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Bexar County Jail, Bexar County, Texas
March 12, 2008 Express News
A small plane crash Monday night killed a Louisiana businessman whose private prison services company, Premier Management Enterprises, was at the center of a public corruption investigation that last year forced the resignation of Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez. Patrick LeBlanc, 53, died with the pilot while trying to land in rough weather in Lafayette, La., according to a family friend and local press reports. LeBlanc and his brother, Michael LeBlanc, co-owned Premier and LCS Corrections Services, which build or service prisons in several states, including in three South Texas counties. The brothers' company remains the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation into "contracting irregularities," a bureau official confirmed. "He had great integrity and honor, unlike what some of you guys tried to do to him," said Ron Gomez, a close friend and partner in a small weekly newspaper that published its first edition last week. Gomez said LeBlanc went into the news business as a response to negative publicity about his company's role in a Bexar County corruption probe that caused him to lose a race last fall for state legislative office. Premier Management Enterprises, which has operated jail commissaries in Texas, was at the center of a Bexar County district attorney's investigation involving a foreign vacation gift to Lopez and cash payments to the sheriff's top aide, John Reynolds, before, during and after the company was given commissary contracts. The LeBlanc brothers have repeatedly denied all wrongdoing and have not been indicted or formally accused of any crime related to the Bexar County jail commissary contract. But Lopez resigned and pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges for accepting a Costa Rica golf vacation from the LeBlancs, while Reynolds last month was sentenced to 10 years for demanding thousands of dollars in "consulting fees" and charitable donations from Premier. The FBI took over from state authorities, and over the last several months, agents have interviewed Lopez and Reynolds as part of their respective plea deals. FBI Special Agent Erik Vasys said the bureau was well aware of LeBlanc's death but declined to discuss whether the tragedy might affect the investigation.

December 4, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
A Bexar County judge has agreed to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought against the San Antonio Express-News by Premier Management Enterprises, a Louisiana-based company that formerly ran Bexar County Jail's commissaries. In the lawsuit, filed in February 2006 against Hearst Newspaper Partnership, the San Antonio Express-News and reporter Elizabeth Allen, Premier's principals, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc and Ian Williamson, claimed the newspaper published two stories and one editorial containing “false and misleading statements” accusing them of conduct that was “unethical, incompetent and, in some cases, illegal.” On Thursday, Judge David Berchelmann of the 37th District Court signed an order after both parties agreed to dismiss the suit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again. As part of the agreement, the newspaper acknowledged three errors that ran in Allen's stories and in a subsequent editorial in December 2005: LCS Correction Services is not Premier's parent company. Michael LeBlanc had no past legal problems at the time the articles were printed. Charges against Patrick LeBlanc, Michael LeBlanc's brother, in connection with a charitable bingo operation on an American Indian reservation were dismissed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed the dismissal. Since Allen's stories, Premier has phased out its commissary operations at the jail. Former longtime Sheriff Ralph Lopez resigned in August as part of an agreement with prosecutors regarding his dealings with Premier. It included that Lopez plead no contest to three misdemeanor charges, and pay a $10,000 fine, resulting from an all-expenses-paid golfing and fishing trip to Costa Rica that Premier gave him in August 2005. Lopez's plea deal also shielded his wife, Nancy, from any potential state charges. Lopez's longtime campaign manager and friend, John Reynolds, also pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft related to his dealings with the company. Reynolds was Lopez's appointee to the Benevolent Fund board, which awarded and oversaw the commissary contract. According to court documents, Reynolds told Premier to contribute to Lopez's campaign and give charitable donations through Reynolds in exchange for operating the commissary. Premier attorneys have insisted that there was no wrongdoing in the way the company landed the contract. Reynolds is awaiting sentencing.

Brooks County Detention Center, Falfurrias, Texas
October 24, 2012 Caller Times
FALFURRIAS — A Corpus Christi jury returned a verdict Wednesday siding with the widow of a man who died in January 2009 at the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias. The federal jury decided unanimously to award $2.25 million to the widow of 42-year-old Mario Garcia, who died of a seizure while on suicide watch at the center. Garcia's family contends he was denied prescribed medications while at the facility, which led to his death 12 days after being brought there. His condition began to quickly deteriorate after being jailed, though he was never sent to a physician or a hospital, according to the family's counsel. Garcia left behind a wife and a 10-year-old son. Kathy Snapka, lead counsel for the Garcia family, called the death preventable and said facility staff disregarded his condition. Snapka said the family hopes the verdict in Garcia v. Niderhauser will send a message to other facilities that they will be held accountable for neglect. "Monica Garcia's objective was to speak for Mario to ensure that no other person is denied the right to receive medical attention," Snapka said. Attorneys for LCS Corrections, which owns Brooks County Detention Center, were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Both sides await the ruling of U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who has as much as 30 days to make a judgment.

July 8, 2011 KZTV 10
On New Year's Eve 2008 Mario Garcia pled guilty to 2 charges of submitting fraudulent bids to the government to win contracts at the Corpus Christi Army Depot. U-S District Judge Janice Graham Jack ordered Garcia be taken into custody until sentencing. Garcia was brought to the Brooks County Detention Center and placed on suicide watch. He was there when he died January 12th, 2009. His family is suing the jail and some of it's officials. Kathy Snapka represents Garcia's family. "It is our allegation that the prison disregarded his very, very serious medical condition and that's why days after he was sent to Brooks County he died," she said. Snapka says the case has flipped between district and federal courts, but now a February trial date has been set in Mc Allen where U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sits. "He's aware that the matter's been on file for a significant length of time. And I think that he wants the case moved along," Snapka told Action Ten News. According to the lawsuit, Garcia had a known seizure disorder and was on medication for it. And that he suffered from seizures and headaches while in jail. It also says jail officials 'breached their duty of care to Garcia by failing to care for his medical needs. The Brooks County Death Certificate lists Garcia's cause of death as seizure disorder. The Nueces County medical examiner's autopsy says the same thing. The defendants in the case are LCS Correction Services, which owns the jail, former jail warden Miguel Niderhauser, and Dr. Michael Pendleton, former head of the jail's medical staff. On Janaury 23rd 2009, just days after Garcia's death, we reported that LCS President Dick Harbison told us Niderhauser resigned and Pendleton's contract was terminated. Attorneys for all defendants told us by phone today that they couldn't comment on a pending case, but that their clients plan to vigorously defend themselves.

July 23, 2009 Caller Times
The family of a man who died in a privately run prison in Brooks County has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging he was denied medical treatment. Mario Alberto Garcia, 42, was awaiting sentencing at LCS-Brooks County on charges of bid-rigging at the Corpus Christi Army Depot when he was found dead in January. Garcia suffered from a seizure disorder and was prescribed medication to treat it. The lawsuit claims he was denied access to medication, despite warnings from family members about his condition. An autopsy by the Nueces County medical examiner found that Garcia died of the seizure disorder. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. It names prison owner LCS Correction Services, the prison’s former warden and former doctor as defendants. The prison typically houses inmates facing immigration charges. Representatives of the doctor and prison did not return calls for comment. Garcia had pleaded guilty to submitting inflated bids for office equipment. Along with those bids, he submitted lower bids from his own company. In most situations, defendants facing white-collar crimes remain free while awaiting sentencing. But a federal judge, concerned over Garcia’s mental status, ordered him to the Brooks County facility on suicide watch. Garcia could have been sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison, but was likely to receive only a few months under federal sentencing guidelines.

January 14, 2009 Caller Times
An inmate awaiting sentencing on charges of rigging bids on federal contracts was found dead Monday at the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, and Texas Rangers are investigating how the death occurred. The circumstances are unclear. The Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy Tuesday but has not released a cause of death. The inmate, Mario Alberto Garcia, 42, had been placed on suicide watch at a court appearance. Garcia pleaded guilty Dec. 31 to submitting fictitious, inflated bids to supply office equipment at the Corpus Christi Army Depot. He submitted the fake bids along with his company's lower bid to win contracts. Under normal circumstances, a white-collar defendant like Garcia would remain free while awaiting sentencing, but U.S. District Judge Janice Graham Jack ordered him into custody over concerns that Garcia would take his life, said Garcia's criminal defense attorney, Keith Gould. A physician at the facility removed Garcia from suicide watch Jan. 8. He died Monday, said Al Lujan, deputy U.S. marshal. As part of his agreement to plead guilty, a third count of lying to U.S. Army investigators was dismissed. Prosecutors say Garcia also faxed phony bids in July 2007. He was not prosecuted for those incidents. Juan Reyna, an attorney representing Garcia's family, said Garcia had a medical condition. Reyna, who declined to identify the condition, said Garcia's family knew of it and warned jail officials about it. "The family had some major concerns with respect to medical treatment Mr. Garcia was receiving," Reyna said. "The family made it very clear regarding medical treatment." Reyna said he has requested the facility preserve several categories of records relating to Garcia. The private facility is run by LCS Corrections Services of Lafayette, La., and is typically used to house illegal immigrants. Gary Copes, general manager for LCS, said a Texas Ranger visited the facility Wednesday as part of the investigation. Copes declined further discussion.

September 15, 2004 Caller-Times
The manhunt for an escaped prisoner continued Tuesday as officers combed the area surrounding the Brooks County Detention Center with dogs, on horseback and by helicopter, Sheriff Balde Lozano said.
On Monday, Elias Ramirez Martinez, 20, of Veracruz, Mexico, escaped from the privately owned holding center. Inmates were being moved from an eating area just before 7 p.m. when Martinez made his getaway, jumping a 10-foot electric fence, Lozano said. It was the facility's first breakout since September 2002, when two inmates escaped through the detention center's ceiling. Measures have been taken since then to prevent similar escapes. Ceilings were enclosed with heavy mesh and the electrical fence was installed, Lozano said. It was not known if the fence was activated when Martinez jumped it.

September 29, 2002 Caller-Times
Falfurrias residents reacted with fear and worry after learning that two inmates escaped form the privately owned Brooks County Detention Center early Saturday.  The two men, Juan Guerra and Steven Torres, were being held at the facility prior to their trials. Guerra, a Mexican national, had been charged with murder and Torres was arrested for a parole violation- an alleged robbery.  The two men were missing during an inmate headcount at 7 a.m. after they had been present for a similar count at 3 a.m., said Patrick LeBlanc, president of the Louisiana-based LCS Corrections Services Inc., the company that oversees the operations of the detention facility.  "I don't think it was whim ," he said.  "I think they studied and analyzed and searched for the scene and unfortunately they found it."  The two men kicked through a security ceiling that was welded shut, LeBlanc said.  Then, they climbed into the ceiling and got into a mechanical chase that the facility's pipes run through- similar to the escape in the movie "Shawshank Redemption," he said.  The chase leads to a door locked form the outside that opens on the detention center grounds, he said.  There, the two men, wearing detention-center issued orange uniforms with white T-shirts, scaled two double fences, each topped with three lines of razor wire.  Investigators found a blood trail, LeBlanc said.  As the search gout under way, residents learned of the news by word of mouth.  About half a dozen people called KPSO-Radio 106.3 news director Steve Cantu to express their concerns.  "A lot of people are worried," he said.  "These are not some of the nicest people out there."  LeBlanc said the detention center does not have a procedure to alert area residents of an escape, instead turning over the information to local law enforcement to get the word out. 

Coastal Bend Detention Center, Robstown, Texas
Mar 6, 2014 kiiitv.com

An inmate death at a private jail facility near Robstown is raising questions. The inmate was a recent graduate of the Navy flight school at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi. The death has been ruled a suicide, but the investigation is now being questioned by the agency that oversees the LCS facility. That law enforcement agency is the Nueces County Sheriff's Office, whose detectives were turned away at LCS by U.S. Marshals. They were told Texas Rangers would be conducting the investigation, and that, says Sheriff Jim Kaelin, is not proper protocol. "The private prison LCS is under our charge, and we're responsible for the things that go on out there," Kaelin said. "Meaning that the U.S. Marshals service mandate that we make sure that we comply with rules, regulations and law." It was Saturday when Sheriff Kaelin says he got a call from the LCS warden that an inmate had attempted suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet, and that the inmate was being transported to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. That inmate has been identified as 26-year old Trevor Nash, a recent graduate of the Navy's flight school at NAS-Corpus Christi. According to sources, Nash was preparing to be transferred to helicopter training school when he was arrested on charges of piracy. 3News contacted the U.S. Marshals out of Houston in hopes of obtaining more information regarding the charges, and why Texas Rangers and not the Nueces County Sheriff's Office are heading up the investigation. We have yet to get a response. In the meantime, Sheriff Kaelin says he too is attempting to get some answers.

November 4, 2011 Record Star
Texas Commission on Jail Standards officials recently said the organization is powerless to oversee any changes at the Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown, after center officials decided to move out all of their county prisoners. Adan Munoz Jr., Executive Director of the TCJS said he was notified last week that LCS Corrections Services Inc., owners of the CBDC, asked for the detention center to be pulled off the state's inspection rolls, as they would no longer house county inmates.

July 12, 2011 Record Star
A Robstown detention center was recently found to be in non-compliance with state guidelines following an inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Coastal Bend Detention Center, owned and operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc., was visited May 20 by representatives with the TCJS, during which an inspection was conducted. The results were posted on the agency's Web site last month.

May 3, 2010 Caller-Times
State jail inspectors ruled that a Robstown private detention facility doesn't meet state standards because it failed to report an inmate's death and its warden and deputy warden lack jailers' licenses. The Coastal Bend Detention Center was cited Monday for failing to report the death of a prisoner, who died April 18, according to commission Director Adan Muñoz. Michael Higgins, a former state trooper found guilty of stealing money from Hispanic drivers, also died of an apparent heart attack April 29, while in the facility. Officials with the prison were not immediately available for comment. Discussions with the deputy warden and the chief of security of the facility revealed that neither official knew of the requirement to notify the state agency of the deaths in custody, Muñoz said. Jail commission Assistant Director Shannon Herklotz told the men that their lack of reporting was a non-compliance issue and would be handled accordingly in a follow-up notice of non-compliance for failing to report the April 18 death. Herklotz determined that neither of the top two prison managers had proper state licenses, a violation of state standards. "Both the lack of the jailer licenses by the warden and deputy warden, the lack of properly or entirely filling out the inmate screening form, and failing to report the April 18, 2010, death in custody within 24 hours as required will immediately result in a notice of non-compliance with minimum jail standards for the Coastal Bend Detention Center," Muñoz said. The facility is out of compliance for the second time in a year.

February 1, 2010 Caller-Times
A private detention facility in Robstown has passed two surprise state inspections since the accidental release of a convicted sex offender put its compliance status at risk. The Coastal Bend Detention Center mistakenly released Mario Estrada Martinez, 31, an undocumented immigrant from Matamoros, Mexico, instead of Mario Estrada Antonio in November. Estrada Antonio was supposed to be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Estrada Martinez, who was being held for illegally re-entering the U.S. and set for a hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, was deported instead. The accidental release wasn’t a violation of state standards. But the Texas Commission on Jail Standards deemed the facility, operated by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections, at risk of falling out of state compliance and promised a series of surprise inspections for 90 days, said Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director. State inspector George Johnson conducted the first surprise visit on the evening of Jan. 6, according to documents obtained by the Caller-Times through a public information request. The inspection did not reveal any non-compliance issues. But Johnson noted that of 118 officers, 85 were working with temporary state jailer licenses. All must complete training and pass a state-mandated jailer certification course within their first year of employment.

December 29, 2009 WEAU
There will soon be a new jail boss in town and he comes with a couple championship belts. Art Crews is the soon to be jail captain in Chippewa County, formally known as the Blonde Bomber. As the Blonde Bomber, he took on the likes of Ric Flair, Jesse “the Body” Ventura, Andre the Giant and, yes, even Hulk Hogan back in the 1980's. Now, his biggest fear is Wisconsin’s cold weather. "You're to be up here on Saturday?" Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk asks his new jail captain on the phone. Kowalczyk is looking forward to welcoming Crews up from Texas; he’s a man who comes with a couple championship belts. "When I was in wrestling, I was in corrections and I didn't know it,” Crews tells us with a laugh over the phone. “In other words, you're dealing with people every single day and wrestling has a lot of crowd psychology." Crews was in wrestling for a decade all through the 80’s. He's been working at jails and prisons ever since. Most recently as warden at Coastal Bend Detention Center, a private prison in Texas. Crews said he resigned in August. Two weeks later local newspaper reports show the prison failed an inspection. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards told the Corpus Christi Caller Times it "borders really close to complete incompetence." Crews said he knew it was bad when he left. He says that's why he left. "I voiced my concerns to the company that there were going to be issues not meeting standards and compliances. They did not comply and I had no choice but to resign." "He indicated they were undermanned, understaffed; he didn't have the budget he needed that he thought he could run the facility to the best of his ability."

December 18, 2009 Caller-Times
A private detention facility in Robstown faces frequent, unannounced state inspections for 90 days after its inadvertent release of a convicted sex offender. The Coastal Bend Detention Center did not violate state standards when Mario Estrada Martinez, 31, an undocumented immigrant from Matamoros, Mexico, mistakenly was released, but it is at risk of falling out of state compliance after corrections officers did not follow release procedures, according to a letter from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards obtained by the Caller-Times through an open records request. In November, federal authorities asked the prison run by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections to release Mario Estrada Antonio to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Instead Estrada Martinez, who was awaiting sentencing for illegal re-entry to the U.S., was released and deported. He was gone for three weeks before LCS corrections staff figured out they released the wrong prisoner. In Mexico, where both prisoners are from, the middle name serves as last name, and the last name is the person’s maternal surname. “Certainly an improperly released inmate is a liability to all parties involved,” Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director, wrote in the letter. Prison Warden Elberto “Bert” Bravo said an investigation is ongoing and focused on four employees. “We are trying to narrow it down to where it happened,” Bravo said. “It was human error. The procedures we had in place, they failed to follow the procedures.” No other county jail or private correctional facility holding county or out-of-state inmates is at risk, commission officials said. Being at risk means any member of the jail commission staff may make frequent, unannounced visits to the facility during the next 90 days. If no violations or noncompliance issues are noted, the facility will be removed from the at-risk list. “No one from point A to point Z ever verified his identity during several stages of release. By more than one detention officer, all the way to ICE, his identity was never confirmed,” Muñoz said Friday. Estrada Martinez had a prior conviction for a sexual offense, according to U.S. marshals. He was convicted in Iowa for sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years in December 1999, according to court filings. He was paroled in 2002. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack issued a warrant for Estrada Martinez’s arrest when the mishap was made public. He has not been rearrested.

December 11, 2009 Corpus Christi Caller-Times
A convicted sex offender has been missing from a Robstown lockup since Nov. 19, unknown to the prison’s officials until Thursday. Officials at the Coastal Bend Detention Center discovered that they inadvertently released Mario Estrada Martinez, 31, an undocumented immigrant from Matamoros, Mexico, who most recently was arrested for illegal re-entry. He was being held at the Robstown facility, owned by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections, awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to illegal re-entry to the U.S., a felony, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack said Friday afternoon. Federal authorities asked the prison in November to release Estrada Martinez to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Coastal Bend Detention Center handed over Estrada Martinez. Federal authorities actually were looking to deport Mario Estrada Antonio, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. In Mexico, where both men are from, the middle name serves as last name, and the last name is the person’s maternal surname. “We really want to leave the whole mix-up, specifically how it happened, to Coastal Bend,” U.S. Marshals spokesman Carlos Alvarado said. “(I am talking about this) just so the community knows there is not a sex offender running our streets. He was deported and sent back. ICE deported him.” Estrada Martinez had a prior conviction for a sexual offense, Alvarado said. He was convicted in Iowa for sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years in December 1999, according to court filings. He was paroled in 2002. LCS Warden Elberto “Bert” Bravo did not return calls. LCS Vice President of Operations Dick Harbison would not comment and referred comment back to U.S. Marshals. The Houston-based Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Detention and Removal division deported Estrada Martinez early this week, said Fred Schroeder, assistant special agent in charge for the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. ICE spokesman Greg Palmer said late Friday he would research what happened with Estrada Martinez and comment next week. It doesn’t appear that Estrada Martinez escaped on purpose, said Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director, after reviewing LCS’s preliminary escape report. He was released. “What transpired between the wrongly released inmate and the releasing officer is something that LCS will have to investigate,” Muñoz said. “There is no overt action shown by the mistakenly released inmate to indicate he made any statements to the releasing officer that he was attempting to disguise who he was while being released. “And why the receiving transport service did not verify the inmate’s identity is also something that needs to be ascertained and investigated,” Muñoz said. LCS contacted the jail commission within 24 hours of the discovery, which is required by law. The company must submit a written report detailing why and how the escape happened, Muñoz said. The release counts as an escape and could pose problems for the prison, Muñoz said. In mid-September, Coastal Bend Detention Center was cited by the jail standards commission for 17 compliance issues, including failure to classify inmates or to check for contraband, improper staff training, jailers without proper state licensing and no tuberculosis screening plan.

September 21, 2009 Corpus Christi Caller-Times
State jail inspectors have warned the owner of a private Robstown facility to rectify 17 compliance issues immediately or face possible closure. The Coastal Bend Detention Center was cited Monday for failing to classify inmates, check for contraband, improper staff training, jailers without proper state licensing and no tuberculosis screening plan, among other issues. If the facility, owned by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections, cannot correct its problems, especially the jailers’ licensing, then the Texas Commission on Jail Standards could temporarily close it, commission Director Adan Muñoz said. “I have to bring any remedial order before the (jail) commission, but this borders really close to complete incompetence,” he said. The jail opened in September 2008. Its first inmates arrived in March. Jail warden Art Crews was replaced in August by Elberto “Bert” Bravo, who also is warden at LCS’ detention facility in Hidalgo County, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. The management shake-up should help fix the jail’s problems, he said. “My people know exactly what needs to be done,” Bravo said. “I know the report looks bad. They say it is the worst they have ever seen. But honestly, we are going to be OK. It’s just going to take me a little bit of time to do it.” The jail will be in compliance by late October, he said. Within the past two weeks, Bravo hired two deputy wardens with more than 60 years of combined experience. He also laid off 26 jailers until they can get the correct state licensing. He fired another 10 for not doing what they were told, he said. The detention facility was overstaffed and reassigned some of its 175 staff members to cover jailer positions, Bravo said. The facility has a capacity for 1,056 inmates. When it was inspected last week it held 475, according to state inspectors. Most are undocumented immigrants housed in Robstown through a contract with federal agencies. Another 41 are inmates from Duval, Jim Wells and Kleberg counties, where jails are overcrowded, according to the jail standards commission. Compliance Issues-- The Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown had 17 compliance issues after state inspectors reviewed the facility last week. -- Inmate toilet and shower areas have insufficient privacy shields -- Jailers are not being trained properly for fire drills -- Jailers are not being trained properly in the use of air packs -- No documentation outlining generator testing or the transfer of the facility’s electric load at least once a month -- Inmates were not classified correctly -- Classification reviews were not conducted within 90 days of initial inmate custody assessments -- Classification workers didn’t receive the required four hours of training -- Internal classification audit logs were not kept -- No tuberculosis screening plan had been approved by the health department -- Twenty-four officers did not have a required jailer’s license or temporary jailer’s license -- Hourly face-to-face prisoner checks were not performed -- The facility did not meet the state mandated 1-to-48 jailer-to-inmate ratio -- Personnel did not conduct required contraband searches -- Disciplinary hearings for minor inmate infractions were conducted by a single person rather than a disciplinary board -- Jail did not respond to inmates with grievances within 15 days or resolve issues within 60 days as required -- Inmates did not receive one hour of supervised physical education three days per week as required -- A fire panel doesn’t show an inspection tag

March 7, 2009 Caller-Times
As federal prisoners began arriving at the privately owned LCS detention facility in Robstown on Friday, a company official said employees who were laid off in January have been rehired. In response to the influx of prisoners into the 1,100-bed facility, which has sat empty since it opened in September, the prison has called back some 40 employees who were laid off in January, bringing the current number of employees up to 75, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. “It’s full steam ahead right now,” he said. And beginning Monday, the company plans to hire another 80 employees with starting pay at $11 an hour. The news comes a week after Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal and the U.S. Marshals agreed on a temporary price tag for prisoner housing. LCS will get roughly $44 per prisoner per day under the terms of an addendum to the contract already in place for housing prisoners in Hidalgo County.

February 5, 2009 Record Star
With necessary paperwork stalled in Washington D.C., the Coastal Bend Detention Center has yet to receive its first inmate, and recently laid off or reassigned over half of its staff. The detention center, a private facility owned by LCS Corrections Services, Inc. and located just south of Robstown, held a grand opening ceremony in November and was expected to receive its first inmates in early December. Arthur Crews Sr., the warden of the Coastal Bend facility, said a final contract that requires the signature of administrative personnel in the Washington D.C. branch of the U.S. Marshal service has not been signed, delaying the facility's opening. While that paperwork was filed months ago, Crews said the change in administration in Washington D.C. has been largely to blame for the hold up. "That's mainly due to the situation of the timing that's going on, with the Democratic Party going in, the Republican Party coming out, department heads not really knowing who's going to have what job and who's going to be replaced," Crews said. The facility initially hired 72 people in November, but that number fell to 60 by early January, as individuals found work elsewhere or relocated. Without any inmates, the facility is not bringing in revenue, which led the company to make significant staffing changes two weeks ago. During that process, six staff members were transferred to another LCS facility in the area, 12 were hired by the Nueces County Sheriff's Department and 16 were laid off. Those who were laid off primarily worked in the food service or customer service departments, Crews said. Of the 26 staff members still on the payroll at the Coastal Bend facility, most have seen their weekly hours reduced as a cost-saving measure, Crews indicated. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin said last week the detention center's loss was the county's gain, as the 12 individuals hired by the county are already certified through the state as corrections officers and will fill a significant staffing need. "It just so happens that we had reached the point that we had vacancies where we could hire all they wanted to send our way," Kaelin said. "It's going to be a win-win for us and a win-win for LCS because it helps them reduce their payroll." Although Crews could offer no timeline for when the final paperwork might be completed, he said he has little doubt the facility will be fully operational in the near future. "We don't know how long this contract's going to take. It could be two weeks, it could be two months or more. We just don't know," Crews said. "My speculation, with 22 years in the correction business, is that with us having 1,100 beds, it's not going to sit here empty." And Crews said all the employees laid off or reassigned have guaranteed jobs once the facility does start housing prisoners. "I let them leave here, the ones we laid off, and keep their ID badge and keep their uniforms," Crews said. "That's the bond that I have with the employees, and they are going to come back."

January 24, 2009 Caller-Times
LCS Corrections Services laid off half of its Robstown detention center employees Friday because federal authorities have yet to transfer in prisoners, but the company plans to offer jobs to some elsewhere. LCS, a private Lafayette, La.-based prison company, expected to have a full house at its 1,100-bed facility shortly after the prison opened in mid-November, but the center remains empty after a contract with the federal government stalled, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. Of the 35 correctional officers laid off, six will be offered positions at the LCS detention facility in Brooks County, Harbison said. Short on correctional officers, Nueces County Jail will offer jobs to 14 others, county officials said. Fifteen temporarily will be left without jobs, Harbison said. To start the intake of federal prisoners from agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol, LCS needs Nueces County to sign an agreement with marshals that will outline how much the federal government will pay for housing their prisoners. Congress also must pass a 2009 budget, which should occur when a continuing resolution allowing the federal government to operate under its 2008 budget expires in early March. The prison company intends to rehire the laid-off employees and hire additional staff once prisoners start arriving, Harbison said. Nueces County spent millions to clean up its jail's substandard conditions that led to the June 2006 removal of federal prisoners. The federal inmates haven't returned. County officials have been negotiating since January 2008 for a higher fee to house them at the jail. The contract also will include fees for housing federal prisoners at two LCS facilities. Because the federal government doesn't deal with private detention contractors, LCS is dependent on a "pass through" contract, where the county gets a share of fees charged per prisoner for passing through overflow federal prisoners to the company's private facilities in Hidalgo County and Robstown. Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal said Friday that the county, the U.S. Marshals Service and LCS are in agreement on new rates for the jail and the LCS facilities. He wouldn't disclose the negotiated rates. The proposed fees are awaiting review and approval from the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, which oversees federal detention programs. The county, which received a $45.15 daily rate per prisoner prior to their removal from the county jail, was seeking a raise to $61.49. County officials previously have said that negotiations were stuck at about $53 a day per prisoner. "The marshals and I have agreed on that rate. We have worked with LCS, and they agree it is very favorable," Neal said. "We did this several months ago, and we have been unable to get any kind of funding out of the federal government. Until the new Congress and President (Barack) Obama reach an agreement (on a budget) there is no money available for a new arrangement for federal prisoners." The county receives $2 a day for each prisoner sent to LCS' Hidalgo County facility, and LCS earns roughly $43. A similar pass through deal is in the works for the Robstown facility once the county and the federal government sign off on new rates. "The minute we hear anything at all we will be contacting everybody to come back to work," Harbison said.

January 23, 2009 KIII TV
A new private prison near Robstown hasn't even opened up yet, but already some staff members have been laid off. The transition of power in Washington is said to be the main reason for the holdup. The Coastal Bend Detention Center is ready to go, but with no prisoners and no revenue, company officials were forced to do this for the time being. The new private prison in Robstown is ready for business. More than 1100 beds are made and waiting for federal prisoners, but the transition of power in the presidency has caused problems for the U.S. Marshal's Office to sign the contract and bring prisoners to the facility. "So we don't have inmates at this time," said Art Crews, Prison Warden for the LCS Coastal Bend Detention Center. "That's our revenue. Until we do, we can't hire the people back." So the prison officials called a meeting for its employees. They announced about 12 are being laid off, while another 48 are seeing their hours reduced. "First time in my 22 years in the correction field in a warden position having to tell them that and that hurts," Crews said. The private prison did find jobs for about 15 guards at the Nueces and Kleberg County jail.

East Hidalgo Detention Center, La Villa, Texas
March 3, 2012 The Monitor
The operator of Hidalgo County’s only private detention center brought in additional medical staff this week after concerns from county and state officials regarding inmate tuberculosis testing at the facility. The Monitor learned of a meeting between several federal, state and local agencies and LCS Corrections, which owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa. Questions about the facility came after the prison’s warden was suspended late last month. Health officials questioned the prison doctor’s assertion that it was safe for possible carriers of tuberculosis — including inmates who had tested positive in the past — to be kept with the rest of the prison’s population, said Adan Muñoz, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. “They were not agreeing with the opinion of the state and the Hidalgo County Health Department that they were not being managed correctly … as far as being segregated,” Muñoz said. The meeting came after Hidalgo County Health Department officials learned a federal inmate at the facility recently who tested positive for tuberculosis, was released to Border Patrol agents and deported to Mexico without treatment, Sheriff Lupe Treviño said. “He was deported without any precautions or advisories put out,” the sheriff said. In another instance, county health officials learned of four inmates at the prison who had tested positive for tuberculosis or were possible carriers of the infection and were among other inmates, said Shannon Herklotz, assistant director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, who attended the meeting last month. County officials raised their concerns with LCS, but received little response from the prison’s management. “I guess they were shunned for lack of a better word,” Herklotz said. Tuberculosis, commonly referred to TB, is an airborne bacterial infection that involves the lungs, but can spread to other organs. It is spread via the air and can remain dormant in a person for years. The state requires prisons to test new inmates for tuberculosis within seven days of their booking at a penitentiary with more than 100 beds. A March 2011 Centers for Disease Control study shows Texas has one of the country’s highest rates for tuberculosis, with four cases per 100,000 residents. But Hidalgo County has an average rate twice as high as the state’s, Herklotz said. Prisons, where scores of people are confined together for extended periods, can be hotbeds for disease to spread, Muñoz said. “Any time you have a magnitude of inmates … you’ve got the potential for all sorts of diseases and so forth,” Muñoz said. The Hidalgo County Jail tests all inmates upon their initial booking into the facility and before they are placed among the general population, Treviño said. County inmates kept in La Villa are separate from those brought in by federal agencies. “The reason we (test inmates upon booking) is we do not want to take the chance of putting somebody back there infected and causing an epidemic,” he said. But LCS was not always testing inmates within the seven-day window, said Richard Harbison, the company’s executive vice president. “We were falling behind on our time period for doing our TB tests,” he said.

March 1, 2012 The Monitor
Details remain sketchy about a federal investigation into a La Villa prison warden, but the facility has faced separate scrutiny in recent weeks. But Hidalgo County’s only private detention facility faced allegations of unfit conditions and a separate inquiry from federal investigators, only to have its operators say they had “disproven everything.” East Hidalgo Detention Center Warden Elberto E. Bravo has been on paid administrative leave since he learned the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service were conducting an investigation into fraud, bribery and theft allegations. No criminal charges against Bravo have been filed. Sources who know Bravo and are aware of the investigation say it’s unclear whether it involves his job or political influence in the Delta region, given the private prison is one of the area’s largest employers. While Bravo remains on leave, the warden from the Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown will serve in the interim, said Richard Harbison, executive vice president at LCS Corrections, the Lafayette, La.-based company that owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center. “Any time there is (a federal inquiry), we bring a warden in from another unit to make sure that if there were mistakes they are not being repeated again,” Harbison said. The separate inquiry into the East Hidalgo Detention Center launched in January, when Robin Whiteley, currently facing illegal re-entry charges in federal court, told Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of days without hot water — or any running water — and said it sometimes took days to be seen by a nurse. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said the investigation into Bravo was concerning, but he has been told the federal investigation does not concern inmate safety.

July 21, 2010 The Monitor
Prisoner housing may be free of charge for this city, but inmate labor isn't freely available. That's the outcome of a dispute between an Edcouch city alderman and the warden of the La Villa detention center over whether Edcouch is entitled to sandbags made by the inmates. Elberto Bravo, the warden of the East Hidalgo Detention Center, a privately run, 900-bed facility in La Villa, said he became incensed when Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy Gonzalez threatened to write a letter to the warden's supervisors because inmates didn't make sandbags for Edcouch residents when Hurricane Alex approached. Gonzalez says no letter was ever written by the city to Bravo's bosses — City Manager P.R. Avila said the same during Tuesday's city meeting — but that he was upset that prison-made sandbags weren't available this year like they were for 2008's Hurricane Dolly. The apparent misunderstanding nearly led the warden to end his policy of housing cash-strapped Edcouch's prisoners for free, which could have forced the city to release people arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and other charges with a summons to show up at court. "I don't need Edcouch, but Edcouch needs us," said Bravo, who manages the La Villa facility and oversees two others detention centers in South Texas that are operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc., the largest privately held corrections company in the United States. "It's not costing these cities in the Delta area one penny to house these individuals here." Bravo, a long-time corrections officer, often puts inmates from the U.S. Marshals Service — one agency that contracts to use the private prison and allows him to use its detainees for labor — to work on special tasks. He cooks turkeys and other food for special events in neighboring cities, and he made 4,000 sandbags for Edcouch residents when Hurricane Dolly made landfall two years ago, he said. But when Hurricane Alex turned this way before the Fourth of July, he committed to make sandbags for Elsa and Hidalgo County Precinct 1, which delivered sand by the truckload to the facility off State Highway 107. When Gonzalez called him to demand that he also make sandbags for Edcouch residents, Bravo refused to do so because of his other commitments, he said. The warden said that's when Gonzalez threatened to write a letter to the company's corporate office in Lafayette, La. Gonzalez said he was upset sandbags weren't made for Edcouch like they were for other entities, but he added that he never wrote a letter to LCS to complain about the warden's approach. "I'm a little discontent, but I have no say-so over what the prison does," said Gonzalez, who hinted at prior political issues with the warden but declined to say what they were. "I wish he would have (made sandbags) for Edcouch and La Villa — small communities like ours." He also said he thought the warden's warning that he would stop housing the city's prisoners at the detention facility for free was based on business, not sandbags. The city was set to approve a new contract with the East Hidalgo Detention Center in which it would have to pay the going rate of $50 for each day an inmate stays there. With an average of about six Edcouch prisoners housed at the detention center each week, the bill would have topped at least $2,000 each month. But Alderman Noe Garcia said the warden decided to scrap the new contract after he and other elected officials in the city called to make amends. The city will now be required to cover any medical costs the detention center incurs, but the warden said he won't charge them the daily rate. "People need to understand that this is at no cost to the city," Bravo said. "Even if the letter got to the corporate office, they're not paying for our services. It's being provided free to them."

October 23, 2006 Houston Chronicle
One of the five illegal immigrants who escaped from a privately run South Texas jail along with a former police officer surrendered to federal agents at a border checkpoint, officials said Monday. Joel Armando Mata-Castro, a 31-year-old Mexican citizen, walked up to the checkpoint Sunday night and identified himself to Customs and Border Protection officers, who identified him as a fugitive on federal escape charges, CBP spokesman Felix Garza said. Mata-Castro was being held at the Cameron County Jail. He's the only inmate captured after they escaped from the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa on Sept. 19 by overpowering a guard with a homemade knife and gaining access to several exit doors. Authorities have said they suspected the men had crossed the border into Mexico, about 20 miles away. The five illegal immigrants are alleged members of the drug gang Raza Unida. Former McAllen police officer Francisco Meza-Rojas, the supposed ringleader of the escapees, was two weeks away from trial on drug-trafficking charges.

October 11, 2006 The Monitor
The private prison from which six inmates escaped last month has repeatedly violated state standards, according to inspection reports from the Texas prison board. The most recent inspection, conducted eight days after the escape, cites the prison for employing too few guards, adding an unauthorized number of bunks and keeping unlicensed guards on the payroll. Since LCS Correctional Services took over the Eastern Hidalgo Detention Center in 2001, the prison has come out clean in only two of its annual inspections. LCS spokesman Richard Harbison said the violations were not intentional and that they had fixed all the problems. "We are back in compliance," he said. The latest infractions shed new light on the persistently troubled La Villa prison, which has struggled with staffing and inmate security for years. LCS President Patrick LeBlanc told The Monitor in previous interviews that the La Villa prison staffed enough guards, even though a U.S. Marshals spokesman said that was not the case. The state conducted an emergency review after last month’s escape, when an 18-year-old guard said he was overpowered by one of the inmates and stuffed into a closet. He has since been fired. That inspection cited the prison for a third time for not employing enough guards. The jail commission did not say in the documents what the actual ratio of guards to prisoner was. It also found several guards were working with expired licenses or no license at all. Harbison said the prison had a policy of not applying for licenses until guards completed two weeks of work. The warden didn’t want to waste the $100 application fee for a Texas jailer’s license until he knew guards would stay, he said. That practice has since stopped, he said. And since the emergency inspection the guards with expired licenses have been fired, he said.

October 5, 2006 The Monitor
Three people, including a guard, have been arrested in connection with the prison break in which six inmates escaped more than two weeks ago. Prison commissary officer Joseph Paul Llanos, Martin Angel Villarreal Jr., and Magdalena Peña, wife of one of the escapees, were arrested last week in connection with the escape from the Eastern Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa on Sept 19., according to court documents obtained Wednesday. The six inmates, including a former McAllen police officer accused of running a family drug smuggling ring, are still on the loose and are most likely hiding in Mexico, according to authorities. They are considered armed and dangerous. The five other inmates who escaped with the former police officer are repeat immigration offenders known as members of Raza Unida, a drug smuggling gang based out of Corpus Christi. Information compiled from the three criminal complaints recently filed in federal court paint two of the prisoners, Enrique Peña-Saenz, 38, and the former police officer, Francisco Meza-Rojas, 41, as planning the escape from the inside. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston would not comment on the case because the investigation is ongoing. But a spokesman for the company that runs the prison, LCS Correctional Services, said that Llanos knew at least one of the inmates before they were housed at La Villa. "One of our policies is that if a guard recognizes someone they know in the past they need to report it," said LCS spokesman Richard Harbison. Llanos had not reported knowing any of the inmates, he said. But under questioning after the escape, Llanos admitted to U.S. Marshals that two weeks before the escape he smuggled a cell phone and charger to Meza-Rojas, according to a criminal complaint. Some time after, Llanos smuggled in a pair of pliers that he handed to Meza-Rojas, according to the complaint. Those pliers were later used to cut through at least three fences, including an electrified one that someone had turned off, though the complaint didn’t specify who may have done that. By the time the six inmates had reached the fences, they had subdued 18-year-old prison guard Enrique Zepeda and stuffed him in a closet. Once they made it outside, they split up into at least three groups after crossing a levee east of the prison. Search dogs traced the inmates’ scent to State Highway 107, which runs east of the prison. Meza-Rojas used the cell phone that had been smuggled in to him to arrange someone to pick him up at the highway, according to the complaint. "Everything points that these guys are in Mexico," said Joe Magallan, the U.S. Marshal’s McAllen-based spokesman. "These guys are too scared to be crossing back into the United States." Marshals immediately began investigating Villarreal after the prison break because three of his business cards had been found in the eight-man pod where the six inmates where held. One of the cards had Enrique Peña’s name and home phone number on it. Villarreal, according to the complaint, had visited Peña in prison two weeks before the escape and listed himself as Peña’s compadre in the log book. Marshals believe he delivered the cell phone, wire cutters and $200 to Llanos during two different visits to the prison, the last one in August. Llanos was arrested Sept. 23, and Villarreal on Sept. 25. They were each charged with aiding and abetting Meza-Rojas’ escape. It wasn’t clear why they were not charged in connection with the other prisoners’ escapes. As for Peña’s wife, Magdalena, she told U.S. Marshals her husband told of her of the escape plans some time in August. He told her someone would give her $100 so she could pay the man who would smuggle in the cell phone. She met an unknown older white man later that day in Mission in front of Foy’s Supermarket. He handed her $100 and instructed her to give the money to Villarreal. Magdalena Peña was also arrested Sept. 25. She was also only charged with aiding and abetting Meza-Rojas’ escape. The other inmates are Fernando Garza-Cruz, 20; Joel Armando Mata-Castro, 31; Vicente Mendiola-Garcia, 34; and Saul Leonardo Salazar-Aguirre, 24. LCS Correctional Services has made a series of personnel changes since the escape. Zepeda, the young guard who the inmates overpowered, was fired for not following policy, Harbison said. The prison spokesman said Zepeda opened a control room door, unwittingly letting the six inmates escape. He has not been criminally charged, though, and the company believes he did not know of the plot. Zepeda, who was employed shortly after his high school graduation three months before, had undergone on-the-job training but had not attended mandatory training at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Academy. New guards must take the course within a year of hire. Harbison said there are at least 20 other employees, 13 percent of all La Villa guards, at the prison who are like Zepeda and have yet to undergo the academy training. The company has closed its investigation and is now implementing a series of security policy changes, he said. The chief of security at the prison was also demoted, he said.

September 23, 2006 KRIS TV
A control box for the electrical fence surrounding a private jail was tampered with before six federal inmates escaped this week and may have kept the alarm from sounding, an official with the company that runs the jail said Friday. Richard Harbison, co-owner of LCS Corrections Services Inc., of Lafayette, La., said an internal investigation revealed tampering with an outside control box. He also said there were wiring problems with a control box inside the East Hidalgo Detention Center. Meanwhile, two employees were placed on paid leave pending the investigation into Tuesday night's escape of a former police officer facing drug charges and five alleged members of a drug gang. All six remained at large Friday.

September 23, 2006 The Monitor
The 18-year-old guard overseeing the six inmates who escaped from the local prison Tuesday had been on the job less than three months and had not yet undergone a training course mandated for Texas jailers. Enrique Zepeda was one of 27 guards on duty Tuesday night when the six inmates threatened him with a foot-long homemade knife, tied him up and stuffed him in a closet. They then escaped through several inside doors and layers of outside fencing to make their way out of the prison complex. The escapees, who included five prison gang members and a former McAllen police officer accused of running a drug smuggling ring, were still on the loose Friday. Zepeda — who began work at the Eastern Hidalgo County Detention Center this summer just after his high school graduation — was slated to attend the next round of training at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Academy, said Richard Harbison, a spokesman for the company that runs the private prison. The Texas Commission on Jails gives guards a year after their hiring date to complete the training, which at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Academy lasts three weeks. As is standard for all guards, Zepeda spent two weeks shadowing a more experienced officer when he first began at the prison, Harbison said. Michael Gilbert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Texas-San Antonio, called formal guard training key to prison security. “The training is critical. The lack of training, it presents a clear liability for the organization.” Publicly run prisons are exempt from lawsuits claiming negligence for failure to adequately train prison staff, but private facilities have no such protections, Gilbert said. Harbison, the prison spokesman, said Zepeda’s injuries had not been serious enough to warrant medical treatment. “When we have a guard that’s in that situation — that’s the first thing we check,” he said of injuries sustained during prison breaks. “But we have to move forward with an investigation.” LCS has had ample experience with such situations. According to the Texas Commission on Jails, the company’s Brooks County Detention Center has had two escapes in four years — one in 2002 and another in 2005. The La Villa facility had two escapes in 2000, while it was owned by a different company. But in September 2005, when under LCS management, a prisoner escaped from the parking lot of the McAllen Medical Center after he convinced guard he needed medical attention at the hospital. Another inmate tried the same trick on Wednesday, when he jumped out of an ambulance headed for that same hospital. Hoping to avert any more security breaches, LCS has begun work on a new fence to surround the entire complex and is installing an outside camera system. Both will likely be complete within 10 days, Harbison said on Friday.

September 21, 2006 The Monitor
Prison and law enforcement authorities were investigating Wednesday whether a guard or other staffer at the La Villa detention facility may have helped the six federal inmates who escaped late Tuesday night. The six escapees were housed in a single cell in a minimum-to-medium security building, even though five of them were known to be members of a Corpus Christi-based prison gang known as La Raza Unida, according to local and federal officials. They broke out Tuesday at about 9:45 p.m. by threatening a guard with a homemade knife and then cutting a hole in the electric fence outside. They were still on the loose as of Wednesday night and considered armed and dangerous. Michael Hallett, chairman of the criminal justice department at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. and an expert on privately-run prisons, said such facilities face a greater risk of inmates escaping because they are typically understaffed and pay low salaries in order to make profits. These working conditions make for high staff turnover rates, he said. “So, you have poorly trained guards who are too few in number and who are very inexperienced — and that combination of factors makes them susceptible not just to corruption, but also to coercion by the inmates inside,” Hallett said. “That sounds like an inside job,” Hallett said of the circumstances surrounding this week’s escape in La Villa.

September 21, 2006 San Antonio Express-News
The young guard who said he was overpowered by federal inmates at a Valley detention center was one of two employees put on paid leave Thursday as officials investigate how six men escaped. Enrique Zepeda, 18, who has been on the job for three months, said the escape started late Tuesday with a decoy. "They were distracting me to put my guard down for a moment and it worked," he said. A spokesman for Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services Inc., which owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa, confirmed that Zepeda and one other employee were put on paid administrative leave Thursday. All employees will be questioned, said McAllen-based spokesman for the U.S. Marshals, Jose Magallan Jr. "We are looking at all avenues, we are looking to see if it was an inside job," he said.

September 21, 2006 Houston Chronicle
Not enough officers were on duty at a privately owned federal jail when an ex-police officer charged with drug trafficking led five other inmates in a daring escape Tuesday night, a federal marshal overseeing the investigation said Wednesday. The six men broke out of the East Hidalgo Detention Center at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday after using a footlong knife made of plastic to overpower a guard. They managed to get through four jail doors before using bolt cutters or wire snips to cut through two fences. Teams of federal agents and Rio Grande Valley police using helicopters, horses and tracking dogs searched for the escapees late Wednesday but had not found any of them. ''The way we see it, there is lack of security there right now," said Joe Magallan, a deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service. ''There are a lot of safety issues pertaining to that. There's just not enough personnel. More security officers and more detention officers, should be placed there."

September 20, 2006 The Monitor
Federal and local authorities are still looking for six men who escaped from a federal prison last night. The men escaped from the East Hidalgo Detention Center around 9:40 p.m. Tuesday by holding a foot-long, homemade knife to the neck of a prison guard, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Joe Magallan said. They then tied up the guard and locked him in a room before escaping through the backdoor of the building and using wire cutters to detach an electric fence from the anchor holding it to the ground, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said. Someone had evidently de-electrified the fence beforehand, Treviño said. The guard was unharmed. The men had been housed in a minimum to medium security building within the prison complex, said Richard Harbison, a spokesman for LCS Correctional Services, the company that runs the private facility. Harbison said this is the first escape from the facility since LCS took it over from the former management company in 2001. That company had gone bankrupt. Treviño stopped short of calling the escape an inside job but said the circumstances were dubious. “From a law enforcement perspective, it appears to be highly suspicious,” he said.

J.B. Evans Correctional Center, Tensas Parish, Louisiana
November 19, 2009 News-Star
Inmates at a Tensas Parish prison are refusing to return to their cells Thursday afternoon as a form of protest, according to Tensas Parish Sheriff Ricky Jones. Prisoners at the J.B. Evans Correctional Center are not moving from the prison yard to protest the amount of food they receive, Jones said. The warden and deputy warden at the correctional center were not available Thursday afternoon. Staff at the prison offered no comment on the number of inmates or other details of the protest. According to LCS Correctional Services Inc., the company that operates the prison, Evans Correctional Center is a 400-bed multi-use facility that has housed offenders for the Louisiana, Alabama and Harris County, Texas, corrections departments. Richard Harbison, executive vice president of LCS, was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

LCS Caldwell Detention Center, Clarks, Louisiana
April 6, 2006 The Town Talk
An Olla man who escaped from the Caldwell Correctional Center in Clarks committed suicide tonight at a hunting camp near Dodson in Winn Parish, authorities said. Jimmy L. Peppers, 36, barricaded himself inside the camp as authorities tried to talk him into giving himself up. Authorities fired tear gas into the building because they suspected he was inside. Peppers yelled out that he was inside, and authorities tried unsuccessfully for about 10 minutes to talk him into surrendering. At about 6:55 p.m., authorities heard a gunshot, and a Winnfield Police Department K-9 officer went into the house and discovered the body. Assistant Chief Deputy Becky Ledbetter said the department received calls at about 9 a.m. Thursday that someone had escaped from the Caldwell Correctional Center in Clarks and that a Kelly woman had been taken by force from her home. “We are not really sure how he escaped,” Ledbetter said. “He went to the woman’s house and took her by force. He forced her into her own car.” Ledbetter said the two were driving on La. Highway 126 in Winn Parish, five miles east of Dodson, when they got into a scuffle. The two were romantically involved at one time. The unidentified victim dropped him off near Gaars Mill in northeast Winn Parish. She drove to nearby Dodson, where she told authorities that he was armed with a .38-caliber pistol that he took from her. Peppers was serving time at the Caldwell Correctional Center for a felony driving while intoxicated charge and was scheduled to go to court Tuesday for another count of felony driving while intoxicated in LaSalle Parish, Ledbetter said. This is the second prison escape to occur in Caldwell Parish in less than a month. Five inmates escaped March 11 from privately operated LCS Caldwell Detention Center, located directly beside the Caldwell Correctional Center on La. Highway 845 in Clarks. All five were caught and charged with additional counts and placed back at the facility in less than a week. Owners of the facility are conducting an internal investigation into the escape.

March 16, 2006 KATC TV
Authorities in Jefferson Parish have captured an escapee from the Caldwell Detention Center. Twenty-seven-year-old Jeremy Robinson escaped along with four other inmates over the weekend. He's the last one to be taken into custody. Jefferson Parish deputies stopped a car yesterday afternoon -- that was suspected to be stolen by Robinson. Caldwell Sheriff Steve May says Robinson's girlfriend was driving the car. Deputies then received information that Robinson was at his girlfriend's house in Kenner. Robinson was taken into custody without incident and is expected to be returned to Caldwell Parish today. He was serving time on a drug charge -- and now faces additional charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated escape, and attempted murder of a police officer.

March 15, 2006 KPLC TV
Caldwell Parish Sheriff Steve May says an escaped prisoner from a private prison in his parish has probably left the area. Twenty-seven-year-old Jeremy Robinson of Jefferson Parish is the sole inmate still at large after five men overpowered personnel at L-C-S Caldwell Detention Center on Saturday night, then fled the facility. May believes Robinson may have stolen a vehicle in the south end of the parish and may be attempting to return to his home in the New Orleans area. May says authorities statewide have been notified of the escape. Bond has been set at 500-thousand dollars each on the other four escapees, who were captured Saturday night and Sunday morning.

March 14, 2006 AP
Bond has been set at $500,000 each for four of the five men accused of getting a prison worker to open a control room door, taking control of the prison and then driving out in a prison employee's truck. The fifth, Jeremy Robinson, 27, of Jefferson Parish, remained at large. He is described as black, 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, with "Shanda" tattooed on his right arm. The five escaped Saturday night from the private LSC Caldwell Detention Center in Clarks. Caldwell Parish Sheriff Steve May said that after getting the control room open, the five overpowered employees and eventually took control of the prison. When a town marshal tried to stop their truck, they tried to run over him but crashed the truck, May said. He identified those back in custody as Corey Manshack, 25, of Converse; Keith Gallow, 33, of Ville Platte; Melvin Tipton, 23, of West Monroe; and Ray Eugene Tate of Lawrenceville, Ill. All four were booked with new charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated escape; Manshack and Gallow also were booked with theft and trespassing. Tate is wanted on seven counts of failing to appear in court for drug charges in Hopkinsville, Ky., May said. He said Tate was moved to Clarks from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

March 12, 2006 Houma Today
Five inmates escaped a privately run prison in Caldwell Parish, but authorities were able to track down all but one of the escaped convicts by Sunday afternoon, the sheriff's office said. Jeremy Robinson, a 27-yeasr-old inmate from Jefferson Parish, was still at large on Sunday, said Glenn Gilmore, a chief deputy of the sheriff's department. The five inmates overpowered a female guard at about 9 p.m. Saturday at the LCS Caldwell Detention Center, Gilmore said.

Louisiana Correctional Services
March 11, 2008 The Advocate
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office continue to investigate a single-engine plane crash that killed two people Monday night, including Lafayette businessman and civic leader Patrick LeBlanc. LeBlanc, 53, of Youngsville, co-owner of LCS Corrections Services, and a pilot from Opelousas were killed in a plane crash Monday night near Abbeville. Jason Aguilera, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, has identified the plane as a Cessna 210. Aguilera said an initial investigation indicates the pilot, believed to be R. Solomon Reed. 60, of Pavy Road in Opelousas, was attempting to land in Lafayette. The crash happened on La. 82 in Vermilion Parish. The flight originated in Jackson, Miss., the Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office said. LeBlanc was a leader in the Lafayette Jaycees, was active in the Acadiana Home Builders Association and last fall ran an unsuccessful campaign for state House of Representatives District 43.

Louisiana Correctional Services Center, Clarks Louisiana
A story in Thursday's The News-Star should have said inmate Bruce Lanehart escaped from Louisiana Correctional Services Correctional Center, a private prison in Clarks.  (Ouachita, April 9, 2004)

Louisiana Legislature

October 21, 2007 The Advertiser
The involvement of his opponent's company in a Texas jail contract investigation may have helped Page Cortez capture the House District 43 race in Saturday's election. Complete but unofficial returns show Cortez, R-Lafayette, with 7,742 or 55 percent of the vote and Patrick LeBlanc, R-Youngsville, with 6,218 or 45 percent. Cortez replaces state Rep. Ernie Alexander, R-Lafayette, who chose not to seek re-election to the District 43 seat. "I'm tickled to death that it turned out the way it did," Cortez said Saturday night. "I think that ultimately the people of District 43 said their priorities are roads, ethics and teamwork." Cortez is the owner and operator of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries and Stoma's Furniture in Lafayette. He previous worked as a teacher and coached at Catholic High of New Iberia and Lafayette High. LeBlanc, 53, owns and operates LCS Corrections Services, a private jail company, as well as Premier Management Enterprises, which provides commissary services to jails in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. He also has been associated with the architectural firm The LeBlanc Group and LeBlanc Construction Company. This race heated up in recent weeks when unopposed state Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, and unopposed state Rep. Joel Robideaux, I-Lafayette, through their political organization Leadership for Louisiana, ran ads opposing LeBlanc's candidacy because of the Texas investigation. The Bexar County, Texas, sheriff resigned and pleaded guilty to accepting a free trip to Costa Rica from LeBlanc and his brother, and not reporting the contribution. The sheriff's campaign manager also pled guilty for accepting donations from LeBlanc's company to a phony charity, then pocketing the money. The FBI continues to investigate interstate aspects of a commissary contract the LeBlancs had with the Bexar County jail.

October 10, 2007 The Advertiser
Ethics reform is the buzzword of the fall 2007 election cycle. Everybody from the gubernatorial candidates to state House and Senate candidates have jumped on the bandwagon calling for sweeping ethics reforms. The two candidates for House District 43 in Lafayette Parish are no different. Both said they support ethics reform. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and Patrick LeBlanc, R-Youngsville, both newcomers to politics, signed the Blueprint Louisiana contract, which calls for adoption of the best ethics laws in the nation. But ethics is at the heart of this particular race for another reason. Premier Management Enterprises, a company LeBlanc co-owns with his brother, Mike, is involved in a Texas investigation that took down a sheriff and the sheriff's campaign manager. The FBI continues to investigate. Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff Ralph Lopez was forced to resign and pled guilty to three misdemeanor charges: gift to a public servant, failure to report a gift and tampering with a governmental record. Some time after Premier Management Enterprises was awarded a contract to provide commissary services to Bexar County prisoners, the LeBlancs took Lopez and other sheriffs on a golfing trip to Costa Rica. Patrick LeBlanc has said the trip was a conference of several sheriffs his company conducts business with to discuss escape attempts, gang threats and the lockup of immigrants. The LeBlancs also own LCS Corrections Services, which operates private jails in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. Some of them have experienced escapes by prisoners. As part of an Aug. 31 plea agreement, Lopez agreed to provide information to the Texas Rangers, FBI, District Attorney's Office and others about all transactions, legal and illegal, involving, among others, Michael LeBlanc, Patrick LeBlanc and Premier Management Enterprises. On Sept. 25, Lopez's campaign manager, John Wayne Reynolds, who chaired a benevolent fund board that awarded the LeBlancs the commissary contract, pled guilty to three counts of pocketing more than $22,000 in checks Premier Management had made payable to the Optimist Club Scholarship Fund. The Bexar County District Attorney did not file charges against the LeBlancs. Documents show Ian Williamson, who was a one-third owner in Premier Management at the time, signed the checks given to Reynolds. Patrick LeBlanc said Williamson is no longer a partner in the company. LeBlanc maintains he and his company are innocent of wrongdoing. He said the sheriff was at fault for not reporting the Costa Rica trip. Trips like that are just a part of doing business, he said. "There is nothing unethical or inappropriate about taking clients on trips, be it public or private," LeBlanc said. His company was duped by Reynolds, LeBlanc said. They believed they were donating to a legitimate organization, he said. In late September, the Bexar District Attorney's Office completed its case and turned it over to the FBI. FBI spokesman Erik Vasys told The Daily Advertiser the investigation is ongoing. There are interstate aspects of the case, such as letters, e-mail and telephone communications, that crossed state lines and are still under investigation. He was unable to say more. "Nowhere in ... the official public record that they used to get the plea deal do they mention my involvement in any way other than as a stockholder in this company," LeBlanc said. "You don't see them investigating me, questioning me, calling me a target." Interviewed Friday, LeBlanc again said elected officials should be able to accept free trips if they are approved by the ethics commission and are for legitimate reasons. While both House District 43 candidates say they're for ethics reform, they seem to disagree to some extent on what it means. Cortez disagrees with LeBlanc's assertion that doing business with government is the same as doing business with oilfield companies. "To try and woo somebody with gifts and money and trips, the taxpayers ultimately pay for that," he said. Cortez said legislators should be required to provide full financial disclosure for themselves and their families, making is clear where they derive their money and whether they have state contracts or do business with the state. Then full disclosure needs to be applied to local governments, he said. "What is ethics reform?" LeBlanc said Friday. "It's an overused word. The bottom line is we need to provide more teeth to ethics laws so they can be enforced."

Gov. Kathleen Blanco collected more than $1 million from private corporations and individuals to spend on her inauguration activities and in her transition to the governor's office, according to figures released Wednesday. The Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield for the state Department of Corrections, donated $5,000. Wackenhut Corrections, which runs the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, donated $10,000. LCS Corrections Services, which owns a private prison in Basile, contributed $4,000. (Times Picayune, March 18, 2004)

Nueces County Jail, Nueces County, Texas
Mar 6, 2014 kiiitv.com

An inmate death at a private jail facility near Robstown is raising questions. The inmate was a recent graduate of the Navy flight school at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi. The death has been ruled a suicide, but the investigation is now being questioned by the agency that oversees the LCS facility. That law enforcement agency is the Nueces County Sheriff's Office, whose detectives were turned away at LCS by U.S. Marshals. They were told Texas Rangers would be conducting the investigation, and that, says Sheriff Jim Kaelin, is not proper protocol. "The private prison LCS is under our charge, and we're responsible for the things that go on out there," Kaelin said. "Meaning that the U.S. Marshals service mandate that we make sure that we comply with rules, regulations and law." It was Saturday when Sheriff Kaelin says he got a call from the LCS warden that an inmate had attempted suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet, and that the inmate was being transported to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. That inmate has been identified as 26-year old Trevor Nash, a recent graduate of the Navy's flight school at NAS-Corpus Christi. According to sources, Nash was preparing to be transferred to helicopter training school when he was arrested on charges of piracy. 3News contacted the U.S. Marshals out of Houston in hopes of obtaining more information regarding the charges, and why Texas Rangers and not the Nueces County Sheriff's Office are heading up the investigation. We have yet to get a response. In the meantime, Sheriff Kaelin says he too is attempting to get some answers.

June 2, 2010 KRIS TV
A Taft man who was detained at the LCS Detention Center in Robstown died this past Saturday. Warden Mike Striedel said 27-year-old Leo Guajardo died from a brain tumor. Striedel said Guajardo had been at the detention center since January for taking the weapon of a U.S. Marshal. Striedel says Guajardo saw a doctor Friday afternoon for high blood pressure, he was immediately put on medication, but a couple hours later he claimed to feel dizzy. The Warden says he was taken to the hospital and doctors found a massive brain tumor. His condition worsened and eventually he was put on life support. Striedel says the family decided to take him off life support Saturday night and he was pronounced dead. The Texas Rangers will investigate the incident to make sure everyone at the detention center did what they could to help Guajardo. The man's family is not ready to make a statement yet, as they are preparing for Guajardo's funeral.

February 27, 2009 Caller-Times
Nueces County and the U.S. Marshals Service agreed to a deal to put federal prisoners in the privately owned LCS detention facility in Robstown, which last month laid off half its staff when it sat empty. Nueces County sends federal prisoners to an LCS facility in Hidalgo County in exchange for $2 per prisoner per day. The prison receives about $44 a day per prisoner. On Thursday, the county signed an addendum to the contract, allowing the Robstown facility to house federal prisoners, County Judge Loyd Neal said, but it won’t be paid for it initially.

January 24, 2009 Caller-Times
LCS Corrections Services laid off half of its Robstown detention center employees Friday because federal authorities have yet to transfer in prisoners, but the company plans to offer jobs to some elsewhere. LCS, a private Lafayette, La.-based prison company, expected to have a full house at its 1,100-bed facility shortly after the prison opened in mid-November, but the center remains empty after a contract with the federal government stalled, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. Of the 35 correctional officers laid off, six will be offered positions at the LCS detention facility in Brooks County, Harbison said. Short on correctional officers, Nueces County Jail will offer jobs to 14 others, county officials said. Fifteen temporarily will be left without jobs, Harbison said. To start the intake of federal prisoners from agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol, LCS needs Nueces County to sign an agreement with marshals that will outline how much the federal government will pay for housing their prisoners. Congress also must pass a 2009 budget, which should occur when a continuing resolution allowing the federal government to operate under its 2008 budget expires in early March. The prison company intends to rehire the laid-off employees and hire additional staff once prisoners start arriving, Harbison said. Nueces County spent millions to clean up its jail's substandard conditions that led to the June 2006 removal of federal prisoners. The federal inmates haven't returned. County officials have been negotiating since January 2008 for a higher fee to house them at the jail. The contract also will include fees for housing federal prisoners at two LCS facilities. Because the federal government doesn't deal with private detention contractors, LCS is dependent on a "pass through" contract, where the county gets a share of fees charged per prisoner for passing through overflow federal prisoners to the company's private facilities in Hidalgo County and Robstown. Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal said Friday that the county, the U.S. Marshals Service and LCS are in agreement on new rates for the jail and the LCS facilities. He wouldn't disclose the negotiated rates. The proposed fees are awaiting review and approval from the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, which oversees federal detention programs. The county, which received a $45.15 daily rate per prisoner prior to their removal from the county jail, was seeking a raise to $61.49. County officials previously have said that negotiations were stuck at about $53 a day per prisoner. "The marshals and I have agreed on that rate. We have worked with LCS, and they agree it is very favorable," Neal said. "We did this several months ago, and we have been unable to get any kind of funding out of the federal government. Until the new Congress and President (Barack) Obama reach an agreement (on a budget) there is no money available for a new arrangement for federal prisoners." The county receives $2 a day for each prisoner sent to LCS' Hidalgo County facility, and LCS earns roughly $43. A similar pass through deal is in the works for the Robstown facility once the county and the federal government sign off on new rates. "The minute we hear anything at all we will be contacting everybody to come back to work," Harbison said.

September 9, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez and some of his friends weren't the only ones in South Texas who enjoyed the benefits of helping Premier Management Enterprises secure lucrative jail commissary contracts, according to interviews and records examined by the San Antonio Express-News. Like Lopez, the sheriffs of two other counties awarded contracts to the Louisiana jail services company, and either they or their associates reaped financial benefits. Those sheriffs, now out of office, also boasted to their staffs about going on a golf and fishing trip to Costa Rica with Premier officials, the same trip that last week forced Lopez to resign. Here in Kleberg County, then-Sheriff Tony Gonzalez, a close friend of Lopez, gave Premier a contract to run his jail commissary when he was in office in 2004 and has been paid by the company for consulting work of an unknown nature. "I've done some consulting for them here and there," Gonzalez told the Express-News during a brief interview at his ranch-style home on the outskirts of Kingsville, declining to elaborate. "I'm just down here keeping my nose clean." In Nueces County, one associate of former Sheriff Larry Olivarez, another Lopez friend, reaped rewards after helping Premier win a jail commissary contract there in 2005. The associate, a commercial real estate broker who was appointed by the sheriff to an ad hoc committee that awarded the contract, later earned a commission from the sale of 56 acres where LCS Corrections Services Inc., another company owned in part by Premier's principals, is building a private detention center, the Express-News has learned. In addition, the former sheriff's chief deputy won political backing from LCS when he ran as a candidate to replace Olivarez, who had stepped down to run for county judge. Premier, which has come up repeatedly in an ongoing public corruption investigation in Bexar County for doing favors for influential people in a position to help the company, has denied any wrongdoing. That investigation, so far, has narrowly targeted only individuals in Bexar County, such as Lopez and his longtime campaign manager, John Reynolds, and Reynolds' financial relationship with the sheriff's wife. Lopez, Reynolds and at least one of their associates helped Premier land the local jail food commissary contract in 2005. As part of an immunity deal with Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed, the sheriff resigned, effective Sept. 19, and pleaded no contest Tuesday to three misdemeanor charges, two of which were related to the Costa Rica golf outing he accepted from Premier. The deal protected him from further state prosecution; his wife wasn't indicted. Reynolds, who played a key role in awarding the contract to Premier, is suspected by Reed of bribery, extortion, theft, money laundering and campaign finance violations. He also went on the Costa Rica trip and received checks totaling more than $30,000 from Premier and one of its owners for consulting and donations to fake charities Reynolds set up. An associate of both Reynolds and the sheriff, John E. Curran, voted with Reynolds on a jail board to give Premier the commissary contract, then won a contract himself from Premier to provide temporary workers for the operation. Largely unexamined is the broader picture of how Premier, its owners, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc, and LCS conducted a business expansion with local government partners throughout South Texas. A closer look at some of those operations reveals similarities in conduct with local officials that have drawn none of the law enforcement or media scrutiny seen in Bexar County. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who succeeded Olivarez, is among those who have been watching the news from San Antonio with keen interest because LCS is about to open an 800-bed prison in his county. So far, no law enforcement agency has contacted him, Kaelin said. Close relationships -- LeBlanc-run companies Premier and LCS operate jail-related businesses in five South Texas counties. The first started in Brooks County in 2000. They have embarked on an aggressive expansion in recent years that has capitalized on tighter federal immigration control policies. In addition to the work at Bexar County Jail, the companies also operate jails, commissaries or full-scale prisons in Brooks, Kleberg, Hidalgo and Nueces counties. They also run four jails in the LeBlancs' home state of Louisiana and one in Alabama. Current Texas law makes sheriffs key gatekeepers for contracts such as those sought by Premier and to a certain extent by the prison-building LCS. Under current law, Texas sheriffs have almost unchecked authority to contract management of their commissaries with no competitive bidding. County commissioners must approve deals to build private prisons but often keep their sheriffs closely in the loop as resident overseers and advisers. Premier, LCS or sometimes both arrived in counties served by sheriffs who maintained close personal relationships with one another and with Bexar County's Lopez, according to interviews with personnel in several offices. Lopez's office calendar for the past few years shows he often traveled to visit Kleberg's Gonzalez on weekends for golfing and that Gonzalez traveled to San Antonio. The calendar also shows a number of trips to visit Olivarez in Corpus Christi, where he still lives in a house near a golf course. At the Kleberg County Sheriff's Office, Gonzalez's former staffers say the three were often joined in golfing and hunting outings by other sheriffs and elected officials in counties where Premier or LCS are doing business today. Among them was Balde Lozano of Brooks County, who did not return three calls for this story. "He kept a close-knit circle of friends," said Yvonne Barbour, Gonzalez's former office administrator. "I know Tony was a big golfer." Those relationships would later prove mutually beneficial for the Louisiana companies and the sheriffs or their friends. Gonzalez, for instance, used his relationships in Nueces County to help Premier and LCS gain entrance there. Assistant Deputy Chief Peter B. Peralta, who worked in the office when LSC first began courting county business, remembered that it was Gonzalez who made the introductions. Later, Gonzalez approved giving Premier a food commissary contract for his jail during his final weeks in office. At some point either before or after Gonzalez left office in late 2004, he accepted private consulting work from Premier's owners, he and a company official acknowledged. When Gonzalez transferred the commissary contract to Premier, two lifelong Kingsville residents, brothers who run a small local grocery, felt the pain. Betos Community Grocery had held the contract since the 1970s and had come to rely on the modest commissary revenue as competition from large grocery stores cut into Betos' bottom line. They were told they should only bid for the contract if they had a sophisticated computer system. "We didn't even get one computer until last year," said Juan Garza, who co-owns the grocery with his brother Albert and supported Gonzalez's last failed re-election bid. "It hurt." It remains unclear what kind of consulting work Gonzalez did for the company or when it started. But former five-term Brooks County Judge Joe B. Garcia recalled one occasion — after Gonzalez lost his election — that he came calling, apparently after hearing that Garcia had begun agitating for Brooks County to renegotiate better terms from its LCS detention center contract. It was during this time that Gonzalez phoned Garcia wanting to meet for lunch and talk about local LCS operations. "I've known Tony for a while. But I didn't want to talk to him about my contract with LCS," Garcia said. Garcia remembered another story he found disturbing, when Michael LeBlanc himself showed up at his office, accompanied by the man Garcia had just beaten in the election. That LeBlanc would travel to South Texas was not unusual; he often has personally tended to his business affairs. But Garcia said what he heard made him feel uncomfortable. "They said if I had a campaign debt, they would contribute to my campaign," Garcia said. He said he told them he had no campaign debt to pay off and wouldn't have accepted the offer even if he did. "A lot of people try to do those type of things," Garcia said. "I've always been the type who, hey, I've worked hard for my education. I don't have fancy cars, no ranches." Attorneys for LCS and Premier have declined all requests for interviews regarding the ongoing investigation in Bexar County or for this report. Last year, the LeBlancs sued the Express-News, alleging they were libeled in articles the paper published in late 2005. The lawsuit is pending. But Chris Burch, chief executive officer of Premier, acknowledged that Gonzalez had done some consulting work for the company under an arrangement with a predecessor, Ian Williamson, who is no longer with the company. Burch said he was not privy to any details about that work. Gonzalez still may be working for the company as a paid consultant, Burch said. "I do know he has done some consulting work, but I'm not the one who put this together." Benefits and campaign -- Like Gonzalez, then-Nueces County Sheriff Olivarez helped Premier land a commissary deal in his jail during his final days in office in late 2005. He then quit, as required, to run for county judge. During his time as sheriff, LCS had a "pass through" contract with Nueces to refer federal prisoners to its other Texas facilities, and it advanced a proposal to build the 800-bed detention center, now nearing completion. The project is expected to generate $800,000 for the county in inmate transfer payments, plus $350,000 to $400,000 in taxes. The Express-News has learned an ally of Olivarez benefited financially from LCS' effort to build the detention center — after helping the sheriff give the jail commissary contract to Premier. Corpus Christi commercial real estate broker and developer Tim Clower served in late 2005 on an ad hoc selection committee the sheriff appointed to examine bids for the commissary management job, according to the office of Kaelin, the current sheriff. In February 2006, several months after Clower voted for the commissary contract, he brokered a real estate purchase of 56.6 acres on behalf of LCS for the $20 million detention center. The property's seller, Patricia Ann Bernsen, said Clower's company approached her and brokered the purchase of her farmland for $4,000 an acre, or $225,000. "He did get a commission, that's for sure," Bernsen said, declining to say how much. "It was a good commission." On average, commercial real estate agents earn between 6 percent and 10 percent, according to one South Texas commercial real estate broker. At the time of the sale, the 2006 sheriff's primary race was heating up. Clower co-signed for a $20,000 campaign loan to Olivarez's former chief deputy, Jimmy Rodriguez, whose opponent at the time was publicly criticizing him for helping bring LCS to town. LCS went to Rodriguez's aid by lambasting his opponent. At one point in the campaign, LCS went public with a threat to halt construction of its detention center if Rodriguez did not win the Democratic primary. "We're not going to work with or for someone who doesn't respect our company," Michael LeBlanc was quoted in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times as saying about Rodriguez's opponent. "If Mr. (Pete) Alvarez wins, we're out of Nueces County — plain and simple," LeBlanc said. Rodriguez won the primary but lost the general election. Last week, he insisted that he was paying off the $20,000 bank loan he said Clower co-signed. "He's been a friend for a long time," Olivarez's former chief deputy said of Clower. "He had a long history with the department before we even got there." Clower did not return repeated calls seeking comment about the loan or his commission on the LCS land purchase. Traveling together -- The Express-News could not substantiate or refute comments from those in the Sheriff's Office that Olivarez, while he was sheriff, went on the same Costa Rica trip in August 2005 with Lopez, Reynolds and Premier officials. Olivarez did not return numerous phone calls or respond to a message left during a visit to his home. Kaelin said Olivarez boasted of the Costa Rica trip and a separate hunting trip to employees who remain on staff. Kleberg's Gonzalez, while in office, also told some of his staff of going on the same Costa Rica trip, said Kleberg Sheriff Ed Mata, who beat Gonzalez in the 2004 election. Mata conceded that he can't prove the story, but he wondered why no one has investigated as in Bexar County. Gonzalez, during the recent interview at his home near Kingsville, was asked several times if he would deny going on the trip. He declined each time. The Costa Rica trip was not the only reputed benefit Kaelin heard about in regard to Olivarez. Shortly after taking office, Kaelin said, a staff person phoned him to report that Olivarez had appeared with a small group of businesspeople seeking to tour the detention center project. Kaelin said he was told that Olivarez had represented himself as an "unpaid spokesperson for LCS." Kaelin called LCS officials to inquire as to whether Olivarez might have been hired to run the detention center, a prospect Kaelin worried would undermine his office's working relationship with it. But he was told Olivarez had no known connection to the company or employment prospects. Bexar Sheriff Lopez's office calendar indicates he planned to attend the detention center groundbreaking with Olivarez on Feb. 23, 2006, after Olivarez had left office to run, unsuccessfully it turned out, for judge. Today, Olivarez works as a manager for the Corpus Christi branch of CGT Law Group International, according to a woman who answered the phone there. Richard Harbison, a vice president in charge of LCS' Texas operations, is certain that Olivarez has had no financial relationship with LCS. As he was preparing to take his own vacation to Costa Rica, Harbison also said by phone that he was unaware of any paid trips involving sheriffs in Texas and the LeBlancs. Burch, of Premier, said he was not working for the company at the time of the August 2005 trip. In Bexar County, where the public corruption investigation has been in high gear lately, District Attorney Susan Reed has said she is mainly interested in prosecuting local individuals such as Reynolds, whom she called "rotten fruit." None of Premier's San Antonio offices have been searched, Reed acknowledged. "I'm not finished, so I'm not ready to make any definitive determination yet" about Premier, she said. The FBI and Texas Rangers, which have been involved in the Bexar County investigation, aren't commenting. Patrick LeBlanc, who last week formally became a candidate for the Louisiana Legislature, is running in part on a message that he will fight against political corruption that "robs us of our confidence in government." Last week, he told the Lafayette Advocate that he has been cooperating with investigators in Bexar County but couldn't elaborate. "We haven't done anything wrong," he told the newspaper. "I would never, ever risk my integrity over selling candy bars and potato chips."

July 14, 2006 Correctional News
Concern over conditions at the Nueces County Jail resulted in the removal of 55 federal inmates — a potential loss of nearly $1 million in revenue for the county. County commissioners grew concerned after complaints of clogged plumbing, lack of water and insect bites were brought forth by inmates housed in the aging facility. Officials say that the facility requires renovations and have ordered a full report on all reported problems. The U.S. Marshals Service, which pays the county $45 per day to house federal inmates, transferred the prisoners to facilities in Aransas, Jim Wells, Victoria, Karnes, Bee and Brooks counties.

April 13, 2006 Caller-Times
The county's deal to build a $20 million detention center near Robstown is on no matter what the outcome of November's general election between sheriff candidates Jimmy Rodriguez, a Democrat, and Republican Jim Kaelin. LCS Correction Services Inc. officials said earlier this week they'd pull out if former police chief Pete Alvarez was elected as the Democrats' nominee for county sheriff in Tuesday's primary runoff, but after Rodriguez's win, the company's CEO says plans will move forward. "The dust will be flying out there in late May or early June," said Michael LeBlanc, chief executive officer. The company expressed reservations about the project after hearing ads supporting Alvarez refer to a Louisiana-based corrections firm that owns facilities where rapes and beatings occur. The ad said Rodriguez helped bring the company, which was not named in the advertisement, to the area. LCS is based in Louisiana. "We're not going to work with or for someone who doesn't respect our company," LeBlanc said Monday. "If Mr. Alvarez wins, we're out of Nueces County - plain and simple." The facility would house federal inmates awaiting trial and is expected to bring in about $800,000 for inmate transfers, plus $350,000 to $400,000 in taxes. LCS broke ground on a federal detention facility between Robstown and Driscoll last month. Alvarez said Wednesday that LSC should not have discussed the candidates leading up to the runoff, calling it unethical. "My problem is they got involved," he said. Rodriguez said last week he hoped LSC would remain committed to the Nueces County project. "We need it," he said.

April 9, 2006 KRIS TV
The company proposing a detention center in Robstown has issued an ultimatum that could effect the outcome of the Democratic runoff for sheriff. Friday evening, LCS Correctional Services confirmed to 6 News that if Pete Alvarez defeats Jimmy Rodriguez in the runoff on Tuesday, they won't build a federal detention center here in Nueces County. Thursday, company officials told 6 News they wouldn't make that kind of announcement until after the election, but they've obviously changed their minds. Here's how it works, LCS wants to house federal inmates. But those inmates technically would go through the Nueces County Jail First, before being sent to the LCS Detention Center near Robstown. The company said if there's a Nueces County Sheriff that doesn't have confidence in the LCS operation, the inmates won't be sent to the private jail and the company doesn't make money. It is the latest controversy in a race that seems to have had plenty already. "If Pete gets elected, they will pull out," said sheriff's Jimmy Rodriguez. He announced the company's ultimatum during a live debate on the cable show "South Texas Politics". He said the company's president told him that just a short time beforehand. He blames the campaign ads of Pete Alvarez that questioned LCS's history of escapes and cases of abuse. "If you had a company, and somebody attacked you and told lies about you and incited the community to turn against you, and not to want you, I don't know if I would come here either," Rodriguez said.

April 6, 2006 KRIS TV
LULAC claims a private prison company that county leaders approved poses a danger to the community. LCS Correctional Services is planning to build a large detention center in western Nueces County. Leaders of LULAC Thursday called it a bad move, but supporters of the project said the complaint is merely for political gain in the runoff election next week. At the news conference Thursday afternoon, the president of LULAC said the community is tired of all the mudslinging in the sheriff's race. But moments later she questioned one candidate's involvement in what LULAC considers a deal that threatens public safety. "We want to bring public attention to a potentially dangerous situation brewing in Nueces County," said Nancy Vera. That situation is a federal detention center being built between Robstown and Driscoll. Officials broke ground on it back in February, but LULAC President Nancy Vera says LCS has a history the public should know about. "We have discovered some very disturbing information." Vera said. She claims LCS Correctional services has experienced numerous escapes and cases of prisoner abuse. Vera is asking the commissioners court and in particular Jimmy Rodriguez why those issues were never discussed. 6 News asked Jimmy Rodriguez if he felt LCS was a legitimate company. Rodriguez replied, "I think LCS spoke for themselves. They're a reputable company." Rodriguez said the idea that he had any direct involvement in the LSC contract is completely misleading. He said it's just a political attack on a company trying to make a large investment in the area. "$20 million investing, 300 jobs, this is good for the economy, and to have it all put in jeopardy because of incompetency is tragic," Rodriguez said. "The commissioners court met with LCS, reviewed LCS, and awarded LCS. They thought it was a good thing. They handled the contract."

April 5, 2006 Caller-Times
The latest political mudfest in the race for Nueces County sheriff is originating in Pete Alvarez's political camp. Alvarez's new "Bad Jimmy" television ads, claim that his opponent Jimmy Rodriguez is responsible for the recent erroneous release of six jail inmates and that Rodriguez is responsible for a series of lawsuits filed against Nueces County over problems with the jail. Another Alvarez ad has raised questions about whether a Louisiana prison administrator might ditch a plan to build a detention facility in the county. The ad doesn't name the company in question, but says a Louisiana-based company the county has contracted with has an unsatisfactory record with the treatment of its inmates. The ad is aimed at the sheriff's department's administration for its advocacy of the company. Last month LCS Correction Services Inc. broke ground on a federal detention facility between Robstown and Driscoll. The facility, under contract with Nueces County, is expected to bring in about $800,000 for inmate transfers, plus $350,000 to $400,000 in taxes. A statement released by the company said the owners were upset by the ad. "We admit the operations of prisons do not create a perfect world because we deal daily with imperfect people," Chief Executive Officer Michael LeBlanc said in the statement. "But there has never been a death or a suicide at any LCS Corrections facility in the Company's 16-year history." Company officials refused to comment on whether the ad has now jeopardized the plans to build the corrections facility, saying it might unfairly impact the election. Nueces County Precinct 4 Commissioner Chuck Cazalas said he didn't understand why Alvarez's ad targeted Rodriguez for something former Sheriff Larry Olivarez championed. He also said everything he knew about LCS indicated they were a quality firm. "I think they are supposed to be a good company. Everything I heard about them was pretty good," Cazalas said. "I understand . . . that the company is supposedly thinking of pulling out." Alvarez said his ads are a response to ads Rodriguez is running. The Rodriguez campaign says they did not fire the first negative campaign volley, but they are preparing to fire back, with new ads targeting Alvarez's record as police chief. "Pete's radio spot hitting on jail releases was first," said Rodriguez's campaign consultant Jeff Butler. "We had a response saying, 'No it's not true.' He hit us first, so we responded and it went from there." Alvarez denied that his team was first on the assault. "I tried my best to keep a professional and clean campaign and they decided to throw the garbage out," he said. "And we have to defend ourselves. This is not something we initiated from the beginning. The public needs to understand that what is being said about me is simply not true." The Rodriguez campaign contends that ads they are running against Alvarez are "infomercials" based on research and news stories outlining Alvarez's record that have run on television and in the newspaper in the past, Butler said. Butler said the Rodriguez camp is not responsible for an anti-Alvarez flier mailed in February by political action committee Citizens for Nueces County that may have sparked some of the rancor in the campaign. The flier said Alvarez was more than a million dollars over budget as police chief in 2001, that he tried to cover up an incident where his son was driving drunk, that he had been sued for misconduct and retaliation and that he had plagiarized a strategic plan. Butler said Tuesday the campaign also did not put out a new flier that came out this week saying Alvarez treats women like second-class citizens. The flier cites a Caller-Times article about a grievance filed by female Corpus Christi police officers, who said Alvarez had "relegated them to second-class status." Alvarez would not comment on specific allegations Tuesday but reiterated that neither flier is true. The only member of the political action committee listed in campaign filings is Roland Gaona, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Though Alvarez and Rodriguez would not take responsibility for throwing the first mud, both campaigns said Tuesday they are prepared to duke it out to the last - the April 11 runoff. Rodriguez said he hopes the nastiness won't get any worse. Butler nodded in response to whether he thought the campaign would get any nastier and nodded again that the Rodriguez team is ready for battle. "I knew the only way they could win was to go negative on us," Butler said. "Especially after the primary when Pete only got 40 percent. Everybody knew who Pete was. His 40 percent told me that 60 percent of the voters were voting against him." Alvarez said future ads from his camp will come from watching what Rodriguez does and then responding. "We have to strategize," Alvarez said. "This is a campaign, a political campaign. We have to defend ourselves, or the public will begin to believe the nonsense his campaign has come out with."

Perry County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center, Uniontown, Alabama
Nov 22, 2013 therepublic.com

UNIONTOWN, Alabama — Large portions of the Perry County Correctional Center are sitting dark and empty as the state continues to grapple with overcrowding of its prison system, according to a report Friday by The Anniston Star. The private, for-profit prison outside Uniontown houses just 30 inmates with 26 people on staff, the newspaper said (http://bit.ly/1jqMpsm ). Alabama once leased hundreds of beds but today all the inmates are from the federal system. Prison owner LCS Correction Services is trying to persuade the state to buy the facility or at least bring back prisoners, but lawmakers say the state can't afford it. "We just don't have the money," said Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, vice chairman of the Joint Legislative Prison Committee. More than 25,000 in the system are currently being housed at facilities built for 13,000, the newspaper said. State officials say a lack of money was the reason the state pulled its prisoners out of the C. Alabama housed 449 inmates there at one point in 2011, according to Department of Corrections statistics. The next year, there were only seven. This year, none. Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said moving inmates to the prison would not save money, because it doesn't reduce the operating cost of the prison they're leaving. The overall state prison budget is $389 million. "Our cost to run our prisons is pretty fixed, if you will," Corbett said. "If you took out 100 inmates and put them in Perry County, all you're doing is adding a new expense." Meanwhile, Warden Jim Mullins oversees an eerily quiet Perry County prison. Inmates eat at a pair of fold-up tables in the corner of a cafeteria built for 250 and most live in a single 64-man pod in one of the prison's wings. "If you were here on a day when this was at full capacity, it would be impressive, to say the least, how smoothly it operates," Mullins said.

April 22, 2010 AP
The Alabama Legislature has given final passage to a bill that clears the way for the state to buy a private prison in Perry County. The House voted 82-16 to approve the bill that would permit the state to issue $60 million in bonds to buy the Perry County Correctional Center and to renovate it. The Senate voted 19-0 to go along with changes made to the bill in the House. The private prison is located near Uniontown in Perry County in an economically depressed area. The prison is designed for 750 inmates, but can be expanded to handle 1,500. The sponsor, Democratic Rep. John Knight of Montgomery, said the prison is needed because of overcrowding in the state prison system.

April 17, 2010 Gadsden Times
The state is negotiating to buy the privately owned Perry County prison and is one step away from getting the money to buy it. A bill authorizing a $60 million bond issue on the House calendar and is in position to pass in the final two days of the 2010 legislative session next week. Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, is sponsoring the bill for the Department of Corrections. “Corrections is interested because we are so overcrowded,” Barron said. “They’re interested in buying it as well as expanding it.” Barron’s sponsorship of the bill for Gov. Bob Riley is not that controversial even though they have butted heads politically. But an aspect of the bill puts Barron at odds with previous statements about Riley. He has vociferously and publicly lambasted Riley for a so-called no-bid $13 million computer system upgrade contract. He even sponsored bills this session to limit non-competitive bidding. Barron’s prison bond issue bill strikes out the original requirement that the prison bond issue be competitively bid. Barron said he talked to an independent financial expert he trusts who has no ties to the administration about bidding versus negotiating. “I talked with an investment bank house and they said it’s not always the best, especially when it’s not the most favorable conditions,” he said. “It doesn’t square with my political stand, but on this one time a competitive bid may not be the best.” Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson didn’t directly respond to Barron’s apparent about-face. “The bill doesn’t mandate a bid, but Gov. Riley will make sure it goes through a competitive process if the bill becomes law,” he said in a Friday e-mail. Richard Harbison is executive vice president of LCS Corrections Services Inc., which owns the prison near Uniontown. “Let’s just say we’re talking to the state of Alabama,” Harbison said. The Perry County prison houses about 500 inmates but is designed to house 750, Harbison said. He said the facility can be expanded to house up to 1,500 inmates. The state has about 400 inmates there now, a spokesman said.

June 24, 2009 Park Rapids Enterprise
Ashton Mink was arrested after a nearly 14-hour standoff June 6, on a ranch south of Gladstone. Authorities say Mink and his wife, Jacquelin, were wounded in an exchange of gunfire. Authorities say one of four Alabama fugitives has been transferred from a Dickinson hospital to jail. Ashton Mink was arrested after a nearly 14-hour standoff June 6, on a ranch south of Gladstone. Authorities say Mink and his wife, Jacquelin, were wounded in an exchange of gunfire. Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said Ashton Mink was released Tuesday from a Dickinson hospital and taken to jail. He is awaiting a bail hearing. Jacquelin Mink is hospitalized in Bismarck. The couple along with Ashton Mink's sister Angela and Joshua Southwick, face charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit robbery. They are accused of robbing a movie store in Dickinson and shooting at a Highway Patrol trooper. Authorities say Southwick and Ashton Mink escaped from an Alabama prison in May and that Angela and Jacquelin Mink helped them.

June 10, 2009 Athens News-Courier
Tom Henning, state’s attorney in Stark County, N.D., said it’s possible the four people accused in an escape from an Alabama prison facility will remain imprisoned in North Dakota for some time. If convicted, the group could serve sentences there before being returned to Alabama to face charges of escape. “Yes, they could end up spending jail time in North Dakota, presuming convictions and at such time as we’re satisfied, then they’ll go back to the demanding state,” he said. Joshua Southwick, who was convicted in the 2003 slaying of a Limestone County man, and Ashton Mink, convicted of attempted murder in a stabbing during a home invasion in Madison, escaped from the Perry County Correctional Facility in Uniontown, Ala., on May 25. U.S. Marshals say Angela Mink, Ashton’s sister, and Jacquelin Mink, his wife, cut the fence from the outside of the private prison facility to help the two get free. The four were captured in Gladstone, N.D., Saturday during a video store robbery. Southwick and Angela gave themselves up but Ashton and Jacquelin held officers at bay for 14 hours. They were shot in the process. Ashton is under armed guard at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson, N.D. His wife is under armed guard at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, N.D., Henning said. “I have no idea when they will be able to go to court,” he said. “I’d say at least a month.” In the meantime, Southwick and Angela Mink are being held at Southwest Multi-County Correctional Facility, each charged with criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, which carries a 10-year maximum sentence. “It’s entirely likely there will be more charges” stemming from the standoff and shootout, Henning said.

June 9, 2009 Bennington Banner
Vermont officials said Monday they made the right decision in March when the state removed about 80 Vermont inmates from a private, for-profit prison in Alabama where two inmates recently escaped. Needed improvement -- Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito said Vermont pulled the inmates out of the Perry County Correctional Center in Uniontown, Ala., prison, which is run by LCS Corrections Services in March. The first Vermont inmate was transferred to the facility in late December he said. The prison, which has more than 700 beds, had security equipment that did not work and an inadequately trained staff "for what we were asking them to do," Pallito said. "It wasn't what we were after. It wasn't what I would have expected," he said. Pallito said the Department of Corrections leveled several demands on LCS to improve, but did not see action fast enough, and pulled inmates out about two weeks later. State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said he had doubts about the facility before the Vermont inmates were transferred. Once the inmates were moved, Sears said the facility failed to "keep up with things that were in the contract." And there were issues with the "treatment of offenders." "We sent some people down there and there were continued problems. I was very skeptical myself," Sears said. "Turned out there were a lot of problems and they moved them all out." "It was a real loose outfit," Sears added. "There have been some real problems there." The Associated Press reported Monday that two men who escaped from the Perry County Correctional Center on May 25 were recaptured Saturday following a shoot-out with police. According to the Associated Press, Alabama Prison Commissioner Richard Allen said all 250 of Alabama's inmates will be removed from the facility. Allen cited cost, however, not security concerns, as the reason for removing inmates. Pallito said Vermont has an ongoing contract with LCS Corrections Services, but it allows for a "zero minimum," meaning the state can have no inmates at the facility and pay nothing. The contract term is for two years, he said. Inmates housed briefly at the Alabama facility have been moved to facilities in Kentucky or Tennessee run by Corrections Corporation of America. Vermont had a contract with CCA when it looked to diversify as a cost-savings measure. Pallito said CCA agreed to take back the inmates at the $50 per day rate the Alabama facility was charging. It costs the state about $140 per day to house inmates in-state. Vermont currently has about 2,200 inmates and only 1,500 instate beds. The contract with CCA will expire next year, according to Pallito, so the state will need to renegotiate a contract. Pallito said LCS officials have recently tried to persuade the state to send inmates back to the Alabama facility, but that is not likely to happen. "Not at this time, particularly given the recent development of events," he said. "We're interested in talking with other facilities, but I don't think we'll be back with them."

June 8, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Alabama's prison commissioner says the state will remove about 250 inmates from the private prison where two men recently escaped amid a string of security failures. However, Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said Monday that money - not the threat of additional escapes - was behind the decision. In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Allen said his agency can't afford to continue housing 250 inmates at the Perry County Detention Center. An executive at LCS Corrections Inc., which runs the prison, said he knew of the state's plan. He said the company was told the state could place twice as many inmates at the private prison next year if lawmakers approve funding.

June 6, 2009 KFYR TV
Four of America's Most Wanted fugitives were arrested Saturday in western North Dakota. The group started out in Alabama earlier in the week and came to North Dakota where police say they went on a crime spree. By Saturday night, two of the suspects were recovering in a Dickinson-area hospital after being shot by police after a standoff in Gladstone. That was the culmination of a series of crimes that started with a robbery Friday night in Dickinson and included shots being fired at a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper during a chase. Let's take you back a week and set the stage that led to these events. Police had been looking for 26-year-old Joshua Southwick, and 22-year-old Ashton Mink since they escaped from an Alabama prison on Memorial Day. Mink was serving a 20-year sentence for 1st degree assault. Southwick was serving a life sentence for murder and 1st degree burglary. Authorities say they escaped prison in Alabama by wearing kitchen workers` uniforms The pair allegedly fled through holes that were cut out of the prison fence by Ashton Mink's wife, Jacquelin, and sister Angela Mink. Somewhere along the way, all four made it to North Dakota. The trouble in North Dakota started in Dickinson Friday night around 11:00, when the suspects, two men and two women, robbed a movie rental store. The foursome fled, and a Highway Patrol trooper noticed a suspicious car speeding away. The trooper followed the car onto I-94, and that's when passenger in the suspects` car fired at the trooper. At least one bullet went into the trooper's car. The fleeing car continued east to Gladstone prompting the Highway Patrol to lock down the small town. Authorities blocked off a two-mile section of road leading into town. Police kept an eye on things during as residents were notified of the threat through a reverse 911 system. Gladstone resident Kim Hetzel says, "After we got the automated phone call early this morning, get up, and lock the doors, and kinda just watch out." Authorities found the suspects after the owner of a farmstead noticed the four were staking out in his detached garage. Stark County sheriff Clarence Tuhy says, "They're from the Alabama area; the two males are escapees from a private prison in the Alabama area which were aided in escape by the two females." The perps took refuge in the farmstead's garage as more than a half dozen agencies flocked to the area. About 12 hours later Tuhy says, "A male and a female came out giving up peacefully at which time a male and female came out a side door firing at officers." Officers then fired back, striking both Ashton Mink and his wife, Jacquelin. The couple is being treated at an area hospital. So far, there's no word on the conditions of the two suspects who were shot. No officers were injured, and Joshua Southwick and Angela Mink were taken into custody. "Any time no officers get injured is a good thing," notes Tuhy. But while no officers or residents were hurt physically, it will take a long time for the emotional scars of this almost surreal crime to heal.

June 5, 2009 WAFF
It's been more than week since Joshua Southwick, 26 and Ashton Mink, 22, escaped from a private prison in Perry County. Now there's new information on the two women who helped them escape and what the prison is doing to keep this from happening again. New pictures are surfacing of Angela Diana Mink. A tattoo artist by trade, the pictures show specific tattoos which may assist the public in recognizing her. Tattoos are on both upper and lower arms, and both wrists, plus one at the base of her neck. Perry County prison officials said they believe she and Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink cut through an electrical stun fence to help Mink and Southwick escape. It was a single cut that did in fact trip an alarm to alert the control room operator on the prison. "That stun fence, if it's touched, cut or grounded, sets off an alarm in our central control unit," said Richard Harbison, the executive dirctor of the corporation that owns the private prison. "Evidently because of the weather, the alarm after it was sounded, no one went to the fence to check and see if it was cut." And because of that, Harbison said there's been an overhaul at the unit. "We dismissed seven people, two of which were shift captains for failure to carry out correct policies and procedures at the unit," he said. Others included correctional officers and the control room officer that failed to follow proper procedures. "We have proper procedures in place to ensure that something like this doesn't happen. If you fail to follow those proper procedures, then you more likely to have an escape such as this one," he said. Also overhauled is the system that alerts officials when security has been breached. Now, the warden, deputy warden and chief security officer will all be notified automatically. Officials have also raised the level of security at the prison to just below the level of a maximum security prison. That's a move that won't happen overnight, but one much anticipated.

June 5, 2009 AP
A U.S. Marshals Service inspector said two women cut holes through three fences at a private prison in Perry County, enabling a convicted murderer and another prisoner to escape. The fugitives -- 22-year-old Ashton Kenny Chase Mink and 26-year-old Joshua Loyd Southwick -- were being sought Thursday after their escape from the Perry County Corrections Center about 5:30 a.m. on May 25. Rewards totaling $15,000 were being offered. Dick Harbison, the vice president of operations for Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services, said two shift captains and five guards were fired for not adequately supervising the prisoners. Inspector Ross Herbert with the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force said 25-year-old Angela Diana Mink, Ashton Mink's sister, and 25-year-old Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink, his wife, are accused of cutting the holes in three perimeter fences.

June 3, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Two women cut holes in the prison fences at Perry County Corrections Center in Uniontown last week, allowing a convicted murder and another prisoner to escape, a U.S. Marshals Service inspector said. Ashton Mink, 22, and Joshua Loyd Southwick, 26, escaped from the private prison about 5:30 a.m. on May 25. Angela Diana Mink, Mink’s sister, and Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink, his wife, allegedly cut holes in the perimeter fence, said Inspector Ross Hebert with the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force. The Alabama Department of Corrections has obtained warrants to charge the women, both 25, with aiding the escape of state prisoners. They also have warrants to charge all four with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, he said. Authorities believe that the four are armed and dangerous. Records indicate that in early May, Jacquelin Mink purchased a .380-caliber gun that was found near the escape scene. She is known to carry a semi-automatic pistol and owns several other handguns and longarms, Hebert said.

June 2, 2009 WAFF
Officers have confirmed a description of the vehicle that two escapees convicted in North Alabama may be driving, and agencies across the state are on the lookout for it. It has been more than a week since 26-year-old Joshua Southwick and 22-year-old Ashton Mink escaped from a private prison in Perry County. "The inmates are still at large and the search continues," said Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections. State troopers confirm the two men are believed to be traveling in a pewter 2000 GMC Jimmy, with Madison County tag 47A1F2. Corbett told WAFF 48 News a division of the U.S. Marshals is leading the search. "The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, they are the entity that are spearheading the search and investigation into their recapture," he said. Southwick was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder and burglary for the 2003 shooting death of Michael Bryant on Hays Mill Road in Elkmont in Limestone County. Mink was serving time for attempted murder in connection with a 2005 Huntsville home invasion. Investigators said he stabbed Jarold Lee several times in his apartment. "You absolutely have to consider them armed and dangerous," Corbett said. Investigators said someone helped them cut through three fences to make their escape.

May 29, 2009  WAAY TV
New information on two inmates who escaped from an Alabama prison. Joshua Southwick and Ashton Mink broke out of a private prison in Perry County on Monday. Southwick was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Mink was serving time for an attempted murder in Huntsville four years ago. Police now believe both men are travelling with Mink's sister and another woman. The four may be on their way to Mexico. Police say they are armed and dangerous, and say the prisoners claim that they will not be taken alive.

May 28, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Authorities believe that two men who escaped from a private prison in Perry County early Monday morning had outside help. Joshua Southwick, 26, and Ashton Mink, 22, escaped the Perry County Detention Center in Uniontown after someone helped them cut through three fences. Southwick is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Mink, 22, was serving time for an attempted murder conviction in Madison County in 2005. The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Task Force, which includes members of several law enforcement agencies and five members of the Department of Corrections, are still looking for the men. Prison Warden Tommy Buford did not answer phone calls from a Tuscaloosa News reporter Tuesday or Wednesday. A prison employee referred calls to Dick Harbison, the vice-president of Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services, which owns and operates the prison. Harbison did not return a call placed to his cell phone Wednesday afternoon. The 734-bed facility houses prisoners from Alabama and other states in addition to federal prisoners. The state’s Department of Corrections does not have oversight of the company’s management or security practices at the prison because it is a private corporation. The Department of Corrections pays the company $32 a day to house 249 state inmates, less than the $41.71 it costs to house them in a state facility, spokesman Brian Corbett said. He said that the department has not had problems with the Uniontown facility or the company, which housed Alabama inmates in Louisiana because of prison overcrowding between 2003 and 2006. Until last month, the prison also housed around 80 prisoners from Vermont, but the Vermont Department of Corrections removed those inmates after an investigation into prisoner complaints that they had been injured in fights with other inmates, said Seth Lipshutz, the supervising attorney in Vermont’s Prisoners’ Rights Office. The prisoners complained to the Prisoners’ Rights Office, a branch of the state’s Office of the Defender General. Lipshutz said that an investigator with his office conducted an investigation followed by an independent investigation from the state’s Department of Corrections. “They were letting the inmates run the asylum,” he said. The staff and management did not pay adequate attention to security, he said, which resulted in inmate-on-inmate violence and the smuggling of items such as drugs and cell phones into the facility. “Drugs get into a lot of prisons, but cell phones don’t get into many,” Lipshutz said. “It doesn’t take long to figure out why this would be a problem.” He said that inmates complained that an assistant warden boasted that he was drunk while driving the bus from Vermont to Uniontown and behaved unprofessionally when he threatened to shoot them if they tried to escape during a dinner stop at a fast-food restaurant. Lipshutz said that Vermont, one of the country’s smallest and least-populated states, sends around 700 of its 2,200 prisoners to out-of-state facilities because it costs roughly $140 per day to house them in in-state prisons. Prices in Vermont are high for several reasons, he said, including union wages, small prisons and snowy weather that makes transportation between facilities difficult. Many of the state’s prisoners are housed in detention centers owned by Corrections Corp. of America, the first company to open private prisons more than 25 years ago. “I’m not too keen on the privatization of prisons. This is an example of how things go wrong,” Lipshutz said. Ken Kopczynski is the executive director of Private Corrections Institute, a private prison watchdog group based in Tallahassee, Fla. The organization’s mission is to provide information and assistance to citizens, policy makers and journalists about what they consider the dangers of privatizing correctional institutions and service. Kopczynski said no records are kept on the number of escapes from private prisons. The last records kept, he said, were in 2002 and indicated that escape rates are higher at private institutions. The institute compiles media reports of incidents at private facilities on its Web site. According to their information, an inmate who had been on suicide watch died at a LCS facility in Texas in January. At least 15 escapes were reported at some of the company’s prisons in Texas and Louisiana since 2002, according to the institute. The Texas Prison Board conducted a review of the Eastern Hidalgo Detention Center in 2006 after six inmates escaped. The review found that the prison employed too few guards, added an unauthorized number of bunks and kept unlicensed guards and guards without adequate training on payroll, according to a news story from The Monitor, a newspaper in the area. The company president said at the time that those problems were later corrected. The six inmates escaped, company officials said, after someone tampered with a control box for the electrical fence surrounding the prison. Perry County prison guards noticed that Southwick and Mink were not in bed during a 5:20 a.m. bed check. After inspecting the perimeter, they noticed that the fences had been cut.

May 27, 2009 Seven Days
The Vermont Department of Corrections [1] has pulled all of its inmates out of a privately run prison in Alabama after a state investigation confirmed that some of the men had been injured by their fellow inmates. The investigation was launched after the Vermont Prisoners’ Rights Office [2] began receiving reports from clients who claimed inadequate security at Perry County Detention Center led to the inmate-on-inmate violence. The April withdrawal of some 80 Vermont offenders from the 734-bed facility in Uniontown, Alabama, occurred just five months after the state signed its first-ever contract with a new private prison vendor: LCS Corrections Services. Based in Lafayette, Louisiana, the for-profit prison company houses some 6000 inmates in eight facilities throughout the South. Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Lisa Menard said last week that the state had been looking for an alternative prison vendor in an effort to “expand our options” and “ultimately save the taxpayers money.” Vermont was paying LCS $49.50 per day per inmate. Its other out-of-state vendor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), charges $67 per day to house Vermont inmates. In-state prisoners cost $140 per day. Vermont currently has about 680 inmates in out-of-state prisons, mostly in two facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee. Both are owned by CCA, the nation’s largest for-profit prison vendor. According to Menard, all the Vermont inmates from the Alabama detention center have since been moved to CCA prisons or returned to Vermont. Asked why the Vermont inmates were withdrawn, Menard initially said, “Vermont has high standards as far as conditions of confinement. Basically, this facility didn’t feel like the best fit for us, without getting into a great deal of detail.” Probed further about the alleged reports of abuse, Menard later confirmed the stories were true. “We did get reports from offenders that there was some assaultive behavior happening,” she confirmed. “When we checked into that, we found that it … was accurate. Unfortunately, this was Vermont inmates committing assaults on other Vermont inmates.” Menard downplayed the severity of the injuries, noting that none was life-threatening and they were “basically bruises, that type of thing.” But that’s not how a lawyer in the prisoners’ rights office in Montpelier characterized the situation in Alabama. Managing Attorney Seth Lipschutz called it “a total disaster.” According to Lipschutz, his office received reports of alleged lax security, contraband being smuggled into the facility, and inadequate bureaucratic procedures being followed for addressing inmates’ grievances. There was even one allegation of a corrections officer being intoxicated while transporting Vermont inmates to the prison. “They were letting the inmates run the asylum,” Lipschutz added. “It was a system where the strong were taking advantage of the weak.” Concerned about their clients’ safety, the prisoners’ rights office notified the Vermont Department of Corrections, which, according to Lipschutz, “acted on it right away and got the inmates out of there as soon as possible.” Lipschutz also characterized the inmates’ injuries as more serious than DOC let on. “There were some people who got beat up,” he claimed. “There were more than cuts and bruises. I think some people had to go to the hospital.” He put the number of inmates involved in such incidents at “maybe two dozen.” But Deputy Commissioner Menard denied that the problems in Perry were the result of poor security. Instead, she blamed the problem on the physical design of the prison itself, which featured a “more open floor plan … that didn’t work well.” Richard Harbison, executive vice president of LCS Corrections Services, echoed that sentiment. “The physical plant in Perry, frankly, was not very conducive to the type of inmates they sent us,” he said. “That prison was designed for low-custody levels and the inmates [Vermont] sent us were of a higher-custody level.” Harbison said he wasn’t aware of any Vermont inmates being hospitalized. “It’s the prison business and these guys are going to get into fights,” he admitted. “But as far as someone being seriously injured, I’m sorry, not to my knowledge.” Whether the injuries at the Alabama prison were due to lax security or a “more open floor plan,” the choice of this particular prison appeared problematic from the get-go. Back in November, when the DOC signed its contract with LCS, then-Corrections Commissioner Robert Hofmann pointed out that the new facility would only be taking Vermont offenders who were “unacceptable to be placed with a majority of other prisoners.” In other words, the more dangerous inmates with behavioral problems. According to Lipschutz, the Perry County Detention Center is used mostly as a holding facility for people arrested on federal immigration violations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many of those detainees don’t even have a criminal record. Members of the Vermont House of Representatives’ Committee of Corrections were notified of the move only after the inmates had been withdrawn from Alabama, but weren’t told the reason why. “I felt, from our discussions with the commissioner, that it was not a comfortable situation,” said Rep. Linda Myers, vice chair of that committee. Asked if she knew that Vermonters had been beaten up and injured in Alabama, she said she’d heard word of it, “but I can’t say I heard it from the Department of Corrections.” Though Lipschutz credits corrections officials for their prompt response, he sees this episode as symptomatic of the larger systemic problems associated with the for-profit prison industry, which he described as “always a race to the bottom. LCS “came in with a low, low price to take these Vermont inmates,” he added, “which is very attractive to state governments in these tough economic times.”

May 27, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Law enforcement officials were still searching Tuesday for two prisoners, one of them a convicted murderer, who escaped from a private prison in Perry County early Monday morning. Joshua Southwick, 26, was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Ashton Mink, 22, was serving time for an attempted murder conviction in Madison County in 2005. He was accused of stabbing Huntsville television and radio reporter Jarold Lee during a personal dispute in 2004, according to media reports at the time. He is not scheduled to be released until 2028. The Alabama Department of Corrections leases bed space from the private Perry County Detention Facility in Uniontown, department spokesman Brian Corbett said. The inmates disappeared some time early Monday. The prison warden did not answer several phone calls Tuesday because he was in meetings related to the inmates' escape. An official at the prison who did not give her name said that guards conducting a bed check at 5:20 a.m. noticed that the inmates were missing. A check of the perimeter revealed that a fence had been cut from the outside, she said.

May 26, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Authorities are searching for two state prisoners who escaped from a private prison in Perry County Monday. Joshua Southwick, 26, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Ashton Mink, 22, was serving time for an attempted murder conviction in Madison County in 2005. He is not scheduled for release until 2028. The Alabama Department of Corrections leases bed space from the private facility in Uniontown. The inmates disappeared some time Monday. Authorities were unavailable Tuesday morning because they were in a meeting to discuss the escapes. More details will be available today.

May 3, 2006 Selma Times Journal
The city of Uniontown welcomed a new business Wednesday, one which is likely to employee more than 100 Perry County residents, but it wasn't the sort of commercial site where officials and dignitaries usually hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies. This ribbon-cutting took place in the shadow of walls, watchtowers and razor-wire, as Black Belt officials celebrated the completion of the Perry County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. Louisiana-based LCS Corrections, a private prison operator that houses a number of female Alabama inmates at the South Louisiana Correctional Center in Basil, La., will administer the facility. State Sen. Bobby Singleton, who helped attract LCS to Perry County three years ago as a state representative, said the city, county and surrounding area should be proud of the facility. "We're never proud to be incarcerating someone, " Singleton said, "however, I feel we've partnered with good corporate citizen, on that's looking toward rehabilitation and other positive programs in their facility."

Pine Prairie Correctional Center, Pine Prairie, Louisiana
October 27, 2011 The Advocate
Authorities in Oklahoma on Wednesday shot and wounded an escaped inmate suspected in a Tuesday morning bank robbery in Evangeline Parish, officials said during a news conference in Ville Platte. Trooper Stephen Hammons, spokesman for Louisiana State Police, said the U.S. Marshals Service Metro Fugitive Task Force in Oklahoma spotted Brian Keith Soileau at a Walmart store in Norman, Okla., north of Oklahoma City. Soileau fled in a pickup believed to be the same vehicle he used after robbing the Guaranty Bank in Vidrine on Tuesday morning, Hammons said. Soileau led the Metro Fugitive Task Force and Oklahoma Highway Patrol on a 35- to 45-minute pursuit, by vehicle and on foot, that ended with an exchange of gunfire, Hammons said. Soileau was struck and was taken to a hospital where he remains in serious condition, Hammons said. The incident occurred shortly before noon Wednesday, Hammons said. “The chase is over,” said Evangeline Parish Sheriff Eddie Soileau, who said he is not related to the fugitive. “I hope the people of Evangeline Parish feel a little safer today.” Soileau had remained on the loose since Oct. 13, when he escaped from the Pine Prairie Correctional Center, a private facility owned by LCS Corrections Services.

June 29, 2006 The Advocate
A former guard at a private prison in Evangeline Parish was sentenced Wednesday to two years and eight months in prison on federal charges of beating an inmate and then asking other guards to lie about the incident. Gilbert Self, 51, of Florine was convicted at trial in February of one count of a criminal civil rights violation and three counts of witness tampering. Self worked as a captain at Pine Prairie Correctional Center, owned by Lafayette-based private prison company LCS Corrections Services. He was accused of beating a Cuban national being held at the prison on immigration violations after the detainee allegedly made crude remarks to a woman guard in July 2003. The guard reported the incident to Self, her supervisor, who then went into the detainee’s cell and punched and kicked the man while he was restrained and lying face down, according to trial testimony. Three other guards who were present have said they repeatedly asked Self to stop and eventually removed him from the cell and sought medical assistance for the detainee. Self asked the guards to file false reports to cover up the beating, telling them that “if he went down they were also going down,” according to a written statement about the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The three guards initially prepared false reports, prosecutors said, but one of the guards decided the next day to tell a supervisor what had really happened. “This is a serious offense, and no one knows better than you the necessity of promoting respect for the law,” U.S. District Judge Richard Haik told Self before handing down a sentence.

February 22, 2006 Pickens Herald
The Pickens County Commission in a press briefing last Tuesday after their regular meeting questioned the state’s motives in housing several hundred prisoners in Louisiana when they could easily house them at the Pickens County Jail at a cheaper rate. County Attorney Buddy Kirk addressed the Herald with four of the five commissioners present (Commissioners Earnest Summer-ville, William Latham, Willie Colvin and Ted Ezelle were present; Tony Junkin was absent) about the matter after the Commission became aware that the state had moved 140 male prisoners from the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Ala. to a private prison over 300 miles away in Pine Prairie, La. The Commission has contacted the Ala-bama County Commission Association about the matter, said Kirk, to ask for their help in approaching state officials about this curious action. Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Ala-bama state prison system, told the Associated Press last Monday that the state plans to move 500 inmates from the Bibb County facility to the Pine Prairie Correctional Center in central Louisiana, a private prison operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc. The sticking point for the Pickens County Commission is that not only is the state having to carry the expense of transporting the prisoners to another state but are willing to pay $29.50 a day per inmate to house them there. The state only pays counties $1.75 per day to house state prisoners in county jails. “It doesn’t seem right to the Commission,” said Kirk, who noted that the state will virtually drive right by Pickens County from Bibb County to travel 300 miles to Louisiana. Furthermore, Kirk said if a prisoner has to meet with his attorney, it is a general rule that the state will have to pay that attorney’s expenses if the prisoner is housed far away.

February 13, 2006 AP
A total of 140 medium-security male prisoners were transferred Sunday night from Alabama to a private correctional facility in Louisiana, the first of 500 to be moved in the latest attempt to ease overcrowded cellblocks. The prisoners were transferred from Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent to Pine Prairie Correctional Center in Pine Prairie, La., in an effort to make room for state inmates who are in county jails in violation of an Alabama court order. State prisons spokesman Brian Corbett said Monday the state entered into an emergency contract with LCS Corrections Services Inc. to send up to 500 inmates to the central Louisiana facility. The Department of Corrections currently houses 311 female prisoners at an LCS facility in Basile, La. Prisons Commissioner Donal Campbell announced Friday that he had resigned, effective Feb. 28. He had pushed for increased state funding for prisons and recently said there was no money in Gov. Bob Riley's budget proposal to pay for the use of private prisons, an alternative he supported.

February 10, 2006 The Advocate
A former guard at a private prison in Evangeline Parish has been convicted on federal charges of beating an inmate and then asking other guards to cover up the incident. The jury deliberated about 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict late Wednesday against Gilbert Self, 51, after a three-day trial. Self was a captain at the Pine Prairie Correctional Center, owned by LCS Corrections Services. He faces up to 10 years in prison on criminal civil rights violations and charges of witness tampering. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate civil rights violations committed by those sworn to uphold the law,” U.S. Attorney Donald Washington said in a statement. “… It was Mr. Self’s responsibility to control such violent outbreaks in the facility, not to initiate the violence.” Self was accused of beating a Cuban national who was being detained for immigration violations. Prosecutors said the July 2003 incident began when the detainee allegedly made crude remarks to a female guard. She reported the remarks to Self, who went into the detainee’s cell, punched him repeatedly, slammed his head into the floor and kicked the man inthe ribs, according to guards who witnesses the incident. The guards, who said they attempted to stop Self, told investigators that he later asked them to file false reports to cover up the beating. The guards prepared false reports on the incident, but the next day, one of the men told Self’s supervisor what had actually happened. The detainee, who lost consciousness during the attack, suffered bruising and swelling to both eyes, cuts, and rib injuries, prosecutors said. The injuries were not properly documented at the time because Self asked a nurse to alter her medical report, according to prosecutors, and LCS later fired the nurse for not following proper procedures and sending the detainee to the hospital for treatment.

A federal grand jury has joined local prosecutors and civil rights attorneys in bringing charges against employees at private, for-profit prisons in Evangeline Parish. In the most recent charges, Gilbert Self, 49, of Florien, a former captain at the Pine Prairie Detention Center, has been indicted on one count of felony criminal civil rights violation and three counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly beating a prisoner. U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington said Self was arraigned Wednesday morning in Lafayette and released on a $75,000 bond. A tentative trial date is set for July 12 on the four charges, which each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Washington said sentencing in federal court is governed by the U.S. sentencing guidelines, which do not allow for parole. He said the federal charges stem from a government contract with LCS Corrections Services Inc., a Lafayette-based company, which owns the private prison near Pine Prairie and another near Basile. The current indictment alleges that in July 2003, Self assaulted and caused bodily harm to a Cuban national, who was being detained at the facility under the authority of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service. The indictment also alleges that Self obstructed the investigation by trying to persuade three fellow guards to lie to federal law enforcement officials.  LCS owns two private prisons in Evangeline Parish. Both are currently facing ongoing lawsuits. Last month, Evangeline Parish District Attorney Brent Coreil opened an investigation of the South Louisiana Correctional Center near Basile in regard to repeated charges of sexual assaults on female prisoners.  (Louisiana Gannett, May 6, 2004)

A guard at a private prison in Evangeline Parish has been booked on charges of having sex with an inmate. Todd Daniel Arnold, 22, of Oberlin faces one count of malfeasance in office for allegedly having sex with a female inmate at Pine Prairie Correctional Center, a prison run by Lafayette-based Louisiana Corrections Services. Arnold was booked into the Evangeline Parish Jail on Monday and released on $7,500 bond, according to jail records. The incident comes about two years after the former warden of the Evangeline Parish Jail was convicted on two counts of malfeasance in office for extorting sexual favors from the family members of inmates. Michael J. Savant, 48, was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation on the charges. (Daily Advertiser, July 7, 2003)

South Louisiana Correctional Center, Basile, Louisiana
August 1, 2009 New America Media
Some one hundred immigrant detainees at a private prison in Louisiana, angered by what they say are awful conditions, are engaged in increasingly tense protests. Beginning in early July, they’ve staged waves of hunger strikes and provided immigrant advocates with testimonies to gain attention for their complaints. Prison authorities, meanwhile, have been reacting by placing hunger strikers in isolation for days at a time. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency in charge of immigrant detention, has said the solitary confinement isn’t disciplinary, but precautionary “medical isolation.” At least six inmates remain in solitary confinement as a result of the last hunger strike, which began July 27, according to Saket Soni, of the New Orleans Worker’s Center for Racial Justice. He spoke to New America Media via cellphone Saturday afternoon. He was on his way to visit the prison, the Southern Louisiana Correctional Center, a 1,000-bed facility set near rice fields in the town of Basile, a four-hour drive west of New Orleans. The detainees “are facing a severe sense of isolation and desperation,” he says. In a report compiled by Soni and other advocates and published on the center’s website July 30, some 100 detainees acting as “human rights monitors” complain of lack of responsible medical attention, even for serious ailments like leukemia, high blood pressure, and asthma. They also report unreliable, and in some cases nonexistent, phone contact with lawyers and family, a vacuum of information about their deportation cases, and scarcity of soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and even underwear. One detainee reports “rats, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders inside the cell,” one of several shared by scores of detainees. A Jewish detainee says he was denied a kosher diet, while another said the detention center’s food routinely made him sick. These testimonies would put the facility in violation of several standards issued by the Department of Homeland Security for immigrant detainees, according to Soni. But federal officials responsible for the detainees flatly deny they have been subjected to any mistreatment. Philip Miller, acting field office director in New Orleans for Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, says he visited the Basile facility on July 16 and found its maintenance and pest control program satisfactory. In the July 30 report, one detainee claims there was no soap and toothpaste for three weeks in May, but Miller denies that: “That’s not true,” since inmates receive toiletries upon request. To date, there have been five hunger strikes to protest conditions at the Basile detention center, and they’ve involved some 60 detainees, says Soni. Prison staff reportedly sought to quell these protests by isolating hunger strikers, sometimes even before they began refusing food, according to testimonials from men who participated in earlier hunger strikes. In the report, Joaquin López says that on the morning of July 23 he and four other immigrant detainees in a cell called Wolf 3 were put into the “hole” for planning a hunger strike. The next day, López said, they were brought out of the “hole,” cuffed at the ankles and wrists, and interrogated for two hours, then placed in solitary confinement again, in cells measuring twelve by six feet. He was brought out of the isolation cell to speak with advocates on July 25. Another detainee, Fausto Gonzalez, who has asthma, said that on July 28, over 30 people in his cell, Tiger 2, refused food and voiced their complaints. Guards showed up in black riot uniforms, said Gonzalez, and two men were sent to the “hole.” Soni says he doesn’t know how long the men mentioned in the report remained in solitary, since the limited contact doesn’t allow him to track them. “Solitary confinement as retaliatory punishment for peaceful protest of conditions is unacceptable,” said the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights in a statement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency which oversees immigrant detention, denies any hunger strikers would be punished with solitary confinement, or unduly pressured. Federal detention standards require that a hunger striker be placed in “medical isolation in order to closely monitor the detainee and meet his medical needs,” says Miller, the ICE field officer for detention and removal. Also, says Miller, hunger strikers undergo a medical review and counseling about the health risks they face. Seven national advocacy groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, sent Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter demanding she investigate the Basile, Louisiana prison and the detainees’ grievances. Last month, Napolitano denied a court petition asking for bolstered, legally enforceable detention standards at facilities housing immigrant detainees. Instead, DHS opted to stick with “performance-based” standards enforced by private contractors.

July 30, 2009 AP
A group of detainees at a Louisiana immigration detention center have begun three-day hunger strikes to protest poor conditions there, immigrant advocates said. The news comes just days after Department of Homeland Security officials dismissed a report critical of conditions at its immigration holding centers nationwide. About 100 detainees contributed to a report released Thursday by the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, claiming bleak conditions at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lockup in Basile, La., 183 miles northwest of New Orleans. "It's not fit for a human being," read a comment attributed to Fausto Gonzalez, according to the report a detainee from the Dominican Republic. "There are rats, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders inside the cell and inside the dorm. The ventilation is terrible," he said. "We have tried to complain about all of these problems, and we haven't gotten anywhere. They tell us, 'It's a jail. This is how it is.'" Dora Schriro, special adviser on detention and removal for Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, did not return requests for comment Thursday. Philip Miller, ICE's acting field office director in New Orleans, who oversees five southern states, said the facility was cleaned daily and that he had talked with staff about addressing detainee concerns. "We acknowledge and accept the fact that immigration detention is not punitive in nature," he said. "And we have to take a high degree of caution and a high degree of sensitivity in how we maintain our facility." The Associated Press has requested access to the 1,002-bed complex which is run through private contracts with several law enforcement bodies, including ICE. Dick Harbison, executive vice president of contractor LCS Corrections Services Inc., has agreed to the tour and ICE officials are considering it. Access to immigration detainees is generally limited to family and legal representatives, which staff attorneys at the New Orleans group have become for those quoted in its report. Detainees at Basil are being held on federal charges of staying in the country without authorization, but in some cases local charges as well. Gonzalez is among 60 detainees who have undertaken rotating 72-hour hunger strikes over the last month to protest conditions, said Saket Soni, executive director of the Workers' Center. They would strike for longer periods, Soni said, but the detainees feared inadequate medical care and placement of strikers in solitary confinement could lead to serious illnesses. The conditions outlined in the report are similar to those highlighted in the report released Tuesday by the National Immigration Law Center. Homeland Security officials dismissed that report as being outdated because it used data and detainee accounts no fresher than 2005. The grievances in the latest report are no older than two weeks. Among the report's claims: - A detainee said guards humiliated him and other men by issuing them women's nylon underwear. - A Jewish man said when he requested Kosher food, guards said they didn't know what it was and he was given unsealed food that made him throw up. - One detainee said he has not had phone contact with his family or lawyer for a month because phone cards that they are required to buy take a week to be issued and then do not work in most holding cells. - For about three weeks in May, the jail ran out of soap and toothpaste, said a detainee. - A hunger striker said air conditioning was turned down in his room after he began his protest and he was eventually placed in solitary confinement and pressured to eat. "Ninety-five percent of it's untrue," said Harbison. "Occasionally, an inmate tells you a lie." Harbison said records showed only two inmates had failed to report to the mess hall during the period in which the hunger strikes were to have taken place. Striking detainees reported to the mess so they would not face retaliation, said Soni, but left their trays full.

July 27, 2006 AP
About 320 female Alabama prisoners being housed in Louisiana are being moved to another prison in that state but one closer to Alabama. The women inmates had been housed at a private prison at Basile in southwest Louisiana. They are being moved to J.B. Evans Correctional Center in Newellton, La., which is on the Louisiana-Mississippi line about 60 miles west of Jackson. The move brings the inmates about two and a-half hours closer to the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, prisons commissioner Richard Allen said Thursday. It also reduces travel time for corrections officers. The Alabama Department of Corrections has a contract with LCS Correctional Services to house the inmates to help reduce overcrowded conditions at Tutwiler. The J.B. Evans Correctional Center opened in 1994 and is a medium security facility with the capacity of holding 440 inmates. Allen said it will be used exclusively for the Alabama women prisoners. More than 600 male inmates are also housed in private facilities in Louisiana because of overcrowded conditions in Alabama prisons.

January 25, 2006 Birmingham News
When the Alabama Department of Corrections decided to put prisoners in a private out-of-state prison, women went first. The state opened a transition center for people on parole, and it was for women. A close look at these experiments, however, shows that, for the overall prison population to drop by much, the state may need to turn to alternatives such as expanded drug courts and community-based treatment and sentencing reform. A bill endorsed by Gov. Bob Riley takes a step in that direction by stressing changes in Alabama's sentencing structure. In reaction to a federal court settlement that forced the state to cut the population at Tutwiler Prison for Women to 950, the state Parole Board released several hundred low-level offenders and the state began housing pockets of women in other facilities - the Louisiana private prison, the LifeTech parole transition center and county jails. But Alabama now incarcerates 1,920 women, only a 4 percent drop in three years. And instead of steering female drug offenders into community programs - as numerous government task forces have recommended - the state is locking up more women for drug crimes than ever before. "The path that Alabama has taken over the last four years of renting more bed space for women has proven to be the wrong path," said Lisa Kung, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit law firm that has won settlements over conditions at prisons. In Birmingham, only 40 of 100 spaces are filled in "Second Chance" a federally funded program that allows newly released women to live in apartments and work regular jobs while receiving drug treatment, medical and mental health services. Not enough women are being paroled to fill the slots. Kung agreed that LifeTech is a better option than prison. But she wants the state to use the center for incarcerated women, not probationers. Nearly 40 percent of the women at the private prison in Louisiana will be eligible for parole over the next three years, according to DOC records. Many have served terms of 15 years or more for crimes Kung said often involved abusive partners. She's hoping parole officials will consider letting some of these women into LifeTech, and she has been working with lawmakers on gender-specific parole guidelines that might help cut the numbers of low-risk women locked in private prisons. LCS Corrections houses 320 Alabama women at its Louisiana prison, with a price tag climbing toward $10 million since the contract began in 2003. A prison run by the same company is set to open in Perry County and may end up housing Alabama men. Kung's problem with shipping so many women to Louisiana is that they are housed 900 miles from their children and families and have no opportunities to take the classes that the parole board looks to as signs prisoners are trying to improve themselves. "The inmates housed here have too much idle time on their hands and that defeats the purpose of rehabilitation," inmate Sharron Kay Jones, 47, serving 15 years for solicitation to commit murder, wrote in a letter from Louisiana "There is no rehabilitation here at all." Inmate Paula Settle, 34, of Tuscaloosa, serving 15 years for drug trafficking, signed up for anger management, substance abuse, parenting and trade school classes at Tutwiler. But she was immediately transferred to Louisiana. "There are no classes, programs, meetings, jobs or counselors here. No trades, no furthering education, no chaplain or religious assemblies or functions," she said.

August 16, 2005 The Advocate
A private prison company has settled a federal lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate who died in custody after he was allegedly beaten and denied adequate medical care. Gregory Lee, 35, died June 22, 2003, less than a week after he was transferred from LCS South Louisiana Detention Center in Basile to the state-run Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel for medical treatment. LCS Vice-President Dick Harbison confirmed Monday that a settlement had been reached but declined to discuss the terms. Willie Nunnery, the attorney representing Lee' family in the lawsuit, also declined to offer any specifics on the settlement. "It is a strictly, strictly confidential matter," he said. The settlement of the lawsuit against Lafayette-based LCS comes after prosecutors filed charges last year against guards at the company's two south Louisiana facilities. Gilbert Self, 50, a former captain at LCS's Pine Prairie Correctional Center, was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2004, accused of hitting an inmate and then trying to persuade three fellow corrections officers not to cooperate in an investigation of the incident. Self, who faces one count of violating civil rights and three counts of witness tampering, is set for trial in September. An Evangeline Parish grand jury in June 2004 indicted four guards at the company's Basile facility on charges of malfeasance in office for allegedly having inappropriate sexual contact with inmates. LCS officials have said that all of the guards facing criminal charges at the two facilities were terminated after internal investigations.

April 6, 2005 Montgomery Advertiser
From the day the Department of Corrections began talking about sending some inmates to private, out-of-state prisons, the Advertiser expressed serious reservations about the idea, and for several reasons. Nothing that has happened since has changed our view of the practice. Questions raised by female inmates sent to a privately operated prison in Louisiana have prompted a new concern -- whether incarceration there hurts their chances for parole. The private prison in Basile, La., nearly 500 miles from DOC headquarters in Montgomery, now houses about 270 Alabama inmates. Severe overcrowding at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka, Alabama's only penitentiary for women, led the department to send some inmates there to bring the Tutwiler population down to a more manageable level. The state's short-term options were limited, so using the private prison as a stopgap measure was understandable. But private prisons have a lot of inherent qualities that should concern Alabamians. They are for-profit enterprises, of course, so there are financial pressures that could lead to potentially dangerous cutting of corners. In many cases, they are little more than warehouses for inmates, with few opportunities for work or training. That could be a detrimental factor in parole considerations. As a group of inmates notes in a call for reform, this prison that sits surrounded by Louisiana rice fields offers no classes, no training programs, no rehabilitation groups or any of the things that inmates can point to when they come up for parole consideration. "Down here, the time is not constructive," said Phyllis Richey, an inmate from Muscle Shoals. "We have nothing to do. We're basically housed. That's it." For inmates who are well behaved and are trying to serve their time responsibly and get out of prison, this is clearly frustrating. Rather than having an incentive to improve themselves in preparation for life outside prison, inmates are stuck in a prison far away from their homes and families in Alabama, simply marking time. That's bad enough. The prospect that their parole consideration is affected only makes matters worse. Private prisons are a bad concept. The sooner Alabama can get its inmates out of them, the better.

April 1, 2005 Birmingham News
Alabama female prisoners locked in a rural Louisiana prison are demanding changes they say could give them a fairer shot at parole and curb the state's reliance on private, forprofit lockups. Women at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, some of whom have been housed 500 miles from their families for two years, wrote a Platform for Fair Reform. The two-page document includes reasons for their
concerns and five demands they think would improve their chances for getting parole and leading productive lives. The women have asked for: Objective parole criteria, workrelease opportunities, an end to the parole board's backlog, an end to the ''heinous crime'' designation that prevents some of them from working outside the prison and a chance to face their victims as well as the parole board. The move to the Louisiana prison, 475 miles from Montgomery, makes it difficult or impossible for families to visit, the inmates said. Surrounded by rice fields, the prison has no classes, programs or rehabilitation groups, the opportunities prisoners rely on to show the parole board they have worked to better themselves.

January 21, 2005 The Advocate
The family of an inmate who died in prison held a news conference Thursday to release the details of his death. The family members of Gregory Lee, 35, of Kenner, convicted in 2003 of distribution of cocaine near a church, say he died because he didn't receive proper medical care at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, a private prison in Basile. The family has filed suit in federal court against LCS Corrections Services Inc. and Patrick LeBlanc of Lafayette, Gary Copes, former Lafayette police chief and warden of the facility, and several facility employees. The suit was filed in 2003 and is pending before U.S. District Judge Tucker L. Melançon. Willie Nunnery, the family's attorney, provided the media with a report from an expert his clients have hired. "This case has taken on a new twist," Nunnery said. "It is the intent of his family that the public know what happened to Gregory Lee." According to his death certificate, Lee died June 22, 2003. The medical transfer document from the SLCC indicates he left there June 17, 2003. The autopsy report, prepared by the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, indicates that Lee died of complications from AIDS. However, a forensic pathologist hired by Lee's family has examined microscope slides -- which the Orleans officials did not do -- and determined that Lee probably died from sepsis, a severe infection. Dr. Robert Huntington III, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, participated in the news conference via speakerphone. Huntington said sepsis can be the result of infected wounds that aren't treated, and it also can start with pneumonia, bladder infections or heart infections, he said. Nunnery said he also has taken the deposition of two inmates who were being held in Basile at the time Lee was there. Those depositions indicate that the inmates testified Lee was being beaten and sprayed with tear gas. Nunnery said Lee was "hogtied" and beaten, shackled and left in chains for hours. "There can be no justice until the courts deal with the privatization of prisons in this state," Nunnery said. "There should be a massive inquiry into what happened to Gregory Lee. This individual was beaten, and the system sought to hide and cover this up."

October 21, 2004 Montgomery Advertiser
Although it is important to acknowledge that the filing of a lawsuit proves nothing in and of itself, the suit filed by an Alabama inmate housed in an out-of-state private prison raises anew some valid concerns about such facilities. The Advertiser has long had reservations about private prisons and nothing in Alabama's recent experience has alleviated them in the slightest.
In April of last year, Alabama began sending female inmates to a private prison in Basile, La., to relieve overcrowding at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama's only prison for females. Private prisons are, of course, intended to be money-making ventures, and that creates the potential for some serious problems. Even the most fervent believers in free enterprise -- count the Advertiser among them -- surely can see that the profit motive and the function of prisons are ripe for conflict.  When a state deprives a citizen of liberty for having violated its laws, it also assumes the custody of that individual. That is a solemn responsibility. When an individual is incarcerated for the protection of society, the state is not absolved of the obligation to carry out that incarceration in a constitutional manner.  With a private prison, the pursuit of profit invariably creates the temptation to cut corners, to skimp on safety, personnel, medical attention, nutrition and other facets of the operation. It's simply a bad mix of private-sector motives and public-sector responsibilities. The merits of this particular suit will be determined in court, but the inherent problems with private prisons are something Alabama has to face. They are not an acceptable solution to Alabama's prison problems in the long term, and even their short-term use is questionable.

October 19, 2004 Daily Comet
An Alabama inmate is suing the state Department of Corrections and a private prison company in Louisiana, claiming she was raped after being shipped out of state due to a lack of space.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 1 in Louisiana federal court, claims that guards at the South Louisiana Correctional Center sexually assaulted at least two prisoners, including raping the woman who filed the suit, and that the guards had sex with one another and played cards and drank beer during the night shift. The four guards named in the lawsuit have been fired. Also, an Evangeline Parish grand jury indicted them on charges of malfeasance in office for sexual conduct prohibited for people confined in a correctional institution. All four pleaded not guilty, The Birmingham News reported Tuesday. The lawsuit claims that Alabama prison Commissioner Donal Campbell failed to properly investigate LCS before shipping Alabama women there and failed to implement proper policies and procedures for the oversight of the contract. The inmate who filed the suit claims she got no medical treatment after the assault.

Soon after arriving at the South Louisiana Correctional Center near Basile in 2003 inmate Gregory Lee died. Attorney Willie J. Nunnery, who is representing Lee's mother, Mae Thompson Lee, is charging that the private, for-profit prison abused and tortured him. Nunnery is seeking access to prisoners who allegedly witnessed what happened to Lee and a reexamination of the forensic evidence. When the charges where first filed, prison guards said Lee jumped off the top bunk of his cell, hitting his head on the toilet. Nunnery, a civil rights attorney, has a darker theory. He claims that following an altercation after the evening meal, prison guards attempted to punish Lee by beating him. Following the incident, Lee, badly injured from whatever cause, was transferred to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center , a state facility, where he died several days later. Nunnery said he is in possession of photographs taken when Lee arrived at Elayn Hunt. "They were very barbaric pictures," Nunnery said. "If you saw those pictures it would make your stomach turn." The Basile facility and another LCS private prison at Pine Prairie have repeatedly made headlines recently with both female employees and inmates bringing charges of sexual harassment against the company. "I don't understand why there isn't any public outcry to have that place shut down," Nunnery said. (Daily World, August 15, 2004)

Four guards who worked at the Basile Detention Center in Evangeline Parish were indicted Friday for allegedly having sexual contact with female inmates.  An Evangeline Parish grand jury indicted the four guards on charges of malfeasance in office for sexual conduct prohibited for persons confined in a correctional institution.  Kenneth Stenson Sr., Horace Edwards, Frank Lenoir and Jeffery Collins will be arraigned July 1 and will face up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.The indictments follow four days of testimony from investigators, prison guards and 22 inmates at the south Louisiana correctional center.  (AP, June 11, 2004)

Allegations of sexual contact between security officers and female inmates from Alabama at a private prison in Basile are scheduled to be studied this week by a grand jury.  Two prison employees were fired after an internal investigation into the allegations made by female inmates who were being held at the South Louisiana Correctional Center.  (AP, June 7, 2004)

A grand jury is set to meet in June to decide whether criminal charges should be pursued against guards at a private prison in Basile accused of having sexual contact with inmates. The allegations, which arose last year, involve a group of female inmates from Alabama that were being held at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, owned by Lafayette-based LCS Corrections Services. LCS Vice President Richard Harbison said two employees at the Basile prison were fired after an internal investigation of the allegations. The grand jury investigation into the allegations at Basile comes after a former captain at LCS's Pine Prairie facility was indicted earlier this year for allegedly hitting an inmate and then trying to persuade three fellow corrections officers not to cooperate in an investigation of the incident. (Advertiser, May 21, 2004)

A Louisiana district attorney says he will pursue criminal charges against guards at a private prison over sexual contact with inmates from Alabama, The Birmingham News reported.  About 200 female prisoners from Alabama are being housed at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, where they were transferred last year to help relieve overcrowding at Tutwiler Prison for Women.  The criminal case, involving an incident late last year, is the result of an investigation begun by the Alabama Department of Corrections.  "There is definite misconduct that did occur, and we will follow through with it," Evangeline Parish District Attorney Brent Coreil said Tuesday. He said he has not decided whether to file direct charges or present a case to a grand jury.  The Basile, La., lockup is owned and operated by LCS Corrections, based in Lafayette, La. Alabama pays the company about $23 per inmate per day to house the women.  "ADOC's investigation produced a confession from an employee at South Louisiana Correctional Center, along with subsequent termination of that employee. We then turned our investigative report over to the local district attorney for prosecution," Alabama prisons spokesman Brian Corbett said.  (AP, April 7, 2004)

Investigators are looking into allegations of illegal sexual contact between a female prisoner and a guard at the Louisiana private prison housing prisoners from Alabama. This is the second such investigation involving an Alabama inmate and an employee or employees of Southeastern Louisiana Correctional Center, said Richard Harbison, general manager of LCS Corrections Services. The Lafayette, La., company runs the prison housing about 275 Alabama women. "We do have the district attorney involved in it," Harbison said Thursday. "Which means we're taking it very seriously." (Al.com, February 13, 2004)

The mother of former South Louisiana Correctional Center inmate Gregory Lee has filed a lawsuit alleging that Lee was beaten and tortured before being transferred to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, where he died. The lawsuit was filed Aug. 15 in U.S. District Court in Lafayette against Warden Gary Copes, state Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder and unnamed prison guards. Lee was incarcerated May 6 at the Basile facility to begin serving an eight-year sentence for distribution of drugs, said Willie J. Nunnery, an attorney for Lee's mother, Mae Thompson Lee. Sometime before June 17, "we believe he was severely beaten and brutalized before he left Basile," (The Advocate, September 25, 2003)

Lawyer Bruce Rozas, who was handling four sexual harassment cases against LCS Corrections Services Inc., which operates private, for-profit prisons in Basile and Pine Prairie, is now handling seven. "Following the media coverage, I had three more women come to see me today," Rozas said Friday from his office in Mamou. He said the newest complaints date back to 1998, all involving the same two officers named in his earlier Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints on behalf of Maggie Dupre, a nurse at South Louisiana Correctional Center near Basile, and Sandra Whittington, a nurse at Pine Prairie Correctional Center. Dupre was fired this week after coming forward with her complaints. According to Rozas, the new complaints show the same pattern. He said two of his new clients, Carla T. Zeno and Laurie Ardoin, both claim they were also fired after making complaints about unwanted sexual advances by superior officers. (Daily World, September 15, 2003)

The private Louisiana prison where Alabama sent female inmates Monday was the scene of a riot, escapes and other problems that led Idaho to remove its inmates five years ago. The problems occurred at South Louisiana Correctional Center in Basile, La., which is operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc. Alabama sent 70 female inmates to the prison on Monday and plans to send more, Department of Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell said Tuesday. Teresa Jones, public information officer for the Idaho Department of Corrections, said Idaho transferred 300 inmates to the LCS prison in the summer of 1997. In September 1997, five inmates escaped by cutting a hole in a fence. Most were recaptured, but one remains at large eight years later, Jones said. Idaho hired a monitor, who conducted an audit of the prison. In an Oct. 2, 1997, report, he found the prison generally complied with the terms of its contract with Idaho, but also cited problems. Among them: A riot had occurred in July 1997; the warden was at the prison only two days a week; some cells had the windows painted over with no natural light; and staff training was inadequate. Jones said Idaho removed all of its inmates by January 1998 and has not used LCS facilities since. (The Montgomery Advertiser, April 16, 2003)

Authorities are saying the inmate who escaped from the Basile Correctional Facility on Sunday night is considered armed and dangerous. Gerald Matte of Eunice escaped from the private prison Sunday night by overpowering a prison guard and later stole a truck, which he abandoned near Mamou Monday morning. An all-day search by more than 30 law enforcement officials in the wooded area near where the truck was found turned up nothing. (The Baton Rouge Advocate, June 29, 2001)