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Angelina County Jail, Angelina County, Texas
October 26, 2005 Lufkin Daily News
When Angelina County's old downtown jail re-opens for business next year, it will be under familiar leadership. Bob Prince, marketing liaison for CiviGenics Texas, Inc., told Angelina County commissioners that when the jail re-opens under CiviGenics early next year it would be with Ken Stewart at the helm. Stewart served as Angelina County's jail administrator. Stewart was also a vocal supporter of the county's campaign to pass a $10.5 million bond that financed the construction of the county's current jail located on Lufkin Avenue. According to Stewart, the downtown jail was built in 1983 with the ability to hold 63 beds. A 1990 addition to the building increased the jail's inmate capacity by 48 beds to 111 total. Aware of Stewart's recent retirement and his reputation in the business of jail administration, CiviGenics contacted Stewart to see if he could be lured out of retirement, Prince said.

October 12, 2005 Lufkin Daily News
Angelina County commissioners on Tuesday approved the purchase of new electronic touch-screen voting equipment, made possible by a grant of almost $600,000 through the Help America Vote Act. Commissioners did not take action on Tuesday's agenda item to approve a lease of the county's old jail facility by CiviGenics, a private corrections firm that operates facilities in 16 states, including eight locations in Texas. County Sheriff Kent Henson asked that the commissioners table the contract approval until he could review the wording on the document. "I want to make sure the county doesn't get stuck with some things like we did the last time," Henson said, referring to the previous corrections firm that pulled out after leasing the old county jail facility for less than a year. Commissioners approved tabling the agenda item and will likely consider it at their Oct. 25 meeting. Bob Prince, CiviGenics' government liaison for marketing, was on hand at Tuesday's meeting and told commissioners if his company came on board, it would employ 27 workers and pump more than $1 million into the local economy. Payroll alone would account for about $700,000, he said. In addition, CiviGenics plans to use a familiar face to serve as the facility's administrator in naming Ken Stewart - who served in the same capacity for the county sheriff's office before the new jail facility was built - to oversee operations.

Beaver County Jail, Beaver County, Pennsylvania
May 24, 2007 Beaver Times
The Beaver County Commissioners' approval Thursday of a $72,000 payment to settle claims from the Massachusetts company that almost took over the county jail last year brings the total spent on trying to outsource the jail to nearly $1 million. CiviGenics was poised to assume control of the jail in October, but a ruling by President Judge Robert Kunselman ordering the county to obey an arbitrator's decision halted the deal. Instead, the county signed a new contract with jail guards. Commissioners had estimated that the county could have saved as much as $1.9 million annually by outsourcing the jail to CiviGenics. During the last week of December, the county paid CiviGenics $125,000 under the terms of its contract. Thursday's payment will cover additional expenses such as training and travel costs. "It's fair compensation," said Commissioners Chairman Joe Spanik after the board approved the payment. "They showed receipts for what (expenses) were there." In addition to the payments made to CiviGenics, the county's legal fees have reached nearly $793,000, said county financial administrator Rob Cyphert. That figure covers this year, 2006 and 2005, and includes not only work on privatization, but on contract negotiations with the union and settlement talks with CiviGenics. Commissioner Charlie Camp said he didn't regret trying to outsource the jail because "it was well within our rights to do that." Camp said the savings over the life of the guards' contract, estimated at $680,000 annually, will surpass the amount spent on CiviGenics and legal fees so the county won't really lose any money. "I regret we got two bad judgment calls from the arbitrator and the county judge," Camp said. Asked if he regretted pursuing privatization in light of the taxpayer money spent on the wasted effort, Spanik said outsourcing appeared to be a "good deal" for the county, and hindsight is always 20/20. "If I was a prognosticator," he said, "I'd hit the lottery." Initially, CiviGenics asked for $329,000 to cover its costs in preparing to manage the Hopewell Township jail, Cyphert said. Spanik said the county balked at that figure, though, and officials found some expenses they didn't think the county should pay. "We scrutinized the bills they submitted to us," Spanik said. When the $125,000 payment was made, county Solicitor Myron Sainovich said the county might consider reimbursing CiviGenics for additional costs, such as training and travel costs, because the county was unable to give the company any notice before nixing the contract. "Quite frankly, we would've been liable for those (expenses) because we were in breach," Sainovich said Thursday. Sainovich said the $72,000 doesn't compensate CiviGenics for "pain and suffering," but only for verifiable expenses.

January 10, 2007 Beaver Times
Beaver County has met its contractual obligation and paid $125,000 to the company that would have taken over the county jail if a court ruling had not nixed the deal, county solicitor Myron Sainovich said Wednesday. CiviGenics, a Massachusetts-based company, was paid in the last week of December, said Rob Cyphert, the county's financial administrator. Under terms of its contract with CiviGenics, the county was obligated to pay the company no more than $125,000 "for all reasonable and documented start-up expenses" if the county decided against outsourcing the Hopewell Township jail. That's exactly what happened after Beaver County President Judge Robert Kunselman ruled that the county was required to abide by an arbitration decision that prohibited privatization over the life of an arbitration-imposed three-year contract. County commissioners chose not to appeal Kunselman's decision. Instead of handing over management duties to CiviGenics on Oct. 31 as they had planned, commissioners agreed to a new four-year contract that was estimated to save the county about $600,000 a year. Commissioners had spent more than two years studying privatization and at least $500,000 over several months litigating their right to outsource the jail. They claimed the county would've saved $1.9 million a year by contracting with CiviGenics. Last month, commissioners raised county property taxes by 1 mill and laid the blame squarely at Kunselman's feet. The county's tax rate is now 18.7 mills. Sainovich said he hasn't heard of CiviGenics requesting additional money, but the county might consider paying for other verifiable training and travel costs. "The county will try and reimburse them for those (expenses) because we did kind of go up until the last hour," he said.

November 29, 2006 Beaver Times
A county judge believes that even if operations at the Beaver County Jail had been privatized, county residents would still have to pay higher taxes. In a written opinion released Tuesday, President Judge Robert E. Kunselman disputed county commissioners main argument: that turning over operations at the Hopewell Township facility to the CiviGenics company would save enough money that a tax increase could be avoided next year. Kunselman made his ruling in late October; Tuesdays opinion explained his reasoning. For months, commissioners pushed a plan that said that if the Massachusetts-based private correctional services company took over operations at the jail, the county could save $1.9 million annually. The changeover from county to private oversight was halted by Kunselman just a couple of days before the Oct. 30 switch was to take place. Beaver County Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella said Tuesday afternoon that Kunselmans ruling was filled with errors, omissions and presumptions about the county's budget. He promised a written response to Kunselmans opinion within the next day or two. I am flabbergasted, Donatella said, adding that he thinks Kunselman purposely waited until the day after an appeal period had expired so that his written opinion wouldn't be questioned by a higher court. Earlier, however, commissioners said Kunselmans order barring privatization wouldn't be appealed because it was unlikely that a higher court would overturn the decision. Kunselman declined to comment on Donatellas remarks. Kunselman became involved in the jail issue when Service Employees International Union Local 668 sued the county earlier this year, saying it had to abide by a contract arbitration award. That arbitration included the prohibition of privatization for three years and requiring jail employees to make concessions. The arbitration was rendered moot when the county and jail employees came to an agreement in October on a new four-year contract. In his October opinion, Kunselman ruled there was no legal reason for the county to ignore the arbitration and privatize the jail. Also, Kunselman said in the opinion that during hearings on the arbitration award, county employees said the county would have a $140,000 deficit at the end of November and would be in the red by $3 million at the end of the year, if the arbitration was awarded. Kunselman said there was no direct proof that the arbitration was the reason for the deficit. He said that while the county projected a savings of $1.5 million in the first year of privatization, it also projected a $3 million budget deficit. Thus, we concluded that the county would have to increase taxes to pay for the CiviGenics contract anyway, Kunselman said.

November 9, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The legal fight over privatizing the Beaver County Jail has cost the county about $500,000, and that's just the beginning. The county commissioners will sit down soon with representatives of CiviGenics Inc., the company they had hired to run the jail, to work out a fair compensation for the company's troubles. "We have calculated the cost of preparing to take over the jail," company Chief Operating Officer Peter Argeropulos said, adding that CiviGenics had put more than 50 people through guard training and had assembled complete plans for the takeover and management. He declined to say what the calculated number was. CiviGenics responded to a county inquiry in the summer of last year, offering a deal that would have saved the county about $1.9 million a year. When the union representing the county-employed jail guards couldn't match the savings, the commissioners announced the switch, dropping the union and hiring CiviGenics starting Oct. 31. But four days before the takeover, Common Pleas Judge Robert E. Kunselman ruled that the county had to abide by an arbitration award that gave the union a new contract. The commissioners announced Oct. 31 that they had accepted a deal with the union and would not appeal the judge's ruling. Under the county's contract with CiviGenics, it owes the company $125,000 if the deal gets scratched "through no fault of the county." Asked if the company's costs exceeded $125,000, Mr. Argeropulos replied, "Oh, certainly." But he expressed confidence that a settlement could be worked out.

October 28, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Beaver County Jail will continue to be run by public employees, after a court ruling yesterday that derailed the county's privatization move. Beaver County President Judge Robert E. Kunselman upheld a June arbitration award that gave the county's jail guards a new three-year contract. The county had set Monday as the date for a Massachusetts firm, CiviGenics Inc., to take over jail operations, a move that would have left the unionized guards out of work. "It still hasn't hit home," union steward and jail guard Tom Trkulja said. "From the beginning we believed the law says what the law says and everybody has to follow it." The dispute has its roots in a series of cost-cutting moves made by the county commissioners over the last three years. Looking to pare the $6 million-plus jail budget, they decided to take proposals for private management. CiviGenics in the summer of 2005 made a proposal that would save the county $1.9 million a year, and with the union contract expiring in December, the commissioners demanded that the union meet that savings. When the union would not, the commissioners declared union negotiations at an impasse and signed a contract with CiviGenics in January. The union contract went to arbitration, but in June, before the arbitration panel finalized its ruling, the county enacted its contract with the private firm. CiviGenics has been hiring and training replacements for the 53 full-time and 17 part-time guards, who are members of Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union. The union, however, asked the court to enforce an arbitration award issued in June, which it regarded as binding. The commissioners argued that since the award would force them to take legislative action to raise money to pay the guards, state law rendered it advisory only. In a hearing before Judge Kunselman on Tuesday, county Financial Administrator Rob Cyphert testified that the county would run out of cash in about a month under the union contract, and would likely have to increase its debt load to stay afloat. The union, however, argued that the county created its own budget crunch by basing its budget on the CiviGenics deal. The county "engaged in bad faith bargaining by establishing a budget which could only be accomplished by the privatization of the prison without the legal authority to make such an assumption," the union's legal brief said.

October 27, 2006 The Beaver Times
Beaver County Courthouse workers voted on a contract proposal Thursday that union officials said was essential to keeping the county jail from being privatized, but results were unavailable late Thursday. Whether their new contract and the one approved this past Monday by jail guards actually save enough money to persuade the county commissioners not to privatize the jail this coming Monday remains to be seen. Service Employees International Union Local 668 members were called to a 4:30 p.m. meeting at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall in Vanport Township to vote on the proposal that SEIU state officials unveiled in a tense meeting Tuesday. Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella and Commissioner Charlie Camp said late Thursday they had yet to be informed of the result of the union's vote. Commissioner Joe Spanik could not be reached for comment. The union is under pressure to resolve the situation because Beaver County President Judge Robert Kunselman is expected to issue his ruling today on whether the county must abide by an arbitration decision released earlier this year. If Kunselman would rule that the decision is not binding, the county would be free to pursue privatization. At the Tuesday meeting, SEIU leaders told courthouse workers that their new contract was being tied to the jail guards' contract. The savings from those two contracts would be combined to try to meet the financial demands of county commissioners, who want to privatize the jail to save approximately $1.9 million annually.

October 26, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Management of the Beaver County Jail is up for determination tomorrow, though whether it is by court order or through last-minute labor talks remains to be seen. County President Judge Robert E. Kunselman plans to issue a ruling tomorrow on whether the county can turn jail management over to a private firm Monday morning. Judge Kunselman held a hearing Tuesday and demanded briefs from union and county attorneys by this morning. The county commissioners are calling for a decision by tomorrow on an across-the-board contract offer that would keep the unionized, publicly employed jail guards in place but would include new contracts with five other unions representing county workers. The last-ditch deal was ratified by the jail guards Sunday, but faces an uphill battle with the other unions, which have been working without contracts for almost two years while rejecting similar offers. The unions held a tumultuous membership meeting Wednesday, with no agreement forthcoming. If the unions decline the contract offer and Judge Kunselman rules in the county's favor, CiviGenics Inc. will take over jail management Monday. The takeover would culminate a two-year effort by the commissioners to cut costs at the Hopewell facility.

October 25, 2006 Beaver Times
As the deadline for privatizing the Beaver County Jail looms closer, it appears the only way for jail guards to avoid losing their jobs is for courthouse union members to accept concessions, too. But, if an emergency meeting Tuesday of Service Employees International Union Local 668 members who work at the courthouse is any indication, those jail guard jobs are as good as gone. Courthouse workers were summoned to a meeting with state SEIU officials at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall in Vanport Township to hear a last-minute proposal to save the jobs of their SEIU brethren at the jail. Once there, according to one employee who attended the meeting but asked not to be identified, union officials told courthouse workers to accept the contract terms presented or Massachusetts-based CiviGenics would take over the jail. Some guards have applied to and been hired by CiviGenics, but most would be laid off if the company took over. The employee said the proposal would have workers pay 1 percent toward health-care insurance costs in 2007 and 2008 and 1.5 percent starting in 2009. Employees would receive raises of 2.5 percent on Jan. 1; 3 percent in 2008 and 3.5 percent in 2009. Courthouse workers have been without a contract since Jan. 1, 2004, and negotiations have snagged on wages and the county's demand that employees start contributing to health insurance costs. Other terms, according to the employee, include a one-week reduction in the maximum amount of vacation earned (from five to four weeks) and the loss of three holidays (Flag Day, Dec. 26 and an employee's birthday). The employee said the raucous meeting ended with frustrated courthouse workers leaving without taking a vote. Tuesday's meeting followed a vote by jail guards Monday to accept a contract proposal. Union officials would not publicly discuss the contract, but one said it was similar to an arbitration decision released earlier this year. That decision reduced the number of full-time guards, froze wages for jail guards for three years and implemented a 1 percent contribution toward health insurance. But it also prohibited the county from privatizing the jail for three years. County commissioners, though, rejected the arbitration decision, saying that the purported $450,000 in savings fell short of the estimated $1.9 million the county could save by having CiviGenics manage the jail in Hopewell Township. CiviGenics is scheduled to take over the jail Monday, so pressure is mounting on jail guards to do something or face layoffs. Whatever the guards agreed to apparently still didn't meet the commissioners' financial demands, so courthouse employees were asked to take concessions in order to package a cost-saving deal to the county. One flier being circulated around the courthouse Tuesday perfectly illustrated the feelings over the proposal. "We are not happy about this and hope that everyone will not be blackmailed by the commissioners," the flier read. In a related matter Tuesday, attorneys for the SEIU and the county debated the merits of the arbitration decision before Beaver County President Judge Robert E. Kunselman. Both sides said they expect Kunselman to issue a decision by Friday. The union wants Kunselman to order the county to abide by the arbitration decision, while county commissioners argue that the ruling would force them to raise property taxes to pay for the jail. Before that hearing began, Claudia Lukert, the SEIU's attorney, withdrew the union's request for an injunction, but she refused to explain why.

October 17, 2006 Beaver Times
A hearing that could decide the fate of the Beaver County Jail is expected to be moved up a week, as a final deadline looms. Civigenics is scheduled to take over management of the jail on Oct. 30, in a move that county commissioners have billed as one that will save taxpayers money. Within the past few weeks, representatives of Service Employees International Union Local 668 filed suit against Beaver County, asking a judge for an injunction that would stop the switchover from county to private supervision. Under the changeover, dozens of current jail guards would lose their jobs.

October 12, 2006 Beaver Times
Beaver County President Judge Robert Kunselman apparently doesn't believe in the old idiom "A day late and a dollar short." Even though CiviGenics is poised to take over management of the county jail Oct. 30, Kunselman has scheduled a hearing on a request for an injunction from the jail guards' union for Oct. 31. Beaver County Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella said the head-scratching decision by Kunselman would not stop CiviGenics from taking over the jail as scheduled. "We can't sit around and speculate on what is going to happen," Donatella said. The judge's decision is bewildering because county officials have made it clear over the last few weeks in newspaper articles and letters to jail employees that CiviGenics would assume control Oct. 30. Kunselman did not respond to a telephone message left at his courthouse office Wednesday seeking an explanation for his decision. Dave Ramsey, the jail guards' union representative with Service Employees International Union Local 668, also did not return a message left at his office. To win an injunction, county solicitor Myron Sainovich said the union must prove to Kunselman that it is likely that it would prevail in litigation and that irreparable harm would occur if the jail were privatized. "I don't believe they can show that," Sainovich said. The Pittsburgh law firm of Thorp, Reed & Armstrong is representing the county in litigation about the jail. In a one-page order, Kunselman gave both sides until Oct. 27 to submit briefs "on the question of whether or not injunctive relief can or should be granted." This is the second recent court decision on the jail takeover that has raised the eyebrows of county officials. Six of the seven judges rejected a county request to recuse themselves from litigation involving the jail to avoid conflicts of interest. Judge Deborah Kunselman removed herself from any hearings citing her former position as county solicitor.

October 5, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Beaver County labor leaders might soon face a touchy, difficult choice. They hate seeing the county bringing in a private firm to run the county jail, and they feel betrayed by Democratic Commissioners Dan Donatella, a longtime friend of labor, and Joe Spanik, a labor official elected in 2003. But would they go as far as to shut down all political activities? Would they punish Mike Veon, of Beaver, and Vince Biancucci, of Center, incumbent Democratic state legislators counting on union support for re-election? Such a request is implied in a Sept. 26 letter from Kathy Jellison, president of Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union, to its members who are county employees working at the jail. "It is no longer acceptable for local party leaders and other elected officials to remain silent while asking us to help them," the letter says. "They must stand with us." The letter says Local 668 plans "to demand an immediate suspension of all electoral activity in Beaver County by organized labor. ... We are requesting that labor organizations shut down phone banks, labor walks and all other in-kind contributions. ... We are requesting that you and/or your family members not take part in any candidate on the ballot in the county. Cash contributions should be suspended as well." In a county that is still heavily Democratic and where organized labor is still a huge political force, the idea has people nervous, waiting to see if the request is actually made.

October 3, 2006 Beaver Times
In an order signed Monday, only Judge Deborah Kunselman recused herself from hearing any arguments, citing the fact that she was county solicitor when the move to privatize the jail began. The county had asked the judges to remove themselves from any cases concerning litigation with Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents the jail guards. SEIU opposed the county's request, insisting that any arguments should be heard by a Beaver County judge. The union has asked for an injunction to halt the county from handing the reins of the jail to CiviGenics on Oct. 30 and it has asked the court to order the county to abide by an arbitrator's contract decision that prohibited the county from privatizing the jail. County commissioners have said the decision was not binding and that they don't have to obey it because doing so would force them to pass a tax increase to pay for jail operations. "This is a Beaver County problem," said Dave Ramsey, the jail guards' SEIU representative. "We're satisfied that this is going to stay before Beaver County judges." Ramsey said he found it insulting that Beaver County tried to get the jail litigation "shipped off to another county."

September 28, 2006 Pittsburg Post-Gazette
Barring further legal action, private enterprise will manage the Beaver County Jail beginning Oct. 30. The county issued a letter Tuesday informing jail workers -- who are all Beaver County employees -- that Civigenics Inc. would be taking over jail operations. The Marlborough, Mass., company operates prisons nationwide, including the jail in Columbiana County, Ohio, which borders Beaver. The announcement was not unexpected, since the county activated its contract with Civigenics June 22, and the contract gave the company 120 days to take over operations. The move has been opposed in court, however, by the local unit of the Service Employees International Union, representing corrections officers at the jail.

August 3, 2006 Pittsburg Post-Gazette
Lawyers representing Beaver County do not think county judges would be biased in the case pitting the county against its jail guards' union. But they do think there is an appearance of the possibility of bias, and are thus asking that the county's seven judges be recused from the case -- meaning it would be handled by a retired judge or one from another county. The county's attorneys -- Joseph Friedman, Kurt Miller and Amy Herne, of Thorp Reed and Armstrong, Pittsburgh -- made the recusal motion yesterday. "Because the county has set aside 10 percent of the general fund budget for the jail, any deviation from that budget will have a direct and material impact on the other operations funded through the general fund, including the courthouse and the court of Common Pleas," the argument for recusal reads. The judge, whoever it eventually is, will play at least a minor role in deciding the fate of the county jail, whether it will continue as a county-run, union-worked facility or whether it will be privately run. The county has signed a contract with a private firm, CiviGenics Texas Inc., to take over jail operations, looking for a savings of about $1.9 million a year. Meanwhile, the county went through arbitration with the guards' union over a contract that expired at the end of 2005, and the arbitration panel signed off on a deal that would keep the union guards in place but would cost the county more. The union regards the arbitration award as binding. The county regards it as advisory, arguing that holding to it would force county commissioners to take legislative action in the form of a tax hike, and that arbitration can't force a county to take legislative action. That's an argument the commissioners set in stone last Thursday, passing a three-page resolution stating the position that the arbitration award is advisory only and empowering the county's attorneys to fight it. The resolution states that county funds are already earmarked for other departments and programs, many of which are mandated by the state or federal government. Reserves need to be protected in case of cash-flow problems, meaning the only way to pay for the arbitration award would be to borrow money, paying it back through higher taxes later. "The commissioners hereby reject the award as an unconstitutional infringement on the legislative powers of the commissioners, and deem the award to be advisory only in nature ..." the resolution reads. The resolution brought a long pause from Commissioner Joe Spanik, a labor leader before his 2003 election. "That's a tough one," he said quietly, before eventually seconding Commissioner Charlie Camp's motion and voting for the resolution. After the meeting, Mr. Spanik said he felt the advisory nature of the award to be up to the courts to determine, though he backed the county's stance. The union, Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union, has filed a petition asking the court to enforce the arbitration award, and has also filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

July 20, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Beaver County Commissioners are going full-steam ahead with plans to privatize the county jail while the union representing the guards is chugging right back with legal action to stop the move. "We feel we have to go forward with it," commissioners' chairman Dan Donatella said. "There is too huge a savings for the taxpayers for us not to." Meanwhile, the county's contractor, CiviGenics Inc., is interviewing potential guards. In response, the union: On July 10 filed a petition asking the county Common Pleas Court to uphold a favorable arbitration award. On July 12 filed a complaint with the state Labor Relations Board. On Monday filed a motion for an injunction to keep the county from continuing its move to CiviGenics. "The county commissioners want to be above the law, to ignore the arbitration award and do what they want anyway," union steward Tom Trkulja said. The issue has roots going back to late 2004, when the commissioners hired a private firm to manage the county-owned nursing home and started considering the jail as another candidate for privatization. The county put out a request for proposals early in 2005, and CiviGenics, based in Marlborough, Mass., offered a plan in June 2005 that included $1.8 million in annual savings. The county asked the guards' union to offer similar savings in a new contract -- the old labor agreement expired Dec. 31 -- but the contract went to arbitration when the union declined to match the private offer. On June 7, after seeing a preliminary proposal from the arbitrator, the county told the union it would go ahead with the CiviGenics deal. It sent an official letter to that effect June 22, the same day the arbitration award was announced. The union ratified the arbitrator's proposal, which offered about $400,000 in savings. The union -- Local 1168 of the Service Employees International Union -- contends that the arbitration award is legal and binding. "They can't just ignore it," business agent Dave Ramsey said. The county contends that while arbitration can determine what a contract will include, it can't stop the county from simply walking away and going in a different direction. "If an arbiter has that kind of power" -- to force a county into a union contract if it has other options -- "then the contract will run forever, and just keep getting renewed," Mr. Donatella said. In fact, Mr. Donatella said, the dispute could end up touching on some important uncharted territory. Depending what happens, the courts could end up determining whether counties have an automatic right to subcontract work, or if they only have that right when it is specifically allowed in their union contracts. "Many, many, many counties are watching this case," he said. If counties have a general right to employ subcontractors, it would make privatization a lot easier. Beaver County's old union contract said nothing about subcontracting work to a private business. The county contends that since it is not specifically forbidden, it is an option the county has. "That's a management decision," Mr. Donatella said. "I can't believe we don't have the right to manage." The union contends that since the arbitration award does include language on subcontracting -- the award says the county cannot subcontract work during the length of the new, arbitrated union contract -- then the county's hands are tied. "My understanding of the law is that if it isn't in the contract then you have to bargain for it," Mr. Ramsey said, "and that's what we did." He said top SEIU officials, like county officials, are watching the case closely. "They have to decide how they want to use their resources," he said. "I don't know if we're going to have purple shirts" -- the union's trademark color -- "marching in Beaver or not." Meanwhile, CiviGenics has until early September to take over jail operations, barring an injunction, and already is interviewing potential jail guards, including some union members. "Nobody really wants to work for this company," Mr. Trkulja said, "but some of the guys, because of the way their lives are, are going to have to." He said generally people are keeping quiet on the issue. There have been some hard feelings and a little name-calling, but nothing more serious than that, and union leaders are not asking members whether they are doing interviews. "There are mixed emotions down there," he said. "A lot of people are at somewhat of a low point."

July 18, 2006 Beaver Times
The union representing the Beaver County Jail guards filed for an injunction on Monday to stop the county from contracting with CiviGenics to manage the Hopewell Township jail. Service Employees International Union Local 668's motion for an injunction filed in Beaver County Court said allowing the county to contract with the Massachusetts-based CiviGenics would "cause immediate and irreparable harm to the employees," who would "suffer a loss of employment, medical coverage and other benefits ....." SEIU asked the court to grant an injunction "until (the union) has fully exhausted the administrative and judicial remedies." One of those remedies, presumably, is the union's request - filed July 10 - to have the county court force the county commissioners to honor an arbitration decision released by a panel last month. A neutral arbitrator and a union representative on the panel approved the decision, while county Solicitor Myron Sainovich, the panel's third member, rejected it. The union insists the arbitration decision is binding, but the county disagrees. Under the three-year decision, wages would be frozen and the number of full-time jail guards would be reduced, but the county would also be prohibited from privatizing the operation of the facility. The county's attorneys have said the arbitration decision would save the county $450,000 annually for three years, compared to the more than $4 million that would be saved by contracting with CiviGenics through 2008. Asked if the request for an injunction would affect the ongoing privatization process, Sainovich replied, "Not at this point in time." Claudia Lukert, SEIU's Harrisburg attorney, didn't return a message left at her office. County financial administrator Rob Cyphert said the county's contract with CiviGenics calls for the company to be reimbursed up to $125,000 for recruiting expenses "if they don't ultimately end up running the operation at the jail." A temporary halt to the process would not trigger that clause, Cyphert said. CiviGenics asked current guards to submit applications by July 14, and it was scheduled to hold a job fair at Penn State-Beaver today.

June 29, 2006 Beaver Times
How frayed has the relationship between Beaver County and the union representing its jail guards become amid contract arbitration and a move to privatize the jail? So tattered that when Service Employees International Union Local 668 business agent Dave Ramsey was told Wednesday that the county commissioners were disappointed in an arbitration decision that saved the county "only" $450,000 annually, this was his reaction: "Tell them to go (expletive) themselves, and you can tell them I said that." Well, then. The relationship won't improve now that an arbitration panel has issued a decision that would prohibit privatization from happening through 2008 and reduce the number of full-time guards, but would also freeze wages for three years and implement a 1 percent employee contribution toward health insurance. That's because county commissioners probably won't accept the deal, which they say falls far short of the estimated $1.9 million the county would save if the jail was outsourced to the Massachusetts company CiviGenics. "It is unlikely that this board is going to accept that," Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella said of the decision by arbitrator Marc Winters that was agreed to by SEIU representative Rick Adams. The decision was issued Thursday, only hours after commissioners declared negotiations at an impasse and voted to authorize CiviGenics to start the takeover process. "We dislike just about everything (in the decision), but we're pleased they're not going to have any (privatization) for the life of the contract," Ramsey said. County Solicitor Myron Sainovich - who along with Winters and Adams made up the arbitration panel - rejected the decision. The arbitration decision would not keep the county from privatization, he said.

June 23, 2006 Beaver Times
A Massachusetts company could take over operation of the Beaver County Jail by October after county commissioners on Thursday declared negotiations with the guards at an impasse and unanimously approved privatizing the facility. "This," said Commissioner Joe Spanik, "is the next step forward." County Solicitor Myron Sainovich said officials hope to have CiviGenics in place no later than Oct. 15. Sainovich, who represented the county on the three-member arbitration panel in April, said Butler County arbitrator Marc Winters, the agreed-to neutral party, gave his proposal in May, but the county rejected it. Sainovich said the union rejected the proposal as well, although no union representative would confirm that on Thursday. Rick Adams, a representative for Service Employees International Union Local 668, argued for the jail guards in arbitration; he could not be reached at his Erie office. Sainovich would not release Winters' proposal because it was not a final decision. Winters did not return a telephone message left on Thursday. But Sainovich said late Thursday afternoon that Winters was preparing a revised proposal that would be given to both sides for consideration. Tom Trkulja, the guards' chief union steward, said he was unaware of the commissioners' vote.

June 23, 2006 Tribune-Review
A private company will take over management and operations of the Beaver County Jail by Oct. 15, county commissioners said Thursday. Putting CiviGenics Inc. in charge of the 360-bed jail in Hopewell will save the county $1.9 million in the first year of the deal, commissioners said in a news release. The county will pay CiviGenics $14.6 million over three years to run the jail. The union representing 72 county jail guards fought the move, fearing pay cuts and the loss of benefits, and they questioned private prisons' safety record and officials' rosy savings projections. "You shouldn't be imprisoning people for profit," Service Employees International Union Local 668 business agent Dave Ramsey said.

April 20, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The fate of Beaver County's push to privatize the county jail now rests in the hands of Marc Winters, an arbiter from Butler County. Beaver County officials and jail guards testified before a three-member arbitration panel April 12 and last Thursday, making their cases for alternative versions of how the Beaver County Jail should be run. With one of the three panel members selected by the county and one by the guards, however, it is essentially up to the one neutral arbiter, Mr. Winters, to say what should happen. The county has signed a contract with a Massachusetts firm, CiviGenics Inc., to take over management of the jail. The county says it can save up to $1.6 million a year by moving the jail into the private sector. The corrections officers union, working without a contract since Jan. 1, made a counterproposal, but it could not match the savings promised by CiviGenics. The union filed for arbitration after the county signed the CiviGenics contract. Neither guard nor county representatives would talk in detail about the proceedings, which were closed to the public. County financial administrator Rob Cyphert and jail Warden Bill Schouppe were the county's primary witnesses; three corrections officers testified for the union.

March 27, 2006 Beaver Times
The bitter contract negotiations between Beaver County Jail guards and the county will go before an arbitration panel next month at the county courthouse. County solicitor Myron Sainovich said last week that the county and the jail guards' union will square off April 12 and 13 in closed sessions. A three-member panel will hear arguments, but the decision essentially boils down to which side can win over the one neutral arbitrator. Sainovich will sit on the panel as the county's representative, and Rick Adams, a Service Employees International Union Local 668 business agent, will represent the guards. Butler County lawyer Marc Winters was picked as the neutral member by the county and the union. Sainovich said the two-day hearing will resemble a trial, with county officials involved in negotiations being called to testify. Although the county is poised to privatize the jail and allow CiviGenics to take over operations, county commissioners have said they would keep the jail under county control if they could get the financial concessions they're looking for. County officials have said the Massachusetts-based CiviGenics could save Beaver County $5 million over the next three years, but jail guards have questioned the validity of those estimates. The county has said the guards have not offered savings anywhere close to what CiviGenics is promising. As the arbitration process winds to a conclusion, the county continues to operate the jail, and guards continue to work under the terms of the contract that expired at the end of 2005.

February 16, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Beaver County commissioners yesterday unanimously passed a 2006 budget with no tax increase. The county's millage rate will hold at 17.7 mills, the same as it was in 2005. The projected total budget is roughly $257.5 million for the county's 29 separate funds and includes no major cuts or additions in funding or programs. The budget likely will be amended in the near future depending on the outcome of an arbitrator's decision on a contract between the county and the Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the county jail's roughly 80 guards. The guards' contract expired on Dec. 31, and the two sides are at an impasse after the county decided to contract with a private firm, Civigenics, to run the jail. The county hopes to save upward of $1.5 million a year by switching to a private firm; guards are concerned that they might have to face sizable pay and benefit cuts to retain their jobs with a private company.

January 24, 2006 Beaver Times
Beaver County will pay CiviGenics $14.6 million over the next three years to manage the county jail, and it retains the right to cancel the contract at any time without giving a reason. Peter Argeropulos, CiviGenics' chief operating officer, said the deal is pretty typical of the company's other contracts. Current jail guards have said that private guards make considerably less than the $17.33 per hour the county now pays. Argeropulos said the wage scale would range from $10 per hour for entry-level guards to $14 per hour for guards with seniority. The benefits package would be a dramatic change for guards, who now pay nothing for health insurance. Argeropulos said company employees generally pay about 30 percent of health-insurance costs.

January 19, 2006 Beaver Times
Before the Beaver County Prison Board approved privatizing the Beaver County Jail, guards offered a plan that would have saved the county $1.6 million this year, the same as a private company has promised, a union official said Wednesday. "We tried to save (the county) as much money as we could," said Tom Trkulja, the chief union steward for the jail guards. Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella said the contract with Massachusetts-based CiviGenics was executed Wednesday. "It's signed, sealed and delivered," he said. Trkulja charged that the county is demanding outrageous concessions from the guards that no other county unions have been offered. He said the guards have been asked to accept a 25 percent cut in hourly wages and pay a 25 percent health insurance premium while other county employees pay 1 percent. The county also wants to slash the number of full-time guards from 55 to 49 and part-time guards from 22 to 15, Trkulja said. Although it doesn't want to hurt other county workers, the union is exploring what bumping rights guards might have so they could move into other county jobs if they get displaced by CiviGenics, Trkulja said.

January 18, 2006 Beaver Times
Nearly two years after the Beaver County Commissioners first talked about privatizing the Beaver County Jail, the county prison board on Tuesday authorized them to contract with a Massachusetts company to run the Hopewell Township facility. "It's a contract that is good for the county," said Rick Towcimak, prison board member and county controller. Under the proposed contract with CiviGenics, the county would save a projected $5 million over the next three years. Most of the savings would come from the county no longer employing jail guards and having to pay their salaries and benefits. Tom Trkulja, the chief union steward for the county's jail guards, said the vote was a surprise to him and he again insisted that privatization would only create problems for the county and its residents. "Taxpayers are going to lose on this," Trkulja said. "We're all going to lose." Towcimak said he was initially skeptical about the savings expected from CiviGenics, but he is now convinced the figures are realistic. Also, he said the public would not be endangered by having a private company operate the jail, something the current jail guards have repeatedly warned about. "We've seen things happen down at the jail now, and it's not private," said Towcimak. Last month, a jail sergeant was fired for mistakenly releasing an accused child molester, the third time the sergeant had wrongly released an inmate in 2005. Towcimak said he had also received assurances from CiviGenics that the "vast majority" of jail guards would be offered jobs at comparable wages. Trkulja bristled at those comments, saying the union has been told that each full-time guard would have to accept an $18,000 pay cut.

January 1, 2006 AP
Beaver County says it is prepared to hire a private management firm to run the county jail, which officials say would save the county $5 million over three years. But the union representing the guards, whose contract expired Saturday, says it hopes a new proposal will save the county enough money to fend off privatization and ultimately save most of their jobs. "We're making every attempt we can to come up with ways to save them money, said Tom Trkulja, the union steward for the jail's 70 full-time and part-time guards. CiviGenics of Massachusetts has said it could save the county about $1.6 million a year over what it pays its guards currently - a projection disputed by the union. If CiviGenics is hired, the company would have the option of keeping the existing staff, but Trkulja said about 80 percent of the guards would probably not take the jobs because of the lower pay. Although negotiators for two sides are scheduled to meet Jan. 9, the county approved a budget last week that includes the $1.6 million annual savings expected if CiviGenics is hired.

December 27, 2005 Beaver Times
Under Beaver County's preliminary 2006 budget that commissioners should approve on Thursday, there won't be a county property tax increase for a second consecutive year. Commissioners are prepared to outsource the management of the jail to the Massachusetts company CiviGenics for a projected savings of nearly $5 million over the next three years, including at least $1.6 million in 2006. Savings achieved through no longer having to pay benefits could push those figures higher. Health coverage accounts for nearly $760,000, according to the county's 2005 budget, with dental and vision costing an additional $55,000. Taking all costs into account, the total savings from outsourcing could easily exceed $2 million annually. Service Employees International Union Local 668, the union representing county jail guards, has disputed the numbers contained in CiviGenics' proposal. And union officials have also been reviewing the contract proposal in an effort to submit their own proposal. The union's contract expires Dec. 31, and both sides have been negotiating. Donatella said commissioners expect significant savings from the jail whether they're provided by the union or CiviGenics. "We'll be more than happy to keep (the jail) in-house as long as the savings are there," Donatella said.

December 15, 2005 Pittsburgh Post Gazette
It is, essentially, a tale of 2 mills. If the Beaver County commissioners get a Massachusetts firm to run the county jail, or if they strike an equivalent deal with the union representing jail workers, they expect to pass a budget with no tax increase. If they keep running the jail under the terms of the existing union contract, they expect to pass a budget with a tax increase of about 2 mills. They plan to approve a preliminary budget Dec. 29, including the projected savings under the contract with CiviGenics, Inc., and then hunker down to see what happens next. If the union makes an offer with equivalent savings, they'll pass the preliminary budget essentially unchanged. If the commissioners sign with CiviGenics, they expect the union to go to court, seeking an injunction delaying the contract. If the court grants an injunction, the commissioners would be forced to continue operating the jail under the terms of the existing union contract, and would then pass a budget with a tax increase to pay for it. Dave Ramsey, business agent for Local 668 SEIU of the Pennsylvania Social Services Union, said the union would be coming up with a counter-offer, but that it would not match the one from CiviGenics. "We are going to make a proposal to them that includes enough people to actually man all the duty stations," he said, labeling the private proposal a "ghost offer" based on hiring and staffing assumptions that fly in the face of reality. Mr. Ramsey said the county was having trouble hiring corrections officers now, leading him to doubt whether CiviGenics can do so at lower wages. "The prospects of this proposal from CiviGenics being viable are not very high," he said.

November 6, 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 
Beaver County is an unlikely place for a conservative revolution. Democrats hold a two-to-one registration advantage, have dominated county government for decades, own the state legislative seats. The steel mills are gone, but a blue collar is still a badge of honor and unions remain a political force. Inside the offices of the county commissioners, though, the flag of private enterprise is flying high -- high enough to draw repeated protests from local union officials. Over the last year, the commissioners have brought in new management for the county nursing home, outsourced services like printing, nursing home laundry and lawn care, and named a private restaurant to run the courthouse lunchroom as a for-profit entity, not to mention two rounds of layoffs, the first two in county history. And they're in the process of making two larger moves toward privatization: They solicited private companies to build and manage a regional juvenile detention center in the county and they have negotiated a tentative agreement for a private company to take over the county jail. The moves have local unions howling. "Our number one concern is for safety," said Ed Rowan, a correctional officer at the county jail and safety officer for Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union. "That's a big issue when it comes to private prisons. They have less training and lower wages." There is an even larger issue, though, that has the union's state headquarters on high alert as well. To put it simply, if this can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Beaver's move toward private management at the jail would be even more revolutionary, though it's not a done deal -- the union's contract runs through Dec. 31, and the county cannot make a change until then. The county does, however, have a basic agreement in place with CiviGenics Inc., of Marlborough, Mass. The bottom line is $1.8 million in promised savings annually, with perhaps another $600,000 in annual pension and benefit savings on top of it. If that happens, Beaver will be only the second county in Pennsylvania with a privately run jail -- the other is Delaware County, just south of Philadelphia. The protests of unions has been backed by a vociferous anti-private-jail lobby, which has Web sites and publications offering thousands of pages of horror stories and studies disputing the industry's claims of safety and savings. And in fact, Delaware has run into some recent problems, with five deaths in five months, sparking an internal investigation and one by the county district attorney's office. The county and jail operator The Geo Group Inc. are named in a $500,000 lawsuit by the family of a man who died in the jail of a drug overdose in April.

October 14, 2005 Beaver County Times
Beaver County Jail guards picketed the courthouse again on Thursday to protest the privatization of the jail, and a union official gave the county commissioners a petition bearing more than 1,400 names opposing the move. County residents are "beginning to become aware of what's happening, and they don't like it," said Dave Ramsey, the business agent for Service Employees International Union Local 668. Ramsey told the commissioners at their regular meeting that he noticed several resolutions on last month's agenda that addressed increases in contracts. He warned the commissioners that they'd be doing the same with CiviGenics if they outsource the jail to the Massachusetts company. Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella didn't appeared swayed by the petition or the 1,472 signatures.

September 29, 2005 Beaver County Times
Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik is between the proverbial rock and a hard place as county officials inch closer and closer to privatizing the Beaver County Jail. "Absolutely, there's pressure," said Spanik, a longtime labor official who was elected in 2003 with the support of unions. As the move to privatize the jail in Hopewell Township picks up steam, Spanik has become the sounding board for not only jail guards, but local and state union officials who oppose outsourcing the jail's management to Massachusetts-based CiviGenics. Spanik found himself in an awkward position recently when the Beaver County Central Labor Council, on which Spanik sits, approved a resolution opposing privatization. Spanik abstained from the vote approving the resolution.

September 23, 2005 Beaver County Times
The debate over privatizing the Beaver County Jail intensified Thursday with jail guards picketing at the county courthouse and commissioners saying they might hire a public relations firm to counter union criticism. Prior to the commissioners' meeting at 10 a.m., about 30 people - mostly guards, their families and other union colleagues - carried signs and passed out fliers protesting the possible hiring of CiviGenics, based in Marlborough, Mass., to manage and staff the jail. Standing with other protesters along Market Street, Tom Trkulja, the guards' union steward, reiterated his stance that a purported $5 million in savings over three years is being exaggerated.
Not only would hidden costs ultimately cost taxpayers more in the long run, but private jail guards are not as dedicated as public ones, he argues, which would compromise the safety of guards, inmates and residents. During the commissioners' meeting, Ramsey presented Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella with a resolution from the Beaver County Labor Council opposing privatization and asking that the county disclose CiviGenics' record, including its operation of the Penn Pavilion minimum-security jail in New Brighton. Donatella said the board is considering hiring a public relations firm that would direct the county's response to the union's attacks on privatization. "We need to show the taxpayer where we're coming from," he said. Donatella said a public-relations campaign might include pamphlets, radio spots and newspaper ads. "We're going to present the facts," he said, "and we'll let the public decide."

September 22, 2005 Pittsburgh Post Gazette
For nearly a year, the Beaver County commissioners have been talking about hiring a private firm to run the county jail. In that same time, the union representing corrections officers at the jail has been making dire predictions about the impact of such a move. And last night, the Beaver County Central Labor Council told the commissioners at their meeting that they too object to the county prison board negotiating a contract with CiviGenics Inc., the Marlborough, Mass. company that submitted the sole proposal to manage the jail. All three commissioners serve on the prison board. The labor council said it opposes "any scheme that risks the health and safety of all [county] residents by contraction with out-of-state contractors who don't care about Beaver County and whose sole concern is taking precious taxpayer dollars out of the community." The council claims CiviGenics' projected savings of $1.8 million per year in operating costs is vastly overstated, partly because it's based on a jail budget larded with overtime. The council also said CiviGenics' numbers do not account for increased costs from a higher number of escapes and assaults they expect from a lower-paid corrections staff. But the "No. 1 concern is safety," said Ed Rowan, a corrections officer and safety officer for Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union. "That's the big issue when it comes to a private prison," he said. "You have people with less training making lower wages.

Bi-State Jail/Bowie County Detention Center, Bowie County, Texas
October 3, 2009 Texarkana Gazette
A federal lawsuit filed by the family of a one-armed, toothless man who managed to hang himself with a suicide suit while an inmate in the Bowie County jail annex, has been settled. Because of a confidentiality agreement, neither the plaintiff nor the defendants are talking about the terms of the arrangement. The family of Robert Bruce Williams filed the suit in April 2007. Named as defendants are Bowie County, Sheriff James Prince, Civigenics Inc., which manages the jail, Correctional Medical Services, which serves the medical needs of Bowie County inmates, and several...

May 15, 2009 Texarkana Gazette
A former Bowie County jail guard was indicted last week by a grand jury. Amber Hinds, 20, “turned around and went back to her car when she realized her supervisor intended to search employees that day as they came to work,” according to a probable cause affidavit. Officials with the jail, which is run by Civigenics, contacted the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office about Hinds’ conduct, the affidavit said.

May 14, 2008 Texarkana Gazette
A man who smuggled marijuana into the Bowie County Correctional Center while working as a guard there pleaded guilty Monday and received a 10-year term of probation. Marquise Dushun Hunt, 21, had been working as a correctional officer for CiviGenics for about two months when he was caught bringing three sandwich bags full of marijuana into the jail. CiviGenics is a private company that contracts with Bowie County to run the jail. A confidential informant alerted jail officials to the marijuana in Hunt’s possession on March 1, 2007. He was indicted by a grand jury Jan. 3.

March 1, 2007 KPXJ 21
He worked in the jail and now a Bowie County Correctional Center officer has found himself behind bars. Bowie County sheriff's investigators say 20-year old Marquise Hunt of Texarkana, Texas is charged with introducing a prohibited substance into a correctional facility. Officers found three bags of marijuana in Hunt's possession. For two months, Hunt worked for Civigenics, which operates the jail. His bond has been set at $100,000.

January 24, 2007 Texarkana Gazette
A correctional officer at the Bowie County Correctional Center annex has been arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle marijuana, tobacco and cigars into the jail. Bowie County Sheriff’s Office investigators said James Porter, 18, was booked on charges of bringing prohibited substances into a correctional facility. Porter has also been fired. Porter’s supervisor saw him acting nervously as he entered the jail Sunday afternoon, said Capt. Larry Parker. The supervisor searched Porter and found the marijuana, tobacco and cigars wrapped in three bundles. He was arrested on charges of bringing prohibited substances into a jail and booked into the Bi-State Justice Building Jail on a $40,000 bail. The charge is a third-degree felony. Parker said besides drugs and weapons, it is illegal to take into a jail money, alcohol, cell phones and tobacco. He said Porter had worked for Civigenics, the company that operates the jail, for about four months

August 19, 2006 Texarkana Gazette
A professional tax preparer has been sentenced to three years probation for her conviction of conspiracy to file false tax claims against the U.S. government. Colleen D. Jordan, 44, of Texarkana, Texas, had originally pleaded innocent to the charges in federal court in Texarkana, Texas. She later changed her plea and was recently sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Folsom. In addition to a three year sentence, Jordan must also pay a $1,000 fine. Jordan was charged on Jan. 10 by a federal grand jury in Tyler with one count of conspiracy to file false IRS claims, 12 counts of filing false IRS claims, and 12 counts of possession of authentication features with intent to defraud the United States. The other charges were dropped after her sentencing. She had been employed by the Arkansas Department of Correction since 1999 but was fired by ADC in 2003. Civigenics, a private contractor that now runs the jail, hired her in December 2003.

January 23, 2006 Texarkana Gazette
A former Bi-State Justice Building jailer and a tax preparer have been indicted on 25 federal counts that they used inmates’ Social Security numbers to get more than $50,000 in tax refunds for themselves. Janice F. Koontz, 30, of Texarkana, Ark., and Colleen D. Jordan, 44, of Texarkana, Texas, have both pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Texarkana, Texas. They were each charged by a federal grand jury in Tyler on Jan. 10 with one count of conspiracy to file false IRS claims, 12 counts of filing false IRS claims, and 12 counts of possession of authentication features with intent to defraud the United States. Jordan, according to the indictment, was a professional tax preparer. Koontz was a jailer at the BJB jail and a security officer at Smith-Keys Village Apartments. She was employed by the Arkansas Department of Correction since 1999 but was fired by ADC in 2003. Civigenics, a private contractor that now runs the jail, hired her in December 2003. Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Bryant alleges that Koontz obtained names, Social Security numbers and other means to identify inmates incarcerated in the BJB. She worked for Smith-Keys from 2000 to 2002. Bryant alleges that Koontz also gained access to the security office of the apartments and obtained names and means of identifying the tenants without the knowledge of the housing authority or the residents. Jordan allegedly worked with Koontz to create W-2 forms using the names and Social Security numbers of the inmates and residents. Forms were allegedly electronically filed with the IRS in 2003 using information gathered since 2000. The women allegedly divided up more than $50,000 in fraudulent tax refunds.

December 30, 2005 Baxter Bulletin
An inmate at the Bi-State Jail died early Wednesday after having a fight with another inmate at the jail, authorities say. Texarkana Police Department spokesman Chris Rankin said Damien Wheeler, 23, of Texarkana, Ark., was involved in a fight with another inmate, Nathaniel Cleveland, 19, of Texarkana, Texas, between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Rankin said police don't know why the inmates were fighting. "The details are still pretty sketchy as far as what was going on in the jail," Rankin said Thursday. "All we know is they were involved in a fight, they were separated, and at some point this guy went downhill extremely fast and died." Wheeler, who was checked by a jail nurse after the fight, was found unresponsive several hours later, Rankin said. Wheeler was taken to Wadley Regional Medical Center at 5 a.m. Wednesday and was pronounced dead, he said.

June 23, 2005
Even though Bowie County recently made what appears to be a lucrative deal to hold some 325 state inmates, the county will actually collect less than a quarter of the income.  Last week, the county's Commissioners Court approved a contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, in which the county agrees to lease 325 of its Correctional Center spaces to hold the state inmates.  The contract calls for the state to pay the county $39 per inmate, per day, which in a year's time would amount to about $4,626,000.  However, since the county no longer employs jailers, more than 75 percent (roughly $3,479,000) of that income will have to go to Civigenics, a private security firm, which the county hired in November 2001 to operate and maintain the jail annex near Union Station in downtown Texarkana. Although the county would get the remaining 25 percent of the annual income, amounting to about $1,163,000, Bowie County Auditor William Tye said much of that money will be easily swallowed up by residual state inmate medical and meal expenses.

April 24, 2005
Smith County inmates have been moved from the Bowie County Detention Center to other facilities operated by the CiviGenics firm, because the Bowie County facility failed its most recent inspection, county officials announced. On Monday, Smith County commissioners are scheduled to consider interlocal agreements with Falls and Limestone counties to house male and female prisoners. "Those agreements are really just routine in nature," County Judge Becky Dempsey said. "We had to enter into an agreement with Bowie County when we began shipping our prisoners there, even though the jail there is operated by the private company." The changes will come at no charge to Smith County, she adds. "The terms are exactly the same, according to information the sheriff gave us," she said. "And Bowie County took care of the expenses involved in moving our prisoners to the other counties."

March 21, 2005 Texarkana Gazette
A Bowie County Detention Center inmate from Grayson County, Texas, had about five minutes of freedom Sunday morning before he was recaptured. Warden Larry Johns said the inmate was being escorted by an officer in the sally port area about 10 a.m. The garage type door was being opened to allow officers to bring food into the detention center from the Bi-State Justice Center, located about a block away in downtown Texarkana, Texas. Johns said the inmate, who is serving time for public intoxication from Grayson County, broke away from the officer and slid under the garage door. Two other officers and the supervisor started chasing the inmate at 10:02 a.m. At 10:07 a.m. the inmate was recaptured. Johns declined to release the name of the inmate since it was misdemeanor.

February 26, 2005 Texarkana Gazette
A former CiviGenics jailer has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a female inmate inside an office at the Bi-State jail, an official said. Steven Bradley Grisham, 35, of DeKalb, Texas, was arrested Friday on charges of violating the civil rights of a person in custody and sexual activity with a person in custody, said Bowie County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy James Manning.

October 15, 2004 Texarkana Gazette
Several employees have lost their jobs as Bi-State jail and Bowie County Correctional Center strengthen security after the recent escape of a capital murder suspect.
CiviGenics Inc., a Massachussetts-based company, has operated both jails since January. "We have made some leadership changes ... it's an opportunity to fine-tune," said Jim Shaw, regional director for Civigenics Inc. The escape of Henry, 28, and two other inmates has also prompted CiviGenics to evaluate security and make some other changes. There have been two other escapes from Bi-State jail since CiviGenics took over operations.

October 14, 2004 KTBS
An internal investigation at the Bi-State Jail in Texarkana has led to both physical changes in the jail facility and changes in the security system.
The investigation was prompted by last month's escape of three inmates. Officials with Civigenics, which operates the jail, won't comment specifically on the physical changes for security reasons, but tell us they did find vulnerabilities in the jail system and that their investigation isn't over.

September 29, 2004 Texarkana Gazette
A capital murder suspect, who escaped Tuesday morning from the Bi-State Justice Building jail with two other inmates, remained at large late Tuesday despite an intense manhunt by local law enforcement. The search for Torrence Henry, 28, of Hope, Ark., was expected to continue overnight.
Henry escaped with two other Bi-State inmates sometime before 4 a.m. Tuesday, said Bi-State Jail Warden Bob Page. Henry is considered extremely dangerous. Medical staff noticed one of the pod's inmates was missing about 4 a.m., Page said. The staff then searched the pod's shower area and found that the escapees had apparently torn a hole in the shower's plaster ceiling and escaped through the ventilation system. They made their way to an electric control room and eventually down the stairwell of one of the building's interior fire escapes. On Tuesday afternoon, the mother of one of the suspects who was apprehended spoke out about her frustration with the Bi-State jail. She said her son had escaped before, and that apparently no changes have been made to improve security. "I was very relieved he didn't get very far. Even though he was wrong to do that (escape), I feel like they are giving him rope to hang himself with by not keeping him in a secure environment," she said. "I know he would be safer in jail than out running around."

September 28, 2004 Texarkana Gazette
Bowie County will have to absorb about $390,000 in Bi-State Justice Building expenses but property taxes will not have to be increased as a result.
The county is paying the extra amount for having to extend its contract with Civigenics Inc. Specifically, the county incurred the added expense when the Arkansas Department of Correction decided at the end of last year to withdraw its jailers from having to guard Bi-State inmates.

Camp Sierra Blanca, Ruidoso, New Mexico
December 11, 2008 Ruidoso News
A switch to community-based programs for young offenders in New Mexico and a decision by the Camp Sierra Blanca program management company to exit the juvenile sector leave the future of the camp northeast of Ruidoso in doubt. Community Education Centers officials last month confirmed the company that operates the CSB program would not renew its contract with the state Children, Youth and Families Department, because the company planned to terminate its juvenile operations. Kevin Duckworth, CEC Mountain Region Director, said Thursday the company will end its operations on Jan. 31, by mutual agreement. The camp staff was notified and relocation opportunities were offered to other CEC facilities where possible, he said. Last month, a spokesman for CYF indicated the company would stay on until June 30, the end date of the current contract. At that time, Bob Tafoya said CYFD officials were considering options for the best and highest use of the camp, which over the past few years was updated with modular living units and a renovated cafeteria. Romaine Serna, public information officer with the CYFD, said Thursday discussions continue on the future of the camp that over several decades evolved from a minimal security work prison for adult male offenders, to adult women and then for juveniles.

February 15, 2006 Albuquerque Journal
Five teenage boys who walked away from a juvenile jail Monday were taken into custody Tuesday morning, but questions remain about why the facility near Ruidoso has had two breakouts in two months. The teens, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were at Camp Sierra Blanca as part of their paroles and probations. They were picked up by State Police and Lincoln County Sheriff's officers about nine miles from the camp on Highway 380, near Capitan. "We're very concerned," said Deborah Martinez, spokeswoman for the Children, Youth and Families Department, which oversees the camp. "We want to understand what is going on that's causing these boys to walk away, and prevent it from happening again," she said. A spokesman for CiviGenics, the Boston company that has run the fenceless, rural facility since June, said jail security depends on the staff's vigilance and their ability to maintain relationships with the inmates. "The opportunity to run is so great," said George Vose, vice president of CiviGenics.

August 11, 2005 KVIA
The state Children, Youth and Families Department has paid 212-thousand-500 dollars to settle a dispute with a company that had run Camp Sierra Blanca. The Albuquerque Journal reports today that the money has been paid to Florida-based Associated Marine Institutes. In exchange for the payment, A-M-I has agreed to withdraw a protest it filed after it lost the contract to operate Camp Sierra Blanca. The Children, Youth and Families Department initially had refused to reveal the amount of the payment. The state earlier this summer transferred the operation of Camp Sierra Blanca to a for-profit Boston company, CiviGenics. A-M-I lost the contract to run the juvenile detention facility because of a technical error on its bid.

May 24, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Officials from Associated Marine Institutes, the Florida organization that operates a juvenile detention camp near Ruidoso, say they'll fight the state's decision to turn the center over to a new contractor. Last Friday, an attorney for AMI presented the Children, Youth and Families Department with a notice of protest over the bidding process that began in April. AMI has run Camp Sierra Blanca since its inception in 1997. The rural, farm-like camp has been praised by politicians, judges and children's advocates for its success in rehabilitating teenage boys. Officials from the Children, Youth and Families Department say they have entered into budget negotiations with CiviGenics of Boston, the only other company that made a bid to run the camp. The protest alleges that AMI's contract proposal was disqualified because budget information was put in an appendix of the proposal instead of in the body of the document— something AMI officials say they were told was acceptable.
The protest contends that CYFD restricted AMI's oral presentation during the final stage of the procurement process. CYFD also failed to select a proposal evaluation committee that met procurement standards, according to the document.

May 13, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Supporters of Camp Sierra Blanca, a juvenile detention center near Ruidoso, are questioning the state's decision to disqualify a contract bid from its operator on what they consider to be a technicality. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; state Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces; and U.S. District Judge William "Chip" Johnson say the state's decision could be a result of the conflict that arose last summer when the Children, Youth and Families Department tried to close the facility.  Some Lincoln County residents have established an "advocacy support fund" to save Camp Sierra Blanca and its current contractors, American Marine Institute, said Harvey Twite of radio station KEDU. The station is spearheading the effort. Under AMI's management, Camp Sierra Blanca has reported a 90 percent success rate in rehabilitating delinquent boys. AMI, a nonprofit company based in Florida, has managed the camp since its opening in 1997. A letter sent from CYFD to AMI officials on May 6 said the disqualification was because of AMI's failure to provide required information. Camp officials claim data from two columns was put in an appendix, which they contend CYFD approved. CYFD is currently negotiating with CiviGenics to run the camp. CiviGenics, a for-profit correctional company from Boston, was the only other firm to submit a bid.

May 11, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
After a long fight to keep a juvenile detention facility near Ruidoso open, the organization that has run the center has been informed it is out of a job. Officials from Associated Marine Institutes, Inc., which has managed Camp Sierra Blanca since its inception in 1997, say state officials didn't play fair when they awarded a new contract to CiviGenics, a for-profit correctional company from Boston. AMI officials said they are considering challenging the decision. The state's current contract with AMI, a nonprofit company based in Florida, expires June 30. In a news release Monday, CYFD said it was entering into contract negotiations with CiviGenics, the only other organization to submit a proposal. CiviGenics operates adult prisons in 14 states and juvenile facilities in four. "The process has saddened me," said state District Judge Karen Parsons, a Camp Sierra Blanca board member. "If we were being dealt with in good faith, they should have told us there was a technical problem (with the proposal). But the outcome was predictable in light of the way (CYFD) Secretary (Mary-Dale) Bolson has treated AMI." Tensions began building last summer when CYFD announced the camp would close in an effort to incarcerate fewer juveniles and rehabilitate them in their communities. An outcry from the residents of Lincoln County and supporters of the juvenile justice system prompted Gov. Bill Richardson to halt the closure.  Supporters pointed to a 90 percent success rate and heavy community support as reasons to keep the low-security facility open.

CiviGenics, Marlboro, Massachusetts
November 17, 2011 Salem News
A former employee of Civigenics, the company which provides prison management at the Columbiana County Jail filed a wrongful termination suit Tuesday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court. Stephen Crea, East Liverpool, claims age discrimination was behind the company releasing him on May 19. He was 60 years old when he was let go and the person who replaced him was under 40. Warden Gary Grimm reportedly told him "it is better that we part ways now" and let him go without further explanation, according to court documents. Besides lost wages and benefits, the court documents also allege Crea's civil rights were violated. He is seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages.

February 18, 2010 KXXV
A ruling by State Attorney General Greg Abbott Wednesday could revive the controversy over extra money Sheriff Larry Lynch receives from McLennan County Commissioners for overseeing county jails. A private company, Civigenics, runs the downtown jail by contract from the county, as well as a new jail on Highway 6 that should start housing inmates in the next thirty days. Sheriff Lynch is paid $12,000 a year to oversee those facilities, in addition to his regular salary. Other counties in Texas have similar arrangements, and their Sheriff receives extra money – sometimes significantly more -- from the private jailer. Abbott's ruling was a response to a request from Yvonne Davis, the Chair of the State House Committee on Urban Affairs. The Attorney General said "The commissioner's court may not contract with a private organization in which a member of the court or an elected or appointed peace officer who serves in the county has a financial interest … A contract made in violation of this section is void". It also said "regardless of county population, county sheriffs must be compensated on a salary basis. A sheriff, paid on a salary basis, ‘receives the salary instead of all fees, commissions, and other compensation the officer would otherwise be authorized to keep." "While article XVI, section 61 requires that a fee of office earned by a county officer ‘shall be paid into the county treasury,' it is not a grant of authority for the acceptance of a fee," the ruling continues. In summary, Abbott concluded such payments are illegal, "Neither the Texas Constitution nor Texas statutes authorize the person holding the office of county sheriff to be paid an administrative fee by a private organization." McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis told News Channel 25 the ruling was based on a "fee" opinion and not a "supplement" opinion, and a fee is based on the number of inmates being housed in the jail. "The supplement doesn't matter whether you have one or one thousand inmates, so that's the difference is what our attorneys tell us," Lewis explained. When asked if the attorneys said that after today's ruling, Lewis answered "No, that's what they told us all along". Lewis also said Sheriff Lynch isn't paid by Civigenics, "the fee is not paid to him by the company, the fee is paid to the County and the Commissioners Court selects to supplement the Sheriff's salary. It's important to understand that," Lewis said. "He's not receiving a fee by any stretch of the imagination." The County Judge said applying Wednesday's ruling out of Austin to McLennan County's situation is like "comparing apples to oranges". "We're doing everything the attorneys are telling us to do," Lewis added. The annual supplement, as Lewis called it, has been a source of controversy for years from critics of Lynch and candidates for the Sheriff position in election years.

May 21, 2007 New York Times
A company based in New Jersey that provides training and treatment programs to prison inmates is announcing today that it has bought a similar Massachusetts company, creating one of the largest correctional services companies in the country. The two companies — Community Education Centers of Roseland, N.J., and CiviGenics of Marlborough, Mass. — are trying to capitalize on the growing number of inmates and tight financing for new prisons that have led federal, state and local governments to contract out more of their operations to private businesses. States have also addressed the shortage of prison space by trying to reduce recidivism with more training and treatment programs for inmates. About 70 percent of those released from prison return within three years, according to some studies. “There’s a tremendous focus on the re-entry of inmates,” said John J. Clancy, chief executive of Community Education Centers. “If people are going to continue to get out of prison, the question is how they get out.” The two privately held companies, which together are expected to employ about 3,500 people in 22 states and have close to $240 million in revenue next year, did not disclose the financial terms of the agreement. However, people with knowledge of the transaction said Community Education Centers paid more than $100 million for CiviGenics.

January 13, 2007 The Telegram & Gazette
Spectrum Health Systems Inc., its former management company and a former executive have agreed to repay about $7.5 million to the state to settle charges that Spectrum misused state money. The office of Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly reported yesterday that Spectrum will pay the state $3.5 million and add four new independent trustees to its board. CiviGenics Inc. of Marlboro, which held a management contract with Spectrum from 1996 to 2002, will pay the state $3.4 million, Mr. Reilly’s office said, and CiviGenics President Roy Ross will pay the state $650,000. Under the agreement with the attorney general’s office, none of the parties admitted any wrongdoing. Spectrum President and Chief Executive Charles J. Faris said yesterday that at Spectrum, “there was no wrongdoing.” “Basically we’re just satisfied that we’re getting an issue that’s five years old finally resolved, and that we can get back to performing the services we’ve always been noted for,” Mr. Faris said. CiviGenics and Mr. Ross did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment. Spectrum, with 700 employees, is a nonprofit human services organization that concentrates on treatment programs for substance abusers. It has operations in Massachusetts and five other states. In Massachusetts, Spectrum’s biggest state client is the Department of Youth Services. Spectrum also provides services for the state Department of Public Health and the Department of Correction. In 2004, state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci released an audit claiming that Spectrum had misused $17.4 million in state money over 10 years, mostly through a no-bid contract that allegedly funneled $10.2 million in excessive payments to CiviGenics. The audit also alleged that Spectrum paid nearly $1 million in unallowed compensation to a former chairman for undocumented consulting services provided while he was living in Alaska and Florida. In addition, the auditors questioned a $3.3 million Spectrum purchase of Boston Road Clinic from CiviGenics. CiviGenics operates prisons and substance abuse programs in secure facilities. Mr. Ross, its president, formerly ran Spectrum. Mr. DeNucci’s office turned its audit results over to the attorney general’s office in 2004, and since then, state auditors have not re-examined Spectrum, said Glenn A. Briere, a spokesman for Mr. DeNucci. “Informally, we hear things, and we’ve been led to believe the management at Spectrum has made considerable improvements since our audit, as a result of our audit,” Mr. Briere said. “Certainly the auditor did not want to see them put out of business. They do good work.” Under its agreement with the state, Spectrum must add four new independent members to its board of trustees, and at least two of them must have nonprofit governance or financial expertise. The state said Spectrum must review its bylaws and procedures and create education programs for its trustees. The trustees, the state said, must beef up on law, accounting, finance, employee compensation and other topics related to their duties. Mr. Faris said Spectrum always looks for experts in those areas when it recruits trustees. He said the board has not yet added four new trustees, but expects to do so this year. The governance and board requirements represent a significant element of the settlement, Mr. Briere said. “The members of these boards are supposed to be watching what the state does,” Mr. Briere said. “They have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure these corporations, these agencies, are operating not only in the best interests of their businesses, but in the best interests of the communities paying them to do this work.”

February 27, 2004
A Worcester-based health-care company that provides substance-abuse and mental-health services to teens, prison inmates, and others improperly billed the state for more than $17 million in management fees over a 10-year period, according to a report issued yesterday by state Auditor Joseph DeNucci.  The company, Spectrum Health Systems Inc., is one of the largest private providers of health services to clients whose care is paid for by the state.  Spectrum operates a community resource center in Lowell that serves inmates making the transition from prison back to the community. The company also provides a range of services to inmates at the state prisons in Concord and Shirley.  DeNucci's office yesterday released a detailed audit of the company's operations from 1992 to 2002. Auditors found that the company paid excessive fees totaling $10.2 million to its for-profit management company, CiviGenics, for which it then received reimbursement from the state. CiviGenics was founded by Spectrum's former CEO.  The audit also found that the company paid a former chairman nearly $1 million for consulting fees when he lived in Alaska and Florida but found no documentation of his services; purchased a financially strapped clinic from CiviGenics for $3.3 million; and used taxpayers' money to offset losses for programs it operates in other states.  "Spectrum provides a variety of valuable public health services, but its past fiscal practices were filled with abuses of public funds," DeNucci said in a statement. "Some improvements have already taken place and I am hopeful that Spectrum will continue to be more fiscally responsible in the future."  In response to the audit, Spectrum management acknowledged that the company was "disserved" in its relationship with CiviGenics, which was responsible for Spectrum's day-to-day operations and with which it has now severed ties.  "It's important to keep in mind that this agreement (with CiviGenics) ended almost two years ago at this point. This is not the same company that it was two years ago," said Spectrum CEO Charles Faris.  Faris said the company's managers "recognized that we weren't getting value for this contract well before the state auditors came in."  "We were taking steps to terminate this agreement months before," Faris said. The agreement between the two companies was terminated in 2002.  DeNucci's office wants Spectrum to reimburse the state for the full amount it claims was improperly billed.  (Lowell Sun)

CiviGenics Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitative Center, Fort Stanton, New Mexico
August 26, 2004 Ruidoso News
Darcy Holmes said she didn’t mind being tested for drug use during a surprise facility-wide search at the CiviGenics Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitative Center at Fort Stanton Tuesday.  But she was infuriated that she and other staff were herded into a circle and kept at gunpoint for hours with offenders on probation and parole during the search.  “I feel they put our lives at risk,” said Holmes, a semi-retiree who worked the past five months for the Massachusetts-based company that is under contract with the state Corrections Department. “Someone could have taken a hostage or if a riot broke out, shooting could have started. I think they violated our safety. We were surrounded by officers from Carlsbad and Roswell with semi-automatic weapons and they held guns on us for three hours.”  Tia Bland, public information officer for the corrections department, said Wednesday that, “We believe the whole operation was handled professionally. Staff and offenders were rounded up, but weapons were not pointed at anyone. However, we needed to ensure they remained in one place while the whole facility was searched.”  The department received information about possible drug use by staff or offenders and decided a facility-wide search was needed, Bland said.  “We were pretty pleased not to find a whole lot,” she said. “They found a few minor drug paraphernalia and mushrooms that we are having tested.”  This isn’t the only incident that she says points to a disregard for staff safety, Homes said. “Our radios don’t work and when a duty officer is doing a head count, (he or she) has no way to communicate.”  Kevin Beckworth, the regional manager for CiviGenics based in Colorado, said the fort has three times the number of radios required and there is no reason they shouldn’t be an adequate number charged and ready to use at any time.  Holmes already had decided to quit her job and today is her last day at the fort.  David Lucero, another employee who has given notice, said he arrived about 4 p.m. and saw police cars and officers carrying M-16s.  He said the first man handcuffed is Cuban and doesn’t understand English well.  “I don’t think they made it clear they weren’t supposed to stand,” he said.  “They handcuffed him for at least two to three hours. If he had gotten mad and something started, we couldn’t contain them. We were in there and if rounds were fired, we were in the middle.”  But Lucero said his big gripe is that after the inmates were upset by the search, he and a female employee were left to watch them overnight. That’s about 41 offenders to one guard, he said.  The staff is “run ragged,” he said and more employees are needed.  “Over the last six months, I made more than $4,000 in overtime because they can’t get enough people to work or to hire, or they don’t last.  “We’re working 12 to 16 hour shifts and we’re tired. No one get raises because we’ve burned up all the overtime because the program director didn’t hire anybody for three or four months in a row.”  The ratio of employees to offenders also is too small on trips into town, he contended.  Beckworth said two-person staffing is normal for the night shift.  “The director at any time has the authority to bring on more people if the situation requires it,” he said, noting that several employees live on-grounds for any quick emergency response.  Lucero also criticized the prison-like atmosphere at the center.  “This is a rehab center, not a prison, but it’s run like a prison,” he said.   “We’re in it for the guys to get rehab.”  He said he doesn’t think that’s the same goal at the corporate level.  “When I have voiced my opinion in past, they won’t listen.” Lucero said he’s worried violence may erupt at the fort someday, damaging property and possibly resulting in injury to people.  According to company information, CiviGenics, the second largest privately-held corrections operator and the largest provider of correctional treatment programs in the United States, was incorporated in 1995 and operates in 14 states with a staff of more than 1,200.  The company took over from The Amity Foundation about a year ago. 

Columbiana County Jail, Leetonia, Ohio
November 17, 2011 Salem News
A former employee of Civigenics, the company which provides prison management at the Columbiana County Jail filed a wrongful termination suit Tuesday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court. Stephen Crea, East Liverpool, claims age discrimination was behind the company releasing him on May 19. He was 60 years old when he was let go and the person who replaced him was under 40. Warden Gary Grimm reportedly told him "it is better that we part ways now" and let him go without further explanation, according to court documents. Besides lost wages and benefits, the court documents also allege Crea's civil rights were violated. He is seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages.

December 3, 2010 Vindicator
A charge of domestic violence has been dismissed against a man who was injured when he jumped from a second story Columbiana County jail-cell block Nov. 16. Ronald E. Davie, 28, of Calcutta Smith Road, East Liverpool, suffered serious head injuries. The jail is run by a private company, CiviGenics Inc. of Milford, Mass. Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron said that Sheriff Ray Stone suggested that the charge should be dropped to save the county money. Davie was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown. The county would have to pay a deputy to watch Davie in the hospital. Herron said the county had initially made arrangements with security officials at the hospital to monitor Davie. Herron said he did not know who would care for Davie. Davie’s father, William Davie of St. Clair Township, said, “They just threw him to the wolves. ... I don’t know what is going to happen.”

November 18, 2010 Vindicator
Peter Argeropulos, the chief operating officer for CiviGenics Inc. in Milford, Mass., was unavailable Wednesday to comment about reports that an inmate in the Columbiana County jail severely injured himself Tuesday by jumping from a second-story cell block. CiviGenics, a private company, runs the jail. County Sheriff Ray Stone referred questions about the incident to CiviGenics. The warden at the jail who works for CiviGenics was not available.

July 23, 2009 Morning Journal News
A former jail inmate assaulted by fellow inmates at the Columbiana County jail one year ago today filed a promised lawsuit, claiming negligence and a security breach led to the attack. Jeffrey Woodburn of Wellsville named the private jail operator known as Community Education Centers Inc. and CiviGenics Texas, along with the county board of commissioners, the named inmates Aaron Holt of East Liverpool, David Crow of Wellsville and Derrick Howard of Youngstown and an unnamed inmate as defendants. The case appears to be another byproduct of inmates trying to persuade others to smuggle drugs and tobacco into the lockup, with the lawsuit alleging Woodburn was "threatened by other inmates after he refused to bring them tobacco and drugs upon his return to the jail from work release." Three jailers were charged with bringing drugs onto the grounds of the jail facility, with two imprisoned and one found innocent of the felony charge. During testimony, he said the inmates kept asking him to bring items in to them, and others testified about inmates using cell phones to place orders for drugs. According to the lawsuit, Woodburn reported the threats against him to jail personnel who placed him in protective custody in his own cell in a separate section of the jail. The document said security measures were breached on July 23, 2008, when Holt, Crow, Howard and possibly a fourth inmate were able to enter Woodburn's cell and beat him, requiring hospitalization. CiviGenics reported the incident to the Sheriff's Office at 9:58 a.m. July 25, according to a Sheriff's Office report, which noted the incident occurred at 8:55 p.m. July 23. The report said "an unknown inmate hit the emergency button on the control panel in pod 30 section of the jail," which released the doors of all the cells for evacuation. The three named inmates entered Woodburn's cell and allegedly kicked and punched him in the face and chest, the report said. The report listed no arrests for the assault. According to Columbiana County Municipal Court records, no charges were filed against Crow or Howard, but an assault charge was filed against Holt on July 29. However, it was later dismissed in September due to the unavailability of the defendant. The entry on the Clerk of Courts Web site said the jail let the defendant be transported out of the county. CiviGenics, which operates Community Education Centers Inc., is under contract with the county commissioners to operate the jail, a deal the commissioners first brokered in 1997 as a cost-saving measure. The contract expires in December. Woodburn, who was in jail for domestic violence, was released early as a result of the assault. His attorney, Lawrence Stacey II, first raised the issue of a negligence lawsuit last August when he filed motions for the release of Woodburn and two other inmates due to threats from inmates who wanted them to smuggle contraband into the facility. All three had work release privileges, which meant they could leave the jail to go to work and then come back. Woodburn requested damages in excess of $25,000, with Judge C. Ashley Pike assigned to the case. Commissioner Jim Hoppel, when questioned about the lawsuit, said they were advised of the incident when it happened last year. "The situation has been addressed," he said when asked about the alleged security breach. "With the contract we have with CiviGenics, we're held harmless with any lawsuits," he said, adding, though, they'll refer it to the prosecutor's office. Peter Argeropulos, CiviGenics senior vice president, confirmed what Hoppel said about the hold harmless clause, saying the county is insulated against anything that may occur at the jail. He said they hadn't been served with the lawsuit, but said they'll refer the case to their attorney and take appropriate steps. When asked about the situation with the drug smuggling into the jail, he said they work closely with the Sheriff's Office and the county Drug Task Force. "Overall I think we've got a pretty solid track record. We have good employees at the jail," he said.

May 5, 2009 The Review
A former CiviGenics guard accused of smuggling marijuana to inmates became an inmate himself after being sentenced to seven months in prison last week. Nathaniel Barnes, 29, of Youngstown, appeared for sentencing in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court for attempted illegal conveyance of a drug of abuse onto the grounds of a detention facility, a fourth-degree felony. He was originally indicted for a third-degree felony count for illegal conveyance. Judge David Tobin issued the sentence, giving Barnes credit for four days already served in jail. When Barnes entered a guilty plea in March, county Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Gamble said he would recommend a one-year prison term. The charge carried a possible penalty of six to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. The original charge would have meant a possible prison term of one to five years. Barnes was the second former guard sent to prison for smuggling contraband into the county jail to sell to inmates. Former guard Gary J. Ludt was sentenced to prison for 18 months in October 2007 for the same crime. A third former guard, Jason L. Jackson, was found innocent of illegal conveyance during a jury trial last month. According to Gamble, inmates would send a money order to a post office box in Campbell in Mahoning County and order what they wanted, then Barnes would make the delivery at the jail.

February 5, 2009 Salem News
A former CiviGenics guard accused of smuggling marijuana into the Columbiana County jail to sell to inmates pled guilty Wednesday to an amended felony charge. Nathaniel Barnes, 29, of Boardman, entered the plea in Common Pleas Court to attempted illegal conveyance of a drug of abuse onto the grounds of a detention facility, a fourth-degree felony. He was originally indicted for a third-degree felony count for illegal conveyance. In the past couple of years, three different guards at the county jail have been indicted for smuggling contraband into the lockup as part of scheme to sell marijuana and cigarettes to inmates in exchange for money.

December 18, 2008 Morning Journal News
An oversight on the part of Columbiana County commissioners when they privatized the county jail will cost $464,837 to correct. This is the amount commissioners agreed on Wednesday to pay into the retirement accounts of three former and two current jail employees to settle a lawsuit filed in 2004. The roots of the dispute can be traced back to 1998, when commissioners hired CiviGenics Inc. to take over jail operations, thereby abolishing the corrections officer positions as county employees, some of whom were rehired by the company. In 2004, an attorney representing some of the former jail employees now working for CiviGenics initiated legal action, saying commissioners were required to continue contributing into their public employee pension accounts under the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) even though the county no longer operated the jail. Their attorney cited a state law requiring contributions continue into the retirement accounts of a public employee whose job was abolished due to privatization. This applies to only those employees who returned to work for the private operator and continued to perform the same or similar duties as before. Commissioners fought the ruling for the next several years until the OPERS board ruled against them in 2007. When commissioners failed to act quickly enough, the attorney then filed a lawsuit with the Ohio 7th District Court of Appeals forcing them to comply with the ruling. Commissioners did so on April 30, 2008, when they entered into a consent settlement with the five workers. The next seven months were spent trying to calculate how much these employees would be owed in their public retirement accounts. County Auditor Nancy Milliken arrived at yesterday's meeting with the figure - $464,837 - which represents back employee and employer contributions, interest and penalties. The five employees are Pete Neiheisel, Melvin Jordan, Joe Weston, Gene St. John and Jerry Foreman. Three of these employees no longer work at the jail, however. As for the two who remain, commissioners will be required to make the employer contributions into their retirement accounts, which Milliken said will come out to a combined $12,000 in 2009, or 14 percent of their salary. The two workers, and not commissioners, will resume making the employee contributions into OPERS, although the law seemed to indicate this was the county's responsibility. But Milliken said she received an opinion from the Ohio Attorney General's Office stating the employees would be responsible for making their matching contribution.

December 11, 2008 The Review
The escape of four inmates from the Columbiana County jail this summer has led to the purchase of a new camera system for the outside perimeter of the lockup, giving better coverage and better views, Commissioner Jim Hoppel said. The commissioners approved the purchase Wednesday from Radi-O-Sound Communications of Salem, with $47,684 covering the equipment and $8,600 covering the installation. The money will come from the general fund. Two quotes were sought through state purchasing, with a Mahoning County firm submitting the other price. Hoppel said they were close in price for the cameras and the Salem firm didn't beat the other company by much for the installation price. He said they try to use local vendors when they can. The new system will include up to 16 cameras and will allow the warden to tap into the system from home to monitor what's happening. The sheriff also will have the ability to tap into the system. "Would this have stopped the escape?" Hoppel asked, then answered himself, "no." He admitted there were some problems with the old cameras, noting their age and the weather affecting them. The new camera system is just part of what they're doing to upgrade security equipment since the escape. With the improvements in technology, he said it was time to upgrade. A report looked at what led to the escape on Aug. 17 when four inmates broke into a maintenance closet, entered an access panel and crawled through the utility duct work to get to the roof where they managed to open a hatch to get outside, then jumped from the roof to the parking lot and freedom for a day. They were all caught together in a stolen car in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. According to the report, some jail personnel didn't follow proper procedure for counting inmates or conducting security checks, leading to three jail employees being fired in the aftermath of the escape. Hoppel said they bolted down the hatches to the roof and have instituted other improvements to prevent escape.

September 12, 2008 Youngstown Vindicator
Three staff members were fired in the wake of the escape from the Columbiana County Jail on Aug. 17. Their names were not released in a report Thursday by the county commissioners, who own the jail west of Lisbon. The workers were not county employees. The commissioners lease the jail to Community Education Centers, a private company based in West Caldwell, N. J., that runs detention facilities and programs to help prisoners turn their lives around. Four prisoners, William E. Merritt, Mark Foden, John Hamilton and Jason W. Hefner Sr., escaped from the jail between 8:30 and 9 p.m. They were recaptured the next day near Pittsburgh. John Gilbert, CEC’s deputy director/secure facility division, wrote, “It is clear that staff complacency and physical plant vulnerabilities played a key role in the escape.” The prisoners “used sheets, blankets, pillows, personal clothing and other personal items to craft human shape [sic] dummies on their beds, then covered them with sheets, creating the appearance of a body asleep in the bed,” Gilbert wrote. Established policies and procedures for counting prisoners were not followed. The report says that the 10:45 p.m. prisoner count will now be a “stand-up face-to-face count with verification that each inmate is in their cell.” Sheriff’s officials initially thought the escape occurred later in the night. The sheriff’s office is conducting its own investigation. Sheriff Raymond Stone could not be reached. He took office after the escape. Former Sheriff David Smith said the lock on the maintenance door was smashed. The company’s report said the door was “manipulated.” Peter Argeropulos, senior vice president for the CEC, said prisoners got into a maintenance closet and were able to access and move through a crawl space to eventually reach the roof. They dropped off the front of the jail, where there is no fence, and took off. Argeropulos said the escapees were able to somehow release the hatch on the roof. New security measures have been taken to secure other hatches in the building, and some locks have been upgraded. He said that he did not think a fence was needed at the front of the jail, which includes the coroner’s office.

August 29, 2008 Morning Journal News
Three Columbiana County Jail inmates were let out of their sentences early in August after one of them was severely beaten and the others were threatened. The three are represented by attorney Lawrence Stacey II, who says the threats came from fellow inmates who wanted his clients to smuggle drugs and cigarettes into the jail. He is contemplating filing a negligence lawsuit on their behalf against county commissioners and CiviGenics Inc., the private company that operates the jail under contract with commissioners. The three inmates are: - Jeffrey B. Woodburn, 38, sentenced to four months in jail for domestic violence. - Michael Lentini, 39, sentenced to 100 days for domestic violence. - Jonathan McGarry, 19, sentenced to six months for assault. The charges were misdemeanors, and Stacey said all three had work release privileges at the outset of their sentences, which means they were allowed to leave the jail to go to and from their jobs. Because these were violence-related crimes, they were serving their sentences in the maximum-security wing of the jail complex, where they came into contact with accused felons awaiting trial. Stacey said some of the accused felons ordered his clients to smuggle illegal drugs and cigarettes into the jail for them when returning from work, "or something bad would happen." "All three had received verbal or written threats from hard-core felons in there," Stacey said. Woodburn refused to smuggle in contraband and on July 23 he was assaulted in his cell by three other inmates, who kicked and punched him about the face and chest. Woodburn was taken to Salem Community Hospital with a punctured lung and numerous bruises and cuts. This prompted Stacey to file his motion for early release to protect his client. In his motion, Stacey accused the jail staff of being forewarned of the threats and then failing to "take the necessary steps to protect (Woodburn)" from being attacked. County Municipal Court Judge Carol Robb granted Stacey's motion, and the subsequent early-release motions he filed on behalf of Lentini and McGarry. They were all placed on probation for the remainder of their sentences and placed under electronically monitored house arrest. "As a result of what's been going on, the judges have had no choice but release these inmates early," Stacey said. "The judges are doing the responsible thing." What Stacey finds most troubling is that Woodburn was placed in an isolation cell after reporting the threats, but that didn't prevent the inmates from getting to him on July 23. According to incident report filed by the county sheriff's office, an unknown inmate gained access to the emergency button on the control panel that released all of the doors in cell pod 30. "I don't know how these inmates were able to get to the control panel and unlock all of the jail cells" to get to Woodburn, said Stacey, who was been trying to get a copy of the report for the past month. A call to the jail warden's office went unreturned. Jail security is currently being reviewed after three inmates escaped from the jail on Aug. 18 by breaking into a locked closet and finding a panel that opened to duct work leading to the roof. A report on the escape is expected to be released any day, but preliminary indications are one of the contributing factors is jail staff failed to properly perform a head count when securing inmates in their cells that night. In June, another inmate escaped after kicking out an unsecure window leading to the parking lot outside the minimum-security wing of the jail. During the past two years, three former jail guards have been charged with smuggling drugs into the facility, one of whom was convicted and another one has gone missing while awaiting awaiting trial. The third one is scheduled to go on trial next year.

August 26, 2008 Salem News
Four inmates who broke out of the Columbiana County Jail earlier this month will face preliminary hearings on felony escape charges Thursday in county Municipal Court. William Merritt, 40, and Mark Foden, 38, both of East Liverpool, Jason Heffner, 28, of Salineville, and John Hamilton, 21, of Salem, appeared via video from the county jail for arraignment on the charges Friday, with bonds of $250,000 cash or surety set. Heffner's girlfriend, Melissa McCulley, 26, of Salineville, appeared for arraignment Monday for a felony charge of complicity to escape, with a bond of $50,000 cash or surety set. She'll also face a preliminary hearing Thursday. The four inmates broke into a locked closet, through an access door and then crawled through duct work until they reached a hatch door to the roof. They broke through to the outside, then jumped to the ground to make their escape, according to investigators. Officials also suspected they stole a car from a Trinity Church Road property in Lisbon. All four men and McCulley were found with the car in Bellevue, Pennsylvania, where they were taken into custody. According to Sheriff David Smith, personnel of the private company operating the jail may not have done a proper head count, leading to a late discovery of the fact that four inmates were gone. CiviGenics officials are preparing a report to provide to county commissioners and the sheriff regarding the investigation and the action they'll take in response to the escape. Commissioner Jim Hoppel said they aren't expecting the report until the end of this week.

August 20, 2008 The Vindicator
Four prisoners broke out of the Columbiana County Jail by smashing a lock on a steel door. Sheriff David Smith said Tuesday that breaking the lock allowed the prisoners to leave the jail area and access a closet that held a shaft containing wiring and plumbing. The four apparently climbed the shaft to the jail roof and jumped to the ground Monday morning. The men were apprehended about 1:30 p.m. Monday in Bellevue, Pa. Just what was used to break the lock and why it was in the jail is under investigation, Smith said, Allen Haueter, Smith’s chief deputy, said it was the first major escape at the jail since it opened about 11 years ago. The jail, west of Lisbon, is owned by the county and houses the sheriff’s and coroner’s offices. The facility, however, is run by CiviGenics Inc. of Milford, Mass., which operates some 11 jails in Texas and Ohio. Peter Argeropulos, the chief operating officer for CiviGenics, came to Lisbon late Monday to investigate. The sheriff’s office and CiviGenics plan to issue reports on what happened. Argeropulos said a team from the company had toured the jail. “The lock was compromised,” he said. How that was done isn’t clear. Argeropulos said the prisoner head count was apparently flawed at 10:45 p.m. Sunday, when jailers make head counts, rounds and check areas such as showers. He said the company may have to revise its counting procedures. Smith said his detective, Steve Walker, was interviewing the four escapees and a girlfriend of one of them Tuesday in the Allegheny County Jail.

August 20, 2008 Salem News
A procedure to ensure inmates are in their cells after lockdown may not have happened Sunday night when four prisoners escaped from the maximum security section of the Columbiana County jail, according to Sheriff David Smith. Smith explained that lockdown occurs at 11 p.m. and a guard "supposedly" goes to each door and physically sees and physically knows that a person is in their cell. "Apparently that didn't happen," he said in reference to Sunday night. William Merritt, 40, and Mark Foden, 38, both of East Liverpool, Jason Heffner, 28, of Salineville, and John Hamilton, 21, of Salem, crawled their way to freedom through the duct work in the facility, breaking through a hatch door to the roof and then jumping to the ground. Officials suspected they stole a 1995 Buick from a Trinity Church Road property in Lisbon. All four escapees and Heffner's girlfriend, Melissa McCulley, 26, of Salineville, were taken into custody Monday afternoon in Bellevue, Pa., after the stolen car was spotted by police. Bellevue is located near Pittsburgh. They were expected to be extradited back to Ohio to face charges of felony escape, with McCulley to be charged with complicity to escape. Smith said his personnel traveled to the Allegheny County jail on Tuesday to interview the suspects. Back at the Columbiana County jail, which is operated by the private firm CiviGenics, officials from the Sheriff's Office and the company were interviewing employees. CiviGenics flew in personnel from Texas and Massachusetts to launch an internal investigation of the incident. "I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of exactly what happened," Smith said. He estimated the time of escape occurred between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., noting the missing men were seen at a residence outside Summitville at 1:15 a.m. Monday. For them to break into a utility closet, break through an access door, crawl through the duct work, break through a hatch to the roof and leave the grounds would have taken at least a couple hours, Smith theoried. They would have needed more time then to steal the car and get to Summitville and to pick up McCulley. When asked if a head count was completed at shift change, Smith said that's something being investigated. When asked to clarify if they were checking to see if a proper head count was completed, he responded, "The key word there is proper." Questions remained about how they pulled off the escape, with the sheriff saying he didn't know how they found the escape route they took. He estimated they had to crawl at least 40 feet in total darkness through a passageway full of pipes and no wider than 3 feet in diameter. In spots, he said he was told the piping runs through the middle of the duct and they would have had to maneuver around it. As for the doors, he said they had to break through three of them, beginning with the locked steel door to the closet, the panel door leading into the duct work and then the hatch to the roof which is pinned from the outside. He didn't know what they used to make entry into the doors. "How these guys got out is unbelievable," Smith said. When asked about their jail jumpsuits being on the roof, he said he didn't know anything about their clothing situation. All four men had hearings pending in Common Pleas Court this week from charges which could result in prison time. Merritt was supposed to be arraigned Monday for first-degree felony charges of attempted murder and aggravated robbery for allegedly beating and stabbing a woman he knows last month in East Liverpool. Foden had been scheduled to face trial Tuesday for two counts of robbery, a second-degree felony, for allegedly robbing two East Liverpool stores in March and threatening the clerks in the process. Heffner had a pretrial set for Friday for single counts of attempted theft, breaking and entering, theft and receiving stolen property and four counts of burglary. Hamilton also had a pretrial set for Friday for identity theft, misuse of credit card and receiving stolen property.

August 19, 2008 Salem News
A spokesman for the private firm operating the Columbiana County Jail said company personnel will work with Sheriff David Smith to investigate an escape of four prisoners and take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. "They'll evaluate what transpired," CiviGenics Senior Vice President Peter Argeropulos said Monday. Argeropulos arrived in the county late Monday afternoon, along with John Gilbert, director for the secured facilities division of CiviGenics. A senior warden from another facility was expected to arrive today. The warden of the Columbiana County facility is Gary Grimm, who used to work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Elkton facility outside Lisbon. The company headquartered in Massachusetts operates 16 facilities in Ohio, Texas and Arizona. The Columbiana County Commissioners first signed a contract with the company in late 1997 to privatize the jail operation. The company started operating the then-new full-service jail in January 1998. Argeropulos couldn't release any details specific to the incident which resulted in four inmates escaping through the duct work onto the roof and then jumping from the roof to the ground without getting caught. They were later captured in Pennsylvania in a car stolen from a Trinity Church Road property not far from the jail, which is located on County Home Road, both off of U.S. Route 30 between Lisbon and Hanoverton. He deferred to Smith for details about the incident, but said the company's standard practice is to conduct an after action incident review. A team of officials is brought to the site to assess the situation, evaluate the security procedures and make a list of recommendations, if necessary. The report will be provided to the sheriff and to the county commissioners. "Obviously this is something we're concerned about. We'll get to the bottom of it," he said. According to Argeropulos, jail staff members make rounds on the hour to check on inmates, with a requirement "to see living, breathing flesh." They also do head counts as part of their standard procedures. Commissioner Jim Hoppel said he was told they do a count of inmates at the beginning of each shift and at the end of each shift besides going periodic checks. Shift change came at 11 p.m. Sunday. Sometime before 6 a.m., the prisoners escaped. Hoppel received a call at 6:48 a.m. Monday to notify him of the escape, then he called Commissioner Dan Bing and Commissioner Penny Traina to advise them. He went to the scene and was on the roof in the area where the inmates climbed through a hatch. More locks have been placed on the roof hatches as a result of what happened. Smith said jail personnel were being interviewed as part of the investigation and videotapes were being reviewed. According to Hoppel, this was the first escape that he could recall from the full-service jail. In May, an inmate broke through a window in the minimum security wing to escape, but was later caught. Since then, Hoppel said bars have been placed on the windows. Two years ago, two minimum security inmates who were working outside escaped by riding off on a John Deere tractor when they were supposed to be mowing grass. That same week, another inmate who was working at the Courthouse in downtown Lisbon walked off. He was also caught eventually.

May 31, 2008 Vindicator
A couple has been charged after a jail break and chase that ended when they crashed into a West Virginia nursing home forcing the evacuation of 24 people. In Columbiana County, Larry Williams, 35, of Lisbon, is charged with escape and vandalism. His girlfriend, Candy Kibler, 37, also of Lisbon, is charged with felony obstruction of justice. Both have criminal records. They are in Southwest Regional Jail in Bexley, W.Va. They were taken into custody about 12:15 a.m. Friday by West Virginia authorities. Allen Haueter, chief deputy for the Columbiana County sheriff’s office, said Friday that Williams escaped from the jail’s minimum-security section. He had been talking to Kibler on the phone, apparently about her former boyfriend who allegedly owed her money, and he became angry. That portion of the jail is a former nursing home and is run by a private company, CiviGenics Inc. of Milford, Mass. Peter Argeropulos, CiviGenics’ chief operating officer, said Williams took an air conditioning unit out of the wall, and used a piece of wood that supported it to smash the window and escape. Haueter said a deputy coming to the jail saw Williams running away. Authorities went to Kibler’s home but did not find Williams. Haueter said Williams apparently stole a car from a home near the jail, drove to Lisbon to pick up Kibler, and went to Kensington to see her ex-boyfriend to get money. Haueter said the couple drove to Wooster in Wayne County, where they allegedly stole another vehicle. Haueter said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is to process the vehicle Monday for any evidence. Chief Tim Stover of the Lewisburg Police Department in West Virginia said his officers saw the couple driving and tried to stop the vehicle that went across a field and a parking lot and crashed into the kitchen of the Brier Nursing Home. Stover said 24 residents were transferred to the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center as a precautionary measure. The crash ruptured a natural gas line. No one at the nursing home facility was hurt, he added. Williams and Kibler were both treated for minor injuries at the medical center. The crash caused an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 to the facility. The couple are in the West Virginia jail on fugitive warrants. Stover said he would wait to see how the extradition hearings progressed before deciding whether to pursue charges in Lewisburg.

May 1, 2008 Morning Journal News
A decision by Columbiana County commissioners to settle a dispute over retirement benefits for five former county jail employees could prove costly. Just how much so has yet to be determined, but it could be substantial. Commissioners voted at Wednesday’s meeting to enter into a consent agreement with the former jail employees to resolve a lawsuit filed earlier this year with the Ohio 7th District Court of Appeals. The lawsuit sought a court order requiring commissioners to comply with a decision by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), which ruled last November five former employees were entitled to retirement benefits dating back to 1998, when a private company took over operating the jail. CiviGenics Inc., the company hired by commissioners to operate the jail, hired a number of the former county jail employees who lost their jobs due to privatization. In 2004, an attorney representing some of the jail employees initiated legal action saying commissioners were required to continue contributing into the OPERS on their behalf even though though the county no longer operated the jail. The attorney cited a state law that requires contributions continue to be made into a public employee pension plan of a public employee whose job was abolished due to privatization. This applies if the employee went to work for the private operator and continued to perform the same or similar job duties. Commissioners fought the ruling for the next several years until the OPERS board issued its ruling six months ago. When commissioners failed to act quickly enough to suit the attorney, the lawsuit was filed with the appeals court. Yesterday’s agreement to resolve the lawsuit requires commissioners to pay both the employee and employer share of OPERS (about 14 percent of their salary) dating back to when the five employees were hired by CiviGenics and to continue contributing into their public employee pension plan as long as they remain employed by CiviGenics. The figure is to include penalties and interest, with everything to be completed by June 30. No one seems to know for sure how much the settlement will cost. County Auditor Nancy Milliken said at one time she heard the figures $500,000-$600,000 thrown around, while Commissioner Chairman Dan Bing said it could exceed $1 million. Commissioner Jim Hoppel is the only current commissioner who was in office when the decision was made to hire CiviGenics as a way to save money, which he says it has done. “With privatizing the jail we’ve saved in 101/2 years in the vicinity of $10 million,” Hoppel said. Although Hoppel doesn’t know how much the settlement will cost the county, he is confident it will be significantly less than what the county has saved. Bing said he doesn’t know where the money will come from to pay the settlement. “It’s all because somebody didn’t do their job in the past,” he said. Milliken said her office must obtain the workers’ pay rates from CiviGenics during the period of their employment and begin making the calculations based on the OPERS rates. The information would then have to be submitted to the OPERS board for approval. This would be the second large settlement commissioners would have to pay out because of their decision to privatize the county jail. In 2002, commissioners agreed to pay $300,000 to former jail employees to resolve outstanding labor complaints arising over privatization.

January 20, 2008 Morning Journal News
Another corrections officer at the Columbiana County Jail, Nathaniel Barnes of Youngstown, has been charged for reportedly smuggling marijuana and cigarette tobacco to inmates. It is the second time in less than a year a correction officer in Lisbon traded in his uniform for an orange jumpsuit for allegedly smuggling items to inmates. Barnes, 28, was charged early Saturday with conveyance of a substance into a corrections facility, which is a felony charge. Dan Downard of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force said the charge was part of an ongoing investigation that came after agents were made aware that one or more corrections officers were smuggling marijuana or cigarette tobacco to the inmates. He credited the warden at the county jail, operated by CiviGenics Inc., with being very cooperative. “The warden’s been a wonderful asset,” Downard said. “He is adamant that he doesn’t want that kind of stuff going into the jail.” Another corrections officer, Gary J. Ludt, 37, Bergholtz pleaded in August 2007 to a similar charge of smuggling marijuana to inmates. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

January 11, 2008 Morning Journal News
A ruling requiring Columbiana County commissioners to pay into the retirement plans of five former county jail employees could provide expensive. An attorney representing four of the five people filed a lawsuit this week with the Ohio 7th District Court of Appeals seeking an order requiring commissioners immediately comply with a recent decision by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS). The OPERS board issued a final order on Nov. 14 saying the five workers were entitled to have the county continue paying into their OPERS while they were employed by CiviGenics Inc., the company now running the county jail. The roots of the dispute extend back to 1997, when commissioners abolished all of the county jail jobs and hired CiviGenics Inc. to take over operations, starting in 1998. The private company hired a number of former jail employees, some of whom are still working there. In 2004, an attorney representing former jail employees employed by CiviGenics initiated action seeking OPERS payments on their behalf. The attorney cited a state law requiring contributions continue into the pension plan of a public employee whose job was abolished due to privatization. This applies to those former public employees who were hired by the private company and continued to perform the same or similar duties under their new employer. The OPERS ruled in January 2005 the law applied to the five former jail employees hired by CiviGenics. Commissioners and the county sheriff spent the next two years appealing the decision through the OPERS system before the final ruling was issued two months ago. At one time, the attorney stated 19 former jail employees were affected, 11 of whom were no longer working for CiviGenics as of 2005. This was contested by commissioners. Following the Nov. 15 ruling by the OPERS board, the county auditor’s office was provided the necessary paperwork to fill out in order for the retroactive pension compensation payments to be made. This was followed up with a letter from the attorney, who threatened to take legal action unless the county replied by the end of the year. Officials don’t know how much the five employees are owed, but it could be in significant, depending how long they worked for CiviGenics. Commissioners are required to contribute into OPERS a dollar amount equal to about 14 percent of the employees’ salary, with the employee required to contribute the same percentage. Commission Chairman Jim Hoppel said they have yet to confer with their attorney about the lawsuit and declined comment until then. He did say the county has saved more than $7 million since hiring CiviGenics 10 years ago. It was commissioners who inadvertently contributed to the situation that currently exists by encouraging CiviGenics to hire as many ex-jail employees as possible. “You try to be fair, but that’s the way it goes,” Hoppel said. This would be the second large settlement commissioners would have to pay out because of their decision to privatize county jail operations. In 2002, commissioners agreed to pay $300,000 to former jail employees to resolve outstanding labor complaints arising out of the privatization.

October 20, 2007 Morning Journal News
A fired county jail guard was sentenced to prison for smuggling marijuana to inmates in exchange for money. Gary J. Ludt, 37, of Bergholz, was sentenced to 18 months in prison during a hearing Friday before Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike. In August, Ludt pleaded guilty to smuggling and attempted smuggling of prohibited items into the jail. Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones recommended Ludt be sentenced to 18 months in prison because of the seriousness of the crime and the fact he should be held to a higher standard because of his position. “It goes without saying this kind of conduct maligns law enforcement everywhere,” she said, adding that while under indictment Ludt was also charged in Jefferson County with possessing weapons while under indictment. Defense attorney Sherrie Liebschner pointed out her client didn’t have any a prior criminal record and he had taken complete responsibility for his actions. She said the Jefferson County charge was there result of Ludt going hunting. She asked for leniency on behalf of Ludt. “My client is afraid for his life in this matter.” Ludt had no comment when it came time for him to address Judge Pike, who said his actions damaged the public’s perception of the entire criminal justice system. The crimes occurred in late September 2006. In both instances, Ludt was under surveillance by agents from the county drug task force. In the one instance, Ludt was caught in the jail parking with a package of marijuana that had been left for him on top of one of his vehicle tires. Ludt was arrested while walking to the jail after taking possession of the package. Investigators claimed Ludt had been smuggling small packages that included marijuana, tobacco, rolling papers, cigarettes and lighters, which he sold to inmates for $20 to $50. Ludt told investigators he needed the extra money. Ludt was employed by CiviGenics Inc., the private company hired by county commissioners to run the jail.

June 19, 2007 Salem News
A trial for a former corrections officer accused of smuggling marijuana into the Columbiana County Jail remains set for June 26. Gary Ludt, 36, whose last known address was 102 W. Main St., Salineville, appeared Monday for a status hearing in Common Pleas Court with his defense attorney Sherri Liebschner. Liebschner advised Judge C. Ashley Pike that she told her client the latest offer from the prosecutor’s office, but there was no resolution to the case. Ludt was indicted last fall for two counts of illegal conveyance of prohibited items onto the grounds of a detention facility, both third-degree felonies. Court documents said Ludt was working for CiviGenics as a corrections officer and allegedly smuggled marijuana and tobacco into the facility to sell to inmates last September.

March 9, 2007 Vindicator
An investigation into contraband being smuggled into the Columbiana County Jail has been turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Sgt. Brian McLaughlin, director of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, said Thursday the move was made to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The task force is based at the building that includes the sheriff's and coroner's offices, as well as the jail that is run by CiviGenics Inc., a company in Milford, Mass. McLaughlin declined to comment on the investigation but said it is ongoing. The task force began investigating smuggling at the jail last year. Columbiana County Common Pleas Court records indicate that at least one inmate used a cell phone smuggled into the jail to try to get drugs brought into the facility. Jason L. Jackson, 28, of East Liverpool, was suspended without pay Monday from his part-time job as a St. Clair Township patrolman. He has not been charged.

March 8, 2007 Morning Journal
A St. Clair Township police officer who was suspended this week is suspected of smuggling marijuana and cell phones to county jail inmates, according to court records. The officer, Jason L. Jackson, also was fired Monday from his job as a guard at the Columbiana County Jail, according to Jail Warden Hank Escola. A request for a search warrant received by the county Drug Task Force indicated the DTF was investigating Jackson because of allegations he was taking prohibited items into the county jail for inmates. The alleged items included cell phones, marijuana and tobacco. The search warrant stated the DTF received information in January that Jackson and another guard had been engaging in this behavior. The investigation culminated in the DTF obtaining a search warrant over the weekend for Jackson’s pickup truck, with the warrant being executed Sunday. The report on what the DTF may have found in Jackson’s truck has yet to be filed in county Common Pleas Court. St. Clair Township Police Chief Don Hyatt told the Morning Journal on Tuesday he suspended Jackson “while an investigation is conducted into his alleged participation in criminal activity” and that this criminal activity did not involve the township department. Warden Escola said he fired Jackson Monday after being briefed by DTF officials. He said the other implicated guard was fired last week for unrelated violations of policy and procedures and failing to follow warden directives. He emphasized the other guard’s dismissal had nothing to do with any of the alleged activities involving Jackson. “That had been rumored, but there was no supportive information presented to me” indicating the other guard was involved in any illegal activity, he said. Jackson, 28, was still a probationary employee at the jail, having worked there the past two months. The other guard had been employed for the past 18 months. Last fall, former guard Gary Ludt was arrested after allegedly being caught in the act of trying to smuggle the following items into the jail: marijuana, loose tobacco, rolling papers and cigarette lighters. The items were found hidden in Ludt’s belt when searched by DTF agents while he was walking from his vehicle in the jail parking lot to report for his work shift. Ludt, 36, reportedly was paid $20 to $50 for each package he was to deliver. He is scheduled to go on trial May 8. The county jail is run by CiviGenics Inc., a private company hired by county commissioners. Escola said this type of activity obviously will not be tolerated.

November 10, 2006 Youngstown Vindicator
Columbiana County Sheriff David Smith said he will try to stop a planned pizza party for jail inmates during the upcoming Ohio State-Michigan football game. "A jail is a jail," an angry Smith said. The sheriff initially said there was no pizza party planned when approached Thursday by The Vindicator. When shown a notice about the party given to inmates at the privately run jail, Smith said, "There will be no party." Still, Smith said he was not sure he can stop it. He said he is the only sheriff in Ohio who does not control his county jail — it is run by CiviGenics of Milford, Mass. The commissioners had received and filed an anonymous letter and a copy of a notice to inmates. The items were postmarked Monday. The Vindicator had also received information about the party. The notice to all inmates from Warden Hank Escola says, "As we all know, the Ohio State/Michigan game is filled with so much tradition that we must to do something to show our support for the Buckeyes." The notice said inmates will each get three slices of pizza in addition to their regular meals. Inmates who can't eat pizza are to notify authorities so "we can make other arrangements," according to the notice. In return, the notice says inmates must keep their cells and living areas clean, keep the noise down during the game, stop "horseplay and childish games" and "help us to help you to have an easy time while you're here." The anonymous letter to the commissioners asked, "Since when did we start to reward inmates for crimes they commit and make their stay in jail easy? What are we running, a jail or a resort?" The letter said that inmates had rioted in September over the food and caused $4,000 in damage to the jail. Smith said the damage was actually closer to $6,000. Five inmates have been charged in the riot. In a separate, ongoing investigation, a civilian jailer and another person have been charged with trying to smuggle drugs and contraband into the jail. The jailer has been fired by CiviGenics. The jail's food manager, who worked for a company under contract with CiviGenics, has been replaced.

September 14, 2006 Youngstown Vindicator
Columbiana County's financial situation is looking a little bit better as the year winds down. Auditor Nancy Milliken said there is a chance the county may end the year with $600,000 to $800,000 in cash and some unpaid bills. Commissioner Jim Hoppel and Commissioner Gary Williams estimated in July the county might have a year-end balance with up to $1.2 million to start 2007. That forecast was based on the county's not paying an estimated $1.1 million to $1.3 million in bills to CiviGenics Inc. this year. On Wednesday, commissioners told CiviGenics, the company that runs the county jail, they will continue to pay the company within 90 days of receiving each monthly bill. Hoppel said that delaying payments longer would cause financial problems for the Massachusetts-based company. The county has paid CiviGenics for June, is about to pay the July bill and hasn't received the bill for August.

August 12, 2006 Salem News
Columbiana County Jail operator CiviGenics recently asked for "written assurances" that the county will pay its bills for housing prisoners, regardless of what happens with the sales tax. The company also warned the termination provision for ending the contract could be reduced to 30 days and could be put into effect. "Any plan to artificially reduce the county jail population will invoke CiviGenics rights to exercise a 30-day termination provision," the letter from Chief Operating Officer Peter Argeropulos said. Commissioners received the letter last month, a promised response to an earlier visit from Argeropulos, who had asked the commissioners for an update on the county's money situation. When commissioners approved the general fund appropriations for this year, one area they shorted was the contract for CiviGenics, predicting the shortage could leave them with $1 million to $1.5 million in prisoner housing bills to pay with next year's funds, which they've said could be even shorter. At this point, the county has paid all the bills to CiviGenics on time.

July 27, 2006 Vindicator
Columbiana County commissioners say better finances have reduced the county's projected 2006 deficit. The commissioners said Wednesday that a variety of factors went into the new calculations. Voters in November and May rejected a 0.5-percent sales tax that brings in about $4 million a year. The issue will be on the November ballot. Commissioners Jim Hoppel and Gary Williams estimate that the county may have a year-end balance of $600,000 to $1.2 million with some unpaid bills. Commissioner Sean Logan's more conservative estimates indicate the county may have about a $500,000 carryover with unpaid bills. The county needs a balance to fund operations at the start of each year until taxes are collected. Both forecasts are based on the idea that the county will not pay $1.1 million to $1.3 million in bills for 2006. That includes about $800,000 the county expects to owe CiviGenics Inc., the company that runs the county jail, and about $172,000 to the Multi-County Juvenile Attention System.

December 22, 2005 Morning Journal-News
County Commissioners breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after approving the requests by officeholders to appropriate the money they budgeted for each office into the individual accounts. The one area that has the commissioners concerned is the county jail. Last year, the county spent $491,273 during the first quarter. The commissioners budgeted $570,000 for the first quarter of 2006. However, commissioners are concerned that this might not be enough. Commissioners indicated that the county was charged $289,000 for the last bill they received from Civigenics, the company which operates the jail. This means that if that pattern continues, the money appropriated will be only approximately two-thirds of the money needed to pay for the jail.

September 22, 2005 The Review
With costs piling up for the hospitalization of murder defendant James Kovach Jr., Columbiana County Commissioners took emergency action Wednesday to reduce their financial liability. The commissioners approved a contract with Maxim Healthcare of Boardman for a licensed practical nurse to cover times when CiviGenics personnel aren't available at the county jail, so Kovach can be transferred back to the jail. By law, counties must carry the burden of medical costs for inmates in their care, which means the county will have to pay for the hospitalization costs. As of Tuesday, the total overtime accumulated by deputies manning the post exceeded $3,000. CiviGenics, the company running the county jail, has a nursing staff, but doesn't have 24-hour-a-day coverage. Smith said the county would have to cover the cost of a nurse to cover the empty shifts. Maxim Nursing will cover Tuesday through Saturday at a cost of $1,424 at a rate of $30 per hour on weekdays and $32 per hour for Friday and Saturday. The county will also foot the bill for two nurses employed by CiviGenics to work extra hours to cover Sundays and Mondays, at a cost of $360 at a rate of $20 per hour.

November 9, 2004 Morning Journal
A malfunctioning door alarm and a loose section of fence were responsible for the recent escape of an inmate from the Columbiana County Jail. Michael Mick, 27, Frischkorn Drive, Wellsville, escaped from the minimum-security wing of the jail complex on Oct. 30 by exiting through a door and then crawling under a section of fence. County Commission Chairman Jim Hoppel toured the jail this week and discussed the escape with officials from CiviGenics Inc., the private company that operates the jail. Hoppel learned that Mick exited the jail through a door which has a security alarm to notify corrections officers when it has been opened. He said the alarm for the door and another malfunctioned and did not alert the staff they had been opened. Although outside the building, Mick still had to get out of the jail compound, which is surrounded by security fence topped with razor wire.
Hoppel said the bottom of the fence is a tension cable that is supposed to be secured to concrete pilings every eight feet, but Mick found a section of fence where this was not done.

November 8, 2004 The Review
Some changes are to be made at the Columbiana County Jail as a result of a recent escape. Commissioner Jim Hoppel met Monday afternoon with officials of CiviGenics to discuss some upcoming work. Hoppel said a person familiar with installing fences is to be asked to inspect the area and make recommendations on the fence. Hoppel also stated two doors on which the alarms are not working properly will be repaired.

October 31, 2004 Morning Journal
An inmate from the Columbiana County jail remains loose after escaping Friday night with a suspected truck stolen for the getaway found near the escapee's home. According to the incident report filed by Civigenics, Mick was not located after a lockdown at 9:15 p.m. with a complete search of the facility and a head count. Smith said the perimeter and surrounding property was searched by deputies and jail employees.

October 25, 2004 The Review
Democrat sheriff candidate John Soldano offered his own idea for keeping jail profits in Columbiana County, suggesting an arrangement similar to the one used for public defender services. Last week he challenged the $800,000 to $1 million savings touted by the county through the jail contract with CiviGenics, telling county commissioners he wanted to see the private company's revenue and expenditure statement for himself to see if an alternative was possible.
Soldano said he didn't receive much information, at least not enough to verify the savings, but he did note a net profit for CiviGenics of $962,000 since June 2002, money which he said left the county unnecessarily due to the lack of an alternate plan.

October 23, 2004 The Review
The Democratic candidate for Columbiana County Sheriff questioned the numbers he received from county commissioners for jail operations, but Commissioner Jim Hoppel said the numbers are what they are. "That's what CiviGenics gave us," Hoppel said Friday.
Leetonia Police Chief John Soldano, who's running against Republican incumbent Sheriff David Smith, issued a written request earlier this week to Smith and the three county commissioners asking for the annual revenues/expenditures statement for CiviGenics, the private firm running the county jail. Soldano said he wanted to study the numbers for himself to see if the county's really saving the amount of money reported or whether it was financially feasible for the sheriff's office to operate the jail. "I received some information from the commissioners, however, I'm not so sure the information is accurate that I received," he said. According to Soldano, the numbers weren't adding up from the figures he had and they didn't seem 100 percent accurate.

Coryell County Jail, Gatesville, Texas
November 13, 2006 Killeen Daily Herald
A Willacy County official has a word of caution for the Coryell County Commissioners' Court as it considers a private prison vendor as a remedy for its overcrowded jail facility. "Have your sheriff talk to our sheriff. He will let you know what kind of problems he is having," said Juan Guerra, who pulls double duty as both county and district attorney in Willacy County. Guerra said his county has struggled through criminal investigations that saw two of its county commissioners convicted, and it is also is in danger of defaulting on a bond payment because it hasn't received enough federal prisoners to generate the needed revenue to sustain the facility. Coryell County Commissioners are expected to open a proposal from Innovative Government Strategies to construct and operate a jail facility when they meet in regular session at 10 a.m. Monday in the Coryell County Courthouse. According to the documents turned in by Innovative Government Strategies, the proposed project team includes James Parkey, with Corplan Corrections Inc., for developer, Hale-Mills for construction company, Municipal Capital Markets Group for financing, Deborah L. Williams for architecture and engineering and CiviGenics-Texas Inc. for management and operations. Coryell County Attorney Brandon Belt previously expressed concern about the proposed operator, saying that CiviGenics had been at the center of controversy recently. However, it is not just CiviGenics that has a troubled past. The commissioners' consideration of the group comes just days after a federal judge sentenced former Willacy County Commissioner Israel Tamez to six months in jail for his role in a bribery scandal connected to a $14.5 million prison project to construct a U.S. Marshals Service jail. On Nov. 9, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen handed down the sentence and also gave Tamez three years' probation and imposed a $25,000 fine. Tamez and former Commissioner Jose Jimenez, who died of cancer before being sentenced, pleaded guilty in January 2005 to taking more than $10,000 in kickbacks, Guerra said. Former Webb County Commissioner David Cortez also was involved in the scandal and was convicted in March 2005 of funneling the bribes to the Willacy County commissioners in exchange for their votes to hire a consultant in the prison project, Guerra said. Cortez is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20. "My understanding was, as far as implicating the company, it has not been implicated, but the commissioners have been convicted," Guerra said. "Our records indicate that when (Cortez) came before the commissioners when this happened four years ago, he represented himself as a private consultant for Corplan." In May 2005, Willacy County, on Guerra's instructions, filed a civil suit against Corplan and Hale-Mills alleging that the two companies were parties to the bribery. The suit later was dismissed, Guerra said. Guerra said he could not say whether a federal investigation was still pending, and U.S. District Court offices were closed Friday for the federal holiday. Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence could not be reached either. Guerra said the lack of competitive bids when Willacy was building its third federal facility – against his advice and despite the criminal implications – was not only suspect, but something that possibly lost Willacy County millions. "No one is checking to see if you are getting your money's worth," he said. "Because we don't know if that facility cost $50 million to construct." In fact, Guerra said according to information he received from experts, the project, which was for a facility to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, could have been done for between $30 and $35 million. "The information that I got, from experts that reviewed the expenses, says they could not justify the $50 million. They padded the construction costs by an extra $20 to $15 million," Guerra said. "What is funny you get commissioners that are indicted for taking $10,000. I am just wondering who are the real crooks?"

Dickens County Correctional Facility, Spur, Texas
November 27, 2007 Idaho State Journal
A company that's due to take over a troubled privately run Texas prison in 2008 made a sales pitch Monday to Idaho Department of Correction officials, saying it hopes the management shake-up and $1.2 million in proposed renovations will overshadow past problems and persuade Idaho to ship more inmates to the lockup. Civigenics, a unit of New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, Inc., with prisons or treatment programs in 23 states, will manage Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, starting Jan. 1 after winning a competitive bid. Until now, The GEO Group Inc., based in Florida, ran the facility. In March, Idaho prison officials called Dickens under GEO's oversight ''the worst'' prison they'd seen, citing what they called an abusive warden, the lack of treatment programs and squalid conditions they said may have contributed to the suicide of inmate Scot Noble Payne, who was held for months in a solitary cell. Idaho is nearly ready to move 54 prisoners who remain at Dickens to a new GEO-run facility near the Mexican border, after shifting 69 inmates elsewhere this summer. Dickens County and Civigenics officials came to Boise to offer assurances they'll remedy concerns over their 15-year-old prison as they aim to stay in the running to house some of the hundreds of prisoners that Idaho plans to ship elsewhere in coming months to ease overcrowding. Some 550 of Idaho's 7,400 inmates have been sent out of state since 2005. GEO ''thought they were too good,'' Sheldon Parsons, a Dickens County commissioner, told Idaho officials. ''They're used to running bigger facilities. That just kind of didn't fit into our program. Civigenics will definitely fit.'' Idaho plans to send 120 additional prisoners to a private prison in Oklahoma in January. It's also looking for space in other states for groups of inmates in increments of about 100 starting in mid-2008. Bob Prince, a Civigenics salesman, said his company could house as many as 150 Idaho inmates at a revamped Dickens. The $1.2 million from Dickens County, which owns the prison, would cover new fencing, exterior lighting, security improvements, kitchen renovations and more rooms for education and treatment programs. Still, Idaho officials including Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke indicated the plan may not be enough to address complaints that have prompted him to vacate Dickens. Idaho, which earlier this year conceded it lost track of how its inmates in Texas were being treated before Payne's suicide, has outlined its concerns in several reports over the last nine months. Lingering shortcomings include a lack of cell windows and a drab, dingy atmosphere in an aging facility built as county jail, not for long-term prisoners. ''The cells inside that facility are pretty dark and dank,'' said Randy Blades, the Idaho warden who oversees out-of-state prisoners. ''What are you looking at to change the cells themselves?'' Texas officials conceded that wasn't considered. ''We haven't looked into any of that,'' Parsons said, before adding, ''We'll try and do anything we can to make people happy that are coming in. Nobody has ever brought that up before.'' Despite past problems with GEO, Blades said Idaho aims to soon finalize a contract with that company to move inmates still at Dickens to a new 659-bed addition at the Val Verde Correctional Facility, near the Mexican border. That contract also calls for roughly 40 inmates currently in Idaho to be sent to Val Verde. Val Verde has seen its own share of problems under GEO leadership. GEO settled a wrongful death case after a female Texas prisoner killed herself following allegations she was sexually humiliated by a guard and raped by an inmate. Earlier this year, the local government was forced to hire a monitor for the facility. Even so, Blades said a visit to the new cellblock slated for Idaho inmates earlier this year convinced him and other officials that the prison is appropriate and safe. ''It's a very good facility, very secure,'' Blades said of Val Verde. ''There's a good dayroom. The cells are well lighted.''

Ector County Correctional Center, Odessa, Texas
February 19, 2009 Odessa American
A former Ector County Correctional Center guard pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to a federal bribery charge for giving an inmate a cell phone for $150, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. The release said that Andrew Zehr, who was arrested Dec. 9 and fired from the privately managed jail two days later, also told the court he was paid for smuggling in other contraband for the inmate, including a box of marijuana one of the inmate's relatives gave to Zehr, which was wrapped in black electrical tape with a lighter taped to the outside of the box. Zehr's sentencing will take place June 25 at the U.S. District Court in Midland. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The Ector County Correctional Center is a federal holding facility in downtown Odessa managed by New Jersey-based Civigenics.

December 9, 2008 Odessa American
A guard working at the Ector County Correctional Center became the latest person accused in Texas of smuggling cell phones for jail inmates, an assistant U.S. attorney said. John Klassen, a prosecutor with the Western District of Texas in Midland, said Odessan Andrew Allen Zehr, 23, was given a federal charge of bribery. He's accused of taking $150 to smuggle the cell phone and was also accused of smuggling two or three "baggies" of marijuana at $100 a pop since late October. Zehr was apprehended by DEA agents Tuesday afternoon and was in the process of being booked into the Midland County Jail at press time. Klassen withheld the name of the prisoner that he said offered the bribes pending a further investigation, but said he was a federal inmate, and therefore the bribery charge Zehr had was also federal. Zehr is an employee of Civigenics, otherwise known as Community Education Centers, a New Jersey-based company that is contracted by the county to manage the federal holding facility inside the Ector County Courthouse. A call to Civigenics was not immediately returned Tuesday. This arrest came as state prison officials were looking into several cell phone smuggling cases throughout Texas.

March 13, 2008 CBS 7
The death of an Odessa jail inmate has been ruled self-inflicted in a preliminary autopsy in Tarrant County. Luis Chavez Chavez was founding hanging in a cell at the Odessa correctional facility operated by Civigenics. The 21 year old was being held for illegal entry into the United States. Formal autopsy results are expected in four to six weeks according to Texas Rangers.

May 15, 2007 Midland Reporter-Telegram
A US District Court jury got a short course in jail house jargon in Monday testimony about a Feb. 11, 2006, fire at Ector County Correctional Center in Odessa.Through a Spanish translator, Marcos Antonio Gonzalez Alvidres and Nicanor Portillo Olivas heard current and former ECCC staff members implicate them in the smoky 3 p.m. episode that caused less than $1, 000 in damages but forced the evacuation of scores of inmates from the upper floors of Ector County Courthouse. The six-man, six-woman panel learned the meaning of terms like "tank boss," "2-Nancy," "2-Mary," "high profilers" and "SRT team."The muscular, mustachioed Gonzalez Alvidres was described as a tank boss, or dominant inmate, and the smaller Portillo Olivas as a lieutenant of his who vehemently objected when the man was moved to an isolation cell in another area. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years each in prison.A court official said they were being held on alleged immigration violations when the incident took place. They were each indicted on two counts of inciting a riot and setting a fire in a federal facility.

September 24, 2003
Promising to increase Ector County’s 2003-’04 revenues from jail inmates’ telephone calls by at least $100,000, a Carrollton company was awarded a one-year contract Monday by the county commissioners court.  T-Netix salesman Hank Schopfer was among representatives of a half-dozen companies that made pitches at the 10 a.m. Monday meeting. Brad Jones made a pitch for the former contractor, Inmate Communications of Midland.  Commissioners decided at an August budget workshop to re-bid the contract, noting that 2002-’03 revenues from charges assessed to people called by inmates at the County Law Enforcement Center and federal detainees at the private Civigenics jail in the courthouse had failed to meet expectations. Auditor David Austin reported then that phone revenues would only total about $200,000.  (Odessa American)

April 12, 2002
Officials were still trying to determine Thursday whether tire failure or driver fatigue caused a van wreck west of Pcos that killed two prison inmates and injured 12 people Wednesday afternoon.  The van was carrying 13 U.S. Marshals Service prisoners from El Paso to the Ector County Correctional Center in Odessa, said Jim Shaw, regional director for CiviGenics, the company that operates the detention center.  Although law enforcement officials said the driver became fatigued and drifted off the road, CiviGenics officials said Wednesday that the van rolled after the right front tire blew out.  Jack Dean, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas, said in a news release that "tire failure was not the primary cause."  (El Paso Times)

April 11, 2002
At least two people were killed and 12 were injured Wednesday when a U.S. Marshals Service van carrying 13 prisoners and two guards rolled off Interstate 10 west of Pecos.  The van was carrying federal prisoners from El Paso to the all-male Ector County Correctional Center in Odessa, Texas, when it crashed about 2:30 p.m.  Investigators said they believed the driver of the van was tired and allowed the vehicle to drift off the road and strike a guardrail before the van rolled down a 10-foot regional director for CiviGenics, the company that owns the van and operates the detention center in Ector, said the accident occurred when "the right front tire blew out on the van."  (El Paso Times)

Hunt Count Jail, Hunt County, Texas
August 31, 2005 Herald Banner
The consideration of a plan to privatize the operation of the Hunt County Jail came to a sudden halt Tuesday when officials saw that it would be more expensive to hire Civigenics, Inc. than to maintain the status quo. Hunt County Judge Joe Bobbitt said the numbers revealed that Sheriff Don Anderson was running an efficient operation with the resources allotted him. "The proposal from Civigenics was a good one, and it included a level of service above what we currently provide, but it did not prove to be an affordable option at this time," Bobbitt said. "What they proposed is something we can only aspire to right how." Hunt County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Robert White said he was not surprised at the outcome of the talks. "We felt at the time of the initial offer that there was no way they'd be able to do it as cheaply as we do it ourselves, but out of fairness we went through the process and let them work the figures out," White said. He said the proposals from Civigenics varied from $34 to $37.50 expense per inmate per day, compared to a current cost of $23.61 per inmate per day under county operations. "They were figuring in some other things in their costs, but it still was not close," White said.

Limestone County Detention Center, Limestone County, Texas
December 5, 2006 Athens Review
The Henderson County Commissioner’s Court on Monday tabled a requested increase in the fee to house Henderson County’s prisoners in Limestone County until more information regarding the agreement between the counties could be gathered. Limestone County and CiviGenics, the company that operates the Limestone County jail, sought a hike of $2 — from $42 to $44 — per prisoner per day, effective Jan. 1, 2007. Limestone County Judge Elenor Holmes, in a letter to Henderson County Judge David Holstein, said the change was needed because of increased salaries CiviGenics must pay detention officers in order to keep fully staffed in Texas’ competitive job market. CiviGenics has operations in 14 states and is the nation’s second-largest privately-held corrections operator. “Prisoner beds throughout the state are becoming very sparse. The supply is dwindling because of prices going up,” Holstein said. Of the proposed agreement, Pct. 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence asked, “How long was the last one (contract) we had with them? Can they come back and change it again? “I make a motion that we table this until we have more time to look into it.” The commissioners voted unanimously to table the request.

August 31, 2005 Tyler Morning Telegraph
The firm that houses Smith County's overflow jail inmates will soon ask to increase its fee by $1.50 per inmate, per day, to cover rising fuel costs, Sheriff J.B. Smith learned on Wednesday. During a trip to the Civigenics-run facility in Limestone County where Smith County inmates are now housed, Civigenics officials told Smith they'd soon seek to raise the per diem to $42, up from the current $40. But Smith said he was able to haggle Civigenics down some. Based on a current average number of prisoners Smith County sends to Limestone County and the Civigenics-run facility in Falls County - 175 - the budgetary impact on Smith County would be about $96,000, from $2.55 million to $2.65 million. But Smith says a more realistic average is 200 prisoners, raising the impact to $109,000, from $2.92 million to $3.03 million. That $1.50 on the per diem is an increase of 3.8 percent.

May 20, 2005 KWTX
What authorities called a disturbance broke out at about 10 a.m. Friday in a unit of the privately run Limestone County Detention Center. The incident was under control by noon, authorities said. The unit housed almost 50 inmates, but the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department said not all of them were involved in the incident. Several area law enforcement agencies responded to the disturbance. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The detention center houses more than 750 inmates and has room for more than 850 medium to maximum security prisoners. The facility houses inmates from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and counties throughout the state, according to CiviGenics, the company that operates the detention center.

Liberty County Jail/Juvenile Center, Liberty, Texas
July 8, 2008 Houston Community Newspapers
Angelia Perales, 43, Techa Fowler, 24, and Tynisha Pierre, 30, were all C.E.C./Civigenics correctional officers who were employed at the Liberty County Jail. That is until they were arrested July 2 by deputies from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. The women are all being charged with Violation of the Civil Rights of a Person in Custody. The Texas Penal Code states that violating a prisoner’s civil rights is a State Jail Felony. If convicted all three women could face anywhere from 180 days to 2 years incarceration and a fine not to exceed $10,000. The charges stem from a six week investigation conducted by LCSO and CEC/Civigenics into allegations that employees at the jail were having sexual relations with inmates. According to LCSO spokesman Hugh Bishop the allegations involved sexual activity between the three women and “more than one inmate.” Although Bishop was unable to say exactly how many inmates were involved he was sure there was more than one. Perales, Fowler and Pierre’s arrest is the latest incident in what is becoming a problem plagued year for CEC/Civigenics. Six weeks before the arrests of the three women, Marquise Dushun Hunt, 21, another CEC/Civigenics employee pled guilty for trying to bring drugs into the Bowie County Jail in Texarkana. Hunt was indicted in January by a grand jury for trying to bring three plastic sandwich bags full of marijuana into the jail. Hunt’s plea bargaining came on the heels of another sex scandal at the Liberty County Jail. On April 29 an unnamed female CEC/Civigenics correction officer resigned after questioning by LCSO Deputies. The officers were investigating allegations that the unnamed guard had been having sex with an inmate. According to Bishop the investigation and arrests of Perales, Fowler and Pierre were “not related to the other case.” Even though investigators are treating the latest sex and drug cases as unrelated incidences the sheer volume of them can’t be ignored. This past spring LCSO officers arrested the warden of Liberty County Jail on charges of stalking and sexual harassment. In January two more female CEC/Civigenics corrections officers Manitra Taylor, 41, and Shondalyn Jones, 25, were arrested for trying to bring drugs into the Liberty County Jail. Officials at CEC failed to respond to requests for comment.

May 7, 2008 The Vindicator
A female guard at the Liberty County Jail resigned Tuesday, April 29, following accusations she had sex with an inmate, Sheriff Greg Arthur said. The guard, an employee of CiviGenics, offered her resignation when Liberty County Sheriff's Office investigators questioned her about the alleged affair. CiviGenics is the private company the county hires to run operations of the jail. The guard could now face criminal charges stemming from the investigation. The Liberty County District Attorney's Office accepted the case and will present evidence to the grand jury, which meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will be May 14. After hearing the case, the grand jury could return an indictment for violation of civil rights of a person in custody by having sex with that person. The charge is a state jail felony. Punishment for a state jail felony can be confinement for a period of 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000. The names of the guard and the inmate were not released.

May 4, 2008 Houston Community Newspapers
A female employee of CiviGenics who works as a guard in the Liberty County Jail resigned Tuesday, April 29, after being questioned by Liberty County Sheriff’s Office investigators about having sex with an inmate, according to Liberty County Sheriff Greg Arthur. The case has been accepted by the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office and will be presented to a grand jury. The grand jury could return an indictment for Violation of Civil Rights of a Person in Custody By Having Sex With That Person. This is a State Jail Felony, punishable by confinement for a period of 180 days to two years in a state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

January 23, 2008 Houston Chronicle
Two guards were charged Tuesday with conspiring to deliver marijuana and Ecstasy to a federal inmate housed in the Liberty County Jail. Shondalyn S. Jones, 25, of Dayton, and Manitra L. Taylor, 42, of Cleveland, both employed by the corporation that runs the county jail, were taken into custody about 11:45 a.m. after they accepted the illegal drugs and $1,000 from an undercover agent in a parking lot at the intersection of Main and U.S. 90 in Liberty, investigators said. The cash was payment for delivering the drugs to the federal inmate, Liberty County Sheriff Greg Arthur said. Neither guard offered any resistance and both were immediately fired by CiviGenics Corp., which operates the facility, Arthur said. The unidentified federal inmate who was buying the drugs was the informant who tipped authorities about the delivery. He is one of 150 inmates being held temporarily at the county jail for the U.S. Marshals Service, Arthur said. Jones and Taylor were taken to a facility in Beaumont to await arraignment in federal court, Arthur said. The marijuana and Ecstasy delivery charges are each punishable by up to 40 years in prison. "Anyone, especially an employee, trying to deliver contraband into our facility is taken very seriously," Arthur said. The investigation involved sheriff's deputies, CiviGenics officers, Texas Department of Public Safety narcotics officers, Liberty County narcotics task force members and U.S. marshals.

January 13, 2007 The Telegram & Gazette
Spectrum Health Systems Inc., its former management company and a former executive have agreed to repay about $7.5 million to the state to settle charges that Spectrum misused state money. The office of Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly reported yesterday that Spectrum will pay the state $3.5 million and add four new independent trustees to its board. CiviGenics Inc. of Marlboro, which held a management contract with Spectrum from 1996 to 2002, will pay the state $3.4 million, Mr. Reilly’s office said, and CiviGenics President Roy Ross will pay the state $650,000. Under the agreement with the attorney general’s office, none of the parties admitted any wrongdoing. Spectrum President and Chief Executive Charles J. Faris said yesterday that at Spectrum, “there was no wrongdoing.” “Basically we’re just satisfied that we’re getting an issue that’s five years old finally resolved, and that we can get back to performing the services we’ve always been noted for,” Mr. Faris said. CiviGenics and Mr. Ross did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment. Spectrum, with 700 employees, is a nonprofit human services organization that concentrates on treatment programs for substance abusers. It has operations in Massachusetts and five other states. In Massachusetts, Spectrum’s biggest state client is the Department of Youth Services. Spectrum also provides services for the state Department of Public Health and the Department of Correction. In 2004, state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci released an audit claiming that Spectrum had misused $17.4 million in state money over 10 years, mostly through a no-bid contract that allegedly funneled $10.2 million in excessive payments to CiviGenics. The audit also alleged that Spectrum paid nearly $1 million in unallowed compensation to a former chairman for undocumented consulting services provided while he was living in Alaska and Florida. In addition, the auditors questioned a $3.3 million Spectrum purchase of Boston Road Clinic from CiviGenics. CiviGenics operates prisons and substance abuse programs in secure facilities. Mr. Ross, its president, formerly ran Spectrum. Mr. DeNucci’s office turned its audit results over to the attorney general’s office in 2004, and since then, state auditors have not re-examined Spectrum, said Glenn A. Briere, a spokesman for Mr. DeNucci. “Informally, we hear things, and we’ve been led to believe the management at Spectrum has made considerable improvements since our audit, as a result of our audit,” Mr. Briere said. “Certainly the auditor did not want to see them put out of business. They do good work.” Under its agreement with the state, Spectrum must add four new independent members to its board of trustees, and at least two of them must have nonprofit governance or financial expertise. The state said Spectrum must review its bylaws and procedures and create education programs for its trustees. The trustees, the state said, must beef up on law, accounting, finance, employee compensation and other topics related to their duties. Mr. Faris said Spectrum always looks for experts in those areas when it recruits trustees. He said the board has not yet added four new trustees, but expects to do so this year. The governance and board requirements represent a significant element of the settlement, Mr. Briere said. “The members of these boards are supposed to be watching what the state does,” Mr. Briere said. “They have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure these corporations, these agencies, are operating not only in the best interests of their businesses, but in the best interests of the communities paying them to do this work.”

A Worcester-based health-care company that provides substance-abuse and mental-health services to teens, prison inmates, and others improperly billed the state for more than $17 million in management fees over a 10-year period, according to a report issued yesterday by state Auditor Joseph DeNucci. The company, Spectrum Health Systems Inc., is one of the largest private providers of health services to clients whose care is paid for by the state. Spectrum operates a community resource center in Lowell that serves inmates making the transition from prison back to the community. The company also provides a range of services to inmates at the state prisons in Concord and Shirley. DeNucci's office yesterday released a detailed audit of the company's operations from 1992 to 2002. Auditors found that the company paid excessive fees totaling $10.2 million to its for-profit management company, CiviGenics, for which it then received reimbursement from the state. CiviGenics was founded by Spectrum's former CEO. The audit also found that the company paid a former chairman nearly $1 million for consulting fees when he lived in Alaska and Florida but found no documentation of his services; purchased a financially strapped clinic from CiviGenics for $3.3 million; and used taxpayers' money to offset losses for programs it operates in other states. (Lowell Sun, February 27, 2004)

McLennan County Detention Center, Waco, Texas
February 18, 2010 KXXV
A ruling by State Attorney General Greg Abbott Wednesday could revive the controversy over extra money Sheriff Larry Lynch receives from McLennan County Commissioners for overseeing county jails. A private company, Civigenics, runs the downtown jail by contract from the county, as well as a new jail on Highway 6 that should start housing inmates in the next thirty days. Sheriff Lynch is paid $12,000 a year to oversee those facilities, in addition to his regular salary. Other counties in Texas have similar arrangements, and their Sheriff receives extra money – sometimes significantly more -- from the private jailer. Abbott's ruling was a response to a request from Yvonne Davis, the Chair of the State House Committee on Urban Affairs. The Attorney General said "The commissioner's court may not contract with a private organization in which a member of the court or an elected or appointed peace officer who serves in the county has a financial interest … A contract made in violation of this section is void". It also said "regardless of county population, county sheriffs must be compensated on a salary basis. A sheriff, paid on a salary basis, ‘receives the salary instead of all fees, commissions, and other compensation the officer would otherwise be authorized to keep." "While article XVI, section 61 requires that a fee of office earned by a county officer ‘shall be paid into the county treasury,' it is not a grant of authority for the acceptance of a fee," the ruling continues. In summary, Abbott concluded such payments are illegal, "Neither the Texas Constitution nor Texas statutes authorize the person holding the office of county sheriff to be paid an administrative fee by a private organization." McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis told News Channel 25 the ruling was based on a "fee" opinion and not a "supplement" opinion, and a fee is based on the number of inmates being housed in the jail. "The supplement doesn't matter whether you have one or one thousand inmates, so that's the difference is what our attorneys tell us," Lewis explained. When asked if the attorneys said that after today's ruling, Lewis answered "No, that's what they told us all along". Lewis also said Sheriff Lynch isn't paid by Civigenics, "the fee is not paid to him by the company, the fee is paid to the County and the Commissioners Court selects to supplement the Sheriff's salary. It's important to understand that," Lewis said. "He's not receiving a fee by any stretch of the imagination." The County Judge said applying Wednesday's ruling out of Austin to McLennan County's situation is like "comparing apples to oranges". "We're doing everything the attorneys are telling us to do," Lewis added. The annual supplement, as Lewis called it, has been a source of controversy for years from critics of Lynch and candidates for the Sheriff position in election years.

October 20, 2008 Tribune-Herald
McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch is facing off once again with Charles Hutyra, a West resident who has long voiced criticism of how the sheriff’s department operates. Hutyra previously ran for sheriff as a write-in candidate in 2000 and again as the Democratic nominee in 2004, winning about one-third of the vote. One issue the candidates disagree on is jail privatization. After weeks of outcry by jailers concerned about the impact of privatization on their jobs and retirement benefits, the McLennan County Commissioners Court voted for the sheriff’s office to continue to run the jail on State Highway 6, while New Jersey-based Community Education Centers would continue to lease and operate the downtown jail. “We were in need of more space to meet our growing inmate population, especially our rising female (inmate) population,” Lynch said. “I don’t think they can get the jail built fast enough.” Hutyra said he is opposed to jail privatization and said he would work to reverse the CEC contract on the downtown jail. He said he would also try to stop the construction of the new jail on State Highway 6. “If the taxpayers have already paid for the jail downtown, why not utilize something you already own instead of leasing it out to someone else?” Hutyra said. “Then in three years we could look at it and see if we need a new jail and then start the process to look for bids, because with this thing, only one bid (was) submitted out of 14 companies (contacted for bids), it’s so obvious what’s going on.” Hale Mills Construction Ltd., the builder of the new jail, has already submitted a preliminary building schematic to the jail commission. Lynch drew criticism from jailers for his absence at the commissioners court meetings and for not speaking out against the privatization. However, he said it was not his decision to make. “It was out of my hands,” Lynch said. “It was up to the courts to decide what to do with the jails, and I could only wait and see what would happen.” Rick White, vice president of the McLennan County Sheriff Officer’s Association, said jail management is still a critical issue in the sheriff’s department. Many jail workers are concerned that the county plans to privatize all of its jails in the future, he said. “The detention service is a big part of the sheriff’s responsibility,” White said. “I think that folks working in the jail need some reassurance that their jobs are not in jeopardy and that they can continue to go on the career path that they’ve chosen in providing services to the county.” Hutyra said he also takes issue with the sheriff receiving an extra $12,000 each year from CEC through the privatization deal on the downtown jail. The contract bonus was negotiated when the late Jack Harwell was the sheriff. “If you can’t live off the $87,585 that the taxpayers are giving you, you need to get another job,” Hutyra said. “I would tell the county to take the extra $12,000 and donate it to Caritas.”

October 1, 2008 Waco Tribune
Curious: A county pays a contractor to run a jail. Then the contractor pays the county for oversight of it. Curiouser: The sheriff, who must authorize such a contract, gets the money. This is the case with McLennan County’s agreement with Community Education Centers (formerly CiviGenics) to operate its downtown jail and build a Highway 6 jail right alongside the 22-year-old county-run jail. Thanks to a pass-through payment from CEC, the county pays Sheriff Larry Lynch $12,000 extra, above his $87,558 annual salary, because of the administrative and monitoring duties associated with the private jail. McLennan County isn’t alone in doing this. Many counties do. Lynch’s predecessor, Jack Harwell, got an increment under comparable terms. State Rep. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, who chairs the Texas House of Representatives committee on urban affairs, has asked the Texas attorney general to rule on the legality of such payments. If upheld by the A.G., lawmakers need to stop the practice when they convene in January. No sweeteners should be in play when contractors seek to perform a public function. Yes, supervising the work of a contractor takes time for a sheriff. Whatever the demands, the cost should be factored into whatever savings the county projects it will realize from contracting. Such payments don’t necessarily cloud a sheriff’s judgment on privatizing. But the appearance of conflicts of interest alone should be sufficient reason for the Legislature to act. Lynch told the Trib editorial board Monday that privatization “is a fact that’s here.” Not necessarily. Indeed, the county should always keep its options open, as it did when considering contracting out its entire jail operations. It got only one bidder — CEC. With jailers in an open revolt, commissioners voted not to proceed. However, CEC will be building the new Highway 6 jail while it continues to operate the downtown jail, where it houses federal prisoners and overflow occupants of the county jail. Privatization presents any number of problems that should make it a less-than-automatic call for governing boards. One is the potential that the contractor will cut corners to increase profit and undermine the quality of its services. One is public information withheld when a contractor can blunt inquiries because they pertain to proprietary matters. And there’s the possibility that contractors can buy into public officials’ good graces with under-the-table or over-the-table inducements. Privatizing should hinge on its merits alone, not on other considerations.

September 21, 2008 Waco Tribune-Herald
The chairman of the Texas House of Representatives committee on urban affairs has asked the state attorney general to determine whether it is legal for a sheriff to accept a fee for work with a private detention company that contracts with his county to operate a county jail. While the request from Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, does not mention any sheriff or county by name, the letter was generated after recent deliberations by McLennan County over whether to renew its contract with Community Education Centers (formerly CiviGenics) to operate its downtown jail and to contract with CEC to build a new jail on State Highway 6. Such contracts cannot be executed without the authorization of the county sheriff. About 50 members from the McLennan County Sheriff’s Association asked Sheriff Larry Lynch in July to say no to the contracts. Lynch did not return phone messages seeking comment for this story. McLennan County commissioners voted to extend the contract with CEC to operate the downtown jail and are negotiating a contract with CEC to build a new jail. “We think there is a legitimate question about it,” said Charley Wilkison, political and legislative director for Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. “Since the sheriff is the only person who can decide if a privatization issue is moving forward, then can take money that has simply been cleaned up in the process of budgeting but is identical and numerically the same, can you in a straightforward manner determine privatization in that county?” Wilkison said CLEAT officials asked Bailey to seek the attorney general’s ruling. The county pays Lynch $12,000 extra, above his $87,558 annual salary, because of the additional administrative and monitoring duties associated with the private jail. That salary supplement has been in place since the late Jack Harwell was sheriff and the county first leased the downtown jail to CiviGenics in 1999. Mike Dixon, a Waco attorney who represents the county, said the salary supplement has never been a secret and is noted in annual newspaper advertisements the county is required to run to list the annual salaries of elected officials. “It would be nice if they actually put the right facts in the request instead of their one-sided facts,” Dixon said. “The real facts are that any payments are meant to be a recoupment by the county of administrative expenses, and those are paid to the county, not to the sheriff. The county determines in the budget whether or not to give the sheriff those additional monies as part of his salary. They are trying to say the sheriff gets paid directly from the operators. That does not occur. “They obviously have their stingers out for him over all the jail deals, and they haven’t bothered to inconvenience themselves with the truth. They have asked for an opinion based on a skewed set of facts,” Dixon said. Wilkison said at the heart of the matter is whether the sheriff has a financial interest in the private contract because of the salary supplement. The Texas Government Code says “the commissioners court may not contract with a private organization in which a member of the court or an elected or appointed peace officer who serves in the county has a financial interest.” Bailey’s letter asks for clarification. “Although the sheriff may not actually be a shareholder of the private organization and hold a shareholder’s interest in the private organization, there can be no doubt that the sheriff would have a ‘financial interest’ in the private organization’s contract with the county if the sheriff receives a sizable administrative fee after approving of the contract if the contract includes such an administrative fee to the sheriff,” Bailey wrote in his letter. “Thus, such an arrangement would violate the spirit and intent, if not the language of the law.” Regardless of the ruling, Wilkison says, he thinks the debate will spawn new legislation, if only to clear up any questions. “Somebody down in Austin is going to fix this,” he said. “This is almost like a bad Western movie. A big-money stakeholder is deciding indirectly what is going to happen.” The attorney general’s office has asked interested parties, including CLEAT and the Texas Sheriffs Association, to file briefs on the matter, Wilkison said.

August 11, 2008 Waco Tribune
A spokesman for the state’s largest law enforcement association is calling for state and federal investigations into dealings between McLennan County officials and a private detention corporation as the county continues to negotiate jail contracts. “First of all, we don’t believe anything that officials in McLennan County say anymore,” said Charley Wilkison, political and legislative director for the 16,500-member Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas. “The credibility gap in this county is incredible.” McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis, county commissioners and Sheriff Larry Lynch have been wrestling for years with the county’s jail overcrowding problem. County officials say they sought proposals from 14 companies nationwide on a variety of options, including privatizing the entire county jail system and building a new, 1,000- bed jail. The county received proposals from just one company, CEC, which has had a contract to operate the downtown county jail since 1999. CEC contracts with several agencies, primarily federal, to keep prisoners at the downtown jail. The company’s McLennan County contract, which pays Lynch $12,000 above his county salary of $88,000 to oversee the downtown jail, expires Oct. 1. Commissioners voted last week for the sheriff to maintain control and operation of the county jail on State Highway 6, on a recommendation from Lynch and after weekly protests from about 50 jailers. Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe Mashek has called for the county to take back operation of the downtown jail to help alleviate overcrowding and give the county more time to study the situation. Wilkison said he will ask Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to investigate whether Lynch violated the Texas Public Information Act by failing to respond to CLEAT’s open records requests for all correspondence between Lynch and CEC officials. He said he also is seeking state and federal investigations about whether Lynch lawfully and ethically can accept money from the private vendor or whether it is a conflict of interest when he helps decide the fate of the jail system. “The sheriff has taken $91,000 of personal money that goes into his bank account, and then he says, ‘I am still able to decide. I am still OK deciding whether it is in our best interest to privatize.’ That old dog won’t hunt. Nobody here believes that.” The contract between the county and CEC, then called CiviGenics, originated when the late Jack Harwell was sheriff. The part of the contract which calls for payments to the sheriff, Lewis says, has not changed, although it has been renewed since Lynch took office. Lynch did not return phone calls to his office or cell phone today. Wilkison also charges that county officials should come up with more efficient ways to clear out the jail, especially of non-violent, first-offenders. He claims the CEC contract pays Lynch more for more prisoners. “We think inmates are being kept in jail to create an artificial public safety crisis so the hue and cry for a new jail can come and the new jail can be privatized and built by CEC,” Wilkison said. Lewis scoffed at that notion and said that Wilkison’s claims are off- target. He said Lynch is paid the same in the contract with CEC whether there are 300 prisoners or none. “It is still his responsibility to oversee that jail,” Lewis said. “By statute, it is the sheriff’s responsibility, whether it was Jack or Larry. That contract has not changed, and up until 20 months ago, we didn’t have a prisoner in that jail. So does that logic make any sense?” Wilkison also charged that Lewis’ office is using “stalling tactics” by asking for an attorney general’s opinion about whether his office has to release 170 pages from CLEAT’s open records request that Lewis claims are attorney-client privilege. Wilkison said Lewis’s office has released 1,300 pages to CLEAT pursuant to the request. “We believe somewhere in that 170 pages will be some of the information that will tell the tale about how you get only one bid on a private prison,” Wilkison said. “If they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to worry about. If they have done nothing wrong, then they should release it anyway.” Lewis said attorney-client communication is privileged and exempt from open records requests. “That is just as standard as everything,” Lewis said. Commissioners will continue to discuss jail proposals at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning.

July 30, 2008 Waco Tribune-Herald
The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating complaints from two former female downtown jail inmates that guards at the privately operated McLennan County Detention Center are selling drugs and having sex with female inmates. The investigation was launched earlier this month after a 29-year-old inmate at the downtown jail facility reportedly was caught with a marijuana cigarette in her bra. While investigators were trying to find out how she got the drugs into the jail, the woman, who has at least two felony convictions for drug possession, reported that guards are having sex with female inmates and selling drugs to inmates, four sources familiar with the investigation told the Tribune-Herald. The 329-inmate facility is operated by Community Education Centers, formerly CiviGenics, in a contract with the county that expires Oct. 1. The investigation is being conducted as the county negotiates solely with CEC to build and operate a new, 1,000-bed facility next to the county jail on State Highway 6, retain operation of the MCDC on Columbus Avenue or several other options being considered by the county to help ease its burgeoning jail population. Since the woman reported her allegations, another female inmate also has given a statement with similar claims to sheriff’s investigators, the sources said. After speaking to investigators, that woman, who was being housed at the downtown detention center while waiting to begin a five-year state prison term for delivery of drugs, was shipped off to prison this week, the sources said. George Vose, senior vice president for operations at the New Jersey-based CEC, said Tuesday that he could not comment on any pending investigation, saying it would be improper to interfere with the work of the sheriff’s office. “Certainly, it is our intent and history to cooperate with any kind of law enforcement investigation, as we often do,” Vose said. Sheriff’s office Chief Deputy Randy Plemons would neither confirm nor deny reports that his detectives are investigating the two women’s claims of improper sex and drug dealing among MCDC guards. “I am not going to comment on an ongoing investigation. We have to substantiate if this is even going on,” Plemons said, adding that felons often do not tell the truth. Plemons would not speculate about how often such accusations surface but said the Highway 6 jail has two full-time detectives to investigate crimes committed in jail and grievances filed by inmates. Sheriff’s investigator Joe Scaramucci wrote in a sworn complaint charging one of the women with possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility, a third-degree felony, that the woman said she found the marijuana cigarette July 12 under her bed. The woman since has been transferred to the Highway 6 county jail. “She stated that she believed the substance was left by another inmate as payment for assisting the other inmate with moving,” according to the affidavit. “She stated that she placed the substance in her bra so that, at visitation, she could trade it for commissary or obtain a lighter.” The affidavit did not specify with whom the woman wanted to trade the drugs. No other charges have been filed, but the investigation continues, sources said. Three guards at a CEC-operated facility in Liberty County recently were arrested on charges of having sex with inmates, and two others were arrested on allegations that they sold drugs to inmates, according to published reports. In November 2001, Sherman Lamont Fields escaped from the MCDC, then operated by CiviGenics, and killed Suncerey Coleman, a young mother of three children, after bribing a guard to help him escape. Fields, a federal prisoner at the time of his escape, was captured and given a federal death sentence. Fields escaped from the downtown jail when Benny Garrett, a jail guard, slipped him a key to the fifth-floor fire escape door after Fields promised to give Garrett $5,000 after his escape. Garrett, 26, formerly of Marlin, pleaded guilty to aiding Fields’ escape, testified against Fields and was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

May 7, 2008 Tribune-Herald
McLennan County commissioners authorized the hiring of 12 new jailers Tuesday in response to an unfavorable order from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Commissioners voted to hire the new jailers after a two-hour, closed- door meeting with the county’s attorneys, Herb Bristow and Mike Dixon. The jail has been teetering on its maximum capacity for several years and has been operating with variances from the jail standards commission. McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis said recent changes in the membership of the commission in Austin might explain why the panel’s once- patient attitude changed, producing the “remedial order” dated May 1. Jail commission officials told county commissioners they would be required to transfer prisoners to other facilities if they remained out of compliance with the 48-to-1 prisoner-to-staff ratio as required by state law. Lewis said county officials authorized the 12 additional jailers in this year’s fiscal budget but delayed hiring them. He said the county has been using funds from what would have been their salaries to pay CiviGenics, a private detention company that operates the county- owned downtown jail, to house about 85 overflow inmates from the county’s Highway 6 jail. Now the county will pay roughly $203,000 to hire the dozen new jailers plus continuing to pay CiviGenics for holding inmates. Still, county officials say, that’s cheaper than building a new county jail or adding onto the existing one, which could be inevitable. “The remedial order is addressing our staffing needs,” McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch said. “So once we get the staff in place, we will be in compliance, and we will ask that the remedial order be removed.” The commission’s order states that the Commission on Jail Standards inspected the Highway 6 jail on Dec. 18, 2007, and issued a notice of noncompliance then. As of April 11, 2008, McLennan County officials hadn’t responded to the notice of noncompliance, the order claims. County officials have wrestled with jail overcrowding for years. They hired a jail magistrate this year to try to set bonds faster and ease overcrowding. They also have asked for an attorney general’s opinion to answer a number of legal concerns about the use of ankle monitors, proposed to help clear out the jail while monitoring alleged offenders. On Tuesday, there were 965 inmates in jail, Lynch said, adding that capacity is 931. The sheriff said he couldn’t predict when the dozen new employees could be hired, trained and ready to go to work. “That is something we are working on as we speak,” he said. While the jail population and staffing levels fluctuate daily, Lynch said the inmate-to-staff average ratio was closer to 53-to-1 when the jail was not in compliance. Jail overcrowding is not unique to McLennan County, and that likely is why the Commission on Jail Standards has been more flexible over the past couple of years, Lewis said. Harris County incarcerates 600 inmates at a private detention center in northeast Louisiana and recently asked for permission to send another 1,130 inmates to Louisiana facilities. At $38 per inmate per day, those additions could bring the annual cost for housing inmates outside Harris County to $24 million, according to published reports. McLennan County pays $27.50 a day for each of the first 50 inmates housed in the CiviGenics facility on Columbus Avenue. The rate goes to $28.50 a day for 51 to 70 inmates, and $31 for each inmate from 71 to 90. After 91 inmates, the rate jumps to $41.95 a day, officials have said. Asked why McLennan County commissioners met behind closed doors on the matter, Lewis initially cited litigation or potential litigation. When it was pointed out that no one was suing the county, the judge insisted the commissioners court has the right to meet behind closed doors with attorneys anytime it chooses.

February 17, 2008 Waco Tribune
McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch is being challenged by one of his former colleagues, a computer services contractor who said he resigned from the sheriff’s office the day Lynch was sworn in. Lynch, who has been sheriff since 2000, is opposed in the March 4 Republican primary by Randy Gates, a Moody resident who worked at the sheriff’s office 10 years before starting his own computer business. The winner will face Democratic nominee Charles Hutyra in November. Gates, 41, started his law enforcement career with the Hewitt Police Department in 1989 and went to work for the sheriff’s office as a jailer the following year. He worked five years as an investigator and a year as a county drug task force member. Lynch, 61, who is seeking his third term, says he won’t discuss why Gates left the sheriff’s office, citing “personnel matters.” Gates says he and Lynch didn’t see eye to eye about certain issues and says it was time for him to move on. “I was in narcotics at the time and I needed a change, and that change was the new sheriff,” Gates said. “I was the very first one out the door. I just kind of saw the handwriting on the wall. I already had another job lined up.” Jail criticisms -- Like many politicians trying to unseat an incumbent, Gates has gone on the offensive, attacking Lynch for county jail overcrowding and recent operational deficiency citations by the state Commission on Jail Standards. He also has accused the sheriff of “empire building” after the city of McGregor recently considered — and then rejected — dismantling its police department and having the sheriff’s office assume its role in local law enforcement. “He has made those allegations at two public forums now,” Lynch said. “He doesn’t understand the situation. I was approached by the city of McGregor and was asked if the sheriff’s office would be the law enforcement agency for their city. I said, ‘Sure, we will take a look at it.’ ” The McGregor City Council later voted against the proposal, but Lynch said he made it clear that city leaders had to be unanimous in their request or it would not work. “We looked at it and determined it was a feasible project, but it had to be a unanimous decision. If we were to come in, we bring more experience, more resources, but it had to be unanimous,” Lynch said. “We’ve got plenty of work to do, but when citizens ask us to look into a situation, that is what we do.” Gates, who won the Precinct 6 justice of the peace post abolished through redistricting, says that as sheriff, he would try to strengthen ties with local law enforcement entities. He remains critical of Lynch’s role in the proposed McGregor deal. “I think the objective is to forge relationships with the municipal departments, not replace them,” Gates said. “The sheriff should provide the same level of service to every citizen of McLennan County. It is not for sale to the highest bidder. Whenever you propose to build an empire by eliminating municipal law enforcement agencies, that is not the way to forge relationships with those people.” Private salary objection -- Gates says he also objects to Lynch’s salary being boosted by an extra $12,000 a year and paid by CiviGenics, a private detention company that has been leasing the downtown county jail since before Lynch became sheriff. He said he couldn’t understand how the county jail can be so overcrowded with 250 beds available for county use downtown. “It clarified the issue for me when I found out the sheriff is getting $12,000 a year from the company leasing the jail,” Gates said. “I’m not going to accept funds from a private entity. I’m will use that money to set up a fund to provide criminal justice scholarships here in Central Texas.” Lynch countered that the stipend he receives was part of a contract approved between the vendor and the commissioners court and started a decade ago with the late Sheriff Jack Harwell.

October 4, 2007 KCEN TV
The McLennan County Juvenile Justice Center in Waco is on lockdown. Just before 8:30 p.m. someone inside the facility on Gholson Road called Waco police to report four or five inmates fighting in the gym. According to police, three inmates pushed through ceiling tiles in the facility and are playing a "cat and mouse" game with officers. Officers said the inmates are in the attic. Police are planning to bring in K-9 dogs to get them out of the attic, and say tear gas will be last resort.

March 31, 2007 Waco Tribune
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the federal convictions and death sentence of Sherman Lamont Fields, convicted in the 2001 jail escape and shooting death of the mother of three small children. In a 129-page opinion, Circuit Judges Carolyn King and Jerry Smith ruled that the more than 20 points of error raised by Fields on appeal should be rejected and his death sentence and multiple convictions relating to his escape and murder of Suncerey Coleman should be affirmed. Circuit Judge Fortunato Benavides wrote in a dissenting opinion that he would have affirmed the convictions but granted Fields a new sentencing hearing based on evidence presented during the punishment phase that he was unable to confront. Fields, currently on federal death row, claimed in his direct appeal that prosecutors improperly introduced hundreds of pages of documents relating to Fields’ lengthy criminal record, including juvenile delinquency records, that were filled with hearsay statements from guards, counselors, probation officers and others. Fields claimed his rights were violated because he was unable to properly dispute some statements in the records because those who made them were not subject to cross-examination. “Sherman Lamont Fields was sentenced to death based on testimony that he was never able to confront,” Benavides wrote. “That is precisely the evil that the Confrontation Clause was meant to protect against.” Fields’ appeal now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fields escaped from the downtown Waco jail operated by CiviGenics after jail guard Benny Garrett slipped him a key to the fifth-floor fire escape door. Fields had promised to give Garrett $5,000. Garrett pleaded guilty to aiding his escape and was sentenced to four years in federal prison in March 2004. Coleman, Fields’ former girlfriend, was at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center with her premature baby when Fields showed up at the hospital after his escape and convinced her to leave with him. Trial testimony revealed that Fields was angry because he thought Coleman was seeing other men. They drove to an area near Downsville, south of Waco, and Fields shot her twice in the head and dumped her body along the side of the road. Fields was sentenced to death in April 2004 after a trial in Waco’s federal court.

An employee with a private detention company that operates the former McLennan County Jail in downtown Waco was indicted Wednesday on charges that he had sex with a female jail inmate.  A McLennan County grand jury indicted Jonathan Tate, 23, for improper sexual activity, a state-jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail.  The indictment alleges that on April 5, Tate had sex with an inmate at the McLennan County Detention Center on Columbus Avenue. Tate, a guard, was hired by CiviGenics, which has a contract with McLennan County to operate the jail. The facility is used primarily to house federal inmates waiting transfer to federal prisons and those suspected of immigration violations.  (Waco Tribune, July 15, 2004)

A McLennan County Detention Center guard and an inmate were listed in critical condition Monday after a highway accident Saturday.  A van carrying two detention center guards and 13 inmates rolled several times outside Abilene, sending everyone aboard to the hospital, said Trooper Gilbert Ruiz of the Department of Public Safety.  The wreck occurred on Interstate 20 in Callahan County at about 12:30 a.m. while the prisoners were being transported from Odessa to Waco, Ruiz said. The van was eastbound on I-20 when a tire blew out, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle, Ruiz said. The van then rolled several times.  (Waco Tribune, June 15, 2004)

A former jail guard who helped convicted murderer Sherman Lamont Fields escape from the McLennan County Detention Center in November 2001 was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. departed from federal sentencing guidelines to increase the sentence for Benny Donnell Garrett, 26, formerly of Marlin. Smith also fined Garrett $4,000. Garrett, a former employee of CiviGenics, the private detention company that operates the downtown Waco jail, pleaded guilty Oct. 9 to conspiracy charges and aiding and abetting escape by providing prohibited objects to a prisoner, including a key to a fire escape door. He also pleaded guilty to establishing a drug distribution operation and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. (Tribune-Herald, March 18, 2004)

A former jail guard who helped state prisoner Sherman Lamont Fields escape from the McLennan County Detention Center in November 2001 pleaded guilty Thursday to a variety of federal charges that could land him in prison for 40 years. Benny Donnell Garrett, 25, formerly of Marlin, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, aiding and abetting escape by providing prohibited objects to a prisoner, establishing a drug manufacturing operation and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. (Tribune-Herald, October 10, 2003)

Mesa Verde Community Correctional Facility, Bakersfield, CA
October 26, 2009 AP
California officials say a drop in the number of minimum-security inmates is allowing them to end contracts with the companies that operate three private prisons. The move will save the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation about $15 million a year. The private prisons in Baker, Bakersfield and McFarland once housed a total of 822 inmates. Department officials said today they may seek new proposals to use the prisons for female inmates. About 2,500 fewer minimum-security inmates are in prison than a year ago. The department credits a new policy that diverts many parole violators who commit relatively minor offenses to community programs instead of sending them back to prison.

September 13, 2005 Bakersfield Californian
A company that wanted to reopen a private prison in Bakersfield under a no-bid contract had a clear conflict of interest because it had hired two recent retirees from the Department of Corrections, the state auditor said Tuesday. But the auditor concluded there was no conflict of interest by another company that was awarded a no-bid contract to operate a prison in McFarland, even though it had put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's former finance director on the board of a subsidiary. Those were the key points in a report by Auditor Elaine Howle's office that was ordered by lawmakers upset about the handling of the department's decision to reopen the two facilities that had been shut down barely a year before. State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, requested the audit in January because she said the contract for the McFarland facility "smells bad." That contract was awarded to GEO Group Inc., the same firm that had operated it for years before it was shut down. The contract drew fire because the real estate trust that owns the facility and leases it to GEO put former state budget chief Donna Arduin on its board of directors shortly before it was offered the contract late last year. The audit report said that did not involve a conflict of interest because GEO has a 10-year lease on the property from the subsidiary that began long before Arduin joined the company and before the state decided to reopen the facility. Besides, it noted, GEO was the only possible operator because its subsidiary owned the facility. But the department's handling of a contract to reopen the Mesa Verde Community Correctional Facility on Golden State Avenue in Bakersfield came in for sharp criticism by the auditor. The bidder, Massachusetts-based CiviGenics Inc., did not disclose the fact it had hired two former high-level department officials, at least one of whom contacted the department about the contract. They had both retired from the department less than a year before. State law bars top officials from being involved with state contracts for at least a year after they leave state service.

September 13, 2005 AP
California's prison population is at a record high, officials said Tuesday, as the state auditor panned the corrections system's last attempt to deal with sudden crowding. The news comes as the state auditor reported that two former high-ranking state corrections employees may have violated conflict of interest laws when they contacted their former colleagues as the state was opening two private prisons. One contract was later rescinded in part because of the conflict allegations. The department wasted an undetermined amount of money on the aborted project before it had permission from the Department of General Services, auditors found. Two high-level department retirees had gone to work for private prison operator CiviGenics Inc. and worked with their former colleagues on the contract within a year after leaving state government, in possible violation of conflict of interest laws, auditors found. They faulted the Marlborough, Mass.-based contractor for not disclosing the employees' background, and the department for not requiring disclosure. Auditors decided there was no conflict of interest by a former state Department of Finance director who went to work for the second prison contractor, GEO Group Inc.

February 25, 2005 Bakersfield Californian
SACRAMENTO -- The fate of the now-closed Mesa Verde prison facility on Union Avenue in Bakersfield -- mired in a bureaucratic limbo for the last three years -- has taken another strange turn.  A Massachusetts firm that was almost awarded a one-year no-bid contract to reopen the facility earlier this year has been disqualified from bidding to run the minimum-security prison for at least five years.  State prison officials said the company, CiviGenics, has a conflict of interest because it has two former Department of Corrections officials on its payroll.  However, the state is preparing to award a contract to run a similar prison in McFarland to a Florida company that has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's former finance director, Donna Arduin, on one of its boards of directors. The firm, Geo Group Inc., is already operating the McFarland institution on a temporary contract.  CiviGenics has officially protested its disqualification, a move that may require a hearing and could presage a lawsuit.  A spokeswoman for state prison officials said the two situations are different. Having former department officials advise a company on its dealings with the department can give it an unfair advantage.But the spokeswoman, Terry Thornton, said Arduin is different, even though she was responsible for the department's entire budget until she resigned last October.  "Donna Arduin is not a former member of the department," Thornton said. "I can't comment on Donna Arduin."  The saga began more than three years ago when the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis began closing privately run prisons as their contracts ran out.  At the time, corrections officials said they did not need so many minimum-security prison beds. But critics charged that the move was influenced primarily by the state prison guards' union. It is opposed to nonunion private prisons and was one of Davis' biggest campaign contributors.  Mesa Verde was shut down for nearly a year, but then reopened when the Legislature gave the prisons a reprieve.  Nevertheless, it and several others were closed at the end of 2003, including the McFarland facility.  Before a year had passed, in the fall of 2004, the Schwarzenegger administration quietly moved to reopen two of the prisons -- Mesa Verde and the McFarland property -- using no-bid, one-year contracts.  Officials said the prison population was climbing again and they needed the beds.  The Mesa Verde contract was offered to the Massachusetts-based CiviGenics, a bitter disappointment to Gary White of Bakersfield, president of the little company that had run it for more than a decade.  But by January of this year, prison officials were being hammered by critics who questioned the decision to offer the McFarland operation to GEO Group because it had put Arduin on the board of a spinoff company that owns the land and buildings. GEO, a successor to Wackenhut Corrections Corp., had operated the facility for years, along with two other prisons in McFarland, which had not been closed. GEO had also hired influential lobbyists and consultants who were close to current officials in the the Schwarzenegger administration.  Lawmakers ordered an audit of the way the department handled the reopenings. It is due for completion later this summer.  Amid the criticism, the Department of Corrections did an about-face -- not on McFarland, but on Mesa Verde. Officials withdrew the offer to CiviGenics. They said at the time that they had found enough beds elsewhere and didn't need to reopen Mesa Verde after all.  About the same time, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that CiviGenics had retained two retired Department of Corrections officials as consultants -- Michael Pickett and David Tristan. Tristan is a former deputy director of operations for the department.  Department officials told the Chronicle that had nothing to do with the fact that it had almost awarded the contract to CiviGenics.  But it had everything to do with CiviGenics' disqualification when the department subsequently called for competitive bids to run five of the closed prisons.  "They have a conflict of interest," Thornton said.  That left Cornell Corrections Inc. as the apparent low bidder to run Mesa Verde, she said.  GEO Group was the only bidder on the McFarland facility, apparently because it owns the property.

February 4, 2005 San Francisco Chronicle
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration this week abruptly canceled a no-bid contract it was set to award to a private prison company that employs two former high-ranking state corrections officials. After pursuing a deal with the company for several months, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections said the department decided Wednesday that it was no longer interested in finalizing a $5.7 million contract that would have reopened the Mesa Verde Community Corrections Facility in Bakersfield. The contract would have been with a Massachusetts-based company called CiviGenics, which recently hired two retired Department of Corrections officials. The company and administration insist the two hires had nothing to do with the company nearly getting the contract. On Wednesday, The Chronicle requested information about the contract, including communications between corrections officials and the company. Todd Slosek, a corrections spokesman, said the decision to shelve the deal was made late Wednesday after the department decided it didn't need extra beds after all. The aborted deal is one of two the administration had been advancing to pay private prison companies to run previously shuttered facilities and help alleviate overcrowding at state prisons. The state has finalized a contract with GEO Group Inc. to reopen a prison in McFarland (Kern County). In both cases, the administration chose not to allow other interested companies to bid for the jobs, a typical procedure used to ensure that taxpayers get the best deal. Instead, prison officials said they were facing emergency overcrowding and needed to strike quick deals with the two firms without going through the lengthy bidding process. Both contracts have come under fire, however, because both companies have hired people with ties to the corrections department or Schwarzenegger's administration. State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, called for a state audit of the deals last week after the Los Angeles Times reported that Schwarzenegger's former finance director, Donna Arduin, was appointed to the board of directors of a trust that owns the facility that GEO Group plans to use. CiviGenics employs Michael Pickett, a former warden and deputy director for health services at the Department of Corrections, and David Tristan, a former deputy director of operations for the department. "The revolving door is spinning so fast it's now hit the department in the rear end,'' Romero said in an interview Thursday. CiviGenics CEO Roy Ross was formerly director of administration for the Shriver Center, a biomedical research center founded by California first lady Maria Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. A spokeswoman for the first lady said Maria Shriver had no knowledge of the contract.

January 31, 2005 Bakersfield Californian
While California's prison population continues to grow, a minimum-security correctional facility on Golden State Avenue in Bakersfield has sat empty for more than a year. Stripped to the bare walls, its closure in late 2003 was actually the second time it had been shut down in the last three years. The minimum-security Mesa Verde Community Correctional Center will probably reopen in a month or two. But it won't be run by the small Bakersfield company that administered it for most of the last 15 years. Instead, it will be operated by a much larger company headquartered in Massachusetts. At least some of the prison's former employees may get their jobs back, but the switch in operators has left the owner of the local company baffled and bitter. "I can't understand why they would do that," said Gary White, head of the Bakersfield outfit, Alternative Programs Inc. Officials of the Department of Corrections say they offered a no-bid one-year contract to API first, but White turned it down. White said it would have been impossible to meet the terms outlined by the department. He said he thought the officials were just staking out an initial negotiating position. "I thought we would have some discussions and negotiations," White said.
The next thing he heard, he said, the proposed contract had been offered to the Massachusetts firm, CiviGenics, which accepted it. Reopening the McFarland prison has generated more controversy statewide than Mesa Verde. Romero and other critics say it "smells bad" because the company that owns it placed Schwarzenegger's former finance director, Donna Arduin, on its board in October, just as the state was about to reopen the facility. No such charges have been leveled at CiviGenics, which is seeking the no-bid contract for Mesa Verde. However, White says he is suspicious that "some kind of deal" was made because he believes the state's original offer to him was not serious. He said his main objection was that the department, which contacted him first in mid-October, wanted the facility activated by Dec. 1. "That would have allowed just 27 working days to reactivate it," he said. "When we reopened it in 2002, it took 40 working days. That's why I knew it couldn't be done." It could not be determined whether the department insisted on the same Dec. 1 activation date. But officials say it is clear they wanted the prison open by Jan. 1 at the latest, and it has not been opened yet. In fact, CiviGenics and the department have not yet signed a contract. Thornton said there has been a delay in that because the original proposal for a $5.7 million no-bid contract with CiviGenics did not include money for the beds and other equipment that had been stripped out a year ago.

January 21, 2005 Bakersfield Californian
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has quietly taken steps to reopen two privately run prisons in Kern County -- with no-bid contracts -- that were shut down as a cost-saving move barely a year ago. But the move sparked angry outbursts from critics who questioned the prison population figures and said lobbying by former administration insiders persuaded the governor to reopen at least one of the facilities. A Bakersfield man who ran one of the closed prisons sharply criticized the department for taking the facility away from his firm, which had an exemplary record, and giving it to a competitor without taking bids. "That's why I suspect there was some kind of deal somewhere," said Gary White, vice president of the firm that formerly operated the low-security Mesa Verde community correctional facility on Golden State Avenue. "I don't know if it was part of a deal or what. We're trying to find out now." Within days, The Department of Corrections expects to sign a contract that will pay $5.7 million to a Massachusetts-based company, Civigenics, to run the 350-bed Mesa Verde for a year. The other facility being reopened is a similar low-security community correctional facility in McFarland. The department earlier this month signed a $3.5 million no-bid contract with
GEO Group Inc. to reopen the facility and run it for one year. The decision raised eyebrows Friday after it was learned that Donna Arduin, who resigned late last year as Schwarzenegger's finance director, has since joined the board of a GEO spinoff firm that actually owns the McFarland facilities, Correctional Properties Trust. GEO, based in Boca Raton, Fla., operates prisons across the country and makes lease payments to its spinoff, Correctional Properties Trust, according to the Los Angeles Times. GEO announced that Arduin joined the Correctional Properties board in October, 10 days after she left her job as Schwarzenegger's budget chief to return to Florida and open an economic consulting firm. GEO also donated $53,000 to Schwarzenegger's campaign fund in November 2003. Neither Arduin nor officials of GEO Group could be reached for comment Friday. But others voiced deep skepticism about the move. "This is something that I believe truly crosses the line of integrity and ethics," said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who heads legislative committees that oversee the prison system. "Donna Arduin was the finance director," Romero said. "To have her, 10 days after she leaves office, go on this board, which it's later revealed has state money directed their way, is very troubling."  

January 21, 2005 LA Times
The Schwarzenegger administration has quietly moved to reopen two private prisons a year after mothballing them — and after a company that stands to profit retained consultants close to the governor and his inner circle. The administration has decided to reopen two facilities, one of which is a 224-bed prison in the Central Valley town of McFarland. A Florida company ran the McFarland facility for 15 years until Dec. 31, 2003, when the state moved its last prisoners out. Rather than abandon California, the company, the GEO Group Inc., retained a top Schwarzenegger campaign official and a lobby firm that has close ties to the Republican's administration to restore the company's standing in California. A company that is a spinoff of GEO and owns the prison at McFarland placed Donna Arduin on its board of trustees in October, 10 days after she left her job as Schwarzenegger's director of the Department of Finance, which oversees all state spending. "This was an administration that said they weren't going to be influenced by special interests," said Lance Corcoran, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., the union that represents state prison guards and opposes private lockups. The state is obligated to pay GEO $3.5 million to operate the prison in 2005, under terms of a one-year, no-bid contract approved earlier this month. "The Department of Finance had to be in the midst" of any negotiations on the prison contracts, said state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the committees that have jurisdiction over the state's prison system. "This is absolutely amazing; talk about revolving doors." Romero and Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk), her counterpart in the lower house, said they were irritated that the administration did not inform legislators that it was reopening private prisons. "It is beyond quiet. I think it has been deceptive," Romero said. Schwarzenegger administration officials say they have not formulated an overall privatization policy. Rather, confronted by an immediate need for beds, officials awarded the contract to GEO and were preparing to make final a contract with a second company, Civigenics, without soliciting bids from other companies. Civigenics stands to receive $5.7 million from the state in the coming year to operate the 340-bed Mesa Verde facility in Bakersfield.
Soon after taking office, Schwarzenegger clashed with the union on a variety of issues. GEO, meanwhile, gave $58,000 to Schwarzenegger's campaign committees in October and November 2003, as the state was making final plans to close the company's prison at McFarland. Executives at Correctional Properties and GEO in Florida did not return calls from The Times this week. But in a 2003 interview, a top GEO executive said: "We want to do everything we can to preserve our business base in California." One step was to hire the Flanigan Law Firm to influence Schwarzenegger's inner circle of advisors — something it is well-positioned to do. The firm consists of four brothers who were close to Wilson and his administration. Several former Wilson aides are high-ranking Schwarzenegger administration members. According to public reports filed with the secretary of state, GEO has paid Flanigan $37,500 for its services. GEO also retained Joe Rodota, a former Wilson aide who was policy director for the Schwarzenegger recall campaign. His role was to provide strategic advice and develop a long-term strategy for GEO's reentry into the private prison business in California, company representatives in Sacramento said.  

October 8, 2002
California City-- In a move hailed as historic by private prison giant CCA and representatives of the Mexican government, an agreement was signed Monday to establish a Mexican high school program at the California City Correctional Center. 
(Bakersfield Californian)

August 31, 2002
Just two months after the state hauled away 52 truckloads of state-owned equipment and transferred local inmates to other prisons, Bakersfield's Mesa Verde Community Correctional Facility is gearing up to reopen.   This year has been a roller-coaster ride for operators of the private, minimum-security prison located just five blocks from downtown Bakersfield.   And the ride's not over yet.   First it was out; then it was back; then it was out again as budget committees, legislators and lobbyists wrangled over the fate of Mesa Verde and four other privately operated prisons in California. Eventually, state funding was officially cut, and by mid-June, the last inmate was transferred.   "The Department of Corrections started taking all the equipment -- kitchen, beds, office, everything," said Durwood Sigrest, president of the company that operates Mesa Verde.   Most of the prison's 74 full-time employees and a dozen or so part-time employees were put out of work by the closure. Gov. Davis said the prisons should be closed to help reduce the state's multi-billion dollar budget deficit. But critics -- including Sigrest -- say that real pressure to close the private prisons was coming from the state correctional officers union, which frowns on non-union prisons that don't offer the level of pay and benefits that state prisons offer.  (Bakersfield Californian)

December, 1999
On December 12, one inmate escaped from the private prison in Bakersfield. (Offender Information Services Branch, CA Dept. of Corrections, 2000)

June, 1999
One inmate escaped from the private prison in Bakersfield on June 6, 1999. (Offender Information Services Branch, CA Dept. of Corrections, 2000)

North Coast Correctional Facility, Grafton, Ohio
Dr. Shura Hegde didn't have to look far for work after he lost his $96-an-hour job at the Lorain Correctional Institution for "questionable clinical, behavioral and billing practices." The psychiatrist simply, and literally, crossed the road and landed a job at the North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in Grafton, a state prison operated by a private contractor. State prison authorities were unaware Hegde was hired at North Coast, a 552-bed minimum-security prison for drug and alcohol offenders, after officials at Lorain refused to renew his contract. He is one of at least four medical professionals ousted from one prison for substandard performance only to later gain a job at another. (Columbus Dispatch, September 11, 2003)

Roy Ross, CEO of the Marlborough, Mass., company, said in a statement that tenacious opposition by the Ohio Civil service Employees Association contributed to the state's decision to pull the plug on Civigenics' $14.9 million contract to run the North Coast Correctional Treatment facility in Grafton. Ross said his company had a difficult time fighting qualified staff members, in part because the union successfully challenged Civigenics' efforts to have its private employees trained by state workers. On Wednesday, Reginald A. Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department Rehabilitation and Correction, informed Civigenics that its contract to operate the 552-bed facility would not be renewed when it expires June 30. State officials cited mounting problems at the Grafton prison, including staff shortages, in dropping operator. (Today's Days Dispatch, January 13, 2001)

The state is withholding part of its monthly payment to a private company running a state prison because of concerns about the company's staffing levels. The state said that CiviGenics didn't meet minimum staffing levels for its alcohol and drug treatment programs between April and November as called for in the state's 21 month contract. In effect, the state said in a memo to warden Robert Clark last month, CiviGenics billed the state "for staff that were not employed." (Ohio News, December 1, 2000)

The operator of a privately run prison billed the state almost $75,000 for employees who did not exist, according to state prison officials. CiviGenics billed the state for 956 days that counselors did not work, 147 days that supervisors did not work and 27 days the director did not work. Joe Andrews, a spokesman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said the state could sanction CiviGenics if the company continued to under staff programs. (The Pain Dealer, December 1, 2000)

Residents and lawmakers are upset that a privately run state prison built to house and treat inmates convicted on drug and alcohol charges is now housing violent offenders. According to prison records, most of the 562 inmates are serving time for drug or alcohol offenses, often in combination with another felony such as burglary or aggravated vehicular assault. But 49 inmates convicted of crimes described as violent under state law were serving time at North Coast as of September. (The Plain Dealer, November 27, 2000)

A riot between guards and inmates at the brand new facility resulted in five inmates being transferred out. (The Chronicle-Telegram, June 30, 2000)

San Luis Federal Detention Facility, San Luis, Arizona
August 14, 2009 Yuma Sun
San Luis has found a new company to run its federal prison amid concerns that the prior contractor was not following through with the planned expansion of the facility. Emerald Companies, a Louisiana-based firm, has taken the reins from Civigenics in administering the city-owned prison that houses inmates under contract with federal law enforcement agencies. "We are very happy to come here," said Emerald CEO Clay Lee during a recent visit to San Luis. "We were very well received. This is going to be a very good change. I don't want to say that things were bad before, but change is inevitable." The possibility that city would not renew Civigenics' contract surfaced months ago out of concern that the prison's planned expansion had lagged. "There was a year of negotiations so that they would present us plans for expansion, but nothing concrete ever materialized," said Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla. "The building was designed from the beginning for 1,000 beds," he added. "It's not going to be bigger than that. We don't want to be known as a city of prisons. We want to control (that perception) and that's the way it will be." Civigenics was contracted two years ago to build the prison, at a cost of $25 million funded by municipal bonds, then take over operation. Civigenics declined to comment. The process of transfer began last week and will conclude Saturday, Emerald's first official day as subcontractor. Emerald is not a public company directed by a large board of directors, Lee said. "There are three of us who make the decisions. Therefore we're able to do it immediately." Lee said the building's good condition and design will make it easy to add beds and expand as desired by the city. "We only need to plan exactly how that addition will be made," he said. "Time will tell, but the worst-case scenario is that we'll have 300 new beds, even though I believe we'll be able to double that." The goal is to reach the 1,000-prison bed mark contemplated in the original design. The additional beds will bring more money into the city in the form of prisoner detention payments from the federal government, Escamilla said. A portion of the revenue from the prisoner payments goes to retire the bonds.

December 2, 2006 Yuma Sun
A new $27-million federal detention center east of San Luis, Ariz., is months away from opening — and months away from providing jobs, revenue and other benefits for this border city, officials said. The 87,324 square-foot facility, which is being constructed on 55 acres of land near Avenue D and County 23rd Street, will have 450 beds that will likely hold short-term detainees from countries other than Mexico by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said City Attorney Glen Gimbut. Virginia Kice, a regional spokeswoman for I.C.E, said that the agency is assessing its future detention needs and determining whether the facility will be expedient and efficient enough to house detainees. While Kice could not say definitively whether a contract was in the works, she added that there is a need in the region. "Arizona is one of the biggest users of prison space because of the high volume of illegal border traffic," Kice said. "Arizona as a whole is one of the biggest corridors where we need robust detention capability." It took a lot of public meetings to persuade the community to allow another prison within the city, and the fact that the facility would mainly house Hispanic illegal immigrant detainees rubbed people the wrong way because of the city's largely Hispanic and pro-immigration culture, Gimbut said. "But the opinion came down at the end of the day that we need jobs in the community," Gimbut said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to have a good job, with good pay and benefits, for the young folks of our community," Gimbut said. Gimbut said the first detainees may pass through the barbed-wire fences and concrete walls as early as Feb. 1. Peter Argeropulos, chief operations officer for Civigenics Inc., the private company that will manage the prison, said there are negotiations with state and federal authorities for contracts to house inmates. The list of interested parties include the Arizona Department of Corrections, U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Currently, there are no housing agreements with the federal government, and a team will inspect the facility to see if it meets certain needs, Argeropulos said. "We're very confident that it does," Argeropulos said. "The facility was designed to support expansion upon demand." A warden has been hired, and there was a job fair in San Luis Nov. 4 to talk to prospective applicants for security, administrative and other positions. The company is in the process of conducting interviews for those positions, and Argeropulos said the plan is to have an "activation team" begin training in 30 days. Because immigration patterns are continuously fluctuating, so too do the agency's detention needs. Agency-wide, across the nation, the average daily detention population is about 26,000, Kice said, but the population at various detention centers will vary on a daily basis. So one of the things I.C.E looks for is flexibility, Kice said. "We deport people every day and we take more in custody every day," Kice said. "Our office tries to ensure we build in flexibility to accommodate that fluctuation. We can see sudden surges and we could see periods where we see decreases in detentions. We don't want to paint ourselves in a corner where we're wasting tax payer money." Gimbut said that beginning in 2001 the federal government was looking to build seven detention facilities in the country, and San Luis was second on that list. The issue went before several planning boards and commissions, and then the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 tabled funding for the deal. Work got started again in 2005 with a new angle. The consulting group Innovative Government Strategies approached the city saying the federal government was looking for a short-term facility to house what the immigrations officials call "Other Than Mexican" detainees. San Luis was looked upon as an ideal location for several reasons, including proximity to the border and a major airport that would be able to fly detainees to airports in Phoenix for deportation, Gimbut said. If the contract with I.C.E. goes through, the average housing time a detainee would spend in the prison would be less than 10 days. The project is being paid for by a revenue-based bond issues previously passed in the city, and Gimbut said the way the bonds are written, the city faces almost no liability. Part of the deal allowed for the construction of a potable water system and waste water treatment plant to connect to the prison. City Administrator Lee Maness said that stage of the project, known as the East Mesa project, is scheduled for Jan. 22. Besides well-paying jobs for San Luis residents, several other benefits for the city of San Luis were negotiated into the agreement, Gimbut said. With the East Mesa project, for example, the prison complex will be a paying customer for water and wastewater services. "The revenue from this facility alone pays for the complete debt service for the wastewater plant," Gimbut said. Besides that, the city will receive $3 dollars a day, per bed if the facility is at full capacity, and the city will receive money even if it is below capacity. Also, the facility will purchase food and other supplies from regional vendors, and the population of the prison will count toward the city's overall population for tax purposes, which will add another $700,000 to the general fund, Gimbut said. Argeropulos said all these incentives were intended to make the project attractive to the community as a benefit, not a detriment. "It's a very good project for the community," he said.

State Correctional Institution, Greensburg, Pennsylvania
September 15, 2007 Tribune-Review
A Westmoreland County jury deliberated about three hours on Friday before finding a former drug and alcohol counselor guilty of having a sexual relationship with an inmate at the state prison in Hempfield. After two days of testimony and closing arguments yesterday morning, the six-man, six-woman jury convicted Tina Martinez, 42, of Donora in Washington County, of a felony charge of institutional sexual assault. Martinez was sentenced by Westmoreland County Judge Debra A. Pezze to serve six months on probation. She had faced a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Pezze said the sentence was within standard guidelines for someone with no prior criminal record, which was the case with Martinez. "Society is a victim and in a way this activity can threaten the safety and security of staff and other inmates," said Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Mike Pacek. Prison officials said the sexual behavior between Martinez and the inmate could lead to other problems, such as blackmail of the lockup's staff, contraband being brought into the facility or even riots. Capt. Richard Bell, SCI Greensburg's intelligence officer and lead investigator in the Martinez case, said her prosecution was a signal to others who work with state prison inmates. "We must preserve the professionalism and integrity of the institutions," Bell said. Martinez was accused of having oral sex with a 30-year-old inmate who was serving a portion of his 8- to 20-year third-degree murder sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg for killing a Pennsylvania drug dealer in 1998. The inmate, who is not being identified by the Tribune-Review because he is a victim of a sexual assault, said Martinez was the aggressor in the relationship that was conducted in April and May 2006. Martinez, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor for a private company that contracted with the state Department of Corrections, contended she initially started up a friendship with the inmate and felt compelled to yield to his sexual advances for fear that she would lose her job. Defense attorney Lou Anne Demosky asked jurors to acquit Martinez because she never voluntarily consented to having sexual relations with the inmate. "She's guilty of being stupid but she's not guilty of this crime," Demosky said. Martinez worked for Civigenics, a Massachusetts company that provides drug and alcohol counseling services to inmates in prisons throughout the country. Demosky said Martinez was fired from her job, which she had held since December 2005.

August 24, 2006 The Tribune-Review
A drug and alcohol counselor faces criminal charges after allegedly having sexual encounters with an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg. Tina Martinez, 42, of McKean Avenue, Donora, Washington County, is charged with one count of institutional sexual assault. According to a criminal complaint, Martinez was employed as a drug and alcohol counselor with Civigenics, of Massachusetts, at the time of the alleged assaults in April and May. The state pays Civigenics to provide drug and alcohol treatment services to inmates, said Angie Marhefka, spokeswoman at the Hempfield Township prison. Civigenics treats 50 males at the prison, according to the company's Web site. It also offers programs at state prisons in Albion, Graterford and Somerset. The alleged victim, 29, told investigators he was performing janitorial duties in the therapy rooms when Martinez assaulted him. According to the complaint, Martinez fondled him and engaged in oral sex with him.

Two Rivers Detention Center, Hardin, Montana
May 3, 2009 Anchorage Daily News
To some shoppers, the recession means cheap cars, undervalued homes and discount vacations. But bargain prisons? The Alaska Department of Corrections thinks so. The department currently sends 868, or 20 percent, of its inmates to a private prison in Arizona because it doesn't have enough prison beds here. The contract with that rented prison is almost up, so Corrections is shopping around for a better deal. "This is driven by our own want, our own need, to be responsible with public money," said Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt. He said he's looking for "what the market might offer us right now." The opportunity to grab the $20 million-a-year deal from the current contractor, Corrections Corp. of America, is attracting both private and state-run prisons. Alaska officials have already visited potential sites in Colorado and Minnesota and expect to visit more as the bids come in, Schmidt said. States like Nevada, in fiscal trouble and considering releasing some of their own prisoners, are taking an interest. Administrators of a new 464-bed prison in Hardin, Mont., say they plan to bid for some of Alaska's business. Hardin made the national news recently when it offered to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Greg Smith, head of an economic development agency in Hardin, thinks the Alaska contract could create jobs in his small town. He said he's been calling Alaska prison officials "as often as I can without bugging them." "We would love to be able to take care of your inmates," Smith said. Schmidt, whose department so far hasn't had to make painful recession cuts, said the contract will go to whoever offers the best deal for good security and treatment programs. "You see, we want to do more, but we don't want to pay more," the commissioner said. Schmidt has been pushing the department in a new direction since he was appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin in 2006, advocating for more inmate education, treatment programs and vocational training. His goal, he says, is to reduce the state's high recidivism rate -- three out of five prisoners are re-arrested for a new offense after leaving prison. The number of inmates in the United States boomed in the 1980s and 1990s, in part because of high crime rates and stiffened sentencing laws, particularly for drug offenders, according to the Pew Center on the States. Alaska's prison population also swelled during that time. In the mid-1990s, Alaska started sending prisoners out of state to one of the many private prisons that cropped up in response to the growth industry. The Red Rock prison in Eloy, Ariz., currently holds medium-security inmates from Alaska sentenced to at least two years, said corrections spokesman Richard Schmitz. The state pays Corrections Corp. of America $61.63 per day, per prisoner. Additional costs, such as travel and medical expenses make the real price higher, he said. It's still cheaper than what the state pays for the maximum-security Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. That works out to about $140 per day, per prisoner, Schmitz said. The state doesn't like housing its prisoners Outside. Families can't afford to visit, so prisoners don't get the support and rehabilitative benefits of family connection, according to rehab experts. Guards tend to be low-paid, and the state can't keep a good eye on how inmates are treated day to day. Plus, the prisons are subject to the policies and laws of the other state. Frank Smith, a vocal opponent of private prisons, thinks there's more to Alaska's decision to switch contracts. The Arizona prison "is a mess. It's always been a mess. Alaska has never been good at monitoring it," said Smith, a former Alaskan who works for Private Corrections Institute, an anti-private prison group based in Florida. The people in the prison-for-profit business "don't provide anything they don't have to absolutely provide," he said. Commissioner Schmidt denies that, as do the people who run Red Rock. They've had a good relationship with Alaska since 1995, they say. The company expects to rebid for the contract.

April 24, 2009 Earth Times
A remote town in Montana has come up with a new proposal for its empty jail - turning it into a replacement for the US government's notorious facility in Guantanamo, Cuba. But the proposal has met skepticism at the federal level. According to the Billings Gazette Friday, officials in Hardin, Montana proposed the site as a Guantanamo replacement since they have been unable to secure contracts for inmates since the 27-million- dollar facility was completed in July 2007. The 460-bed private jail was constructed by the town's development authority, which hoped to make money by contracting it out to overcrowded prison systems in other states. So far it has sent details of the facility to all 50 states, but has not received any offers in return. US President Barak Obama has ordered the Guantanamo facility to be closed, but officials have still not located any suitable alternative site for housing the approximately 240 Guantanamo inmates. Initial reactions to the Montana plan do not appear encouraging. Montana Senator Max Baucus came out quickly against the plan, saying "bringing terrorists into our state is a clear and present dangers to everyone who lives here." US Marshal Dwight MacKay is also opposed to the plan saying that the local law enforcement and justice system is not designed to deal with such dangerous inmates. "These are not the normal Joe Six-Pack meth users," MacKay told the paper. "This is a different league of people that can be considered a national threat. We have to take the proper steps to ensure the safety of our community, the safety of our courts."

November 19, 2008 Billings Gazette
A public meeting is set for today in Hardin to discuss a proposal to provide sex-offender treatment at the empty Two Rivers Regional Detention Center. Two Rivers Authority will host the 7 p.m. meeting at the Hardin Middle School. Two Rivers has submitted a proposal to provide the program for the Montana Department of Corrections. The 2007 Montana Legislature created a residential sexual-offender treatment program. Offenders in the program are secure in the facility and are taken back to the jurisdiction where they were convicted before release. "We want to explain what this program is and what it isn't," Two Rivers Executive Director Greg Smith said. The Department of Justice's online database lists 74 violent and sex offenders in Big Horn County, 35 of whom are registered as sexual offenders. Two Rivers has contracted with a national company to operate the jail. The operator was called CiviGenics before it was purchased by the Community Education Center, which operates a variety of programs in jails and prisons. The CEC plans to contract with Sharper Future, a branch of Pacific Forensic Psychology Associates Inc., to provide the sex-offender treatment programs. Both organizations will have representatives at the meeting to make presentations and answer questions, Smith said. The state will score Two Rivers' proposal soon. Two Rivers is the only applicant, said Montana Department of Corrections Spokesman Bob Anez. Following scoring, the state may ask Two Rivers to provide more information, and then negotiations for the contract would start, he said. It is likely a decision on the contract would not occur until after the new year, he said. The 450-bed Hardin jail was completed last year but has remained empty pending a lawsuit over its ability to hold prisoners from out of state. A judge determined the facility could take those prisoners, but Two Rivers has yet to secure a contract with another state.

November 11, 2008 Billings Gazette
A much-questioned Hardin jail is no longer in the running for a $2.7 million state correctional contract, a committee decided Monday. The empty 450-bed lockdown has never opened for business since it was completed late last year and has since defaulted on the revenue bonds sold to finance its construction. Members of the Department of Corrections committee that evaluated the jail said at a meeting that Two Rivers Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin that built the jail, failed to answer several key questions about the facility, despite being given a second chance to do so. "Right now, we'd be contracting with a company in default," said Gary Willems, chief of Corrections' Contracts and Facility Management Bureau. "I think that might be a first, for the Department of Corrections, anyway." The panel concluded that Two Rivers failed to show how it would staff the jail with qualified workers, how it arrived at the per-day costs previously quoted to the state and failed to show that the jail is financially sound. The panel was particularly concerned that Two Rivers reported it would still be in default, even if it won the contract. The agency said it would need two state contracts to make its revenue bond payments. The decision means that the Butte-based Community, Counseling and Correctional Services Inc., or CCCS, will be awarded the contract for the 88-bed facility.

September 26, 2008 Billings Gazette
A much-debated Hardin jail narrowly prevailed Thursday in the first step toward placing inmates in the lockdown. The facility has sat empty since it opened late last year and has since landed in default on revenue bonds that were sold to finance its construction. However, members of the Department of Corrections committee that evaluated the jail as a site for a new correctional program cautioned that many questions hang over the facility and that their score is hardly a guarantee that the jail will end up with a state contract. Hardin's Two Rivers Detention Center put in for an 88-bed contract to run Montana's unique Sanction, Treatment, Assessment and Revocation Transition program, or START. The jail competed against Butte-based Community, Counseling and Correctional Services Inc., or CCCS, which runs a host of correctional programs in Montana, including the 3-year-old START pilot project in Warm Springs. A four-member panel evaluated proposals from both facilities, giving each a numerical score. Those numbers will then go Department of Corrections Director Mike Ferriter and other managers, who are expected to make a final decision in mid-October, said Gary Willems, chief of the agency's Contracts and Facilities Management Bureau. The START program is for probationers who violate the terms of their release. It is intended to be a second chance, prisonlike setting to give felons a taste of prison life while offering various therapies to help them succeed in society. The panel generally gave CCCS higher marks and complained that the Two Rivers proposal was incomplete and confusing. Specifically, several members were uncertain about who was ultimately responsible for Two Rivers: the economic development arm of the city of Hardin, which built the 450-bed jail as a way to bring jobs to the town, or Community Education Centers (CEC), the New Jersey-based, for-profit company the town hired to run the facility. Some of the criteria the panel looked at dealt with the financial stability of the would-be contractor. CEC clearly has a firm financial footing, members said, but Two Rivers is already in default. "Its scary territory," said Kerry Pribnow, a panel member. The decision came down to the cost each said it would charge the state to run the facility. CCCS reported that it would charge the state $117 per inmate, per day, although the committee later increased that amount because it disagreed with the way CCCS explained that cost in its proposal. Two Rivers came in at $75 a day, although its proposal contained little of the required information explaining that figure. The panel gave Two Rivers a score of 1,837; CCCS earned 1,743. Mike Thatcher, president of CCCS, said the panel was wrong to give Two Rivers maximum points for its bid cost when Two Rivers offered no justification for it. "I could have put $42 in there," Thatcher told the panel. He said he was appealing the entire process. Several panel members expressed similar concerns. The group decided to award Two Rivers the maximum points but made note that Two Rivers representatives gave no explanation for their figure. Willems said the numeric score is only the first step in the awarding of a state contract. The 450-bed Two Rivers detention center has sat empty since it was built at the end of last year. Owned by the economic development arm of the city of Hardin, a city that has no police force, the jail has been mired in controversy for months. City and economic leaders say they were led to believe by the past Corrections director that if they built the jail, the state would occupy it, although no contracts were ever in place and no written agreements have been produced. The state has no use for the space, agency officials say. In an effort to open the jail's doors, its backers looked to other states for inmates but first had to prove to a Helena judge that it could legally accept out-of-state inmates. Although the judge ruled in Two Rivers' favor earlier this year, the facility has yet to attract any inmates.

June 28, 2008 Billings Gazette
State officials will not appeal a recent District Court ruling that paves the way for a disputed Hardin jail to house out-of-state inmates. Bob Anez, a spokesman for the Montana Department of Corrections, said officials decided not to appeal Helena District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock's June 6 decision allowing the never-opened Two Rivers Detention Center to take out-of-state felons. "The state does not intend to impede the efforts by (Two Rivers) to find offenders," he said. Greg Smith, the executive director of the Two Rivers Development Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin, said the decision was welcome news. "We're extremely pleased," he said.

June 18, 2008 Billings Gazette
The Gallatin County sheriff, who is renting space in other jails because his is overcrowded, said he would not put inmates in Hardin's Two Rivers Detention Center because it is "basically a warehouse." Greg Smith, the executive director of the Hardin economic authority, which built the unopened jail, called the sheriff's assessment "unprofessional and unfair." The comments came in a June 9 letter from Sheriff Jim Cashell to Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Schweitzer invited Cashell and other Montana law enforcement officials to consider contracting with Two Rivers, which has never opened due to a legal battle and last month defaulted on the $27 million in bonds sold to build it. Cashell, who had earlier toured the jail, said he found several things about the lock-down objectionable. First, he wrote, most of the jail consists of large, 24-inmate rooms. The rooms are guarded from the hallways, not from inside. Cashell said he asked the Two Rivers warden how the center would deal with problems in the unguarded rooms and the warden responded: "We'll gas 'em." "Each one of those rooms is like a classroom without a teacher in it," Cashell said in an interview Monday. But he said his most pressing concern was confusion about who is responsible for the jail. The facility was built by the Two Rivers Development Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin. It was to be run by an out-of-state, for-profit corporation. Cashell said he was earlier provided with a Two Rivers contract. That document referred to involvement by the "chief of police." But Hardin has no police force, Cashell wrote in his letter. Cashell said Monday that he had problems both with the fact that the contract referenced a nonexistent police chief and with the idea that no law enforcement agency was ultimately responsible for Two Rivers. "That concerns me a lot," he said. But Two Rivers officials and representatives of the private company that will run the jail said this week that Cashell's concerns are unfounded. Peter Argeropulos, a senior vice president of CEC, the company now contracted to run the jail, said large inmate rooms like the kind at Two Rivers are used safely in jails and prisons around the country. He said the rooms are designed to be easily monitored from hallways and the guards assigned to those rooms walk past them every 10 minutes or more, so inmates wouldn't have much unsupervised time to cause problems. Guards can also go inside the rooms, he said. "This model is very prevalent across the country. This isn't something that is unusual in Montana," he said. Larry Johns, the jail's would-be warden who has not yet moved to Montana but will when the jail opens, said that he "didn't remember saying" exactly: "We'll gas 'em." But he did say that sometimes tear gas or pepper spray can quell a riot and is used as a last resort in the correctional industry. "You use those to save staff or to prevent serious property damage to your facility," said Johns, who worked as a warden in Texas state prisons before taking jobs in the private correctional industry. In Texas, Johns said, "We didn't gas them every day. Only during riot situations." Smith said the contract Cashell had was a "boilerplate" document that had obviously not been adapted to the realities of Hardin, where there is no police force. As for Cashell's concerns that the entity responsible for Two Rivers has no law enforcement agency behind it, Smith said he intended to talk with Yellowstone County and Sheridan, Wyo., officials to see if they would agree to come to Two Rivers' aid if there were a riot. "I'm not even worried about it," Smith said, adding that the economic development authority might also put together a reserve force of local men and women to come to the jail in an emergency. Smith said Cashell should have called him to talk about his concerns, not written them in a letter to the governor. Cashell said he wrote the letter to the governor because it was Schweitzer, not Smith, who asked him to consider housing inmates at Two Rivers. The 464-bed was built with no contracts in place, but Smith and other jail backers have said they believed the state and federal agencies would contract with them once the jail was completed. That never happened, and Two Rivers began looking to out-of-state inmates to fill the lockdown. Attorney General Mike McGrath determined that was illegal, which prompted a lawsuit. A Helena judge ruled earlier this month that Two Rivers can take out-of-state inmates. The state of Wyoming has already said it would not house inmates in Two Rivers because of the design of the building. Wyoming has inmates housed in out-of-state prisons as it builds its own new prison. Gallatin County sends up to 32 inmates a day to other Montana jails because its own 45-person lockdown can't manage the more than 80 inmates the county is typically responsible for, Cashell said.

June 7, 2008 Billings Gazette
Lawmakers and officials intentionally outlawed out-of-state prisoners when they wrote the state's private-prison law 11 years ago, but they never imagined that a city would build a lockdown intended to house hundreds of such criminals, sources said Friday. Mary Jo Fox, former Gov. Marc Racicot's corrections adviser, and former Rep. Ernest Bergsagel, who sponsored the 1997 bill allowing the state's private prison, both recalled Friday that Racicot was adamantly against out-of-state inmates and that state law purposefully banned the practice. Their recollections came the day after Helena District Judge Jeff Sherlock ruled that Hardin's city-owned Two Rivers Detention Center may accept out-of-state prisoners. "I can't imagine a scenario in which the administration or the Legislature would have deferred to (a city) something of that magnitude," Fox said. "There was real concern for receiving the worst of the worst from other states." Hardin's 464-bed facility was completed last year as a way of bringing as many as 100 new jobs to the economically depressed southeast Montana town. The lockdown was built with no contracts in place and no involvement from the state. The jail has never opened, and last month it defaulted on the bonds sold to build it. State and federal officials said they had no use for the cells, forcing Two Rivers to look to out-of-state inmates as a source of revenue. Responding to an inquiry from Hardin City Attorney Becky Convery, Attorney General Mike McGrath determined late last year that Two Rivers, which is legally a county jail, could not house out-of-staters. Hardin appealed that decision to Sherlock, who overturned McGrath's opinion, paving the way for Two Rivers to accept out-of-state inmates. When Montana was debating out-of-state inmates, the state had some of its own felons housed in prisons beyond its borders, Fox said. One was killed; gangs and violence were constant concerns. It was against that backdrop that the discussion on out-of-state inmates in Montana began, she said. "Racicot did not want out-of-state inmates," Bergsagel said. The former governor could not be reached for comment. Montana law contains a couple of chapters on inmates and penal institutions. One section deals with county jails, known legally as "detention centers." Another, Title 53, deals with state correctional institutions, including state-owned prisons, boot camps, halfway houses and the state's only private prison, located in Shelby. Bergsagel's bill, which became part of Title 53, called for extensive state involvement in the building of a private prison; it called for licensing and inspection and requires a heavy state role in the prison to guarantee safety. It also specifically outlawed out-of-state inmates. Later, that part of the law was relaxed as Montana began to draw down the number of inmates housed in Shelby. But the overwhelming sentiment at the time was a strict prohibition against developing a private-prison industry in Montana, Fox said. "In the conversations I was party to, they were very carefully trying to make sure (out-of-state) inmates would not happen," Fox said. "There wasn't supposed to be any legal room for that to happen." Back then, she said, Title 53 was imagined as the "final word' on out-of-state inmates. Two Rivers, however, isn't built under the laws that govern private prisons. The center will be run by an out-of-state, for-profit corporation, like the state's private prison in Shelby, and it has room for 464 inmates, just 200 fewer than the Shelby lock-up. But Two Rivers is owned by the economic development arm of the city of Hardin and, consequently, is not a private prison but a government-owned detention center, like a county jail. Sherlock didn't consider any of the Title 53 laws in his decision this week. Bergsagel said he didn't have a problem with the concept of Hardin accepting out-of-state inmates, but he said he was concerned that the facility was built outside the web of laws intending to guarantee public safety. He said someone at the state should inspect the institution to make sure it complies with the federally set prison standards set out in Montana's private prison law. But it's not just Two Rivers that wants to house out-of-staters. Sanders County already houses a small number of Idaho inmates in its jail across the border, according to evidence submitted at the Two Rivers court case. That never should have been allowed, Fox said. It appears that created a loophole for Hardin demand the same treatment.

June 6, 2008 Billings Gazette
A Hardin detention facility can take federal and out-of-state inmates, a Helena District Court judge has ruled. Judge Jeffrey Sherlock's ruling overturns an opinion issued in December by Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath. The decision barred Two Rivers Detention Facility from taking inmates from the federal system or other states. Greg Smith, the executive director of Two Rivers Authority, savored the judge's ruling. "It's very simple: We were right," Smith said. The $27 million detention center was built by Two Rivers Authority, Hardin's economic-development arm, as a way to bring more than 100 jobs to Hardin. The city of Lodge Grass entered an inter-local agreement with Hardin to run the facility. The jail was completed last summer, and Two Rivers expected to open the 646-bed center in the fall. Instead, Montana Department of Corrections and Hardin officials disagreed on whether the facility could accept inmates from other states. That prompted Hardin City Attorney Becky Convery to seek the attorney general's opinion. The opinion was released Dec. 3. Hardin sued the Department of Corrections and McGrath on Dec. 10. Robert Sterup, one of the Billings attorneys who argued the case for Hardin, said the state agreed earlier not to stand in the way of the detention center's operation if McGrath's opinion were overturned. "With the court's ruling in hand, Two Rivers is free to begin accepting inmates," Sterup said. Smith said the ruling allows Two Rivers officials to do more marketing, and they plan to work hard to secure contracts. "Now we can go about our business, we can get to work and do what we need to do," Smith said. Gov. Brian Schweitzer's spokeswoman, Sarah Elliott, said the state is still reviewing the ruling. However, Schweitzer's office has already started to help in the search for contracts. "In anticipation of the possibility of this decision we have taken the initiative and have been contacting governors of neighboring states, including Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Colorado that may have a need to house prisoners," Elliott said. "Wyoming has already toured the facility and determined that it does not fit their needs. We will continue our efforts." The main point of the lawsuit was whether the multijurisdictional detention facility could contract to confine adult felony and misdemeanor offenders committed by other states and the federal government. "The use of the word 'multi-jurisdictional detention facility' is certainly a mouthful," Sherlock wrote in the seven-page order. "However, it should be noted that such facilities are known to history and the general public as 'county jails.' " Sherlock's order outlined "what this case in not about," which included the state prison in Deer Lodge, regional correction facilities like those in Great Falls and Glendive or private facilities like the one in Shelby. The state argued that three pertinent sections of Montana law define who can be confined in a detention center and limits who can be placed to defendants being held on misdemeanor charges. Hardin argued that general language in one section of the law had to give way to more specific parts of the other sections. "This court agrees," Sherlock wrote. One section of law "clearly provides" that a detention center may contract with a government unit of another state, Sherlock wrote. "This section expresses the legislature's clear and unambiguous determination that detention centers can house out-of-state and misdemeanor inmates," he wrote. Another section of Montana law allows for federal adult prisoners, Sherlock wrote. In the December 2007 attorney general's opinion, McGrath wrote several times about "legislative intent" while building up to his judgment that only the Montana Corrections Department could house out-of-state or adult federal offenders, which "evidences a legislative intent not to allow routine interstate exchange of inmates in and out of Montana." Sherlock disagreed. "The court has before it a clear statute passed by the Legislature," Sherlock wrote. "The court must presume that the Legislature would not pass a meaningless statute. Since this statute is clear, the court need not resort to other means of interpretation to determine the intent of the Legislature." Sherlock wrote that the interpretation is played out in other parts of Montana and referred to an affidavit by Sanders County Sheriff Gene Arnold that the jail he oversees takes people convicted of lower-level felonies in Idaho. Before the legal tussle, Two Rivers officials thought they would be able to contract with Wyoming, but corrections officials in that state wouldn't do so without the Montana Corrections Department's blessing. Wyoming has inmates being held in Oklahoma and West Virginia. In May, Wyoming Corrections officials wrote Two Rivers' operations contractor, CiviGenics, that the agency does not like the dorm-style housing for its medium-security inmates and "it doesn't look like the physical structure of the Hardin facility will meet our needs." Two Rivers officials have worked toward securing contracts but have been stymied for about 10 months as the legal complications were ironed out. Meanwhile, the need for revenue from the project has mounted. Construction of the facility was funded with revenue bonds. As the name implies, those bonds were to be repaid by revenue generated by housing inmates. Without that money, the funding went into default last month. Although payments are being covered by a contingency fund, the project is technically in default, which mars its financial standing. The Corrections Department has said it does not need additional space and doesn't have inmates to send to Hardin. Corrections officials have said that Two Rivers would be welcome to compete for a contract to house sexual offenders and provide them with treatment. The request for proposals for that program is supposed to be out later this year. However, Two Rivers leaders have said that contract would be less than half of the about 250 inmates needed to make opening the jail economically feasible.

May 29, 2008 Casper Star-Journal
A disputed, privately run jail near Hardin, Mont., was dealt another blow this month: Wyoming officials have decided not to house felons at the facility, saying parts of the lockdown aren't set up to safely hold their inmates. The decision came in a May 20 letter from Steve Lindly, deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, to Peter Argeropulos, vice president of marketing for Community Education Centers, the for-profit New Jersey company contracted to run Hardin's Two Rivers Detention Center. Lindly wrote that Wyoming prefers "non-dorm cell housing" for its medium-security inmates. Dorm housing is where many inmates are housed in a single room with multiple beds. Most of the 464 beds at the Two Rivers jail are "dorm style." The jail, which was built between 2006 and 2007 by the economic development arm of the city of Hardin, envisions some 288 inmates housed in 12 large cells, each containing 24 beds, according to information from Two Rivers. Lindly wrote that he had other concerns about whether inmates could use electronics like television sets in the Two Rivers cells. Plus, he said, "we found recreation opportunities to be limited." "It doesn't look like the physical structure of the Hardin facility will meet our needs," he wrote. The decision is the latest setback for the jail, which was built with no state or local contracts in place as a way of bringing up to 100 guard and other prison-type jobs to Hardin. Hardin issued $27 million in revenue bonds to build the jail. The city missed its May 1 bond payment, and the facility is now in default. The center was completed last year, but has never opened for want of inmates. Montana's Department of Corrections, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, said last fall they didn't need the jail space. Hardin has no police force of its own, and anyone arrested in the town is housed in the Big Horn (Mont.) County Jail, which has expressed no interest in Two Rivers. Jail backers then turned to out-of-state inmates, potentially a few hundred from Wyoming. Responding to an inquiry from the Hardin city attorney, Montana's attorney general concluded late last year that jails like Two Rivers cannot take out-of-state inmates. The city appealed that decision, which is now in the hands of a Helena judge. Greg Smith, executive director of the Two Rivers Authority, Hardin's economic development agency that built the jail, said he wasn't too concerned with Wyoming's decision. So far, Smith said, that's just one state out of 48 that has found problem with the jail's design. "We've been on a long road, and this is just a little pebble in it," he said. Melinda Brazzale, a Wyoming Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the legal dispute surrounding Two Rivers played only a bit part in the state's decision not to pursue a contract with the jail. Wyoming has kept some inmates out of state since 1997, she said. The state is now housing inmates in Oklahoma and Virginia while crews build a new 700-bed prison in Torrington intended to eliminate the need for out-of-state prisons. That prison is expected to open in 2010, she said. Last fall, Brazzale said, several people from Two Rivers contacted the state about housing some Wyoming felons at Hardin. Wyoming officials contacted Montana's correctional leaders, who told them about the jail's legal problems. At that point, Brazzale said, Wyoming quit pursuing Two Rivers. Wyoming never sent a team of inspectors to view the jail, she said, which is a necessary first step before the state would consider sending inmates to any facility. About a month ago, Gov. Brian Schweitzer contacted Wyoming's Gov. Dave Freudenthal, and invited him to view the Hardin jail, Brazzale said. Only then did Wyoming correctional officials see the facility and conclude it wouldn't work to house their felons. Schweitzer said he has contacted the governors of all Montana's neighboring states to tell them about Two Rivers. "I do my level best to help everybody in Montana," he said. Schweitzer said the jail is in a difficult spot. Regardless of the legal issues surrounding it, the facility is built more like a jail than a prison. Agencies needing prison space, which is designed to safely house felons for longer periods, might not want the big, open dorms Two Rivers has to offer, he said. "The people who designed this thing in Texas, they sold this concept to people who are no longer even in Hardin," Schweitzer said, referring to the questions about why officials decided to build a jail of this type. Bob Anez, a spokesman for the Montana Department of Corrections, said no one from his agency has inspected Two Rivers to see if the issues Wyoming cited might pose similar problems for Montana -- should the state ever consider housing inmates at Hardin. "We're aware of what Wyoming's conclusions are," he said, adding that Montana correctional officials are not yet ready to draw any conclusions of their own.

May 10, 2008 Helena Independent Record
The debate over a 464-bed lockdown sitting empty outside Hardin boiled down to a legal dissection here Friday over who ends up in county jails, why and for how long. Lawyers on both sides of the months-long dispute made their arguments in a hearing before Helena District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock, who promised to make his decision in the next month. At issue is the Two Rivers Detention Center, a privately run, for-profit jail built by the economic development arm of the city of Hardin as a way of bringing in up to 100 jobs to the economically depressed town. Hardin has no police force of its own and all criminals arrested in the city are housed in the Big Horn County Jail, which has expressed no interest in the jail. The city tried to house Wyoming felons at the clink, leading to a formal attorney general’s opinion concluding that such a thing is illegal. The city appealed that decision to Sherlock. Hardin officials argue that they built the facility under the laws governing county jails known in legalese as “detention centers” not the laws that govern the state’s only private prison in Shelby. They maintain that county jails can, and do, house all kinds of inmates, including federal and out-of-state inmates. At least one Montana jail, the one in Sanders County, is housing a handful of out-of-state felons right now, said Robert Sterup at Friday’s hearing. Sterup is a lawyer with the Holland and Hart law firm in Billings hired by Hardin for the case. County jails have historically housed out-of-state or federal inmates, said Kyle Gray, another Holland and Hart attorney working on the case, who cited a lawsuit from the 1920s dealing with how Lewis and Clark County got paid to hold an average of 11 federal inmates over two years. If those jails can house such inmates, why can’t Two Rivers, asked Becky Convery, the Hardin city attorney in an interview after the hearing. The attorney general’s opinion concluded that Two Rivers couldn’t house any out-of-state inmates, whether their crimes are misdemeanors or felonies. Convery said later the fact that the opinion ruled out even misdemeanors prompted the lawsuit. At the hearing, Jennifer Anders, an assistant attorney general, said Montana law envisions two kinds of inmates. Folks convicted of misdemeanors serve their sentences in county jails, she said. Those inmates are the responsibility of the county. But people convicted of felonies are the state’s responsibility and they go to the state prison. Such inmates don’t now and have never served their sentences in jails. The Hardin jail is seeking felons and that is against the law, Anders said. Hardin is free to contract for out-of-state inmates who committed misdemeanors, she said, but there is no money in misdemeanors and Two Rivers needs money. Anders agreed that there are felons and federal prisoners housed in Montana’s county jails. But most of those are either people awaiting trial or people sentenced and staying in the jail only for a short time while a cell in federal penitentiary opens up. “The bottom line is, the plaintiffs built a jail, and they want to operate it like a prison,” she said at the hearing. She also hinted that at least part of the problem with Two Rivers is its size and the precedent it would set if the facility was allowed to open as backer want. The Sanders County jail has room for just 29 people, and some of those are county inmates, she said. The Two Rivers jail, in contrast, has room for 464. Additionally, Anders said, Sanders County has a contract with another county a use for county jails already allowed under the law. Two Rivers, in contrast, seeks to sign contracts with other states. In Montana, Anders said, only the state can make those kinds of contracts. Allowing the jail to take that many out-of-state felons would be re-writing Montana law, she argued, and opening up an industry lawmakers have never addressed.

March 2, 2008 Helena Independent Record
A new, empty jail built to bring jobs and prisoners to Hardin might not be able to open and pay its bills on time, even if it wins the only state corrections contract now under consideration. Backers for the jail, however, said this week they’re still very interested in the contract and plan to pursue it, along with other prisoner pools, to get the jail up and running. The Two Rivers Detention Center, a 464-bed jail built by the economic development arm of the city of Hardin and a consortium of private out-of-state companies, needs about 250 inmates to make enough money to open its doors and begin to repay the $27 million in bonds sold to build it. The first payment on the debt is due on May 10, said Michael Harling, the Texas investment banker behind the project. If the jail, which was completed late last summer but has never opened and has no contracts to house inmates, misses that payment, it will be in default on its bonds. The jail’s financing package includes a fund to cover bills while investors deal with default, he said. That money is expected to run out in May 2009. But representatives of the state Department of Corrections said last week that the only state corrections contract currently considered is for 116 sex offenders not 250 inmates. What’s more, they said, the agency hopes to have the contract filled by April 1, 2009, but it could be as late as July 1 — two months after the Hardin jail would need to be generating revenue to stave off financial crisis. July, Harling said, “is too late.” The jail must have some revenue stream before then in order to remain a going concern. The fact that the sex offender contract is for 134 fewer inmates than the center anticipated it needed to open doesn’t mean the facility can’t make ends meet with the contract, should it win the bid, said Greg Smith, executive director of the Two Rivers Authority. “It would probably be feasible to do it with less,” he said, because the sex offender contract would likely include treatment and other more expensive services than the mostly custodial care of ordinary inmates. “We’re extremely interested,” Smith said. However, he said the authority is cautious because the contract has not yet been issued and has been pushed back several times. Additionally, Smith said he worries the contract might be written to favor the three nonprofit correctional contracting companies in the state that typically win state correctional contracts. Backers for the jail say the lockdown was built on the expectation that the state would house inmates there. But state officials say they never had such an understanding and don’t need the jail space. The jail was built with no state contract in place. Bob Anez, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said that Two Rivers has never invited Corrections officials to the facility and no one from the agency has ever been inside. The Hardin jail then turned to out-of-state inmates as a source of money, but Attorney General Mike McGrath ruled last year that such a thing is against Montana law. The jail, which is now at the center of a lawsuit, occupies a unique place in Montana correctional law. Legally, the facility is like a county jail, not a private prison, although its 464-bed capacity puts it more in line with the 512-bed private prison in Shelby than with even Montana’s largest county jails. The jail was built by the Two Rivers Port Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin, along with a group of mainly Texas companies that have helped build private prisons in other states. As a city-owned jail, the facility is one-of-a-kind, said Diana Koch, the Department of Corrections’ top lawyer. No other Montana city has its own jail. It doesn’t make sense for Montana cities to build their own jails, said Dan Schwarz, Yellowstone County’s chief deputy attorney, because Montana law requires counties to incarcerate all city inmates for free. Even more curious: The city of Hardin doesn’t have a police force. All suspects arrested in Hardin are done so by Big Horn County authorities and housed in the 36-bed Big Horn County jail. The city of Hardin doesn’t have any of its own inmates and has no use for the jail. Big Horn County is not part of the jail project and is not interested in housing inmates there, said Greg Smith, executive director of the Two Rivers Authority. That the facility is a “jail,” not a “prison,” is an important distinction, Koch said. By law, only certain kinds of inmates can be held in jails, including people awaiting trial and witnesses in a trial confined to be certain they testify. Generally speaking, convicted felons remanded to the Department of Corrections to serve out their sentences are not held in county jails. The law does not forbid such a thing, Koch said, but it has only happened once in the last 12 years and involved a single inmate. That lone case was before a new section of law was passed in the 1990s that created regional prisons and the state’s only private prison. Regional prisons are joint projects of counties and the Department of Corrections in which the county jail shares space with space dedicated for state inmates. The state section of the lockdown is designed to state specifications and the state is a partner in the project from the very beginning, Koch said. Montana has regional prisons in Great Falls and Glendive. Montana also has one privately owned prison in Shelby built after lawmakers in 1997 wrote a new section of law allowing such a prison. That law spells out an exhaustive process entities must follow to become a private prison, including obtaining a license from the Department of Corrections. Such a license cannot be issued unless the department deems the prison necessary to house state inmates and has money from the Legislature to house inmates there. The Hardin prison didn’t follow those laws and is not a licensed private prison. Under certain circumstances, out-of-state inmates like the kind Two Rivers is courting can be housed in Montana’s private prison. The state’s regional and private prisons didn’t solidly replace the rare possibility of housing state inmates in jails like the Hardin lockdown, Koch said. “We just don’t foresee that there would be a reason to do that since we have the regionals and the private prison,” she said. “Now that we have that option, I really doubt we would (house state inmates in a jail) again.” Smith said the jail never wanted to house state inmates long-term. Instead, he said, the authority hoped to house only a select subset of state inmates: recently sentenced prisoners waiting in county jails until a cell comes open at Deer Lodge or another state correctional facility. “Those are the ones we’ve always wanted,” he said. Those inmates can be housed in jails and, in fact, state contracts with every county jail in Montana to house those prisoners. Such inmates might stay in the jail from only a few days to a few months. Last year, such inmates waited in county jails for an average of 33 days before moving into a Corrections’ facility, Anez said. The department has never identified a special contracted jail to house such inmates as a need and has never appealed to the Legislature for money for such a project. No one from Two Rivers has ever contacted the department about using the Hardin jail for that purpose, Anez said, adding that consolidating such temporary inmates in one location would create a transportation problem. Say a convict was sentenced in Butte, Anez said. Why move the man to Hardin for a few weeks only to drive him to Deer Lodge when a cell becomes available? Additionally, the state doesn’t have enough of those inmates to begin to fill a 464-bed jail. Currently, the state had 59 men and 14 women felons waiting in county jails.

February 13, 2008 Billings Gazette
As told by state and Hardin officials Tuesday, the history behind Hardin's empty, 464-bed prison hinges on one enormous - and expensive - misunderstanding. Officials from the south-central Montana town and its economic development arm, Two Rivers Authority, told the state Corrections Advisory Council that they had a gentlemen's agreement with Montana to house state inmates at the privately run prison. But Bill Slaughter, former state corrections director, current agency officials and lawmakers on the council said they never had such an agreement and never envisioned the prison as part of the state's correctional system. "We didn't sign any contracts with this group; there are no e-mails or promises," Slaughter said. "I don't know what to tell you. I was actually surprised they were under construction." The council, headed by Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and composed of lawmakers and others with interests in Montana's criminal justice system, acts only as an advisory group to the Department of Corrections. The committee does not have the authority to change state law or approve prison contracts with Two Rivers. Hardin city officials worked with a Texas consortium to build and finance the $27 million prison. It was completed this summer and promoted as a way to bring 100 new jobs to the economically depressed town at the edge of the Crow Indian Reservation. The prison needs about 250 inmates to make enough money to open its doors and begin to repay the millions needed to build it, Hardin officials said. Michael Harling, one of the Texas financers of the project, said in an interview after the meeting that the financing package includes enough money for the prison to sit empty until May 2009. After that, the prison would be nearing a financial crisis. But by not repaying its bonds until then, the prison would technically be in default on its debt. State and federal officials have said they don't need any of the prison's 464 beds, and state law forbids the prison from housing out-of-state prisoners, according to a recent opinion by Attorney General Mike McGrath. The Two Rivers Authority and the city of Hardin have since sued the state, asking a Helena judge to throw out McGrath's opinion. The city-owned prison was built without a single contract, Hardin City Attorney Rebecca Convery told the committee, because they were told the state wouldn't enter into contracts with a prison that wasn't yet built. Paul Green, a Hardin businessman who worked at the city's economic development branch several years ago when the prison was in the planning stage, said he met with Slaughter then and walked away feeling that the state would fill the prison if the city built it. "While there is a need, (Slaughter) said they can't sign a contract with a facility that isn't built yet," Green said. But Slaughter and Diane Koch, a Corrections Department lawyer, said the only way the state ever contemplated using the prison was to temporarily house local felons after they'd been convicted and were on their way to other state facilities. The state has contracts with every county jail in Montana to hold felons until the state has room for them elsewhere. "It would be maybe five or 10 inmates," Koch said, "not enough to fill a 464-bed facility." Sen. Trudi Schmidt, D-Great Falls, a member of the advisory council, sits on the eight-member panel that helps draft the Department of Corrections budget. She asked Two Rivers and Hardin officials why they didn't come to the panel's meetings in 2005 when lawmakers were crafting the agency's two-year budget. "I guess I'm wondering why the city of Hardin never knew what was going on in the Legislature," she said. Schmidt and others also questioned just what kind of detention center the Hardin prison is. Montana has one private prison in Shelby that houses mostly state inmates, under a contract with the state. The state also has contracts to house inmates at regional prisons in Glendive and Great Falls. Those prisons were built and owned by the counties and function as county jails. The Hardin prison is not a purely private prison like the Shelby facility, nor is it the Big Horn County jail, said Greg Smith, executive director of the Two Rivers Authority. The county does not support the prison, he said in an interview after the meeting. Convery told the panel that the prison is city-owned but will be privately run by a for-profit company for at least the next two years. That would make it the only entity of its kind in the state. The authority sought out-of-state inmates after state and federal officials said they didn't need the space.

February 7, 2008 Billings Gazette
A state lawmaker from Butte has asked corrections officials and representatives of Hardin to explain why a $27 million jail was built in the southern Montana city but now sits empty. Sen. Steve Gallus, a Democrat, wants the officials to appear Tuesday in Helena before the state Corrections Advisory Council, which he co-chairs. Inmates sought -- Hardin officials working with a Texas prison-building consortium last year sought to house out-of-state inmates at the newly built Two Rivers Detention Center. They were blocked by state Attorney General Mike McGrath, who said state law prohibits county jails from signing contracts for out-of-state prisoners. Hardin and Two Rivers Authority, the city's economic development agency, have since filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn McGrath's opinion. When it was proposed, the jail was touted as Hardin's largest economic development project since a sugar factory was built there in the 1930s. The city of 3,500 sits on the edge of the Crow Indian reservation in Big Horn County, a community where nearly 1 in 3 people lives in poverty - one of the highest rates in the state. "I feel bad for the people of Hardin and understand that they want jobs," Gallus said. "But I don't feel that this was handled appropriately, nor do I think we should base economic development on prison beds." Alternative uses -- Gallus said he also wants to look into other possible uses for the jail. For example, he wants to know if it would be feasible to convert it into a special facility for in-state sex offenders. "It might require some kind of retrofit, or more capital put into the facility to change it," he said. A failure to bring in revenues from the 464-bed jail could leave private investors on the hook for the project if the bonds used to build it can't be paid off. The jail needs at least 250 inmates to make its opening economically feasible. The state Department of Corrections has said it does not need any more beds for Montana inmates.

January 23, 2008 The Gazette
The Two Rivers Detention Center was built as an investment in Hardin. But a legal tangle with the state has left the jail unused and the security of the investment threatened - for the people offered jobs at the jail, for Hardin's economy and for investors who bought mutual funds that financed the $27 million project. That means no income and no cash flow to make a $960,000 interest payment that is due May 1. Two Rivers Authority holds $27 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for the detention center, some $20 million of which went into building the facility. The bonds are not general-obligation bonds, so the landowners of Hardin and Big Horn County won't be held responsible for repayment. In December, the developers said that if the detention facility had about 250 inmates by March it might be able to get money flowing and avoid default. Lacking a court order allowing it to take out-of-state inmates and without contracts for any inmates, it's unlikely that the facility will open in time to stay out of financial trouble. Two Rivers Authority leaders maintain that the Department of Corrections and a former director, Bill Slaughter, supported the idea of the facility. However, they say, state policy has changed, threatening the detention center's future because the state won't contract to send Montana prisoners there. Two Rivers Authority Executive Director Greg Smith said the state must remain consistent in its policies to maintain a good investment culture. He said he also is concerned about the effects on out-of- state investors - whether they are individuals whose savings is threatened by a financial loss on bonds or a large corporate investor. "It is important that the state really care about people who are investing in this state," he said. "We're not the wealthiest state in this union, and we need people who want to invest in us. "To me, somebody who is investing in Hardin is investing in the state of Montana." Smith said the $27 million is not a huge amount of money when spread across investors around the United States, but on the individual level the investment could be important to those people who put their retirement or savings into a mutual fund. "Who knows, there could be people in Montana," Smith said. Michael Harling, executive vice president of Municipal Capital Markets Group, an underwriter of the bonds, said the $27 million in bonds was purchased within a few weeks of becoming available in late April 2006. If bonds go bad, the mutual fund that is holding them is going to lose some market value, Harling said. The effect of the loss is that every participant in the pool of investors also loses a little. That scenario plays out only in relation to Two Rivers Detention Center if a person is invested in a mutual fund that holds some of the Hardin bonds, Harling said. "It's a small ripple, but it is fair to say that people in Montana who have their savings invested in tax-exempt mutual funds stand a chance to lose part of their asset value," he said.

January 23, 2008 Billings Gazette
The state has asked a Helena District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed in December by the city of Hardin and its economic development arm, Two Rivers Authority. The lawsuit asked that the judge throw out Attorney General Mike McGrath's Dec. 3 opinion that state law doesn't allow a new detention facility in Hardin to hold inmates convicted out of state. Two Rivers needs to house inmates to repay the $27 million in revenue bonds that funded the jail. The state's response was released Tuesday. "Not only is the proposed use of the facility unauthorized, but it conflicts with Montana's overall correctional scheme to provide for Montana offenders - not to benefit economically from the interstate exchange of inmates," Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Anders wrote in the state's motion. Hardin's attorney Rob Sterup of Holland and Hart in Billings declined to comment on the state's response. The state claims that the District Court has no authority to withdraw McGrath's opinion - one of the main requests in the Hardin suit. A court may overrule an attorney general's opinion but it can't order him to retract a lawfully issued opinion, according to the state. Hardin has asked the judge to stop the state and the Department of Corrections, which is also named in the suit, from barring Two Rivers Authority from contracting for inmates. Two Rivers and CiviGenics, which contracted to operate the facility, have tried to get contracts with the state of Wyoming and the Bureau of Indian Affairs detention division. Wyoming won't sign an agreement without approval from the Department of Corrections, and the BIA can't contract for enough inmates to open the facility, TRA officials have said. In its response, the state acknowledges that the BIA could house adults in Hardin who have been arrested and are awaiting trial because those would probably be short-term and thus "consistent with the nature and function of a county jail or local detention facility," Anders wrote. "However, plaintiffs are not entitled to contract with the BIA or other states for felony offenders who are serving sentences and/or awaiting release from custody, or offenders convicted of tribal violations ... because these uses are not allowed" by state law, she wrote. Much of the 13-page motion focuses on interpretation of state law and the legislative intent that went into crafting Montana code. In a separate document, the state asked the court for a protective order so it doesn't have to produce information Hardin requested through the discovery process of the lawsuit. The case "involves purely a question of law," and not disputed facts that could lead to evidence for the court to consider, Anders wrote. The information the Hardin attorneys have requested is from the attorney general, the Corrections Department and the governor's office. It includes "all documents that refer, relate, or pertain to placement of inmates by the Department of Corrections with any detention center within the state of Montana." It also asks for the state to list, by month, the number of Montana prisoners held out of state and the number of out-of-state prisoners held in Montana back to Jan. 1, 2000. There is also a request for any records from the governor's office that relate to McGrath's opinion and any records of meetings attended by staff from the attorney general's office. The state has provided Two Rivers with the attorney general's file on the opinion request, according to the document. At a minimum, Anders argued, the court should first consider the state's request to dismiss the suit, which could make sharing documents in preparation for a hearing moot. The state's documents were mailed on Friday, according to attorney general's spokeswoman Lynn Solomon. On Tuesday afternoon, Lewis and Clark District Court records did not show that the documents had been filed. According to the clerk in Judge Jeffrey Sherlock's court, once the paperwork is filed, Hardin will have about two weeks to respond to the motions and the state is then given about two weeks to reply.

December 12, 2007 Billings Gazette
The city of Hardin has sued the state, hoping to overturn an attorney general's opinion and allow a new prison here to open with out-of-state inmates. Hardin and Two Rivers Authority, the city's economic development arm, filed suit Monday in District Court in Helena. The lawsuit asks Judge Jeffrey Sherlock to overturn Attorney General Mike McGrath's recent opinion on state law applicable to the Two Rivers Detention Center. The prison is under the gun to begin repaying $27 million in revenue bonds sold, including $20 million to build the 464-bed facility and to cover payments during a few months before opening. That transitional money runs out this month. An official with the bond underwriter said the facility needs inmates to get a revenue stream flowing by the time the next payment is due, May 1. Failure to do so would start the default process. The attorney general's Dec. 3 opinion states that the authority to take out-of-state prisoners is limited by state law to the Montana Department of Corrections. Two Rivers officials originally hoped to have contracts with the state and Montana counties to hold prisoners. When the state announced last year that it would not have prisoners to send to Hardin, Two Rivers began to focus on contracts to take out-of-state and federal prisoners. But the agencies involved, including the state of Wyoming, wouldn't complete those contracts without the state of Montana signing off, so Hardin asked for the formal opinion. The city has hired Billings attorneys Robert Sterup, Kyle Gray and Jason Ritchie, of Holland and Hart, to work with Hardin City Attorney Rebecca Convery on the lawsuit. "We believe our clients' claims have substantial merit, and we are confident in our position," Sterup said. "We look forward to the opportunity to present our claims in District Court." McGrath stood by his office's opinion. "We believe the opinion is a sound interpretation of Montana law and legislative policy," McGrath said Tuesday. An attorney general's opinion carries the weight of law unless it is overturned by a court or the Legislature changes the law. Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Anez said Tuesday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation. He previously had stated that Corrections supports the legal opinion. Two Rivers officials said in a prepared statement that a favorable court ruling would "directly benefit the public by alleviating prison overcrowding and providing employment opportunities in Big Horn County." "While it remains open to negotiate an agreement with the state, absent such agreement, Two Rivers Authority is confident of its position on the disputed issues and is committed to seeking judicial relief," the statement said. The suit asks Sherlock to determine if state law allows the facility to hold prisoners who are committed by an out-of-state jurisdictions or the federal government. The state and Hardin have "genuine and opposing positions on this issue," the complaint states. "Based on the state of Montana's representations, agencies of the federal government and other states have refused to contract with (Two Rivers)," it states. Two Rivers is working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to contract for about 70 prisoners, far short of the 250 officials say are required to make opening the prison economically feasible. According to the complaint, those 70 prisoners would come from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Blackfeet reservations in Montana, the Spokane Reservation in Washington and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. The suit also asks Sherlock to grant an injunction allowing Two Rivers to form contracts and take offenders immediately. There are a number of losses because the facility, although ready, can't open, including losing the work force that Two Rivers and its contractor, CiviGenics, has lined up, it states. There is also a financial risk, according to the complaint. "Deprived of its essential function by state action, the detention center will face potentially catastrophic loss, including possible default on financing commitments," the court document states. "These threatened injuries and others outweigh whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause to the defendants."

December 4, 2007 Billings Gazette
The attorney general's opinion issued Monday may leave Hardin prison investors empty-handed, but a loss won't happen overnight, the lead investment banker on the project said. The $27 million that paid for the construction and startup costs of the facility was issued in revenue bonds. The bond holders, or owners, are some of the largest institutional bond funds in the U.S. that manage billions of dollars, said Michael Harling, executive vice president of Municipal Capital Markets group Inc., the Texas firm that underwrote the project. The investment firm set up the transaction to secure the private activity bonds. The bonds are tax-free because the issuer is a governmental entity - Two Rivers Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin. And because they are repaid through revenue generated by the project, the bond holders are the ones on the hook if no money comes in. Regardless of whether the prison ever opens, the next interest payment, of $960,012, is due May 1. The first principal payment of $615,000 and an interest payment of $960,012 are due Nov. 1, 2008. Nearly $2 million in interest has already been paid on the bonds. A debt service reserve fund - about $2.6 million - was set aside from the original funding. That money can be used if the facility doesn't have revenue to makes payments. However, using the fund causes difficulties. "The problem is, once that reserve fund is tapped, it becomes an event of default," Harling said. "(A default) casts a sort of pallor over it in the financial world. That isn't great, and we don't want that." The funding includes about $19 million for construction that has been paid to the designer and builder, Hale-Mills Construction of Houston. Harling figures the facility would have to open with about 250 prisoners by around March to have revenue flowing in time for the May 1 payment. Two Rivers Authority has one contract in the works with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but it is still being completed. The contract isn't for enough prisoners to make opening the facility feasible. In the bond project's official statement, potential owners were warned of the risk of funding the Hardin project without contracts that secured revenue. According to the feasibility study commissioned by the underwriters and released in January 2006, Two Rivers had no assurance that it would get enough contracts, or a guaranteed number of inmates, to make its payments on the bonds. Also, the "primary market focus" was the Montana Department of Corrections and was based on the assumption that Two Rivers would be awarded at least one publicly bid contract, according to the study. Harling said it was a reasonable risk because studies showed that state and federal agencies needed prison space and the Corrections Department "indicated but didn't guarantee it would utilize the facility," he said. That indication apparently changed between 2005 development meetings, which Harling said Corrections officials attended, the April 2006 issuance of bonds, groundbreaking that June and construction completion this summer. He blames the problem on the state of Montana and the Corrections Department. The state's refusal to allow Two Rivers to contract with other states, specifically Wyoming, to take prisoners led to Hardin's asking for an attorney general's opinion. That opinion was issued Monday and affirmed that the facility can't take out-of-state inmates. "We bought into the risk of there's sufficient inmates, because they are out here," Harling said. "But for somebody to, as far as I'm concerned, change the rules once we get open, is just wrong. "Or, somebody should have said in 2005, 'By the way, it's not legal to do what you want to do,' " he said. "You can't just stick your head in the sand after you said, 'We really like the idea and it's a good project,' and then two years later say, 'We say it's not legal any more.' " The two attorneys listed in the bond project's official statement were not available for comment. Investment was a risk, study reported -- Bond holders took a risk by funding the Hardin prison project without contracts that secured revenue, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the underwriters. The study by Howard Geisler, of GSA, Ltd. based in North Carolina was completed in January 2006. Here are some of the project's "potential obstacles to project success," from the study: • No assurances that Two Rivers Authority would enter contracts or that any contract would yield enough money to meet financial obligations; • TRA had no contractual guarantee that any specific number of detainees would be held for any defined period; • TRA had no contractual guarantee that Montana Department of Corrections would not build more space or that other detention facilities would not be built to "service the target market," and that the state of Montana was the primary market focus, based on the assumption that TRA would be awarded one more publicly bid contracts. It further states that future economic conditions, legislative change and government policy could change the numbers of persons for which the state is responsible or has the fiscal resources to house," the study states. "Several federal agencies are viewed as potential users and their use level will be dictated by government policy and budget allocations." "The factors listed above define potentially significant risks to potential purchasers of the bonds, and the vast majority of them are linked to influences over which the Authority (TRA) has no meaningful degree of control," the study states. Here are the "factors mitigating the potential obstacles" listed in the study: • The U.S. Marshals Service uses local detention facilities across the country to house prisoners and the Montana District needed beds. • The DOC had publicly stated that it might need to send prisoners out-of-state because of the space crunch and was looking for non- profit groups to build and operate specialized treatment facilities. The total contracted bed capacity at the time was 376. • The center is located near Billings, where the Marshals Service holds people who are appearing in federal court. "In addition, the population concentration in the Billings area produces a significant impact on the (DOC) with a large number of individuals in its custody being from the area," the study states. Also, the DOC was soliciting offers to build a methamphetamine treatment center. "The Billings area, and particularly the nearby reservations represent a significant source of individuals charged with offenses related to possession of this drug," it states. • There are seven Indian reservations in Montana "Nationally, tribal jails are in general in deplorable conditions and are typically overcrowded," the study states. "Native Americans also represent a significant percentage of the (DOC) population while many Native Americans convicted of federal crimes are housed in Federal facilities throughout the United States. To that end the proposed center offers a resource to relieve pressures on the tribes and (DOC) as well as to return incarcerated individuals nearing completion of their sentences to a location nearer their home where visitations by family are possible."

December 3, 2007 AP
The Montana attorney general issued an opinion Monday saying county jails can’t sign contracts to house out-of-state prisoners, dealing a heavy blow to a new $20 million detention facility in Hardin. In an opinion issued Monday, Mike McGrath said the Legislature never envisioned that county detention centers would be used for the long-term confinement of out-of-state or federal felons. McGrath said such a move would transform county jails, feasibly filling them with out-of-state inmates so they are no longer available for placement of Montana offenders, McGrath’s opinion said. The opinion was requested by the city of Hardin, which is operating the 464-bed Two Rivers Detention Center with the city of Lodge Grass. The new detention center, completed this summer, has been unable to open because it does not have contracts for the 250 inmates needed to make opening the jail economically feasible. Studies as late as November 2005 showed that such a detention facility could easily be filled with state and federal prisoners, said James Klessens, director of Two Rivers Authority, which is Hardin’s economic development arm. But since then, state prison overcrowding has subsided because some inmates are being diverted to prerelease centers and addiction treatment and the U.S. Marshal’s Service has contracted with Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby to add beds there. It had sought to contract with the Office of Federal Detention Trustee in Washington, D.C., which oversees contracts and funding for all federal prisoners, and the Wyoming Marshal’s Service, Klessens said. McGrath’s opinion has the force of law unless a court overturns it or the Legislature modifies the laws involved. CiviGenics, a private company based in Massachusetts has contracted to operate the jail for two years. Payments on $27 million in revenue bonds sold for the project are to begin next year.

November 16, 2007 Helena Independent Record
Backers of a brand new but empty $20 million detention center in Hardin tried Thursday to convince two lawyers on Attorney General Mike McGrath’s staff to change a draft opinion so the jail can house out-of-state inmates. Chris Tweeten, McGrath’s chief civil counsel, and Jennifer Anders, an assistant attorney general who wrote the draft opinion, were noncommittal after lawyers and an investment banker for the Hardin jail made pitches to alter the conclusion. Attorneys for the city of Hardin and Municipal Capital Markets Group Inc., a Dallas, Texas, investment banking firm that issued the $27 million in revenue bonds to finance the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin, will respond in writing to the draft legal opinion next week. Tweeten said the opinion is only a draft at this point, and the attorneys haven’t made any final recommendation to McGrath, who reviews and often makes revisions in the final version. But, Tweeten said, “There have been relatively rare instances where we have changed the opinion 180 degrees from where the draft is.” At issue was a draft attorney general’s opinion requested by Rebecca A. Convery, city attorney for Hardin. She asked whether the state Corrections Department has the authority to decide whether convicts from out-of-state law-enforcement and correctional agencies may be housed in a multi-jurisdictional jail like the one in Hardin. She also inquired whether a multi-jurisdictional detention center may contract for the confinement of prisoners committed to an out-of-state correctional facility. The draft opinion concluded that a multi-jurisdictional jail may not contract to house out-of-state inmates because that authority has been reserved for the state Corrections Department under “very narrow circumstances.” There is evidence of “a legislative intent not to allow the interstate exchange of inmates to and from Montana,” the draft said. Convery said the Hardin facility is not seeking permission to house convicted felons from out-of-state prisons or the federal correctional system for the long term. Instead, she said, the Hardin jail would be used to house post-conviction felons on a short-term basis of no more than two years. Tom McKerlick of the Two Rivers Authority, Hardin’s economic development arm that owns the facility, said officials believed the project had the support of former state Corrections Director Bill Slaughter, But he said it lacks the support of Director Mike Ferriter, who took over the state agency in July 2006. In addition, U.S. Marshal Dwight Mackay of Montana had told them the U.S. Marshals Service was interested in space at the Hardin facility, but, as it turned out, the private prison in Shelby got the contract instead. “Quite honestly, we were told by the Marshals Service and the state, you build it and we will come,” Convery said. She said the jail has lined up some short-term contracts from out of state, but the Montana Corrections Department won’t allow them. Michael W. Harling of Dallas, executive vice president of Municipal Capital Markets Group Inc., said the facility has $27 million at risk. That was the amount of the revenue bond issue, including $20 million for the construction, and to cover payments during a few months of transition before opening. Every day the jail isn’t occupied it owes $7,000, he said. The jail, designed to hold 464 prisoners, would employ 105 people with an annual payroll of $2.5 million if filled to capacity. Tweeten asked if the jail supporters had tried to make any changes to state law at the Legislature that might allow the facility to hold out-of-state prisoners. The jail backers said they had no indication that they lacked the support of the Corrections Department. D. Hull Youngblood, an Austin, Texas, attorney representing Municipal Capital Markets Group, took issue with the draft opinion suggesting that one section of the law involving state prison facilities “trumps” another involving community corrections programs. “Statutes can co-exist without overturning each other,” he said. The draft opinion said: “The Legislature clearly intended to limit the authority of any correctional facility or governmental agency, other than the state through the Department of Corrections, to contract for the placement of Montana inmates out-of-state or to receive offenders from other jurisdictions.” It adds: “While the interstate exchange of convicted felons may be an acceptable practice in other states or facilities, it is not one that our Legislature has freely sanctioned.” Youngblood said the Hardin prison “was not developed, planned and built in a vacuum.” He said much discussion took place. Tweeten suggested the Hardin jail backers could seek clarification from the Legislature when it meets again in January 2009.

November 10, 2007 Billings Gazette
If a draft opinion from the state Attorney General's office stands, it may mean disaster for the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin. The state has no need for additional prison beds and contends that Two Rivers is not allowed to house out-of-state inmates. Without contracts for inmates, the jail can't open and may not be able to begin repaying loans taken out to build the facility. The state Department of Corrections last week sent a letter to the attorney general's office officially agreeing with the draft opinion, said its chief legal counsel, Diana Koch. But James Klessens, director of Two Rivers Authority, Hardin's economic development arm and the owner of the facility, is hoping for a solution. A meeting with an assistant attorney general is set for Monday to discuss the draft opinion. The draft addresses long-term contracts, and Two Rivers Authority is interested in short-term contracts, Klessens said. "We don't believe the question they answered was really relative," Klessens said. The deadline to comment on the draft was last week, and those comments must be considered before a formal opinion is issued on whether Two Rivers can contract with Wyoming to bring prisoners to Hardin and open the jail. "The Legislature clearly intended to limit the authority of any correctional facility or governmental entity, other than the State through the Department of Corrections, to contract for the placement of Montana inmates out-of-state, or to receive offenders from other jurisdictions," according to the draft opinion. At capacity, the jail could employ about 105 people with a $2.5 million annual payroll. Would-be employees wait -- Heather Edwards, a 24-year-old Hardin native, is among those on a waiting list for a job at Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility. "I've got everything done, I'm just waiting on a job," Edwards said. "They can't say for sure you have a job because it's not open yet." Edwards graduated from Dickinson State University in North Dakota with a major in political science and a minor in psychology. While going to DSU, she worked as a detention officer at the jail in Dickinson. She returned to her hometown thinking Two Rivers would provide a great career opportunity. She is commuting to Billings to work at the New Day Ranch but hoping for a job at Two Rivers. "I still believe in their administration, so I'm kind of holding on," Edwards said. Obligations coming due -- The facility is under the gun to begin repaying $27 million in revenue bonds sold for its design, $20 million to build the 464-bed facility and to cover payments during a few months of transitional time before opening. That transitional money will run out at the end of the year. CiviGenics, a private company, has contracted to operate the jail for two years. The facility was completed this summer, and leaders hoped it would be housing inmates by September. The company, based in Massachusetts, operates 19 jails, jail management and corrections programs and more than 100 treatment programs in 14 states. When CiviGenics did feasibility studies as late as November 2005, it appeared that such a detention facility could easily be filled with state and federal prisoners, Klessens said. However, in-state inmates are not available now because prison crowding has abated. The state has developed programs that divert some prisoners, and the U.S. Marshal's Service has contracted with Cross Roads Correctional Facility in Shelby to add beds there. Getting inmates in the door --  Two Rivers Authority has a small contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but it won't fill the 250 beds needed to make the jail economically feasible to open, which includes hiring 60 to 70 people to get started. The development group is working on an agreement to take prisoners through the Office of Federal Detention Trustee in Washington, D.C., which oversees contracts and funding for all federal prisoners, and with the Wyoming Marshal's Service, Klessens said. Both would be predicated on an AG's opinion that Two Rivers is eligible for out-of- state prisoners. The draft opinion contradicts that. "While the interstate exchange of convicted felons may be an acceptable practice in other states or facilities, it is not one that our Legislature has freely sanctioned," the draft opinion states. "For this reason, your proposal to bring out-of-state felons into Montana without restriction or oversight is inconsistent with the Legislature's prerogative to keep Montana inmates in this state unless overcrowding is the issue, and to limit the use of Montana facilities for housing out-of-state convicts." Two sections of Montana law address correctional facilities and detention facilities. Two Rivers leaders have maintained that they fall under the latter, while the Corrections Department - and the draft attorney general's opinion - maintains that it fits into the former. The draft opinion says that under the correctional facilities law, Corrections "retains ultimate control over the interstate movement of inmates." Further, it says that Corrections is the only entity that state law allows to send prisoners out of state or bring them into the state. The draft maintains that while state law authorizes a local government entity, Two Rivers Authority, to contract to hold inmates, the more detailed statutes that address paying for those services don't mention long-term confinement. Two Rivers leaders believe the facility can hold other state's prisoners, but only for the short-term, Klessens said. The draft opinion considers long-term contracts, he said, while the facility was designed and intended for short-term contracts not exceeding two years. Part of the problem is language, Klessens said. The draft opinion refers to a 1989 change in state law that replaced the term "county jail" with "detention center." The confusion arises, Klessens said, because Two Rivers is the largest and first facility in the state that would operate like a county jail without fitting neatly into the law that guides those centers. DOC puts state prisoners, either awaiting trial or transport to the state system, in local facilities all the time, he said.

October 20, 2007 Billings Gazette
Construction of Hardin's new $20 million, 464-bed detention facility is complete, but no inmates are housed there. The jail will sit empty at least until December, as Hardin waits for an attorney general's opinion on whether it can take out-of-state prisoners. The wait may be longer, as Two Rivers Authority, Hardin's economic development arm, struggles to obtain contracts for inmates. TRA, which developed the detention facility because it would bring more than 100 jobs to the economically depressed area, took control of the building in July. Staff said then that the facility could be opened by September. But the clock is already ticking on $27 million in revenue bonds that need to be repaid. So far, a reserve fund from the sale of the bonds has covered debt service, but that money will run out at the end of the year. "About January we need to be operational," TRA Director James Klessens said. "Our concern is we have a big empty facility right now and we need to fill beds. We're tremendously disappointed we don't have 300 to 400 people in this facility." TRA's only arrangement to house prisoners is a small contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs that won't begin to fill the 250 beds that TRA needs to make opening the doors economically viable, Klessens said. Two Rivers plans to charge $59.60 a day to house a detainee. TRA hopes that by early November, the Attorney General's Office will release an opinion that will allow it to take prisoners from Wyoming. If the decision allows TRA to contract with Wyoming, Klessens said, the jail could open as early as mid-December or January. It will take at least a month to train employees, he said. Some employees were hired this summer, and more than 50 others had been offered commitments for employment. At capacity, the detention facility will have a staff of 105 and a $2.5 million payroll, TRA has said. During the wait for opening, some of the people offered jobs have taken other employment. It would require 60 to 70 employees to operate the facility with 250 inmates, Klessens said. "It's hard to take on that kind of payroll load without definitively knowing you have (income)," he said. Klessens wouldn't speculate on an opening date if the attorney general's decision goes against TRA. TRA contracted with a private company, CiviGenics, to operate the jail for two years. Since construction was substantially completed in July, CiviGenics has paid the expenses for the jail, which is part of its contract, including paying the six people now working in the facility. Of the $27 million bond sale, $19.6 million went to build the facility. The rest paid for the bond sale and engineering work, as well as a reserve to pay bond service to Municipal Capital Markets Group, a group of Texas investors that bought the bonds. Room in jails -- The facility is designed to hold detainees - those convicted of misdemeanors or felons waiting for sentencing or placement in a prison - for up to two years, Klessens said. The problem is that prisoners aren't available. "We don't need the space right now," said Bob Anez, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. This week 40 men and seven women were being held in county jails statewide before they are sent to state prisons or Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby. A year and a half ago, 150 such state prisoners were being held in county jails, Anez said. The number has been reduced, in part, because of state programs that send eligible prisoners to treatment programs, Anez said. "The Department of Corrections has nothing against these folks down there and their effort to develop an economic development project," Anez said. "We recognize they see this as an asset to that part of the state. The DOC wishes them all the luck in the world in that regard. In terms of our participation in the facility, it's going to be minimal." Diana Koch, the DOC's chief legal counsel, said the state would probably be willing to contract with the Hardin facility to hold prisoners before they are moved into the state system, as it does with counties around Montana. "It's not a significant number," Koch said. "We don't have a significant number in Yellowstone County or Missoula County, and we wouldn't have a significant number in Hardin. It would be a handful at most." Space for 52 prisoners opened up in Shelby this summer when federal prisoners there were moved into an expansion that operator Correctional Corp. of America opened under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service. People from CiviGenics met with Montana U.S. Marshal Dwight MacKay while studying feasibility of the Hardin project, MacKay said. At the time, the Marshals Service was shipping prisoners out of state. "Two years ago we were hurting for beds," MacKay said. "We put out the call if somebody built beds that would pass the Marshal's muster, we were interested in talking with them about a contract." But CCA stepped up to the plate first, MacKay said. The company worked with the state to develop a waiver to build a 92-bed expansion to its facility and also with officials in Washington, D.C., to write a contract for the project. The government is bound by that contract, MacKay said. "I know the people in Hardin want us to use their facility, but we'd have to break the contract we already have," MacKay said. "That would not be beneficial for the taxpayers. We'd be paying for beds we're not using." MacKay said that even if there were a need for more jail space in the Billings area, he would prefer to expand the contract with Yellowstone County so the inmates would be held closer to the federal courthouse in Billings. MacKay acknowledged that the jail could be a problem for Hardin. "I don't want to be a part of any political firestorms down there," MacKay said. "All I want to do is make sure my prisoners are safe in a secure area and we fulfill a contract we're obligated to." AG's opinion -- Hardin City Attorney Rebecca Convery asked for the attorney general's opinion in late August, after Montana corrections officials said the state had no need for space at Two Rivers, Klessens said. The attorney general's office has 90 days to reply. TRA has looked farther afield for contracts, including Wyoming corrections and the U.S. Marshals Service there. Wyoming authorities won't contract with Two Rivers without approval from the Montana Department of Corrections, Klessens said. Koch and Klessens said the state and TRA disagree about what state laws govern the Hardin facility. At issue is whether the facility can hold people charged with or convicted of felonies in other states. Klessens believes that short-term holds are allowable. Koch does not. "The department did not discuss this, approve it in any way, shape or form before they decided to build it," Koch said. "We have no vested interest in seeing this fail. We would really like to see them be successful, but what we're doing is seeing what we can do, legitimately, with the statutes that are in place right now. We don't want to violate any statutes." TRA is an autonomous arm of the city of Hardin and the facility is local-government-owned, just like any other county-owned jail in Montana, Klessens said. It is guided by statutes that allow taking short-term holds from other government agencies, he said. TRA has a private operator, but it is not a private facility, which falls under a different set of laws, he said. The facility can bring in Montana felons who are waiting to be sentenced or to be placed in a prison, Klessens said. "Our question is, if Wyoming has needs for the same, why can't we do that? We think it's a simple question," Klessens said. Seeking contracts -- TRA also is working with the Office of Detention Trustee in Washington, D.C., which oversees contracts and funding for all federal prisoners, to talk about taking U.S. Marshal's prisoners out of Wyoming. The Montana U.S. Marshal's office contracts with a private jail in Shelby. TRA has been working with Montana counties to set up intergovernmental agreements so if those governments have an inmate housing need they could send people to Hardin, Klessens said. Why did Two Rivers Authority build a regional detention facility before it had contracts for inmates? That's how the industry works, Klessens said. Agencies want to see a facility before they sign up to send inmates there. Two feasibility studies before groundbreaking showed the jail would be viable, including a November 2005 study that said the state wanted to contract for about 365 beds. "Nobody built this thing on a wish and a prayer," Klessens said. Klessens said that during those studies, indications from the U.S. Marshals Service were that the agency planned to use the Hardin facility when it was built. He pointed to a January 2006 news article that quoted MacKay saying, "Build something, we'll probably use it." "What that tells me, is he was saying, 'Hey, this is a good thing, this is going to solve big issues going on in the world of how do we deal with jail overcrowding,' " Klessens said. He said the Montana Board of Crime Control commissioned a study in 2006 of jail overcrowding that never mentioned the Hardin facility, which broke ground that June.

Washington Department of Health
May 29, 2009  Spokesman-Review
A social worker and two counselors in the Puget Sound area have been accused of buying fake degrees from a Spokane diploma mill. State health officials said Michael Strub, a licensed social worker, bought a doctor of philosophy in psychology diploma and transcript in March 2004. The materials came from “Hamilton University,” an online diploma mill. Strub worked at Cornerstone Counseling Services in Puyallup, where Washington state Health Department investigators say he used his fake diploma to misrepresent his education and training to clients and insurance companies. David Larson, a registered counselor and chemical dependency professional, is accused of buying a doctor of psychology degree in October 2002 from “St. Regis University.” Larson worked at Crossroads Treatment Centers in Tacoma and Parkland, and then went to Civigenics in Tacoma before retiring in October 2006. Agency and staff had referred to him as “Dr. Larson.” Taylor Danard, a registered counselor, bought a bogus doctor of philosophy in psychology degree from St. Regis in January 2003. She referred to herself as a Ph.D. in her practice at Madison Park Counseling Center in Seattle. Investigators also accuse her of providing health department investigators with false information. The three have 20 days to respond to charges. They are listed on a database published online by The Spokesman-Review last year of people who bought bogus degrees from a Spokane-based operation that netted millions of dollars by selling more than 10,000 college degrees and high school diplomas around the world. The diploma mill was engineered by Dixie Ellen Randock, who has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.