chairman, the wife of a state agency head, former parole board members, former legislators, a gospel singer and a wrestler. "It's a conflict of interest, pure and simple," said Emmet Bondurant, a prominent Atlanta attorney on the board of Common Cause of Georgia, a government watchdog group. "The public can never have confidence that contracts or jobs are being awarded on merit if they're going out to friends and relatives of those in the position to influence the decision-making process." In 1983, as lieutenant governor, Miller tried to pass an anti-nepotism law. But no such law exists today, nor does the state's merit system have guidelines prohibiting nepotism. Georgia is one of seven state governments without restrictions on nepotism, according to a study published in the State and Local Government Review. The hiring of friends and relatives is so ingrained in Georgia's political landscape that lawmakers have resisted change, Bondurant said. "It's hard to think there would be many states worse than here." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

April 7, 2002
Charges of corruption and cronyism have enveloped Georgia's parole board. Critics accuse some board members of lining their pockets through private contracts and turning the agency into a political dumping ground. At the center of an eight-month criminal investigation is Bobby Whitworth, a member of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. He was also a commissioner of Georgia's Department of Corrections for four years. In 1993 Gov. Zell Miller forced him out of his corrections job over his handling of a prison sex scandal, then immediately appointed him to the five-member parole board. Also under investigation is Walter Ray, the parole board's current chairman. Although Ray holds the top title, Whitworth runs the board, observers say. Whitworth and Ray admit they accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Lanson Newsome, a former Corrections deputy commissioner and friend of Whitworth's who made millions in the sale of his private probation business. Investigators want to know whether the two board members were paid to influence passage of a law that would benefit Newsome's company. If they were, they could face up to five years in prison. Under the 2000 law, the state turned over supervision of thousands of misdemeanor probationers to private companies, creating a potential windfall for companies such as Newsome's Detention Management Services Inc. The attorney general and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation also are looking into: Whitworth's contract with the Bobby Ross Group, a Texas-based private prison company that paid him more than $135,000 in consulting fees between 1996 and 2001. Whitworth also earns a state salary of $111,509 a year. A $26,000 contract awarded by the board to the wife of the lobbyist for the Bobby Ross Group. It was given to the wife's company while Whitworth was being paid consulting fees by the Bobby Ross Group. The contract was awarded with no competitive bids. Another part of the state's investigation has been devoted to unraveling a proposal championed by Whitworth and Ray to create a new agency that would combine probation and parole. The governor's chief of staff and others say the new agency is Whitworth's brainchild. Given the trend toward privatizing, a new superagency could be a gold mine for private companies able to secure contracts with the state. It all started to unravel with a woman scorned. Few couples in Georgia politics were as powerful and connected as Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Powder Springs) and his wife, Lisa Phillips Thompson. He's the governor's Senate floor leader and Barnes' childhood friend. She ascended to the parole board's inner circle as its legislative liaison for the last six years. Barnes was in their wedding. The Thompsons spent Christmas Eves with the first couple. Until last year. That's when Lisa Thompson went from golden girl to whistle-blower. She told her story to the governor, news reporters and ultimately the deputy attorney general. According to Bowers, her lawyer, Thompson believed she was being pushed out of her job because she and her husband were planning to divorce. She hired Bowers to fight for her job. "They were trying to capitalize on her relationship with a prominent legislator to do her duties as the legislative liaison for the board," Bowers says. But the employee dispute also prompted her to tell the governor and his staff of alleged wrongdoing at the parole board, stemming from lobbying work the year before. During the 2000 session, Thompson had lobbied hard for the private probation bill --- a top priority of Whitworth's and Ray's, she has said. The idea was to reduce state probation officers' caseloads by shifting supervision of misdemeanor offenders to private companies contracted by cities and counties. But probation is under the control of the Department of Corrections, not the parole board, so Thompson questioned why the board was pushing the bill with such determination. Tracy Masters, attorney for the parole board, says that in early 2000, Whitworth asked him to draft a bill to remove misdemeanor offenders from state probation and from prison beds. Whitworth told Masters to consult with a former Corrections staff member who was experienced in writing legislation. "I initiated the call because Bobby Whitworth had asked me to draft a bill to that extent," Masters says. Shortly afterward, Bowers says, Thompson learned Newsome had been paying Ray while she and other parole board staff had been lobbying for a bill that opened new markets to Newsome's company. In interviews last summer with WSB-TV and WAGA-TV, Ray admitted Newsome had paid him $11,000 over two years to drum up business for his probation company with local officials. Ray now says he received $24,500 over four years. Whitworth acknowledged he had received a lump sum of $75,000 from Newsome for the same services. Both argue there was no conflict because Newsome's business had nothing to do with parole. And they point to a 1997 law that made it legal for parole board members to hold outside jobs that don't conflict with their official duties. That law was Whitworth's idea. He says he pushed for it to protect board members and parole officers who held outside jobs. But he also says that by fall 1996, he had begun accepting $1,000-a-month payments from Newsome and $3,000 a month from the Bobby Ross Group --- months before the new law passed.   Personal relationships have always been the mainstay of Georgia politics. With no nepotism laws, friends or relatives often work in high places, courtesy of their father the legislator or their friend the governor. And because of weak ethics laws, doing business in Georgia often means steering lucrative state contracts to friends. After helping Orlando Martinez get appointed to run Juvenile Justice, Whitworth lobbied hard to get him to continue doing business with the Bobby Ross Group. At the time Martinez took over, the Bobby Ross Group had a sizable contract to run a juvenile detention facility in Ocilla. Martinez had decided to cancel it for a number of reasons. Whitworth was then a consultant for Bobby Ross. But whether or not Whitworth broke the law, his actions were unethical, says Robert Pastor, chairman of Common Cause of Georgia, a government watchdog group. And if they're not illegal, "the law should be changed," Pastor says. "That kind of activity is completely inappropriate, even if his private activities only indirectly related to his official role," Pastor says. Whitworth should have known better, says Morris, a board member for more than 22 years. "What's legal and what's right isn't always in concert," he says, "but . . .any logical human being would know that what he was doing was wrong." Both Whitworth and Ray say they cleared all their consulting contracts with their department's lawyer. Masters, director of legal services, says he discussed with them the types of arrangements that would be legal, but not specific contracts. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

September 5, 2001
An investigation into alleged improprieties at the state Board of Pardons and Paroles has expanded to include a review of a contract for testing services.  Officials are looking into whether the deal --- a one-year pilot program that was not extended --- benefited the wife of a business associate and friend of board member Bobby Whitworth.  Career Mappers Inc. sold the testing program to the parole board after Dotty Edwards of Spartanburg, S.C., introduced the company's executive to state officials, Browning said.  Edward's husband, former South Carolina state Rep. T.W. Edwards Jr., is registered to lobby the Georgia General Assembly for the Bobby Ross Group or BRG, a company that operates private prisons.  The company also has employed Whitworth as a consultant.  Whitworth's connections to BRG are under investigation by the attorney general's office and the Georgia Bureau of investigation.  Authorities are looking into $100,000 that Whitworth reportedly accepted from the firm for monitoring its privately run prisons in Texas.  The investigation also centers on payments that Whitworth and Walter Ray, parole board chairman, accepted from Detention Management Services, which had a contract to supervise people sentenced to probation for misdemeanors.  Whitworth has said he received $75,000 for three years of work for DMS; Ray said his fees totaled $11,000 for two years of work.  Both Whitworth and Ray have denied wrongdoing.  (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution)

July 26, 2001
Georgia's attorney general is looking into consulting contracts two state Pardons and Parole Board members had with private security companies to determine if there was a conflict of interest or ethics laws were broken, officials said Wednesday. Russell Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, would not characterize the inquiry as an investigation. "There are a number of allegations out there and we are looking at those allegations," he said.  In a case that has prompted calls for stronger state ethics laws, Parole Board Chairman Walter Ray and board member Bobby Whitworth acknowledged this month that they had been paid consultants for the probation company Detention Management Services, which was sold last year to a firm with state contracts.  Ray, paid $11,000 over two years, and Whitworth, paid $75,000 for three years of work, said their job was to introduce DMS owner Lanson Newsome to local government officials in hopes they would hire the company to supervise misdemeanor offenders sentenced to probation. Criticism centered on allegations Ray and Whitworth pushed for a change in state law that could help companies like DMS. Last year, the Legislature shifted supervision of misdemeanor offenders on probation from the state to local governments. Ray and Whitworth said they never personally lobbied for the change --- though employees of their agency did. Parole Board lobbyists said the change would reduce the agency's supervisory caseload.  But critics noted the change would provide business for private security companies like DMS and the national firm that bought it, which were securing contracts with Georgia cities and counties that became responsible for incarcerating the prisoners.  (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution)

July 10, 2001
A state official admitted to receiving more than $200, 000 from two government contractors who do business in the criminal justice arena.  Bobby Whitworth, a member of Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles, told WSB-TV on Monday he was within the law when he was hired as a consultant by Detention Management Services and the Bobby Ross Group.  The board of Pardons and Paroles decides when to release certain offenders from confinement after they have served part of a prison sentence.  Whitworth said the company did no state business, but he acknowledged lobbying as a board member for a law that might have created more work for companies like DMS.  The Bobby Ross Group operates three juvenile facilities in Georgia.  The mission of the company is changing to a parole revocation center.  Walter Ray, the chair of the state board of Pardons and Paroles, acknowledged on WSB-TV Tuesday that he too, received money from the government contractors.  However, Jeff Davis, executive director of Georgia Common Cause, said he has a problem with it.  "When public officials accept money from private companies and then use their political power to lobby for action or legislation that ends up benefiting those companies - that raises the appearance of propriety," Davis said.  (AP)

Georgia Department of Corrections
Mar 26, 2014 thinkprogress.org

In the past few years, private firms in Georgia that profit from holding poor residents criminally responsible for failure to pay fines have faced rebuke after rebuke in court rulings and lawsuits. In one, Sentinel Offender Services held open an arrest warrant that had expired two years earlier. In another, a court found that the same notorious firm had illegally extended the probation sentences of potentially thousands of Georgians. And even when they’re not found in violation of the law, they are testing its limits by profiting on the backs of individuals too poor to pay probation fines for offenses as minor as traffic violations. To rein in the industry, critics have called for increased oversight. But instead, the Georgia legislature passed a bill last week to give private probation firms even more power, and to make most information surrounding the firms a state secret. “This bill is a gift to the private probation firms,” said Southern Center for Human Rights attorney Sarah Geraghty. Private probation firms take on the role of supervising probation sentences for misdemeanor cases in some counties. But probation terms that often begin because an individual doesn’t have the means to pay a fine in the first place become the source for a cycle of criminal debt, as companies impose monthly “supervision” fees, even where the only supervision mandated by the court is collection of a fee, as well as hefty charges for electronic monitoring and drug tests. Unlike debt collection agencies, these firms use the threat of arrests, jail time, and electronic monitoring to extract these funds from low-level offenders. In Georgia, traffic offenses are considered criminal. So even individuals charged with running a stop sign have landed in jail for allegedly not paying fees, even over claims that they already paid. In one Georgia incident documented in a recent Human Rights Watch report, a man who stole a $2 can of beer ended up in jail for failure to pay a $200 fine that ballooned into more than $1,000 under the supervision of a private probation firm. And Georgia’s private probation companies charge twice as much per month to supervise individuals with misdemeanor convictions ($39 to $44) as the state charges to supervise individuals for felonies ($23), according to the Southern Center for Human Rights. The bill passed by both houses this week is a direct response to a court ruling last year that found private probation services could neither unilaterally extend probationers’ sentences, nor supervise electronic monitoring services under existing state law, according to the Southern Center for Human Rights’ Kathryn Hamoudah. The bill aims to change that law so the firms can do what they were told not to by a judge. It authorizes probation firms to seek electronic monitoring for any misdemeanor, including traffic offenses, and to get permission from a judge to extend a probation sentence before the individual gets a hearing to contest the extension. It also makes explicit a probationer’s obligation to pay fees and that a probationer may be jailed for failure to pay. Some legislators attempted to include provisions that increase oversight of the industry, but those provisions were “stripped from the bill” as it moved through committee, according to the Augusta Chronicle. Instead, provisions to make every element of private probation secret were left intact. The bill would eliminate public access to information about how much these firms are being paid, how much they are charging in fees, who is under supervision, and even how many people are on probation. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has not said whether he will sign the bill. Private probation firms are a growing industry that, like private prisons, stand to profit from criminalizing more conduct, and have an incentive to lobby for policies that send more individuals to probation and/or jail. In Georgia, an existing law that expanded the role of private prison companies passed after a private probation firm paid the head of the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles $75,000 to lobby for the law. That official was eventually convicted of public corruption, but the law he backed remains on the books. Jailing individuals who can’t afford to pay — so-called “debtors’ prisons” was deemed unconstitutional more than 30 years ago. Judges are required to assess ability to pay before imposing any criminal sanctions, but lawsuits and investigations allege they frequently either skip that step entirely, or use insufficient measures to deem even those who are homeless or on public assistance capable of paying.


Jul 5, 2013 covnews.com

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation used a warrant Thursday to search the Porterdale office of East Georgia Correctional Services, the former probation company for the city of Covington, which previously had questions raised about whether it underpaid required money to the state and city of Covington. GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said Monday, the investigation is “to determine if EGCS (East Georgia Correctional Services) was charging probationers more than the contract stated.” Lang said the investigation is ongoing and no more information can be released. Before 2012, EGCS handled probation services for Covington and was responsible for overseeing payment of fines and community service for people charged with some crimes, traffic offenses or ordinance violations in the city. The company was allowed to charge probationers a certain amount of money above the city’s fine. It’s unclear if the GBI is only investigating whether probationers were charged more than they were supposed to be or is also investigating potential underpayment of money to the state and city. In April 2012, former municipal court judge David Strickland, a local attorney, gave the city more than 150 pages of documents showing EGCS paid nearly $21,000 less in fees to the state and city than the company was required to pay by law. Probation companies are legally required to send $9 per active probationer each month to the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Documents from 2010 and 2011 showed EGCS did not send the required money or reports for eight of the 24 months. From the records that the company did send in, it reported $20,946 less in payments than it said it paid to the city and state. Documents also led to questions about why the number of probationers in the EGCS system inexplicably changed from the end of one month to the beginning of the next. Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said Monday his department contacted the GBI to handle the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest. EGCS offices used to be located on Gordy Street in Covington, but the company now has offices in downtown Porterdale at 2018 Main St. When Covington bid out its probation services last year, EGCS did not put in a bid. According to the company’s website, it provides probation services for the Porterdale and Oxford municipal courts, as well as drug screening services to local courts, companies and individuals. An email sent to the company late Tuesday was not immediately answered. Previous private audits ordered by the city did not clear up the matter of whether EGCS ever mishandled funds, because the company’s files were not examined, city officials said. However, more guidelines and a more intense reporting structure for the municipal court were recommended as a result of the audits.

Nov 8, 2012 WSB TV
ATLANTA — Several probation companies that operate in Georgia recently gained national attention for the mounting lawsuits against them. After seeing them, Channel 2 Action News launched their own investigation into the companies. Private probation accounts for about 40 percent of all probation in the state. Channel 2's Erin Coleman looked into the problems with the system and spoke with attorneys who said taxpayers are actually the ones losing out. Attorneys who are now suing some of these private companies said more people are ending up in jail for minor offense like shoplifting, running a stop sign or driving on a suspended license. They told Coleman that taxpayers are the ones who end up paying for it. "I did about 13 days in there," said Hills McGee, a disabled veteran arrested four years ago for being drunk in public and thrown in jail for 13 days after he couldn't pay his probation fee of $180 to his privately owned probation company. McGee's attorney, John Bell, said he is like so many others who end up in jail for minor infractions because they can't pay a debt. "The only focus appears to be how can we make him pay some money, even if it means locking him up at a far greater cost than the money he owed," Bell said. Bell told Coleman that taxpayers are the ones who are paying for it. Bell has taken McGee's case all the way to Federal Court. "All the incentives are backwards," Bell said. Sandy Springs Judge James Anderson III said in his view, private probation works well. "I will not revoke probation because someone cannot pay a fee, ever," Anderson said. When Sandy Springs started up, Anderson said they contracted out most of their services, including probation. "As long as it is run in an ethical manner, I have no problems with it whatsoever," Anderson said. Bell argues many companies aren't operating ethically. Channel 2 Action News filed an open records request and received hundreds of complaints filed against private probation companies. "It was horrible," said Tomoria Wells. Wells spent 18 days in a Ware County Jail for stealing a $20 outfit from JC Penney. Her total bill from her private probation company was more than $1,300. Much of that bill was for supervision fees, just like in McGee's case. "He spent 13 nights in our county jail for failure to pay their fee of $180. Those 13 nights probably cost Richmond county close to $1,000," Bell said. "I think you have a potential conflict because it's a for-profit business. That's how they make their money is off the supervision fees," said Dale Allen, who used to work for a private probation company. Allen is now the chief probation officer in Athens-Clarke County. After judges ordered an audit in 2007, the county switched from private probation back to government probation and hired Allen to run it. "They wanted accountability," Allen said. "Because they were unhappy?" Coleman asked. "They were unhappy. Judges don't care about money," Allen said. Allen said he is saving money by offering more services to help probationers without throwing them in jail. "Saved this county $700,000 in jail costs," Allen said. "We can't afford to keep putting people in jail, it's not working." Coleman contacted several private probation companies, all of them either did not respond or declined to comment on our story. Coleman found some counties that apparently liked the system but did not like the company they had. They switched from one company to another.

December 1, 2005 Cedartown Standard
At a meeting with state Sen. Bill Heath and state Rep. Bill Cummings, county commissioners expressed concerns over proposed legislation that would expand the power of inverse condemnation. Commissioners also voiced their concerns over state funding for prisoners housed in county jails. A number of state prisoners are held in county jails while waiting transfer to state facilities. Currently, the state reimburses counties $20 per day per prisoner. Chairman Croker said that the state pays private prisons $45 per day per prisoner. He also said the cost per day for the county is more than the $20 reimbursed. He suggested the state increase reimbursement for the counties.

February 14, 2005 Macon Telegraph
The Georgia Department of Corrections plans to cut the number of its employees monitoring the state's three private prisons on site from three to one.  State prison officials said the move will be made in a couple of weeks to cut costs. They said experience with the prisons has led them to believe that monitoring levels can be safely cut.
A single contract monitor, a mid-level managerial position, will monitor the three prisons in the future to ensure that sanitation, safety and security are up to state contract standards. Monitors' logs were compiled in a 2000 state report that documented a number of problems at the three prisons. Company officials at the time described the problems as routine startup difficulties.

September 6, 2003
A top Georgia prison executive resigned Friday after making disparaging remarks about another public safety official at a meeting of wardens.  James Doctor worked for the Department of Corrections for 29 years. As director of the department's facilities division, Doctor supervised about two-thirds of the department's employees, including all wardens and officers at the state's 39 prisons.  Bud Black, a member of the state Public Safety Board -- which oversees the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation -- said he was told Doctor made disparaging remarks about him Wednesday during a monthly meeting of the state's prison wardens.  Doctor acknowledged Thursday that he told the wardens he had no respect for Black, but he said he felt he had nothing to apologize for. Doctor could not be reached for comment Friday.  Joe Ferrero, acting commissioner of the Corrections Department, said he accepted Doctor's resignation Friday morning.  The resignation "stems from comments at a managers' meeting I find unacceptable for a senior manager of our department," Ferrero said.  Acting Assistant Commissioner Alan Adams has been placed in charge of the department's facilities division, Ferrero said.  Black said Friday that he thinks the department was right to accept Doctor's resignation. "You hate to see something like that happen," he said. "But I don't think they had any other choice."  Before Doctor convened the meeting with the wardens in Forsyth, Black, who once worked for the Corrections Department, went in to greet some of the people he had once worked with. After Black left, Doctor questioned Black's ethics and made other disparaging remarks about him, Black said.  After leaving Corrections, Black started a private probation company with Lanson Newsome, also a former Corrections executive.  Bobby Whitworth, as a member of the state parole board and former Corrections commissioner, has been indicted for allegedly taking money to influence legislation that would have been a major financial windfall for companies such as Newsome's and Black's Detention Management Services. Neither Newsome nor Black has been accused of wrongdoing.  (The Atlanta-Constitution)

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice
10/30/2013 huffingtonpost.com

The state of Georgia will close a juvenile jail where a federal report found an extremely high rate of youth alleging sexual misconduct by staff, ending a nearly 15-year contract with the facility's troubled private prison operator. A spokesman for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice wrote in an email that the decision not to renew the contract with Florida-based Youth Services International at the end of this year was about cutting costs, not a June report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that uncovered allegations of rampant sexual misconduct. Department spokesman Jim Shuler pointed to a news release that described the closure of the company's Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center as an "economics-based option" meant to save the state more than $6 million. In a report released this summer, the Bureau of Justice Statistics surveyed more than 300 juvenile institutions across the country and found that YSI's Paulding youth jail, northwest of Atlanta, had the highest reported rate of sexual victimization among all facilities surveyed. More than 30 percent of youth surveyed at Paulding alleged inappropriate sexual contact with staff, according to the report. Youth Services International did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice did not make staff available for interviews, responding only to emailed questions. Shuler wrote that state officials reviewed "every 2012 incident report" at Paulding since the federal government released its report in June and have "been in regular communication" with the Bureau of Justice Statistics. YSI still operates two other facilities in Georgia. The Paulding facility is the only state juvenile jail scheduled to close this year, according to state news releases. Shuler also cited a "reduced number of youth" coming from the area served by the Paulding detention center as a reason for the closure. YSI was the subject of a recent Huffington Post investigation that documented a more than two-decade history of abuse at the company's juvenile and adult facilities across the country. Despite that record, HuffPost found that the company has continued to win multi-million-dollar juvenile prison contracts -- particularly in Florida -- by cultivating political connections. Shuler said the HuffPost articles were not a factor in the state's decision to close the facility. In a statement, Georgia DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles said the department "continues its longstanding relationship with YSI." A major riot occurred at the Paulding detention center in December 2011. Staff lost control of the facility and youth were "using fire extinguishers as weapons," according to a local police report on the incident obtained through a state public records request. Police responding to the scene found "extensive damage", including broken windows and a broken, spraying water fountain that left six inches of water standing throughout the jail. Shuler wrote that the riot occurred during a prior administration, and that current DJJ staff are developing new policies intended to "focus new attention on safety and security." Another disturbance recently erupted at a YSI facility in Minnesota. According to local news reports, two youths climbed out of a window at a facility called Elmore Academy in August and stole a pickup truck from a nearby home. Local sheriff's deputies pursued the escapees, resulting in a car chase across two counties that left three police cars damaged. The Paulding detention center was built in 1998, and was one of the company's longest-running contracts. It will close at the end of the year and juvenile inmates will be transferred to other state detention centers. For more on Youth Services International, read HuffPost's two-part investigation, "Prisoners of Profit":

Georgia Legislature
January 20, 2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Rep. Kip Smith spent the hours before his DUI arrest last week with two other state lawmakers being entertained by three lobbyists, including one for brewer Anheuser-Busch, state records show Lobbyist spending disclosures for Jan. 12 show Smith, R-Columbus, and fellow House members Ben Harbin and Jason Shaw had dinner at Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant in Midtown. Smith was arrested hours later by Atlanta police on charges of driving under the influence. According to the police report, Smith recorded a .091 blood alcohol level on a Breathalyzer test. The officer reported that Smith said he had been at Hal’s, a Buckhead bistro, and claimed to have had “a single beer.” The arrest report does not mention Alfredo’s, but one of the lobbyists at the dinner said Thursday that the meal included wine. Smith, 29, was pulled over after running a red light on Peachtree Road, the police report said. The arresting officer, who was following the lawmaker’s 1998 gold Jaguar, said the light had just turned red when Smith went through the intersection at Pharr Road. Smith has not publicly discussed the events of the night leading up to his arrest, telling the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer he had admitted his mistake and was “moving forward.” He did not return a call or email from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The reported tab came to $60 per lawmaker. Entrees at the restaurant run from $14.50 to $23.95. In an e-mail, Shaw said, “I did have dinner that night at Alfredo’s with some good friends and I took a cab home.” In a separate e-mail, McMullen said the dinner ended around 9 p.m. and the six men “parted ways.” Smith was arrested several hours later. The lobbyists who paid the tab at Alfredo’s were Georgia EMC lobbyist Travis Bussey; Georgia Chamber of Commerce lobbyist David Raynor; and Chuck McMullen, a managing director of the Atlanta office of McKenna, Long and Aldridge. McMullen is lobbyist for a number of clients, including Anheuser-Busch and private prison operator Corrections Corp. of America.

May 26, 2011 Atlanta Progressive News
Earlier this month, Georgia became the third state to enact some of the most anti-immigrant legislation in recent U.S. history, when Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed the bill, HB 87. Among other things, the bill allows law enforcement officials to ask suspicious individuals to prove that they are U.S. citizens. In practice, critics say, "suspicious looking" is another way of saying "Hispanic", raising concerns that the law encourages racial profiling. The law is modeled on Arizona's anti-immigrant law, passed last summer. Utah became the second state earlier this year. Both state's laws are currently held up in the courts, where federal judicial circuits in the Western U.S. have not been favourable on the grounds that the laws are state or local interference with federal immigration policy. The laws have already led to statewide boycotts in Georgia and are expected to bring legal challenges as well. In part, national lobbyists targeted Georgia because they wanted to set up a court battle in a more conservative eastern U.S. federal judicial circuit. Meanwhile, supporters of the bill are celebrating, including the right-wing Republican base that supported the bill, as well as the for-profit prison corporations which stand to profit from the massive influx of suspected undocumented immigrants through the private prison system. "Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), we know they have lobbyists here [at the legislature]," said Larry Pellegrini of Georgia Rural Urban Summit. CCA is one of the largest for-profit prison corporations in the U.S. "They [CCA] will benefit by the legislation. They have a corporate stake in it around the country," Pellegrini told IPS. Pellegrini also noted that the lobbying effort to pass anti- immigration laws in Georgia was part of a national effort. One national lobbying group that was instrumental in bringing together business interests and lawmakers was the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It was an ALEC task force, which included a representative from a private prison - along with lawmakers from Arizona and other states - who helped draft Arizona's immigration bill, which became a template for Georgia's law as well. According to CCA reports obtained by National Public Radio, the corporation believes that immigration detention is its next big growth market. CCA's earnings were up 15 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago. CCA reported earnings of 40.3 million dollars, or 37 cents per share, on revenue of 428 million dollars in first quarter of 2011, according to the Nashville Business Journal newspaper. CCA's revenue for 2009 was 1.7 billion dollars. The federal government pays over 60 dollars per detainee per day to house men at CCA's Stewart Detention Center, the largest immigration detention centre in the U.S., located in Lumpkin, Georgia. CCA's top management in Tennessee contributed the largest block of out-of-state campaign contributions received by Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer. Brewer employs two former CCA lobbyists as aides who assisted with signing Arizona's SB 1070 into law. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, CCA spent 770,000 dollars lobbying at the federal level in 2009 and has spent as much as 3.4 million since 2005. Georgia State Sen. Donald Balfour, a key Republican supporter of Georgia's HB 87, in 2006, 2007, and 2008 received 2,000 dollars each year in donations from CCA; in 2009 he received 1,000; and in 2010, 750. Governor Deal received from CCA 5,000 dollars in 2010 for the General Election. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has received at least 7,000 dollars from CCA since 2006. Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has received at least 3,500 dollars from CCA since 2008.

June 14, 2010 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As lawmakers returned from the coast last week, we picked up word of some serious, hand-to-hand competition between two lobbyists down at St. Simons Island. The occasion was the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual summer retreat. We’re told by very reliable state Capitol sources that, last Tuesday night, a pair of lobbyists treated several lawmakers and clients in the drinking section of the Village Inn and Pub, famous for its wild orchid martinis. One lobbyist was stuck at a table with the clients. The other lobbyist landed the table with the legislators. When bill-paying time came, the lobbyist stuck at the children’s table refused to pay. Insults were exchanged, and the two lobbyists ended up rolling on the restaurant floor. The fight was broken up before law enforcement became formally involved. The two lobbyists: Graham Thompson, whose clients in the last session included the Georgia Association of Health Plans, Sprint, and Satellite Tracking of People, a Texas organization; and John Clayton, whose clients in the last session included several physician and emergency response groups, Imperial Sugar, and the Corrections Corporation of America. We’ve attempted to contact both gentlemen, and haven’t heard back. But we await their June disclosures, which should tell us who ultimately paid the bill. And who was there. Clayton, many in the state Capitol will recall, was identified by police as the victim in a fracas with a fellow lobbyist at a 2007 sine die party, also attended by many lawmakers. Clayton took a beer bottle to the right side of his head.

April 7, 2010 AP
In the 3 1/2 weeks following his selection as the Republican nominee for House speaker, David Ralston raked in $137,550 in campaign contributions — more than four times what he raised throughout all of 2009 combined. Campaign finance reports reviewed by The Associated Press on Wednesday show that donations to the speaker-in-waiting poured in from the health care, banking and insurance industries as well as Georgia business stalwarts like Coca-Cola, Delta and Aflac. Ralston ran for House speaker as a reformer, aiming to clean up the ethics mess at the state Capitol left by his predecessor Glenn Richardson, who stepped down after allegations of an affair with a lobbyist. Ralston pledged to keep lobbyists at arm's length. But a number of well-connected lobbyists and lobbying firms donated to the new speaker, including Massey and Bowers and Georgia Link, which has a long list of well-heeled corporate clients. The GOP caucus chose Ralston on Dec. 17. He was installed as speaker after a vote by the full House on Jan. 11, the first day of the legislative session. State officials and lawmakers are banned from raising campaign cash while the state Legislature is meeting so heavy-hitters at the state Capitol hurried to get their checks in before the deadline. In an interview, Ralston acknowledged that his bank account is fatter even without an announced challenger for his north Georgia legislative seat. But he said the contributions aren't influencing his decision-making and added many of the funds arrived unsolicited. "I really couldn't tell you many of the people who gave me contributions," Ralston said in an a telephone interview. "Frankly, I'm not focused on fundraising or politics, I really have been focused on what the General Assembly needs to get done. We've been here working on the budget this week." A number of the donations — $131,300 — came during the first 10 days of January. Ralston held a packed fundraiser in Atlanta on Jan. 7, just a few days before he was installed as speaker. The Blue Ridge Republican raised just $33,475 for all of 2009, according to campaign reports. Out-of-state companies with business in Georgia were on the roster of donors. Among them are Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, an operator of private prisons in the state and Illinois-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

January 18, 2006 Savanna Morning News
The state should be able to remove all its prisoners from county jails within the next six months, Corrections Commissioner James Donald said Wednesday during the last day of budget hearings at the Capitol. It wasn't clear whether Donald's comments would defuse the issue of county jails housing a backlog of state prisoners, or even if he would be able to meet the goal. And Donald conceded that new measures, such as a proposal to toughen penalties on sexual predators, could complicate his plan. But Sen. Regina Thomas, a Savannah Democrat who has introduced a bill to raise the fees paid to counties, said Donald's plan wouldn't solve the current problem. "It's not going to happen tomorrow, and the counties are still suffering," she said. Thomas also blasted the governor's budget for including increases in the amount the state pays to private prisons to cover inflation. During Donald's presentation to members of a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget-writing committees, Thomas pointed out that the private prisons already receive larger payments than county jails even without the increases.

February 13, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A year ago they would have made a formidable legislative caucus: the chairman of the House Budget Committee, the House majority leader, a floor leader for Gov. Sonny Perdue and two Senate committee chairmen. But weeks after leaving office, they're now on the lobbyist side of the velvet rope that separates lawmakers and the people paid to influence them at the Capitol. They represent cities, hospitals, gas companies, high-tech firms, bikers and pay-day loan businesses. The revolving door of ex-lawmakers immediately becoming lobbyists has long been criticized in Atlanta, as it has been in Washington, where former Georgia Sen. Zell Miller announced even before he left office that he was joining a law firm with extensive lobbying interests. But this year, with his fellow Republicans in charge of the Legislature, Perdue is convinced that the climate is finally right to require a cooling-off period for lawmakers wanting to become lobbyists. The governor is pushing an ethics bill that would make legislators wait at least a year before returning to the Capitol as lobbyists.
Government watchdog groups such as Common Cause prefer two years. "The transition from legislator to lobbyist is just too cozy right now," said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, who has authored several Democratic ethics-in-government bills this year. "To use your public service job to further your post-legislative opportunities for financial gain is not in the public's interest." The revolving door has been spinning for years, and it was no different after last November's elections. Former Sen. Dan Lee of LaGrange, who pushed Perdue's ethics package last year as his Senate floor leader, was invited to become a lobbyist about a month after losing his Republican primary race in July. Now Lee and the law firm he joined represent Corrections Corporation of America, which builds and leases prisons to government; the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians; Infrastructure Corporation of America, which maintains highways; Motorola; and MHM Services, which provides mental health services to Georgia prison inmates. "I personally don't see anything wrong with it," said Lee, who added that most of his law practice over the years has involved doing work for governments.

January 14, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Republican revolution is sweeping the third-floor hallways of the state Capitol, where big-money lobbyists compete for the minds, hearts and ears of the General Assembly.
With Republicans in power, more ex-lawmakers and staffers from that side of the aisle have signed up to peddle their clients' positions, to help pass or kill bills and to snag a piece of the state's $17 billion pie. This comes at a time when Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue is calling for a one-year waiting period before legislators can become lobbyists, and disclosure of how much special interests pay lobbyists. Perdue's former Senate floor leader, Dan Lee of LaGrange, lost his bid for re-election last year, but he won't be missing from the Capitol. He has returned as a lobbyist, joining Chuck McMullen, a former aide to Tom Price, the former majority leader newly elected to the U.S. House.In little time, McMullen said, his group has gone from zero to more than 20 clients, including Corrections Corporation of America, which builds and operates private prisons, Motorola, a major supplier of electronic equipment to governments, and several health care concerns.

January 7, 2004
Gov. Sonny Perdue is recommending that the Legislature, which convenes Monday, make substantial changes in the state's $16 billion budget for the current 2004 fiscal year that runs through June 30.  • $3.1 million cut in payments to private prisons.  (AJC.com)

April 14, 2003
A dispute over the price the state will pay for a 1,600-bed private prison in Stewart County led lawmakers Monday to delete $40 million in bonds that could be used to buy the facility.  The House-passed $16 billion budget approved by a 114-63 vote goes to the Senate without funding for the purchase of the prison near Lumpkin from Corrections Corp. of America.  "We just can't agree on a purchase price right now," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Buck, D-Columbus, told colleagues as he explained details of the proposed state budget for the year beginning July 1.  "The state thinks the price ought to be 'X,' and those that started construction think it ought to be 'Y,' " Buck said. "We're just going to have to take another look at that next year."  Corrections Corp. of America, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company, reports it has invested about $35 million in the prison. It stopped construction after the state announced it was no longer interested in using privately operated prisons to accommodate the burgeoning prison population.  (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

January 19, 2003
Gov. Sonny Perdue included $40 million in bond money in his budget to buy and complete a 1,524-bed private prison near Lumpkin in west Georgia.  The prison has lain dormant and unfinished since June2000 when the state told CCA of Nashville, Tenn., it was no longer interested in using a privately run prison facility.  A state assessment Dec. 2 estimated construction is only about 50 percent complete.  (AP)

May 11, 2002
Private companies that build speculative prisons gave $72,150 to Georgia lawmakers and political parties in 2000, a year before the state Legislature buried a proposal that would have put severe restrictions on the prison industry, a research group said in a new report.   Some of that money went to Middle Georgia lawmakers who defeated legislation in 2000 that would have barred private prisons in Georgia from accepting convicts from other states. At the time, McRae Correctional Facility, a new, private prison in Telfair County, was shopping for inmates.   The prison is still vacant and is seeking a federal contract to house criminal aliens, many of whom would be transported to Georgia from other states.   In 2000, private prison companies gave more than $1.2 million to the campaign funds of state lawmakers in 14 Southeastern states, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics, the Montana-based think tank that issued the report.   A large portion of those donations went to senior lawmakers who sat on committees with oversight of prisons.  The report also showed that private prison contributions given directly to Georgia lawmakers in 2000 increased 15 percent from 1998 - going from $48,000 to $56,650 two years later.  The $45 million, 1,500-bed McRae jail has sat vacant since its completion.  (The Macon Telegraph)

Gwinnett County Detention Center
Lawrenceville, Georgia
Prison Health Services
Nov 8, 2014 ajc.com

Bad news is coming in threes for the Gwinnett sheriff’s office: another jail staffer has been arrested, the sheriff spokeswoman acknowledged Thursday. Theresa Cathrina Smart, the second nurse to be arrested since Oct. 7, was briefly jailed and bonded on two misdemeanor charges of theft and illegal drug distribution on Halloween. The Stone Mountain woman is accused of stealing eight 100 milligrams tablets of Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, from the jail pharmacy and distributing them to an inmate between Aug. 1 and Sept. 23 with the knowledge that his prescription had been discontinued by the doctor. Another Gwinnett County jail nurse arrested photo Theresa Smart is the third Gwinnett jail staffer arrested in the past month. Bruce Coley, the inmate who she was accused of providing the prescription drugs, was arrested Oct. 30 on a probation violation and is still in custody. It was unclear whether the probation violation was related to the accusations against Smart, who turns 32 this month. She made her $11,400 bond and was released the same day she was booked into jail. Attempts to reach her for comment were not immediately successful. This is the second licensed-practical nurse arrested at the jail in the past month. Cheryl Lynn Bates was arrested on charges of sexual assault for allegedly having sex with an inmate, which under the law is a felony in Georgia because the inmate is a person in custody. Bates, 44 of Stone Mountain, also was released on bond. The nurses work for Corizon Correctional Healthcare, which has the contract to provide medical services for the jail. On Wednesday, a former deputy was arrested and booked into jail for sexual assault regarding her alleged relationship with a prisoner. Lisa Ziglar had been on administrative leave since the sheriff’s office began investigating accusations of her misconduct in February. Another Gwinnett County jail nurse arrested photo Cheryl Lynn Bates was arrested on charges of sexual assault for allegedly having sex with an inmate. She was fired and arrested after she was indicted by a grand jury, spokeswoman Deputy Shannon Volkodav said. Ziglar is being held without bond pending a hearing.

July 24, 2008 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The widow of a Lawrenceville man who died after struggling with Gwinnett deputies and being stunned with a Taser has dropped a lawsuit against the county. The wife of Frederick Jerome Williams abandoned all claims in the wrongful death lawsuit against Gwinnett County and several deputies involved in the scuffle with Williams, the Sheriff's department announced late Thursday afternoon. The federal lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning the Williams family cannot refile it at a later date, said Thomas Mitchell, the attorney who represented Gwinnett County. Williams' death drew a firestorm of criticism from civil rights groups such as the Gwinnett NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), who led three marches outside the Gwinnett County courthouse calling for a moratorium on Taser use by law enforcement. Yanga Williams, Frederick Williams' widow, did not return messages left on her home or cellphone Thursday evening. A receptionist at the office of her attorney, Keenan R.S. Nix, said he was out of the office. Yanga Williams' attorney is going forward with the lawsuit against Taser International and the contracted healthcare provider for the jail, Prison Health Services, Mitchell said. The suit alleges that a nurse working at the jail gave inadequate and lackadaisical medical care to Williams in the critical moments after he lost consciousness. On the night of Williams' arrest in May 2004, police were called to his Lawrenceville home to settle a domestic dispute. Williams fought with officers before his arrest. Later at the jail, Williams started to fight with deputies. A videotape shows deputies shocking Williams five times with the stun gun and then placing him in a restraint chair. He lost consciousness and died in a hospital two days later. Williams, 31, a native of Liberia, died of brain damage from a heart attack, according to the final autopsy report, although officials were unable to say what caused the heart attack.

September 25, 2007 Atlanta Journal Constitution
The death of an inmate who fell ill while being held at the Gwinnett County Jail awaiting transfer to another jurisdiction has spurred a lawsuit against the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department and its contracted health care provider. It is the fourth wrongful death lawsuit to be filed against the two parties within the past four years. According to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, William Hargrove was suffering from abdominal pains on March 5, 2006, when a doctor ordered that he be sent to a hospital emergency room. However, a supervising deputy told medical staff not to send Hargrove to the hospital and instead attempted to transfer him to Newton County, the lawsuit states. He died two hours later, before the transport had been arranged. An autopsy revealed the cause of death was a perforated ulcer of the small intestine. Police had picked up Hargrove March 4 for failing to appear in court in Newton County on a speeding violation. Representatives from both the Sheriff's Department and Prison Health Services declined comment. The lawsuit follows on the heels of another filed Sept. 7 in federal court on behalf of deceased inmate Harriett Washington. Washington died of leukemia on Oct. 17, 2005. Lawyers for Washington have criticized Prison Health Services staffers for repeatedly rebuffing her requests to be hospitalized during the days leading up to her death. Both PHS and the Sheriff's Department also were named in two Taser-related wrongful death suits. Earlier this year, county officials agreed to pay the family of Ray Charles Austin $100,000 to dismiss a lawsuit arising from Austin's death during a 2003 scuffle with deputies. A lawsuit is still pending in the 2004 death of Frederick Jerome Williams at the jail.

October 6, 2006 Gwinnett Daily Post
The president of the NAACP's Gwinnett branch wants county leaders to reconsider their decision to bestow a multimillion dollar contract for inmate health care services on a provider that faces multiple wrongful death lawsuits. County commissioners voted Tuesday to award a one-year contract to Prison Health Services for $6.15 million. John Stewart, the local chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, on Monday plans to review six bids submitted by other health care providers to determine if there were other viable options. "I understand the reason why PHS won a contract again was because of their financial stability and experience," Stewart said. "I am going to be looking to see if the other vendors have a track record of providing medical services and see if one of those vendors should be given the opportunity to have the contract." Stewart views PHS as "an enormous liability" to county residents and says negligent care is putting the lives of more inmates at risk. The private company has provided inmate medical, dental and mental health care in Gwinnett since 1997. It was recommended by officials from both the sheriff's and corrections departments who looked at cost, experience, references and financial stability before making their decision. Prison Health Services has been targeted in lawsuits filed by two inmates who died after struggling with deputies at the Gwinnett County Detention Center and being stunned with a Taser. Both inmates were black. The lawsuits claimed that medical staff at the jail were lackadaisical in their attempts to resuscitate one inmate, Frederick Williams, and failed to document a fear of needles in the medical file of the other inmate, Ray Austin. A third lawsuit is pending by the family of a black female inmate, 43-year-old Harriett Washington, who died of leukemia on Oct. 17, 2005. An attorney for Washington's family criticized PHS for repeatedly ignoring her requests to be hospitalized. District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said Tuesday he was concerned PHS had been targeted by the recent lawsuits in Gwinnett, but "we aren't going to let lawsuits dictate how we do the business of the people." Stewart is also scheduling a town hall meeting for people who have been incarcerated in the Gwinnett County Detention Center to give public testimony about their experiences with Prison Health Services. "I am not sure if the county has all the information available as to the inadequate services provided by this provider," Stewart said.

October 4, 2006 Gwinnett Daily Post
Gwinnett County commissioners have signed on with an embattled inmate health care provider for another year. Six other companies submitted proposals to provide health care services for the Gwinnett County Department of Corrections and the Sheriff’s Department. However, the current provider, Prison Health Services, was granted the $6.15 million contract. The commissioners did not discuss the contract during Tuesday’s public meeting, but afterward said they supported the decision of a committee who evaluated the seven bids. PHS, a private company that has provided inmate medical, dental and mental health care in Gwinnett since 1997, had been recommended by officials from both the sheriff’s and corrections departments. A committee composed of officials from both departments looked at cost, experience, references and financial stability in making its recommendation. District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau expressed concern that PHS had been targeted by two lawsuits in Gwinnett within the past 13 months, but said, “We aren’t going to let lawsuits dictate how we do the business of the people.”Joan Crumpler, one of the attorneys representing the Williams family in the lawsuit, warned that in voting for PHS on Monday, county commissioners were overlooking problems at the jail that could lead to more deaths. “If the Gwinnett decision-makers limited their criteria to cost, experience, references and financial stability, then they can easily justify contracting with PHS, since PHS owns 25 percent of the national marketshare for outsourced inmate medical care,” Crumpler said. “However, Gwinnett County must never ignore very real problems at the jail, including PHS’s failure to adequately respond to medical crises. It is this kind of problem that has resulted in unnecessary deaths.”

October 3, 2006 Gwinnett Daily Post
Several pending lawsuits against the company contracted to provide health care for Gwinnett County inmates has apparently done little to influence its chances of renewing a multimillion dollar contract. Six other companies have submitted proposals to provide health care services for the Gwinnett County Department of Corrections and the Sheriff’s Department, but Prison Health Services seems to be the front-runner. Its current contract expires Oct. 31. PHS was recommended by officials from both the Sheriff’s and Corrections departments again this year. Gwinnett County Commissioners will consider that recommendation today while reviewing proposals in a public meeting. If approved, the contract awarded to PHS to provide medical, dental and mental health care for inmates would be worth more than $6.1 million. PHS had the highest-scoring proposal of all those submitted for consideration, according to a county memo. But not all the feedback on PHS has been positive. The company was targeted by two lawsuits in Gwinnett within the past 13 months. It also came under harsh criticism in January following the release of an internal investigation by the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department into the death of a terminally ill inmate. Several deputies and inmates blasted PHS for its handling of the woman, who died of leukemia on Oct. 17, 2005. Harriett Washington, 43, repeatedly asked to be taken to a hospital in the days leading up to her death, but her requests were rebuffed by staff members who instead sent her back to her cell. Washington’s two cellmates and several deputies reported that she was sent to the infirmary three times in a two-day period only to be returned to her cell in the same condition — vomiting, experiencing high fevers and having difficulty breathing. Jonathan P. Sexton, an attorney for Washington’s family, said he plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against PHS and Gwinnett County in the next six weeks. He was dismayed to hear that PHS’ contract may be renewed. “I hope they don’t use them again,” Sexton said Monday.

May 2, 2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nearly 175 inmates and employees at the Gwinnett County Detention Center were put on antibiotics after the weekend death of an inmate, officials said Monday. Detainee Zachary Harris, 20, died from an infection in his bloodstream at Gwinnett Medical Center on Saturday after being admitted three days earlier, jail officials said. A Detention Center physician said Harris' blood contained a bacterium that commonly causes meningitis. Harris, who had been at the jail a year, complained of a sore throat April 18 and was taken to the hospital Thursday when his blood pressure dropped dangerously low. He had been awaiting trial on multiple charges, including impersonating a police officer and drug possession. Detention Center doctor Lee Grose — who works for the jail's contract medical provider, Prison Health Services — said the bacterium can be spread through sneezing and coughing. Jail officials don't know how he contracted the bacterium but discounted that a visitor could have passed it on. Medical services at the jail have been under scrutiny since the October 2005 death of inmate Harriet Washington, 43, who had myeloid leukemia. Washington, who died in her jail cell, had asked to be hospitalized numerous times in the days before her death but was turned away by the Prison Health Services staff, internal jail reports said. At least four of the health provider's employees were fired, resigned or were transferred as a result of Washington's death.

April 21, 2006 Gwinnett Daily Post
After nine years, the woman tasked with supervising health care for Gwinnett County inmates has been reassigned to another post. The departure of Dwana Gebhardt, health system administrator for Prison Health Services, comes four months after allegations of inadequate health care at the Gwinnett County Detention Center surfaced following the death of a female inmate. Prison Health Services, based in Nashville, Tenn., is the nation’s largest private provider of correctional health care. The company has a contract with Gwinnett to provide medical services for both the detention center and Gwinnett County Comprehensive Correctional Complex. Officials at the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department say Gebhardt’s reassignment is not related to the recent hubbub over jail health care. “I don’t think it is,” said Maj. J.J. Hogan, who was appointed last month as the sheriff’s liaison and supervisor to Prison Health Services. Both the Sheriff’s Department and PHS came under scrutiny following the Oct. 17, 2005, death of a 43-year-old female inmate who was awaiting trial on a cocaine possession charge. Harriett Washington had previously been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia. An internal investigation at the Sheriff’s Department revealed Washington asked several times to be hospitalized in the days leading up to her death, but her pleadings were rebuffed by medical staff. Washington’s cellmates and deputies who were in the housing unit said they witnessed Washington vomiting repeatedly, experiencing dizziness, acting delirious and having difficulty breathing. She was taken to the jail’s medical unit at least three times in the two days before her death, but none of her visits were documented as required, according to the internal investigation. Each time Washington was sent back to her cell as her health deteriorated. After Washington died, five other inmates and a former PHS mental health counselor came forward to the Gwinnett Daily Post with other complaints about botched medications, lapses in medical documentation, patient neglect and staff indifference. In the months that followed, at least four PHS employees that were on duty that night or were in supervisory positions have been fired, resigned, retired or transferred. PHS officials have said none of the staffing changes were a result of Washington’s death or the subsequent complaints.

March 21, 2006 Gwinnett Daily Post
In the wake of a highly publicized inmate death and complaints about poor health care at the Gwinnett County Detention Center, a high-ranking deputy has been tasked with overseeing the jail’s contracted medical staff. Maj. Jim Hogan will supervise employees of Prison Health Services, the contracted medical provider for the jail, on a full-time basis beginning Monday. Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said his department pays Prison Health Services (PHS) about $6 million a year to provide health care for inmates. “I think we should have had a medical monitor before now,” Conway said. “I think with the size of that contract that it’s prudent for us to have someone on staff monitor the quality of the work.” Hogan will serve as the primary point of contact for PHS management, monitoring medical service issues, meeting daily with staffers, making policy recommendations, reviewing grievances and providing regular reports to the sheriff. Hogan is a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department. He has been second in command over jail administration since 1999. Both the Sheriff’s Department and PHS came under scrutiny following the death of a 43-year-old female inmate who was awaiting trial on a cocaine possession charge on Oct. 17. Harriett Washington had previously been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia. An internal investigation at the Sheriff’s Department revealed Washington asked several times to be hospitalized in the days leading up to her death, but her pleadings were rebuffed by medical staff. Washington’s cellmates and deputies who were in the housing unit said they witnessed Washington vomiting repeatedly, experiencing dizziness, acting delirious and having difficulty breathing. She was taken to the jail’s medical unit at least three times in the two days before her death, but none of her visits were documented as required, according to the internal investigation. Each time Washington was sent back to her cell as her health continued to deteriorate. After Washington died, at least five other inmates and a former PHS mental health counselor came forward with complaints about botched medications, lapses in medical documentation, patient neglect and staff indifference. Hogan said Monday he is up to the challenge of overseeing PHS.

January 22, 2006 Gwinnett Daily Post
A review of the personnel files of more than 60 employees of Prison Health Services, the contracted medical provider for the Gwinnett County Detention Center, reveals several employees have something in common with the inmates they treat — six have been arrested in the past. The six employees, including the jail’s medical director, were arrested as long ago as 1981 and as recently as this year for a range of offenses. In addition, a nurse and a certified medical assistant were accused of criminal behavior while they were still working at the jail less than three months ago. One has since been fired and the other resigned amid an internal investigation. While his resume lists an impressive amount of supervisory experience in the field, his personnel file reveals staff psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Howard Flatlow had his medical license put on probation by the Composite Board of Medical Examiners in 1985. The sanctions were lifted in 1993. The reason why Flatlow was on probation is not said, but the file does say Flatlow was in an “impaired physician’s program” or designated as a “recovering physician.” A pattern of supervisors tolerating mistakes also emerges from a study of the PHS files. Employees who were found to be sleeping on the job, providing inmates with the wrong medication, forgetting to document patient treatments or allowing an inmate to administer their own medication were given a verbal or written reprimand. However, some employees, such as Kessie, racked up as many as seven written reprimands in less than two years without losing their jobs. Kessie was finally fired in October upon being arrested and charged with providing an inmate with a cell phone. A high turnover of medical staff at the jail is also evident in the documentation PHS produces. The jail is staffed with 30 full-time health care employees and seven mental health professionals, according to Stacey Kelley, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Detention Center. A records request for the personnel files of staff currently employed and any staff members who left after Sept. 1, 2005, because of resignation or termination resulted in 63 employee files, thus 26 people left within that time frame. Stacey Kelley, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department, issued a statement on behalf of Sheriff Butch Conway this week saying he is weighing his options regarding PHS’ contract with the county, which expires this year on Oct. 31. No serious talks have occurred regarding termination of the contract, Kelley said. “I am in the process of determining what my options are regarding Prison Health Services,” Conway says in the statement. “When I do, I will make a decision that is in the best interest of the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department, the inmates and our personnel.”

January 20, 2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway is trying to decide whether to fire the county jail's medical provider. The sheriff could decide to opt out of the county's $4.8 million annual contract with Prison Health Services. The company's performance was called into question in a scathing internal report on the 2005 death of a detainee. Harriet Washington, 43, who had been in the jail since June on a cocaine possession charge, died early on Oct. 17. She suffered from leukemia. The report states that jail deputies and Washington's cellmates urged that she be taken to a hospital, but that their pleas were ignored by employees of the Tennessee- based health provider. A letter from Washington's cellmates to Conway alleged that multiple requests that Washington be treated were ignored in the two days before her death. Washington had not seen an outside doctor since July, according to jail records. "Either party can opt out of the contract" with at least 10 days' notice, Conway said Thursday. The contract states that any violation of its provisions or stipulations is grounds for termination. Conway said he believes it would be possible to switch providers with a minimum of disruption, if that's what he decides to do. The report particularly questions the actions of Brian Woodard, a licensed practical nurse for Prison Health Services who treated Washington over a two-day span that ended with her death. Woodard could not be reached for comment Thursday. He has been a licensed practical nurse since at least 1994, according to state professional license information. Woodard resigned a week after Washington's death as a result of a separate, unrelated internal investigation into narcotics missing from the medical unit, the report says. The company already is named in at least two federal suits filed after Gwinnett inmates died in custody.

January 20, 2006 AP
Gwinnett County attorneys are blaming Taser International and Prison Health Services in the death of a jail inmate, who died after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun. The county, which has been sued by the family of Frederick Williams, filed a cross claim this week blaming Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International for providing false training documents and not warning users that their stun guns could be lethal if used repeatedly. Taser International and Brentwood, Tenn.-based Prison Health Services, which provides medical care at the jail, should be held accountable, the county says, especially if a court finds that Williams died from the Taser or because of improper medical care.

January 19, 2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jail inmate Harriet Washington was the victim of a confused and clumsy medical response when she died in front of her cellmates, concluded a Gwinnett Sheriff's Department investigation released Wednesday. Washington, of Norcross, died on Oct. 17. Jailed at the Gwinnett County Detention Center since June for possession of cocaine, Washington suffered from leukemia. She was 43. The internal affairs investigation clears Sheriff's Department deputies of any culpability, stating they "adhered to existing policy and acted in a manner consistent with the needs of the situation." The report raises questions, however, about the performance of Prison Health Services, the Tennessee-based company contracted to care for Gwinnett inmates. Deputies had urged that Washington be taken to the hospital, to no avail, the report states. "If the medical staff had ordered outside treatment at Gwinnett Medical Center, as sworn staff [deputies] had urged, instead of allowing the inmate to remain in the housing unit, the end result very well may have been the same," the report's conclusion states. "Had the inmate been transferred to the hospital, however, it would have eliminated the doubt surrounding the appropriateness of the treatment provided." Sheriff Butch Conway declined an interview on the report, but issued a prepared statement: "I am in the process of determining what my options are regarding Prison Health Services," it read. "When I do, I'll make a decision that is in the best interest of the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department, the inmates and our personnel." According to the internal affairs report, Washington was briefly taken to the medical unit at least once the day before she died but was returned to her cell a short time later. The report accuses the company of failing to adequately document her care. Records even conflicted on how many times she was taken to the medical unit. Inmate Cheryl Horstman, who was in the medical unit at the time, told investigators that nurse Brian Woodard and Deputy Benita Smallwood seemed "bothered" by Washington's presence. At one point, Woodard told Washington, "only one problem per visit," according to Horstman. In a subsequent debriefing with his superior in the medical unit, Woodard said, "I know I [messed] up" by failing to document Washington's treatment. Woodard submitted his resignation on Oct. 24 as a result of a separate internal investigation into narcotics missing from the medical unit, the report says without elaboration. Woodard could not be reached for comment Wednesday. On Oct. 16, as Washington was trying to move from her wheelchair to a "boat" — a plastic tub that serves as a bed in the detention center — she passed out, the report said. The nurse and deputy asked her why she had tried to move at all. "I don't feel right. ... I need to go the the hospital, something doesn't feel right," the report quoted Washington as saying. Horstman said Smallwood then told Washington, "There isn't even a doctor here on weekends. The whole jail is in lockdown, and you can't stay in medical. What do you think this is, the Hyatt?" In interviews with investigators, Smallwood denied making the comment. Washington was sent back to her cell but apparently received no assistance from medical personnel until midnight, when she received crackers and Pepto-Bismol during "pill call." At 2:41 a.m. Oct. 17, the "I" pod deputy pressed the panic button to summon help after Washington screamed in pain and collapsed. According to the report, a nurse and a medical assistant from the jail intake area — neither of whom was qualified as a first responder — arrived three minutes later but could not get a response from Washington. The report noted that no "progress notes" were kept of her vital signs or treatment, which violated Prison Health Services internal protocols.

December 11, 2005 Gwinnett Daily Post
The death of a cancer patient at the Gwinnett County Detention Center has touched off an avalanche of complaints by other inmates about substandard health care. The allegations paint a disturbing portrait of botched medications, patient neglect and staff indifference by the county's contracted medical provider at the jail, Prison Health Services. Before she died, 43-year-old Harriett Washington was known affectionately as "Sparkles" among her fellow female inmates. In and out of prison several times for cocaine possession, theft and forgery, friends said Washington was nonetheless an extremely likable woman who had been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, a rapidly progressing cancer of the blood. The autopsy conducted by the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office shows Washington's cancer was in remission prior to being jailed in June, but she died of leukemia in her jail cell just five months later. While she was incarcerated, the only documented medical complaint in her file was on Oct. 16, when she complained of knee pain, according to the autopsy. Washington died before daybreak on Oct. 17. Her cellmates, Kimberly Holmes and Carla Dotson, say Washington begged repeatedly to be taken to the hospital the week before she died. There are no records of this alluded to in the Medical Examiner's Report. Holmes and Dotson claim their pleadings to hospitalize Washington were repeatedly rebuffed by PHS staff. A spokeswoman for Prison Health Services would not release Washington's medical records, citing right to privacy laws which they believe still remain in effect despite Washington's death. One former PHS worker said she became furious with the company over their lack of concern for inmates' well being. Diane Yociss, a former Prison Health Services mental health counselor, was fired in October. Yociss said her supervisors told her it was because she had been written up for going to physical therapy appointments for an on-the-job injury and for giving blood during work hours. Yociss believes the real reason for her firing was that she was becoming too vocal about lapses in health care at the jail. Her claim couldn't be verified because Prison Health Services did not make her personnel records available by press time. Yociss said she couldn't discuss Washington's case or cite specific examples of inmate health care because it would violate a code of ethics for her profession. However, Yociss said she wasn't surprised to hear about Washington's death. "Turnover there is horrific," Yociss said. "A lot of times people's follow-up care gets dropped. Other times they do the right thing and send them out (to a hospital)." Yociss said she confronted supervisors several times about mistakes - severely neglected patients, medication mix-ups and poor medical documentation, but her complaints were largely ignored. Instead, supervisors made excuses for employee mishaps, Yociss said. "The whole attitude toward inmates when they came in was they are either faking, they're malingering, they want to get out of their cells, or they want medicine," Yociss said. "In a lot of cases, yes they are. But in other cases, no, they're not. They are genuinely sick." In a series of jailhouse and telephone interviews last week, several inmates talked about their encounters with nurses and doctors employed by Prison Health Services. The following inmates' stories couldn't be verified because PHS would not provide their medical records, citing privacy laws as the reason for their exemption from Open Records law. Natalie Horne, 20, in jail on a felony drug possession charge, said she had to be hospitalized after a nurse gave her the wrong medication in August. Horne was supposed to get medicine to treat pain in her ankle when the nurse came into the pod for daily "pill call." Horne, who is hearing impaired, couldn't hear the names being called, but she got in line to receive her usual dose. The nurse was supposed to check the identification on Horne's arm band before dispensing the appropriate medication, but she didn't, Horne said. Instead, the nurse gave her someone else's medication. Horne doesn't even know what it was, but it made her cough and her lungs hurt. "I was dizzy and weak and I didn't feel like eating for three days," Horne scribbled on a piece of paper during her interview. When Horne told the nurse she had been given the wrong medicine, she alleges the woman seemed indifferent and replied "Oh well, just throw up." Tina Thompson told a similar story. Jailed in June for allegedly violating her probation by possessing a small quantity of crack cocaine, the 35-year-old woman said she was supposed to receive 400 mg of a medication to treat epilepsy. Two weeks ago, Thompson said she was accidentally given 500 mg of the drug. Thompson said the nurse also dispensed another unknown medicine to her that she wasn't supposed to receive, but she threw the pill away because she didn't recognize it. "I told her it was too much, but she said 'No, no, no, you take. It's OK," Thompson said Thursday during a jailhouse interview. Thompson said she didn't suffer any ill effects from the overdose of epilepsy medication, but it could have caused her to go into seizures. When she brought the mistake to another nurse's attention, Thompson said she was told "People make mistakes." "That mistake could've killed me," Thompson said, shaking her head. There are also several allegations that the record-keeping at the jail is sometimes spotty, botched or misplaced. Georgia E. MacDonnell, 48, landed in the Gwinnett County Detention Center earlier this year because Hall County didn't have the medical facilities to treat her. Reached by phone Thursday at her Gainesville home, MacDonnell said her only crime was trying to kill herself. McDonnell said she was charged with aggravated assault for attempting to shoot herself after hearing her fiance had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. MacDonnell needed ongoing treatment while at the jail because she has a colostomy bag attached to her abdomen to collect her body's waste. She said the skin where the bag attaches became infected when PHS staff failed to provide her with supplies to change the bag every three days, as recommended by her doctor. She claimed she only received the supplies to change 17 bags during her entire five-month incarceration. MacDonnell regularly requested them at pill call, but she was usually told to wait because more were being ordered, she said. MacDonnell explained that the sticky bandage that the plastic bag attaches to is useless when it gets wet, so it must be changed after each shower just like a Band-Aid. When she wasn't supplied with the bandages, called flanges, MacDonnell said she couldn't take showers. On one occasion, MacDonnell said she took a mandatory shower. Afterward, she asked a deputy for another colostomy bag, but allegedly didn't receive one until six hours later. During that time, MacDonnell said she was forced to sit in the medical unit with her body's waste dripping out all over her, making her abdomen raw. On the only time she was taken to see a physician in the medical unit, MacDonnell said yet another snafu occurred. "The doctor had my nephew's medical records instead of mine, and they returned me to my dorm without treating me," MacDonnell said. "I think that Gwinnett needs to answer to a lot of things, especially the medical care." Holmes, who has hepatitis, also alleges a poor experience with one of PHS' doctors. She followed protocol by submitting a request to see a doctor for pain in the area of her liver. When Holmes was transported to the medical unit to see a physician, she claimed the doctor didn't even know what she was doing there. Then he dismissed her complaints as imaginary. "He never touched me or examined me," Holmes said. "He said I was imagining it." Yociss said the inmates experiences are not uncharacteristic with what she witnessed as a former PHS employee. "I am not disgruntled. I am furious that people are still being treated like this," Yociss said. "I am furious that people have to die. I am not anybody's guardian angel. I'm just doing this because it is the right thing to do."

December 10, 2005 Gwinnett Daily Post
Information in the medical files of a leukemia patient who died at the Gwinnett County Detention Center in October conflicts with her cellmates' allegations that the woman was repeatedly denied hospitalization, according to autopsy records released Friday. The autopsy conducted by the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office stated 43-year-old Harriett Washington's cancer was in remission prior to her being jailed in June. However, she died of leukemia just five months later. The Gwinnett County Detention Center has no record of Washington receiving any cancer treatments during her stay there, according to the autopsy. The only documented medical complaint in her file was on Oct. 16, when she complained of knee pain. Washington died before dawn on the following day. "(Washington's) roommates found her to be experiencing seizure-like activity before losing consciousness," the autopsy said. "Responding staff members found her lying supine on the floor with her head resting on a pillow that had been placed there by her roommates. Staff members immediately called 911 and transported her to the clinic." Washington was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center in full cardiac arrest, where she was pronounced dead. Kimberly Holmes and Carla Dotson claim Washington was scheduled to see a specialist for cancer treatment two weeks before she died, but she was never taken. The inmates also claim Washington begged repeatedly to be hospitalized because she realized that she was relapsing and getting sicker.

December 9, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Whenever a prison inmate dies in custody - especially when the death may have been the result of inadequate medical care delivered by a for-profit company - the public deserves to know what happened and why. Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway has promised to investigate eyewitness claims that jail health workers largely ignored inmate Harriet Washington's symptoms for two days and let her suffer before she died in her county jail cell on Oct. 17. Jail officials knew Washington had leukemia. Washington's death is the third over the last two years to raise questions about the quality of medical services at the Gwinnett jail. The county pays Prison Health Services of Brentwood, Tenn., $4.8 million a year to provide nursing and physician care to inmates. The company has contracts with eight other jail facilities in Georgia and works at 310 facilities around the country. In September, the family of Ray Austin, who died at the Gwinnett jail in 2003, sued Prison Health Services, alleging company employees injected him with psychotropic drugs against his will shortly before being shocked eight times with a Taser during an altercation there. On Wednesday, the family of Frederick Williams filed a lawsuit against Conway, Taser International, Prison Health Services and several other defendants for another Taser-related death at the jail in May 2004. In Alabama, the state settled a class-action suit filed by inmates over inadequate care provided by Prison Health Services at state prisons. And Richland County, S.C., officials recently terminated a contract with the company after three inmate deaths in the county jail over the last three years. Many critics fear that in their quest for higher profits, private companies will cut costs through such arrangements as reducing shift workers, putting doctors on call instead of working on site at the jail, and giving employees unchecked decision-making power about what drugs are given to prisoners. Employees are also answerable to their employer, the private company, and not to those actually running the jail. Conway and Gwinnett officials need to ensure that's not happening at the county jail. The best way to do that is to make public as much of the investigation about Washington's death as possible and re-examine the staffing arrangement it has with Prison Health Services. The county may be able to contract out health care, but it can't contract out its legal and moral obligation to those in its custody.

December 7, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Attorneys for a man who died after a Taser-related scuffle at the Gwinnett County jail today filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The Gwinnett State Court suit was filed today by attorneys representing the family of Frederick Williams, who lost consciousness and died after a May 2004 scuffle in the jail. The handcuffed and manacled inmate was shocked multiple times with a Taser. In the Williams lawsuit, attorneys named Sheriff Butch Conway, three of his deputies and two Gwinnett police officers allegedly involved in the altercation, weapon manufacturer Taser International and Prison Health Services, a Nashville-based company that provides medical services for the jail.

December 7, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Tennessee company responsible for providing care to Gwinnett County jail inmates has faced a litany of lawsuits in at least four states in recent years. Already named in one Gwinnett County lawsuit linked to an inmate's death, Prison Health Services has been cited by cellmates of a woman who died in jail seven weeks ago. Harriet Washington, 43, of Norcross, died Oct. 17 in her cell. Her two cellmates said their pleas that Washington receive help went largely unheeded. The Brentwood, Tenn., company's Web site says it provides care to about 214,000 inmates in 310 jails and prisons in 37 states. The company says it serves eight facilities in Georgia. This year, Gary Watts, a coroner in Richland County, S.C., led an inquest after an inmate in the county jail hanged himself. A coroner's jury found that Prison Health Services had not provided the mentally ill man his prescribed medication for several days. "Horrible care," Watts said. "Absolutely horrible care." In Alabama, the state Department of Corrections settled a class-action lawsuit filed by inmates over health care provided by the company. Among other things, the lawsuit charged that inmates were not given their medication at the proper time or in correct dosages and were examined in rat-infested rooms. "There were some significant lapses in the system of medical care being provided at the facility," said Joshua Lipman, a lawyer at the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which represented the inmates. Added Lipman, "Prison Health Services has problems all over the country right now." Prison Health Services was named in a lawsuit filed by the family of a Gwinnett inmate last September. Attorneys for Ray Austin's family allege that Austin was shocked eight times with a Taser after company employees injected him with psychotropic drugs during a September 2003 altercation at the jail. Austin lost consciousness and died after the incident. Austin's attorneys allege that Prison Health Services officials ignored a doctor's warning that Austin not be forcibly medicated. The warning was in his jail medical file, according to the lawsuit. Medical personnel and deputies also ignored Austin's wishes he not be medicated. Austin had signed jail paperwork granting him the right to refuse medical treatment, according to the lawsuit. "But for the decision on the part of ... medical personnel to proceed with forced administration of medication, Austin would not have resisted," the lawsuit said. "He would not have been in the altercation ... and would not have died." The details of Washington's death sounded familiar to David Almeida, executive director of the South Carolina chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Three mentally ill inmates have died at the Richland jail, including the man who hanged himself, in the past three years. After the third death, the Richland County Council voted to terminate its contract with Prison Health Services. The estates of the first two inmates who died settled lawsuits with Prison Health Services. "It just seems to me that when it comes to Prison Health Services, you have to be very careful," Almeida said. Watts, the coroner, said the inquest revealed a pattern of poor record-keeping, insufficient personnel and a failure to provide inmates with medication. Watts said that Prison Health Services employees subpoenaed in the inquest testified that that level of service was "almost a way of doing business: just go in, and do what you could. If you couldn't do it, don't worry about it."

December 6, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gwinnett's sheriff promised a thorough investigation Monday into an inmate's death, which prompted two cellmates to allege inadequate medical response. Butch Conway also defended the jail's contract medical provider, Prison Health Services, of Brentwood, Tenn. The company declined comment on the Oct. 17 death of Harriet Washington, 43, jailed since June for possession of cocaine. Washington, who suffered from leukemia, died on the jailhouse floor as her two cellmates watched. Morgenstern said the company initiates an in-house review of every patient's death. The two inmates, Kim Holmes and Carla Dotson, said in a jail interview Monday that they can't get the images out of their heads. They described Washington screaming in pain and convulsing before dying. Holmes and Dotson began keeping a list of Washington's numerous symptoms. On Sunday afternoon, they say, a medical unit nurse came to assess her condition. Holmes and Dotson decided to risk retaliation by writing the letter because they think a change is needed. "The only thing I have to say is that I didn't want Harriet to die and nothing change," Holmes said. "I just appreciate knowing that we have a voice even though we're in here."

December 5, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Two Gwinnett Detention Center inmates are alleging that shoddy medical treatment contributed to the death of their cellmate. Harriet Washington, 43, died in her cell Oct. 17 while being attended to by staff from Tennessee-based Prison Health Services, a private firm contracted by the county to provide medical care at the jail. In a Nov. 8 letter addressed to the medical unit supervisor and the Sheriff's Department's internal affairs unit, inmates Kim Holmes and Carla Dotson allege that Washington's multiple symptoms were for the most part ignored. Representatives of Prison Health Services did not return phone calls Sunday seeking comment. Holmes and Dotson were moved into Washington's cell about 8:30 a.m. Oct. 15. According to their letter, Washington was "extremely sick" and worsened as the day went on. The medical unit and a nurse who delivers medications at "pill call" were consulted, the letter says, but advised the women to fill out a medical request and turn it in. On Oct. 16, Washington eventually was sent to the medical unit, but was returned after an hour with no medications, according to Holmes. Several hours later medical was called again, the letter says. Washington was briefly taken back to the medical unit, the letter says, but was returned to her cell a short time later. Holmes' letter says she and Dotson continued to try to get medical attention for Washington, but were told that Washington had leukemia and nothing could be done, so she had to stay in the cell. Other times, they say, they were told that Washington "would be fine." Holmes further states that as Washington worsened and began to vomit continuously, she asked a deputy to seek medical help. The deputy returned and told her the medical department said vomiting was good for Washington. Early on Oct. 17, the letter states, Washington began screaming in pain and could not stop. According to the jail's Unusual Occurrence Report, a deputy notified medical at 2:10 a.m. and was told to bring Washington to the unit. Washington could not be moved, so the deputy pressed his "panic button" and announced a medical emergency. As he waited in Washington's cell, the report said, Washington "exhaled one loud breath and her eyes were open and fixated." The Unusual Occurrence Report states that nurses arrived at the cell at 2:44 a.m., but could not get any response from Washington. At 2:53 a.m., an ambulance was summoned. Homes' and Dotson's letter says that the medical staff decided that the hospital was necessary after the nurse announced that Washington had "no pulse." Holmes also alleged in her letter that Washington was supposed to see a cancer doctor every six weeks, but was already overdue. According to the jail's "inmate external movements" report, Washington last went to an outside doctor on July 18.

October 7, 2005 Gwinnett Daily Post
The nation's largest private provider of health care services to prison inmates has faced a recent lawsuit in Gwinnett and criticism from local officials in other states, but county commissioners have voted to extend their contract for another year. Prison Health Systems, a Nashville-based company, will continue providing medical, dental and mental treatment for inmates at the Gwinnett County Detention Center and the Department of Corrections until Oct. 31, 2006. Commissioners voted in September to extend the contract with PHS, said Kristine Tallent, budget division director for Gwinnett County. A lawsuit filed in September in the U.S. District Court's Northern District in Atlanta took aim at the company, claiming that medical personnel employed by PHS at the Gwinnett County Detention Center should not have forced deceased inmate Ray Charles Austin to receive an injection of an anti-psychotic drug. Prison Health Services has been faulted for inmate deaths in other jurisdictions, prompting some local officials to discontinue contracts with the company. A series of articles which ran in The New York Times beginning in late February documented cases of inmate suicide, shoddy care to children in custody and prisoners dying after being denied treatment. Last month, officials in Richland County, S.C., ended a contract with PHS following the deaths of three mentally ill inmates during the past three years, saying they were "terribly dissatisfied" with services. Nashville jail officials also replaced PHS last month with another inmate health care service in the wake of widespread criticism for failing to give inmates enough medical attention. Three diabetic inmates were alleged to have become ill there after receiving substandard care since January. Prison Health Services has a profitable business relationship with Gwinnett County in recent years. Last year, it was paid approximately $6.4 million, and the company has received more than $3 million in compensation this year.

September 22, 2005 Gwinnett Daily Post
An attorney for the children of an inmate who died after struggling with deputies has filed a lawsuit against the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department and its contracted health care provider. The lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District in Atlanta on behalf of the son and daughter of Ray Charles Austin, who are both under the age of 10. The suit claims that deputies and medical personnel employed by Prison Health Services should not have forced Austin to receive an injection of a drug to calm a psychotic outburst at the Gwinnett County Detention Center. Austin, 25, struggled with deputies who were attempting to restrain him so a nurse could administer the injection on Sept. 24, 2003. Brian Spears, the attorney for Austin’s family, said Austin was a diagnosed schizophrenic and he was afraid of needles. During the struggle deputies shocked Austin about six to eight times with a Taser stun gun, according to the lawsuit. Austin bit off a portion of a deputy’s ear, and several deputies used their fists, choke holds, Taser shocks and deprivation of oxygen to retrieve the piece of flesh from Austin’s mouth. He subsequently lost consciousness and died.

September 21, 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The family of a man who died at the Gwinnett jail after being repeatedly shocked with a Taser has filed a federal lawsuit against members of the sheriff's department. The wrongful death suit was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by attorneys representing the family of Ray Charles Austin. It is the first of two Taser-related lawsuits expected to be filed by the families of inmates who have died after scuffles at the jail. Attorneys for Frederick Williams, an inmate who died in a similar altercation eight months after Austin, say they plan to file a lawsuit soon. The suit names Sheriff Butch Conway, three of his deputies allegedly involved in the altercation, and Prison Health Services, a Nashville-based company that provides medical services for the jail. Austin's attorneys allege in the suit that the 24-year-old man would not have died if deputies and a jail nurse had not forced him to take medication, shocked him eight times, beat and choked him. Gwinnett's medical examiner reported that Austin died of a heart attack but the autopsy did not clearly determine what caused the heart attack. Austin's attorneys allege that jail medical officials ignored a doctor's warning that he should not be forcibly medicated. The warning was in his jail medical file, according to the suit. Medical personnel and deputies also ignored Austin's wishes of not being medicated even though Austin had signed jail paperwork stating that he had the right to refuse medical treatment, according to the suit.

Hays State Prison
Rome, Georgia
Aramark

July 20, 2010 Rome News-Tribune
Two people were arrested on drug charges Sunday after a road check was conducted on the access road to Hays State Prison in Chattooga County, a prison spokeswoman said. According to Chattooga County Jail records and Susie McGraw, secretary to Warden Clay Tatum: Patricia Denton of Flintsone was charged with crossing guard lines with drugs or intoxicants, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and the possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. Denton worked for a private food service company.

Irwin County Detention Center
Ocilla, Georgia

Detention Management LLC
How One Georgia Town Gambled Its Future on Immigration Detention: April 10, 2012, The Nation. By Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville. Expose into the bonding and political factors in building this prison.

April 23, 2012 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A privately owned detention center that houses hundreds of illegal immigrants in South Georgia narrowly avoided being auctioned off at a county tax sale this year after the Atlanta-based owner’s creditors forced the company into bankruptcy proceedings. Now the fate of Irwin County's largest private employer is at stake, as is a considerable chunk of the county's tax base, demonstrating how illegal immigration and economic development can be intertwined. Located about 180 miles south of Atlanta, the Irwin County Detention Center houses detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service. About 200 jobs are tied to the detention center in Ocilla that now houses slightly more than half its capacity. “If it closes, then everybody loses their jobs ... and the inmates go back to wherever they came from, but we hope that it never gets to that,” said Joey Whitley, chairman of the Irwin Board of Commissioners. The facility is at the center of a complex financial arrangement involving the county and several private companies linked to the same Atlanta-area businessman, Terry O’Brien. O’Brien owns Municipal Corrections LLC, which owns the detention center. He also has an interest in two other companies involved in its management. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment. An attorney for his company said he was still evaluating the bankruptcy case. The problems started after the county -- hoping to create more jobs and save taxpayer money -- issued $55 million in tax-exempt bonds in 2007 to help pay off other bonds and to finance an expansion of the center by 512 beds to a total of 1,201. As part of the arrangement, the county gets to house up to 30 of its own inmates in the detention center for free, not including medical costs. The bonds were to be paid off with revenue from the center, which receives federal funding for holding federal detainees. But the center has not housed enough detainees to cover the bond payments, Whitley said in court papers. As of Thursday, the detention center was holding 653 people. In February, the trustee in the arrangement -- UMB -- wrote to bondholders, saying the bond payments were in default. In January, at the county's request, an Irwin Superior Court judge ordered that the property to be sold at auction to cover a combined $1.6 million in back taxes owed to the county and the city of Ocilla for 2009 and 2010. That’s a large sum for a county with about 9,500 residents and an annual operating budget of $4.2 million. The detention center’s tax sale was set for March 6. But its bondholders blocked that by filing a petition in a federal bankruptcy court, claiming $54.1 million in bond debt. O’Brien has been seeking to have the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case transferred from a federal court in Nevada -- where his company was organized -- to one in Georgia. Before the detention center’s expansion, Municipal Corrections had “limited operating history and limited assets,” bond records show. The records show O’Brien had a background in construction, marketing and finance, but they don’t indicate he had any experience running a jail or prison. As part of the project, his company was to receive between $5,000 and $8,333 monthly to cover “oversight” expenditures. The county is leasing the jail from Municipal Corrections, an arrangement that allowed Irwin to issue the tax-exempt bonds for its expansion, county officials said. The county signed an agreement with a second company linked to O’Brien -- Detention Management LLC -- to operate the jail. The contract says that company is to be paid a $21,469 monthly management fee from the detention center’s revenue. The company is also responsible for working with ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service to steer more detainees to the detention center, Whitley said. The company’s website lists O’Brien as one of its leaders. No one from that company's Atlanta office responded to a request for comment this week. A third company connected to O’Brien -- Correctional Center Consultants LLC -- was hired to help manage the project, bond records show. O’Brien is the company’s managing member.

February 29, 2012 Las Vegas Sun
Bondholders owed more than $54 million filed a Chapter 11 involuntary bankruptcy petition in Las Vegas on Wednesday against a private prison company. The filing was made against Municipal Corrections, LLC, which has offices in Stratham, N.H., and Atlanta. The involuntary filing apparently was made in bankruptcy court in Las Vegas because Municipal Corrections is registered as a Nevada limited liability company. The filing, if approved by the bankruptcy court, would subject the company’s finances to court supervision. Records from the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, which collects municipal debt data, show Municipal Corrections has a prison agreement with Irwin County, Ga. Under the 2007 deal, the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.; south of Atlanta, was expanded using county-issued bonds. Municipal Corrections, an investor in the prison, leases the expanded prison to the county. Some of the bonds refinanced existing debt. The records also show there’s been a default in payment obligations for the municipal bonds — officially called Irwin County, Ga., Participation Certificates — backed by the prison and the revenue it generates. A request for comment on the involuntary bankruptcy filing was placed with Municipal Corrections, which is headed by managing member Terrence O’Brien. The petitioning creditors in Wednesday’s $54.195 million involuntary bankruptcy filing included Hamlin Capital Management, LLC of New York; Oppenheimer Rochester National Municipals of Rochester, N.Y.; and UMB N.A. of Minneapolis and Kansas City. UMB is the bond trustee charged with representing the interests of bondholders, and its claim was made in bankruptcy court on behalf of all bondholders. The petitioning creditors are represented by the Las Vegas office of the law firm Ballard Spahr, LLP and the Minneapolis office of the law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP. They allege in the petition that Municipal Corrections "is generally not paying debts as they become due." UMB, in a separate state court proceeding in Minnesota, has said the prison has a capacity of 1,200 inmates but for the past several years has seen occupancy of just 700 to 800 inmates. That means revenue from government agencies housing inmates there has been sufficient to pay operating expenses but has been insufficient to pay any debt service on the bonds and property taxes on the jail, UMB attorneys said in a court filing.

Macomb County Jail
Macomb County, Georgia
Correctional Medical Services

March 31, 2006 Macomb Daily
A nurse fired from the Macomb County Jail has retained the law firm of Geoffrey Fieger for a possible lawsuit against her employer, in connection to a baby she delivered at the jail. Lori Helhowski, a nurse who last month performed the first live birth delivery to an inmate in the jail's history, said she has decided to go ahead with civil action over her dismissal. She said the Fieger law firm in Southfield is helping her prepare a case of wrongful retaliation and violation of whistle-blower protection laws. "My son begged me not to even pursue this, but I feel obligated to pursue it for the sake of the inmates," Helhowski said of her legal action. "I just don't even believe it." Helhowski was terminated March 20 as an employee of St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services, or CMS, a private company under contract to provide medical services at the jail. Although her termination is ostensibly linked to a personal relationship she developed with former jail inmate Shawn Jefferson, she and an attorney handling her case have both noted that Jefferson was no longer at the jail when her employer became aware of the situation. Helhowski believes her discharge was really connected to concerns she raised at the jail about proper care for the inmate and her baby. Attorney Arnie Matusz, who represents Helhowski, said Thursday the timing of her dismissal is questionable since the inmate was long gone. Matusz said he is helping her prepare a case, but there are already some obstacles facing him.

March 28, 2006 Free Press
Lori Helhowski, the nurse who delivered the first baby born in the Macomb County Jail, says she has been fired from her job there. Her employer, St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services, told her she was let go Wednesday because she has a relationship with a former Macomb inmate, she said. Helhowski, 43, of Macomb Township admitted Friday to talking to Shawn D. Jefferson on the phone and exchanging letters with him. Jefferson now is incarcerated at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson. Helhowski said she believes her firing was because she had received media attention for the birth and privately complained about procedures and conditions in the jail. She said she's considering a lawsuit. Macomb County Jail Administrator Michelle Sanborn said Monday: "I can tell you that she is no longer working there ... but other than that, this isn't the kind of thing that I like talking about when someone loses their job or is terminated."

March 24, 2006 Macomb Daily
A nurse at the Macomb County Jail who made history by delivering the first baby there may now seek legal action against her former employer, who has cited her relationship with a former inmate as grounds to fire her. Lori Helhowski, a Macomb Township resident and nurse with nearly 20 years' experience, said the administration of Missouri-based Correctional Medical Services terminated her employment Monday after learning of phone calls and other evidence of a "personal relationship" with former jail inmate Shawn D. Jefferson. Correctional Medical Services, or CMS, is the private contractor company that employs all nurses and medical staff at the Macomb County Jail, where Helhowski was a nurse on the night shift. Jefferson, 44, of Clinton Township, was in the jail from roughly October through February on a charge of cocaine possession and allegedly had several phone conversations with Helhowski on her personal time at home, when she wasn't working. "Would I sue? I don't know, I'm not really a lawsuit person. But I've been thinking about it," Helhowski said this week of her termination. "This isn't like I tried to smuggle a gun to him or something. I don't understand how they can try to tell me what to do on my own phone, on my own time, with my own money."

McRae Correctional Facility
McRae, Georgia
CCA

February 28, 2005 Guardian
Bahamian prisoners in McRae's Correctional Facility are caught up in a racial war, The Guardian has learnt. In a letter to The Guardian, which includes the names of Bahamian prisoners incarcerated at McRae, the writer expresses that they fear for their lives. "It is quite possible that by the time you receive this letter, one or more of us may be badly injured, dead or facing serious charges," the letter states. "There is a racial conflict here that exists .... We have had several Bahamians injured here during the course of previous rioting." Accompanying the letter is a copy of an inmate bulletin dated January 25, 2005, which advises inmates of a lock-down "because of an incident" which occurred in the Recreation Yard the day before. The bulletin notes the prison would remain on lock-down until inmates have been interviewed and issues concerned are resolved. In order to stay alive, Bahamian prisoners have to fight, he says. "I am quite sure you would not want us to be cowards and accept abuse. We are men who will live like men or die like men. You are the only ones who can help us. Our Government must listen to its people. You have the voice. Speak for us," the letter adds. It is signed, "The Bahamian community."

May 31, 2002
Corrections Corporation of America has been awarded a three-year, $109 million contract that would end two years of dormancy for a company prison in Georgia.
  The Nashville-based prison operator was notified yesterday about the 1,500-bed award by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. CCA will begin Dec. 1 to house male federal inmates who aren't U.S. citizens at the prison, which is in McRae, Ga.   The contract should help in efforts by CCA to fill up 10,000 empty beds.  Critics suggested that the bureau bailed out CCA and the private prisons industry.  (Tennessean)

June 8, 2002
Asked whether he feared his company's $45 million gamble on a private prison in Telfair County might never pay off, Corrections Corporation of America CEO John Ferguson had a simple answer.
  "Yes," he said with a smile. "We had been to the line a number of times."   Ferguson was in McRae on Thursday to tour the facility, which had just landed a federal contract that will finally bring inmates to the empty prison. He also visited two other private prisons owned by CCA, one in Alamo and the other in Nicholls.   Ferguson met with Telfair County officials to celebrate the inmate contract and discuss plans for getting the prison open.   One of the biggest helps could come from Heart of Georgia Technical College, which is looking to start Spanish classes at its satellite campus in McRae. The classes will be needed for prison employees because most of the inmates will be Spanish-speaking criminal aliens.  Jep Craig, vice president of economic development at Heart of Georgia Tech, said the school has made a proposal to CCA to provide Spanish training for the company's employees. "It's not very in-depth," said Craig. "We are teaching phrases to be memorized."  In 1998, state audits gave CCA's two operating prisons in Georgia failing marks, CCA Vice President Damon Hininger said the state has not found problems since then.  Carol Lavely, president of the Telfair County Chamber of Commerce, led a vigorous letter-writing campaign to urge the Bureau of Prisons to award the contract.  Hininger said experience will be required only of supervisory staff.   Everyone else must have a high school diploma, plus pass a physical and a background check.  Ferguson said private prisons are a good option for the state and federal government. He disputed a Wall Street Journal article that found the cost of housing inmates in private prisons is about the same as government prisons.  (The Macon Telegraph)

Millen Prison
Millen, Georgia
CCA

May 25, 2011 Millen News
The Jenkins County Commissioners will loan the City of Millen $100,000 of the county’s share of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax #5 ( SPLOST) funds to help defray initial expenses incurred by the city for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) project. The agreement was approved during an April meeting of the commissioners.

December 15, 2010 Georgia Green Party
Ayman Fadel an Augusta based business owner was arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespass and was held pending the setting of bond by the Jenkins County Sheriff's Department. A thirty year Georgia resident, Mr. Fadel has been active on a range of issues with the CSRA Peace Alliance. Mr. Fadel was arrested while holding up a sign reading "CCA $ is not blessed". He was part of a small picket gathered in opposition at a ground-breaking event advertised as a 'public ceremony' in a paid advertisement in the Millen News taken out by the Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, the privately owned Tennessee based company which owns and operates sixty prison facilities across the country advertised that both Governor Perdue and DoC Commissioner Owens would be in attendance at the 10:00 am event. Private security in the employ of CCA, with the support of deputies from the Jenkins County Sheriff's Department, informed members of the public, wishing to participate in the picket in opposition to this new private prison that they could do so only in a designated 'free speech' area in the parking lot, not visible to the ceremony itself. A uniformed officer attempted to move back the picket, and shortly after when the Governor arrived, the sheriff's deputies ordered that signs be put down. Mr. Fadel, asserting his free speech rights challenged the legality of the police order and was promptly arrested. "Our nation's public policy of imposing mass incarceration is destroying the liberties of all of us," said Denice Traina, former cochair of the Georgia Green Party, mother, grandmother and Augusta based physical therapist. Ms. Traina remained on site where she helped organize bail for her Columbia County neighbor. "We pretend to have overcome the race caste system of Jim Crow, only to recreate it anew by criminalizing health problems and discarding proven restorative justice strategies in favor of punitive and highly profitable tools of social control. Are the Georgia authorities so frightened by this week's inmate strike action, that they must break ribs and lock up even more for expressing an opposing view?"

Richmond County Jail
Richmond County, Georgia
Correctional Medical Services

August 30, 2009 The Augusta Chronicle
Since the decade began, at least nine men have died while in the custody of the Richmond County jail. Officially, they were not guilty of anything, but they were being held until the justice system could determine whether charges against them could be proven. Those who died varied from a troubled Vietnam vet to a brain-damaged traffic victim with the mental capacity of a child. Another was a mentally ill inmate who should have been a free man, but the paperwork releasing him never made it to the jail. All the deaths were investigated. No criminal wrongdoing was found. The Augusta Chronicle reviewed the cases at the urging of families and others who all seemed to want the answer to one simple question: How could someone in the restrictive and rigidly supervised custody of incarceration end up dead? IN A PLACE WHERE slaying suspects and tough-talking young men live behind steel doors and iron bars, the old, handicapped, depressed or mentally ill can be overlooked. Charles Brunson was severely disabled when he died at the jail March 12, 2008. The only public notice of his death was an obituary. The severely disabled and brain damaged 52-year-old might have never been thought of again by anyone outside his family, except that he suffered a fatal head injury inside the county jail at 401 Walton Way. Less than four years earlier, another inmate suffered a near-fatal head injury that an emergency room doctor said was exacerbated because of a delay in treatment. Like most people housed in the Richmond County jail, Mr. Brunson had been arrested but not convicted. The Chronicle learned of Mr. Brunson while reviewing the quality of medical care at the jail facilities because of two recent lawsuits involving former inmates and a steady stream of complaints sent to the newspaper by phone, e-mail, and letters written in pencil by inmates. Since 2003, Augusta has contracted with Correctional Medical Services to provide medical services in the county jails. This year's contract is worth more than $4 million. CMS, the largest U.S. corporation in the prison health care business, takes care of all medical needs, from nurses and doctors to medicine and equipment. Maj. Gene Johnson, who is in charge of the jails on Walton Way and Phinizy Road, said he believes the inmates have better health care than most county residents. Every day he meets with the registered nurse in charge of medical services to discuss any especially troubling medical problems among nearly 1,000 inmates, most of whom Maj. Johnson knows by name or accused deed. "They're getting better care here than they can on the street," Maj. Johnson said. Some are getting care for the first time in years. Many have abused themselves for years with drugs and alcohol at a higher level than the general population, he said. The $17.7 million budget for the jails includes just more than $5.1 million for medical care. In addition to the contract payment to CMS, the city is liable for any medical expenses that exceed $10,000 for any single inmate in a single year. CMS spokesman Ken Fields said the company provides qualified and experienced health care professionals to see to the medical needs of the jail inmates. That quality is recognized in the jail's accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, he said. THE ACCREDITATION, however, doesn't impress everyone. Attorney Elizabeth Alexander, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national prison project, said that means the facility can provide an adequate level of care. The way CMS and other for-profit corporations in the business of prison health care make money is the problem, she said. The companies get contracts by providing the lowest bid, and the only place to cut costs is in the medical care, said Ms. Alexander, who works from the ACLU's New York City office. Once the contracts are set, there's no oversight of the care because the state or local officials no longer have independent medical staff, she said. Ms. Alexander represented the family of 21-year-old Timothy Joe Souders in its lawsuit against the state of Michigan and CMS. Mr. Souders, who was mentally ill, was chained to a bed for 17 hours a day for four days in a cell that got as hot as 106 degrees, according to court documents. He died of dehydration. A surveillance video showed Mr. Souders' experience, and the state agreed to a $3.8 million settlement in June 2008. "We're quite familiar with CMS," Ms. Alexander said. The company has a long history of providing inadequate and often unconstitutional care, she said. It's not the only poor-performing prison health care company, she said. States and local governments go from one to the other and back again, usually with the same results, she said. The only real solution she sees is to use nonprofit-based medical personnel. Mr. Fields pointed to CMS' 30 years of experience in what is a specialty in the medical industry. CMS has been a leader in the field, he said, and has developed strategies and techniques that have improved the quality of care in secured facilities. CMS has been named in many lawsuits, but numbers don't equate to a lack of quality care, Mr. Fields said. He estimated that 95 percent of the suits are dismissed or won by CMS. The Chronicle searched for lawsuits involving CMS by using legal databases maintained by Justia.com, a private company that provides free access to courts and other legal issues, and Prison Legal News, a prisoner rights advocacy organization. The Chronicle found 182 lawsuits against CMS. State and local governments who have contracted with CMS have had to pay settlements in 16 cases that totaled more than $28.5 million. Still, CMS wins almost all of the cases, and the same is true of state and local governments sued by inmates who complained about the quality of health care. IN FEDERAL COURT IN AUGUSTA, inmates have sued the county 31 times in the past decade. Nineteen suits alleged civil rights violations based on medical services. The city won every case. Another lawsuit, filed by the mother of a man who died of untreated pneumonia, is pending. In most of those lawsuits, the county didn't even have to respond to the allegations, thanks to federal legislation passed in 1995. The Prison Litigation Reform Act was designed to curb the flood of prisoner lawsuits in federal court. It allows judges to summarily toss out what they see as frivolous cases. Ms. Alexander said the law and case decisions have set the bar at a near impossible height, regardless of the merit of an inmate's complaint. An inmate can't claim a constitutional violation based on health care unless he suffered physical harm, Ms. Alexander said. An inmate also has to prove the staff knew harm could happen but did nothing to prevent it, she said. The techniques once used at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq wouldn't be considered civil rights violations in the U.S. legal system, Ms. Alexander said. The inmates didn't suffer actual physical harm. In an opinion released in January 2007, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that trial judges and appellate courts were taking the Prison Litigation Reform Act too far. "We are not insensitive to the challenges faced by the lower federal courts in managing their dockets and attempting to separate, when it comes to prisoner lawsuits, not so much wheat from chaff as needles from haystacks. However ... adopting different and more onerous pleading rules" is not right, he wrote. Jamie Koss is among those whose constitutional claim based on health care was tossed out in the Augusta federal court. He suffered a head injury in the Richmond County jail Dec. 1, 2004. As he lay unconscious on the cement floor, a nurse did little more than glance at Mr. Koss before deciding he was fine, according to witness statements in the GBI file on Mr. Koss' injury, according to his lawsuit. About seven hours passed before Mr. Koss got help. The delay, the treating physician at University Hospital said, exacerbated the brain damage. He is now disabled, in chronic pain and unable to care for himself, according to his lawsuit. Mr. Koss might have had a case against the nurse who did nothing to help him, but because she has died, Mr. Koss had no valid constitutional challenge, the judge ruled. Neither the sheriff's office nor CMS can be held liable for the nurse's derogation of duty. Mr. Koss, the judge ruled, could not meet the legal standard for such a constitutional challenge: that CMS or the sheriff's office participated in the acts or omissions; that either had a history of widespread abuse so that they should have known there was a risk; or either implemented a policy that resulted in deliberate indifference. When asked about Mr. Koss' case, Mr. Fields said CMS cannot discuss any patient's care because of confidentiality demanded of health care professionals. After death, federal medical privacy laws allow the release of a person's medical information only to the executor of the estate; the person authorized access through a health care power of attorney immediately before death; or a person authorized by the patient while still alive to receive the information, wrote Christine Shaffer, an Augusta attorney with experience in litigation dealing with the privacy law and the state's Open Records Act. Maj. Johnson said the Richmond County jail staff is doing its best to keep watch over the inmates in the overcrowded facilities and separate those who are vulnerable or ill. "This jail here has turned into a mental institution," he said one particularly trying morning in June. Georgia Regional Hospital was full and not accepting new patients, Maj. Johnson said, and he had one out-of-control inmate who broke the iron-restraint chair and tore the ligaments in a captain's thumb. THERE ARE PROCEDURES SET to catch potential medical problems on the front end, Maj. Johnson said. Every person brought into the jail is asked a set of questions to determine whether he or she has any medical needs or could be suicidal. A nurse is to check the answers and follow up on any potential medical needs. Every person can fill out a request to see the CMS physician or dentist, Maj. Johnson said, but the requests are screened by a nurse to determine whether an inmate should see the doctor. The doctor works 40 hours a week. On any given day, the jail facilities hold a combined population of about 1,000. A recent article in a John Hopkins University publication found the average ratio of physician to patients in the United States is 1 to 400. What medicine an inmate receives is up to the physician, Maj. Johnson said. Jail staff cannot allow family or anyone else to provide medication for an inmate because staffers have no way to verify what it is, he said. In lawsuits, former inmates have complained that they cannot get access to the nurses and especially to the doctor. Maj. Johnson denies those charges. Inmates have access to medical care, and the medical staff is trained to deal with inmates incapable of asking for medical attention, he said. Dealing with mentally ill inmates is a huge issue for the medical and jail staffs, he said. There have been at least five suicides since 2001. According to GBI reports reviewed by The Chronicle , most had been on antidepressants. John O. Johnson was a 43-year-old repeat offender looking at life in prison if convicted of a series of armed robberies. After his May 21, 2003, arrest, he tried to choke himself to death with a shoestring and he banged his head into a wall. The jail put him on suicide watch. Mr. Johnson convinced the medical staff he was all right, according to the GBI report. He was moved to the special needs unit in a lock-down status, but he was allowed to have clothing and the normal items other inmates have. The morning after he was moved off suicide watch, Mr. Johnson was found hanging from a strip of bedsheet. He left handwritten copies of a will and testament and letters of apology to his mother and the mother of his children. He also left a note apologizing to the people of Richmond County for his crimes. According to a statement given by one of the nurses, Mr. Johnson swore he would kill himself because staff couldn't watch him all of the time. Though not many people have died in the county jails in recent years, the number shouldn't be the criterion for judging the quality of medical care, said Ms. Alexander, who has been with the ACLU Prison Project since 1981. The critical question is whether any of the deaths were preventable, Ms. Alexander said. The only way to know for sure is to examine the medical records, she said. If something went wrong, the problem needs to be understood and corrected, she said. She compared it to how the National Transportation Safety Board operates. Compared with the number of flights every year, the number of crashes is not statistically significant, but the board examines every accident to find out what happened and whether there was a problem that can be corrected to prevent another accident, she said. Though Mr. Koss' near-fatal head injury in December 2004 was exacerbated because of a delay in treatment, when Mr. Brunson struck his head in March 2008, the nurse took no action to determine whether the severely disabled and brain-damaged man might have had a brain injury, according to the GBI file. Mr. Brunson's family isn't seeking civil unrest or damages from lawsuits. They say they just wanted to know why he couldn't have been saved.

August 30, 2009 The Augusta Chronicle
Jamie Koss liked to drink, and his rap sheet indicates it was usually the reason the Vietnam War veteran found himself repeatedly behind bars. Not anymore. On Dec. 2, 2004, Mr. Koss lay unconscious on the cement floor of a jail cell for hours as his brain bled and swelled. He recovered, somewhat, and sued Richmond County, the sheriff and Correctional Medical Services, the company that has the contract to provide medical services at county jail facilities. Deputies booked Mr. Koss into jail about 6 p.m. for disorderly conduct. It didn't take him long to start an argument with inmate Gilbert Jacobs. He called Mr. Jacobs names and questioned his service during the Vietnam War. Mr. Jacobs responded by punching him once in the face. It knocked Mr. Koss off his feet. Mr. Jacobs and the other men in the holding cell would later tell Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents that Mr. Koss' head slammed on the concrete floor about 8 p.m. One of the men told Deputy David Copeland that Mr. Koss had been hurt, and the deputy could see Mr. Koss had blood on his face and head. The officer called nurse Nellie Williams, who looked at Mr. Koss from the doorway but did nothing else, according to the GBI report obtained by The Chronicle through the state's Open Records Act. Ms. Williams, a registered nurse, told investigators that no one told her Mr. Koss had been hurt. He was breathing OK and she thought he just needed to sleep off being drunk. A review of the jail video recording shows Ms. Williams at the cell door for about 30 seconds. Mr. Koss came to after a couple of hours on the floor, the other men in the cell told GBI agents. He got up onto one of the benches but fell off several times. About 3 a.m., when a deputy came to move the men out of the holding cell, he couldn't wake Mr. Koss. At the hospital, doctors operated on Mr. Koss. They warned jail staff that he might not make it, according to the investigative report. He did survive, however, after a month in the hospital and many more months in physical therapy. He is blind in one eye, unable to stand without support and cannot bathe or dress himself. The physician who treated Mr. Koss at University Hospital said the brain damage was exacerbated by the delay in getting medical care. In a March 30 decision, U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall wrote that Mr. Koss couldn't prove any jail or medical worker was deliberately indifferent, except perhaps Ms. Williams. Because she died in February 2005, Mr. Koss didn't have a federal case, Judge Hall ruled.

Savannah River Site
Augusta, Georgia
Wackenhut (Group 4)

July 25, 2012 Aiken Standard
A civil lawsuit against Wackenhut Services Inc. at the Savannah River Site claiming discrimination should proceed to trial, a U.S. magistrate judge recommended in federal court documents last week. Judge Paige Gossett recommended granting in part and denying in part motions for summary judgement in the case of Marvin Timothy Oerman, who filed a lawsuit in 2010 claiming he was demoted by former employer Wackenhut because he is white. The judge's July 17 recommendation said the lawsuit should proceed on a race discrimination claim, but not on a sex discrimination claim. "It is our understanding that the magistrate issued recommendations partly in our favor and partly against us," said WSI spokesperson Rob Davis. "If the recommendations are upheld, the case will proceed to trial on one of Mr. Oerman's claims." Davis said that Wackenhut continues to deny any discriminatory actions against Oerman. Oerman, who is no longer employed with Wackenhut, worked for the contractor for more than 25 years, and claims that he was demoted while a less experienced black male was selected for the position of manager of Wackenhut's training operations department. The complaint states Oerman later learned that another manager planned to leave the department, and that Randy Garver, general manager of WSI-SRS, did not post the position before choosing another black male with less experience. Oerman filed a second lawsuit in 2011 against Wackenhut claiming retaliation once it became known that he had filed the initial lawsuit. He claimed Wackenhut Services Inc. selected individuals on the basis of race and gender and has "instituted an ad hoc racial and gender quota system," according to the complaint. Court documents state that, according to Garver, "there were continuing performance failures at the barricades for which [Oerman] was responsible," and as a result, he selected a new manager to oversee perimeter protection and transferred Oerman elsewhere. "Unfortunately, there were a significant number of employees who lost jobs through downsizing at SRS over the last several years, and this is our only lawsuit related to that downsizing," Davis said.

July 27, 2010 Aiken Standard
A Caucasian man is claiming that he was the subject of racial discrimination at the hands of the security contractor at the Savannah River Site, Wackenhut Services Inc. (WSI). Marvin Timothy Oerman filed a complaint Monday in U.S. District Court, claiming that he was demoted from a management position, suffering loss of pay, stature and future career prospects in order to promote a minority employee. "Defendant's actions towards Plaintiff are consistent with its pattern and practice during the WSI-SRS reorganization, which targeted and impacted white males in a discriminatory and adverse manner," the suit reads. Oerman stated that he was a manager in WSI's training division at SRS, alongside two others - a white female and a black man who he identified only by sex and race. In early 2010, the suit states WSI-SRS began discussing a reorganization. In this, Oerman claims to have been told that more minority candidates were to be brought in at supervisory and management levels to compensate for upper management at the private security company being dominated by Caucasian males. Despite his experience and work record, individuals at WSI-SRS informed Oerman that he was not even considered for a manager position because of his race, and this was reaffirmed to him after an alternative candidate was put in place. "We have not received official notification of a lawsuit, but I can tell you that we are in full compliance with applicable legal requirements, and that there has been no discrimination," Rob Davis with external affairs for WSI-SRS said. "However, we do not comment on the specifics of pending or ongoing litigation." As the suit was only filed Monday, WSI was not officially served with it until Tuesday. The claim is not the first of race discrimination at the long-time SRS security contractor. Lagone Melton of Hephzibah, Ga., a black male, filed a federal claim against WSI in late 2009 claiming he was treated differently and more severely than white colleagues in similar disciplinary actions. WSI has denied all claims made by Melton in court filings. WSI has been SRS' security contractor since 1983 and recently signed a $989 million contract to continue to do so for the next decade.

June 16, 2010 WISTV
Wackenhut Services, Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $650,000 to resolve allegations that it defrauded the government for security services at the Savannah River Site. U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said the settlement resolves allegations that WSI submitted hundreds of thousands in expenses to be reimbursed by the Department of Energy from 2001 through 2005. The only problem, the government says, is that those expenses were expressly forbidden to be reimbursed. Nettles said expenses included, among other things, a charter boat cruise, a Polynesian drum show, and alcohol for WSI employees. The government contends that WSI violated both the False Claims Act and the Federal Acquisitions Regulations Act. The government says WSI submitted claims which included expressly unallowable costs under the and later said the claims did not include any expressly unallowable costs. The FAR also has separate penalties for violating its provisions which were resolved in this settlement. "This is a significant settlement," said Nettles. "When providing services paid for by the government, contractors must adhere to the requirements of the FAR."

December 22, 2009 Aiken Standard
A long-serving member of the Savannah River Site's military-style security force is suing his employer, claiming he was discriminated against because of his race. His former employer, however, states they fired him due to numerous arrests and his unwillingness to cooperate with Department of Energy physicians who were assessing his "fitness for duty." Lagone Melton of Hephzibah, Ga., filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Wackenhut Service Inc. recently, claiming he was treated differently and more severely than white colleagues in similar disciplinary actions. He further claims he was demoted, decertified and terminated when he raised the issue of racial discrimination to union officials. His former employer denies all of Melton's claims. Melton has been employed by the security firm since 1990 and has received positive performance evaluations since that time, he claims in his complaint. He was fired from his position on July 9, 2007, under what he believes are false pretenses. In December 2006, Melton was charged with reckless driving, he wrote in his complaint. After reporting this to his employer, they required Melton to attend alcohol and anger management treatment, he claims. "Other white employees of the same rank, SPO III, received driving under the influence charges but were not treated in the same manner as the plaintiff," Melton's complaint reads. "They were not required to enter into a treatment program." Court records show, as the defendants claim in their response, that Melton was arrested Dec. 24, 2006, and charged with DUI and weaving over the roadway, but it was reduced to reckless driving when Melton pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to two days in jail, probation and had his car fitted with an ignition interlock device which acts as a breathalyzer that will not allow someone over the legal alcohol limit to drive. Wackenhut officials state that this was not the first time Melton was arrested for DUI and that they ordered alcohol dependence and anger management classes at the behest of a clinical psychologist. "(The) plaintiff was arrested for driving under the influence in December 2006; he had been arrested on at least three previous occasions for (DUI) and on other occasions arrested for other misconduct, and, as a result, ... he was referred to an off-site clinical psychologist for evaluation for fitness for duty," the response states. An outspoken proponent of employees unionizing, Melton was made an administrator when the Local 125 organization was ratified in January 2007. He states in his complaint that he was targeted for termination after he expressed that African-American applicants were being "denied hire" and that Wackenhut "demonstrated unwillingness to work with African-American union executives." Wackenhut officials deny all of this charge.

March 12, 2008 Metro Spirit
When Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver and two other local mayors designated the Wackenhut Corporation a “business of character” last month in a big ceremony at Savannah River Site, it caused more than a few chuckles among people in the know. The mayors presented awards to Wackenhut, a paramilitary company with a security contract at SRS, because it takes part in the National Character First Program. While Moses was content with 10 laws, the National Character First Program lists 49 character traits, including every manager’s dream traits: docility, meekness and obedience. Companies that take part in the program receive training materials to emphasize a different character trait each month. Character traits include alertness and attentiveness. That would make sense after Wackenhut was fired late last year from all 10 of Exelon Corporation’s nuclear power plants after a TV news station obtained footage of Wackenhut guards sleeping on the job. The list includes compassion, which might have helped local resident Sandra Tobin when she was pulled over at SRS in 2005 with an expired vehicle registration. She alleges the Wackenhut guards used excessive force in her arrest and then illegally seized her vehicle. The issue was settled last year in federal court. Also on the list: truthfulness. That might have kept Wackenhut out of trouble before Miami-Dade County officials accused the company of billing the county for work it did not perform. A dose of forgiveness might have persuaded Wackenhut not to sue the Service Employees International Union under the civil provisions of the RICO statute for publicizing the stories of Wackenhut whistleblowers. Wackenhut has also been investigated for allegedly hiring felons without background checks, cheating on tests of nuclear security against mock attackers and retaliating against whistle blowers. Investigative reporter Greg Palast has called Wackenut’s privatized prisons “hell on earth.” The company was even too harsh on inmates by Texas standards. About a decade ago, Texas terminated its prison contract with Wackenhut after prison personnel were indicted for sexually abusing inmates. The mayor was unavailable for comment.

Stewart County Correctional Facility
Lumpkin, GA
CCA
Sep 16, 2014 theguardian.com

After a detention centre was built in one of Georgia’s poorest towns, the promised financial benefits never arrived. Instead thousands of immigrants are locked up, awaiting deportation Stewart immigration detention centre is situated on the outskirts of Lumpkin, Georgia, a ghost town seven days a week. Visitors and detainees arriving at the centre – capacity: 2,000, all male – are greeted by a huge painted sign on a water tank: “CCA: America’s Leader in Partnership Corrections.” I toured the centre, with the exception of the isolation ward, when I visited Georgia in August. Five men followed me everywhere: one from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the centre operator, and the rest from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It felt like overkill. They looked nervous the entire time, worried about my questions, worried something unexpected could happen and worried that I’d see something that would embarrass them. Down a long hallway, lit brightly with neon lights and smelling of paint and detergent, lines of inmates walked past me – some smiling, some waving and some looking forlorn. Despite the White House this year describing the surge of immigrants as an “urgent situation”, and privatised detention centres opening across America, Barack Obama continues to postpone his long-awaited immigration reforms, leaving many feeling betrayed. Since October last year, ICE has removed more than 100,000 people from the US. They are mostly Guatemalans, Hondurans and El Salvadorans who were in the US unlawfully – the three countries comprise roughly 29% of ICE removals federally. Just this year 70,000 children will arrive alone on America’s border, fleeing poverty and the US-led drug war in Central America. The average inmate stay at Stewart is only 38 days, far less than most prisons. It’s virtually impossible for the detainees to establish any sense of permanence. It’s positive that long-term detention is largely avoided, unlike in detention centres in Britain, Greece and Australia, but inmates are often moved from one facility to another while others with deep roots in America are deported back to their country of origin without transparency. They are numbers to be processed. Many inmates live in large, barred pods, with a maximum occupancy of 62. Others live in smaller rooms or the segregation unit. I spotted a few female CCA staff inside the pods with the male inmates. A sign next to one of the rooms read, “Upon Entering Detainee Pod All CCA Female Staff Will Announce Female in POD.” Another pod had its lights dimmed because the inmates started working in the kitchen at 5am and were resting. CCA pays US$4 per day for inmates to perform kitchen duties, and less for other jobs (barbers receive $2, for example). ICE was proud to tell me that the law only mandates the state paying $1 per day, so CCA is doing a fine job. Men in a different, brightly lit pod were laying on their bunk beds under blankets and sheets. A microwave, cable TV, sink, Playstation and Wii were inside. One man was wearing headphones to listen to the TV in front of him. Basins and toilets were behind a curtain. Metal tables and seats were fixed to the floor. “I’m not saying it’s like the Hilton here”, an ICE manager said. Signs in English and Spanish read, “Keep Detention Safe: ICE has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and assault”. A notice listed a phone number for inmates to call if they needed assistance. Telephones are available for inmates to call lawyers, embassies and friends, but the cost is exorbitant because of price gouging from companies making a fortune selling phone cards to inmates. It’s a hugely profitable business, just one of many markets to be exploited inside America’s incarceration system. The library was stocked with countless Bibles and romance novels. Detainees played soccer and basketball, both inside and outside under the bright, blue sky. They have two hours daily to enjoy the outdoors. In the medical centre I saw an inmate in an orange jumpsuit and orange Crocs shoes hooked up to a drip. The medical offer refused to tell me about his condition. I wondered if it’s sickness or something worse; a few months before my arrival detainees went on hunger strike after complaints about rotten food. As soon as I see him we’re moved on. I then passed a guard staring into a darkened cell. He was looking through a small window at an inmate sitting, looking straight ahead, with eyes wide open. He wasn’t handcuffed, but sat perfectly still in a flame retardant suicide smock, like a straitjacket. What exactly could he use to light himself when locked in a cell on his own, with the guard watching him like a hawk? The medical officer said that suicide watch wasn’t always necessary, but with the high rate of removals from Stewart a detainee’s state of mind was often fragile. Another door led to the centre’s own court, where claims by immigrants who wish to remain in the country were assessed. The courts are under the executive, not the judicial branch of government, and serious questions exist over their lack of accountability. Many decisions aren’t even written down, hearings are secretive and access to lawyers is difficult. Almost every immigrant brought before the court is issued a deportation order. Unlike America’s prison population, where drug and alcohol use and abuse are common, ICE told me that these problems don’t exist at Stewart. Throughout the visit I never saw any abuse, violence or racism. It was the ideal tour. My hosts were friendly and attentive, and dismissed the numerous inmate claims. One detainee I spoke to told me of racist taunting and abuse by guards, and boredom. He had heard about maggots in the food from a fellow detainee but hadn’t seen it himself. His own story was troubling, a migrant from Guyana in the 1970s facing deportation to a nation he hadn’t seen in 40 years.

Although both CCA and ICE claim the facility isn’t run like a private prison, in reality it operates like one. But according to Silky Shah, co-director of Detention Watch Network, CCA and other operating companies have only so much power. “They don’t have complete control,” she says. “Decisions are being made by politicians.” She is campaigning against a Congress-mandatedquota that dictates 34,000 immigrants must be imprisoned in ICE centres nightly; CCA is effective at lobbying to ensure ongoing contracts. A report released recently by some of America’s leading advocacy organisations found that ICE arrests in Georgia increased by “at least 953%” between the 2007 and 2013 financial years. Georgia’s rate of imprisoning immigrants was directly related to the colour of their skin: over that same period of time, only 1.6% of those detained by ICE were of “fair or light complexion”. Huge numbers of families have also been separated, including individuals who had been living in Georgia since at least 2003. On the day I arrived at Stewart, 1,766 detainees were behind bars, the vast majority from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala, with 60 other countries represented. Shah’s organisation believes that “private interests should not be involved” in the detention business. But privatised incarceration is only one profitable area of commerce. She worries that companies selling ankle monitoring and surveillance will benefit if Obama even moderately reduces the number of people in detention. “We believe in abolishing all detention centres in US”, Shah says. “At the moment, the burden is on the detainee to prove why they should stay but the burden should be on the government to justify expulsion. They should assess if the immigrant has community support.” Out in Lumpkin, the streets were deserted. The shops on Main Street were mostly empty, paint fraying on the window panes. A taxidermy outlet was one of the few open businesses. The town, in one of America’s poorest counties, is all but unknown to most Americans. Its population barely breaks 1,000. I met a man in his 20s, either high or drunk, who was hanging out at a petrol station with his friends. He had a tattoo on his bare chest: “Me Against The World.” He told me he’s been living in Miami. “It’s so much better there,” he said. He was only there for a short visit. The town’s dwindling youth population are leaving for greener pastures in bigger cities nearby. CCA started building Stewart in 2004, and sold the idea to ICE and the local community years later as both an economic benefit for local residents and a deterrent in a state traditionally hostile to immigrants. Although the company’s 2014 financial results were strong, the benefits never arrived in Lumpkin. Many staff members don’t live in the town, but commute from more viable cities. Lumpkin reminds me of crumbling towns next to other detention facilities I’ve seen in Australia, Britain and Greece. The same failed promises from the same centre companies and state authorities were made in those nations too. The economic promise of a local detention centre is usually a lie. Even in the detention centre itself CCA’s own employees struggle financially. I met one guard who was selling potato crisps, bottled water and chocolates to raise money from staff to support struggling CCA employees around the country. Although it’s admirable that people want to help, it’s revealing that the company doesn’t raise wages, but instead facilitates the sale of junk food. In tough circumstances this kind of charity is often all people have. In Lumpkin, a small, Christian-run volunteer group, El Refugio, supports the visitors and families of detainees coming to the town. They operate a house over weekends very close to Stewart detention centre and offer free meals, accommodation, clothes and shoes – and comfort. When I pay a visit one Saturday, a few days before my official tour inside Stewart, people from Atlanta and Columbus are providing a compassionate ear to an inmate. The conversation goes on for around an hour, with some hearing horrific stories. One man, Greg, tells me that “many Americans think anyone who enters America ‘illegally’ should be deported but we want to show a different side of people.” One of the group’s founders, Katie Beno Valencia, says El Refugio remains committed to shutting down any facility that makes money from misery. This kind of humanity is sorely missing from America’s immigration debate, defined by toxic rhetoric from many Republicans and timidity from Democrats. Adelina Nicholls, executive director of Georgia Latino Alliance For Human Rights, doesn’t believe America wants to solve its immigration issues. “US people often care more about hunger in Ethiopia then poor Guatemalans here”, she told me at her office on the outskirts of Atlanta. As a key representative of the large Latino community in Georgia, Nicholls sees the effect immigration detention has on individuals and families. “Stewart detention centre hurts us deeply and many detainees inside have been in the US for years,” she says. “They ask, ‘Why are gringos doing this to us?’ These workers have been employed for years in farms and restaurants and anger is growing. We are trying to mobilise resistance and civil disobedience.” Her organisation receives at least 600 calls a month on its hotline, mostly Latinos asking for help. “It’s hard getting effective pro-bono lawyers here”, she tells me. “There are overly high bails for our clients ... it’s a racist mindset [in Georgia]. It’s white supremacy with its concerns over brown people. It’s more profitable to behave this way.” I saw just how profitable the industry can be when I visited the American Correctional Association conference in Salt Lake City in August. The five-day event brings America’s prison industry, wardens, county officials and lobbyistsunder one roof. As America shifts slowly but noticeably away from mass incarceration towards privatised probation, half-way houses and surveillance, new markets emerge. CCA’s CEO, Damon Hininger, has noted that his company is “well-positioned for growth opportunities”. At Salt Lake City everything is on show: surveillance devices, Swat team uniforms, weapons, plastic e-cigarettes for inmates, drug-testing kits and prisoner-made furniture. Green prison designers and service contractors offer their services to public officials eager to spend tax dollars. These are people who look at America’s prison and immigration system and see dollar signs. One night at an outdoor rooftop party I spoke to a man who works at GTL, a provider of communication and technology to prisons. The company’s website describes itself as a “corrections innovation leader”. He said he loves his job because he embraces new technology and revels in the chance to promote it. “This industry hasn’t changed for over 100 years because of men who didn’t see any need to do so”, he said. “But new technology is forcing these shifts and my generation is at the forefront of it.”


Jun 29, 2014 atlantaprogressivenews.com

(APN) ATLANTA -- Hundreds of Inmates at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia staged a hunger strike because of deplorable conditions at the Center.   It began last week when inmates refused to eat spoiled food with maggots in the beans and instead threw the food away. "They were locked up and pepper strayed because of the hunger strike, that's why it only lasted one day," a family member told Atlanta Progressive News. APN granted anonymity to the family member, who wants to remain anonymous so her husband will not be retailed against, for her talking to the press. ICE said the food at Stewart meets federal standards and is monitored by a registered dietitian; meanwhile, state health inspectors gave Stewart's dining facility a 96 percent score in April 2014, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported. Reports from inmates and family members tell a different story.  Numerous reports have surfaced about unsanitary conditions in the kitchen, which is infested with roaches; and maggots, which have been found in the food.  Food that is several days old and unfit to eat is served to inmates. Instead of cleaning up the kitchen and throwing away the spoiled food, the Detention Center put the entire facility on a 24 hour lock down.  According to reports, immigrants in Unit 6, where the hunger strike started, were locked down longer. Also, the air conditioning is cut off at night and inmates are forced to sleep in the sweltering south Georgia summer heat.  Many of the showers have no hot water while others don't work at all. "My husband has to beg for toilet paper.  They are screamed at and treated like animals.  They don't want to give them hygiene products, so they can keep clean," a family member told APN. Stewart is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of Americans (CCA,) a for-profit private prison, and manages everything but health care at Stewart.  The health care is managed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to CCA reports obtained by National Public Radio, the corporation believes that immigration detention is its next big growth market, as reported by APN in 2011. "Obviously there is a profit motive there to cut down on the cost of operating the facility and maximize the profits for the corporation.  Immigrants work in the kitchen and perform chores and labor at the facility.  Instead of paying minimum wage, the corporation pays them one to three dollars a day… often not providing safe working conditions, which in the past has lead to injuries for immigrants in the kitchen," Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project Director, American Civil Liberties Union/Georgia, told APN. CCA's revenue rose more than 60 percent over the last decade, and its stock price climbed to more than 30 dollars from less than three dollars a share. Last year, the company made 301 million dollars in net income, according to earning reports, as reported in the New York Times newspaper. The medical care is not any better.  With only one doctor for 1,750 men.  The medical department is understaffed and it often takes days or weeks for medical requests to be answered, if at all.  The closest hospital is in Columbus, Georgia, almost one hour away. One detained immigrant explained, in an ACLU report, that he has nerve damage from an auto accident that occurred prior to his detention.  He was receiving prescription medication for the nerve pain, but at Stewart, he is given only Ibuprofen that does not work well for nerve pain. Stewart has been the site of protests for seven years, as reported several times by APN.  Hundreds of people make the pilgrimage to the remote southwest Georgia facility each year to protest the inhumane conditions.  It has been named by Detention Watch Network and other national organizations as one of the ten worst facilities in the country. "When the guards are searching, they destroy their personal belongings.  If they have a little radio, they throw it to the side and sometimes it breaks.  If they have a bag of chips, they will crush it and destroy their food," a family member said. In 2010, APN reported that Georgia Detention Watch cited conditions at Stewart including poor or no healthcare, no full-time doctor, deplorable food, lack of legal resources, physical and verbal abuse, and few bi-lingual staff.  Looks like four years later not much has changed, except now they finally have a doctor. The ACLU of Georgia, after a three-year investigation based on interviews with 68 immigrants in detention facilities in Georgia, family members, immigration attorneys and review of documents obtained from the government, has released a new report, “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia.”  The report concludes that Stewart has consistently failed to provide basic medical care, hygienic conditions, or adequate, edible food for those in detention. "After twenty months away from home, you lose faith, you feel worthless, this place breaks you, it is made to break your soul.  The constant screaming and verbal abuse the guards inflict on the detainees is just made to break your soul and handicap you," Pedro Guzman, former inmate at Stewart, said in the ACLU report. The reports recommends that ICE should stop detaining immigrants at this facility, given the extent of the violations and the remote location of Stewart Detention Center. Unfortunately, abuse, poor food, and next-to no health care appears to be rampant throughout the penal system in Georgia. Through interviews with released inmates, family members, and advocates, including at several meetings on mass incarceration in Georgia, APN has learned about widespread conditions of inadequate health care, unidentifiable food, and abuse in county jails, state prisons, as well as private, for-profit corporate prisons.


Jun 19, 2014 ajc.com

A complaint last week about the quality of the food at an immigration detention center in South Georgia led to a riot involving more than two dozen detainees who had to be restrained and then “segregated for disciplinary purposes.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement disclosed the incident in a prepared statement issued Thursday in response to concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch. In a news release issued Thursday, the civil and immigrant rights groups alleged detainees mounted a hunger strike last week at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin. Repeating their requests for the government to close the center, the ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch also alleged unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care at Stewart. “Discontent has long been brewing over the poor quality of the food, desperately inadequate medical care, and unlivable conditions,” the ACLU said in its news release. ICE denied there was a hunger strike at Stewart, which is operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. “On June 9, a detainee incited a disturbance in one of the facility’s housing pods, charging poor quality of food,” ICE said. “A group of ICE officials and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) managers went to the affected pod and talked to the detainees about their concerns. Despite significant attempts to diffuse the issue, 27 detainees in one pod had to be restrained and then segregated for disciplinary purposes.” ICE said the food at the Stewart meets federal standards and is monitored by a registered dietitian. A health inspector looked into an anonymous tip about maggots in the food at Stewart but didn’t find any, the federal agency said. State health inspectors gave Stewart’s dining facility a 96 percent score following an April inspection, ICE said. ICE added the government provides “excellent medical care through the dedicated service of more than 60 professionals assigned to the facility, including a full-time physician.”

March 27, 2012 AP
The widow of a Mexican citizen who died while in immigration custody in south Georgia has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Sara Hernandez-Gonzalez. Roberto Medina-Martinez died in March 2009 after having been held for about a month at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. An autopsy showed he died of myocarditis, an inflammatory heart disease. The lawsuit alleges the medical staff at the Stewart Detention Center, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the same company that runs a similar facility in Gainesville, was negligent and didn't provide proper medical care to Medina-Martinez. It seeks $1 million in damages for his wife.

May 18, 2011 Huffington Post
On Tuesday, for the first time in 19 months, Pedro Guzman left Stewart Detention Center, a privately run facility where he was housed while fighting deportation. The Lumpkin, Ga., detention center is one of many run by Corrections Corporation of America, a prison giant that believes its next major market is immigrant detentions. Georgia may be its next frontier. The state's anti-illegal immigration bill, styled after Arizona's SB 1070, was signed into law last week. The result could be more immigrants in detention -- and more profits for CCA, which has been accused of mistreating detainees and cutting down on amenities to improve profits. CCA, as reported by NPR last year, was in the room when SB 1070 author Russell Pearce, now Arizona state Senate president, unveiled his plans for the bill at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Guzman said he saw firsthand how CCA makes its money by spending as little as possible on the men and women in detention centers. "There’s so much money they make from us, but they’re not investing any money in detainees," he said in an interview. "The treatment you get is like you’re an animal. I have two dogs, and I treat my dogs much better than the detainees are treated in there." Guzman, who turns 31 on Thursday, moved to the United States from Guatemala with his mother when he was 8 years old. He is married to an American, Emily Guzman, and is the father of a 4-year-old citizen named Logan. For about a year an a half, the Guzman family was separated by the immigrant detention system. The difficulties of communication from the CCA-run facility made the separation worse. Guzman was granted a green card on Monday, and will be allowed to stay in the United States under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, which allows some immigrants from Guatemala to stop deportation proceedings. But he said he is "still healing" from the 19-month detention, during which he said detainees were yelled at, crammed into close quarters and given little communication with the outside world. He was never convicted of a crime, but Guzman said he was treated like a prisoner, despite an effort launched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in October 2009 to make detention centers less punitive. Detainees in the Stewart Detention Center stay in "pods," where 62 men sleep in bunk beds about two feet apart, Guzman said. In the center of the room are about six tables, where the men can eat food they buy from the commissary. Guzman said he saw some physical abuse, mostly when guards were provoked by detainees who talked back. More common, though, was verbal abuse. Many of the guards yelled at detainees regularly, creating an atmosphere of near-constant screaming in the pods. "It’s just made to break your soul and handicap you," Guzman said. He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials discouraged detainees from pushing for an individual response to their case, because the high-level of deportations requires most to go through courts where a judge rules on several cases at a time. "They’re not there to help you," Guzman said. "Ninety percent of the officers will tell you you have no chance to fight, just go to court and we will remove you and take care of the rest." With new detainees entering every night, guards changed the rules and procedures often, creating confusion and tension for long-term detainees like Guzman. He said a major source of stress was a new phone system implemented midway through his detention that prevented him from calling his mother in Mexico. Calls within the United States were expensive, and phone cards only allowed him to talk for about 11 minutes. When his family visited, they had to talk to Guzman through a glass barrier. Now, Guzman has been reunited with his family. On Wednesday evening, they were driving home to North Carolina. "I felt like I was never going to get out of there and like I was never going to be in the U.S. again," he said. "Many times I felt like quitting, just giving up. But changes can happen."

May 10, 2011 AccessNorthGA
About 30 people attended a candlelight vigil Monday night outside the immigrant detention center in Gainesville for a Salvadoran immigrant who died there last week. Georgia Detention Watch sponsored the vigil. Organizers say 54-year-old Miguel Hernandez collapsed and died after being returned to the North Georgia Detention Center on Main Street after being treated for a blood clot. A spokesman said the group is calling for "accountability" from the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which operates the detention center. Georgia Detention Watch says Hernandez is the second death it is aware of in recent years at a CCA-operated facility in Georgia. The group said ICE and CCA have yet to provide answers about the death of 39-year-old Roberto Martinez Medina at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin which happened more than two years ago.

June 2, 2010 Georgia Public Broadcasting
For one West Georgia County this year’s census could bring a windfall of federal money. That’s because of the number of illegal immigrants it detains. Stewart County has a less than 5-thousand people, but following the census their numbers will swell. 17-hundred illegal immigrants being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin will be counted as residents even though they stay in the facility less than two months. Stewart County Commission Chair Joe Williams says the Corrections Corporation of America which operates the facility, also gives the county a daily fee for each inmate and provides jobs. “They pay property tax and they spend money here in the county. Their payroll comes through our local bank.” The county could receive around 15-hundred federal dollars for each detainee, be eligible for more government grants and greater representation in Congress.

December 3, 2009 Workers World
Some 100 people gathered at the town square in Lumpkin, Ga., on Nov. 20 to protest the conditions at the nearby Stewart Detention Center, a privately owned prison that holds 1,800 immigrants awaiting deportation. Operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America, the facility is located almost two miles outside of Lumpkin in an isolated area. Following a series of speeches by immigrant rights activists and a former employee of the detention center, the crowd marched to the gates of the prison, where three large buses blocked the view of the complex. Undeterred, the protesters held a memorial service for Roberto Martinez Medina, a 39-year-old worker from Mexico who died in March from a treatable heart infection after his pleas for medical assistance were ignored by prison staff. More than 100 immigrants have died while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the last few years. The action was organized by the Georgia Detention Watch and supported by numerous groups, including the SOA Watch.

June 12, 2009 AP
An autopsy shows a detainee at a federal immigration detention center in south Georgia died of natural causes. Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said Thursday 39-year-old Roberto Martinez Medina died of myocarditis, an inflammatory heart disease. Martinez, a Mexican national, was being held at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin - which is operated by the same company that plans to open a similar facility in Gainesville, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Martinez died March 11 at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. A coalition of immigrant rights and civil rights groups planned to hold a vigil Thursday in front of the Atlanta headquarters of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The groups are demanding accountability and transparency from the agency. Martinez's death was one of the issues they wanted information about.

June 11, 2009 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On March 11, a 39-year-old man held in detention at the Stewart Detention Center, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in southwest Georgia, died at a hospital in Columbus. To this day, the immediate cause of Roberto Martinez Medina’s death remains unclear (a press release pronounced the cause of death as “apparent natural causes”). Last month, Leonard Odom, 37, died at the Wheeler County Correctional Facility in south-central Georgia. Both facilities are operated by Corrections Corp. of America, which has a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to operate the Stewart center and one with the Georgia Department of Corrections to operate the one in Wheeler County. The DOC has not released additional information about the death of Odom, due to an ongoing investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. What sets apart the deaths of these two men held at CCA-operated facilities is the difference in official responses. In the case of the death at the immigration detention facility, there have been no further explanations regarding what may have prompted the death — much less an official investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was created as a part of Homeland Security in 2003 to consolidate immigration enforcement. Medina’s tragic death marks the latest in the mounting number of immigrant deaths in the custody of CCA, the largest corporation in the business of for-profit detention. From October 2003 through Feb. 7, 2009, 18 people died in immigration detention custody in facilities operated by CCA alone, according to information from The New York Times. Yet ICE has failed repeatedly to hold CCA accountable. Instead, the federal agency continues to reward CCA with additional contracts, most recently for operation of the North Georgia Detention Center in Hall County. The CCA’s track record should come as no surprise to those who read the report issued in April by Georgia Detention Watch, a coalition of several organizations and individuals advocating an end to unjust and inhumane immigration detention and local enforcement practices. The report was based on interviews with 16 detainees during a humanitarian visitation coordinated by Georgia Detention Watch in December 2008. The report uses ICE’s own Performance Based National Detention Standards to evaluate conditions at Stewart. Even compared to ICE’s own nonbinding standards, conditions at the CCA-operated facility can best be described as grossly inadequate. Members of Georgia Detention Watch and partner organizations have requested on several occasions to meet with ICE to discuss the findings of the report, but have gotten no response. Georgia Detention Watch is not alone in demanding answers and accountability for immigrant deaths in U.S. detention. The United Nations Expert on Extrajudicial Killings, Philip Alston, who toured the United States on a fact-finding mission in June 2008 on a mandate to investigate killings in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, recently released a report demanding greater transparency and swift and public investigations for deaths in immigration detention. Today marks three months since the death of Medina. ICE has yet to provide any answers regarding why this man died in detention. Neither have Georgia Detention Watch members been provided with an opportunity to meet with ICE representatives to discuss the mounting concerns regarding the treatment of immigrants at the CCA-run Stewart. With the prospect for yet another CCA-run immigrant detention facility in Hall County, these concerns become especially urgent. If ICE’s oversight of the CCA operation of Stewart is any guide, we can expect yet another facility funded by taxpayers held to no standards at all.

April 11, 2009 AP
Immigrant rights groups released a report Friday criticizing what they call "grossly inadequate" conditions at a federal immigration detention center in southwest Georgia and recommending changes. The report by Georgia Detention Watch complains about food and medicine being withheld as punishment, trips to solitary confinement without a disciplinary hearing and insufficient working toilets, among other things. The report, based on interviews with 16 detainees during a humanitarian visit organized by Georgia Detention Watch in December, was released at a news conference in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Atlanta. Georgia Detention Watch is an Atlanta-based coalition of immigrant rights groups and individuals. Some treatment described by detainees "may reflect violations of ICE's national detention standards and basic protections guaranteed by the federal Constitution and international human rights standards," the report says. The report comes about a month after Roberto Martinez Medina, a 39-year-old Mexican citizen detainee at Stewart, died at a hospital in nearby Columbus on March 11. ICE spokesman Ivan Ortiz said the agency is still awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine cause of death. Some attendees at the news conference wore black T-shirts that said "Why did Roberto Martinez Medina die in detention?" Azadeh Shahshahani, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who wore one of the shirts, said she didn't know if he received inadequate medical care but speculated his and other detainee deaths may have been preventable with better care. The detention center in Lumpkin, in rural southwest Georgia, is operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest private prison firm. CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant referred questions to ICE. "The care and treatment some detainees receive does not yet meet our shared expectation of excellence. We all agree this is reason for concern," the agency said in a statement.

September 22, 2008 Galeo.org
Prisoners at the privately contracted Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia have the right to have qualified leadership supervising over them. Recently it has been discovered that the for profit prison company contracted to supervise these prisoners at the Stewart Detention Center may be promoting people with fake college records from a very well known diploma mill. The Stewart Detention Center is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (Headquartered in Nashville, TN). Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) has previously stated that “No contender for a job— whether it’s in the private sector or federal government—should lose out to a candidate because that candidate holds a bogus degree.” This was in response to the findings of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation into fake college degree's being bought in order to fake qualifications for government jobs ( http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm ? Fuseaction=PressReleases.View&PressRelease_id=c0e23155-0de5-4fa7-9617-f70899351078&Affiliation=R). This issue was initially raised in March of 2004 when Laura Callahan was named to the position of Deputy CIO of the Department of Homeland Security. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security. An investigation found that Laura Callahan and other government employees had purchased fake degree's and succeeded in getting key government positions. It appears that at least one Assistant Warden employed by Corrections Corporation of America at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA has bought his degree from one of the most well known fake degree mill's currently in operation. Corrections Corporation of America's own website ( http://www.correctperspectives.com/story.cfm?id=286 ) shows that Assistant Warden Charlie Peterson holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ashwood University. Ashwood Universities website states "We recognize 100% of the work or life experience of our students" ( http://www.ashwooduniversity.net/ ). In other words you do not need to take any tests or study at all to receive one of their college degree's. One can assume that Stewart Detention Center Assistant Warden Charlie Peterson only had to pay the $239.00 fee in order to receive a degree.

April 13, 2007 Albany Herald
The Americus-based Prison & Jail Project and the LaGrange-based Alterna nonprofit advocacy community will hold a demonstration outside the Stewart County Detention Center in Lumpkin Saturday to protest reports of poor medical care and food at the facility. The vigil is being held in response to a hunger strike prisoners staged last month to protest what they said was mistreatment of immigrants housed at the 1,500-bed detention center. “Any time prisoners stage a hunger strike, risking further punishment or retaliation by prison authorities, there has to be something terribly wrong with the prison,” Prison & Jail Project Director John Cole Vodicka said in a phone interview. “We want the authorities to know that there are people out here who will not tolerate prisoner neglect and abuse. “We can’t verify all the charges that have been made at the facility, but its isolation — and we can’t say whether that’s deliberate or not — certainly enhances the possibilities. It certainly makes it difficult for detainees to have access to legal counsel and for their families to visit them.” The detention center, located in rural Stewart County, was built by the private Corrections Corporation of America, which contracts with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to house undocumented immigrants arrested in all sections of the country. A spokesperson for CCA said most of the detainees are awaiting deportation hearings. “People need to understand, this is not a prison, it’s a detention facility,” Steve Owen, spokesperson for Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA, said in a phone interview. “We hold the detainees for ICE until they determine their (immigration) status or deport them. Of course, some countries don’t readily take their citizens back, so we sometimes have to find other countries willing to take them.”

March 30, 2007 Immigration News Briefs
More than 1,000 immigration detainees held a two-day hunger strike at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, according to the consul general of El Salvador in Georgia, Asdrubal Aguilar. The Atlanta Latino newspaper reported the protest in a March 22 article, but did not say when it took place. The facility is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under contract with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Aguilar said the Salvadoran consulate received as many as 600 calls in one day from detainees reporting the protest and complaining about conditions. The consulate sent staff members to the detention center and interviewed 40 detainees. Aguilar reported that detainee Oscar Armando Castaneda Lopez was beaten by CCA guards after clashing with a guard who tried to force him to eat. Castaneda was punished with 45 days in "the hole," an isolation unit. After the hunger strike, authorities transferred the women detainees at Stewart to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama. Guillermo Antonio Carpio, a 70-year old detainee at Stewart, told the consulate he is HIV-positive and has Parkinson's disease and diabetes, yet is denied adequate food and medical care at Stewart. Carpio said when he has medical problems needing attention, it generally takes two to four days before he can see a doctor. Another detainee, Carlos Antonio Alfaro, said he suffers from attacks of schizophrenia which must be controlled with medication, but since being detained he has not had access to medication and his condition has worsened. Jose Saul Hernandez Argueta, also detained at Stewart, said he and his wife were arrested last October in a raid on a Houston meatpacking plant. Their only son, who was eight years old and suffered from asthma, was at school when his parents were arrested; he was sent to live with his uncle and aunt, who were unfamiliar with his treatment needs. Hernandez said his son's asthma grew worse and he died three weeks ago from complications of the condition. "My wife is currently in an immigration jail in Texas, and I don't even know if she knows about our son," said Hernandez. (Atlanta Latino, March 22)

December 19, 2006 The Ledger-Enquirer
Stewart County has experienced a steady population decline during every decade since 1900. County and city officials expect to reverse that, but one factor stands in the way of a community hoping to lure more people to the rural county: Crime. "I had a problem with a drug neighborhood between the courthouse and Westville when I was executive director there," said Stewart County Manager Mac Moye. "It was affecting Westville visitation. I won't say anybody was in danger. People were wary when they went through it. "We have a lot going for Stewart County," he said. "Property values are up. Our schools have made significant progress in the last few years. The Corrections Corporation of America prison opened in October, adding some 311 jobs, including some 50 held by local citizens. We have Apex, a modular home company, which located in Richland. They have 58 employees and hope to have 150 by June. We have every reason to expect Fort Benning is going to have major impact on this county in the next five years.

September 30, 2006 Ledger-Enquirer
There is something morally repugnant about making a profit on someone else's brokenness. It's not that the prisons in the state of Georgia don't do that, but there is some incentive for the state not to fill every prison bed, said John Cole Vodicka, director of the Prison & Jail Project, a watchdog organization in Americus, Ga. But when you have a company operating a prison that needs to fill up every cell in order to turn a profit that meets their shareholders expectations, there is absolutely no incentive to reduce that population or to figure out ways to get people out of that prison, said Cole Vodicka. Jim Wetherington, former commissioner of the Department of Corrections, said the state opted for private prisons because it's cheaper, but he also has reasons for not favoring for-profit facilities. "I never was in favor of private prisons because they don't offer the services we offer in state prisons. They don't go in depth on the rehabilitation as the state does, and they have fewer guards," said Wetherington, who is a candidate for mayor of Columbus, and the city's former police chief. Cole Vodicka said he understands officials' desperate need for jobs and to bring their county up and out of poverty. "Stewart County is one of the poorest counties in the state -- one of the poorest counties in the Deep South," he said. "At the same time, I think they are being sold a bill of goods. I think ultimately what's going to happen is that a lot of the jobs at the prison will be filled by people who do not live in Stewart County right now, and won't choose to live there once they get jobs at the prison," Cole Vodicka said. Failing public? Frank Smith agreed. Smith, who is national field organizer for Private Corrections Institute, contacted me after reading "For profit prisons fail public." It was Tuesday's column about the Corrections Corporation of America's upcoming job fair. CCA runs for-profit corrections facilities. "People call this the Prison Industrial Complex. They recruit guys who are wardens in state penitentiaries. The corporations bring in the big shots. And pay the guards low wages," said Smith, who said he got involved with for-profit prisons about 15 years ago in Alaska. At that time, he said, Alaska wanted to send 320 prisoners to Texas. Smith referenced a 1970s study in which researchers looked at prisoners who, in the last year of incarceration, had zero, one, two or three visitors. They found that the people who had no visitors had a recidivism rate six times that of people who had three or more visitors. Researchers defined visitors as different people. One person who visited a prisoner three times counted as one visitor, said Smith, a social worker, who had contracted with Alaska department of corrections to provide substance abuse treatment. Smith also recalled an incident in which a for-profit prison in Oklahoma was emptied because Wisconsin officials removed the prisoners. "Wisconsin insisted on a deal so that prisoners didn't lose contact with their families back home. The prison couldn't negotiate for a reasonable phone rate, so Wisconsin pulled all the prisoners. And the prison sat empty for about three years," he said. Cole Vodicka said most of the prisoners in the Stewart County facility are going to be those who either haven't been in the country very long or are in this country illegally: "This means folks working there will encounter folks not like themselves. Different culture. Different language. That immediately raises some concerns about how well trained these prison employees will be." Prison employees will live in Columbus. They'll live in Albany. And they'll live in Alabama. But they are not going to choose to live in Stewart County, which needs a lot more help with its infrastructure than they are going to get from the Corrections Corporation of America, Cole Vodicka said. "There may be a gas station or a restaurant that will get a few dollars because the prison is there," he said. "And maybe a few people will choose to live in Lumpkin. But by and large, Lumpkin will be known as a prison town. The prison is a mile from the courthouse square." Contact Kaffie Sledge at 706-571-8585 or ksledge@ledger-enquirer.com

September 26, 2006 Ledger-Enquirer
Though disturbing, the ad for Corrections Corporation of America seems to have appeared right on time. Georgia has an obvious need for more prison beds -- for sex offenders and illegal immigrants -- otherwise what are Gov. Sonny Perdue and challenger Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor telling us in their ads? Set boldly at the bottom right corner of Sunday's classified section, the announcement of a CCA job fair got my full attention. The problem with for-profit prisons such as CCA is the only people who benefit are CCA stockholders. CCA's job is not about correcting behavior, reuniting families or contributing anything to the community other than some low-paying, high-turnover jobs. "Our experience with any of these private prisons is that the prisons are poorly operated," said John Cole Vodicka, director of the Prison & Jail Project, a watchdog organization in Americus, Ga. "The guard force is poorly trained, unable to react in a positive way to the prisoner population. It seems the mindset is to implement whatever cost-cutting measures you can implement, so that the profit margin is great." It's a business to Corrections Corporation of America. They are not looking at how to change lives or restore lives and send people back into the community. CCA is looking at filling up those cages to make a profit. "Outsourcing is becoming more and more the norm," Cole Vodicka said. "Entities such as CCA come into a community and say, 'We can do this cheaper. You will not have to spend as much money, if you contract with us.' "This may or may not be true. I don't know that there's any data out there to show that this is true. But again, these folks are in it for the money. And it's seductive in our poor communities, which make up the bulk of rural southwest Georgia." Our responsibility. If we choose to build prisons and fill up prisons and operate prisons, it should be the citizens' responsibility. We shouldn't just give it up to some private entity that really has no interest in the welfare of our community, Cole Vodicka said. The Stewart County facility, for example, will warehouse people labeled as "criminal illegal immigrants." Some of the alleged crimes committed by these immigrants amount to being in this country illegally. Period. Does illegal entry into the U.S. warrant being sent to Lumpkin, Ga., where nobody knows your name or your language, and your friends and family won't have a clue as to your whereabouts? When prisoners are shipped off to be warehoused, Cole Vodicka said, their sentences become indefinite. "In such instances, there is absolutely no way for prisoners to maintain contact with families and lawyers," he said. "People can get lost. They enter the country illegally, get picked up by law enforcement and sent to Lumpkin. Lumpkin has nothing in place to provide assistance to immigrants. Lumpkin has little in place to assist its own." Contact Kaffie Sledge at 706-571-8585 or ksledge@ledger-enquirer.com

April 14, 2003
A dispute over the price the state will pay for a 1,600-bed private prison in Stewart County led lawmakers Monday to delete $40 million in bonds that could be used to buy the facility.  The House-passed $16 billion budget approved by a 114-63 vote goes to the Senate without funding for the purchase of the prison near Lumpkin from Corrections Corp. of America.  "We just can't agree on a purchase price right now," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Buck, D-Columbus, told colleagues as he explained details of the proposed state budget for the year beginning July 1.  "The state thinks the price ought to be 'X,' and those that started construction think it ought to be 'Y,' " Buck said. "We're just going to have to take another look at that next year."  Corrections Corp. of America, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company, reports it has invested about $35 million in the prison. It stopped construction after the state announced it was no longer interested in using privately operated prisons to accommodate the burgeoning prison population.  (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

January 19, 2003
Gov. Sonny Perdue included $40 million in bond money in his budget to buy and complete a 1,524-bed private prison near Lumpkin in west Georgia.  The prison has lain dormant and unfinished since June2000 when the state told CCA of Nashville, Tenn., it was no longer interested in using a privately run prison facility.  A state assessment Dec. 2 estimated construction is only about 50 percent complete.  (AP)

Telfair County Jail
Telfair, Georgia
CCA

Many state and local officials went to prison Wednesday, and they couldn't have been happier.  Just days before the first inmates arrive, Corrections Corp. of America held a dedication ceremony for its new $60 million, 1,500-bed prison in Telfair county.  But Wednesday's opening was a long time coming.  The company struggled to get an inmate contract while the completed prison sat vacant for more than a year.  In May, The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced it would fill the facility with criminal aliens, most of whom will be Hispanic.    Speakers at the ceremony included Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, House Speaker-nominee Terry Coleman and the company's CEO, John Ferguson.  (Telegraph Staff Writer)

Valdosta-Lowndes County
Valdosta, Georgia
CCA

March 16, 2012 WCTV
The Corrections Corporation of America is not extending their agreement with the Valdosta Lowndes County Industrial Authority. That agreement was to construct and operate a corrections facility in Lowndes County. Negotiations began in 2010. The initial agreement allowed for three extension terms to purchase the land. That extension officially expired on Tuesday March 13. The Valdosta Lowndes County Industrial Authority Executive Director Andrea Schruijer said "The contract that we currently had in way or the purchase and development agreement that we had is null and void at this point." One of the reasons why the Corrections Corporation of America may not have extended the agreement is because Georgia's prison population is down. But that doesn't mean Lowndes County wouldn't have benefited from the project. Schruijer went on to say "It would have been a huge economic impact. There were about 400 jobs associated with the project with approximately $150 million dollars in capital investment."

February 29, 2012 WCTV
Plans for a new private prison in Lowndes County are in jeopardy as Georgia's inmate population declines. The prison would be built by Corrections Corporation of America, known as CCA. It would create about 400 new jobs. If CCA was to move forward with construction it would potentially invest $120 million dollars in the project. The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ashley Paulk said he has "not seen any movement towards the state of Georgia leasing any more prisons right now because they don't have a need for them." There is no set date as to when the prison may be built.

February, 27, 2012 On The Lake Front
CCA has a contract to buy the private prison site from a private landowner. But who did that landowner get the site from? The Industrial Authority! And the sale prices involved are rather interesting: the landowner gets almost 100% profit in five years. One person I showed them to immediately said, "sweetheart deal." What do you think? The Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA) bought the site back in 1998 for $1,243,200, and sold it to the landowner in 2007 for 1,463,512, which is an increase of about 18% in almost 10 years or about 2% per year. CCA can buy it from the landowner in 2012 for $2,907,000, for an increase of 99% in about five years or almost 20% per year. Which is far more than the 20% in five years or about 4% per year shown by the assessed value. And this remarkable surge in the price of that land is during the worst real estate market since the Great Depression. Does this look like a sweetheart deal to you?

Wheeler Correctional Facility
Wheeler County, Georgia
CCA
May 23, 2014 examiner.com
Wheeler Correctional Facility in Alamo, Georgia had no idea that their employee Clarinda K. Clark, a correctional officer with the state's prison system had partnered with Covian J. Camp, an inmate at Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia to run a national phone scam on people in as many as 11 states. On May 21 Fox31online revealed that the criminal activity came to light when residents in Bergen County in New Jersey began to complain to the Bergen County Sheriff's Office about the scam, which consisted of residents being told they had missed jury duty and would now be required to pay a fine to avoid arrest, or that there was a warrant out for their arrest, which they could avoid by paying the fine. Payment for the fine was to be made by providing their credit card numbers to the person contacting them from a prepaid cell phone with a "201" area code. Otherwise, they were told they would need to load money from their bank accounts onto prepaid debit cards in order to avoid arrest. The worst part of all this criminal story is that Wheeler Correctional Facility is a private prison, not operated on a daily basis by the state government, which might have prevented this potential occurrence if it had been. Instead, it is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which was founded by three men with a vision: to allow businesses to operate prisons, not government. And everyone knows that businesses are focused on making money and turning a profit, which explains why CCA was recognized by Forbes magazine named CCA as "the nation's 'best managed company' in the business services and supplies category in January 2007. And why the organization passed their $2 million milestone in shareholder distributions in August 2012, and why after three decades of financial success they chose in January 2013 to restructure into a REIT (a company that owns and operates income producing real estate, which, in this case, is prisons). Victims in 12 states have now dealt with scam phone calls in which a correctional officer of a Georgia private prison is alleged to have told them they missed jury duty and have to pay $700 or risk arrest. And an inmate within one of those prisons has been implicated in the criminal act. WCBI reported that Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson in Mississippi warned the public in his community about the scam last week, and had this to say about cell phone use in prisons at that time. A lot of times there will be a relationship struck up between an inmate and an employee, and nine times out of ten, the employee is not changing the acts of the inmate, the inmate is changing the acts of the employee," the sheriff said. Investment U says "crime pays...at least if you structure it as a REIT". And in this case with CCA, it appears they may be right, for the correctional officer and the prison, at least in one way or another, as a prison focused on making money might be a lot less focused on actually making sure their employees are being as law abiding as the inmates they are supposed to influence for good. Inmate Covian J. Camp remains in Autry State Prison in Pelham, facing new charges in the case, and his alleged co-conspirator former correctional officer Clarinda K. Clark agreed to be extradited to New Jersey, to face charges there for extortion and impersonation of a law enforcement officer. In addition, both suspects now face state and federal charges in 11 states. And law enforcement warns the public that this type of scam has been tied to gang activity in California and New Jersey. And to contact your local law enforcement office if someone calls you claiming you missed jury duty and have to pay a fine.

June 11, 2009 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On March 11, a 39-year-old man held in detention at the Stewart Detention Center, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in southwest Georgia, died at a hospital in Columbus. To this day, the immediate cause of Roberto Martinez Medina’s death remains unclear (a press release pronounced the cause of death as “apparent natural causes”). Last month, Leonard Odom, 37, died at the Wheeler County Correctional Facility in south-central Georgia. Both facilities are operated by Corrections Corp. of America, which has a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to operate the Stewart center and one with the Georgia Department of Corrections to operate the one in Wheeler County. The DOC has not released additional information about the death of Odom, due to an ongoing investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. What sets apart the deaths of these two men held at CCA-operated facilities is the difference in official responses. In the case of the death at the immigration detention facility, there have been no further explanations regarding what may have prompted the death — much less an official investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was created as a part of Homeland Security in 2003 to consolidate immigration enforcement. Medina’s tragic death marks the latest in the mounting number of immigrant deaths in the custody of CCA, the largest corporation in the business of for-profit detention. From October 2003 through Feb. 7, 2009, 18 people died in immigration detention custody in facilities operated by CCA alone, according to information from The New York Times. Yet ICE has failed repeatedly to hold CCA accountable. Instead, the federal agency continues to reward CCA with additional contracts, most recently for operation of the North Georgia Detention Center in Hall County. The CCA’s track record should come as no surprise to those who read the report issued in April by Georgia Detention Watch, a coalition of several organizations and individuals advocating an end to unjust and inhumane immigration detention and local enforcement practices. The report was based on interviews with 16 detainees during a humanitarian visitation coordinated by Georgia Detention Watch in December 2008. The report uses ICE’s own Performance Based National Detention Standards to evaluate conditions at Stewart. Even compared to ICE’s own nonbinding standards, conditions at the CCA-operated facility can best be described as grossly inadequate. Members of Georgia Detention Watch and partner organizations have requested on several occasions to meet with ICE to discuss the findings of the report, but have gotten no response. Georgia Detention Watch is not alone in demanding answers and accountability for immigrant deaths in U.S. detention. The United Nations Expert on Extrajudicial Killings, Philip Alston, who toured the United States on a fact-finding mission in June 2008 on a mandate to investigate killings in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, recently released a report demanding greater transparency and swift and public investigations for deaths in immigration detention. Today marks three months since the death of Medina. ICE has yet to provide any answers regarding why this man died in detention. Neither have Georgia Detention Watch members been provided with an opportunity to meet with ICE representatives to discuss the mounting concerns regarding the treatment of immigrants at the CCA-run Stewart. With the prospect for yet another CCA-run immigrant detention facility in Hall County, these concerns become especially urgent. If ICE’s oversight of the CCA operation of Stewart is any guide, we can expect yet another facility funded by taxpayers held to no standards at all.

May 20, 2009 Macon.com
An inmate died over the weekend at a privately run prison in Wheeler County, and the Georgia Department of Corrections is withholding most details while an investigation is under way. Leonard Odom, 37, died Sunday, according to the department. He was serving 10 years on two arson charges from Toombs and Appling counties, according to the Department of Corrections’ Web site. A department spokeswoman wouldn’t release other information about Odom’s death and said the investigation will be headed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Wheeler Correctional Facility Warden Ralph Kemp would only confirm that an inmate died Sunday, and he referred other questions to the department, which contracts with Corrections Corporation of America to run the prison.