GEO Group/GEO Care
(formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections, bought CSC, Cornell and B.I.)
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Adelanto Community Correctional Facility, Adelanto City, California
Feb 28, 2014 vvdailypress.com

SAN BERNARDINO • Attorneys for Geo Group Inc., which operates an immigration detention center in Adelanto, were no-shows in court Tuesday as they face a medical malpractice lawsuit brought forth by the mother of a Mexican national who died in 2012 of complications from pneumonia. A government report following the man’s death said “egregious errors” were made by the facility’s medical staff. Geo Group has denied the claims levied in the suit, court records show. Fernando Dominguez-Valivia, 58, died March 4, 2012, nearly three weeks after he was transferred to Victor Valley Hospital from Adelanto Detention Facility East for treatment, according to previous reports. With a criminal record including forgery and theft, Dominguez-Valivia originally came into ADF custody on Nov. 23, 2011, after he had been detained on unspecified charges in the Rancho Cucamonga area, immigration officials previously said. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security oversight committee noted in its inspection report of the facility in September 2012 that Dominguez-Valivia’s death was the first for the facility, but also preventable. “The investigation disclosed several egregious errors committed by medical staff, including failure to perform proper physical examinations in response to symptoms and complaints, failure to pursue any records critical to continuity of care, and failure to facilitate timely and appropriate access to off-site treatments,” said the report, referencing a Detainee Death Review conducted sometime after the man’s death. The committee concluded “the detainee’s death could have been prevented and that the detainee received an unacceptable level of medical care while detained at ACF,” the report reads. San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner spokeswoman Sandy Fatland confirmed Tuesday that Dominguez-Valivia died naturally of multiorgan failure due to pneumonia, but the committee also listed alcoholic liver disease and sepsis as causes of death. On Oct. 15, Geo Group was served with the lawsuit, which listed several plaintiffs including Dominguez-Valivia’s mother, Juana Lopez. An attempt to reach Lopez’s attorney on Tuesday was not immediately successful. An email address provided on the Geo Group’s website for media inquiries could not receive emails. According to court records, the case is scheduled to be back in court March 27.


Dec 23, 2013 The Sun

Carlos Hidalgo planned to go Christmas tree shopping this past weekend with his two youngest children, Lovette, 16, and Andrew, 9. “This year, it will be Andrew’s turn to buy the tree,” Hidalgo said. Last week, Hidalgo, 46, was bracing himself for not being with his children this Christmas. Earlier last week he was allowed to post $10,000 bond and is now living with his parents in North Hollywood. For about eight months, Hidalgo was an inmate at the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detention facility in Adelanto. In late November, three female community college students were arrested at the Adelanto facility during a protest that focused on getting Hidalgo and two other inmates out of the privately run detention center and back with their families for the holidays. Neidi Dominguez, program manager at the California Youth Immigrant Justice Alliance, said the protest “was one of many things that led to a decision” by an immigration court judge to allow Hidalgo to post bail. “Everything played out the way it did because so many did something to help,” she said. The other two men that the protest sought to free remained in custody as the weekend commenced, authorities said. Hidalgo came to the United States from El Salvador with his parents at age 11, graduated from Bell Gardens High School in 1985, attended Cerritos College in Norwalk for a semester, got married and began working as a loan processor for a builder and later branched out to doing investigations for criminal and bankruptcy attorneys. He said his detention in Adelanto was the result of an arrest for cashing a check from someone who owed him money. As it turned out, he said, the check he attempted to cash was not from an account belonging to the man who gave it to him. Life in the Adelanto detention facility, run by the private company Geo Group for ICE, is fraught with disease, he said. “Many other prisoners have obvious illnesses including AIDS, rashes and funguses,” he said. But perhaps the biggest concern during detention — and one shared by other inmates — is the fear that he would be awakened in the middle of the night and sent back to El Salvador, he said. “This has been very hard on the kids,” who also feared that their father might suddenly be deported, he said. Hidalgo, who did volunteer work for other Adelanto detainees, said other prisoners were crying when he left the facility. “I see their families (in my mind). This has got to stop,” he said. “These are people trying to make a life be respected for the bread they earn... .America is so compassionate around the world. Why isn’t it that way here?


Nov 27, 2013 vvdailypress.com

ADELANTO • Three young women were arrested after they locked themselves to a chain-link fence surrounding the GEO Group Inc. Adelanto Detention Center during a demonstration on Monday. In May 2011, the GEO Group contracted with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through an intergovernmental service agreement with Adelanto to house federal immigration detainees. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Mitzie Perez, 22, of San Dimas, Silvia Dianey Murillo, 20, of Riverside and Lizeth Montiel, 20, of Upland on charges of trespassing and vandalism, sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said. All three women are part of the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition, according to Miller. An estimated 50 to 100 protesters gathered to bring attention to the conditions reported inside the facility including allegations of abuse of detainees, inadequate food and poor medical care, according to Fernando Romero, spokesman for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California. “We did this action three days before Thanksgiving on purpose,” Romero said. “The people inside the facility won’t be going home for the holidays to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with their families like you and I will.” The women attached themselves to the fence surrounding the detention facility using U-lock bicycle locks which they placed around their necks. “The fire department had to cut the fence to remove the women,” Miller said. “That’s where the vandalism charge came from.” No other demonstraters were arrested, Warden Neil Clark said. “We asked that they (Perez, Murillo and Montiel) be removed for trespassing,” Clark said. “Other than the three who chained themselves to the fence, it was a peaceful protest.” Approximately 25 law enforcement officers monitored the protest and informed the group, in both English and Spanish, that they were trespassing on private property and they needed to disperse. All of the demonstrators, with exception of the three women, complied, Miller said. Romero said Perez and Murillo are undocumented and knew the risk involved in Monday’s demonstration. “The women are sacrificing their bodies, their livelihood and exposing themselves to separation from their families to make a point,” Romero said. “We want to highlight the injustices ... there are a lot of people who don’t belong there,” Romero said. “There are other solutions to detention. We want to stop the unjust deportations.” Perez, Murillo and Montiel were booked at the West Valley Detention Center, Miller said.


November 26, 2011 The Daily Press
The state has canceled its contract with the privately operated Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, putting about 150 workers out of a job. Desert View's contract termination officially takes effect Wednesday, though prison employees told the Daily Press that The Geo Group Inc. has been preparing to deactivate the prison at Rancho and Aster roads since May. The 643-bed medium-security prison is shuttering its doors as part of California’s realignment plan, which responds to federal orders to reduce state prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for tens of thousands of low-level offenders to county governments. To help deal with the new influx of inmates under local supervision, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is encouraging counties to enter into their own contracts with more than a dozen former CCFs. The CCFs had generally housed inmates with sentences shorter than 18 months, parole violators and offenders with scheduled release dates — the same types of nonviolent, non-sexual or non-serious offenders now serving out sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. “We hope that counties contract with these facilities to save jobs and ease inmate housing concerns that many counties may have,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Toyama said. But San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials say they’re not planning to privatize jail beds. The math just doesn’t pencil out, according to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “The issue with taking advantage of private prisons or private jail facilities has come up over and over again throughout the years; however, it’s not something that the county is considering,” Bachman said. “It’s too costly and there’s just not the funding really even to consider something like that.” The California State Association of Counties has created a document outlining potential beds at the former CCFs, but counties statewide have been hesitant to exercise that option. The Geo Group had operated six of the nine privately run CCFs that lost their state contracts, according to CSAC. Five other CCFs were run by local governments. The facilities ranged from around 100 employees to more than 600, according to Toyama.

October 11, 2011 Daily Press
State water quality control officials unnerved city leaders in January by calling for a ban on new sewer connections in Adelanto in the name of protecting public health. State officials had accused the city of violating orders to bring its treatment plant into compliance, making unauthorized wastewater discharges and exceeding its storage pond capacity. In March and again in May, city officials managed to dodge the proposed ban — a move they say would've halted new development, including a new housing tract by D.R. Horton, a planned new prison facility by The Geo Group and an expansion to the county jail. To keep the ban at bay, city officials on Wednesday will try to convince the Lahontan Region's state water board they've made significant progress in cleaning up their wastewater act at a meeting in Victorville. They must prove the Adelanto Public Utilities Authority has sufficient disposal capacity to handle current and increased wastewater flows.

July 17, 2010 Daily Press
Some 100 city prison employees will be out of a job for at least the next several months, since the private operator that bought the city-owned prison for $28 million has yet to land a government contract. The employees of the Adelanto Community Correctional Facility were officially laid off June 4, but city officials agreed to pay them through Aug. 4, in hopes that private prison operator GEO Group, Inc. would land a state or federal contract and quickly rehire them. In mid-May the inmates at the 650-bed correctional facility were transferred out, with GEO Group planning to close it and complete renovations over the summer. Now it’s estimated the renovations will take four to six months, Adelanto City Manager Jim Hart said. It’s also unclear when the Florida-based operator will secure a contract for the prison, on Rancho Road west of Highway 395. “My entire intentions and efforts were to have it set up so that the employees would be able to transition from city employment to GEO employment,” Hart said. “Our hope that there wouldn’t be a gap between when they’re paid and when they get picked up, I think, is now dwindling because it doesn’t appear that GEO will have the renovations done in time to get opened.”

Allen Correctional Center, Kinder, Louisiana
February 9, 2011 The Advocate
The Jindal administration is asking companies to detail how much they would charge the state to care for inmates in Allen and Winn parishes if two state prisons are sold to ease budget problems. Responses to the Request For Information, or RFI, are due Friday as part of a possible move toward selling the correctional centers. Private companies oversee Winn Correctional Center in Atlanta, La., and Allen Correctional Center in Kinder. Winn is managed by Corrections Corporation of America while Global Expertise in Outsourcing, Inc. operates Allen. Selling the prisons is still just a possibility at this point. However, a sale would force the state to pay the new owners for the care of inmates at the medium security centers. Some elected officials are nervous about how much the state would end up paying. Michael DiResto, spokesman for the Division of Administration, said Wednesday that the RFI is “for planning and information gathering purposes.”

February 3, 2009 The Town Talk
The three men who escaped from the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder Jan. 26 have been charged with aggravated escape and are back in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Cecil Stratton, the last of the three men to be apprehended, went before a judge Tuesday morning for a brief court appearance before he was released back to the custody of Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The other two escapees – Troy Hargrave and Daniel Reeder – were both charged Friday with aggravated escape and turned over to state custody.

January 29, 2009 The Town Talk
Fatigue, cold and hunger led one of three Allen Parish prison escapees to turn himself in Wednesday, authorities said. Law enforcement officers have two of the three men, who escaped Monday from the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, in custody. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies say they are turning up the heat on the third escaped convict, who remains on the loose. "We are working around the clock to locate Cecil Stratton," Deputy U.S. Marshal Corey Britt said. "And anyone who assists Cecil will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." Stratton -- who was serving a 25-year sentence for convictions of simple escape, simple burglary, first-degree robbery, marijuana possession, felony theft and flight from an officer out of St. Mary Parish -- is the only escapee who has not been captured. Escapees Daniel Reeder and Troy Hargrave -- both serving sentences for manslaughter convictions -- are back in police custody.

January 27, 2009 The Advertiser
A prison guard has been booked with helping three dangerous inmates escape from the privately run state prison in Kinder, the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday. Detective Peggy Kennedy said Jesse Jordan, 19, of Glenmora was held without bond after being booked Monday night on three counts of assisting escape and one of malfeasance in office. He had worked there as a guard since May, Chief Deputy Grant Willis said. “It appears the motivation on his part was for monetary value,” Willis said. He said Jordan was cooperating with investigators. Jordan was employed by GEO — Global Expertise in Outsourcing Inc., the private company that runs the prison, Kennedy said. A call to the prison was not immediately returned. Daniel Reeder, 24, of Shreveport, Troy Hargrave, 32, of Crowley, and Cecil Stratton, 29, of Berwick were missing at the 6 a.m. head count, prison officials said. They described all three as dangerous and said Reeder and Hargrave were serving time for manslaughter. Three rows of razor wire on the ground in front of the fence had been cut through, but neither the fence nor the razor wire on top of it had been cut, Willis said. “We can’t say for certain that’s the way they got out, or whether it was a decoy,” he said.

January 27, 2009 The Town Talk
Three inmates -- two of whom were serving time for manslaughter -- escaped from a correctional center in Kinder sometime before 6 a.m. Monday, prison officials reported. Authorities from the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder said the three men should be considered dangerous. Officials are asking anyone with information or anyone who sees the escapees to contact their local authorities or call 911. The three men were discovered missing when the facility conducted its 6 a.m. count. The escapees were identified as: Daniel Reeder, a 24-year-old white man, 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 140 pounds with brown hair. He was serving a 30-year sentence for a manslaughter conviction in Caddo Parish. Troy Hargrave, a 32-year-old white man, 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 203 pounds with blond hair. He was serving a 40-year sentence for a manslaughter conviction in Calcasieu Parish. Cecil Stratton, a 29-year-old white man, 6 feet, 1 inch tall and 185 pounds with balding brown hair. He was serving a 25-year sentence for convictions of simple escape, simple burglary, first-degree robbery, marijuana possession, felony theft and flight from an officer out of St. Mary Parish. In addition to the three offenders, the facility is listing Sidonia Marie Stratton of Morgan City as a person of interest in the incident. She is the sister of Cecil Stratton and is thought to be driving a beige 1998 Mercury Sable with license plate OZK138. The dress code for offenders at Allen Correctional Center is navy blue scrubs with a white undershirt or blue jeans, a blue-jean button-up shirt or gray sweatshirt, but it is not confirmed what the men were wearing when they escaped. Security and K-9 teams from the correctional center are working with local law enforcement in Allen Parish and surrounding parishes to track down the three escaped inmates. The local community has been notified of the escape, as is standard in these situations, officials said. Allen Parish Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Grant Willis said the Sheriff's Office is assisting in the search efforts. According to a release from the facility, Hargrave may have family in the Jennings, Kinder and Lake Arthur areas. Jennifer Allemand, programs manager for the GEO Group facility, said the three men were state Department of Corrections inmates who were housed in the medium-custody private prison.

March 15, 2007 KPLC TV
It was between two and three in the afternoon Wednesday when Brian Scott escaped from the Allen Correctional Center by scaling the fence. Scott is convicted of felony theft and as a fugitive was considered dangerous. The prison is a medium security state facility but is operated by a private company, the Geo Group. Warden Terry Terrell says, with the help of numerous law enforcement agencies, procedures were put in effect to identify the missing inmate and get a manhunt underway to capture him. "I don't know that you could get out of a situation any better than what we did. The inmate was apprehended. Neither he nor anyone in law enforcement was injured so we are very thankful for that. " In such cases they notify those who live near the prison, that is if they've signed up to be notified when there's an escape. "About once a year and sometimes more frequently we put out flyers to all the local residents that we're aware of and ask them if they do wish to be contacted in a similar circumstance to simply fill out the form and name a number so we can put them on the calling list," says Terrell. But people who live near the prison such as in this area called Hickory Flat say they need to do a better job of alerting the public when an inmate escapes. Explains Virgil Richard, "We're taxpayers. Why can't they burn a little gas and let us know something. They were supposed to have had a horn, an alarm system and we don't have that." Neighbor Lloyd Miles agrees. "We've got some elderly people here and some handicapped people here by themselves and I'm mostly concerned about them. And we got kids."

October 23, 2002
Few concerned citizens ventured out to Alexandria City Hall Tuesday evening to speak out on the escape and fatal shooting of an HIV-positive state inmate. But those who attended were vocal in their questions and suggestions for the Department of Corrections and the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder. The committee did not make any recommendations concerning the escape or policies of the Department of Corrections or Wackenhut Corp., which owns Allen Correctional Center in Kinder. Cotton, 43, of Houma, escaped Aug. 21 from his room at the hospital. Thirty-eight hours later, he was shot while hiding underneath a home. Cotton snatched a .357-caliber handgun from the lone female guard assigned to him when she bent down to unshackle him so he could use the restroom, police said. (Daily Town Talk)

Alutiiq Security and Technology, Alaska
December 10, 2004 News & Observer
We commend your excellent Nov. 30 editorial and the fine investigative report on Nov. 28 on the award of no-bid deals to Alaska Native Corporations such as Alutiiq Security and Technology. We endorse your call for urgent scrutiny of this system and the back-door access it affords major defense contractors like Wackenhut Corp. to gain lucrative federal work by teaming with Alutiiq as a subcontractor. Your reporters quoted an Army spokesman who said that Alutiiq, with little experience in security, would have been unlikely to win the contract on its own. But it gets even worse: Wackenhut was a failed bidder in the second phase of contracts which were competitively awarded. Only in this perverse "system within a system" can two losers become a winner. If companies like Wackenhut can skirt competitive bidding processes, taxpayers can have little confidence that we are getting value for money -- in this case up to half a billion dollars Bill Ragen Deputy Director, Building Services Division, Service Employees International Union Washington.

Arizona Department of Corrections
Mar 29, 2014 azcentral.com

The Republican-crafted state budget now includes $900,000 in additional funding to pay for private prison beds operated by GEO Group Inc., even though the state Department of Corrections doesn't think the increase is needed. Private-prison lobbyists succeeded in getting state lawmakers to include nearly $1 million in extra funding in the state budget even though the Arizona Department of Corrections says the money isn't needed. The eleventh-hour funding was placed into the budget by House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who said GEO Group Inc. lobbyists informed him the company wasn't making enough money from the emergency beds it provides Arizona at prisons in Phoenix and Florence. The request came even though GEO bid for its contracts and had agreed to previously negotiated rates with the Corrections Department, which guarantees the company nearly 100 percent occupancy at its prisons. House Minority Leader Chad Campbell of Phoenix was incensed by the additional money for GEO. Related: Arizona sheriffs assail costs of private prisons Previously: Arizona faces growing cost of private prisons He voiced disappointment on the House floor late Thursday during the budget debate and again Friday, telling The Arizona Republic that the request "came out of nowhere." Some lawmakers, he said, learned of the addition to the House budget hours before members began voting on it. Campbell said Kavanagh is responsible for pushing the proposal through the House with support from all but one Republican: Rep. Ethan Orr of Tucson. "This is somebody getting a handout," Campbell said. "It's unnecessary. This came out of nowhere — I mean that. No one said a word about it. It wasn't in the Senate budget, it didn't come as a request from DOC. There's something really shady here." Doug Nick, a state Corrections spokesman, confirmed his agency did not seek additional money for GEO. "We did not request it," Nick said. "We had nothing to do with it." The state this fiscal year is projected to pay GEO $45 million to house minimum- and medium-security inmates in the company's 2,530 beds, according to Corrections records. Guaranteed rate: Arizona guarantees GEO an occupancy rate of 95 to 100 percent at those facilities. GEO, based in Boca Raton, Fla., posted $115 million in profits on $1.52 billion in revenue in 2013. The company, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is worth $2.3 billion, and it paid Chairman and Chief Executive George Zoley $4.62 million in total compensation last year. The additional money for GEO comes as lawmakers debate a $9.2 billion budget passed by the House late Thursday night. The $900,000 for GEO was one of many additions made to get the support of some holdout Republicans. Democratic lawmakers criticized the spending proposal, saying private prisons are being prioritized over education. Caroline Isaacs, a watchdog on prison spending and the program director for the American Friends Service Committee, called the additional funding "outrageous." "Why this corporation feels it's entitled to bypass the contract process with a state agency it is serving and go directly to the money man (Kavanagh) is incredible," Isaacs said. "This indicates a level of coziness that should make taxpayers nervous." Isaacs said lawmakers appear more concerned about padding GEO's bottom line instead of looking out for public education and abused children who have fallen through the cracks at Child Protective Services. Kavanagh said GEO had been giving the state a "cut rate" for emergency beds during the recession and, "now that the economy has come back, they want to get more money." He said if GEO didn't take the inmates, it would cost the state more to house them at overcrowded facilities. GEO, however, is not at full capacity, records show. The company as of Friday was housing 2,466 inmates in its 2,530 beds. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and sheriff's offices in Apache, Pinal, Cochise, Navajo and Santa Cruz counties have said they would be willing to take Department of Corrections inmates to ease the state's overcrowding burden and make some additional money. Beds available: The six sheriffs have said they could provide at least 1,750 beds. Kavanagh declined to identify the lobbyists who asked him for additional money for GEO. State lobbying records show that Pivotal Policy Consulting represents GEO. Neither Pivotal Policy Consulting nor GEO Group could be reached Friday. The state Senate will hold a hearing on the budget Monday. Senate Appropriations Chairman Don Shooter, R-Yuma, declined to speculate on whether the additional funding for GEO will remain. "We can't talk anything about the budget process,'' Shooter said. "It would be bad form."


Jan 2, 2014 azcentral.com

Facts, not philosophy, should be the foundation of state policy. Tell the Legislature. Tell Gov. Jan Brewer. After years of studies showed that private prisons cost more than state prisons, conservative supporters of privatization repealed a statutory requirement to compare costs. Convenient for those who like private prisons. Not helpful to those who want policy based on solid information. Arizona is putting increasing numbers of inmates into private prisons — even guaranteeing high occupancy rates at those private facilities. This represents the triumph of an ideological bent toward privatization. We don’t know whether it represents the taxpayers’ best interests. Arizona agreed to contracts that guarantee 90 to 100 percent occupancy to the three private-prison companies operating in the state, according to reporting by The Arizona Republic’s Craig Harris. These are Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group Inc. and Management & Training Corp. There is more to prison than costs and profit — or taxpayers’ deep pockets. Society locks up criminals to protect others, to punish wrongdoing and, if possible, to rehabilitate lawbreakers. Because most prisoners will return to our streets, the public is best served when those convicted of crimes emerge from the criminal-justice system able to abide by the law and function in society. A focus on filling prison beds discourages alternatives to prison that might be more cost-effective and more likely to reduce recidivism by achieving real rehabilitation. A bill passed in 2012 eliminated the statutory requirement for the Department of Corrections to do a cost comparison between public and private prisons. It was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, who has long been a supporter of private prisons. It also eliminated the previous statutory requirement for regular comparisons of the services provided by private and public prisons, including a hard look at such things as security, prisoner health and the safety of facilities. This is particularly odd when you consider how questionable security practices at a private Kingman prison became painfully obvious after the 2010 escape of three prisoners, two of whom killed an Oklahoma couple while on the lam. Statutes still require cost savings and equitable performance. But the comparisons are not the same. Surveys by Department of Corrections in 2008, 2009 and 2010 found that it was more expensive to incarcerate inmates in privately run medium-security prisons than it was in similar state facilities. These studies factored in the differences in inmate costs, including that private prisons house only healthy inmates, while state prisons incarcerate those with expensive medical or mental-health problems. A comparison in fiscal 2013 that did not adjust for these differences found a lower cost at private prisons. How convenient. It might make sense to reduce the state’s capital expenses by contracting with private prisons rather than building new facilities. But we need to consider all the facts when making that determination. What’s more, guaranteeing occupancy to private operators creates a profit motive for locking people up that should be unsettling to all who treasure civil liberties. Arizona needs to take a harder look at whether private prisons make sense.


March 25, 2013 azcapitoltimes.com

A trial is set for next month in a sexual harassment lawsuit pitting the state against one of its private prison contractors in a battle that promises to shine a harsh light on private prisons and the Arizona Department of Corrections. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division alleges that male workers with GEO Group, which operates three prisons for the state, sexually harassed female co-workers for several years while supervisors and managers for the company looked the other way. Although the state is the plaintiff in the case, the lawsuit has uncovered information that a civil rights attorney, a lawmaker and critics of the Department of Corrections say is damning to the Department of Corrections. The allegations in the lawsuit took place before Charles Ryan became director of DOC, but the critics say problems have continued under his leadership. “It’s not just private prisons,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, a steadfast opponent of private prisons. “There’s blatant mismanagement in our public prisons, too.” Campbell said he is working with community groups to call for Ryan’s firing as high-profile problems mount. In recent weeks, Ryan disclosed that employees are arrested at a rate of 11 per month, mostly for drunken driving and domestic violence. A federal judge gave class status to 33,000 prisoners and all future prisoners in a lawsuit alleging substandard health care. And a local television station aired video of inmate Tony Lester’s suicide in which correctional officers stood around the bleeding man without providing emergency care.

After Ryan took over in 2009, the agency was rocked when a July 30, 2010, escape from a Kingman private prison led to the deaths of an Oklahoma couple. The company that won the $349 million contract to provide health care for prisoners parted ways with the state after just 6 months. Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman, Matt Benson, said she still stands behind Ryan. “He performs a very difficult job under difficult circumstances,” Benson said. Prisoner advocate Donna Hamm, of Middle Ground Prison Reform, also defended Ryan, saying Arizona’s prison system has been dysfunctional for the 30 years she has been an advocate and Ryan is more responsive to problems than the other five directors over that time. “He does not ignore or make excuses,” Hamm said. Bill Lamoreaux, a department spokesman, said Ryan was out of town and unavailable for comment. Lamoreaux also said the department has been advised by lawyers not to discuss pending litigation. History of mistreatment: Court documents in the GEO suit paint a picture of female correctional officers having to deal with raunchy statements directed at them and fondling by their male co-workers. Attorney Stephen Montoya, whose client, Alice Hancock, is a former GEO correctional officer and an intervener in the case, said the sexual harassment at GEO is an extension of the DOC culture. In February 2012, DOC agreed to pay a former female officer $182,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. Montoya has won jury awards of $200,000 and $600,000 for women who used to work for DOC, and he said many of the correctional officers with GEO worked previously for the department. The $600,000 award was reduced to $300,000 due to limitations on compensatory damages. In one of the cases, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Martone said DOC was reckless in its management by “allowing bestial people to run unsupervised throughout the process and employing ineffective and incompetent supervisory staff that knew about things and failed to do anything about it in a timely way.” Lamoreaux pointed out, however, that the allegations in the GEO suit and the actions against DOC occurred before Ryan took over as an appointee of Brewer in January 2009. Dora Schriro, appointed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, was in charge. Part of the DOJ settlement required DOC to improve its sexual harassment policies, and Ryan has said in written statements that the bad behavior wouldn’t be tolerated under his watch. Hamm said the recent problems plaguing DOC have existed under every administration she has seen in 30 years, but they are just getting more exposure today. “Those problems are not unique to Charles Ryan’s administration,” Hamm said. However, Montoya said Ryan tolerates women being “treated like trash,” and he points to the promotion of Carson McWilliams as proof. McWilliams was the warden of the prison where Montoya’s client, Michelle Barfield, was sexually harassed. Ryan promoted McWilliams in April 2011 to be the department’s Northern Regional operations director a little more than a year after the $600,000 verdict. “In the government workplace, if there is pervasive illegality, it’s because it is tolerated from the top to the bottom,” Montoya said. A pattern of problems: The lawsuit is a compilation of suits filed by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Montoya, and when the witnesses begin taking the stand on April 9, their testimony is sure to become fodder for opponents of private prisons. Probably the harshest critic of private prisons is the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that generally advocates for the rights of prisoners. Caroline Isaacs, Friends’ executive director in Arizona, said the lawsuit is one more damning piece of information that confirms there is a consistent pattern of problems with private prisons. Isaacs has spent thousands of hours documenting misconduct in private prisons. “These problems are found in all for-profit prisons, and you simply can’t dismiss them as ‘bad apples,’” Isaacs said. The lawsuit alleges that male workers regularly grabbed their female co-workers’ genitals and breasts and made obscene gestures toward them. The suit says that in some instances, males exposed themselves to the women. Montoya said the prisoners showed more respect to the women than the male officers did. GEO is trying to keep out of the trial evidence that one of the most prolific alleged perpetrators was fired twice by other private prisons, once while he was being investigated for sexual harassment before GEO hired him in 2007. Sherri Haahr, a GEO human resources official, testified in deposition that the company didn’t know about Robert Kroen’s background because the contract with DOC doesn’t require employment reference checks. Haahr testified that DOC does criminal background checks itself and approves anyone who is hired by GEO. GEO lawyers argue that Kroen’s employment history isn’t relevant because the decision to hire him was DOC’s. Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman, declined comment. “We cannot comment on litigation related matters. We can however confirm that our company vigorously disagrees with these allegations and intends to defend its position,” Paez said. And while DOC has onsite monitors at its private prisons, their job is to make sure the company maintains appropriate staffing levels of “qualified personnel” required by contract, Lamoreaux said. He said the contractors are responsible for their own human resource systems. Campbell, the state representative who regularly introduces legislation to regulate private prisons more, said he isn’t surprised there are no routine reference checks in hiring. “At the end of the day, the buck stops at DOC,” Campbell said.

May 2, 2004
Groups of Arizona prisoners transferred to a Texas private prison staged fights and hunger strikes to either improve conditions or earn transfers back to Arizona.  The incident report from Wackenhut Corp.'s Pecos, Texas, prison officials recommends eight inmates be sent back to Arizona because they are security problems.  The report details a fight between two groups of prisoners, with at least 14 taking part in the late-night April 10 fight. The subsequent investigation showed that some inmates from each group were conspiring to get back to Arizona.  The decision last year by the Arizona Legislature to ship about 2,000 inmates to out-of-state prisons angered some inmate family members, mainly because contact with inmates will be limited by the financial ability to travel to either Texas or another prison in Oklahoma.  (Arizona Daily Star)

Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, Arthur Gorrie, Queensland
November 24, 2013 heraldsun.com.au

YEARS in US and Thai jails, a book published about his drug smuggling exploits - resumes don't come much more colourful than Phil Sparrowhawk's. Yet when he applied for a job at Brisbane's Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, nobody bothered to ask about his dark international past. Sparrowhawk, who managed to humiliate prison authorities by working undetected under their noses for three years, revealed yesterday just how easily he pulled off the extraordinary security breach. And in another damning twist, The Sunday Mail can reveal the prison management's claim on Friday that Sparrowhawk worked only as an administration clerk and had no prisoner contact was wrong. Yesterday the red-faced jail was forced to admit Sparrowhawk interviewed incoming prisoners daily and held roles which allowed him to access all prisoners' files and records. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail, Philip Sparrowhawk has revealed how he even worked with prisoners as a corrective services officer inside the jail. Sparrowhawk, the subject of a Random House book, Grass, about his former international drug smuggling lifestyle, says nobody at the jail ever asked him any questions about his past. Although prison managers GEO on Friday claimed Sparrowhawk only worked as an administration clerk, with no prisoner contact, it has now confirmed he had daily contact with prisoners. GEO spokesman Ken Davis said yesterday Sparrowhawk was an administration clerk, but also worked in sentence management administration and as a prisoner classification specialist. The jobs allowed him access to all prisoners' files and computer records and he interviewed incoming prisoners. Mr Davis said once the prison became aware of internet stories about him being a drug smuggler and ex-prisoner, checks revealed no evidence he was involved with drugs in jail. "I do deny I was a drug smuggler. I was never convicted of anything,'' Sparrowhawk says. "If you are asked have you ever killed anybody you don't say 'yes I have', you say 'I've never been convicted of it'.'' Sparrowhawk, who worked in Arthur Gorrie from March, 2010, was suspended in September and sacked three weeks ago, says he had nothing to do with drugs inside the jail. When asked why he wanted to work in a Queensland jail after having been in overseas prisons he says he just wanted a job and he loved the work. "I never abused my position at GEO," he said. "I took every available course and test available … and passed all requirements'' Sparrowhawk says he was arrested in Thailand, held in jails there and then extradited to the US where he was charged with racketeering as part of a criminal organisation. After five years of being moved between more than 40 jails, he says the charge was dropped. Sparrowhawk claims there are "a lot of people working at Arthur Gorrie who are involved with a criminal organisation''. Speaking about how he got his prison job so easily he said: "You fill out an application form and I answered it truthfully''. Sparrowhawk is cagey when questioned about the book, which claims he was a large-scale cannabis dealer from Thailand who was targeted by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. He says the book, which has his name on the cover, was written by others and any money he received he donated to charity. Former UK drug lord and convicted racketeer Howard Marks, known as Mr Nice, who is a friend of Sparrowhawk, referred to him on the book cover as "Mr Big''. Sparrowhawk hints at having been involved with British secret intelligence service MI6, as does Marks. When asked about it he says: "I've worked for a lot of people and I've signed a lot of these official secret acts for a lot of different countries.'' Sparrowhawk says he has left Australia and is about to take up a consultancy for a security agency in Vienna.

March 11, 2010 ABC
Queensland's Indigenous community will march on State Parliament today, enraged over the circumstances surrounding a recent death in custody. An 18-year-old prisoner died late last month and there are claims Brisbane jail staff denied him adequate medical treatment even though he was too sick to walk. Today's march coincides with the reopened inquest into the controversial Palm Island death in custody. Prison chaplain Reverend Alex Gator says inmates at the Arthur Gorrie correctional centre called her with news of the latest tragedy last month. "This young youth, only 18 years of age, he had spent five weeks on remand and then the five weeks he was at Arthur Gorrie he became ill, so he was ill for six days," she said. "The first time he'd gone to the medical centre he was given Panadol, other times he'd gone he was told that there was nothing wrong with him. So he was repeatedly denied medical assistance. "Towards the end the boys had to carry him, the Murri boys in his unit had to carry him, because he could hardly walk. "They nearly caused a riot, the Murri boys. They yelled out to the officer, 'get him to the hospital' because something was wrong with him. "And one officer made the comment, 'Well if he can go to the toilet, there's nothing wrong with him'." Reverend Gator says the teenager was ultimately rushed to hospital and put on life support. But he died a few days later on February 20. "I conducted a memorial service. The boys said they only saw him a couple of weeks ago talking, laughing, joking and next thing they hear this young man is dead," she said. Reverend Gator says the teenager should never have been put in jail because he had a serious pre-existing medical condition. "That is the question we're asking - why? Why was he in prison, not in hospital? I mean he wasn't a terrorist, a paedophile, rapist or a murderer," she said. "He was in there for a misdemeanour. And as far as I'm concerned, it's just racial discrimination towards Aboriginal people. This is about racial hatred attitudes towards Aboriginal people. "They're deliberately turned away and told there's nothing wrong with them. And Corrective Services have failed in their duty of care to provide a service to this young man." 'Could have been avoided' -- Brisbane Indigenous community leader Sam Watson says news of the death in custody has spread like wildfire. "We are very concerned about this because this appears to be yet another Aboriginal death in custody that could have been avoided, that should have been avoided," he said. Queensland Corrective Services has issued a written statement saying "there are no suspicious causes" in the teenager's death. The statement adds that all deaths in custody are referred to the coroner and to the chief inspector of prisons for investigation. But Mr Watson says the Indigenous community is calling on the Queensland Government to instigate a full coronial inquest. "There have to be a lot of questions answered. We want to get to the bottom of this and we want to do it very, very quickly," he said.

June 1, 2008 Courier Mail
A CAREER criminal on remand for assault was accidentally released from a privately run Brisbane jail last week. Three prison staff have been suspended over the security bungle at the Arthur Gorrie correctional centre at Wacol in Brisbane's west. Prison sources said the breach occurred when staff were processing the inmate for release into police custody. Police had been granted a court order to remove the inmate on Tuesday in relation to a break-and-enter investigation. However, prison staff discharged the inmate for release and gave him his property. Police arrived to collect him from a high-security area at the rear of the jail, which is used for transferring inmates, but they were directed to the reception area. Queensland Corrective Services denied the man was wrongfully discharged, saying the jail's operator, the GEO Group Australia, had reported there had been a "breach of internal security procedures". She said at no time was the inmate, who has since been returned to the jail, not in prison or police custody. She confirmed jail management suspended three staff as a result of an internal report on the incident and an investigation was under way. State Opposition prisons spokesman Vaughan Johnson demanded a full investigation into the incident, saying the jail had mismanaged the custodial process.

January 19, 2008 ABC
Prison guards who walked off the job at Queensland's biggest remand centre yesterday are now back at work. Brisbane's Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre had been locked down since Friday afternoon, with only a skeleton management team running the centre and police patrolling the perimetre. The guards began their strike after being ordered to stop handcuffing prisonners with their hands behind their backs. The remand facility operators, Geo, had requested a hearing before the Industrial Relations Commission this morning, but Geo spokesman Pierre Langford says Geo and the Miscellaneous Workers Union representing the guards will instead continue their talks on Monday. "I suppose I would like to say on behalf of Geo Group Australia that we appreciate the assistance that the commission has provided us with today," he said. "At this point in time the parties have agreed to get back together early next week, to have further discussions and our employees have returned to work today, so we're pleased with that."

October 25, 2006 Townsville Bulletin
A TENDER for the state's two privately-run prisons is not a criticism of the current operators, the Queensland Government said today. Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence said new tenders to run Borallon and Arthur Gorrie correctional centres, valued at a total of $200 million, would ensure taxpayers got value for money. "It is not about the performance of the current operators,'' Ms Spence said. The Arthur Gorrie jail has been under fire in recent years over a number of deaths in custody, security failures and assaults on prisoners by staff. Borallon made headlines four years ago when a report showed it had the highest rate of illicit drug use in the state, with almost one in three prisoners using drugs. Four companies will be invited to tender: GEO Group Australia Pty Ltd, GSL Australia Pty Ltd, Management and Training Corporation Pty Ltd and Serco Australia Pty Ltd. GEO currently operates Arthur Gorrie, and Management and Training Corporation operates Borallon. Ms Spence said the contracts would be for five years, with an option for Queensland Corrective Services to extend them for a further five years. The tenders will be evaluated in the first half of next year with new contracts to start on January 1, 2008. An independent probity auditor has been contracted to oversee the entire project.

November 30, 2005 Australian
THE bonus and penalty system on which private prisons in Australia are run has been accused of encouraging operators to cover up riots and drug abuse by prisoners. Queensland Prison Officers Association secretary Brian Newman yesterday accused private prison operators of covering up incidents in their facilities that could threaten performance bonuses worth up to $500,000 a year. "Nine years ago I worked at Arthur Gorrie (Correctional Centre at Wacol, west of Brisbane) and I would make drug finds but the drugs would be flushed down the toilet in front of me by senior officials," Mr Newman said. "You were powerless to do anything about it. "Anecdotal evidence given to me is that it still goes on today. There is no incentive for privately run prisons to report incidents." The management contract of Arthur Gorrie operator, the GEO Group, formerly known as Australasian Correctional Management, with the Queensland Government provides a $500,000 performance bonus to prevent crime, drug abuse and riots. The Arthur Gorrie contract, a copy of which has been obtained by The Australian, says the $500,000 bonus will be reduced by $100,000 for each escape, "loss of control (riot)" or death in custody. Penalties of $25,000 are also imposed for a string of problems such as discharging a prisoner in error, assaults by prisoners resulting in injury or a case of self-harm or attempted suicide. Other incidents that incur the $25,000 penalty include serious industrial injuries, deliberately lit fires, major security breaches such as attempted escapes or hostage-taking and loss of high-risk restricted articles. If random urine tests disclose that drug use in the prison is higher than 9 per cent and does not reduce towards the target of 4per cent, the penalty applicable is also $25,000. The bonuses and penalty provisions are the same for the contracts the GEO Group, the Australian subsidiary of the Miami-based Wackenhut, has with the Victorian and NSW governments to run the Melbourne Custody Centre and the Fulham and Junee prisons. Mr Newman said his association had asked the Queensland Government to conduct an inquiry into allegations by staff at Arthur Gorrie that "incidents" had been covered up "to avoid financial penalty to breach of contract". GEO Group is paid almost $800 a week for each of the 710 prisoners housed at Arthur Gorrie. A spokesman for Queensland Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence yesterday confirmed that contracts for privately run prisons did provide for performance bonuses. "However, we are not able to confirm amounts or any details on payments or deductions regarding the bonuses as these matters are commercial in confidence," he said. Col Kelaher, GEO Group executive manager of operations, said he could not comment on the contract with the Government.

January 26, 2005 South-West News
WORKERS at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol staged a strike from noon Friday to 5pm on Saturday over a wages and conditions dispute. The Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union accused correctional centre owners GEO Group of not meeting its obligations under the Queensland Industrial Relations Act. Union prisons organiser David Pullen said the centre's 700 prisoners were locked down in cells during the strike. GEO group managing director Pieter Bezuidenhout said the action ended after an IRC officer recommended a return to work.

December 24, 2004 Courier Mail
QUEENSLAND'S prisons are overcrowded and urgently require more funding to stop the growing number of inmate deaths, a report by a state coroner has found.
The findings came at the end of an inquiry into the suicide of prisoner William Mark Bailey in November 2002 at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Deputy state coroner Christine Clements found no one else was responsible for Bailey's death and recommended no further action. Arthur Gorrie, a remand and reception centre that temporarily holds prisoners awaiting court hearings, can hold up to 800 people. It is managed by GEO Group Australia but owned by the Queensland Corrective Services department. "Evidence was given that there are 250 cells at Arthur Gorrie but at the time of the inquest there were 750 prisoners being held at the facility," Ms Clements said.

Auckland Central Remand Prison
September 28, 2009 NZCity
Further doubt is being cast on the claimed efficiency of privately run prisons. The Green Party's pointing to evidence presented during Selected Committee hearings on private prisons legislation about the historical cost of the Auckland Remand Prison when it was in private hands. The Greens say it shows the cost per prisoner was over $57 thousand a year compared to around $50 thousand in the public system. The party says it proves there can be no justification for claims private prisons are cheaper than public ones. Meanwhile, special monitors are being proposed as part of the oversight for privately run prisons. Parliament's Law and Order Select Committee has reported back on the private prisons bill and is recommending additional checks and balances be put in place. It advises special monitors employed by the Department of Corrections be given free and unfettered access to the facilities to ensure proper standards are met. The Committee also recommends all private prison operators be required to comply with instructions from the Chief Executive of the Corrections Department.

July 31, 2009 Radio New Zealand
ACT MP David Garrett says he does not believe he intimidated two submitters to Parliament's law and order select committee, as alleged by the Labour Party. Labour Party MP Clayton Cosgrove believes Mr Garrett breached parliamentary privilege when he told two prison guards their submission would stop them from getting a job in a privately run prison. He says Mr Garrett's behaviour was shameful, and brought the select committee process into disrepute. Mr Cosgrove says the guards had experience working under private prison management and were providing expert opinions. Corrections Minister Judith Collins has also weighed in, saying the comments were totally inappropriate. But Mr Garrett says it was never his intention to intimidate, and he is looking forward to responding to Labour's complaint. Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith will decide whether to refer the matter to Parliament's privileges committee.

July 29, 2009 3 News
An MP from government confidence and supply party ACT today told prison officers who spoke out against private prisons that they had hurt their future job prospects. David Garrett's remark came hot on the heals of accusations yesterday that the Government attempted to intimidate and silence people. Those claims were sparked by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett releasing benefit details of two women who criticised a government decision to cut a training allowance. Today a group of prison officers, representing 30 officers who had previously worked for a privately run prison, made a submission to Parliament's law and order select committee which is considering legislation to enable private operators to run prisons. After Bart Birch, Uaea Leavasa and Satish Prasad criticised how Auckland Central Remand Prison was run under private contractor GEO Ltd between 2000 and 2005, Mr Garrett weighed in. "You say that you don't want to go back to working in this environment - to the private (sector). You'd be aware that given your submission here, you wouldn't get offered a job anyway, would you?" Other MPs on the committee were visibly disturbed by the remark and National's Shane Ardern was quick to reassure the men they should feel free to speak their minds before a committee of Parliament. "Can I say from my own party you can sit here without fear or favour," he said. Acting chairman on the committee Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove added his support for Mr Ardern's remark. Corrections Association of New Zealand president Beven Hanlon told NZPA he thought the remark out of line. The union already had concerns about Mr Garrett's involvement in the Sensible Sentencing Trust which advocates for tougher and longer sentencing. "All the things that private prisons advocate for," he said. "For him to then threaten staff over (their) future employment is a great concern." Mr Cosgrove described the comment as "Bennett mark two". "(People) should be able to come to a select committee without fear or favour to give their view." Mr Garrett's tone had been badgering and he carried that style on when other submitters made presentations, Mr Cosgrove said. "I think he needs to learn that we live in a democracy and in a democracy ... you're allowed to have a view and we should (give) people the respect of actually listening. "But he's behaving like a bully and I guess it is Paula Bennett mark two." Mr Garrett stood by his comment when questioned by media. "They were quite clearly extremely negative about the private prison managing company. It would seem to be most unlikely they would get a job with that company." He agreed the select committee process should be open and MPs should not stymie free exchange but did not think he had affected that. "They have the right to say whatever they like ... I didn't see I was stymying free debate at all." Asked why he felt compelled to talk about the officers' job prospects rather than ask questions about the bill, Mr Garrett said their motives were relevant and he had no regrets. "It was certainly no attempt to stifle the debate." Mr Garrett walked away when NZPA asked him to comment on the union view it was a threatening remark. In their submission, the officers said they had worked both for GEO and the Corrections Department. Under private management the focus was on protecting the company's reputation. They said under GEO staff were told to resign rather than have negligence revealed, an incident where a woman allegedly helped a relative escape was not investigated, and systems were not robust in areas like drug control and suicide. Another complaint was that GEO paid less for local workers and used contractors from Australia to fill gaps who were on salaries as much as $30,000 higher. Those contractors appeared unaware of cultural issues for Maori and Pacific inmates. Other casual workers were used and had lower levels of training and experience than full time staff who were not familiar with the prison, which raised risk levels.

July 1, 2009 The National Business Review
The State should be responsible for prisoners not private companies, the Human Rights Commission said today. Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan appeared before Parliament's law and order select committee which is considering the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons Amendment) Bill. Senior managers from private prison company GEO Group were present and heard groups condemn their business. The firm ran Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) for five years until Labour won the 1999 election and refused to renew its contract. Ms Noonan said protecting the rights of detainees was a key function of government and should not be contracted out. "The management of prisons involves the exercise of some of the state's most coercive powers against individuals," the commission's submission said. "There should be direct accountability for the exercise of such powers. A government department directly accountable to a minister provides the clearest accountability." If the bill was to go ahead the commission wanted its monitoring measures beefed up. Recommendations included protecting staff from being sacked if they gave information to monitors and permitting prisoners to complain directly to monitors. Also prisons should be required to comply with international conventions around torture. Ms Noonan said early intervention would make the biggest difference. She called for willingness across parties not to make political capital out of the issue. Catholic organisation Caritas was concerned problems in the United States' private prisons -- such as beatings, rapes, suicides and other deaths in custody -- would be repeated here. It noted that in the US the same people running private prisons were also involved in lobbying government for longer sentences. GEO Group Australia managing director Pieter Bezuidenhout said his company had managed prisons in Australia for 17 years, operating in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

July 19, 2006 NewstalkZB
The Government has no plans to privatise prisons. United Future leader Peter Dunne has asked about the Government's plans for prisons following a Treasury report revealing each inmate costs $77,000 a year to be cared for. The report recommends competition for prison services be introduced. Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor is ruling out privatisation. He says it is $10,000 a year cheaper to keep inmates in public prisons than the private Auckland Central Remand Prison.

July 19, 2005 Stuff
An inmate in Auckland's former private prison who stowed away in a shipping container to depart New Zealand should be sent back here to face rape charges, says a Fiji court.  The Suva Magistrate's Court recommended that Shumendra Nilesh Chandra, 30, a computer operator, of Auckland be sent back to New Zealand.   Australasian Correctional Management, which managed Auckland Central Remand Prison until its contract expired recently, had to pay the Government $50,000 for the escape, under the terms of its contract.  The company said at the time that its investigation into how Chandra allegedly slipped his handcuffs and fled guards was unable to find out how he did it.

July 13, 2005 Scoop
The return today of New Zealand's only privately run prison to public sector management is an opportunity for the Corrections Department to prove it can deliver a first-class service, Green Party Justice Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says. The Department took over management of Auckland Central Remand Prison from the GEO Group at midnight last night. "The Green Party welcomes the handover today of the management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison to the public sector," Nandor says. "I call on new Corrections Department CEO Barry Matthews to use this as an opportunity to deliver best prison practice. There is no reason why the public sector can't provide a better service than the private and now is the time for Mr Matthews to demonstrate this. "International experience shows widespread abuse and poor conditions in many privately run prisons. ACRP was clearly a loss leader designed to be a foot in the door for the private prison conglomerates. It is extremely unlikely that any further private prisons here would all be run as well as ACRP was by Mr Karauria and his team.
"But the principle issue is that prisons must be run by the public sector. As one of the most tangible manifestations of state power, they must be fully accountable to the people of New Zealand. A profit-driven service is ultimately only accountable to its overseas shareholders.  "There have been some clear cases of this lack of accountability in Australia. For example ACM, the predecessor to Geo, placed a contractual obligation upon some of their staff to not provide information to the judiciary, which would have the effect of inhibiting the investigation of abuse and mismanagement. "It must also be remembered that private prisons can have a corrupting influence on the political system, in that they create a profit motive to the lobby for longer custodial sentences. "The Green Party have taken a number of steps to increase accountability in the public sector through changes to the Corrections Act and a written commitment to the establishment of an independent prison inspectorate from the Labour-led Government," Nandor says.

July 13, 2005 Scoop
The Public Service Association (PSA) is welcoming the return of the Auckland Central Remand Prison to the public prisons service. The Public Service Association (PSA) is New Zealand’s largest state sector union, and has a growing membership at the Department of Corrections. The contract between the Department and Australasian Correctional Management Limited to run the remand prison expired overnight. It will now be run by the Department of Corrections. PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott said workers employed by the private prison operator had, in effect, made the operation profitable since they were employed on poorer terms and conditions than the rest of the nation’s prison staff. “Imprisoning people for the crimes they have committed is a core role of the state and it should never be hived off to a private operator for profit. “The ACRP experiment proved that the exercise was a simple cost-cutting exercise of the type imposed across the public sector during the 1990s. “It employed fewer officers per inmate and paid them less than staff employed by Corrections at all the other prisons across the country. “At a time when Corrections is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain quality staff it beggars belief that National would advocate greater use of private prison contracts. More private prisons would inevitably drag down pay and conditions for all prison staff and make recruitment even harder.
“National’s advocacy of tougher, longer sentences for a wider range of offences means it must be planning to employ many more prison staff. We have to ask who they think is going to staff them?,” Brenda Pilott said.

July 13, 2005 New Zealand Herald
Prisons run by private companies are not an option, Corrections Minister Paul Swain says.  Opposition parties have said that ending private participation in the prison system is a triumph of ideology over commonsense, but Mr Swain said the simple issue was that private companies should not make profits out of prisoners. However, Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) was well managed before it was handed back to the state today. "In the end, we have a public prison service, a public police force, a public courts system," he said on National Radio. "This is a role the Government or the public should be involved in, not the private sector."

July 12, 2005 Scoop
The GEO Group, holders of the private management contract for the Auckland Central Remand Prison, said today that although they were extremely disappointed that the contract had come to a close they would like to thank all of those people who have supported them during their time in New Zealand.  The contract ends at midnight on July 12.

Ault Correctional Facility, Ault, Colorado
May 9, 2007 Greeley Tribune
Plans for a private prison in Ault came to a halt recently when Colorado Department of Corrections rescinded its offer to GEO Group. Ault Mayor Brad Bayne said board members haven't discussed the prison for months. "Until there was some sort of guarantee, we'd just rather not talk about it," he said. "There is probably some disappointment from me and a few board members who believe we still could have made it work for the town." Talk of the 1,500-bed medium-security prison proposed last spring has bought some uproar in the town of fewer than 1,500 residents. Some said a prison coming to town would boost the town's economy, but others said it would be too dangerous because of its proximity to the town. The plan was to build on 40 acres in the southeast part of town. Last spring, the GEO Group entered into a tentative agreement with the town -- which approved the prison in concept only -- so it could secure state approval to build there. Months later, the town board passed an ordinance requiring resident approval before any prison could be built. Town officials haven't heard from a GEO Group representative since September, when GEO hosted a public forum answering questions from residents, he said. But DOC Executive Director Ari Zavaras put a stop to all discussions with the private prison contractor. He sent a letter April 24 to representatives of GEO Group, stating they would no longer discuss the plans for the Ault prison or GEO's request for a guaranteed bed count. "We had continued to have a very open and productive conversations with GEO," said Allison Morgan, spokesperson for the DOC. "But we did not agree with a bed guarantee." GEO requested a guarantee on the number of beds that would be filled by prisoners at any given time, since the state pays private prison contractors a daily rate per inmate. Phillip Tidwell, a member of the Citizens Against Ault Prison, said the decision to rescind the DOC offer to GEO Group made him happy. "We're definitely feeling this is a responsible act from both parties," Tidwell said. "The contract should have never been fulfilled by the state because of GEO making the specifications with the state for a guaranteed bed count." In the letter to rescind, Zavaras stated that in June 2006, the DOC offered a contract with GEO Group with the exception to GEO's request for a bed guarantee. On July 7, the DOC asked for GEO group to sign and complete the proposed implementation agreement. After a few meetings, GEO Group still requested a bed guarantee, which the DOC could not grant. The two entities have gone back and forth on the bed guarantee issue since August. According to the letter, Zavaras gave GEO a new deadline of April 2 to sign the Implementation Agreement or provide a reason for not signing in writing to the DOC no later than that date. "It was apparent the Department and GEO could not come to an agreement," Morgan said.

April 18, 2007 Colorado For Ethics
The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) responded to a March 5, 2007, open records request by Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG) that sought documents relating to a private prison contract awarded by CDOC to The GEO Group, Inc. The documents obtained by CCEG confirm that former Director of Prisons Nolin Renfrow began working for The GEO Group while still on state payroll, a blatant conflict of interest. In an email to Brian Burnett, the deputy executive director of CDOC, Dave Schouweiler, DOC Manager of Purchasing, stated that Renfrow was on state payroll until January 31, 2006 and acknowledged the “impropriety of Mr. Renfrow’s involvement with the originating procurement.” The CORA request and responsive documents are available on CCEG’s website at www.coloradoforethics.org. CCEG is posting these records as part of its commitment to holding the government responsible for its actions.

March 6, 2007 Greeley Tribune
Saying GEO Group Inc. can't be trusted, a Pueblo lawmaker asked state officials Monday to rescind a contract with the company to build a private prison in Ault. Plans for the prison, which would house 1,500 inmates and would be built east of the railroad tracks along U.S. 85, has stalled on two fronts. Ault leaders decided they would not approve the facility until the public voted on it, and GEO wants to change its contract to ensure payment for its beds. Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, a vocal critic of private prisons, said Monday that the proposed change and other issues regarding GEO's integrity should negate the Ault contract. “Anybody living in Ault should be concerned that a company that would bid this way on a contract might have a business in their town," she said. Philip Tidwell, spokesman for the town group Coalition Against Ault Prison, said residents hope no one else bids on the Ault prison if GEO's contract is rescinded. "We just do not want any private prison, whether it be GEO or Cornell or anyone else," he said. A spokesman for GEO did not return calls seeking comment. McFadyen said the company is attempting to do the same things in Ault that derailed plans for a GEO facility in Pueblo. In 2003, GEO won a contract for a 1,100-bed, pre-parole and parole revocation facility in Pueblo, and after almost four years of delays, the state pulled the contract last fall. The company never broke ground on the facility. "The state of Colorado was held hostage for four years waiting for those beds," McFadyen said. The delays included zoning issues in Pueblo and GEO's attempt to obtain guaranteed payments on 90 percent of its beds, regardless of whether the beds were occupied. That is something state leaders have opposed and which may even be impossible because of state laws, McFadyen said. Now, GEO is trying for guaranteed bed payments in Ault, she said. "You have to question the integrity of the 2006 bid," she said. "If past performance is an indicator, I suspect we will be in the same place we were in 2003 in Pueblo." McFadyen said Ari Zavaras, the new director of the Department of Corrections, told her he is opposed to bed guarantees. Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan told the Associated Press that Zavaras will review McFadyen's request and decide how to respond. The story of Ault's possible prison goes back to late 2005, when Nolin Renfrow, former director of prisons for the Department of Corrections, started working with GEO on a bid for a private prison. Renfrow is under investigation for using state sick leave to obtain the Ault contract on behalf of GEO. On Monday, Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government, a watchdog group, filed an open records request about the Ault bid. "We do not feel that the public's interest was put forth in the procurement of this contract," said Chantelle Taylor, spokeswoman for the watchdog group. A state audit found Renfrow's business activities "arguably present a conflict of interest and result in a breach of ... the public trust." That breach, coupled with GEO's attempt to change its Pueblo contract by adding the bed-payment guarantee, should have prevented the company from getting the Ault bid in the first place, McFadyen said. Tidwell agreed. "One thing the state should recognize is (GEO) did not operate fairly," he said. "They hired an insider knowing he worked for the state. In my mind, GEO has shown itself to be not a company that operates fairly in the state of Colorado.

March 5, 2007 Rocky Mountain News
Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, and two reform groups today formally requested the director of the Department of Corrections and the governor rescind Geo Group’s bid to build a private prison in Ault. The reasons cited included the company’s performance on a 2003 bid to build a private prison in Pueblo. McFadyen said GEO Group lost its contract to build the Pueblo facility because it delayed the start of construction, then tried to renegotiate its contract to get a guarantee that it would be paid for 90 percent occupancy, even if beds were not filled. "Basically, the state of Colorado was held hostage for four years. They didn’t even break ground," McFadyen said. In her letter to Ari Zavaras, executive director of DOC, she said, "It would appear that the state’s best interests were not served by allowing GEO group to bid any contract with the state because of its lack of performance on tis 2003 award." Officials with Geo Group could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. Alison Morgan, spokeswoman for the DOC, said Zavaras was aware of the letter being sent by McFadyen, but had not seen it Monday. "Since he was not with the department during the RFP (request for proposals) process, it is an issue that he is still studying and is being briefed on," said Morgan. "Once he has all the information, including McFadyen’s letter, he would welcome an opportunity to sit down and talk to her."

December 26, 2006 Greeley Tribune
After the state Department of Corrections pulled its contract with the GEO Group to build a prison in Pueblo, Ault residents wonder about GEO's proposed prison plans in their backyard. While some speculate that the department's decision to pull the contract will halt the company's plans for Ault, others say it has changed nothing. For Phillip Tidwell, a member of the Citizens Against Ault Prison, the Department of Correction's decision in Pueblo was good news for his own fight. "We are elated ... finally someone will investigate them," he said. "The board is not calling off anything, but to me, like the DOC, why hasn't Ault pulled out on our contract with them? They're not truthful, not honest from the beginning ... Now, we don't feel alone. We will continue our own fight, it just feels like we're being assisted by the DOC." The contract was canceled for the Pueblo prison after concern about Geo's lack of progress on the project. The corrections department said that after four years, the company failed to respond to inquiries from them and failed to break ground on the Pueblo facility. In Ault, the state awarded the GEO Group the right to build a 1,500-bed medium security men's prison on 40 acres in the southeast part of town. Despite the initial discussions, there still are no final decisions on the Ault proposal. Ault Mayor Brad Bayne said the department's decision about the Pueblo facility won't change what's happening in Ault. "The town hasn't changed its views on this," he said. He said for the prison to be built in the town, there has to be a guarantee from the state, a negotiation between the town and the GEO Group that makes sense and a vote of residents to approve the plans. Town officials haven't heard from a GEO Group representative since September when GEO hosted a public forum answering questions from residents, he said. "... We're in a holding pattern until the state guarantees the matter," he added. The plan first came to light at the end of May when the GEO Group gave a proposal to the Ault Town Board. According to meeting minutes, representatives from GEO said the project would be funded through a local government bond, where the state pays the local government, which then pays GEO. They said the facility would house 1,500 beds, but the request for proposal on the project would allow up to 2,250 beds. To fight the project, Citizens Against Ault Prison demanded an injunction on the town's code which will require a vote of residents to decide the fate of the prison. The injunction, which was signed by 297 voters, was approved by board members in November.

December 16, 2006 The Gazette
State prison officials have canceled a contract for a new private prison in Pueblo, a move that casts doubt on how much Colorado will be able to rely on private prisons while it copes with a crowding crisis. The GEO Group, which was awarded a contract in 2003 to build the Pueblo pre-release prison, has also been contracted to build and operate a prison in Ault, in northeastern Colorado. But the same issue that doomed the Pueblo project — the company’s insistence it be guaranteed nearly full occupancy — could derail the latter prison, because GEO is making a similar demand. “If GEO’s going to demand a bed guarantee, they need to leave the state,” said state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, a Pueblo Democrat and leading critic of private prisons. “It is not the job of the Colorado taxpayers to ensure profits for this corporation.” The Pueblo prison was delayed repeatedly: by zoning issues, by a legal challenge from a prison-reform group and by several revisions to the plan by GEO. But the final impasse began this summer, when the company asked for a 90 percent minimum occupancy guarantee for the prison, which wasn’t a condition of the original proposal and was opposed by Department of Corrections officials. Private prisons are paid a daily rate per inmate by the state, currently $52. Last month, the DOC denied a contract-extension request, and on Thursday informed the company that it was canceling the contract. “Ground has not broken, and GEO has given no indication when, or even if, it plans to commence construction,” DOC executive director Joe Ortiz wrote. “Our patience cannot be infinite.” The department is facing an acute crowding problem. Years of canceled prison-construction projects and steady growth in court caseloads have created a shortage of prison beds. The DOC this week began shipping 720 inmates out of state, a temporary solution until new beds become available. With only one state prison under construction, Colorado State Penitentiary II in Cañon City, the DOC this year awarded contracts to three companies to build prisons for 3,776 inmates. The GEO Group’s proposed 1,500-bed prison in Ault is a major part of the plan. Alison Morgan, head of private-prison monitoring for the DOC, said the department still expects GEO to follow through on its proposal in Ault. “We are treating the Pueblo facility and the Ault facility separately. We have from Day 1, and we will continue to do so,” Morgan said Friday. However, GEO is making the same demand for guaranteed occupancy for the Ault prison. Asked whether the DOC is still opposed to a guarantee, she said, “It is a policy decision to be addressed by the new administration (of Gov.-elect Bill Ritter) and the General Assembly.” The local community isn’t even sure it wants a prison. Ault’s town board last month passed an ordinance requiring voter approval for the prison. No election date has been set. McFadyen said she doesn’t believe GEO ever intended to complete the Pueblo prison, and she doubts the company’s ability and will to follow through in Ault. “We’ve been set back three years in our planning,” McFadyen said. “I think that kind of delay is unacceptable, and we’ll learn from this experience and not allow another contract to drag on for three years.” A call to a spokesman in the company’s Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters was not returned Friday afternoon. An audit requested by Mc-Fadyen regarding the bidding process for the Ault prison was released this week. It showed that a top DOC official set up a consulting business to help GEO win the bid while he was employed by the state. Because the DOC is based in Colorado Springs, the office of 4th Judicial District Attorney John Newsome will receive the results of the investigation and determine whether any law was broken. Morgan said the DOC will issue a new request for proposals for a pre-release prison.

December 14, 2006 Pueblo Chieftain
A three-year effort to build a private prison facility at the Pueblo Memorial Airport Industrial Park appears to be dead after the Colorado Department of Corrections and the prison company reached an impasse over guaranteed occupancies. On Tuesday, reports said that the DOC was working with the attorney general's office to draft a letter to the GEO Group that essentially kills the company's plans to build a 1,000-bed pre-parole and parole revocation facility on 36 acres east of the city. GEO officials said Wednesday they had not received any letter from the DOC, but also didn't express much confidence a deal could be struck for the facility. "We have been in negotiations with the Department of Corrections, but we don't have any contract signed and at this time it does not appear there will be one," said Pablo Paez, director of communications for the Florida-based company. Paez confirmed reports from November that the company was asking for a minimum occupancy guarantee for the facility and also confirmed that the company was planning to go to the city of Pueblo for help to build the prison. ± PLEASE SEE PRISON, 2APRISON / continued from page 1A ± "We needed the guarantee to secure the lowest capital cost through tax-exempt bonds," Paez said Thursday. "We would get those through the local municipality." State Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, who has been a vocal critic of the private prison industry, and state Rep. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, wrote a letter to the city in May warning against using public funds to build the facility. "I think it's very positive that the city of Pueblo is not going to risk its credit rating on this project," McFadyen said Wednesday. Officials from the DOC were not available Wednesday to comment on whether the letter had to do with the occupancy guarantees, or the result of an audit suggesting former Director of Prisons Nolin Renfrow may have broken the law by helping GEO secure DOC approval to build a 1,500-bed facility in Weld County, prior to his retirement in January. Paez said GEO had no contact with Renfrow before March. Last month, DOC spokeswoman Kathy Church told The Pueblo Chieftain that talks between the company and the DOC over Pueblo's facility had stalled over the minimum occupancy guarantees and had reached a critical point. "They need to either understand our position and accept it or back out completely," Church said last month. Church told The Chieftain that the DOC couldn't make any guarantees without knowing how much money it had to spend. That money depends on what the joint budget committee decides. McFadyen wondered Wednesday why those guarantees weren't part of the original agreement when DOC solicited bids for the Pueblo project. "If the DOC negotiated additional terms with GEO, they would be the only private prison company to receive such treatment and that's wrong," McFadyen said Wednesday. "I think this goes to the point of how committed they were to coming to Pueblo in the first place." The plans to build the facility started in 2003 when GEO, then Wakenhut Corrections Company, proposed building the prison on the West Side. Those plans eventually shifted to the airport and the city approved a controversial agreement with GEO to build a 500- to 1,000-bed facility. A year ago, GEO bought the property at the airport from the city for $296,800. GEO's original plan was to build a 750-bed facility at the airport, but got Planning and Zoning Approval in May to expand the facility to 1,000 beds.

December 14, 2006 Denver Post
Results of an investigation into former Colorado prisons director Nolin Renfrow's conduct in office will be turned over to a district attorney early next year, the Department of Corrections' inspector general said Wednesday. Michael Rulo, who has been the agency's inspector general for seven years, said his office has been cooperating with state auditors on the probe. On Tuesday, the auditors announced that a "former senior- level official" of the Department of Corrections launched a prison-consulting business in August 2005, five months before he retired from the department Jan. 31, and helped a private company land a state prison contract. State Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, who requested the audit, identified the official as Renfrow. The auditors found that while still employed by DOC, Renfrow began working to assist prospective bidders in developing proposals to his department for a private prison. With his assistance, a company identified as the GEO Group was awarded the contract for a 1,500-bed private prison at Ault. Auditors noted that state employees are barred by law from outside employment that creates a conflict of interest, and from helping people to win a contract with their agency for a fee. Renfrow couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. Rulo said the results of his office's investigation will be turned over to El Paso County District Attorney John Newsome, probably in January. The Department of Corrections is based in that county. Rulo said a decision on whether to file charges will be a "collaborative process" with prosecutors. Kristen Holtzman, spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, said that Renfrow never contacted the attorney general's office to ask whether his consulting business while still a DOC employee constituted a conflict of interest.

November 15, 2006 Greeley Tribune
The Ault Town Board eased many residents' minds Tuesday night and gave them a stronger voice in the prison debate. Town residents have voiced strong opinions against the proposed GEO correctional facility in Ault after initial discussions last spring. Tuesday night, the town board voted 5-1 to accept an ordinance that requires a town election about the location of any prison or similar incarceration facility. An election date has not been set, but one will be necessary when the GEO Group Inc. returns to the town to begin negotiating a contract. GEO has proposed building a 1,500-bed medium security prison on about 40 acres in southeast Ault. The prison population would double the town's population. Most recently, the GEO group sought assurances from the state Department of Corrections for a guaranteed number of prisoners to house at the prison, but DOC representatives said the state typically didn't provide such guarantees. Residents recently signed a petition requesting an election about a site before the town approved permits for such a building. Petitioners needed a minimum of 40 valid signatures to take the request to the board. They submitted 297. Mary Schlack, 37, of Ault said she was part of the petition effort after she went door-to-door and learned more people were opposed to the prison. She said she expected more than 40 signatures because of her previous questions to residents.

September 29, 2006 Greeley Tribune
Al Nickel was one of a few passionate people who attended a question-and-answer session Thursday about a proposed private prison in his town. He was more concerned about the possible safety risks of having a prison nearby than the potential for increased revenue. "What are they going to do for the town?" asked Nickel, a 21-year resident of the town 11 miles north of Greeley on U.S. 85. "It's not like they can go downtown and buy 100 gallons of milk or toilet paper. Their business has to go elsewhere." Representatives from The GEO Group, Place Properties and Patriot Business Solutions met with about 20 residents Thursday afternoon at the Ault VFW post to discuss the plans of bringing a prison to town. The group held a separate meeting Thursday night, drawing about 40 people. Many people were curious about what the prison would look like and had concerns about Ault being considered a prison town. Ken Fortier, a spokesman for GEO Group, said he hoped to ease some concerns at the sessions. "There's a lot of emotions when it comes to a project like this and the perception of a correctional facility," he said. "We're not here to debate, but to answer questions."

September 10, 2006 Greeley Tribune
Two months ago, the state awarded the Geo Group the right to build a 1,500-bed medium security men's prison in Ault, but so far, progress has been slight. A town meeting in July lured about 300 in protest. Opponents worry about prison breaks, the caliber of employees and the potential for a prison to attract criminals. Proponents of the prison say their dying town needs development, and a prison is a clean industry that would bring commerce and jobs. The prison would be located on roughly 40 acres in the southeast part of town, east of the railroad tracks parallel to U.S. 85. Since the initial discussions, however, there are still no decisions. The Geo Group has not presented the town with a potential contract, and the town board has yet to decide if a contract with the private prison would have to be approved by the board or the residents. Those involved, however, insist there is progress but won't elaborate.

July 22, 2006 Greeley Tribune
It may be a month or more before residents know if the town of Ault will be home to a 1,500-bed private prison. Ault Mayor James Fladung said the town board has not decided if it will sign a binding contract with Geo Group Inc. or if it will allow Ault residents to vote on the proposed medium-security prison for men. Colorado's Department of Corrections recently granted Geo the rights to build a prison in Ault in the next two years. But Geo cannot actually build the facility until it gets approval from the town. The board is negotiating with Geo over prices and fees on issues such as water and sewer. A final contract for the prison still needs to be written. "There is quite a bit of distance to cover yet," said Sharon Sullivan, Ault town clerk and treasurer. "It will continue to be ongoing, but there is a long way to go." Fladung said it could possibly be a month before any decision is made. The town board has the authority to approve a contract without a vote from Ault residents because the land where the prison would be located is zoned industrial, Fladung said. But the mayor said that because of public sentiment the board will consider conducting a poll or even allow a public vote on the issue. Nearly 300 people attended a public hearing last Tuesday. The majority of those people opposed the prison. Fladung said he thought it would be good to hold more public hearings before any contract is signed. "We must listen to the people. They were the ones who elected us," Fladung said. In late June the town board unanimously passed a resolution approving the concept of a private prison in Ault. Sullivan said that resolution confused many people and led them to believe that the town board already signed a contract with Geo. The logistics and time frame of a contract still aren't clear, but Fladung said he can guarantee that the contract will not raise any taxes or utility fees for Ault residents. "I'm standing pretty solid about the people in Ault not paying them a penny more for them to come in," Fladung said.

July 19, 2006 Greeley Tribune
Debate over whether to allow a men's medium security prison to be built in Ault has divided the normally quiet community. Almost 300 Ault residents overwhelmed Tuesday night's town board meeting to discuss the pros and cons of allowing the Florida-based company Geo Group Inc. to build a 1,500 bed private prison in Ault. So many people showed up that the meeting had to be delayed half an hour to move the meeting to the larger VFW building. The issue pitted neighbor against neighbor with strong opinions and statements made by nearly 50 people on both sides of the issue. "Geo is like Wal-Mart. They could care less about this town," said John Jablonski of Ault. "They want to use us to make money." The majority of the crowd was strongly against the prison but faced opposition from a vocal minority of Ault's business owners. They believe the prison will be the economic boost Ault's dwindling economy needs to survive. Sheila Kelsey, owner of the House of Bargains, has lived in Ault for 34 years and said that during all that time little economic growth has occurred. "The prison would be in my front yard, but we desperately need the business," Kelsey said. "If we do not get this business, this town will die. It will be a ghost town." Many of those against the prison did not like its close proximity to town and called it a safety hazard, a drain on resources such as water and an overall detriment to the well-being of Ault. Amber Kauffman, who has lived in the town for five years, said she is all for growth but not at the expense of having to live near a prison. "We came here to live in a small town and a small community," Kauffman said. "A prison would change the dynamics of this town." Her husband, Ty Kauffman, said that if the prison does go in, the company wants to run water and sewer lines across his fields which would hurt his annual hay crop. Ty Kauffman said that if the prison does come to Ault, he will be out of town in two weeks. "You do so much to your home to loose it all," he said. "It's a nightmare." Ken Fortier, a representative from Geo, said the prison would bring jobs and purchasing power to Ault. He said that Geo is the largest private corrections facility company in the world and operates high and medium security prisons on many continents including the world's largest private prison in South Africa and a facility that is part of the Guantanamo Bay complex in Cuba. "Step away from the emotions to the notion of what economically 300 jobs mean to the town of Ault," Fortier said. There was still a lot of questions left in the air on Tuesday. Board members did not tell the crowd when, or if, they would sign a contract with the company.

July 18, 2006 Greeley Tribune
Controversy is brewing in Ault about the proposed men's prison expected to be built southeast of town by the Florida-based Geo Group Inc. The Coalition Against the Ault Prison, comprised of 10 residents, will attend tonight's Ault town board meeting to oppose the 1,500-bed prison. The residents have passed out fliers and petitions against Colorado's Department of Corrections late June decision to grant Geo the rights to construct the prison there in the next two years. If the town board signs a contract with the Geo Group, the number of prisoners would more than double this town of roughly 1,400 people. Tasha Greene, 35, an environmental health and safety officer in Ault began the opposition group about a week ago and said the members extensively researched the economic and social impacts a prison might have on a small town. Greene said she collected 117 signatures of registered Ault voters who are opposed to the prison. "There are a few people we talked to that want this prison 100 percent, but the fast majority are dead set against it," Greene said. Though Ault residents have an hour to present comments at tonight's meeting, Greene said she is unsure if the board will take her group's concerns to heart. "We get a sense that they will do what they want to do," Greene said. "Who cares about public opinion?" The board in May passed a resolution agreeing with the prison in concept. The resolution states that prior to the board executing a contract or any financing agreements with the Geo Group, "the final forms of such documents and/or agreement shall be submitted for approval to the town, and if satisfactory to the town, their execution shall be authorized by resolution or ordinance ..." If the board ignores their concerns, Greene said she plans to pursue formal legal action against the prison's construction. Larry Hosier, another member of the coalition, said he thinks the town board is completely out of touch with the people of Ault and not smart enough to properly negotiate with Geo's high-powered executives. "They don't even know the right questions to ask," Hosier said. The group is concerned the prison will make the town unsafe, overtax the already low water supply in the area, create light and air pollution, lower property values, create a higher unemployment rate, bankrupt small businesses and ruin the character and aesthetics of Ault. "Ault will no longer be 'A Unique Little Town," one of the coalition's flyer's proclaims. "Once a prison town always a prison town." Some residents are so concerned about the negative effects they claim they will actually move out of Ault. "I had one guy sign the petition. The next day his home went up for sale," Hosier said, adding that and his wife may consider doing the same after living in town for more than 30 years. Greene is equally convinced that Ault isn't big enough for both her and the prison, and said she would find a new home for her nine horses. She said she is most concerned about safety and the possibility that escaped convicts could put the community in danger. "I'd feel I'll need to put up really tall fences and buy really big dogs and make myself a private arsenal," Greene said.

Australian Federal Government
October 11, 2011 Canberra Times
The Commonwealth Government is suing its former immigration detention operators for failing to protect it against lawsuits lodged by people kept in detention facilities. The case will be heard in the South Australian Supreme Court on November 21. It is part of a long-running case launched by former asylum-seeker Abdul Amir Hamidi, who won a confidential settlement against the Federal Government after almost five years in detention. As The Canberra Times revealed on Saturday, Mr Hamidi's lawyers predict that the confidential settlement will spark dozens more claims for damages. In a case to be heard on November 21, the Commonwealth will claim its former detention centre operators - GSL and Australasian Correctional Services - breached their contracts by exposing the Government to the legal action. The Commonwealth will argue both companies agreed to indemnify it against damages based on their running of Australian detention centres. Australasian Correctional Services operated Australia's mainland immigration detention facilities until early 2004. Group 4 Falck Global Solutions Pty Ltd (which later changed its name to Global Solutions Limited, or GSL) commenced management of the centres in late 2003. Both companies will fight the claim, with ACS arguing it had insufficient time to respond to the allegations and the terms of its agreement included dispute resolution measures. GSL says it is not responsible for indemnifying the Commonwealth for any ''negligent, wilful, reckless or unlawful acts or omissions of the Commonwealth, its employees, officers or agents''. Between 2000 and March 2010, detainees in Australian immigration detention centres were paid more than $12.3million in compensation for personal injury or unlawful detention.

July 9, 2004 Australian
A damning report by the Auditor-General, released two weeks ago, showed initial detention arrangements with private prison operators Australian Centre Management to be a farce. Appalling hygiene and frequent escapes perpetuated by ACM's lackadaisical attitude to detainees was highlighted as a failure of the immigration department.  With a second report by the Auditor-General expected to detail arrangements with ACM's replacement Global Systems Management later this year, the department maintains it.

June 19, 2004 Courier Mail
Australasian Correctional Management ran 12 immigration detention centres on behalf of the Howard Government from early 1998 until early this year.  According to the Australian National Audit Office report, the Department of Immigration, Indigenous and Multicultural Affairs had no strategy for detaining asylum seekers, let alone a contract management plan with ACM.  The damning report found: No risk management strategy in the contract.  No contract management training or guidance.  No performance targets and an ad hoc approach to changing numbers.  No contract monitoring or assessment.  No financial risk strategy or asset management plan.  "This meant that DIMIA was not able to assess whether its strategies were actually working in practice," the report said.  During the contract the number of detainees varied from just a handful in 1998 to 3000 in the year 2000.  And the auditors could find no assurance that the financial aspects of the $500 million contract "operated as intended".  The report also found a gap in the audit trail. "Invoicing procedures where the audit trail between the services provided and payments made did not provide senior managers with assurance that full value for money was being achieved," it said.  "A systematic approach to risk management, including the establishment of an appropriate and documented risk management strategy, should have been an integral part of contract management," the auditors said.  According to the report a manual for departmental centre managers was not issued until four years after the contract began and had not been kept up to date.  In its response to the report the department agreed with the six recommendations made by the auditors.  It defended itself by saying the audit did not "fully reflect and take account of the complexity of the environment and the nature of the previous detention contract".  "Many aspects of the contract were intended to be flexibly addressed through negotiation and discussion," it said.  Opposition immigration spokesman Stephen Smith demanded the return of immigration detention centres to government management.  "The report is a comprehensive condemnation of the Government's policy of the privatisation of the management of immigration detention centres and a comprehensive indictment of DIMIA's administration of it," Mr Smith said.  The auditors found that 38 of the 100 immigration detention standards issued by the department had no performance measures and another 37 were only partially covered.  Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's spokesman did not respond to the report.

Aurora INS Detention Facility, Aurora, Colorado
February 16, 2009 The Aurora Sentinel
About 50 people from various advocacy groups gathered near an Aurora detention facility Monday, Feb. 16, to rally for changes to the nation’s immigration policies and an end to raids on suspected illegal immigrants. The vigil, which was organized by local clergy, was one of more than 100 actions across the country aimed at “demonstrating the faith communities’ commitment to inject humanity and compassion into the public dialogue on immigration,” organizers said in a statement. Jennifer Piper, of the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee, said ending raids was one of the main goals of the vigil. “These raids really tear families and workers out of our community,” Piper said. The vigil brought out a diverse crowd with participants ranging from toddlers to senior citizens. The group clutched candles, said prayers and spoke about their concerns. “All faith traditions share a common mandate to welcome and care for all members of our community and love our neighbors as ourselves,” Jeremy Shaver, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, said in a statement. “As people of faith, we must keep that in the forefront of our minds as we approach the complex issue of immigration.” Organizers said recent immigration raids have been destructive for immigrants’ families and they hope the vigils lead to change in Washington. “We call on President Obama and members of Congress to demonstrate the courage to pass immigration policies that uphold and protect the dignity and human rights of all,” Shaver said. The vigil was held just a few blocks from a privately owned and operated detention facility that houses suspected illegal immigrants. Florida-based GEO Group, which owns the facility, has plans to expand it — a proposal that has come under fire from immigrant groups.

January 8, 2008 Colorado Confidential
A former corrections employee is suing prison contractor The GEO Group, operator of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Aurora. In a suit filed in Denver District Court, former GEO employee Celia Ramirez alleges the company failed to follow its own anti-discrimination policies. According to the suit, filed in December, Ramirez was employed by GEO as a detention officer at the Aurora ICE lockup for just over two years before being fired for failing to return lockup keys to their designated area. However, in the suit Ramirez contends that another GEO worker, Jennifer Beauman, took the keys and placed them on the facility's roof to retaliate against the plaintiff for reporting the employee for inappropriate conduct. According to the suit, Beauman is reported to have engaged in erratic behavior, such as angrily slamming doors and flicking lights on and off in the presence of inmates. Attempts to reach Beauman were unsuccessful. The suit alleges Beauman "joked" about taking the keys to get back at Ramirez, before the keys went missing. A maintenance worker is reported to have later found the keys on the facility's rooftop. The crux of the lawsuit contends that Ramirez was discriminated against for her gender and Latino ethnicity, and that GEO failed to enforce written policies of barring gender or race discrimination as stipulated in the company's employee handbook. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, said that it is the company's corporate policy not to discuss pending litigation. Lisa Sahli, the attorney who filed the suit, said that Ramirez had obtained another attorney and that she could not speak further on the case because she is no longer Ramirez's legal counsel. Attempts to contact Ramirez were also unsuccessful. The suit comes as GEO is set to expand its Aurora ICE facility by more than 1000 beds, tripling the current threshold of 400 beds. Ramirez is seeking to bring the case to a jury, according to court documents.

December 19, 2007 Denver Post
A private company operating the Colorado immigration detention center in Aurora plans to sink $72 million into an expansion that will more than triple the size of the facility based on Senate proposals to expand border enforcement and bed space for illegal-immigrant detainees. The expansion would turn the 400-bed facility into a 1,500-bed center, making it second in size only to the 2,000-bed Raymondville, Texas, site, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Aurora site is in a warehouse area near East 30th Avenue and Peoria Street. The plan by Florida-based GEO Group, which owns and operates the facility, has raised concerns among national and local immigrant- and civil-rights groups and the neighborhood associations in the area. The expansion is expected to be complete in late 2009. A company spokesman did not return numerous calls, but GEO chairman and chief executive George Zoley detailed the plan recently in a call with analysts. GEO estimates the 1,100 new beds will raise an additional $30 million in annual revenue, Zoley said during the call. Opponents of the plan say their concerns are based partly on the lack of access to internal audits of the facility and recent government reviews showing inadequacies. "One of the major issues is that GEO has a really spotty record in running these sorts of facilities," said Chandra Russo, a community organizer for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. "Our concern with a private corporation running a prison is that its profits depend on more prisoners. What is the benefit for the community?" Neighbors are also worried about real estate values and environmental impact. ICE denies any connection with the expansion the private company is planning with its own money, said ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok. Currently, the ICE contract for the Aurora facility is for 400 beds, but the deal is up for review each year for the next four years. "If they expand the facility, unless they modify the contract, there is nothing to say those additional beds would be used or contracted by ICE," Rusnok said. Still, national and local immigrant groups are concerned about the expansion at the facility, where they say reports and audits have been slow or not publicly released. Several years ago, the National Immigration Law Center asked the courts to demand that ICE release internal reviews of contract facilities and won. But ICE has been lax in providing the most recent two years' worth of reviews, said Karen Tumlin, attorney with NILC. "Until ICE is willing to release all of the reviews, we don't want to see these levels of expansion," she said. In July, the Government Accountability Office found problems at several of the detention centers from May 2006 to May 2007. The GAO did not find extreme cases but noted issues at 16 of 17 ICE centers with phone calls to pro bono legal help. In Aurora, the report also found that hold rooms exceeded capacity and log books were not maintained to show how long people were in rooms or when they had their last meal. In October 2006, reviews found the Aurora site in violation for lack of cleanliness in food service. The report also said the center had portable beds in aisles because of overcrowding. Rusnok said many of the problems identified by the GAO have since been rectified and that ICE has no plans based on the Senate proposal. Zoley, during the call, cited a proposed bill, which provides for additional funding to increase border-patrol agents and increase detention bed space by more than 5,000 beds. "We believe that this increase in bed funding will result in additional opportunities for the private sector," he said. The Department of Homeland Security expects the undocumented population, estimated to be around 12 million, to grow by 400,000 annually. The total number of illegal immigrants in administrative proceedings who spend some time in detention annually increased from 95,702 in 2001 to 283,115 in 2006. Detention bed space increased from 19,702 in 2001 to 27,500 last year. After the first of the year, NILC plans to ask for a moratorium on expansions of these types of facilities until ICE can ensure minimum compliance with its standards, Tumlin said.

July 11, 2007 Government Executive Magazine
In a recent review of federal facilities used to detain suspected illegal immigrants, the Government Accountability Office found a lack of telephone access to be a pervasive problem, potentially preventing detainees from contacting legal counsel, their countries' consulates or complaint hotlines. The GAO review included visits to 23 detention centers housing immigrants awaiting adjudication or deportation. The watchdog agency observed the centers -- run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency within the Homeland Security Department -- for compliance with nonbinding national detention standards. Of the 23 facilities GAO reviewed, 17 had telephone systems allowing detainees to make free phone calls seeking assistance. In 16 of these 17 facilities, however, GAO found systemic problems hindering phone access. Issues ranged from inaccurate or outdated numbers posted by the phones to technical problems preventing completion of calls, the report (GAO-07-875) stated. The review found instances where the centers fell short of standards in other areas, such as medical care, use of force and food services, but said these instances did not necessarily indicate a larger pattern of noncompliance. "While it is true that the only pervasive problem we identified related to the telephone system -- a problem later confirmed by ICE's testing -- we cannot state that the other deficiencies we identified in our visits were isolated," said Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at GAO, in the report. GAO recommended that ICE regularly update the posted numbers for legal services, consulates and reporting violations of detainee treatment standards and test phone systems to ensure that they are in working order. In a response to a draft of the report, Steven Pecinovsky, director of the Homeland Security Department's GAO/Office of the Inspector General Liaison Office, said ICE concurred with its recommendations and had taken immediate steps to implement them. In particular, ICE has started random testing to ensure the phones can access the necessary numbers. While GAO did not find evidence of widespread disregard for national detention standards, there have been recent calls for more oversight of immigrant detention facilities and codification of standards. According to the American Bar Association's Commission on Immigration, the fact that the standards are not codified means "their violation does not confer a cause of action in court." On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to codify the standards, expressing concern over the causes of death for the 62 immigrants who have died in ICE custody since 2004. GAO's report cited several instances of noncompliance in the standards for medical care, but almost all were a failure to complete the routine physical exams required for all detainees. The only other issue cited was the failure of one detention center to have a first aid kit available. The ACLU argued there are far more serious medical failures occurring in immigrant detention centers. "Inadequate medical care has led to unnecessary suffering and death," the ACLU said in a statement. "In addition, there is no mechanism in place for reporting deaths in immigration detention to any oversight body, including the [Office of the Inspector General] and, therefore, there are no routine investigations into deaths in ICE custody."

September 27, 2002
Security guards at the Wackenhut INS detention facility in Aurora quelled a disturbance Thursday. The disruption was caused by several detainees during the lunch hour, said Nina Pruneda- Muniz, Denver District spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "It got handled in a very timely manner," Pruneda-Muniz said. "We were able to defuse any situation from going any further." Agents were determining how many prisoners were involved and why the confrontation erupted, she said. (Rocky Mountain News)

Australian Immigration Department
Companies Use Immigration Crackdown to Turn a Profit: Expose on immigration by Nina Bernstein at the New York Times, September 28, 2011

July 19, 2005 The Age
The Immigration Department is under fire again for failing to protect a woman who was sexually abused in front of her daughter in a detention centre.  The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has found that the department failed in its duty of care and breached her human rights.  The woman, an Iranian refugee from a minority religious group, complained of two violent attacks by other detainees at the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia. In one incident a man had tried to rape her, and in another a man punched her in the chest and face, tore her clothes off and broke her finger. Her young daughter, who came to her aid, was also punched.  In preliminary findings seen by The Age, Human Rights Commission president John von Doussa slammed the department and the manager of the Curtin centre, Australasian Correctional Management.  News of his finding follows the damning indictment of the department over the illegal detention of Cornelia Rau and the mistaken deportation of Vivian Alvarez Solon.  In his report last week, former Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer identified "a serious cultural problem" and called for urgent reform.

Baker Community Correctional Facility, San Bernardino, California
November 26, 2011 The Daily Press
The state has canceled its contract with the privately operated Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, putting about 150 workers out of a job. Desert View's contract termination officially takes effect Wednesday, though prison employees told the Daily Press that The Geo Group Inc. has been preparing to deactivate the prison at Rancho and Aster roads since May. The 643-bed medium-security prison is shuttering its doors as part of California’s realignment plan, which responds to federal orders to reduce state prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for tens of thousands of low-level offenders to county governments. To help deal with the new influx of inmates under local supervision, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is encouraging counties to enter into their own contracts with more than a dozen former CCFs. The CCFs had generally housed inmates with sentences shorter than 18 months, parole violators and offenders with scheduled release dates — the same types of nonviolent, non-sexual or non-serious offenders now serving out sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. “We hope that counties contract with these facilities to save jobs and ease inmate housing concerns that many counties may have,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Toyama said. But San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials say they’re not planning to privatize jail beds. The math just doesn’t pencil out, according to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “The issue with taking advantage of private prisons or private jail facilities has come up over and over again throughout the years; however, it’s not something that the county is considering,” Bachman said. “It’s too costly and there’s just not the funding really even to consider something like that.” The California State Association of Counties has created a document outlining potential beds at the former CCFs, but counties statewide have been hesitant to exercise that option. The Geo Group had operated six of the nine privately run CCFs that lost their state contracts, according to CSAC. Five other CCFs were run by local governments. The facilities ranged from around 100 employees to more than 600, according to Toyama.

Baxter Immigration Detention Centre, Australia
September 13, 2008 Sidney Morning Herald
About 10 o'clock one evening in January 2003, Mary Rohde got out of her four-wheel-drive to lock the gate to the visitor carpark at the Baxter immigration detention facility near Port Augusta, where she was a detention officer. She felt a presence but saw no one, and returned to the car to radio the control room. Suddenly an arm was round her neck, a blade at her throat. Terror and incomprehension overwhelmed her. Eventually the arm loosened and she looked round; in the back seat was her boss. It had been a security drill. "That'll teach her to lock the car door," a supervisor later remarked. Rhode was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and, five years later, has not recovered, despite psychiatric treatment. Her symptoms are typical. She suffers from nightmares and insomnia. She cannot manage social situations, cannot sit in a doctor's waiting room; even visits from her adult children are too much to cope with. Half an hour after they arrive she finds herself weeping in her bedroom. "I'm now the shell of the person I was. I drink and take drugs; for me to cope, that's what I have to do," she says. Rohde is one of many former officers who developed post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress-related disorders while working in detention centres around Australia. Statistics from WorkCover South Australia record 62 claims for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders made by guards at Woomera and Baxter. Many are unlikely to work again. We have been told a lot about the impact of detention on asylum seekers, but not about the impact on those who worked there. By 1999 leaky vessels were making their way to Australia carrying mostly asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Arrival numbers overwhelmed detention centres at Curtin and Port Hedland, both in northern Western Australia. The overflow shifted to a makeshift camp near Woomera, South Australia, where they languished in desert heat until given visas or sent home. Five hundred kilometres from Adelaide, with access to the detention centre barred to almost all, it was impossible for outsiders to know what happened within. Woomera's carrying capacity was 400. By April 2000 it held more than 1400 detainees, and officers were needed to keep order. Detention services were privatised by the Howard government in 1997. The successful tenderer was Australasian Correctional Management, or ACM, a subsidiary of the US giant Wackenhut corporation, which ran private jails in Australia and overseas. Many ACM detention centre officers had been jail staff but the company also advertised for them. With free accommodation and the minimum requirement of five 12-hour shifts a week, the conditions seemed excellent - about $1200 a week. For Rohde, recently separated from her husband and experiencing financial difficulties, the job seemed a godsend. Many officers believed they were on important duty. In 2000 Australians got the message they were under siege; that the boatloads surely included terrorists. Still others thought this was a chance to show kindness. Within weeks, the new recruits would find themselves kitted up in riot gear and wielding batons, extinguishing fires, or cutting down would-be suicides. Trevor Robertson signed up to Woomera in June 2000. He had recently completed training as a prison officer in Brisbane. His partner, Kendall Jones, expecting their first child, urged him to apply. As with Rohde, the move would be the mistake of their lives. An imposing figure, Robertson was respected by colleagues and soon became a supervisor. When Woomera closed and the operation transferred to the Baxter centre near Port Augusta, Robertson went too. One former colleague remembers him as even-tempered, fair and good in a crisis - "the best operator at Woomera". Robertson has been unable to work, his marriage teeters in the balance, and he rarely leaves the loungeroom of his modest Port Augusta home. He does not socialise, and spends his time bent over the computer, poring over state and federal law, or on the phone to any bureaucrat or politician who will talk to him about immigration detention. It is an obsession. He has reflected long and hard about why it all went so wrong in immigration detention centres. All the officers interviewed for this story said training was inadequate. In an intensive four- to six-week course, new recruits practised restraint and riot drills, became familiar with the Migration Act, and were encouraged to treat detainees with respect. Robertson does not think any training could have prepared officers for the dire daily situations. He told ABC TV's Four Corners program that three days after training he was at Woomera when 500 detainees attempted to escape. The job was close to impossible. Detention centres became violent; chaos reigned. These desert prisons held people who were distressed and traumatised for months or years on end, waiting for news on their visa applications. Many eventually became deranged. Riots, hunger strikes, self-harm and suicide attempts were common. Officers became the focus of detainee anger and resentment, and threats were made against them and their families. It angers Robertson that he and colleagues were denied help. "We were the police; we were the mental health-care workers; we were the social workers," he recalls bitterly. Detention centres had rules, and most detainees obeyed them. A core group, however, was troublesome and the only consequence of their behaviour was incarceration in the "management unit", a form of solitary confinement where detainees frequently became so unmanageable it was easier to return them to their compounds. Troublemakers lit fires, smashed windows, stood over and bullied others and assaulted officers with relative impunity. Experts argue that incarceration in detention centres induces mental illness. According to ACM statistics for October 2001, three psychologists saw 764 residents at Woomera. A psychiatrist visited every few weeks, but daily care of people with mental illness was left to untrained officers. Rod Gigney, a kindly officer, would bribe Anna with fruit, trying to curb her behaviour. The young woman wandered around naked at Baxter and defecated on the floor. To officers less sympathetic, Anna was just a heroin-addicted, damned nuisance. She turned out to be the schizophrenic German-born Australian Cornelia Rau. Gigney made many reports about Anna to management, without effect. Carol Wiltshire was deeply concerned about a woman who had not left her room for 10 months. She was catatonic, covered in bedsores and unable to tend to her small child. Wiltshire's supervisor suggested she "poke her with a stick and see if she's still alive". It was another month before she was transferred to Adelaide's Glenside mental health facility. Understaffing was significant and chronic. Often an officer as young as 20 would be left alone in a compound where three officers were required, leaving them vulnerable and insecure. Sean Ferris was alone at Baxter when a riot broke out. He locked himself in the office, which was pounded with stones and set alight. Simon Forsyth, then 21, faced a fire on his first shift at Baxter. He did not know how to use the extinguisher. An October 2005 report recounts the incident that ended Robertson's career. By then, Baxter detainees were predominantly visa overstayers and criminals awaiting deportation. There was a fight, Robertson was assaulted and "suddenly I lost control". "I was really trying to hurt people; I had my hands around their throats." And that was that. The once solid and reliable officer, mentor to fellow workers, finally cracked. Battered, bruised and hysterical, he was driven home. When he said he was fit to return to work three weeks later, he broke down, was subsequently diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and has not worked since. Clive Skinn, a Port Augusta local who worked at Woomera and Baxter, loathes all detainees. Sitting uncomfortably on the couch in Robertson's lounge room, he is tense with anger. "My body is full of hatred," Skinn says. He had not given refugees a thought before he went to Woomera; he knew nothing about Muslims. On his second day on the job, a detainee head-butted him. Another spat at him soon after. Wiltshire says Skinn was never the same after having to cut down a man who attempted to hang himself. Life became unmanageable. Skinn was quick to anger, could not get on with his children, could not sleep. He awoke suddenly one morning convinced that there were Muslims in his house. He seized a chair and trashed the place, smashed windows and the TV, broke holes in the walls. He was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and spent 18 months on workers' compensation. While still profoundly affected, he holds down a job in an underground mine at Roxby Downs, but the past catches up with him. "I'd like to kill them all," Skinn says of detainees. "And I feel the same way about the children. They were as bad as the parents." Gigney's breakdown was a consequence of concern for detainees. He listened to their despair, smuggled extra milk rations for children, and watched helplessly as they suffered physically and mentally. A boy, 12, was among the three would-be suicides he cut down. Officers who displayed compassion were held in contempt by many co-workers, and became known as "care bears". The diminutive and softly spoken Annie Brown (not her real name), 55, thought working at Baxter would be an opportunity to help the unfortunate. Each day she would say to herself, "I've got 12 hours to make these people's lives better." For this she was taunted and ridiculed by fellow officers; for Annie, the worst part of work at Baxter was the attitude of many co-workers. Annie's husband is also a former Baxter officer. "We were people who had normal lives," Annie says through tears. "We don't have them any more." After being ignored by superiors, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and agoraphobia, and for a year could not leave her house. Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder have to confront the fact that what was normality is not likely to return. This is Rohde's reality. "I want my life back," she says. "But the psychiatrist has said that I will never be the person I was before. I have to try to learn to live with the person I am now." Three years since his diagnosis, Robertson shows no sign of improvement. For Kendall, life with Trevor is close to unbearable. She says he is distant, obnoxious and arrogant. He gets angry with the children, impatient, distracted. He does not go to bed until 3am, and rises late. As Jones and Robertson do seemingly fruitless battle with bureaucrats, they are frustrated that former detainees can pursue compensation for psychological damage but former officers cannot. Gigney continues to try to find work. In his home town of Whyalla the mining boom is in full swing, but being sound of body is not enough for him to take advantage of it. He has just made his second attempt to get a truck driver's licence. He would pulled over to answer his phone when a water truck went past, triggering a flashback to the water cannon used during riots at Woomera, and an incident involving children. He sat in the cabin and wept. In the suburban Adelaide pub where she works as a kitchenhand, Wiltshire shares a drink with another former officer, Barbara Zillner. The camaraderie among former officers is akin to that between Vietnam War veterans - no one else comprehends what they went through. In 2000 Wiltshire, a single mother doing it tough, saw Woomera as a chance to escape the poverty trap. Like others, she broke down, diagnosed with an adjustment disorder. Her road to recovery has been hard, but she now holds down a job and a relationship. Having recovered a measure of equilibrium in her life, she looks back and wonders at what she went through. "I was proud to be a detention centre officer, protecting Australia's borders. Then I changed. I became a monster, a cowboy, like all the other officers. They were all driven crazy. When I look back, I just think - what the hell did I do that for? To end up hating people for no reason."

March 3, 2006 Sidney Morning Herald
A DAY of turmoil in the nation's immigration system ended with the Federal Government backing down on several fronts yesterday. It agreed to pay damages to a boy traumatised in detention and allowed a deported Melbourne man to return to Australia on humanitarian grounds. A damning report released by an independent auditor yesterday also raised questions about a successful 2003 bid by the immigration detention contractor GSL, whose contract the Government refused to renew on Wednesday. In Sydney, an 11-year-old Iranian, Shayan Badraie, was offered damages for trauma he suffered in Woomera and Villawood detention centres. The move comes after a 63-day Supreme Court hearing. While in detention between March 2000 and August 2001, the boy became severely traumatised after witnessing riots, a stabbing and a string of other disturbing incidents. He subsequently spent 94 days in hospital, and still requires treatment. Commonwealth lawyers approached lawyers representing Shayan this week to offer a settlement for damages. The exact sum will be fixed at a hearing this morning but is expected to be more than $1 million. Meanwhile, the immigration detention contractor GSL was found to have been hired even though it was more expensive and provided inferior services to competitors, the National Audit Office announced yesterday. GSL's bid was $32.6 million higher than that of the incumbent detention centre operator, ACM, when the latter's bid expired. The audit office found the basis on which ACM was paid $5.7 million after it missed out on the contract was "doubtful", since the department was only required to compensate for matters pertaining to detention. Immigration could not provide evidence of the criteria under which the sum was paid. The audit also found the head of the steering committee, which was heavily involved in the evaluation of the bids, gave a reference for ACM's bid. An independent probity adviser told the steering committee seven months later that this should not happen again.

July 29, 2004
Two murals border a grassy patch in the fenced-in adult education compound of the Baxter immigration detention centre.  Goldfish feature in one. The other, still being painted by detainees yesterday, is an abstract composition of nine blue eyes and brown faces.  For the first time since the fires in 2002, journalists were allowed in the centre. An Iranian detainee, who said he had been in detention for about four years, waited until the Immigration Department official was out of earshot before he started whispering to the Herald.  The mural of the eyes represented confusion, he explained.  "People don't know what they're doing, they've lost their personality, they don't know what happens to them," he said.  And the fish?  "If you scream underwater, nobody hears your voice, if you're crying, nobody hears."  One area the media had never seen before was the grim "Management Unit", where detainees with behavioural issues are put into solitary confinement - sometimes for more than a month at a time.  The Red compound, burnt during the fires in 2002, is for "problem" detainees who have come out of the "Management Unit" and are being "re-integrated" into the general detention centre population.  There were no detainees in the Red compound yesterday either - just empty non-carpeted rooms with metal furniture bolted to the floor and a peephole for guards to look through when doing their head counts each night.  (Sidney Morning Mail)

November 20, 2003
A High Court judge has cleared the way for a challenge to Australia's detention laws that could ultimately result in all children being released from immigration detention centres.  High Court Justice Kenneth Hayne ruled in Melbourne yesterday that the challenge, launched by refugee advocate Eric Vadarlis, could proceed to a February hearing before the court's full bench. The legal action aims to free four child detainees from South Australia's Baxter Detention Centre on the grounds that the detention of children for administrative purposes is unconstitutional.  (The Age)

July 30, 2003
An Iranian man at the Baxter detention centre has refused to eat for the  past 18 days after his seven-year-old daughter was sent back to Iran,  the Australian Democrats said today.  Kate Reynolds, Democrats' social justice spokeswoman in South Australia's upper house, called for authorities to provide medical care and grief counseling to Amin Mastipour (Amin Mastipour), who was on a hunger strike in a Baxter isolation unit.  "I cannot believe that this man's child - who has been with him for the past five years - has been torn away from him like this," Ms Reynolds said.  (Sidney Morning News)

July 27, 2003
Alamdar Bakhtiyari, who has spent three of his mere 15 years living in detention, says he never wants to come out. He says he feels safer behind Baxter detention centre's razor wire.  As he sits with The Age, his angry father at his side, Alamdar is edgy, fearful. His face switches like a flashing light, now scowling, now smiling.  When he does speak, his words tumble out filled with accusations and disbelief. "It is not fair you come and talk to us, and then you go home to your family and a nice house and we stay here. We are not free to leave. You have lovely homes and families, but all we have is nothing, not even our freedom.  "I am not allowed to enjoy freedom like other boys. It makes me crazy, I hate it here. I hate Australia. I am not a criminal, I have done nothing wrong."  Then the switch is thrown again. "You know what ACM stands for?" he says flashing a smile. "Always Changing their Minds." Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) is the private company that runs Baxter and decides what Alamdar can and cannot do.  After almost three years of detention, Alamdar, with his younger brother Montazar (Monty), bears all the signs of someone completely institutionalised. His fear of the outside world outweighs his fear of incarceration. He says his life has been torn apart by the competing forces in Australia's immigration debate: the refugee activists, the lawyers, the media and Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.  Alamdar carries the scars of detention, some of which are still visible. At the height of the Woomera turmoil, when riots and hunger strikes were commonplace and teenage detainees were threatening to kill themselves and drinking shampoo, Alamdar stitched his lips together. Out of frustration he slashed himself repeatedly with razor blades, and in a moment of deep despair he gouged the word "freedom" into his forearm.  (The Age)

April 21, 2003
South Australian police have apologized to protestors after a heavily tactical response squad drove into their camp near the Baxter detention centre searching for a rifle that had allegedly been aimed at a police helicopter.  The search of the site turned up a camera tripod.  A total of 33 people were arrested during the three-day Easter protest against mandatory detention of asylum seekers.  More than 350 police were on hand for the protests.  But as protesters left, riot police charged at selected groups to clear them from the area.  (The Age)

April 18, 2003
Police clashed with protesters outside the Baxter detention centre today after demonstrators climbed barricades and tried to march on the centre.  Ignoring police appeals to remain beyond a roadblock erected to seal access to the centre, hundreds of protesters confronted police in a tense stand-off this afternoon.  Some protesters climbed the barricades and attempted to make their way on foot to the centre's main gates, before a second line of police blocked their path and began confiscating camping equipment.  Hundreds of protesters from around Australia have converged on Port Augusta to rally against the government's treatment of asylum seekers.  Some 300 police officers were redeployed to Port Augusta this weekend, after last year's Easter rally at the Woomera detention centre, during which detainees staged several mass escapes with the help of demonstrators.  Refugee Action Collective protest organiser Fleur Taylor, from Melbourne, said centre manager Australasian Correctional Management (ACM), authorized by the Department of Immigration (DIMIA), had increased punishment of Baxter detainees.  (The Age)

March 10, 2003
Two men who escaped from the Baxter immigration detention centre last night spent just hours on the run before being recaptured by South Australian police early today.  Police said the men fled into bushland north of the Port Augusta facility at 11.18pm (CDT).  A search involving local police and Australian Federal Police was organised, including the use of a police aircraft.  (The Age)

January 3, 2003
It was meant to be the new, friendlier face of Australia's asylum seeker policy. Although an electrified fence runs around the outside, and security cameras are everywhere except in private areas, the rooms are modern. There is more grass and play area for children than in other centres. But today part of Baxter lies in ruins, and along with it any hope of an easy resolution to the fate of Australia's asylum seekers.   Just after midnight on Friday last week a fire broke out in an empty room in Red 1, a men's compound at Baxter. Although detainees cannot possess matches or lighters, arsonists may have made a lighter from electric wiring or a toaster. They had mattresses and newspapers - plenty of fuel.   Two nights later, a bigger fire was lit in Red 1. Staff tried to put it out but did not have enough water. Fire crews arrived, people were banging on doors to wake those still asleep. Many detainees were collapsing from smoke inhalation.   At about 3pm that day more fires were lit. Desperate to get out but told not to, detainees broke down the gate and tried to break out of the compound. Guards in riot gear confronted them. When some detainees were asked why they had started the fire they replied: "We were trying to get away. The centre is making us crazy."   By Sunday night the fires were spreading, first to Port Hedland detention centre, later to Woomera, Christmas Island and Villawood. The "ferocity" of the actions took guards by surprise, an ACM employee said.   On December 17, newspapers in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne published the same article. Carrying headlines such as "Five Star Asylums" and "It's not all mriots at our Club Fed", it reported that detainees enjoyed luxuries such as gyms, Foxtel, DVDs and yoga classes.   The article, and a similar one in a Port Hedland newspaper, made some people in the Port Hedland detention centre "very angry," says the town's Uniting Church minister, Bev Fabb. She says most of the article's information was wrong for Port Hedland. The article also troubled Harry Minas of the Federal Government's Independent Detention Advisory Group.   Neither Professor Minas nor Ms Fabb suggest a direct link between the article and the arson but many asylum seeker advocates feel the article helped to exacerbate what one advocate describes as a "huge deterioration" in the mood of detainees in the past month.   A shift is under way in the centres. Numbers are dwindling. No boat has reached Australia for 14 months. Baxter, Woomera and Port Hedland are way below capacity.   On New Year's Eve the Immigration Department handed a letter to 488 detainees in Baxter, Port Hedland and Woomera. The letter said most of them had been rejected as refugees and had "no right to remain in this country . . . You can choose to bring your detention to an end at any time by leaving Australia".   According to what an Iranian detainee told asylum seeker advocate Ian Knowles, a group of men, infuriated by the letter, marched to the immigration office and demanded to be deported straight away.   Guards in riot gear pushed them back to a compound. ACM confirmed that tear gas was used.   Mr Minas adds: "People are saying, 'It's their (the detainees') own bloody fault', and in a way it is.   "But people have to ask what makes this group prefer be in a detention centre environment rather than to go go home.   "They are not choosing a soft life in Australia."  (The Age)  

January 3, 2003
Thirteen pairs of scissors, two chisels, home-made weapons, broken glass panels and lighter fluid have been found after searches in Australia's seven immigration detention centres.  But strip searches of the 132 men detained at Baxter and Woomera in South Australia, conducted this week, apparently uncovered little.  An Immigration Department statement refers only to two mobile phones and one screwdriver being found.  The five-day spree of violence in five of the seven immigration detention centres has left a damages bill of $8.4 million.  The bill climbed $400,000 yesterday after the Immigration Department revealed the cost of fires at Christmas Island four days ago.  (The Age)

December 29, 2002
Asylum seekers who caused more than $2 million in damage by using bedding and furniture to fuel six separate fires at the three-month-old Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia face jail terms before being deported.  One of the centre's nine compounds was destroyed after five fires began simultaneously early yesterday, and 13 people, including two guards, were taken to hospital.   Forty-seven detainees were evacuated to another compound within the centre, where another big fire broke out shortly after 3.30pm.  Eighty-one rooms were destroyed, including 17 in the second compound. Two en suite units were destroyed and a mess hall was damaged.  According to the Department of Immigration website, riots in detention centres have caused more than $5 million in damage over the past 18 months. More than three-quarters of this has occurred at Woomera Detention Centre, where six buildings were destroyed in riots in August 2000 and a further three burnt during riots in November last year.  (Sidney Morning Hearld)

December 27, 2002
Inmates at South Australia's Baxter detention centre used mattresses and newspapers to light three fires that gutted a complex of four rooms, Australasian Correctional Management said yesterday.  The fires, which caused an estimated $60,000 damage, have been referred by the Department of Immigration to Australian Federal Police for investigation.  A spokesman for Australasian Correctional Management, which is contracted to run the Baxter immigration detention centre, said the fires had been lit in the single men's complex, which included two bedrooms and two toilet areas.  (The Age)

November 6, 2002
Up to 30 detainees at South Australia's Baxter detention centre were hit by nearly 50 guards in full riot gear last week and then refused medical treatment, according to an asylum seeker.  Afghan Fahim Shah said about eight detainees were hurt last Thursday's attack in the mess where about 30 people were eating dinner.  "They threw my plate and beat me with the stick and pushed me three times with the shield to go outside from the mess," he said.  He said there had been two other incidents of brutality by Australasian Correctional Management guards at the centre since it opened about six weeks ago.  (The Age)

Ben Reid Community CF, Houston, Texas (AKA Southeast Texas Transitional Center)
Oct 8, 2012 HoustonPress.com
The rapist of a 16-year-old girl is the latest sexual predator to slip through the sieve that is the privately run Southeast Texas Transitional Center. Thomas Lee Elkins, convicted of aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault in 1991, absconded from the facility, 10950 Old Beaumont Highway, October 5, according to reports. He's the sixth offender to float away from Southeast in 24 months. Formerly known as the Ben A. Reid Community Correctional Facility, Southeast is run by the Florida-based GEO Group, which, despite its appalling track record in Texas and elsewhere, keeps getting sweet state contracts. But hey, what's the big deal about losing a child rapist or two, right? Elkins is 6-3, about 200 lbs., and has a "Fu Manchu" mustache, which we're totally sure he hasn't shaved. We're also sure GEO Group won't have to pay any sort of penalty for this escape. They certainly weren't held accountable when another resident, Anthony Ray Ferrell, took a stroll in October 2010 and wound up gunning down a Good Samaritan who tried to stop Ferrell from stealing a woman's purse at a gas station. Look, clearly the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has more important things to do -- like monitor employees' Facebook use -- than make sure its contractors, like, keep the public safe and stuff. Anyone want to take bets on how long it'll be before another degenerate escapes?

April 6, 2012 Houston Press Blogs
A high-risk child rapist who hopped over his halfway house's barbed wire fence Thursday night is the fifth sex offender to abscond from the privately run Southeast Texas Transitional Center in 18 months. According to the Houston Chronicle story linked above, authorities say Michael Elbert Young, who might be "mentally unstable if not taking medication," removed his electronic tracking monitor. He was "released from prison after serving eight years for two aggravated assault convictions. Both were sex related. He also served a 20-year term for sexual assault of a child and attempted aggravated sexual assault." Oh, and he has a history of using knives. Owned and operated by Florida-based GEO Group, the facility at 10950 Old Beaumont Highway was formerly known as the Ben A. Reid Community Correctional Facility. Apparently, since GEO can't keep track of its convicted sexual predators, it just figured changing the name would solve the problem. After all, it's much cheaper than hiring a competent staff and improving security. In October 2010, Anthony Ray Ferrell walked out of Southeast Texas/Ben A. Reid, and was later charged with gunning down a Good Samaritan who intervened when Ferrell allegedly tried to snatch a woman's purse inside a gas station convenience store. A week before Ferrell strolled off the grounds, Bruce McCain, convicted of two sexual assaults in 1986, fled the facility. In December 2010, Arthur William Brown, who had served 31 years for aggravated sexual assault of two women and a 16-year-old, did the same. A month after that, sex offender Timothy Rosales Jr. absconded. Although some of these folks were caught, the problem is, as we wrote earlier, the place is like a freaking sieve, and GEO has a sweet contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice: There's apparently no repercussion for escapes, and once a resident absconds, it's no longer GEO's problem. All GEO personnel have to do is pick up a phone and notify real-life law enforcement officers. Thanks, GEO. We certainly feel safer with y'all at the wheel. And thanks, TDCJ, for continuing to do business with them.

January 25, 2011 KTRK
High risk, armed and dangerous are the words being used to describe a sex offender who absconded from a Houston halfway house on Monday night. It's been nearly 24 hours since Timothy Rosales, Jr. disappeared from the halfway house and he is no where to be found. The Texas Department of Public Safety has since added him to it's Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Related Content More: Got a story idea? Let us know! Rosales was doing maintenance work in the lobby of the Reid Center on Beaumont Highway around 6:15pm Monday when he bolted through the front door, cut off his electronic monitoring device around his ankle and fled. Rosales then did not report back to his parole officer and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Across the street at Melba's Country Kitchen, the owner and her staff had no idea he'd absconded until today. Melba Barfield says she has no reservations being this close to a halfway house where offenders can leave, so long as they have an approved schedule. "I've been here nine years and I've had absolutely no problems from the guys at the halfway house. I know that several have walked away but they haven't stopped here to get my dollar," said Barfield.

January 25, 2011 Houston Press Blogs
Timothy Rosales Jr. is the first rapist of 2011 to escape from the privately run Ben Reid halfway house, and the second to escape in a little over a month. The 39-year-old sex offender fled from the Beaumont Highway facility around 6:15 Monday night, according to the Department of Public Safety. He's considered armed and dangerous. And, like Arthur William Brown, the rapist who escaped in late December, he was able to remove his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. We wrote about the unsecured Reid facility, and its parent company, the Florida-based GEO Group, in December. Two months before the story ran, Anthony Ray Ferrell escaped from Reid and allegedly shot and killed a 24-year-old good Samaritan who intervened in a gas station purse-snatching. Another rapist split the Reid facility a few weeks before Ferrell slipped out. Although the place is like a freaking sieve, there is nothing in GEO's contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about a maximum number of vicious sexual predators that can be let loose on the public in a given amount of time. And once these monsters step off the Reid premises, they're no longer GEO's problem: It is up to actual real-life law enforcement officers to apprehend the escapees. All GEO personnel need to do is pick up the phone and make a few calls once they realize an offender hasn't returned on time. Needless to say, we're a little concerned about the kind of people who are standing between the public and some armed asshole who likes to rape 16-year-old kids. You know who doesn't need to worry? GEO's top executives. Their salaries and benefits are secure. They will continue to make money off the Reid facility. And besides, their families don't live anywhere near the facility. So what in the world would they have to worry about?

November 16, 2010 Houston Press
The man charged with killing a Good Samaritan during a purse-snatching is the third person to escape the same state-contracted halfway house in the last 20 months. Anthony Ray Ferrell had fled a "halfway house in the 10900 block of Beaumont Highway" in October, according to the Houston Chronicle. The home in that block is the Ben A. Reid Community Correctional Facility, from which sex offender Bruce McCain escaped in October 2010 and Richard Williamson Griffin Jr. escaped in February 2009. (McCain was arrested in the Rio Grande Valley three weeks after his escape). The home was operated by private prison group Cornell Companies, which was bought by its main competitor, the Florida-based GEO Group, last April. The facility "provides temporary housing, monitoring and transitional services for 500 minimum-security adult male offenders," according to Cornell Companies literature. Its "security measures include 24-hour custodial supervision, 12-foot perimeter fence, outdoor lighting, close circuit cameras, secure entrances and frequent census checks." Cornell Companies/GEO also operate Houston's Leidel Comprehensive Sanctions Center. In 2005, before GEO bought Cornell, a Leidel resident who got a day-pass for church and never bothered to return; he fled to Fort Worth, where he killed three men. Ferrell is accused of murdering Sam Irick at a Meyerland convenience store last week. Irick tried to intervene as Ferrell allegedly was robbing a customer.

Big Spring Complex, Big Spring, Texas
November 9, 2010 NewsWest 9
An accidental shooting on Tuesday at the federal prison in Big Spring put an inmate in the hospital. The shooting happened right before noon at the Flight Line Prison, located at the airpark in Big Spring. According to medics, a Hispanic man was accidentally shot by a gun in the upper arm. The wound was not serious, but he was taken to Scenic Mountain Medical Center for a follow up. He was alert and conscious while being transported. We still don't know how the prisoner was shot. Details are limited at this time, but we've learned the shooting is under investigation. NewsWest 9 has contacted the Geo Group, which currently runs the prison, and they have not commented on the incident. NewsWest 9 will continue to follow this story and will bring you the very latest information when we get it.

Bill Clayton Detention Center, Littlefield, Texas
Texas prison boom going bust: by Mitch Mitchell, September 3, 2011, Star-Telegram. Expose on troubles facing many communities that bought into the private prison bonding scam.
Wanted: Inmates and Investors Texas Lockups Go on the Block: July 19, 2011, Bond Buyer: Private prison bonding not panacea.

September 16, 2011 KCBD
After auctioning off the Bill Clayton Detention Center back in July, the City of Littlefield thought they were free from the financial strains. However, the private bidder has backed out of their $6 million offer. The private buyer made the offer via telephone during the July auction. Thirty days after the bid, the contract on the property was supposed to close. However, the City received word that the deal had fallen through. "It didn't happen and the reason it didn't happen was because the person who put in the highest bid basically backed out on their bid and kind of put us in a tailspin," City Manager Danny Davis said. After years of mismanagement and broken contracts, the $11 million dollar detention center sat vacant. The city was left to foot the bill, still owing more than $9 million on the property. The city was certain the bid of $6 million would help close the gap on their debt. The news of the bidder's change of heart is frustrating for Davis. "With the detention center, nothing has happened easy. It's been a struggle for us all along, so, in some ways, we were not that surprised that we've got a continued struggle," Davis said. It was a struggle that listing agent Jef Conn says he wasn't entirely surprised by. "We always hope for the best and plan for the worst. It's never the best when a contract falls out," Conn said. Conn says he is working with the City of Littlefield to come up with a plan to get the detention center sold. "There are some interested parties and we will be working with them and the city of Littlefield to find the best possible option and have them come in and buy the prison," Conn said. For Davis, he is hopeful the detention center can be sold quickly to alleviate concerns all across the board. "I'm retiring in two weeks, and I was very hopeful that this would be one problem my successor wouldn't have to deal with," Davis said.

July 28, 2011 Dallas Morning News
A debt-ridden West Texas town auctioned off the empty prison at the source of its money problems for $6 million Thursday morning. A private prison company bought the Bill Clayton Detention Center from the city of Littlefield, whose approximately 5,700 residents had barely been scraping by to pay the $9 million they still owed on the facility. The company placed their offer as a confidential bidder and is requesting to remain that way until the 30-day period for settling the sale is complete, according to Jef Conn, a real estate specialist for Coldwell Banker Commercial Rick Canup Realtors. The five-pod facility was built in 2000 by hopeful city officials wanting to rake in revenue for the small cotton-growing town. Instead, Littlefield was saddled with more than $9 million in debt once prisoners were pulled out and the private company operating the center left. After the sale, Littlefield will only owe between $3 million and $4 million on the facility, officials said.

July 27, 2011 American Independent
City officials in Littlefield have big hopes for tomorrow morning’s auction, where a minimum bid of $5 million could be enough to buy your own little slice of Panhandle heaven: the 383-bed Bill Clayton Detention Center. It’s being billed as a “turn-key medium security detention center,” a 383-bed bargain with slick promotions courtesy the Williams and Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auction house. The 11-year-old prison was refurbished in 2005, and looks great in the slideshows and teaser trailers produced for the auction. (Here’s a longer video tour, but scroll down for a look at the best one, a “Battlestar Galactica” inspired tour, all quick cuts and drums.) For the City of Littlefield, though, the prison’s last couple years haven’t been such a thrill ride. The town paid for the prison with a $10 million bond issue, planning for a bright future with the Texas Youth Commission. But after TYC pulled pulled its charges from the facility in 2003, Littlefield’s credit rating suffered as the South Florida-based private prison giant GEO Group shopped around the country for inmates to fill its beds — first with Wyoming’s, then with Idaho’s Department of Corrections. Idaho pulled its prisoners in 2008, GEO Group after them, and the town’s been stuck with the empty prison it hasn’t finished paying for. Now it’s raising taxes and fees on its 6,500 residents to make room for bond payments. The empty prison is the driving force behind cuts to the city budget this year, according to a City Manager’s message in the budget: The budget for 2010-2011 has presented new challenges for us since the debt payments for the Bill Clayton Detention Center (BCDC) have been pushed front and center by the lack of a source of prisoners to provide a revenue stream for those bond payments. Earlier this week, The Bond Buyer looked at the Bill Clayton facility and a handful of others now sitting empty around Texas. While many towns found ways to avoid leaving taxpayers on the hook if operators left, that didn’t happen here: Like many of the speculative detention centers built in sparsely populated counties, the Clayton facility was meant to be an economic stimulus instead of an economic drain. But Littlefield took the somewhat unusual step of pledging its full faith and credit to the bonds. City officials were either on vacation or didn’t reply to interview requests from the Independent. The advocacy group Grassroots Leadership has made a case study of Bill Clayton, warning of the hidden dangers private prisons can create for a town, and folks with the group say Texas’ shrinking prison population doesn’t tell the half of the Littlefield story. “This was like a soap opera,” said Grassroots Leadership executive director Donna Red Wing, recalling a 2004 prison break police said was aided by a pair of guards, and a 2008 suicide that sparked a suit against GEO Group from the family of the inmate, alleging he’d been left in solitary for more than a year. “You couldn’t make this stuff up, the stories are horrible,” Red Wing said. “If you wrote that screenplay, they wouldn’t take it.” When the Idaho DOC left the Clayton facility in 2008, state Correction Director Brent Reinke said it was pulling out because of “an ongoing staffing issue,” the Associated Press reported at the time, referring to an Idaho audit that found guards had been falsifying reports of their inmate checks. “Littlefield is a difficult place to have a facility. It’s a long way from an employment base,” said Grassroots Leadership’s Bob Libal, who edits the blog Texas Prison Bid’ness. Libal said the Clayton facility was part of a much greater prison-building rush around Texas that ended around 2007, followed by national searches for inmates to fill them. The only growth lately, Libal said, has been in facilities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A $35 million prison in Jones County was built by New Jersey-based Community Education Centers last summer, and now sits empty, as local TV station KTXS reported, “ready to bring nearly 200 jobs to the area.” In that case, the county formed a Public Facility Corporation to help minimize the taxpayers’ liability — but Libal said it could still mean trouble for the county because its credit rating is still tied to the prison debt. In January, Littlefield officials hoped the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would sign off on an application from Avalon Correctional Services to operate the prison, but nothing came of it. Now the city just wants it off the books, even at half of what they paid. NPR featured both the Clayton facility and Jones County’s new prison back in March, before Littlefield had announced its auction: “Too many times we’ve seen jails that have got into it and tried to make it a profitable business to make money off of it and they end up fallin’ on their face,” says Shannon Herklotz, assistant director of the [Texas Commission on Jail Standards]. The packages look sweet. A town gets a new detention center without costing the taxpayers anything. The private operator finances, constructs and operates an oversized facility. The contract inmates pay off the debt and generate extra revenue. The economic model works fine until they can’t find inmates.

July 14, 2011 Willams Auction
This is a unique opportunity to acquire a turn-key medium security detention center in Littlefield, TX. New owners will benefit from support from the town that built the facility, the area's low cost of living as well as a ready local workforce. Conveying with the buildings on auction day are furniture, linens, computers, kitchen supplies and other equipment used in the operation of the facility. Located approximately 45 minutes northwest of Lubbock, it is easily accessible from Highway 84, the Littlefield Municipal Airport, as well as Preston Smith International Airport. The Bill Clayton Detention Center was built in 2000 and updated in 2005. Standing on 30+/- acres, the center has 94,437+/- sq ft of space. It consists of five one-story air-conditioned buildings constructed of concrete block with a brick veneer and pitch seamed metal roofs. It has a capacity of 383 inmates in 5 housing pods, complete with dayrooms and other amenities. The buildings are contained behind a strengthened perimeter of double fences with an electronic shaker detection system and eight video surveillance cameras. Approximately 10 acres are contained within the fence. The facility also has a freestanding gymnasium, maintenance shed, armory and parking lot. At the opening bid of $5 million, the cost per bed is approximately $13,055!

May 19, 2011 Bradenton Herald
Fitch Ratings has taken the following action on Littlefield, Texas' combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs) during the course of routine surveillance: --$1 million combination tax and revenue COs, series 1997 affirmed at 'BB+'. -- The Rating Outlook is Negative. -- RATING RATIONALE: --The 'BB+' rating and Negative Outlook reflect the ongoing financial pressures resulting from Littlefield's challenges in servicing outstanding debt issued for a now vacant detention center. The city tapped reserve funds to help make the August 2010 debt service payments on the series 2000 and 2001 COs (not rated by Fitch); $268,825 was used from the combined reserves - that money has since been repaid and the reserves are fully funded. No reserve funds were used to make February 2011 payments. --Despite ongoing efforts to find a new tenant/operator, the city's detention center remains empty. The city council recently entered into a contract with an auction company to auction off the facility within 120 days. --Financial resources to make debt service payments have been aided by the adoption in fall 2010 of a debt service property tax and transfers from the city's two economic development corporations' sales tax revenues; transfers from the city's water and wastewater utility fund, which are secondary pledged revenues for the Series 1997 COs, remain the main source of debt service support. --General fund finances remain weak, with limited reserves. -- WHAT COULD TRIGGER A DOWNGRADE A failed auction would maintain financial pressure on the city, forcing it to continue with the current practice of cobbling together debt service payment amounts from various sources; utility system cash levels could decline and additional reserve fund draws could occur. -- SECURITY: The series 1997 COs are payable from and secured by a limited ad valorem tax pledge against all taxable property in the city, plus surplus revenues of the city's waterworks and sanitary sewer system. -- CREDIT SUMMARY: The city has been unable to locate a new tenant and/or permanent operator of its detention facility since the State of Idaho removed its prisoners in January 2009 and the GEO Group terminated its operating agreement at the same time. With no facility revenues to service the debt associated with the facility, the city in subsequent months patched together payments from various city sources, primarily available revenues of the water and wastewater utility system. The city was current on its payments until August 2010, when legal questions surrounding the city's ability to use sales tax revenues from its 4A economic development corporation delayed use of those funds. The city used nearly $269,000 from the debt service reserves associated with the series 2000 and 2001 COs issued for the detention center to make the August 2010 payment on these COs. Since then, the legal question regarding use of economic development corporation sales tax revenues has been resolved favorably for the city and the debt service reserves were fully replenished. Also, last fall the city council established a debt service property tax for the first time, which is expected to generate roughly $115,000 annually to help meet debt service requirements. Finally, Littlefield voters last fall approved the creation of a second 4B economic development corporation (also with sales tax collection authority), and that corporation's sales tax receipts will supplement the revenue stream. The combination of sales tax revenues and property tax revenues, a utility system transfer and a loan of other city funds enabled the city to make the February 2011 principal and interest payment on the detention center COs without tapping the reserve funds. Acknowledging the difficulty in securing new prisoners for the facility, the city recently executed a contract with a national auction house which will put into motion the process of auctioning off the detention facility within 120 days. Management reports that a $5 million reserve (minimum bid) will be included in the bid specifications. While a sale at this price will not retire the $9.5 million outstanding in related CO debt, it would enable the city to call a significant portion of the COs, reduce the annual debt requirement correspondingly, and relieve the current financial pressure measurably. Conversely, a failed auction will mean the city continues with its current practice of piecing together city revenues from various sources to meet debt payments - a challenging prospect that will keep pressure very high. Financial flexibility remains limited. The general fund balance is modest, with the city recording a $17,000 fund balance at fiscal 2010 year-end, or less than 1% of expenditures and transfers out. While the water and sewer fund maintains healthy liquidity and has historically provided significant general fund and detention center fund support, available surplus funds are expected to decline going forward as excess revenues are used to continue support of the general fund. The new debt service property tax and additional sales tax revenues help, but do not eliminate the need for utility system support. Utility debt service support was budgeted at more than $390,000 for fiscal 2011, or 50% of the $781,000 annual CO debt requirement. If the auction fails, reliance on utility system transfers until the COs are retired does not appear feasible; an alternative permanent solution would need to be devised. Littlefield, with a population of nearly 6,400, is located approximately 35 miles northwest of Lubbock and serves as the county seat for Lamb County. The area is primarily rural in nature, with agriculture services, government, manufacturing, and trade as key components of the county's economy. County unemployment rates have risen, with a 7.6% posted for February 2011; however, the rate remains below the statewide average of 8.2%. While there is moderate taxpayer concentration among the top 10 taxpayers, there is generally a good mix of industries within the list.

March 28, 2011 NPR
Private Prison Promises Leave Texas Towns In Trouble by John Burnett The country with the highest incarceration rate in the world — the United States — is supporting a $3 billion private prison industry. In Texas, where free enterprise meets law and order, there are more for-profit prisons than any other state. But because of a growing inmate shortage, some private jails cannot fill empty cells, leaving some towns wishing they'd never gotten in the prison business. It seemed like a good idea at the time when the west Texas farming town of Littlefield borrowed $10 million and built the Bill Clayton Detention Center in a cotton field south of town in 2000. The charmless steel-and-cement-block buildings ringed with razor wire would provide jobs to keep young people from moving to Lubbock or Dallas. For eight years, the prison was a good employer. Idaho and Wyoming paid for prisoners to serve time there. But two years ago, Idaho pulled out all of its contract inmates because of a budget crunch at home. There was also a scandal surrounding the suicide of an inmate. Shortly afterward, the for-profit operator, GEO Group, gave notice that it was leaving, too. One hundred prison jobs disappeared. The facility has been empty ever since. A Hard Sell "Maybe ... he'll help us to find somebody," says Littlefield City Manager Danny Davis good-naturedly when a reporter shows up for a tour. For sale or contract: a 372-bed, medium-security prison with double security fences, state-of-the-art control room, gymnasium, law library, classrooms and five living pods. Davis opens the gray steel door to a barren cell with bunk beds and stainless-steel furniture. "You can see the facility here. [It's] pretty austere, but from what I understand from a prison standpoint, it's better than most," he says, still trying to close the sale. For the past two years, Littlefield has had to come up with $65,000 a month to pay the note on the prison. That's $10 per resident of this little city. A Resident Burden Is the empty prison a big white elephant for the city of Littlefield? "Is it something we have that we'd rather not have? Well, today that would probably be the case," Davis says. To avoid defaulting on the loan, Littlefield has raised property taxes, increased water and sewer fees, laid off city employees and held off buying a new police car. Still, the city's bond rating has tanked. The village elders drinking coffee at the White Kitchen cafe are not happy about the way things have turned out. "It was never voted on by the citizens of Littlefield; [it] is stuck in their craw," says Carl Enloe, retired from Atmos Energy. "They have to pay for it. And the people who's got it going are all up and gone and they left us... " "...Holdin' the bag!" says Tommy Kelton, another Atmos retiree, completing the sentence. The Declining Prison Population The same thing has happened to communities across Texas. Once upon a time, it seems every small town wanted to be a prison town. But the 20-year private prison building boom is over. Some prisons are struggling outside Texas, too. Hardin, Mont., defaulted on its bond payments after trying, so far unsuccessfully, to fill its 464-bed minimum security prison. And a prison in Huerfano County, Colo., closed after Arizona pulled out its 700 inmates. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total correctional population in the United States is declining for the first time in three decades. Among the reasons: The crime rate is falling, sentencing alternatives mean fewer felons doing hard time and states everywhere are slashing budgets. The Texas legislature, looking for budget cuts, is contemplating shedding 2,000 contract prison beds. Statewide, more than half of all privately operated county jail beds are empty, according to figures from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. "Too many times we've seen jails that have got into it and tried to make it a profitable business to make money off of it and they end up fallin' on their face," says Shannon Herklotz, assistant director of the commission. The packages look sweet. A town gets a new detention center without costing the taxpayers anything. The private operator finances, constructs and operates an oversized facility. The contract inmates pay off the debt and generate extra revenue. The economic model works fine until they can't find inmates. In Waco, McLennan County borrowed $49 million to build an 816-bed jail and charge day rates for bunk space. But today because of the convict shortage, the fortress east of town remains more than half empty. The sheriff and county judge, once champions of the new jail, now decline to comment on it. Former McLennan County Deputy Rick White, who opposed the jail, had this to say about the prison developers who put the deal together: "They get the corporations formed, they get the bonds sold, they get the facility built, their money is front-loaded, they take their money out. And then there's no reason for them to support the success of the facility." Two of Texas' busiest private prison consultants — James Parkey and Herb Bristow — declined repeated requests for interviews. The Inmate Market Private prison companies insist their future is sunny. A spokesman for the GEO Group declined to speak about the Littlefield prison, but he sent along a slew of press releases highlighting the company's new inmate contracts and prison expansions across the country. Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison operator, says the demand for its facilities remains strong, particularly for federal immigration detainees. New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, which has been pulling out of unprofitable jails across Texas, issued a statement that "the current (jail) population fluctuation" is cyclical. One of the places where CEC is cancelling its contract is Falls County, in central Texas, where a for-profit jail addition is losing money. Now it's up to Falls County Judge Steve Sharp to hustle up jailbirds: "If somebody is out there charging $30 a day for an inmate, we need to charge $28. We really don't have a choice of not filling those beds," he said. Another place where they're desperate for inmates is Anson, the little town north of Abilene, Texas, once famous for its no-dancing law. Today, Jones County owns a brand-new $34 million prison and an $8 million county jail, both of which sit empty. The prison developers made their money and left. Then the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reneged on a contract to fill the new prison with parole violators. The county's Public Facility Corporation that borrowed the money to build the lockups owes $314,000 a month — with no paying inmates. They've got a year's worth of bond service payments set aside before county officials start to sweat. "The market has changed nationwide in the last 18 months or two years. It's certainly a different picture than when we started this project. And so we're continuing to work the problem," Jones County Judge Dale Spurgin says. Grayson County, north of Dallas, said no to privatizing its jail. Two years ago, the county was all set to build a $30 million, 750-bed behemoth twice as big as was needed. But the public got queasy and county officials ultimately scuttled the deal. "When you put the profit motive into a private jail, by design, in order to increase your dollars, your revenues, your profits, you need more folks in there and they need to stay longer," says Bill Magers, mayor of the county seat of Sherman, a leading opponent. When the supply of prison beds exceeds the demand for prison beds, there are beneficiaries. The overcrowded Harris County Jail in Houston, the nation's third largest, farms out about 1,000 prisoners to private jails. Littlefield and most other under-occupied facilities in Texas have all been in touch with Houston. "It really is a buyer's market right now, especially a county our size," says Capt. Robin Kinetsky, who is in charge of inmate processing for the Harris County Sheriffs Department. "They're really wanting to get our business. So, we're getting good deals." Nearby, disheveled and unsmiling men are brought from a holding cell to stand before a booking officer for their intake interviews. The detainees are wholly unaware that they may soon become the newest commodities of the volatile inmate market. Aarti Shahani contributed to this NPR News investigation and report.

February 3, 2011 KCBD
While the Lubbock County Detention Center is filling up with inmates, other counties are struggling to find an inmate. Taxpayers of those counties are now being held prisoners by their own prisons as they're forced to pay the price of empty facilities. About an hour from Lubbock, the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield hasn't had a single inmate in the last two years. "This was not built to house local inmates; it was built to house inmates from other parts of the state or other parts of U.S. It was built to bring economic development to the city of Littlefield," said Danny Davis, Littlefield city manager. For a while it did bring money into Littlefield, until the State of Idaho decided to remove its inmates from the center when the economy tanked back in 2009. "Everybody was cutting back it seemed, and it was very difficult to find other inmates from out of state to come in and fill the facility," said Davis. Nearly 100 people lost their job in the area, and with $9 million left to pay for the now empty building, residents are stuck paying the price through increased taxes and fees." Jokingly I've told people when I took this job I weighed a lot more and had a lot more hair, so that's how I guess you can say how the frustration level is. It has been a frustrating situation for the whole community," said Davis. About two hours away Dickens County faces a similar fate. Their contractor CEC didn't renew their contract with the Dickens County Correctional Center. In mid-December the remaining inmates were moved to Lubbock County's new facility, and nearly 120 jobs were lost - huge hit to the small communities of Dickens County. "It cost money to put people in jail. The state of the economy, the governments don't have as much money. Our own state is cutting the budget, and there's one way to save money…that's not to incarcerate them, and so that's why I believe our inmate population is down," said Lesa Arnold, Dickens County Judge. So far Dickens County hasn't had to increase taxes to foot the prison's one million dollar bill each year, but that option might soon surface. "We need to get this thing going within a year, and hopefully a whole lot sooner than that before that issue comes up as to who's going to make those bond payments," said Arnold. So how can Lubbock County fill its newly built facility while these two and others around the U.S. are failing? It comes down to why these facilities were built in the first place. Littlefield and Dickens County didn't have an inmate population for the large prisons they built; instead they were built to make a profit for the towns by contracting out the prison cells to other parts of the state and U.S. Lubbock on the other hand, needed the bigger facility. All 1,063 inmates currently in the Lubbock County Detention Center are from Lubbock County, which means their cells will constantly be filled with a local inmate population. The other facilities are staying hopeful a new inmate population will come their way. "I can't worry about why we have it because that's in the past. I can only worry about what can we do with it now that we have it, and that's what we work on every day," said Davis.

January 3, 2011 Avalanche-Journal
The city of Littlefield comes into 2011 hoping it will have a new tenant renting the Bill Clayton Detention Center in a few months. The prison, which closed in January 2009 after the Idaho Department of Corrections canceled a contract with private operator GEO Group and moved its prisoners from Littlefield to Oklahoma. Since then, the city has stretched itself financially to keep making payments on revenue bonds it issues to build the facility, which opened in 2000 as a juvenile detention center. The present ray of hope comes with Avalon Correctional Services, which has applied to TDCJ to operate an Intermediate Sanction Facility, which is a short-term facility that houses offenders who violate terms of their community supervision or paroles. The state issued a request for proposals in June, but no decisions have been made yet. “It’s been on (TDCJ’s) agenda a couple of times, but reading between the lines, it’s probably waiting until the state gets a better handle on its budget,” said Danny Davis, Littlefield’s city manager.

September 1, 2010 Smart Money
Owners of municipal bonds issued to pay for jails might not get to pass Go--and could have trouble collecting interest payments as well. These tax free bonds don't have a monopoly on defaults, but they're well represented among failures and troubled issues among the more speculative classes of municipal bonds. Data from Municipal Market Advisors reveals a slew of tax-free bonds issued to fund construction of privately run prisons and detention facilities in states from Texas to Rhode Island to Montana. The most recent example is Littlefield, a West Texas town of about 6,500 people. Located between the New Mexico border and Buddy Holly's hometown of Lubbock, Littlefield had to dip into reserves to cover payments for about $1.2 in bonds and other debt used to finance the Bill Clayton Detention Center. The bonds were issued in 2000, but the expected revenue stream evaporated when, after a prisoner suicide in 2008, the 310-bed private prison lost its contract to house out-of-state inmates. In 2009, the Geo Group (GEO), formerly known as Wackenhut Security, ended its operating agreement with the detention center, leaving it unoccupied. In April, Fitch Ratings, which in 2009 lowered the bonds to BB from BBB, affirmed a negative rating outlook. Littlefield city manager Danny Davis says the city is scrambling to avoid default on the $780,000 worth of annual payments and plans to cut police and fire service while dramatically raising property taxes when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The property could be sold or could be taken over by the state, though neither option is certain. "It's going to be difficult," he says. "In the meantime, we're just trying to keep our heads above water until we get to a solution." Bob Libal is the Texas campaign coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, a lobbying group which opposes for-profit prisons, and the editor of the blog Texas Prison Bid'ness. He says many small towns agree to build "speculative prisons" to be run by private contractors using municipal bond financing but that many of these projects in a post-Sept. 11 boom have had trouble. Libal criticizes the development groups that get paid up front for building detention centers thus saddling the bond-issuers (usually special public facilities corporations created solely for those projects) with risky debt. "They go after a lot of towns without a lot of sophistication and resources to do the due diligence," Libal says. "If they let the bonds go under, it's very difficult for them to issue any more debt." Matt Fabian, director of research at Municipal Market Advisors, cites similar bond woes in Central Falls, R.I.; Hardin, Mont.; and Baker County, Fla., where about $105 million in total debt has run into trouble because the prison projects haven't worked out as expected. "The incarceration rates drives speculation," he says. "There's an idea that you can profit from this prison trend." Investors in these increasingly-insecure jail bonds have certainly had to assume more risk, even though they get higher yields. The $99 million Central Falls Detention Facility bond issue of 2005 entered technical default in 2009 when it drew on its reserves to make payments. The bonds, issued at par with a yield of 7.25%, last traded at the end of 2009 at 85.3 cents to the dollar, with a yield of 8.69%. Municipal revenue bonds issued in 2002 that funded the West Alabama Youth Services detention facility defaulted in 2005. The bonds last traded in February at 9 cents to the dollar with a yield of 73.6%. Fabian says some of the biggest private prison busts are unlikely to have simple resolutions. A shopping center is easy to repurpose; a detention center is not. "It's hard to restructure," he says. "Even the land underneath a prison isn't worth as much as it was." Even with a resurgent effort by the private prison industry to use their facilities to detain illegal immigrants and an attempt by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to overhaul detention procedures, problems persist. The Baker Correctional Development Corporation, created to finance a correctional facility and immigration detention center west of Jacksonville, Fla., dipped into reserves for its August payment to holders of bonds issued in 2008. With those bonds trading last at 71.25 cents to the dollar with a yield of 20.73%, investors looking to lock up their money should probably seek less risky types of municipal bonds.

June 17, 2010 Courthouse News
A man claims a corrupt private prison company, The GEO Group, bribed the government to get contracts and then abused inmates, including his father, who died at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, from "grossly inhumane treatment, abuse, neglect, illegal and malicious conditions of confinement." Daniel McCullough sued Texas-based GEO Group and its top executives, all of Florida, and the warden of the jail where his father, Randall, died on Aug. 18, 2008. In his complaint in Comal County Court, Daniel McCullough says his father "was found dead after supposedly being monitored by GEO and its personnel." The complaint states: "McCullough's death was caused by specific breaches of duty by the Defendants ... who engaged in grossly inhumane treatment, abuse, neglect, illegal conditions of confinement, and subsequent coverup of wrongdoings." McCullough claims that "GEO and its personnel were found to have fabricated evidence, including practicing 'pencil whipping,' a policy and practice of GEO to destroy and fabricate log books and other relevant evidence." He claims that GEO and its officers "personally engage in efforts to illegally influence public officials in Austin, Texas and in the Texas counties where the GEO prisons are located, including Laredo, Webb County, Texas. Their goal is to conceal, deflect, hide or exculpate themselves and their company from all forms of personal civil or criminal liability, censure, detriment, or punishment in order to procure and continue their lucrative contracts at the expense of the inmates' and their families' suffering. They and their company, GEO, engage in a pattern and practice of abuse, neglect, public corruption, and cover up." McCullough claims that GEO and its officers "have a history of illegally neglecting, manipulating, and abusing inmates, and then covering up their wrongful and illegal conduct." He claims these abuses include "making illegal payments to governmental entities in exchange for contracts and permits; ... destruction of evidence and lying to state investigators; and misrepresentations to state and governmental entities regarding conditions inside their facilities." He seeks damages of $595 million - GEO's net worth - for gross negligence, breach of duty, wrongful death, and pain and suffering. He is represented by Ronald Rodriguez of Laredo.

April 14, 2010 Business Wire
Fitch Ratings takes the following rating action on Littlefield, Texas' (the city) as part of its continuous surveillance effort; --Approximately $1.2 million in outstanding combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs), series 1997 rated 'BB.' The Rating Outlook remains Negative. RATING RATIONALE: --The majority of the city's outstanding debt is for a detention center (not rated by Fitch), which had been self-supporting from detention center operations. However, both detention center prisoners and the private operator left the facility in 2009, and despite the city's active efforts to locate prisoners or sell the facility, the detention center remains vacant. --The lack of a debt service tax levy has resulted in considerable operating pressure. --A fully funded debt service reserve remains in place, with the February 2010 principal and interest payment made from available funds, primarily excess water and sewer system revenues. Officials plan to make the next interest payment in August 2010 from available funds as well, although there is a possibility debt service reserve funds may be needed. --General fund reserves are minimal; however, the water and sewer fund maintained about $800,000 in unrestricted net assets for the close of fiscal 2009. The city is considering making future detention center debt service payments from a combination of budget reductions, available city funds, and the imposition of an interest and sinking fund tax beginning in fiscal 2011. --The city's tax base has shown moderate annual growth, and county unemployment rates, although higher than a year ago, remain below the state and nation. Proximity to the Lubbock metropolitan area offers additional employment opportunities for residents.

August 24, 2009 Ad Hoc News
Fitch Ratings has downgraded to 'BB' from 'BBB-' the rating on Littlefield, TX's (the city) outstanding $1.3 million combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs), series 1997, and removed the ratings from Rating Watch Negative. The CO's constitute a general obligation of the city, payable from ad valorem taxes limited to $2.50 per $100 taxable assessed valuation (TAV). Additionally, the COs are secured by a pledge of surplus water and sewer revenues. The Rating Outlook is Negative. The downgrade reflects events related to the operation of the city's detention center facility, which accounts for the majority of outstanding debt (which was not rated by Fitch but is on parity with the series 1997 bonds). To the surprise of city officials, Idaho announced their plans to leave the Littlefield facility in January 2009, citing the need to consolidate all of its out-of-state prisoners into a larger facility in Oklahoma. In addition, the detention center's private operator, the Geo Group, unexpectedly announced termination of their agreement to manage the facility effective January 2009. The move to leave Littlefield by the Geo Group is significant, given that the established private operator had made sizable equity investments in the detention center reportedly totaling approximately $2 million. In the past, the ability of the Geo Group to quickly replace prisoners with little disruption in operations, as well as their investment in the Littlefield detention center were cited as credit strengths. On Dec. 9, 2008, Fitch placed the series 1997 bonds on Rating Watch Negative, reflecting the city's active pursuit of various alternatives to remedy the situation and possibly resolve it within the next several months. Funds to repay debt service on detention center COs through August 2010 had been identified through available city funds as well as a debt service reserve fund. The city indicated to Fitch in May 2009 that it was in negotiations with another established jail operator (the operator) to assume management of the Littlefield facility and that the operator was attempting to secure an agreement with a federal agency to house prisoners. Resolution or near resolution of this agreement was expected by August 2009. However, the operator has yet to secure a prisoner agreement and the timing for resolution remains uncertain. The downgrade to 'BB' reflects the uncertainty as to when and if the city can secure an operator for the detention center as well as the city's limited financial resources to repay the detention center debt. While the city continues to pursue an agreement with the operator (and other private companies in the event negotiations with the operator break down), the Negative Outlook reflects the potential financial hardship placed on the city if a long-term viable solution is not found. Although the detention center COs are also secured by an ad valorem tax pledge, the city levies a property tax for operations only. Officials report that the 2010 proposed budget does not include any property tax levy for debt service, but the city is investigating funding alternatives for future detention center debt service. In order to fully support the detention center COs, the ad valorem tax rate would have to double, which is not politically feasible.

December 13, 2008 Lubbock On-line
GEO Group Inc. says it has canceled its contract with the city of Littlefield and plans to terminate 74 employees at the Bill Clayton Detention Center effective Jan. 5 The Boca Raton-based Fla. company gave official notice last month, filing a mass layoff Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act letter with the city in accordance with federal law. The letter was obtained by The Avalanche-Journal. Under the law, an organization terminating 50 or more employees must give at least 60 days notice. GEO's decision was made shortly after it learned its own contract had been canceled with the Idaho Department of Corrections, which according to the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, cited prisoner safety concerns. IDOC had contracted with the for-profit corporation to house 300 of its inmates in the one-time youth detention facility owned by the city. Some of those inmates, according to the Times-News, will be transferred to the North Fork Corrections Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is operated by Corrections Corp. of America. "We understand the gravity of the situation and the citizens' concerns, but we are working hard toward a solution," said Danny Davis, Littlefield city manager, who was informed about GEO's decision on Nov. 7. He said the city has since hired Woodlands-based Carlisle & Associates, a municipal consultant, which has been brought on board to sell the 372-bed prison. Littlefield, which issued revenue bonds to construct the facility as part of an economic development strategy, still owes $10 million. However, Davis said, the city had already set aside a year's worth of bond payments as a precautionary measure when it made the decision to build. "We have enough to make at least the next three payments," adding the city should not have to tap those reserve funds until August. Danny Soliz, director of business services for WorkForce Solutions South Plains - the area's largest job placement/training organization - said he met with Littlefield prison guards during 12 hours of informational sessions Wednesday. "We'll be doing everything we can to help them," he said. Soliz said many of the workers told him they have no intention of leaving Littlefield, while others showed interest in applying for jobs at the new Lubbock County Jail and the Montford Psychiatric Unit operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Soliz said WorkForce brought in an expert from Fort Worth to assist workers in filing for unemployment benefits. Davis said the city is working on a number of scenarios involving filling the facility with inmates from other areas on a temporary basis. "We've also talked with a number of people who are interested in buying it. There are a lot of entities out there looking for beds, but it takes time for these solutions to transpire," he said.

December 9, 2008 Yahoo
Fitch Ratings has placed the 'BBB-' rating on Littlefield, TX's (the city) outstanding $1.4 million combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs), series 1997 on Rating Watch Negative. The CO's constitute a general obligation of the city, payable from ad valorem taxes limited to $2.50 per $100 taxable assessed valuation (TAV). Additionally, the COs are secured by a pledge of surplus water and sewer revenues. The Negative Watch reflects recent events related to the operation of the city's detention center facility, which accounts for the majority of outstanding debt. Officials are pursuing various alternatives to remedy the situation, with possible resolution within the next several months. Funds to repay debt service on detention center COs (which were not rated by Fitch) over the next one to two years have been identified through available city funds as well as a debt service reserve fund. However, failure to develop a viable long-term solution within the near term will have a negative impact on the rating. Detention center operations support approximately $1.4 million in outstanding 2000 COs and $9.0 million in outstanding 2001 COs issued for the construction of the facility. The detention center has a history of difficulties, beginning with construction delays and the subsequent loss of Texas Youth Commission (TYC) prisoners in 2003 and State of Wyoming prisoners in 2006. Detention center operations began to stabilize with the near immediate replacement of the State of Idaho prisoners in the facility. The city's contract with Idaho was scheduled to expire in July 2009, with negotiations for contract renewal planned for January 2009. However, to the surprise of city officials, Idaho recently announced their plans to leave the Littlefield facility in January 2009, citing the need to consolidate all of its out-of-state prisoners into a larger facility in Oklahoma. In addition, the detention center's private operator, the Geo Group unexpectedly announced termination of their agreement to manage the facility effective January 2009. The move to leave Littlefield by the Geo Group is significant, given that the established private operator had made sizable equity investments in the detention center reportedly totaling approximately $2 million. In the past, the ability of the Geo Group to quickly replace prisoners with little disruption in operations as well as their investment in the Littlefield detention center were cited as credit strengths. In response to the sudden loss of both prisoners and operators, city officials are investigating various options. According to the city, a number of other jail operators have expressed interest in managing the Littlefield facility. In addition, officials are considering selling the facility and retiring the outstanding debt. Officials have expressed the need to resolve this issue quickly and hope to have additional information within the next several months. In the interim, officials report that sufficient funds are on hand to make the Feb. 1 debt service payment, with the subsequent payments made from other resources, including the water and sewer fund as well as the debt service reserve fund. Prior to fiscal 2006, the detention center fund required transfers primarily from the water and sewer fund to meet operating and debt service needs. Since that time, detention center net revenues have been sufficient to cover its debt, providing 1.1 times (x) coverage in fiscal 2007. The water and sewer fund, which supports the remainder of the city's general obligation debt, continues to record positive results and for fiscal 2007, net revenues were $1.4 million, providing more than 3x coverage on water and sewer related CO debt service. In addition, the series 2000 and 2001 CO sales included provisions for a fully funded debt service reserve fund. Although the city utilized the reserve fund to meet debt service requirements in 2001 due to the delay in opening as well as the moratorium on TYC transfers to the detention center, officials report that the reserve is currently fully funded and has not been utilized since 2001 to meet debt service needs. For fiscal 2007, the restricted reserve stood at $1.1 million compared to fiscal 2007 debt service of approximately $780,000. Although the detention COs are also secured by an ad valorem tax pledge, the city levies a property tax for operations only. Officials report that they are considering levying a property tax to partially support the detention center COs. However, in order to fully support the detention center COs, the tax rate would have to double, which is not feasible given political realities. Littlefield, with a population of 6,500, is located approximately 35 miles northwest of Lubbock and serves as the county seat for Lamb County. The area is primarily rural in nature, with agriculture services, government, manufacturing, and trade as key components of the county's economy. The city's population and TAV had been flat until recently; for fiscal 2008 the city's tax base increased nearly 5% due to the construction of several commercial projects as well as residential development. While there is moderate taxpayer concentration among the top 10 taxpayers, there is generally a good mix of industries within the list. General fund finances have stabilized over the past several years, benefitting from the recent imposition of a 0.25% increase in the sales tax rate as well as tax base growth. Debt ratios are very low given the level of non-property tax support for outstanding COs although payout is slow. Fitch issued an exposure draft on July 31, 2008 proposing a recalibration of tax-supported and water/sewer revenue bond ratings which, if adopted, may result in an upward revision of this rating (see Fitch research 'Exposure Draft: Reassessment of the Municipal Ratings Framework'.) At this time, Fitch is deferring its final determination on municipal recalibration. Fitch will continue to monitor market and credit conditions, and plans to revisit the recalibration in first quarter-2009.

November 14, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
Families of two Idaho inmates who apparently killed themselves in lockups run by private prison company GEO Group Inc., pleaded Thursday with Texas state senators to bar out-of-state prisoners from the Lone Star State. The Idaho Department of Correction has housed more than 300 prisoners at GEO-run Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, but recently announced plans to move them to the private North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. The move follows allegations that GEO falsified reports and short-staffed the Texas facility where Idaho inmate Randall McCullough, 37, died. Families of Idaho inmates spoke Thursday at a Texas state Senate hearing in Austin, Texas. The hearing, which dealt with general oversight of the Texas prison system and did not result in specific action, was webcast live over the Internet. Among those testifying was lawyer Ronald Rodriguez, who represents McCullough's family as well as that of Idaho inmate Scott Noble Payne, 43, who killed himself last year at another GEO-run prison in Dickens, Texas. "Idaho prisoners need to be in Idaho where they have access to their court - Where they have access to their families," Rodriguez on Thursday told the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, spoke to Texas lawmakers last year and again on Thursday. "It seems that no lessons were learned," Noble said. "If changes had been placed - Randall would not have been so desperate to take his own life, as my son did." Texas Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, questioned why the "little" state of Idaho recently decided to pull its prisoners from Geo-run Bill Clayton. "Should we be following their lead?" he asked. But a Texas Department of Criminal Justice official told Whitmire that Texas inmates aren't held at Bill Clayton, and warned against painting private prisons in Texas with a broad brush. Inmate McCullough's sister, Laurie Williams, told Texas senators that they should do a review of all private prisons in their state - including GEO competitor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Idaho prisoners are to be taken to CCA-run North Fork in Oklahoma, where another Idaho inmate, David Drashner, was allegedly murdered in June. IDOC's decision to move prisoners from one privately run lockup to another out-of-state facility concerns Williams, as well as Drashner's wife, Pam Drashner, who have said they want Idaho to stop shipping away its inmates. Idaho doesn't have enough room for all its prisoners, and sending them out-of-state has been widely unpopular. Williams also wants to talk to Idaho lawmakers, she said. "We should be addressing the Idaho Senate," said Williams, after Thursday's hearing in Texas. "This is Idaho sending its inmates out of state whether it's Texas that takes them or Oklahoma and that's what we have to have stopped." GEO made $4.9 million in annual operating revenues off its contract with Idaho to manage prisoners at Bill Clayton. GEO officials said shareholders won't lose out from Idaho's withdrawal because of an expanding contract with the state of Indiana.

November 9, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
Private prison company GEO Group Inc. isn't lamenting the loss of a multimillion dollar contract with Idaho to manage more than 300 inmates at a Texas lock-up owned by the city of Littlefield. Idaho was only 1 percent of Baca Raton-based GEO's business, according to a 2007 annual report from the company. "The discontinuation of GEO's contract with the Idaho DOC will have no material impact on GEO's previously issued pro forma earnings guidance for the fourth quarter of 2008," according to a GEO press release Friday. GEO made $4.9 million in annual operating revenues off its contract with Idaho to manage state inmates in Texas, and the company announced Friday that revenue won't be lost because it's expanding a contract with the state of Indiana. "GEO expects the discontinuation of its contract with the Idaho DOC to be more than offset by the 420-bed contract expansion with the Indiana DOC," according to the press release. Idaho Department of Correction officials told the Associated Press Thursday it was pulling out of the contract with GEO and cited inmate safety risks at the Bill Clayton Detention Center, which is owned by the city of Littlefield. GEO, however, claims Idaho pulled out of the contract for a different reason than inmate safety or staffing levels. GEO officials said Friday that Idaho ended the contract because the state wants to consolidate all its out-of-state prisoners into one private facility. "We understand the decision by the state of Idaho to consolidate its out-of-state inmate population into one large-scale facility," said GEO Chief Executive Officer George Zoley in the press release. "The consolidation effort has led to the discontinuation of our out-of-state inmate contract with the Idaho Department of Correction at the Bill Clayton Detention Center." IDOC officials told the Times-News Friday that staffing at Bill Clayton and consolidation efforts were both factors in its decision to cancel the contract with GEO. IDOC didn't reply to the Times-News when asked which factor may have weighed more heavily. The pull-out announced Thursday by IDOC came after a two-month-old audit showed GEO guards weren't checking on inmates enough. GEO is also terminating its contract with the city of Littlefield to run Bill Clayton, which it has operated since 2005, the company announced Friday. GEO decided not to manage Bill Clayton anymore in Littlefield, a town populated by about 6,500 people, "due to financial underperformance and lack of economies of scale," according to the Friday press release. The first formal IDOC audit of Bill Clayton dated Sept. 3 followed an apparent suicide of Idaho inmate Randall McCullough, 37, of Twin Falls in August. IDOC had been monitoring the facility at least two weeks out of every month since last fall, an IDOC official said. IDOC's original two-year contract with GEO signed in 2006 could have ended on July 20, 2008. IDOC extended it a year until July 20, 2009, but now says all inmates will be out of Texas by January and moved to the Northfork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. - run by GEO competitor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which holds hundreds of other out-of-state Idaho inmates.

November 7, 2008 The Olympian
Idaho Department of Correction officials still don't know the cause of death for an inmate who apparently committed suicide in a private Texas prison in August. But what they do know is disturbing: The prison was so understaffed that the warden himself was working the midnight shift at the Bill Clayton Detention Center on Aug. 17, the night Randall McCullough died. A state investigation found that regularly scheduled checks on inmates either weren't done or were done incorrectly, and there was no effective check done on McCullough from the time he turned in his dinner tray at 5:45 p.m. to the time his body - already cold and stiff - was found just after midnight. Log books from that night are inaccurate, according to the investigation, and the videotape from the prison's security system shows neither the correct date nor the arrival of emergency workers, prompting Idaho investigators to speculate that it might not be the tape from that night at all. "You can see where the train wreck is coming, can't you?" state Department of Correction Chief Investigator Jim Loucks told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. Department officials this week announced they're terminating the state's multimillion dollar contract with The GEO Group, the for-profit private prison company that runs the Bill Clayton Detention Center. Within 60 days, the roughly 300 Idaho prisoners there will be transferred to the Correction Corp. of America-run North Fork Correctional Institution in Sayre, Okla. The inmates have been housed out of state because of overcrowding in Idaho prisons. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The staff at the Bill Clayton center - from then-warden Arthur Anderson down to the correctional officers - didn't follow prison policy or respond properly to McCullough's death, according to documents obtained by The AP from the Idaho Department of Correction through public records requests. Pablo Paez, spokesman for The GEO Group, has not returned repeated phone calls from The AP. The GEO Group Vice President Amber Martin said she couldn't comment on the documents or Idaho's decision to end the contract. McCullough was found dead in his cell by Anderson at about 12:15 a.m., according to the state's investigation. Two letters were found in his cell as well - one to his sister, Laurie Williams, and another addressed to Anderson and the Idaho Department of Correction. "To hom it may concern," the misspelled, handwritten letter read. "I'v been puting this off for long anuff. I can't set here and slowly die. Sorry for the inconvenience." The apparent suicide surprised those who knew McCullough, according to the investigation. The inmate, who was serving time on a robbery charge, was within a few months of an expected parole hearing and apparently believed he would be sent back to Idaho sometime around the end of the year, pending a cell opening in the state's overcrowded system. McCullough had been in segregation for several months at the Texas facility after he was accused of assaulting a staff member. The prison, located in the tiny town of Littlefield, Texas, competes for employees with nearby oil fields, which often pay more than residents can make working as a correctional officer, Loucks said. That contributed to the chronic understaffing. Around the time McCullough died, prison employees were working as much as 20 hours of overtime every week, and often resorted to calling in sick just to get some time off, Loucks said. On the night of Aug. 17, 2008, five people didn't make it in to work - leaving the prison with just 10 correctional officers for the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, below the state-mandated minimum of 12, and well below the 15 officers generally scheduled, according to the report. To deal with the shortage, the shift supervisor persuaded two dayshift employees to stay until 10 p.m., and got two employees scheduled for the next day to come in four hours early, at 2 a.m. But that still left the prison short two officers from 10 p.m. on Aug. 17 to 2 a.m. on Aug. 18, Loucks said. That's when Warden Anderson and Chief of Security Dennis Blevins agreed to come in to work those middle-of-the night hours. The short-staffing led to a few bad habits at the prison, according to the report. Officers often committed a practice known as "pencil-whipping," filling out the log books to show they had made security checks on the inmates every 20 minutes, even if the checks hadn't been done. It also meant that the prison was often without a utility officer, an employee charged with fueling the vehicles, emptying the trash and doing other non-guard duties. Because the segregation unit had fewer inmates than other areas, the correctional officer guarding the unit was generally pulled away from his duties to take care of the utility officer chores, Loucks said. That happened the night of Aug. 17, he said, and as a result no one noticed that McCullough was unmoving and unresponsive until 12:18 a.m., when Warden Anderson walked by the cell. Anderson radioed for help when he noticed McCullough wasn't responding to knocking on the cell door. Medical personnel came within four minutes, but didn't bring the necessary equipment to treat an unresponsive patient and so had to go back to another part of the prison to get it, according to the report. Staffers began CPR, but didn't move McCullough's body from the bed to the floor, where they would have had a firmer surface and more effective chest compressions, investigators found. Prison officials didn't call 911 for 15 minutes, according to the report, but Anderson reportedly told investigators that was because he was trying to notify enough other employees so they could safely unlock McCullough's door and go into the cell. McCullough was dead and apparently had been for some time - his body was cold to the touch, according to the report. Prison officials immediately suspected that McCullough might have overdosed on medication, and his body was sent for toxicology tests and an autopsy. Those tests have been completed, but the Texas coroner's report has not yet been finished, so Idaho Department of Correction officials still don't know just how or why McCullough died. But one thing is clear: Idaho prisoners will be removed from Bill Clayton. State Correction Department chief Brent Reinke notes the state prison system is expanding, with roughly 600 more beds to be added next year. Reinke hopes that will provide enough room to bring all the out-of-state prisoners home. "It's a real unfortunate situation - it always is," Reinke said. "But there's no question that Idaho inmates are much better to manage in Idaho."

November 6, 2008 AP
The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma. Correction Director Brent Reinke notified GEO officials Thursday in a letter. Reinke said the company's chronic understaffing at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, put Idaho offenders' safety at risk. An Idaho Department of Correction audit found that guards routinely falsified reports to show they were checking on offenders regularly — even though they were sometimes away from their posts for hours at a time. "I hope you understand how seriously we're taking not only the report but the safety of our inmates," Reinke told The Associated Press on Thursday. "They have an ongoing staffing issue that doesn't appear to be able to be solved." The contract will end Jan. 5. Reinke said the department wanted to pull the inmates out immediately, but state attorneys found there wasn't enough cause to allow the state to break free of the contract without a 60-day warning period. In the meantime, Reinke said, Idaho correction officials have been sent to the Texas prison to help with staffing for the next two months. GEO will be responsible for transferring the inmates to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is run by Corrections Corp. of America. GEO will cover the cost of the move, Reinke said, but Idaho will have to pay $58 per day per inmate in Oklahoma, compared to $51 per day at Bill Clayton. Amber Martin, vice president for The GEO Group, of Florida, said she couldn't comment on the audit or on Idaho's decision to end the contract. She referred calls to the company spokesman, Pablo Paez, who could not immediately be reached by the AP. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The Bill Clayton audit describes the latest in a series of problems that Idaho has had with shipping inmates out of state. Overcrowding at home forced the state to move hundreds of inmates to a prison in Minnesota in 2005, but space constraints soon uprooted them again, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Conditions at Dickens were left largely unmonitored by Idaho, at least until inmate Scott Noble Payne committed suicide after complaining of the filthy conditions there. Idaho investigators looking into Payne's death detailed the poor conditions and a lack of inmate treatment programs, and the inmates were moved again. That's when the Idaho Department of Correction created the Virtual Prisons Program, designed to improve oversight of Idaho inmates housed in contract beds both in and out of state. The extent of the Bill Clayton facility understaffing was discovered after Idaho launched an investigation into the apparent suicide of inmate Randall McCullough in August. During that investigation, guards at the prison said they were often pulled away from their regular posts to handle other duties — including taking out the garbage, refueling vehicles or checking the perimeter fence — and that it was common practice to fill out the logs as if the required checks of inmates were being completed as scheduled, said Jim Loucks, chief investigator for the Idaho Department of Correction. For instance, Loucks said, correction officers were supposed to check on inmates in the administrative segregation unit every 30 minutes. But sometimes they were away from the unit for hours at a time, he said. The investigation into McCullough's death is not yet complete, department officials said. The audit also found several other problems at Bill Clayton. The auditor found that "the facility entrance is a very relaxed checkpoint," prompting concerns that cell phones, marijuana and other contraband could be smuggled past security. In addition, the prison averages a 30 percent vacancy rate in security staff jobs, according to the audit. Though it was still able to meet the one-staffer-for-every-48-prisoners ratio set out by Texas law, employees were regularly expected to work long hours of overtime and non-security staffers sometimes were used to provide security supervision, according to the audit. "Based on a review of payroll reports, there are significant concerns with security staff working excessive amounts of overtime for long periods of time," the auditors wrote. "This can lead to compromised facility security practices and increased safety issues." When the audit was done, there were 29 security staff vacancies, according to the report. That meant each security staff person who was eligible for overtime worked an average of 21 hours of overtime a week. That extra expense was borne by GEO, not by Idaho taxpayers, said Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray. The state's contract with GEO also required that at least half of the eligible inmates be given jobs with at least 50 hours of work a month. According to the facility's inmate payroll report, only 35 out of 371 offenders were without jobs. But closer inspection showed that the prison often had several inmates assigned to the same job. In one instance, nine inmates were assigned to clean showers in one unit of the prison — which only had nine shower stalls. So although each was responsible for cleaning just one shower stall, the nine inmates were all claiming 7- and 8-hour work days, five days a week. GEO is responsible for covering the cost of those wages, Ray said. "While the contract percentage requirement is met, the facility cannot demonstrate the actual hours claimed by offenders are spent in a meaningful, skill-learning job activity," the auditors wrote. Auditors also found that too few inmates were enrolled in high school diploma equivalency and work force readiness classes.

October 1, 2008 AP
For a decade, Idaho has been shipping some of its prisoners to out-of-state prisons, dealing with its ever-burgeoning inmate population by renting beds in faraway facilities. But now some groups of prisoners are being brought back home. Idaho Department of Correction officials are crediting declining crime rates, improved oversight during probation, better community programs and increased communication between correction officials and the state's parole board. The number of Idaho inmates has more than doubled since 1996, reaching a high of 7,467 in May. But in the months since then, the population has declined to 7,293 -- opening up enough space that 80 inmates housed in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., and at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, could be bused back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. The inmates arrived Monday night. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke hailed their arrival as one of the benefits the system was reaping after years of work. "It's more about having the right inmates at the right place at the right time," Reinke said. "People are communicating better and we're working together better than we were in the past."

September 21, 2008 Times-News
Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again. In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state. The Department of Correction say they want to bring them all home, they simply have no place to put them. Drashner, who was convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007, and was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough, serving time for robbery, was found dead in his cell. IDOC officials say he left a note, though autopsy results are pending. His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all. "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams. Out of Idaho -- Idaho has so many prisoners scattered around the country that the IDOC last year developed the Virtual Prison Program, assigning 12 officers to monitor the distant prisons. In 2007 Idaho sent 429 inmates to Texas and Oklahoma. This year; more than 700 - and by one estimate it could soon hit 1,000. But officials say they don't know exactly how many inmates may hit the road in coming months. The number may actually fall due to an unexpected drop in total prisoner head-count, a turnabout attributed to a drop in sentencings, increased paroles and better success rates for probationers. The state will also have about 1,300 more beds in Idaho, thanks to additions at existing prisons. State officials say bringing inmates back is a priority. "If there was any way to not have inmates out-of-state it would be far, far better," said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, a former Twin Falls County commissioner, noting higher costs to the state and inconvenience to inmate families. Still, there's no end in sight for virtual prisons, which have few fans in state government. "I do think sending inmates out-of-state is counter-productive," said Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, a member of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. LeFavour favors treatment facilities over prisons. "We try to make it (sending inmates out-of-state) a last resort, but I don't think we're doing enough." Even lawmakers who favor buying more cells would like to avoid virtual lockups. "It's more productive to be in-state," said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, who said he would support a new Idaho prison modeled after the state-owned but privately run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). "We don't want to stay out-of-state unless we have to
��- It's undesirable." A decade of movement -- Idaho has shipped inmates elsewhere for more than a decade, though in some years they were all brought home when beds became available at four of Idaho's state prisons. The 1,500-bed ICC - a state-owned lockup built and run by CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) - also opened in 2000. But that wasn't enough: "It will be years before a substantial increase in prison capacity will allow IDOC to bring inmates back," the agency said in April. In 2005, former IDOC director Tom Beauclair warned lawmakers that "if we delay building the next prison, we'll have to remain out-of-state longer with more inmates," according to an IDOC press release. That year inmates were taken to a Minnesota prison operated by CCA, where Idaho paid $5 per inmate, per day more than it costs to keep inmates in its own prisons. "This move creates burdens for our state fiscally, and can harden our prison system, but it's what we must do," IDOC said at the time. "Our ability to stretch the system is over." Attempts to add to that system have largely failed. Earlier this year Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked lawmakers for $191 million in bond authority to buy a new 1,500-bed lockup. The Legislature rejected his request, but did approve those 1,300 new beds at existing facilities. Reinke said IDOC won't ask for a new prison when the next Legislative session convenes in January. With a slow economy and a drop in inmate numbers, it's not the time to push for a new prison, he said. Still, recent projections for IDOC show that without more prison beds here, 43 percent of all Idaho inmates could be sent out-of-state in 2017. "It's a lot of money to go out-of-state," Darrington said. Different cultures -- One of eight prisons in Idaho is run by a private company, as are those housing Idaho inmates in Texas and Oklahoma. The Bill Clayton Detention Center in Texas is operated by the Geo Group Inc., which is managing or developing 64 lockups in the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The North-Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is owned and operated by CCA, which also has the contract to run the Idaho Correction Center. CCA houses almost 75,000 inmates and detainees in 66 facilities under various state and federal contracts. Critics of private prisons say the operators boost profits by skimping on programs, staff, and services. Idaho authorities acknowledge the prisons make money, but consider them well-run. "Private prisons are just that - business run," Idaho Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades told the Times-News. "It doesn't mean out-of-sight, or out-of-mind." Yet even Reinke added that "I think there's a difference. Do we want there to be? No." The Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO) says on its Web site that its members "deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability." Falling short? Thomas Aragon, a convicted thief from Nampa, was shipped to three different Texas prisons in two years. He said prisons there did little to rehabilitate him, though he's up for parole next year. "I'm a five-time felon, all grand theft and possession of stolen property," said Aragon, by telephone from the ICC. "Apparently I have a problem and need to find out why I steal. The judge said I needed counseling and that I'd get it, and I have yet to get any." State officials said virtual prisons have a different culture, but are adapting to Idaho standards. "We're taking the footprint of Idaho and putting it into facilities out-of-state," Blades said. Aragon, 39, says more programs are available in Idaho compared to the Texas facilities where he was. Like Aragon, almost 70 percent of Idaho inmates sent to prison in 2006 and 2007 were recidivists - repeat IDOC offenders - according agency annual reports. GEO and CCA referred questions about recidivism to APCTO, which says only that its members reduce the rate of growth of public spending. Aragon said there weren't enough case-workers, teachers, programs, recreational activities and jobs in Texas. Comparisons between public and private prisons are made difficult because private companies didn't readily offer numbers for profits, recidivism, salaries and inmate-officer ratios. During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas - where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held - state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment: "No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates. "Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility ��- Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report. The prison has since made improvements, the state said. Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints have grown from the way they have been sent to the prisons. Inmates describe a horrific bus ride from Idaho to Oklahoma in April in complaints collected by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise. The inmates say they endured painful and injurious wrist and ankle shackling, dangerous driving, infrequent access to an unsanitary restroom and dehydration during the almost 30-hour trip. "We're still receiving a lot of complaints, some of them are based on retaliatory transfers," said ACLU lawyer Lea Cooper. IDOC officials acknowledge that they have also received complaints about access to restrooms during the long bus rides, but they maintain that most of the inmates want to go out-of-state. Many are sex offenders who prefer the anonymity associated with being out-of-state, they said. Unanswered questions -- Three deaths of Idaho interstate inmates in 18 months have left families concerned that even more prisoners will come home in ashes. "We're very disturbed about...the rate of Idaho prisoner deaths for out-of-state inmates," Cooper said. It was the razor-blade suicide of sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas that caught the attention of state officials. Noble's death prompted Idaho to pull all its inmates from the Geo prison. State officials found the facility was in terrible condition, but they continue to work with Geo, which houses 371 Idaho inmates in Littlefield, Texas, where McCullough apparently killed himself. Noble allegedly escaped before he was caught and killed himself. Inmate Aragon said he as there, and that Noble was hog-tied and groaned in pain while guards warned other inmates they would face the same if they tried to escape. Private prison operators don't have to tell governments everything about the deaths at facilities they run. The state isn't allowed access to Geo's mortality and morbidity reports under terms of a contract. Idaho sent additional inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America-run Oklahoma prison after Drashner's husband died in June. IDOC officials said an Idaho official was inspecting the facility when he was found. IDOC has offered few details about the death. "The murder happened in Oklahoma," said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray, adding it will be up to Oklahoma authorities to charge. Drashner said her husband had a pending civil case in Idaho and shouldn't have been shipped out-of-state. She says Idaho and Oklahoma authorities told her David was assaulted by another inmate after he verbally defended an officer at the Oklahoma prison. Officers realized something was wrong when he didn't stand up for a count, Drashner said. "He was healthy. He wouldn't have been killed over here," she said.

August 28, 2008 Times-News
An Idaho prison inmate held at a private facility in Texas through the state's Virtual Prison Program was in solitary confinement for more than a year when he apparently killed himself, authorities have confirmed. Idaho Department of Correction is still investigating the cause and manner of death for the inmate, Randall McCullough, 37, who was found unresponsive Aug. 18 in his cell, which measured 7.5 feet, by 12 feet, by 8 feet, said Idaho Department of Correction Spokesman Jeff Ray. McCullough had been segregated from other inmates since Dec. 13, 2007, after he allegedly assaulted a staff member at the Bill Clayton Detention Center run by Geo Group Inc., said Ray. He apparently wasn't criminally charged for that alleged assault in Texas. "It's our understanding that the prosecutor in Texas had not made a decision on whether or not to file charges," said Ray. "The staff assault occurred in Texas and would be considered a Texas crime. IDOC would not have a direct connection to it." Authorities at Geo Group's Bill Clayton Detention Center directed all questions from the Times-News on Wednesday back to the Idaho Department of Corrections. McCullough was in prison for a 2001 Twin Falls County robbery conviction. He had a criminal record involving charges of escape, forgery, controlled substance possession, grand theft, burglary, resisting arrest, and driving violations, according to court records. Imposing inmate segregation for one to two years as a result of an assault on a guard would not be uncommon, and wardens at out-of-state facilities holding Idaho inmates can decide if an inmate is put in segregation, said Ray. Inmates in segregation eat meals in their cells and can shower once every 72 hours. Toilets are in cells and McCullough had a television, said Ray. Lights at the Texas facility are on 24 hours a day, Ray said, adding that some facilities in Idaho dim lights at sleeping times.

August 21, 2008 The Times News
The state's Virtual Prison Program is only a year old and the Monday death of inmate Randall McCullough, 37, could be the second suicide involving the initiative outside of Idaho. Idaho prison officials said Wednesday they're still investigating if McCullough committed suicide at a private contracted facility in Texas - Bill Clayton Detention Center run by the GEO Group Inc. - which is holding 371 inmates each at $51 per day under a contract that expires in July 2009. The Virtual Prison Program started in July 2007, but the state started putting inmates in non-state owned facilities in October 2005, said Idaho Department of Correction Spokesman Jeff Ray. Six state inmates have committed suicide since July 2006, not including McCullough, Ray said.

December 11, 2007 AP
Inmates from Idaho housed at a private West Texas detention facility could face new charges following an attack on a female guard. The woman was attacked about 7:30 p.m. Monday after she apparently tried to take tobacco away from at least two of the inmates at the Bill Clayton Detention Center, Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries, he said. Afterward, as many as 15 inmates refused to return to their cells and additional officers were called in to help, Ray said. The inmates then agreed to return to their cells, he said. Officials with the Littlefield police department, which is investigating the incident, did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday. A deputy warden with the Idaho agency is on his way to Littlefield to investigate, a release from that department said. Those involved in the attack could face charges, and inmates who refused to return to their cells will likely face disciplinary sanctions, the release said. The prison is operated by The GEO Group Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that owns or operates 68 facilities worldwide. "We will be working cooperatively with the Idaho Department of Correction as they conduct their investigation," said Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman. A lack of space in Idaho prisons brought hundreds of inmates to Texas in early 2006. They were first housed here at a GEO facility in Newton in East Texas. They were moved to Littlefield in August 2006 after allegations of abuse by guards prompted an investigation. Three employees at Newton's facility were disciplined as a result of the investigation.

July 31, 2007 Idaho Statesman
Idaho's Department of Correction has created a new position to manage Idaho's roughly 2,400 inmates in private, out-of-state prisons and county jail beds. Randy Blades, who has been the warden at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise, will monitor the 500-plus inmates, now in three Texas prisons managed by the Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. He will also monitor the 240 inmates soon to be transferred from Idaho to a private prison in Oklahoma, and the inmates in county jail beds across the state. Correction Director Brent Reinke created the position after disclosing that conditions at one of those prisons were so bad that inmates will be moved elsewhere. Inmates at the Dickens County Correctional Center are being moved to the Bill Clayton Detention Center after an inmate suicide at Dickens revealed filthy living conditions and poorly trained and unprofessional staff. “Times have changed and we simply need to get in front on this issue,” Reinke said in a statement. “We must be proactive. We need to make sure inmates are being treated adequately and taxpayers are getting what they are paying for.”

October 24, 2006 Yahoo.com
Fitch downgrades the rating on Littlefield, TX's (the city) outstanding $1.6 million combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs), series 1997 to 'BB+' from 'BBB+.' The Rating Outlook is Stable. The downgrade primarily reflects the city's significantly weakened financial position. The general fund balance has been at minimal levels for the past several years, while the detention center fund, which supports the bulk of the city's general obligation debt, is in a deficit unrestricted net asset position, created by the pull-out of Texas Youth Commission (TYC) prisoners in 2003. Some signs of financial improvement are evident, and projected fiscal 2006 results are expected to show a moderate increase in general fund reserve levels as well as a small operating surplus in the detention center fund. Further, the detention center is now fully occupied. Nevertheless, financial stabilization has not been achieved, and the city remains highly dependent on housing outside prisoners to meet operational and debt service requirements of the detention center. Detention center operations, which experienced problems at the onset primarily due to construction delays, were again negatively impacted by the loss of all TYC prisoners in 2003. While TYC offenders were subsequently replaced with state of Wyoming prisoners, the impact on finances was severe and continued through fiscal 2005, evidenced by a $351,000 unrestricted net asset deficit recorded in the detention center fund. In addition, the detention center fund had to rely on support from other funds, most notably a sizable transfer from the water and sewer fund in fiscal 2004, to meet operational and debt service needs. The contract to house Wyoming prisoners was terminated in 2006, and subsequently a new contract with the state of Idaho was implemented. For 2006, officials report that no outside financial support was required and that a $30,000 operating surplus is expected. However, the large deficit will likely remain for sometime and the historical movement of prisoners in and out of the Littlefield facility demonstrates the difficulty of maintaining long-term prisoner contracts. If the city had to levy an interest and sinking fund tax to meet detention center related debt obligations, officials estimate that the overall tax rate would have to double over the current operations and maintenance tax rate, which Fitch believes would be extremely difficult to impose.

Blackwater River Correctional Facility, Milton, Florida
FBI issues subpoenas apparently linked to Florida Geo Group investigation,  June 16, 2011. As previously reported by DBA Press (“Legacy of Corruption,” February, 2011), the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been quietly investigating the circumstances which led to the appropriation and construction of Florida’s largest private prison, Blackwater River Correctional Facility (Blackwater CF), operated by Florida-based private prison operator, Geo Group. By Beau Hodai  DBA Press
New private prison in Milton shows Florida cost-savings challenge, April 25, 2011, Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau. Excellent piece exposing the cherry-picking going on in this GEO for-profit prison.
DBA Press Investigative Report: Legacy of Corruption January 22, 2011 U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s unsettling history of extremely close ties to private prison operator Geo Group and the possible federal investigation into Florida’s private prison giveaway of more than $120 million. By Beau Hodai

December 1, 2011 The Daily News
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole said Thursday that FBI agents had asked him Wednesday about a private land sale in 2009 and the county’s sale of land to build the Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton. “It was all the same things over again,” Cole said during a brief telephone conversation about the search of his home and business. “They threw so much out there I didn’t know what they were focused on.” FBI and IRS agents searched Cole’s home in East Milton and his Pensacola business, Bob Cole’s Automotive. No arrests were made and the agents declined to say what they were seeking. Cole, who has been a commissioner since 2002, has maintained his innocence of any wrongdoing. Although his County Commission offices were not searched Wednesday, Cole focused his comments on his actions as an elected official. “No vote was bought and I did not better myself because of a vote,” he said Wednesday. “I am comfortable in my votes of the past on issues and no one twisted my arm. Everything I have done is on the record and I feel good to go.” Cole confirmed Thursday that agents asked specifically about his sale of land to a business known as Beannacht Properties LLC. On April 17, 2009, Cole sold 9 percent of a five-acre parcel on Welcome Church Road to Beannacht Properties for about $50,000. Beannacht Properties is managed by Nina Roche Cobb and her husband, Donald Cobb. Nina Roche Cobb is the daughter of John and Deborah Roche, Gulf Breeze residents who own Lifeguard Ambulance Service, which holds a contract with Santa Rosa County to provide emergency services. A federal warrant was issued in August for documents pertaining to several Santa Rosa County land transactions and material related to discussions regarding the county’s Lifeguard Ambulance contract. It is not clear whether the records request in August and Wednesday’s search of Cole’s home and business are related. Calls to Beannacht Properties have not been returned. Cole also acknowledged Thursday that the FBI has also asked him about the county’s $2.65 million sale of land to a south Florida company known as the GEO Group. The GEO Group bought the property so that it could build a $120 million private prison in Milton.

September 25, 2011 Pensacola News Journal
Two Santa Rosa County officials are due at Pensacola's federal courthouse on Tuesday — with volumes of records — to answer four federal subpoenas served in August. Cindy Anderson, executive director of the TEAM Santa Rosa Economic Development Council, and Santa Rosa County Attorney Angela Jones will present thousands of pages of documents as well as numerous digital files to the federal grand jury. TEAM and the county each received two subpoenas in August demanding records involving contracts, developments, land purchases, travel and other interactions among TEAM, the county and numerous private parties. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office won't say why they want the information. The subpoenas sought information about a wide range of topics: » Santa Rosa County's purchase of an industrial park from Navarre developer Bill Pullum in 2009. » Any County Commission or TEAM staff member's travel to Pullum's private island in Honduras. » Any County Commission or TEAM staff member's travel to Washington, D.C. » Any county business with Pullum, developer Garrett Walton, architect and former state Sen. Charlie Clary, and Okaloosa County businessman William McElvy. » The sale of any property between the county and James "Jim" Young and/or KWY Investments, the company that sold the property where the private Blackwater River Correctional Institute came to be built in East Milton. » The county's ambulance service contract. Subpoenas issued to other offices center around how Blackwater River Correctional Institute came to be built by the Boca Raton-based GEO Group and the nature of former state Rep. Ray Sansom's relationship to the project.

September 1, 2011 Gulf Breeze News
A Grand Jury will meet in Pensacola on Sept. 27 to start reviewing numerous boxes of documents from Santa Rosa County’s economic development deals dating back to 2002. Subpoenas from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were served on the County Commissioners and on the county’s economic development arm, TEAM Santa Rosa, last Tuesday, Aug. 23. Commission chairman Lane Lynchard and TEAM Santa Rosa Director Cindy Anderson each said they are looking at this as an opportunity to clear the record – and the air – on these projects once and for all. “Anytime you receive a federal subpoena of any kind, it puts the county in a negative light. There is no doubt about that,” said Lynchard, an attorney from Gulf Breeze. “But it is my understanding this is the first federal subpoena of any kind that has been received by Santa Rosa County, and I really look at this as an opportunity to set the record straight on any questions concerning our economic development dealings. “The records they wanted go back as far as 2002 from the County Commission. I know there were a lot of questions surrounding the purchase of the property in 2009 for the industrial park off Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 90. Maybe this can out those questions to rest once and for all.” Anderson said most of the records subpoenaed already have been looked at and found to have no problems by the State Attorney’s Office as well as the Ethics Committee. “This really all started back when the ID Group of Gulf Breeze got funding from some grants back in 2004,” Anderson said. “There has been a group of individuals who have had questions on several projects since then, and I really hope this latest review of all those records can put all the questions to rest. “The investigation in March when records were subpoenaed was concerning only the private GEO prison project. Now this latest request has to do with any and all of our records going all the way back to at least 2004. That is boxes and boxes of records.” The owner of the ID Group was a former member of the TEAM Santa Rosa Board, and when TEAM received a $170,000 Defense grant, the TEAM board hired the ID Group to do the work required by the grant. Former State Rep. Ray Sansom was tied to the GEO group from Boca Raton that built the private Blackwater River Correctional Institute in East Milton last year. Questions have centered on Sansom’s involvement with the GEO group in Boca Raton since 2008, when the group purchased the property for the Milton prison. Subpoenas in March requested any and all records concerning that prison project.

August 24, 2011 Pensacola News-Journal
A federal grand jury in Pensacola is investigating the building and funding of a privately owned correctional facility that opened last year in East Milton, including the role of former state Rep. Ray Sansom. On Tuesday, the FBI seized a computer used by Santa Rosa County Commissioner Jim Melvin and his predecessor, Gordon Goodin. Melvin, who took office last year, said FBI agents told him the investigation was not focused on him but did not disclose what they were interested in. Goodin, who served for eight years, said he was confident the investigation didn't involve him. During the past five months, the grand jury, working with the FBI, has issued three other subpoenas. The first subpoena on March 29 requested that TEAM Santa Rosa, the county's economic development agency, deliver all records pertaining to Project Justice, the code name for the ultimately successful effort to bring a private prison operated by the Boca Raton-based Geo Group to the county. The Blackwater River Correctional Institute, owned by Geo under a contract with the state, opened last year. It is designed for 2,200 high-security prisoners. The March subpoena ordered Team Santa Rosa to produce all records related to "the projection, planning, design, funding, appropriation, construction and/or operation of any privately owned correctional facility located in Santa Rosa County." The second subpoena to Florida's Office of Legislative Services, dated May 27, requested travel vouchers since January 2004 for Sansom and several of his aides. The third subpoena, with the same date, was addressed to former Sansom aide Samantha Sullivan of Mary Esther. It ordered records "pertaining to any function performed as a legislative aide to state Rep. Ray Sansom" since Jan. 1, 2002. On March 27, 2008, Sansom traveled to Boca Raton on what he described in a travel voucher as "personal business after Session 2008." On April 4, Sansom inserted a provision into the 2008-09 general appropriation bill for $110 million for an addition to the Graceville Correctional Institute, owned by Geo, in Jackson County. That appropriation was removed. Then, on April 8, Sansom substituted an appropriation of $110 million into the 2008-09 state budget for a private prison to be built anywhere in the state, with no reference to Graceville. That money went to the East Milton facility, which ended up costing $140 million. In February 2010, Sansom, while serving as speaker of the House, resigned amid criminal allegations that he inserted a $6 million appropriation into the state budget for construction of an aircraft hangar in Destin for a prominent Florida Republican Party contributor, Jay Odom. The state dropped its case against Sansom in March after a Tallahassee judge blocked key prosecution testimony. Santa Rosa officials reached Tuesday said they didn't know the reason for the seizure of the commission computer. Commissioner Lane Lynchard said he learned of the seizure from Santa Rosa County Attorney Angela Jones but didn't know what the FBI's interest was. He said the county was served with two federal grand jury subpoenas, but he didn't know what the other one involved. Jones was not in her office Tuesday afternoon, and county spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka said copies of the subpoenas would not be available until today. Melvin said the federal agents appeared in his office with two subpoenas at about 10 a.m. "They explained that they had no problems with me, but that they needed records from the computer in my office," Melvin said. "They wanted to know whether I would demand a court order. I told them I was not the custodian of those records. They met with the county attorney, and then came and removed the computer from my office." Melvin said he did not know the nature of the records sought. Goodin, who was recently cleared of an ethics complaint involving a 2005 trip he and his wife took to Central America, said he had "no idea" what interest the FBI would have in the computer. "I'm not worried about any more investigations," he said. "They can investigate whatever they want." A message left at the FBI office in Pensacola was not returned Tuesday.

June 17, 2011 WEAR TV
"This is the $120 million Blackwater River Correctional Facility. It's been a pretty quiet addition to East Santa Rosa County, bringing hundreds of new jobs here. But... the Federal Government is continuing wide-scale investigation into what led to the construction of this prison." The project has been under fire ever since it became public knowledge. The GEO Group... The company that now runs the prison... Has documented ties to several state lawmakers who help approve the 120 million dollar project. Jerry Couey is one of many people around the state that's been closely following the development of this prison for years. "Any citizen or private business owner would love to have the same deal. I don't understand how they got the deal and I've become very curious about how that occurred." Jerry is not alone. The FBI obtained this subpoena in federal court back at the end of march. In it... The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida demands team Santa Rosa turn over all it's paperwork related to the GEO group and the state lawmakers who backed the privatized prison project in the legislature. , "I wish them well in their search. I think they're on to something that certainly needs to be looked at, in a time in the state of Florida where dollars are so precious, how did this happen." "It would make sense for them to come to us, because they know we have to keep track of all of this and it would be packaged all together all in one place." "The FBI is very good at what they do, and I don't know what's going to come of it. My gut gives me concern about how it occurred."

August 16, 2010 Sunshine State News
Former Rep. Loranne Ausley, the Democratic nominee to be the next state CFO, attacked a program backed by her Republican rival, Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, that slashed 71 prison work squads, which she insisted saved Florida taxpayers more than $35 million, and created a new private prison. Labeling the Blackwater River Correctional Institution the “prison to nowhere,” Ausley noted that the project had already cost the state more than $110 million and that Atwater was ignoring recommendations made by the Florida Department of Corrections. She also compared the project to a new courthouse in Tallahassee which she labeled the “Tallahassee Taj Mahal.” “Senate President Jeff Atwater’s ‘prison to nowhere’ is yet another product of the broken system in Tallahassee, and once again Florida taxpayers are stuck with the bill,” said Ausley. “Floridians are fed up with politicians who play by their own rules with our money. Whether it’s the ‘Tallahassee Taj Mahal,’ the ‘Prison to Nowhere’ or an airport hanger for a political contributor, politicians in Tallahassee need to be held accountable.”

August 10, 2010 WCTV
Prison work squads are as old prisons themselves. But the state has slashed the number of work squads since the new budget took effect in July. Motorist Toby Edwards doesn’t think that’s good for roadways or the prisoners. “They eat good and the state takes care of them but that’s coming from the taxpayers,” Edwards said. “So they should be the ones out there picking up the trash.” Another motorist, Steve Bedosky thinks the work should be contracted to private companies. “I’ve never really been in favor of taking those jobs away from the private sector and putting prisoners out there at a lower price,” Bedosky said. But local governments don’t have the resources, which means the work will often go undone. 71 crews like this one are being cut. That’s going to mean taller grass, more trash on the road, and costs being shifted. The Department of Corrections was forced by lawmakers to spend 24 million dollars opening a private prison orchestrated by disgraced former speaker Ray Sansom. The private prison took money from the work squads, even though new projections show the 2200 private prison beds weren’t needed. The union representing correctional officers understands the need to keep staffing up inside prison fences, but it objects to the work squad cuts on moral grounds. “It’s just sad that the public has to pay for the legislature’s irresponsibility,” Al Shopp with the Police Benevolent Association said. But unless funding improves, prisoners will be spending more time behind bars and less time cleaning up roadsides. The state is cutting 71 of 180 work squads across the state.

June 8,  2010 St Petersburg Times
On the heels of its endorsement of Alex Sink for governor, the Police Benevolent Association has now announced it will support Loranne Ausley in her bid to be chief financial officer. Sink's endorsement was news because the PBA hadn't endorsed a Democrat for governor since Lawton Chiles' first run in 1990. Now, with its endorsement of an underfunded Ausley over Senate President Jeff Atwater, the group seems to have gotten religion on Democrats. Unsure about why the group is making the shift, but it could have something to do with the opening of a new private prison in North Florida and lingering unease over potential cuts to prison workers' pensions. Matt Puckett, the deputy executive director for the PBA, says the group likes people "that wanted to take care of law enforcement officers and public employees." He also noted that "it didn't help matters" that the new private prison opened up on Atwater's watch.

May 28, 2010 St Petersburg Times
Gov. Charlie Crist often laments "this culture of corruption in South Florida," but increasingly it's Tallahassee that looks like a central focus of multiple criminal investigations swirling about Florida. In recent weeks, prominent legislators have hired criminal defense lawyers, while high-ranking and low-ranking GOP staffers have been summoned to grand juries meeting across the state. Among them: Crist's former top money-raiser, Meredith O'Rourke; former state GOP executive director Jim Rimes; and indicted ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom's former fundraising aide, Melanie Phister, who at age 25 charged nearly $1.3 million on her state party credit card. Veteran observers of the state's political process can't remember a time when so many officials have been caught up in criminal investigations. "I don't think we've ever had it at this level,'' said longtime lobbyist Ron Book. Amid the most tumultuous and unpredictable election year Florida has seen in decades, the names of at least a dozen political figures have popped up in five major federal investigations probing the pay-to-play culture of corruption in Florida: • Alan Mendelsohn, 52, a Fort Lauderdale eye doctor and GOP campaign fundraiser, is indicted on federal fraud and influence peddling charges. • Scott Rothstein, 47, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and campaign donor at the center of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, pled guilty in January to multiple federal charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud. • Sansom, 47, charged with grand theft in state court for secretly putting $6 million in the budget, is being looked at by federal officials in North Florida for his use of a GOP credit card and his role in creating a $113 million private prison.

May 4, 2010 Tallahassee Democrat
An influential state senator who is running for governor called for an explanation Tuesday of how the Blackwater River prison privatization project was handled in the state budget. Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, wrote to the Department of Corrections and Department of Management Services regarding the Santa Rosa County prison. She said the Legislature appropriated $87 million for it as a 2,000-bed privately operated prison in 2008, intending that it house medium- to close-security inmates. In the closing days of the session that adjourned last week, the budget adopted by the House and Senate added 224 prisoners to the institution's capacity -- potentially worth $2 million a year, or more, for GEO Group, the company negotiating with DMS to run the prison. The appropriation was also changed to specify that the prison will "primarily house special-needs inmates," such as those with mental or physical health problems, and that it would be in Santa Rosa County, she said. Dockery, who chairs the Senate criminal justice committee, asked DOC and DMS if either department had requested the appropriation. She also asked for a summary of responses from companies competing for the state's business, what other locations were considered for the institution and why it was designated for "inmates who require chronic medical and mental health treatment." "She's asking all the right questions," said Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association, which represents security officers in state-run prisons. The PBA opposes prison privatization, which has been a highly controversial endeavor at six corporate-run prisons in Florida. Spokeswomen for DMS and DOC said the agencies are gathering information to respond to Dockery later this week or next week.

May 4, 2010 St Petersburg Times
Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for governor, has written DOC Secretary Walt McNeil and DMS Secretary Linda South to find out more about the private prison Blackwater deal (more here on the background). The letter is here: Dear Secretary McNeil and Secretary South: As chair of the Florida Senate’s Committee on Criminal Justice, I am interested in the background of the Blackwater River Correctional Facility (Blackwater) in Santa Rosa County. I am aware that an appropriation of approximately $87,000,000 was made in 2008 to contract for a 2,000 bed private correctional facility to house medium and close custody inmates. The appropriation did not specify a location for the facility or that the facility would primarily house special needs inmates. I request clarification about the history of the facility, including, but not limited to, the following issues: • Whether the appropriation was requested by either the Department of Corrections or the Department of Management Services and, if so, the basis for the request. • A summary of the responses to ITN #DMS 08/09-026 (including vendor, proposed location, proposed cost, and any distinguishing features of the proposal). • The origin of consideration of Santa Rosa County as a location for the facility and identification of other sites that were considered. • The origin of the decision that the majority of the inmates in the facility would be special needs inmates who require chronic medical and mental health treatment, and whether that decision affected the costs of construction. I would appreciate a timely response to this request. It is not intended to be burdensome and you should contact me or my staff if there are difficulties with responding in a timely fashion. Warm regards, Sen. Paula Dockery

April 25, 2010 Tampa Tribune
House and Senate budget chiefs agreed Saturday to open a private prison and pour $61 million into the University of South Florida's Lakeland campus, but remained at odds over a variety of cuts and competing proposals. The Legislature, in its 2008 budget, approved the construction of the private Blackwater River Correctional Institution, responding to predictions that the state's prison population would jump more sharply than it has. The state-of-the-art facility now stands empty. Saturday, the House agreed to Senate budget chief JD Alexander's plan to cut state prison beds and eliminate more than 300 positions, mostly vacant, in the state Department of Corrections to fill 2,224 Blackwater prison beds. That's 224 more beds than the facility was designed to hold, raising concerns about crowding. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the state can avoid that problem by "double-bunking" dormitory space. Ken Kopczynski, political affairs assistant for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, questioned whether it is ethical to turn incarceration of prisoners into a profit-making industry. With 4,000 beds or more available in the state's public prisons, Kopczynski said, there's no reason to open a private one. Alexander disagreed. "I just couldn't, in all conscience, sit there with a brand-new, $120 million facility and not find a way to use it; it just doesn't make sense to me. I think this is a reasonable compromise."

April 24, 2010 Tampa Tribune
House and Senate budget chiefs agreed Friday on money for Florida Forever and a range of other issues, but will spend the weekend haggling over items ranging from crisis pregnancy counseling to trading state-run prison beds for private ones. The popular-but-pricey Florida Forever program won $15 million Friday after losing in budget negotiations last year. When the House refused in 2009 to provide new money for the land conservation program, its line item, to the alarm of environmentalists, vanished from the budget. This year, the House initially left the program out of its budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Janet Bowman of the Nature Conservancy said environmentalists are grateful for the $15 million "bridge" funding. The proposed cash infusion, she said, will pay for land appraisals and allow the state to negotiate with land owners. Other issues on which Senate and House budget chiefs agreed during the past several days: •Spending $10 million on Everglades restoration. •Repealing a shoreline fishing fee lawmakers passed in 2009. •Cutting state payment rates to nursing homes by 7 percent. •Spending $200,000 on a new Innocence Commission to study why innocent people have wound up in prison and prevent future cases. •Spending $11.7 million on aid to libraries, less than the full $21 million funding the Senate proposed earlier. All decisions on the budget remain unofficial until the end of conferencing. The nursing home rate reduction is among a handful of recent agreements considered tentative, given concerns in both chambers about potential harm to nursing home residents. House and Senate budget chiefs will likely wrap up their negotiations on Sunday, at which point they forward any remaining sticking points to House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater for final decisions. Public versus private -- Among the issues still at play this weekend: How to handle the opening of Blackwater River Corrections Institution, a private prison in Santa Rosa County. The Legislature authorized construction of the low-cost, highly efficient prison in response to predictions that the prison population would jump more sharply than it has. The Senate is proposing to shutter less efficient state facilities and eliminate more than 300 vacant positions in the Department of Corrections to open 2,224 beds at Blackwater. That is 224 more beds than facility was designed to hold. Carter Goble Lee, the Atlanta-based firm contracted as Blackwater's project manager, warned the state Department of Management Services in an April 2 letter that the extra beds would place the state at risk of litigation by violating an industry standard of "25 square feet of unencumbered space per inmate." Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said Friday the state can avoid overcrowding by "double-bunking" dormitory space for lower-risk inmates. "It's typical of the kind of structure that we have in our publicly operated prisons, so we felt like that was a good, efficient move to contain costs." The Senate proposes more than $24 million in cuts to the state corrections budget to offset the cost of opening Blackwater. Meanwhile, the state has 4,000 to 5,000 vacant beds available in the existing state system, said Ken Kopczynski, political affairs assistant for the Florida Police Benevolent Association. "There's no need for this prison," Kopczynski said. "They should let it sit until they need it." Alexander said that's not acceptable. "I believe it will save us money," he said. "It's unconscionable to me to have a $120 million facility sitting empty - the newest, most state-of-the-art facility. I don't know how I would tell the taxpayers that that's OK." The House has agreed to the corresponding reduction in prison staff vacancies, but not the extra 224 beds.

April 23, 2010 WEAR TV
It cost taxpayers over 120 million bucks and one state agency says it's not needed. Now the deal to build a new prison in Milton is attracting the attention of federal investigators. Dan Thomas/dthomas@weartv.com: "Take a look we're out here at the site of the new state prison in Milton and construction is full speed ahead out here today. It's 120 million taxpayer dollars being spent to build it out here. It could mean up to 400 jobs here to the local economy. One major problem with the project though? The State Department of Corrections says they don't need any of this. It's a situation that one report out of Tallahassee says has piqued the interest of the FBI." An unnamed source close to the investigation, says the FBI is curious about the prison deal. One of many dealings of former house speaker Ray Sansom currently under scrutiny. We know the FBI has spoken to at least one person locally about the matter. County Commissioner Don Salter says Federal agents have not talked to him but he expects the whole thing to blow over soon. Don Salter/Santa Rosa Commissioner: "Hopefully everything is going to workout, I suspect after august after the primary election and in November it'll probably calm down and everything will go forward." The state senate wants the Blackwater prison open with prisoners shipped in from existing facilities. Meanwhile the house didn't allocate any money to run it. Salter says the state may have no choice but to open the prison. Don Salter/Santa Rosa Commissioner: "It's my understanding that GEO bonded this project. The state guaranteed those bonds. So one way or the other the taxpayers of Florida will pay for this facility." Dan Thomas/dthomas@weartv.com: "And just what the legislature decides to do with this facility and those 400 jobs is expected to be decided next week." No matter what the legislature decides, construction is expected to be complete in July. If the facility is opened. They could start taking prisoners by November.

April 23, 2010 Florida News Network
The FBI is asking question about former House Speaker Ray Sansom’s involvement with a legislative deal to build a private prison. The news comes as the feds investigate Sansom, Marco Rubio, and former GOP Chairman Jim Greer for spending millions on Republican Party of Florida credit cards. As Whitney Ray tells us, the trouble for the GOP keeps growing. A legislative plan to close as many as five state prisons and ship inmates to a private prison run by GEO Group was scaled back last month by public out cry. Former House Speaker Ray Sansom originated the deal with an amendment in the 2008 state budget. On March 30th, a concerned citizen filed a complaint with the US Attorney’s Office calling for an investigation. A source familiar with the complaint says the FBI has been asking questions. A GEO Group Lobbyist says the feds haven’t questioned him. “I never heard anything like that at all,” said Smith. According to our source the feds may be searching to see if Sansom received any kickbacks from the company. GEO Group, formally known as Wackenhut, gave Sansom’s campaign 500 hundred dollars for his 2007 campaign. The company gave 145-thousand dollars to the Republican Party of Florida in 2008, and another 130-thousand in 2009. Neither Sansom’s lawyer nor the FBI returned our requests for interviews. Plans to house 22-hundred inmates in the private prison are moving forward in this year’s budget negotiations. The Police Benevolent Association says lawmakers should halt the prison plan. “The legislature would be smart to the taxpayers if they stopped this deal and took another look at it,” said Puckett. Earlier this week news broke of an FBI investigation into spending by Sansom, and several other high ranking Republicans on party issued credit cards. Questions about the prison deal may have spawned from their current investigation.

April 2, 2010 WEAR TV
A prison nurse in Santa Rosa County wants a federal and state investigation into the deal to bring the private Blackwater prison to Milton. Elva McCaig has compiled a lengthy and detailed account of the legislative moves former state representative Ray Sansom made in the 2008 budget to make the deal happen. She points out that the state bought the property for the prison from the Geo Group for $1.6 million. The state also awarded Geo the contract to build the facility for $110 million. She goes on to allege a number of other "back-room" transactions. McCaig is a nurse at the state-run jail next door to the site of the new facility, and she strongly opposes privatization of prisons.

March 31, 2010 Tampa Tribune
GOP leaders in the Florida Senate appeared Tuesday night to back off on a controversial budget proposal that would force the closure of two state prisons in order to open a cheaper private one. Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said Senate budget chief JD Alexander and Senate President Jeff Atwater have agreed not to require the state to shutter two as-yet unnamed prisons and privatize one to fill the private Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa County. That privatization plan, from Senate Ways and Means Chairman Alexander, appears in the proposed 2010-11 budget that the full Senate will begin considering today. Lawson, who filed an amendment late Monday that would strip the Blackwater plan from the budget entirely, said Tuesday night that he will file another that will leave it up to the state Department of Corrections how best to fill the private facility. Alexander and Senate President Jeff Atwater indicated Tuesday evening that they would accept such an amendment, said Lawson, R-Tallahassee. Lawson's district includes at least one small town fearing the loss of a local prison rumored to be a target of closure under Alexander's plan. "This will remove the panic," Lawson said. Blackwater still would open this year, he said, but without an estimated cut to prison budgets of $20 million. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said Tuesday that he still needs to see the language of Lawson's amendment but that they mostly have agreed on a different approach. The Legislature authorized construction of the low-cost highly efficient Blackwater facility in 2008, responding to predictions that the prison population would jump more sharply than it has. There is no version of the privatization proposal in the House. The two chambers will have to negotiate a final budget before the end of the session.

March 30, 2010 WJHG
More than 400 people showed up at a rally in Sneads this afternoon to protest a Senate budget-cutting proposal. The plan would supposedly save $68 million dollars by closing two state prisons and privatize a third. But some of the money would go to pay a private company to operate the new 2200 bed Blackwater Correctional Institute in Santa Rosa County. Folks in Jackson County are worried Apalachee Correctional Institute will become a victim of what they're now calling the 'Blackwater Bailout.' More than 400 people showed up at a rally in Sneads this afternoon to protest a Senate budget-cutting proposal. The plan would supposedly save $68 million dollars by closing two state prisons and privatize a third. But some of the money would go to pay a private company to operate the new 2200 bed Blackwater Correctional Institute in Santa Rosa County. Folks in Jackson County are worried Apalachee Correctional Institute will become a victim of what they're now calling the 'Blackwater Bailout.' Jackson County Commission Chairman Jeremy Branch didn't sugar-coat his feelings about Blackwater Correctional Institution. "Let me tell you what I hope it does: I hope it stays there and I hope it turns into a tombstone for privatization, I hope it's a monument to help symbolize the death of privatization in the state of Florida." The new prison in Santa Rosa County is 90% complete. The state owns it, but is planning to let a private company operate it. Branch and others, including the top State Corrections official, hope Blackwater never opens its doors. DOC Secretary Walter McNeil says, "I will not stand idly by. We're gonna fight until our little fingers are down to the bone to make sure that this does not come to fruition." Former State Representative Loranne Ausley asks, "when our communities are experiencing the worst employment, foreclosure rate, our budget is the worst it has been, how is it you can find 160-million dollars to build a prison that you don't need?!" If the state taps ACI as one of the two prisons that will close, community leaders say it will mean 640 workers will lose their jobs and the Sneads economy will be devastated. James Baiardi of the Police Benevolent Association, says "this is wrong, it's nothing more than a corporate bailout, that's all it is. They made the mistake and they want you to pay, your community to pay and they want the Correctional officers to pay for their mistake." 74-year-old Reverend Willis Raines Sr. has lived in Sneads his whole life. He raised 17 kids and knows firsthand ACI's impact on the local economy. "It creates communities where people get their jobs and support their families in our communities which is very, very important." Others are concerned the state could close as many as 5 prisons and will begin the early-release of inmates to compensate for the lack of prison beds. But former State Representative Curtis Richardson says, "we're here to say not 'NO' but 'HELL NO!' We will not take it anymore. They can keep this deal in Tallahassee. We're not gonna have it." Richardson went on to blame former House Speaker Ray Sansom for the situation. Sansom filed the 2008 budget amendment that issued state bonds to build Blackwater and hire a private company to operate it. Richardson said there's no question this can be tied to the kind of back room, smoke filled room, dirty deals Ray Sansom has become associated with.

March 30, 2010 Palm Beach Post
Once again, a Tallahassee lawmaker is playing hide and don't seek with Florida's budget. This time, the perpetrator is Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander. Last week, the Lake Wales Republican bypassed standard procedures to amend the proposed spending bill to close at least two state-run prisons, open a new private prison and privatize others. Sen. Alexander claims moving prisoners from state-run facilities to private ones will save $42 million a year. Why, then, didn't he bother to notify the Department of Corrections? Surely, the DOC should know about such a drastic change. Sen. Alexander's last-minute move would benefit Boca Raton-based GEO Group, the company likely to run one of the facilities. Sen. Alexander's amendment continues budget sleight-of-hand begun by former House Speaker Ray Sansom. That Santa Rosa County Republican slipped into the 2008 budget a $110 million appropriation the state used to pay GEO Group to build the private prison in his home county. That's the prison that Sen. Alexander now hopes to open. Mr. Sansom resigned last year as speaker and this year left the House after indictment on charges related to another deal he tucked into that budget — $6 million to build an airplane hangar for a major contributor to himself and the Republican Party. The GEO Group, which runs the South Bay Correctional Institution, has had a number of inmate deaths and riots at its prisons. Last year, a Texas appeals court upheld a 2006 $40 million wrongful death judgment concerning an inmate fatally beaten in 2001. Unless other prisons close, there aren't enough inmates to fill the 2,224-bed prison near the Blackwater River in Santa Rosa County. Also, the company, which contributed $158,000 to Florida Republicans and $17,000 to Democrats during the 2008 election cycle, saw its stock price drop as much as 8 percent earlier this month when the Federal Bureau of Prisons canceled plans to house illegal aliens convicted of crimes. GEO Group expected those inmates to fill a facility it operates in Michigan. An analyst pointed out at the time that all was not bad for GEO Group because the company's earnings from the Blackwater facility had not been included in its 2010 forecast. Sen. Alexander, whose amendment would help Blackwater's profits, also did not include the impact it would have on prison overcrowding when he forecast the savings privatization would bring to the state. Secretary of Corrections Walt McNeil estimates the amendment would shutter five prisons and force the department to release about 2,500 inmates early. "Everybody," Mr. McNeil said, "should be concerned about it." Everybody also should be concerned when legislators conduct state business under the cover of darkness. Obviously lawmakers should discuss prison projections and clear up serious disagreements about the numbers before acting. Last year, the grand jury that indicted former Rep. Sansom condemned the Legislature's clandestine budgeting process that lets a select few lawmakers make decisions behind closed doors. Sen. Alexander should read that grand jury report and take notes.

March 27, 2010 Palm Beach Post
After repeatedly emphasizing his commitment to "open and transparent" government during a committee meeting Thursday evening, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander attached a last-minute prison-privatization amendment to the state's spending bill without any warning to anyone it would affect, including the Department of Corrections. Alexander's proposal to open a privately run prison near the Blackwater River in the Panhandle would shutter at least two state-run prisons and put 639 prison guards out of work, the Lakeland Republican told the committee. His plan also would privatize an unidentified existing 1,350-bed prison, bringing the number of guards who would get pink slips up to 1,400, according to the amendment. Alexander says that shutting down prisons to fill a 2,224-bed facility to be run by Boca Raton-based Geo Group would save the state about $20 million a year. And it would put into use the state-of-the-art, energy-efficient Blackwater prison the state paid Geo $110 million to build near Milton in a deal slipped into the 2008 budget by state Rep. Ray Sansom before he became House speaker. Sansom later stepped down from that position in disgrace. But corrections officials object to the plan and say Alexander overestimates the state's potential savings by going private. Geo is now negotiating with the Department of Management Services to run Blackwater, but with a major hitch: The state doesn't have enough inmates to fill it without closing other prisons. That's because the state overestimated how many inmates would be incarcerated and the prison population is declining despite historically high unemployment. Alexander based his estimate on a $65-a-day rate for inmates in state-run prisons and $41 a day that Geo says it can charge for Blackwater, a savings of $24 a day for each of the 2,224 inmates who would be housed at the facility. But corrections officials say the savings would be about $9 million — less than half Alexander's $20 million estimate — because their average daily rate is $52 while the private prison's costs would depend on what kind of inmates were locked up at Blackwater. "We don't believe this is the right way to open Blackwater," said DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. Blackwater was originally supposed to house mentally ill and seriously sick inmates who cost more to care for, but documents show that the state is now negotiating with Geo to care for inmates who are the cheapest and easiest to supervise. "As discussed earlier today, we wanted to provide you with a revised pricing for the Blackwater Facility if it were to house 2,224 M-1/M-2/S-1 inmates," an unidentified Geo official wrote on March 19 to Michael Weber, chief of private prison monitoring at the Department of Management Services. M-1, M-2 and S-1 inmates are relatively healthy and have no mental health issues. The $41-a-day price goes up to $45 if the 2,224-bed facility does not run at full capacity, according to the e-mail. But DMS spokeswoman Linda McDonald declined to say who would run Blackwater because negotiations aren't finished. And she would not say what type of inmates would be housed there. "That is not a decision that DMS makes. Ultimately it could be the legislature, but DOC is certainly involved, too," McDonald said. Plessinger said it is unlikely that all the inmates from one prison could be transferred to Blackwater because most prisons have a mix of classes of prisoners. She also said corrections officials have no idea which prisons will be shut down. Deal 'sneaky,' some say -- Alexander's late-filed amendment is the latest twist in a deal worked out in secrecy for at least two years since Sansom set it into motion. Sansom resigned his speakership in 2009 after being indicted on charges including grand theft related to a deal he tucked into the 2008 budget. He is facing trial on charges of steering tax money to build a jet hangar for developer Jay Odom, who donated nearly $1 million to Sansom and the state Republican Party, at a Panhandle college that hired him the day he became speaker. In the same budget, the Santa Rosa County Republican also slipped in a $110 million appropriation to build a private prison in his home county. Alexander's privatization plan was never discussed during the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee meetings where prison spending is usually decided. The committee chairman, Victor Crist, voted against the amendment Thursday. He said the potential savings by privatizing the prisons could not only put people out of work but also devastate the rural communities in which the prisons are based. "They generally are the primary if not the only employer there. If you shut it down, you could be shutting down a town. All of a sudden, everyone there could be out of work," said Crist, R-Tampa. "How do they sell their homes? How do they relocate even if they got a job with a private prison 300 miles away?" And, Crist said, the laid-off prison guards — whose annual salaries average between $30,000 and $35,000 — could wind up costing the state more if they sign up for state services for the unemployed. "Sometimes a dollar saved upfront could cost you two dollars behind," he said. Alexander said he introduced the amendment because Crist refused to do so and as Senate budget chairman he wants to save money on prisons to help close a $3.2 billion spending gap. "Many states have reduced their incarceration costs by using privatization," said Alexander, R-Lake Wales. He estimated Florida could save up to $700 million a year by privatizing each of its 62 prisons. But Police Benevolent Association President Jim Baiardi said Alexander kept his plan quiet to avoid public debate on the controversial issue. "It's been sneaky. Very sneaky. It's almost like it's been done in the dead of the night. So much for open government," Baiardi said, calling it a giveaway for Geo. "I don't understand how they can say that," Alexander said. "The reality is we've got a brand-new prison that the state directed and used taxpayers' monies to build. I think putting that prison online, saving the money, saving the maintenance costs, is something that only makes good financial sense for the people of Florida."

September 10, 2009 Northwest Florida Daily News
The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's office arrested eight undocumented workers and charged six of them with fraud on Tuesday. Deputies conducted a traffic stop near the area of a construction site on Jeff Ates Road in Milton. Crews there are working to build a new private prison and the Sheriff's Office had received word that some of the crew members weren't in the United States legally. During the traffic stop on Sept. 8, a Special Operations investigator determined the four people in the vehicle did not have proper paperwork and documentation. The men said they were employed at the construction site as masons. Lawmen contacted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and reported the arrest of two of the men in the car. Abelino Oviedo-Salinas, 25, was arrested for traffic violation and Sergio Mata-Oviedo, 18, was arrested for resisting an officer. The job foreman at the construction site was cooperative and reported the men were hired by a subcontractor at the site. The subcontractor said the men were sent to him through Robles Masonry in Alabama. After investigating the claims, six more men were arrested for providing false identification information to fill out their tax forms. Margaro Elias, 48, Jaime Condeles, 37, Mariano Sanchez-Ramiez, 21, Amado Landaverde-Vizcaya, 27, Jaime Flores-Aguilar, 32, and Bernardo Mata, 25, were charged with fraud. ICE was notified of the six arrests and bond was withheld for all the men arrested, pending their first appearance. There were no local addresses, local ties or valid information they could provide. Authorities report showed two of the men had fingerprints that matched prior arrests under different names in other parts of the country. Several of the other men, including the driver from the traffic stop, have prior arrests for illegal entry into the United States.

July 24, 2009 Santa Rosa Press-Gazette
It doesn’t appear that some tensions have died down since Monday’s meeting of the Santa Rosa County Commissioners where Chairman Don Salter entered into the minutes he “as chairman feared for the safety of certain individuals involved with economic development” based on the comments he quoted of Alan Isaacson. Since then, the feelings are still there. “I have a right to petition my government and asked them to take action based on the contract I drafted with them,” said Isaacson. “Then to have someone who accuses you of potential murder. “I was hurt, but I was also concerned about the fact that in the past two months I found 11 instances of items being withheld by TEAM. And that violates the agreement with the county according to paragraph 14.” Paragraph 14 section b in the Funding Program Agreement between TEAM and the Santa Rosa County Commission states, “TEAM shall, subject to and comply with the provisions of Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, and other relevant laws, permit public access to all documents or other materials prepared, developed or received by it in connection with the performance of its obligations or the exercise of its rights under this Agreement, unless exempted or confidential by law. This Agreement may be terminated by (the) County pursuant to paragraph 17 if TEAM fails to allow such public access.” Isaacson, who is now a witness into the State Attorney’s investigation into matters involving TEAM and government entities, is wondering why the contract is not being followed. “In 2007 the state attorney’s office told us TEAM was crystal clear on the regulations, but in Oct. of 2008 they form a committee to study what they need to do to be in compliance with the Sunshine Law,” said Isaacson. “Then in Jan. of 2009 they are still studying it and are basically forced to follow the law.” Most of the recent contention to arise this past week focused on an e-mail that came to light when John Myslak, who is a TEAM Board Member, addressed charges against him to members of the Santa Rosa County Commission as Myslak was awarded a contract involving the GEO Prison Project in East Milton. Other names were noted in the e-mail included TEAM members John Griffing, Pete Gandy, and Dick Hohorst may have or are all being paid by taxpayer funds even through the meetings leading up to these payouts which were held outside of the sunshine. He also questioned the $70,000 grant/contract Jeff Helms, with PBS&J, just finished with the Whiting Aviation Park. Since the e-mail was sent it has been learned Helms was awarded the contract prior to joining the board of TEAM Santa Rosa. Helms pointed out the contract he was awarded was based on a request for proposals and we went through a process and was fortunate enough to get part of the work. But questions involving the board and recent action still remain. Ken Kopczynski, with the Florida Police Benevolent Association, has been going through a battle to get documents involving an open records request since Sept. 2008 as they were looking into the matter with GEO Prisons. “We have had a long dialogue between the PBA and the County,” said Kopczynski. “One of our guys heard about this private prison on the agenda one Monday and they vote on the letter of support the following Thursday. “Our member raised questions on how this prison came about.” When the association sent their letter, TEAM replied their records were exempt. “We also asked for correspondence between Management Training Corporation and John Vanyur,” said Kopczynski. “They told us there was no documents regarding MTC. “Yet we learn about an e-mail dated in April 2008 from Vanyur to TEAM Santa Rosa.” Since this time the Florida PBA, one of the state’s largest unions, contacted Roy Andrews who on July 14 stated he was not the custodian of the public records for TEAM, but that he has “given the staff my opinion that all their records are public with the exception of those exemptions specifically set forth in Florida Statute 288.075 for the applicable time periods.” This is causing a great deal of concern to those like Isaacson, who have been championing open records and meetings for a long time. “If one of the largest unions in the state can’t get the information, what makes you think an individual like me can,” said Isaacson. When asked about if he has ever taken the time to talk to Isaacson about these questions and concerns Salter stated they had talked some six months ago. “I talked to Alan about six months ago for three hours to explain my position on economic development and base protection and we agreed to disagree,” said Salter. “My big point is for two years they have been saying their allegations on local radio and everywhere they can that we are guilty and the allegations they have. “If you have a problem and feel something is wrong then file the proper complaint and let the legal system work through it; don’t convict in the media.” “I want to say just as a reminder when you do stuff like this personalities do arise,” said Isaacson. “But I do not apologize for what I am doing because these items need to be done out in the open. “I have a fiduciary responsibility to check on what is questionable and in my opinion in Oct. of last year your own attorney agreed.”

Bridgeport Correctional Center, Bridgeport, Texas
June 27, 2010 Wise County Messenger
A new management company will take over the Bridgeport Correctional Center beginning Aug. 31. The 520-bed facility has been managed by GEO Group Inc., since the center opened in August 1989. GEO was reawarded a three-year contract from Sept. 1, 2005, and also had two, one-year renewals. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice conducted a competitive bid process, and Management & Training Corp. won the seven-year bid. "There's a technical review of the bid and a financial review of the bid," said Jason Clark, public information officer for the TDCJ. Clark said that the reviews are done separately by different committees. "They score those reviews and compile the scores and a recommendation is made to the TDCJ."

June 7, 2005 Wise County Messenger
The Rev. Gil Pansza and an official with The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth met with officials of the Bridgeport Correctional Center Wednesday to discuss Pansza’s dismissal as a volunteer from the men’s division of the center, but Pansza said he remains barred from the facility. “They didn’t invite me back,” said Pansza, pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church in Bridgeport and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Decatur. Pansza and Ralph McCloud, division director of the Social Justice Ministry of the diocese, said they met with senior warden Priscella Miles, assistant warden Bobby Thompson and chaplain Phillip Yoder at the center. Pansza said Yoder told him a couple of weeks ago that his services were no longer necessary at the center, which Pansza had been visiting since February. Miles said in a previous story that Pansza was barred because of his demeanor and because the prison feared a security issue could occur with Catholic prisoners. On Wednesday, Pansza said the entire group met for almost an hour, and then Miles and McCloud met privately for a half-hour. “Warden Miles was interested in better understanding what our concerns were, and I think she was pretty patient in listening to what I had to say,” Pansza said. “She gave an opportunity for the chaplain to say what his views were and then to warden Thompson as to what his views were. Her concern is that there’s an allegation of discrimination. I pointed out that that allegation was not by the church. And she mentioned that the allegation really came from the community. On prison officials’ concerns about security issues, Pansza said Thompson mentioned that he was concerned about “offender manipulation.” Pansza said officials were concerned that he would tell the offenders that the institution was not giving him access to prisoners, and that “the offenders would be quite upset about that and maybe that would become a security issue.” “I guess I can understand that,” Pansza said. “That’s certainly not something I would want to do. But I can understand his concern.” Yet Pansza said Thursday that he’s confused about Thompson’s justification on the matter of security concerns. On the day Thompson told Pansza that he supported Yoder’s decision to bar Pansza from the prison, the subject of security concerns was never broached, Pansza said. Pansza said he thinks that issue emerged after the fact. Pansza said one offender in segregation asked to see his priest but was denied access. Pansza said Yoder told him that the warden said the prison was ready to transfer him to another unit.

June 28, 2005 Wise County Messenger
The Office of the Inspector General will investigate the death of an inmate who was housed at the Corrections Corporation of America in Bridgeport.  Julia Martinez, 29, collapsed Wednesday afternoon and was pronounced dead a short time later at Wise Regional Health System.  Warden Gwen Bowers said Martinez reportedly collapsed in the facility’s outdoor exercise area. Paramedics were called and transported Martinez to WRHS.

June 2, 2005 Wise County Messenger
A Wise County priest says he has been barred from performing church services or visiting with offenders at the men’s division of the Bridgeport Correctional Center. The Rev. Gil Pansza, pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church in Bridgeport and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Decatur, said he doesn’t know why he has been prevented from celebrating Mass or talking with prisoners. Priscella Miles, senior warden at the prison, said Tuesday that Pansza has been barred from the prison, but that she is open to talking with him. She said she talked with him last week and hopes to hear from him again this week. Pansza said problems emerged three weeks ago, after he saw another church service advertised on flyers on two bulletin boards at the facility. He asked Chaplain Phillip Yoder whether Catholic Masses could be advertised on flyers on 12 bulletin boards at the prison. He said he also asked whether Thursday Mass could be placed on the monthly religious service calendar. The Mass was later advertised on a corrected calendar, Pansza said. Pansza said he and Yoder discussed church postings on bulletin boards. Yoder agreed to allow the posting of the Catholic service flyers. About a week later, before Pansza’s next Mass, Pansza said he visited with Yoder, who was upset about their previous meeting and said he thought Pansza had questioned his integrity. After some discussion on the bulletin boards and prisoner visitation – Pansza said he apologized to Yoder if he offended him and that he was just trying to ensure Catholic Masses receive the same treatment as others – Yoder told Pansza that he was a guest in the facility and that he was under his supervision. Pansza said understood prison rules but told him that he would not “tolerate disparate treatment” from Yoder’s office or anyone else, meaning that he didn’t accept what he thought was Yoder’s office promoting one church service over another. “I guess he didn’t like that,” Pansza said. Pansza said Yoder then told him that his services were no longer necessary at the prison, Pansza said.
Miles said The GEO Group Inc. – which contracts with the state to manage the Bridgeport unit – and the Bridgeport Correctional Center support all religions.

Broward Transition Center, Pompano Beach, Florida
April 29, 2013 palmbeachpost.com

Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice has issued a report strongly criticizing the treatment of non-criminal immigrants at the Broward Transitional Center (BTC), which is operated by and GEO Group of Boca Raton, under the direction of the the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “The BTC report features the cases of numerous detainees with no criminal or minimal criminal history needlessly subjected to abuse,” says the immigration advocacy group. According to the report, one female detainee told a BTC deportation officer she was scared to return to her homeland. “She should have been given an interview to determine whether she could apply for asylum,” says the report. “Instead, she was quickly deported.” A male detainee was diagnosed with a painful hernia but ICE “declined to pay for the surgery, yet detained him for six months while he suffered much pain,” according to the authors of the report. The report also documents three cases of alleged sexual assault. “As Congress works to reform an outdated immigration system, members would be wise to reform abusive detention facilities, including the Broward Transitional Center,” said Susana Barciela, spokesperson for AIJ. “Further, it makes no sense to detain immigrants who pose no danger. Alternatives to detention are effective and far cheaper.” Under the Obama administration, immigration authorities have said they are focused on deporting dangerous criminal aliens, not those with only immigration offenses, but immigration advocates have said many non-criminal immigrants are still being detained and deported. “If ICE truly focused on detaining and deporting dangerous criminals, it would save more than a billion dollars annually,” Barciela said. “These savings would help relieve the nation’s fiscal concerns.”

January 5, 2013 By Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel
DEERFIELD BEACH Hundreds of men and women who have committed minor offenses, such as driving without a license, or no apparent crime at all, are locked up for weeks and months in a little-known central Broward County facility run by a private company. They are immigrants, accused of entering the country without legal authorization or staying longer than permitted. Their treatment — at the hands of the federal government and the Boca Raton-based firm hired to keep them at the 700-bed Broward Transitional Center — has become a growing controversy since July, when a detainee went on hunger strike and activists staged protests demanding a halt to the confinement and deportation of foreigners with no serious criminal histories. In a daring move, two young adults, both illegal immigrants brought by their families to the United States as children, turned themselves in to gain access to the center and expose what they claimed were human rights abuses and policy violations by federal authorities. Once inside, they said they found people unjustly arrested and subjected to lengthy and unnecessary confinement, and reported incidents of substandard or callous medical care, including a woman taken for ovarian surgery and returned the same day, still bleeding, to her cell, and a man who urinated blood for days but wasn't taken to see a doctor. ICE denies any mistreatment. In a recent interview with the Sun Sentinel, the agency's Miami Field Office Director Marc J. Moore said conditions at the facility are excellent and that the "staff here treats people with respect." But the young activists' claims captured the attention of 26 members of Congress, who wrote to the nation's chief immigration official demanding a review of all detainees locked up at the Broward facility and an investigation into the quality of medical care there. "Some of the reports coming out of the center are horrifying," lawmakers, including South Florida Democrats Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings, wrote U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. ICE has yet to reply to the letter, written in September. Last week, Deutch sent a second letter, chastising ICE for its "excessive delay" and demanding it respond immediately to lawmakers' concerns. "It's certainly time for us to hear back, and it's well past time that these serious issues be addressed," Deutch, of Boca Raton, told the Sun Sentinel on Friday. If legislators continue to encounter silence from ICE, Deutch said they will investigate what actions can be taken to ensure that a review of the center is made and "these human rights abuses are stopped."

August 25, 2012 Palm Beach Post
For Nicaraguan immigrant Serafin Solorzano, being jailed for overstaying his visa was bad enough. Even worse: Solorzano said he was denied access to his asthma inhaler for part of a two-week stay at an immigration detention center in Deerfield Beach. Without access to his medicine, he felt as though he was suffocating. Solorzano, now 54, recovered from the asthma attack. But the experience two years ago led him to join the growing list of critics of GEO Group, the Boca Raton-based prison operator that owns the 700-bed Broward Transition Center where Solorzano was held. “This is something that has violated my human rights,” Solorzano told reporters in May as he and other critics protested outside the GEO Group’s annual meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Solorzano’s gripes have been echoed by inmates, by civil libertarians and by state and federal regulators who have scrutinized GEO Group’s operations. They argue that GEO Group pads its profits by cutting worker wages, skimping on inmate health care and ignoring safety and sanitation. Despite the complaints, GEO Group (NYSE: GEO) continues to grow, thanks to rising prison populations and the federal government’s move to privatize detention of immigrants. GEO Group is on track to book $1.7 billion in revenues in 2012, its biggest year on record and a hundredfold increase from 1994, the prison operator’s first year as a publicly traded company. GEO Group launched as Wackenhut Corrections and was based in Coral Gables. After a move to Palm Beach Gardens in the 1990s, GEO Group landed in Boca Raton. Governments pay GEO Group to run nearly 80,000 beds in prisons and hospitals worldwide. Among the institutions operated by GEO Group are South Bay Correctional Facility, a 1,862-bed state prison in western Palm Beach County; the 700-bed Broward Transition Center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility; and the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center, a 223-bed state hospital in Stuart. GEO Group’s revenue — which has risen every year for nearly 20 years — and steady profits make it a financial success story. It’s the second-largest operator of private prisons, trailing only Corrections Corp. of America (NYSE: CXW) of Nashville. But investors clearly prefer CCA. While GEO Group’s revenue is similar to CCA’s, CCA is twice as profitable, and CCA’s market capitalization is twice GEO Group’s. A $10,000 investment five years ago in GEO Group would have dwindled to $8,667, while the same amount invested in CCA would have grown to $13,237. Meanwhile, GEO Group has been dogged for years by reports of sloppy — and sometimes gruesome — practices. One recent black eye: In June, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed fines totaling $104,100 for violations at a GEO Group prison in Meridian, Miss. Federal inspectors visited the prison in December and found too few guards on duty and broken cell locks. OSHA said GEO Group guards were stabbed, bitten, punched and kicked by inmates, and that the company did little to protect them. In one of the prison’s housing units, only three guards were on duty. GEO Group’s staffing plan called for eight officers to be on guard. Understaffing meant guards were more likely to be attacked by prisoners, OSHA said. What’s more, inmates tampered with cell doors so that they could be opened by prisoners from the inside but not by guards from the outside. “This employer knowingly put workers at risk of injury or death by failing to implement well recognized measures that would protect employees from physical assaults by inmates,” Clyde Payne, OSHA’s director in Jackson, Miss., said in a statement. GEO Group has contested OSHA’s findings. GEO Group has been on the receiving end of a laundry list of regulatory actions and lawsuits. Among them: •In 2011, an Oklahoma jury ordered GEO to pay $6.5 million to the family of Ronald Sites, an inmate who was strangled to death by his cellmate in 2005. •In 2011, Florida Department of Corrections investigators visited GEO Group’s prison in South Bay for a drug sweep and couldn’t get in. No one was stationed at the front gate, and no one responded when state employees pushed the alert button and shined flashlights at the prison surveillance cameras. •Also last year, the Florida Department of Children and Families said GEO Group’s neglect contributed to the death of a South Florida State Hospital patient. The man was being escorted by GEO Group employees to an appointment at Jackson Memorial Hospital when he hurled himself from the eighth story of a parking garage, the Miami Herald reported. A GEO Group employee should have stayed with the man at the first-story hospital entrance while the driver retrieved the van, DCF said. •In 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued GEO Group for allowing sexual harassment of female employees at two prisons in Florence, Ariz. In one incident, a male GEO Group manager “grabbed and pinched the breasts and crotch of a female correctional officer,” the EEOC said. In another instance, a “female employee was forced onto a desk, where a male GEO employee shoved apart her legs and kissed her,” the agency claimed. •In 2009, a Texas appeals court upheld a $42.5 million verdict after a prisoner at a GEO Group facility was beaten to death four days before his release. • In 2007, Texas canceled an $8 million contract with GEO and closed the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center. Inspectors found feces on floors and walls, padlocked emergency exits and overuse of pepper spray on young inmates. A GEO Group spokesman didn’t comment on the regulatory findings and jury verdicts, but its defenders chalk up the litany of gripes to the nature of its business. GEO Group operates in what might be the messiest niche in American capitalism, an industry where shankings, riots and suicide attempts are routine. “We’re not talking about members of Congress or Boy Scouts here,” Robert Wasserman, an analyst at Dawson James in Boca Raton, said of the stream of complaints. “I think their goal is to operate these facilities as cleanly as they can.” Critics take a less charitable view of the company. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas, said he’s astounded that state and federal officials still do business with GEO Group. “In Texas, GEO Group had an absolute string of horror stories that resulted in having multiple contracts canceled,” Libal said. “They’re a very troubled corporation that exemplifies many of the problems with the for-profit prison industry. It’s mindboggling that companies like GEO continue to win contracts.” Proponents of private prisons say for-profit institutions operate more efficiently than public prisons. “Private prisons are providing quality services—while remaining cost-efficient and providing significant cost savings,” wrote Geoffrey Segal, a former adviser to then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s Center for Efficient Government, in a 2005 report. But some who have studied private prison finances say the savings are elusive. Florida law says that private prison contracts must yield savings of 7 percent compared to what the state would have paid to operate the facility. In a 2008 report, the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability looked at the state’s private prisons and concluded that operators save money by taking on fewer “special needs” prisoners with medical problems and mental health issues that make them expensive to house. “As special needs inmates are more expensive to serve than other inmates, the difference in the populations of public and private prisons results in the state shouldering a greater proportion of the cost of housing these inmates,” the report said. “As a result, the requirement that the private prisons operate a 7 percent lower cost than state facilities is undermined.”

March 17, 2009 Sun-Sentinel
A doctor says they need medicine to stop the palpitations, shortness of breath and the cries of drowning shipmates they hear in their nightmares. But in a federal lawsuit that echoes the complaints of immigrants detained across the country, two Brazilian migrants held at the Broward Transitional Center say they're not getting their prescribed medication. "We meet with detainees across Florida in jails and detention centers and the number-one complaint is the lack of medical care," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigration Advocacy Center. Across the country, 90 detainees have died in custody in the past four years. One was the Rev. Joseph Danticat, who died at the Krome Detention Center near Miami in 2004 when officials took away prescribed medication for high blood pressure. In a congressional hearing last week, the special adviser to the Secretary of Homeland Security said the medical care provided to many of those who died didn't appear to meet Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards.

March 5, 2009 AP
Two Brazilian migrants have sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying they've been denied mental health care for post-traumatic stress disorder in a South Florida detention facility since their boat ran aground last fall. Jaime Miranda and Daniel Padilha were diagnosed with the disorder by a private physician in December but have not been given prescribed medications or treatments while being held at the Broward Transition Center in Pompano Beach, according to lawsuits filed Wednesday in Miami federal court. Their confinement without medical care has aggravated their mental health problems, violates their Fifth Amendment rights and mirrors persecution in Brazil that they sought to escape, the lawsuits state. "It would be inappropriate for ICE to comment on matters pending litigation," spokeswoman Nicole Navas said Thursday. Miranda and Padilha were both aboard a rusty 40-foot boat that ran aground Oct. 31 near Virginia Key, a small island east of downtown Miami. The boat had departed days before from the Dominican Republic, where Miranda and Padilha say traffickers held them for two months against their will, ordered them to work for the boat driver and forced them aboard a vessel that wasn't seaworthy. Both men had arrived in the Dominican Republic after fleeing mistreatment in Brazil; Padilha is gay, and Miranda's father was murdered. At least six people died after the boat hit a sandbar. Miranda and Padilha were among five Brazilians and 22 Dominicans detained by ICE. About 10 others were reported missing, but it was unclear if they drowned or made it ashore and fled. The man who allegedly piloted the boat faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of federal human smuggling charges. Miranda, 27, and Padilha, 24, persistently relive the accident and have nightmares in which the dead passengers ask them for food and water, according to the lawsuits. A doctor hired by their families diagnosed them and prescribed several medications to treat each man's insomnia, depression, anxiety and psychotic episodes. However, an officer at the center told Miranda and Padilha's attorney that the men had not been given the drugs and would need to be moved to another facility to receive treatment, the lawsuits state. Miranda and Padilha are seeking release or transfer to a facility that can provide mental health treatment, in addition to damages for pain and suffering. Each also seeks asylum to escape torture and persecution in Brazil, where they say they would not have access to psychological services if deported. Both men say they are eligible for a special visa granted to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with investigators because they provided U.S. law enforcement with names and details about the trafficking operation that brought them from the Dominican Republic to Florida. "The government has further victimized Miranda and Padilha by keeping them in custody without medical treatment despite repeated requests that they be released to obtain proper medical care and treatment," their Boston-based attorney, Jeff Ross, said Thursday in an e-mail. "The decision to keep Miranda and Padilha detained has been a discretionary decision and they should have been released by the government since they were cooperating witnesses in a federal case in Miami." The lawsuit also names the center's warden and the company that manages its operations, The GEO Group, as defendants. The GEO Group, which provides detention management services at the Broward Transition Center under contract with ICE, does not comment on litigation matters, company spokesman Pablo Paez said Thursday in an e-mail.

Broward Work Release Center, Broward County, Florida
April 18, 2001
A Broward Sheriff's detention deputy at the county's work-release center was suspended and a Wackenhut employee from the same facility was arrested after detectives said she went shopping with someone else's debit card. The deputy gave the card to Gail Forrest, a job-verification specialist at the work-release center in Pompano Beach, because she didn't want to get in trouble. Forrest, 34, then drove to Linens and things in Lighthouse Point where she bought a comforter for $190.79. She signed the receipt, and left the store. She also tried buying $211 worth of merchandise at a Boca Raton Wal-Mart. When the card was denied; she left the store. Forrest, who a Wackenhut spokesperson said had worked at the center since February 2000, was charged with the fraudulent use of a credit card, possession of a lost or stolen credit card and uttering a forged instrument. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Calipatria, California
December 30, 2005 Imperial Valley Press
The prospect of placing a privately owned and operated prison here has stirred some local unions and created controversy in the community. Though no official steps have been taken, a Calipatria City Council public hearing on the subject sparked vivid discussion Tuesday night. The Geo Group, Inc. - a private company based in Boca Raton, Fla., that operates more than 50 private correctional facilities nationally - may propose a new prison in Calipatria, pending a request for proposals from the state Department of Corrections. The request is expected to come because of a need for more prisons in California. "State prisons are overcrowded," said Ken Fortier, a representative from Geo. In an information packet presented to the City Council, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association cites several instances where the Geo Group had problems with operation of its facilities. "What they do is lower the standards of the corrections profession," said CCPOA representative Ryan Sherman. "They are responsible to their corporations while state facilities are responsible to the public." Sherman said employees of private prisons do not receive proper training to deal with serious felons. Another issue raised is how the availability of more jobs will affect the community. With an already high unemployment rate in the county and the need for increased revenue and property taxes, the private prison could prove a valuable financial resource. Sherman said Calipatria State Prison has a shortage of people to fill its positions and a new prison would cut into the pool of much-needed employees. "We have a couple hundred vacancies, and triple the pay," he said. "I don't see where Geo is going to get the people they need." On the flip side, training to become a guard at the private facility would involve less time than at the state prison, which would be of benefit to those seeking more immediate position. Yet some think less training creates a more dangerous situation of unprepared employees.

Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre, Oxford, England
October 5, 2011 Oxford Mail
EFFORTS to improve conditions for detainees at Campsfield House immigration removal centre have stalled, according to inspectors. Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said not enough had been done to deal with problems – particularly in healthcare and education – raised by his predecessor Dame Anne Owers after an inspection of the UK Borders Agency centre in Kidlington two years ago. His officials made an unannounced three-day inspection in May, shortly before operation of the centre – which houses about 200 people – passed from Geo Group to Mitie on May 30. The inspectors praised the way newly-arrived detainees were supported, said detainees felt safe and there was little bullying or use of force, noted relationships between staff and detainees were satisfactory, work placement arrangements had improved and access to phones and email was good. But they said there were “significant weaknesses in healthcare services”, education provision had not improved, decisions to place detainees in the separation unit were not always properly authorised and better interpreting services were needed, along with more notices in foreign languages.

August 5, 2011 The Guardian
Separate investigations into three deaths in immigration removal centres (IRC) in the past month have been launched by the police, amid growing concern about the treatment of detainees. The spate of deaths has caused alarm among critics of the government's detention policy, who warn that the system is at "breaking point" with poor healthcare putting people's lives at risk. Two men died from suspected heart attacks at Colnbrook near Heathrow airport and the third killed himself at the Campsfield House detention centre in Oxfordshire on Tuesday. John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, who has two detention centres including Colnbrook in his constituency, said he feared there would be more deaths as the system struggled to cope with the number of people being detained. "The government is now detaining people on such a scale that the existing services are swamped," he said. "It is inevitable if we put the services under such relentless strain that there will be more deaths as a result … we are dealing with people who are extremely stressed and extremely vulnerable and the services are not able to cope and not able to guarantee their safety." The first man who died was Muhammad Shukat, 47, a Pakistani immigration detainee who collapsed at around 6am on 2 July. His roommate Abdul Khan says that in the hours before he died Shukat was groaning in agony, had very bad chest pains and was sweating profusely. Khan, 19, from Afghanistan, said he began raising the alarm around 6am and pressed the emergency button in the room 10 times in a frantic effort to get help. Khan claimed that on three occasions members of the centre's nursing team entered the room and found Shukat on the floor where he had collapsed. Khan said they put him back into bed, took his temperature and some medicine was administered, but did not call emergency assistance immediately. According to Khan, the nurses initially said that Shukat could go to see the centre's doctor at 8am. According to the London Ambulance Service, Colnbrook staff called an ambulance just before 7.20am. Attempts were made to resuscitate Shukat, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at Hillingdon Hospital. A postmortem found the provisional cause of death to be coronary heart disease. Shukat's body has been returned to Pakistan and his family are understood to have no concerns about the medical treatment he received. The second man to die at Colnbrook has not yet been named. According to the Metropolitan police he was 35 and was found dead in his cell at 10.30am last Sunday. London Ambulance Service officials pronounced him dead at the scene. "A postmortem held on 1 August found the cause of death to be a ruptured aorta. The death is being treated as unexplained," said a police spokesman. Colnbrook IRC is managed by Serco. In a statement to detainees about Shukat's death, deputy director at Colnbrook, Jenni Halliday, described her "deep regret" and extended her condolences. In a statement to detainees about the second Colnbrook death, Serco's contract manager, Michael Guy, informed detainees that a resident in the short-term holding facility had died and that the death was thought to be from natural causes. On Tuesday, a 35-year-old man hanged himself in the toilet block at Campsfield House detention centre in Oxfordshire. A fellow detainee, who refused to give his name, said the man had been hours away from being deported and had become very anxious. "He was normally a very quiet person … but the pressure is too much for people in here." It is understood the man had only been at the centre for a few days before he died. The Home Office refused to give any more details saying his extended family had yet to be informed. Emma Ginn, from the campaign group Medical Justice, said the deaths had heightened concern about the poor healthcare on offer to those being kept in UK detention centres. "Based on medical evidence from many hundreds of detainees, Medical Justice has documented the disturbingly inadequate healthcare provision that often vulnerable immigration detainees are subjected to in Colnbrook and other immigration removal centres... [this] combined with the perilous and frightening conditions of detention, is a lethal cocktail, a disaster waiting to happen." The UK Border Agency declined to comment on the specific circumstances of each case. It said the police and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman always investigated deaths in immigration detention centres and it would be inappropriate to comment until these were complete. David Wood, director of criminality and detention at the UK Border Agency, said all detainees at immigration removal centres have access to health services seven days a week. "All detainees are seen by a nurse within two hours of arrival and are given an opportunity to see a GP within 24 hours," he added. "The health of all detainees is monitored closely, and the healthcare professionals are required to report cases where it is considered that a person's health is being affected by continued detention. "The UK takes its responsibilities seriously, which is why we consider every case on its individual merits and will continue to offer protection to those who need it. However, detention is an essential part of our controls on immigration in the UK." A groundbreaking ruling -- A man with severe mental illness was unlawfully locked up in a UK detention centre for five months and subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, according to a high court ruling. The man, a 34-year-old Indian national, was detained in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre between April and September last year. On Friday a judge ruled that his treatment amounted to a breach of article 3 of the European convention human rights. The man's lawyer said the ruling – thought to be the first of its kind – raised wider questions about how the government treats people with mental illnesses in the immigration and detention system. "The court's decision that my client suffered inhuman or degrading treatment at a UK detention facility sends a very loud and clear message to the authorities," said. "We would urge the minister to conduct a fundamental review into how people suffering from mental illness are treated in the immigration detention estate." The man, referred to as "S" in the ruling, had a history of serious ill treatment and abuse before arriving in the UK. He served time in prison for wounding and assault before being transferred to a secure psychiatric hospital until his discharge in April 2010. Following his release the UK Border Agency said there was "no evidence" he was mentally ill and he was detained in Harmondsworth where his health deteriorated and he began to have psychotic episodes and self harm. The high court intervened and he was released on bail. His lawyers said he had been living with his family since then and had fully complied with the conditions of bail set by the court. In the ruling judge David Elvin said: "S's pre-existing mental condition was both triggered and exacerbated by detention and that involved both a debasement and humiliation of S since it showed a serious lack of respect for his human dignity. It created a state in S's mind of real anguish and fear, through his hallucinations, which led him to self-harm frequently and to behave in a manner which was humiliating…" A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "We regularly review our detention policies and will look at the findings in this case to ensure lessons are learned. Detention is an essential part of our immigration control but we recognise the importance of ensuring it remains appropriate on a case by case basis."

August 3, 2011 BBC
A man has died whilst being held at the Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre in Oxfordshire. The BBC received a call from a fellow detainee claiming an Asian man had hanged himself in the showers on 2 August. A spokesperson from the UK Border Agency confirmed a man had died at the privately run centre and was in the process of contacting his family. The Police and Prisons and Probation Ombudsman are investigating the death.

August 3, 2010 Daily Mail Reporter
More than 100 men being held at an immigration centre are on hunger strike today. The detainees last night refused their evening meal at the Campsfield House immigration removal centre in Kidlington, Oxfordshire. Officials at the UK Border Agency confirmed they were 'monitoring' the situation. Jonathan Sedgwick, UKBA deputy chief executive, said: 'We can confirm 108 detainees have refused prepared meals from staff yesterday evening. 'However they still have access to food from the on-site shop and vending machines. 'Staff are monitoring the situation closely and listening to the detainees' concerns. 'All detainees have access to legal representation and 24-hour medical care.' Earlier this year a report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers found that the average lengths of stay for detainees at Campsfield appeared to be increasing. It also found that some detainees were effectively being held indefinitely because there was little prospect of removal, while education provision was poor, particularly for the significant numbers of long-stay detainees and those with little English. Campsfield is 'a long-term centre where detainees are accommodated, pending their case resolutions and subsequent removal from the United Kingdom.' The site has 216 beds for male detainees and is run by contractor The GEO Group Ltd.

March 10, 2010 BBC
Some detainees held at Campsfield House immigration centre in Oxfordshire are being detained for "excessive periods", according to an inspector's report. Dame Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP), said the centre near Kidlington was making progress. But the inspector expressed concern that average lengths of stay appeared to be increasing and a lack of data obscured the scale of the problem. The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) said it reviewed detention frequently. Campsfield House, run by GEO Group Ltd, has had an unsettled recent history, with a number of high-profile incidents and escapes.

May 18, 2009 Oxford Mail
DISTURBANCES at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre could be reduced if detainees were given more to do, an independent body has claimed. Campsfield’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has just published its 2008 annual report on the controversial Kidlington centre, which has a history of escape attempts and violent incidents. IMB chairman Lieutenant Colonel Freddie Cantrell said: “We believe that activities and education should be increased to fully occupy the detainees. “There is nothing worse than boredom with a detainee who really doesn’t know what his future is going to be. “This can cause stress, and stress can lead to trouble and disturbances.” Lt Col Cantrell — one of 10 IMB volunteers who check on treatment of inmates at the centre — said detainees currently had 30 hours of formal education a week, including lessons in English, art and computing, which was insufficient.] He recommended the UK Border Agency review its contract for education provision at the centre, which holds up to 216 detainees. The 61-page report also shed new light on two major incidents which occured within days of each other in June last year. On June 16, friends of a Jamaican man who was due to be deported started fires in an education block, detainees’ rooms and in a fitness suite. The education block was destroyed and a shop was looted. Three days later, seven detainees escaped through a ground-floor window. Three of those who went on the run are still at large. Referring to the escape, Lt Col Cantrell said: “Of course it shouldn’t happen. “It means there is a weakness in the security. Of course that has been rectified.” But he added: I don’t think any establishment in the world is completely secure.” Other findings included a plan to put televisions in each detainee’s room within months, and the fact that paid work for inmates had doubled since the 2007 report was published. The report said force was used by staff 34 times in 2008, up from 31 in 2007, but the occupancy was higher and as such there was a reduction in the proportion of incidents where force was used. Handcuffs were used 11 times in 2008, the lowest level at the centre since 2005. The IMB also recommended ensuring detainees’ property travelled with them when they were transferred from police custody to the centre, and reviewing the way racial complaints were investigated. A UK Border Agency spokesman said detainees had access to a range of activities, and added the agency awaited recommendations from a review of education provision. No-one at GEO Group UK Ltd, which runs the centre, was available for comment.

December 3, 2008 Oxford Mail
Failed asylum seekers at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre used the Internet to access “inappropriate content” on the web, it has emerged. A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) revealed the centre’s 200 plus detainees were accessing the worldwide web for up to an hour a day, but “despite controls, arrangements to block access to inappropriate content were not always effective”. Last night, a spokesman for HMIP could not detail the nature of the inappropriate content, and chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers was unavailable for interview. However, Ms Owers released a statement which read: “Email and Internet access is an important, and cheap, way for detainees to keep in contact with the outside world and relatives overseas. It is, however, important to ensure that access is controlled. “The point of the comment in the report is that there was a system of visual and spot checks at Campsfield, but the most effective way of ensuring that access is consistently controlled, which we have observed in other centres, is either to have a filtering system, or for staff to have a monitoring screen on which they can see exactly what all detainees are accessing.” Detainees first began surfing the web in December last year and there were plans to create an Internet cafe, HMIP revealed. Inspectors compiled the report after an unannounced four-day inspection of Campsfield House, near Kidlington, in May this year. The centre had “returned to normal” following a series of “major disturbances” in 2007, which included two riots and a breakout by 26 detainees, the report said. However, the inspection took place a month before another outbreak of violence and the escape of seven more detainees, and those incidents were not mentioned. Inspectors also found detainees were given pay-as-you go mobile phones on arrival at the centre, which the Home Office said were returned whenever a detainee was removed. The report found there was little evidence of bullying. The report also showed that the average length of detention had more than tripled, from 14 days in December 2006 to 46 days. Bill McKeith, of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, said: “The overall flavour of the report is quite critical. The Government claim it is a removal centre. A removal centre is a place where people are placed briefly before they are removed — and 46 days is not a brief stay.” A spokesman for the UK Border Agency would not be drawn on Mr McKeith’s claims, and did not issue a reaction to the report. Nobody was available for comment at GEO Group UK Ltd, which runs the centre. The inspectors also recommended an investigation as to why there had been a 37 per cent turnover of custody officers in 12 months. The report also gave a detailed breakdown of the nationalities and ages of the 202 detainees.

August 14, 2008 BBC
Thirteen Iraqi Kurds began fasting on Saturday in protest against deportation and reports an Iraqi man killed himself after being deported from the UK. The Home Office said the situation was "under control" and no-one had collapsed from lack of food. The BBC has learned about 46 people refused their evening meal on Wednesday. Some of the hunger-strikers are also protesting against conditions at the centre. Earlier, Algerian detainee and Aston University student, Redouane Messaoudi, 32, told BBC News he would starve for as long as it took. He said he came to the UK nearly 10 years ago and is married to a British woman, and lives with her and two young children in Birmingham. "I am at university, I've paid so much money, I have been working so hard to manage my life between the family and studies," he said. Dashty Jamal, general secretary of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, said the detainees were "victims of war and violence" in Iraq. "They are not a criminal, they are civilians," he said. "They arrived in this country because they didn't have any other choice." Campsfield House, which holds some 200 asylum seekers and foreign prisoners, has been the subject of a campaign to close it. The Campaign to Close Campsfield group said other detainees joined the strike in protest over conditions at the centre, where they said they were being "treated like animals". The GEO Group, which runs the site for the government, declined to comment.

June 19, 2008 Telegraph
Four detainees are on the run after escaping from a controversial immigration centre that has been the scene of much unrest. Seven people initially broke out of the facility although three were recaptured by police shortly after the alarm was raised at 4 am. The break-out happened just five days after a fire at the Campsfield immigration detention centre in Oxfordshire. The blaze was in a communal room at the centre on Saturday afternoon and around 20 detainees staged a rooftop protest. At the time, detainees said tensions began simmering among Jamaican inmates at the 215-man detention centre when staff brought dogs into their accommodation. In August last year 26 detainees escaped from the centre in a mass break-out. A Thames Valley police spokesman said that officers remained on the scene supporting the Home Office in their efforts to bring the situation under control. Superintendent Howard Stone said police were also working with the GEO Group UK Ltd, which controls the privately run centre on behalf of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. "We are working with GEO as well as the UK Border Agency to ensure everything is done to locate the missing detainees as quickly as possible," he said. "However, I would ask that if members of the public see anyone acting suspiciously and believes they may have been involved in this incident to contact the police immediately." GEO signed a three year contract with the Home Office to run the centre in March 2006 with an option to extend it until 2011. A GEO spokesman said: "Yes, it is correct there has been another outbreak at the detention centre. We know who the escaped detainees are and the police are now working to recapture them."

June 14, 2008 Daily Mail
A special prison service riot unit known as the Tornado Team was sent into a controversial detention centre yesterday to quell a violent stand-off between staff and illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. The 50 elite officers – dressed in Robocop-style black boiler suits and helmets and carrying batons and shields – marched into the Campsfield centre near Kidlington, Oxfordshire, after an initial disturbance when several fires were started. Crews from 15 fire engines tackled the blazes which caused thick black smoke to billow from one of the detention buildings. The Tornado Team was supported by about 50 police officers – some, equipped with riot gear and dogs, entered the camp while others secured the perimeter as a police helicopter hovered overhead. All the 200 inmates were herded into the camp’s exercise yard while fire crews took two hours to put out the blazes and make the area safe. But the detainees, all men, then refused to return to their buildings – creating another stand-off. At one point the illegal immigrants could be heard violently hammering on the 25ft high steel fence that surrounds the yard. A senior prison officer said outside: ‘No one in there is going anywhere.’ The Home Office said last night: ‘The UK Border Agency asked police for assistance and officers have secured the perimeter, which has not been breached. 'Specially trained prison officers known as a Tornado Team have been sent to the site in riot gear.’ Last August, 26 detainees escaped from Campsfield after a fire was started. But last night all the men were believed to have been accounted for. Tornado Team members are picked from serving prison officers and undergo four months of specialist training. Their boiler suits are fire-resistant, as are their padded gloves and steel-capped Army-style boots. Extra protection comes from plastic protectors on their forearms and shins. Every officer carries an American-style PR-24 sidearms baton. It can be used for defence, held along the forearm, or to attack by using a protruding metal attachment which can be spun round in confined spaces such as cells or corridors to keep assailants at bay. As an additional precaution, squad members wear face protectors to stop flames spreading under their protective suit. They use personal radios to contact their head at the scene, who is known as Silver Commander. He in turn takes orders from a Gold Commander, in charge of the overall operation and based at the Prison Service headquarters in London. Campsfield has been dogged with controversy since it was converted from a youth detention centre to handle illegal immigrants in 1993. Last year alone, there were two other disturbances not including the breakout. It is run by the UK subsidiary of American company the GEO Group, which signed a five-year contract in March, 2006. The Home Office said all the detainees were being escorted back to their accommodation blocks by 7.30pm. A spokesman added: ‘The situation has calmed down. There has been no resistance from the detainees to going back to their rooms. The operation is being wound down at the site.’ A GEO spokesman was unavailable for comment last night.

June 14, 2008 The Times
Inmate disturbances and fires broke out this afternoon at a troubled immigrant detention centre that has previously suffered riots, blazes and escapes. Two plumes of smoke rose from the centre in Kidlington, Oxfordshire. The problems at Campsfield House detention centre, which holds more than 200 foreign criminals and illegal immigrants, have prompted calls for its closure. Thames Valley police were called in this afternoon to help the security teams at the privately-run centre. A police helicopter hovered above the centre, and the riot squad was put on standby. More than a dozen fire engines have been attending the fire, and one detainee is said to have been hospitalised with smoke inhalation. There have been no other injuries reported at this stage. Campsfield House is managed by the Reading-based GEO Group UK Ltd, on behalf of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. It has been beset with problems since it opened, and detainees rioted twice last year. In March, fires were started and CCTV cameras smashed, after a detainee was removed for deportation. Seven staff and two inmates were injured. A fire in August allowed 26 inmates to escape - eight of them were still at large at last report. All the escapees were foreign criminals, awaiting deportation. In December, staff were forced to evacuate a block, again after a detainee was removed. Other inmates wrongly believed that the man, Davis Osagie from Benin in West Africa, had been murdered by prison officers. Authorities moved 128 inmates to other detention centres after December’s riot. David Pitman, who lives down the street from Campsfield, said he saw smoke coming from the detention centre and heard the inmates shouting. “This seems to happen more and more often,” he said. “Last time there was trouble and the police hadn’t arrived on the scene so I had to chase one of the escapees with a torch. “I have a young daughter and I worry for her safety with these criminals running around free. Something needs to be done about the security in there.” The centre’s independent monitoring board criticised GEO for failing to prevent the rioting, despite being warned after the first clash that the rioting could happen again. An audit report this year, commissioned by the Border and Immigration Agency, disclosed racism and tension in some of the country’s 10 immigration detention centres. It found that officers at several centres had taunted detainees - describing them as “black bastards” in one case - and found “turbulent” atmosphere in some units. At Campsfield, it said, there was a “tense” environment atmosphere where staff were afraid of detainees. One member of staff said: “If this was white British people in here we would be a lot stricter, it is because they are black people that we are afraid.”

November 26, 2007 Oxford Mail
Detainees at an immigration detention centre near Oxford have warned the atmosphere is on a knife-edge as campaigners marked its 14th anniversary. While protesters rallied outside Campsfield House, detainees spoke of a tense atmosphere and warned of a new riot. Speaking to the Oxford Mail from inside the centre in Kidlington, detainee Michael Sinclair said: "People are not getting any justice in here. They have been talking about a riot. "People have been plotting. I am frightened because you never know what will happen - it is very dangerous." Father-of-five Mr Sinclair, whose mother lives in Blackbird Leys, came to Oxford from Jamaica in 1999. He met his wife, who lives in East Oxford with three of his children, in 2003 but was unsuccessful in securing a spouse's visa and returned to Jamaica to re-apply. His visa was refused again, and desperate to see his wife and children, he returned to Britain on a false passport but was caught and jailed in March. The 41-year-old has been detained in Campsfield House since October and is currently facing deportation. Fellow detainee Rohan Walker, 27, said: "People are not getting any justice." When asked if he thought another riot was likely, he said: "People have been talking about that. You never know when it could happen." Around 50 demonstrators from the Campaign to Close Campsfield staged a two hour protest outside the centre on Saturday afternoon. The group chanted and listened to speeches. Member Bob Hughes, 60, said the centre was on the verge of serious unrest. The university lecturer, from St Clements, Oxford, said: "It is continuously on the boil. As far as we know the conditions are dreadful." Mr Hughes said the anniversary of the centre, which opened on November 23, 1993, made the current situation particularly troubling. Neither The GEO Group UK, which runs the centre, or the Home Office, were available for comment.

August 7, 2007 The Times
Ministers were warned less than two weeks ago that an immigration centre from which 14 men are on the run was unsuitable for holding them. They were also told that the policy of putting foreign prisoners in immigration centres “bursting at the seams” presented a high risk that could trigger disorder. Fourteen foreign prisoners are on the run after fleeing from Campsfield House immigration removal centre during the second outbreak of rioting on the premises in five months. The convicted prisoners, who were among 26 who escaped from the centre run by GEO Group UK, had served sentences in jails but were being held in the centre near Oxford while awaiting deportation. It emerged yesterday that officials from the Home Office had met detainees at the centre last Wednesday and Friday to discuss their grievances, including overcrowded and squalid conditions, a high rejection rate for bail applications and delays in repatriating migrants who wish to go home. But at 10.30pm on Saturday a fire broke out in a portable building at the centre where food is prepared. The detainees took advantage of the disorder to break out of the centre but 12 were recaptured soon afterwards, including a Bangladeshi who approached the home of a prison officer and asked to be hidden. Explaining that the search for the missing men has been scaled down, a Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “We have not got large numbers of officers on the ground searching for them any more. [But] we are still looking for them and their identities have been circulated to all forces.” A report into the earlier disturbance at the centre highlighted the risk that the Home Office was running by placing prisoners in immigration centres, which have much lower security than prisons. “The impact of foreign national prisoners is the biggest external issue affecting Campsfield House. It is putting the centre under great strain,” the report by Bob Whalley, a former Home Office senior civil servant, said. At the end of May more than 50 per cent of the 198 detainees in the centre were foreign prisoners. The inquiry report cautioned: “The fabric is not suitable for foreign national prisoners. It has none of the strength of a prison, nor does it offer any flexibility for dealing with difficult incidents or detainees.” Staff had complained of the large influx of foreign prisoners, “many with serious criminal backgrounds and ‘streetwise’ in their experience of prison”, the report said. It added that little was known about many foreign prisoners who arrived at immigration centres. After serving time in jail many of the prisoners found the more relaxed regime at Campsfield House disorientating. The report said that some became manipulative or bullying. It cautioned: “Some will find the dual pressure of further time in custody and uncertain date of release frustrating, to the extent that, ‘with nothing to lose’, the temptation to join in gratuitous disorder may prove too much. A concentration of discontented detainees may prove so volatile that an otherwise innocuous event may prove a trigger point for concerted disturbance.” The report said: “There are several groups of foreign national prisoners presenting high risk in terms of potential for disorder. There is little to inhibit them if an opportunity to engage in wanton disorder presents itself. The greater their frustration at the position, the greater the risk of disorder.” Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, attacked the Government for putting foreign prisoners who were awaiting deportation into immigration removal centres. “We need immigration detention centres as part of the process of removing people who have no right to be here, but what we shouldn’t be doing is mixing up immigration offenders with other criminals, and that’s where the big failure lies.” Lin Homer, chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency, said: “We have recently looked at the regime in Campsfield and we are putting in place a number of improvements with the centre operator.” Troublespot -- 1993 Campsfield centre opens


 1997 50 detainees take part in disturbance 

 2001 90 go on hunger strike 

 2002 David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, announces its closure 

 2003 Decision reversed after riot at another detention centre 

 2004 Local council rejects plans to expand Campsfield to hold 300 

 2006 GEO Group wins five-year contract to run Campsfield 

 March 2007 Disturbance as staff try to remove Algerian for deportation. Sixty detainees transferred out because of the damage 

 August 2007 Disturbances and 26 detainees flee. Twelve recaptured and 14 still on the run Source: Times database

August 3, 2007 BBC
Detainees at an Oxfordshire detention centre are suspending their ongoing hunger strike while they wait for a response from the Home Office. More than 150 detainees at Campsfield House Immigration Centre near Kidlington in Oxford have been refusing to eat since Tuesday night. They have complained to officials about the overcrowded conditions and claimed they are being held illegally. The Home Office said it would respond to concerns by Friday afternoon. Campsfield was rife with scabies, but only staff were issued with gloves. Campaign to Close Campsfield -- In a statement, the Campaign to Close Campsfield also said the centre "is a health hazard with 70% of people infected with flu". "Paracetamol is the only medicine made available and two weeks ago even this ran out. "Campsfield was rife with scabies, but only staff were issued with gloves. "Although detainees are held as civil detainees, not convicted prisoners or prisoners on remand, food, toilets and showers are a lot worse than in prisons." It said some detainees were being held even though they had won appeals against deportation or had agreed to go back to their countries of origin. Troubled history -- On Wednesday, the Home Office promised it would respond to the concerns within 48 hours. Formerly a Young Offenders Institute, Campsfield was converted into an immigration detention centre in 1993 amid a storm of protest from local residents. Run by the American company GEO, which specialises in operating detention facilities, Campsfield holds up to 200 male asylum seekers at a time. Within six months of opening the centre experienced a major problem when six asylum seekers escaped following a rooftop protest. A number of low-level disturbances inside the centre and regular public protests outside its gates has since occurred at Campsfield.

March 16, 2007 Oxford Mail
Staff are counting up the costs at Campsfield House immigration detention centre after detainees ran riot and started a fire. About 60 detainees were moved to other detention centres, including Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, on Wednesday night. Anti-Campsfield campaigners claim the revolt at the centre, in Kidlington, was sparked when an Algerian detainee was removed from his room for deportation. Police are investigating the fire as suspected arson. A former member of staff, in his 20s, who asked not to be named, praised former colleagues who he said tried to tackle the fire at the centre at 6.30am on Wednesday, before firefighters arrived. He said: "They kicked windows out and tried to tackle the fire themselves. "I spoke to one of the seven members of staff who needed hospital treatment and he told me that there has been serious damage to blue block and yellow block and the library has been destroyed. "Only about 30 detainees kicked off, but it will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to put the damage right. "The ironic thing is that the GEO group that runs the site has been getting detainees to paint internal areas and blue block has only just been painted." The former worker claimed that more than 190 detainees were housed in an area which mean for 130 and that it was not 'fit for purpose'. Oxford West and Abingdon MP Evan Harris said: "There will need to be an investigation of why there has been yet another serious disturbance at Campsfield House, which has been a subject of a number of critical reports by successive chief inspectors of prisons." Dr Harris, a member of the House of Commons select committee on human rights, added: "My select committee is already conducting an inquiry into detention of failed asylum seekers, following concerns about physical abuse during removals. "The Home Secretary himself a few years ago declared that Campsfield House was not appropriate for the 21st century, but then of course the Government decided to keep it open anyway. They will need to look at that question again."

March 14, 2007 BBC
Seven staff and two inmates have been injured in a fire after a riot broke out at an immigration removal centre. Emergency services were called to deal with the incident at Campsfield removal centre near Kidlington, in Oxfordshire, early on Wednesday. A BBC reporter saw a dozen riot officers carrying shields enter the centre to join about 35 police officers who were dealing with the incident. The nine injured people are thought to be suffering from smoke inhalation. The seven immigration staff at the centre and two detainees have been taken to hospital. A Home Office spokesman said the riot teams were working to get the centre completely under control as soon as possible. "The perimeter of Campsfield has not been breached and all detainees have been accounted for," he added. They used force to drag the person from the bed and after that everything kicked off. Campsfield detainee: In a statement Thames Valley Police said: "The detainees were evacuated and nine people have been taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. No serious injuries have been reported. "The fire has now been extinguished. Five fire engines and 30 firefighters attended the incident. The fire was relatively small and mainly generated a lot of smoke." 'Fighting stopped': A detainee, who did not want to be named, told BBC News 24: "This place is falling apart - computers are getting smashed. "They've stopped fighting now but they're destroying every bit of equipment they can find - computers getting smashed, shops are getting broken into, they're stealing everything." "They used force to drag the person from the bed and after that everything kicked off," he said. Sarah Cutler from Bail for Immigration Detainees, which provides workshops at Campsfield offering legal advice to detainees, said she was not surprised by the disturbance. "There are big problems at the moment," she said, adding that many people were being held for months. Riot gear: Those included "people who want to go back to their country of origin, have told the Home Office they want to go back, but are still detained because they can't get it together to remove them". A Home Office spokeswoman said the continuing incident began at 0630 GMT. BBC reporter Rajesh Mirchandani, speaking outside the centre, said he had seen members of a prison service fast response team enter the site. "They're riot trained and they went in carrying riot gear." He said he could see a helicopter hovering overhead and police dog units and mounted police were now patrolling the perimeter of the centre. The Home Office spokeswoman said: "Police, fire and ambulance teams are on the scene and a number of Tornado units from the Prison Service have been deployed to the centre." Campsfield can hold 196 adult male detainees, but it is not known how many are currently being held there.

July 22, 2006 The Independent
A Kurdish teenager killed himself after spending more than four months in an immigration detention centre, an inquest has heard. Ramazan Kumluca, 18, is the youngest asylum-seeker to have committed suicide while facing deportation from Britain. Campaign groups yesterday called for the closure of all detention centres, comparing them to Victorian workhouses. Mr Kumluca is one of more than 30 asylum-seekers who have killed themselves in the past five years after being told their applications had failed. He had travelled from his home in Turkey to Italy and then on to Britain where he claimed asylum last year, saying that his life was in danger over a £20,000 debt owed by his father. He also claimed that if he was sent back to Italy (under rules that asylum must be claimed in the first safe country reached) he was at risk of exploitation. Mr Kumluca was refused asylum and denied bail because there were fears he would not report back for deportation. He was sent to Campsfield House in Oxfordshire, an immigration removal centre that holds around 100 men at any time. The average stay for detainees at the centre is 14 days, but because the teenager was fighting his deportation order he was held for four and a half months. An inquest at Oxford Old Assizes heard he had been plunged into despair during his incarceration and had complained of insomnia, headaches and anxiety. A fellow inmate, Abdulwase Kamali, told the court Mr Kumluca had appeared "sad" the day before he killed himself. He said: "Ramazan said he had been told by immigration he would be sent back to Italy, and he said if he was sent back to Italy he would be used in sex films. He said he would slash himself or hang himself." On 27 June last year, Mr Kamali and other Muslim detainees alerted warders after calling Mr Kumluca for morning prayers and finding his door would not open. He was found hanging from the door closing mechanism. After investigating his death, a Prison and Probation ombudsman cleared staff of any wrongdoing. The jury returned a verdict of suicide. Outside the court, Bob Hughes, of the pressure group Campaign to Close Campsfield, said: "Here we have an institution full of people being driven deliberately to despair by government policy." "He added: "We believe these people should be allowed to get on with their own lives. Centres like Campsfield are a huge national scandal and shame. Campsfield House has been a removal centre since 1993 and is privately run by the company Global Solutions Limited. In 2002, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett pledged that the centre would be closed, but a year later it was decided to keep it open and expand the number of places. Since 2000, at least 25 asylum-seekers have killed themselves while living in the community after being told they would be deported. Mr Kumluca was the seventh to have committed suicide in a detention centre. More than 2,600 adults and children are being held in detention centres prior to deportation. In January this year another asylum-seeker Bereket Yohannes, from Eritrea, was found hanging at Harmondsworth Removal Centre. An inquest will be held into his death.

June 17, 2006 Indy Media
On Monday 12th of this week a Somalian man went onto a roof at Campsfield; he had been detained for four months (probably illegally, since the government cannot deport people to Somalia) and took a rope and a plastic bag with him. GEO, the new management at Campsfield, asked the police to leave and said they would deal with the matter themselves; we do not know whether they used violence against the Somalian detainee; he has been removed from Campsfield, no doubt to somewhere even worse as is usual in these cases. There have been 12 suicides in immigration detention, and several hundred attempted suicides and cases of self harm requiring medical treatment. GSL lost the contract to run Campsfield to GEO (Global Expertise on Outsourcing), presumably on cost grounds. GEO took over at the beginning of the month. They have changed their name from Wackenhut, and have a discreditable history of running penal institutions in the USA and Australia. GSL's manager, Andy Clark, who had been more willing than his predecessors to allow volunteers and education classes in Campsfield, decided he could not work with GEO; at least two of the people who ran education classes and workshops have been sacked or left, and GEO apparently intends to provide much reduced hours of education (as required under the contract), run by its own officers. But of course the most serious problem is not the conditions inside the centre, but the fact that people are detained there who have committed no crime, been charged or suspected of no crime, with no judicial process and no time limit, often with no access to lawyers, and always with great uncertainty about what is happening to them or about to happen to them.

Central Arizona Correctional Facility, Florence, Arizona
Apr 29, 2013 ktar.com        

PHOENIX -- Federal authorities said a prison management group has agreed to pay $140,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit in Arizona. The Arizona Civil Rights Division and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the settlement Monday involving the GEO Group Inc. The EEOC and ACRD claimed that male managers at a GEO-managed private prison facility in Florence sexually harassed numerous female employees and fostered an atmosphere of sexual intimidation and harassment. They claimed that one prison supervisor at Florence West routinely made crude, obscene and suggestive sexual remarks to female employees, often in front of other management officials who didn't stop the harassment. Florida-based GEO runs more than 100 private prison facilities across the country. A call to GEO officials for comment on the settlement wasn't immediately returned Monday afternoon.

October 4, 2010 Arizona Republic
A federal agency filed a lawsuit last week alleging a private company that operates prisons in Florence sexually harassed and retaliated against female employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit against GEO Group Inc. alleged the company and some male managers supervising correctional officers fostered a "sexual and sex-based hostile work environment" at two Florence prisons that allowed harassment and retaliation against female employees. GEO Group, which operates Arizona State Prison-Florence and Central Arizona Correctional Facility in Florence, declined to comment on the EEOC lawsuit. The EEOC alleges GEO Group was aware but failed to take measures to prevent the harassment. The EEOC case stems from a harassment complaint that a female employee filed in June 2009 with the Arizona Civil Rights Division and the EEOC. The lawsuit alleged the prison operator retaliated against her after she filed her complaint. The EEOC said the male employees engaged in verbal and physical harassment of female employees. A male manager grabbed and pinched a female employee, and a female employee was forced on a desk and kissed and touched by a male employee, the lawsuit says. The federal agency reportedly attempted to reach a voluntary settlement with the GEO Group before filing the lawsuit. The Arizona Attorney General's Office previously filed suit and investigated complaints against the prison operator. The EEOC is authorized under federal law to collect compensatory and punitive damages, which are not available under Arizona law. It was the fourth discrimination lawsuit announced last week by the EEOC against Arizona employers. The federal agency also filed lawsuits against a Peoria car dealership, a Bullhead City Mexican eatery and a Phoenix restaurant. Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix office, said the agency filed a batch of lawsuits last week due to work-flow issues. Agency attorneys focused on new cases after they finished other duties such as trials and filing motions in existing cases.

Central Texas Detention Facility, San Antonio, TX
June 11, 2012 San Antonio Express-News
Relatives of an inmate who hanged himself at the privately run Central Texas Detention Facility have sued Florida-based The GEO Group and its warden, alleging the federal prisoner was able to kill himself because he was wrongly taken off suicide watch in December 2011. The lawsuit claims warden James Coapland was negligent in watching over Darrell Clayton Delany, 31, and that The GEO Group is liable for the acts of its employees. The operators of the jail, located in downtown San Antonio, deny the allegations of the suit, which seeks unspecified damages. Delany was sent to the jail by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons because he had been unable to meet the conditions required of him to serve his sentence on drug smuggling charges at a halfway house, said a court affidavit from Brett Bement, who preceded Coapland as warden at the jail. Bement's affidavit said that, on the morning of Dec. 29, 2011 — the day Delany was to be released from the lockup — he was found hanging in his cell by bed linens and was later pronounced dead at a San Antonio hospital. He had been on suicide watch before the incident but had signed a “no-self-harm” agreement and was removed from suicide watch two days before his suicide, Bement's affidavit said. The affidavit, filed by lawyers for Coapland, tries to deflect blame from Coapland, who was the jail's assistant warden at the time. The affidavit said Coapland did not have the authority to remove inmates from suicide watch, but does not specify who authorized Delany's removal from suicide watch. Inmates have frequently complained to federal judges about conditions at the lockup. And the suit comes as police in Atascosa County arrested Jack Shane McNeal, a former guard at that lockup, on Thursday on theft charges unrelated to the Delany incident. McNeal was out on bond, facing federal charges that he helped members of the Texas Mexican Mafia smuggle cell phones and heroin and marijuana into the jail.

February 10, 2012 San Antonio Express-News
Two members of the Texas Mexican Mafia pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that they got cellphones and drugs smuggled into a federal jail with help from a guard. Paul “Polo” Hernandez and Jesse C. “Chuy” Guerra also pleaded guilty to an extortion and drug-possession charge for their roles in the gang's enforcement of a 10-percent “street tax” on other drug dealers in San Antonio. Guerra's cousin Fernando “Klan” Delgado also pleaded guilty Thursday to a heroin-possession charge. The three were among 12 snared in November 2010 by the San Antonio Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Three of the 12 pleaded guilty last year and were sentenced to prison. Hernandez's plea deal said he made several phone calls while awaiting trial on drug-related charges at the Central Texas Detention Facility, a federal jail in San Antonio run by Florida-based The GEO Group. In the calls, Hernandez directed his wife to find heroin and a gun he had hidden on his property that police missed when they raided the couple's home, the plea deal said. Hernandez also asked his wife to contact another Texas Mexican Mafia member to let him know that Hernandez had identified three “snitches” who cooperated with police, the plea deal said. One of the three was later found murdered, the deal said. Hernandez and Guerra also admitted that they had four cell phones — three were found on Guerra and one on Hernandez — and small amounts of marijuana and heroin in the lockup, according to deputy U.S. Marshal Eric De Los Santos. Three people were charged in the smuggling and await trial, including former GEO employee Jack Shane McNeal, inmate Antonio Molina-Ortega and Marisol Reyna Mermella, records show.

March 21, 2011 San Antonio Express-News
The parents of an inmate who died last year from a heroin overdose at a privately run federal jail in downtown San Antonio have sued the operator, alleging guards may have smuggled the drugs in and provided them to the prisoner. The suit filed by Albert and Sandra Gomez, which was moved from state court to federal court last week, states that their son, Albert Gomez Jr., died May 19 from a heroin overdose while he was held at one of the more secure parts of the Central Texas Detention Facility. The 685-bed facility is owned by Bexar County, but has been managed for years by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group Inc., which has a contract with the county and the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal pretrial inmates there. The suit names GEO and a female guard, listed as “Jane Doe 1,” as defendants. The suit alleges guards are improperly trained to handle people with drug addictions and can freely participate in “black market sale of drugs to prisoners.” One of the Gomez couple's lawyers, Matt Wymer, said he has been informed that a criminal investigation has been launched, but the Marshals Service declined comment because the matter is in litigation. The GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment, but denied the allegations in a court-filed response.

May 21, 2010 KENS 5
A federal inmate has died while in custody. Guards found the 25-year-old dead in his cell early Wednesday morning. His family wants to know what went wrong. Federal authorities arrested Albert Martin Gomez Jr. On January 20. He was accused of making and passing fake $100 bills. He and a co-defendant were charged in a counterfeit-money ring. Gomez was released, but was back at a federal holding facility in March, awaiting sentencing. Around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday guards found Gomez unresponsive. Sources say Gomez died from an apparent drug overdose, but nobody is talking. Meanwhile, toxicology reports are pending. Bexar County records show Gomez was also arrested in 2005 on an assault charge. The autopsy was completed, but details aren't being released. The central Texas detention facility where Gomez was being held is operated by the GEO Group, Inc. A spokesperson had no comment on the death, only to say it is under investigation.

November 23, 2007 American-Statesman
Sam Kambo can now hold his 4-year-old son, Seth, something he couldn't do for a year while he was in a San Antonio prison waiting for the legal system to sort out whether he should be deported. 'The worst thing you can do to a useful person is to make him useless,' Kambo said On Thursday, the Austin resident celebrated the first Thanksgiving since being released a month ago from a federal prison in San Antonio. There he had waited for the legal system to sort out whether he should be deported on government charges that he was involved in mass murder in Sierra Leone, the West African country in which he grew up and helped lead a bloodless coup in 1992 against the ruling party. After Kambo spent nearly a year awaiting his day in court — while federal officials ignored two orders to release him on bail — an immigration judge rejected the government's allegation that Kambo had participated in mass murder. The judge ordered his release, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents did not comply for five months, until another federal judge ordered him set free. Kambo's wife, Hanaan, cared for their four children during that year, coordinated with the lawyer handling her husband's case and survived on the charity of family and friends. "We appreciate every day now. I appreciate every time I have a day," Sam Kambo said Thursday, slicing a long slender eggplant for a salad in the kitchen of his North Austin home. "I really cherish this moment." Later, his brother, David, and mother, Susan, stopped by, both of them having been granted status as legal residents after they followed Sam to Austin. They did not talk about his fight with the federal government. Six children played in a side room and occasionally ran through the kitchen, where the adults moved about and chatted lightly, spooning plates of food from the table in an informal pot luck style. The first course was skewered beef cooked in peanut sauce and onions. Later came a jambalaya-like dish of rice mixed with bits of beef, shrimp, carrots and peas, accompanied by a salad, talapia fish and sweet blue African potatoes. Hanaan Kambo did most of the cooking, but her husband rarely left the kitchen. Sometimes, she says, when he is out of sight, she feels a wave of anxiety come over her. "Maybe I'll be in the kitchen, and I just have a moment, as if I'm reliving the time he was taken from us," she said. Kambo was arrested in October 2006 at a hearing that he thought would determine whether he became a permanent resident of the United States. Instead, he was arrested and locked up in the GEO Group private detention facility in San Antonio, where he shared a cell the size of his kitchen with five other men and drank tap water from a basin attached to the cell's group toilet.

September 2, 2005 San Antonio Express-News
Eight local residents, including two former jail guards, pleaded guilty Thursday to participating in a bank-fraud conspiracy that netted between $90,000 and $160,000. The scheme stretched from July 2003 to October 2004 and involved opening 52 accounts at Bank of America branches and depositing checks from a closed account or empty envelopes and quickly withdrawing cash before bank officials caught on, court records noted. The case ensnared 12 defendants and is among the first brought to federal court by a U.S. Secret Service-led task force formed in October 2004 to target identity-theft rings and other organized financial crime rackets. Court documents allege Santos Lopez III, 27, his girlfriend, Estella Ramirez, and Bruno Alejandro Jr., 40, devised the scheme and managed the operation. Court records said the recruits were given startup money by the organizers to open the accounts. The recruits would then hand over personal identification numbers and ATM cards to Lopez or Ramirez. Checks from a closed bank account would then be deposited through automated tellers, and cash withdrawals would be made almost immediately, according to the court documents. The court record showed recruits would be given part of the proceeds, and Lopez and others spent much of the proceeds on cocaine. Also pleading guilty Thursday were: Alejandro Regino, Manuel Riojas, Jessica Guevara, Belinda Contreras, Angelica Guerra and Lopez's ex-girlfriend, Sophia Martinez, whom Lopez started a relationship with while she was a guard and he was incarcerated in San Antonio. Officials said both Martinez and Guerra worked at the jail, operated by the Florida-based GEO Group Inc., during the conspiracy. Both were terminated.

February 16, 2005 Express-News
A former guard who admitted trying to smuggle methamphetamine into a private downtown jail that holds federal inmates was sentenced Tuesday to 2 1/2 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez allowed Lou Cindy Ford, 39, to turn herself in to federal prison officials by June 3. Ford, who worked at the old Central Texas Parole Violators Facility across the street from the main police station, pleaded guilty last year to intending to distribute 50 grams to 500 grams of the drug.
Ford 's plea agreement said she was caught trying to deliver four ounces to an inmate in exchange for $800 during an undercover sting July 27, 2003. Ford was arrested later that day after she drove back to the jail, which is run by Florida-based GEO Group Inc.

February 2, 2005 KSAT
A 19-year-old guard at the GEO Central Texas Detention Facility in San Antonio has been placed on unpaid leave following his arrest on drug and alcohol charges. According to a San Antonio Police Department report, Manuel Castillo was arrested early Tuesday after he allegedly smuggled drugs and alcohol into the federal facility.  During Castillo's midnight break, he left in his vehicle and later returned to the facility at 218 South Laredo carrying a clear bottle filled with vodka, the report said. Police also found some cocaine concealed in a sock and some tobacco tucked inside his belt line. Castillo, who was hired in July 2004, is the fourth detention officer arrested for allegedly bringing contraband into the facility in the past 2 ½ years.

December 20, 2004 Express-News
Two San Antonio women have admitted they helped deliver a car and money for a jailbreak attempt by several inmates, including alleged members of the Texas Mexican Mafia.
Estella Soto, 27, and Paula Soto, 23, have struck plea deals in which they've agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy in an escape attempt from a privately run jail downtown. Inside the lockup, which is run by The Geo Group Inc. of Florida, Soto was to escape through a window along with alleged Mexican Mafia general Jimmy Zavala, 35, reputed Mexican Mafia member Gerardo Sanchez, 31, and David A. Straughn, 31.

November 5, 2004 Express-News
A guard at a privately run jail that holds federal prisoners was released on bond Thursday after pleading not guilty to planning to smuggle heroin into the lockup.
A federal grand jury indicted Juan Roberto Ortiz, 40, on Wednesday. Ortiz had worked at the jail since November 2003 and has been placed on unpaid leave, said Pablo Paez, spokesman for Florida-based GEO Group Inc., which runs the jail.

November 1, 2004 Express-News
A guard at a privately run jail for federal inmates made his first court appearance today on charges that he tried to smuggle heroin and cocaine into the lockup. During an initial hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Primomo ordered Juan Roberto Ortiz held pending a bail hearing on Thursday.
Before his arrest this weekend, Ortiz, 40, had worked at the Central Texas Parole Violators Facility since November 2003, according to Pablo Paez, spokesman for The Geo Group, the Florida-based company that runs the jail. Ortiz's arrest was the latest for guards who worked at the jail. In the past year, Jessica Lee Piña, 24, and David C. Higginbotham, 42, have gone to prison for trying to smuggle drugs into the lockup. Lou Cindy Ford, 39, pleaded guilty in March to intending to distribute 4 ounces of methamphetamine at the jail. She awaits sentencing.

January 5, 2004
A former guard at the privately run Wackenhut jail downtown was sentenced to more than eight years in prison Thursday for trying to smuggle heroin into the lockup.  The 97 months U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia gave David Higginbotham was the lower end of the sentence recommendation, which ranged up to 121 months.  A federal jury convicted Higginbotham Aug. 7 of attempting to possess with intent to distribute heroin. The charge stemmed from an undercover sting in which an inmate arranged to have Higginbotham smuggle contraband to him. The contraband was to be given to Higginbotham by an undercover San Antonio police officer.  At trial, Higginbotham claimed the officer forced him to accept the package, which had 150 grams, or a little more than 5 ounces, of brown sugar.  According to testimony, Higginbotham refused to accept the package when he was told it was heroin. But the officer also gave Higginbotham $500, and he took the delivery.  (My Sanatonio)

March 16, 2004
A former jail guard accused of trying to smuggle methamphetamine into the Wackenhut detention facility downtown has struck a plea deal. Lou Cindy Ford, 39, is scheduled to finalize the agreement by pleading guilty today in federal court to intending to distribute between 50 grams to 500 grams of meth. She faces five to 40 years in prison. (San Antonio Express-News)

August 7, 2002
A jail guard who crashed a van carrying six prisoners into a downtown lamppost earlier this week does not have a driver's license, state officials said Tuesday. The van, operated by the private security firm Wackenhut Corp., had just exited the feral courthouse parking lot shortly before 5 p.m. Monday when the vehicle swerved toward the curb. Three inmates were treated for "bruises and soreness" and sent back to their cells at the privately operated Laredo Street lockup. (San Antonio Express-News)

April 3, 2002
A jailer was arrested last week on charges that he accepted money and what he believed to be heroin from an undercover agent, promising to take the illegal drug inside the privately-owned federal correction facility where he worked. David Higginbotham was arrested March 26 outside the Central Texas Parole Violator Facility, a Wackenhut detention center located downtown. (San Antonio Express-News)

Sept. 5, 1996
A week after a double murderer from Oklahoma escaped through a 6-inch window, officials at Wackenhut Corrections Center say they are stepping up security at the private jail. The escape of John Ray Davis, 21, prompted prison management to decide to spend $20,000 on new doors and security locks and to implement new procedures in the coming weeks, officials said. (Houston Chronicle) 

Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility, McFarland, California
November 26, 2011 The Daily Press
The state has canceled its contract with the privately operated Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, putting about 150 workers out of a job. Desert View's contract termination officially takes effect Wednesday, though prison employees told the Daily Press that The Geo Group Inc. has been preparing to deactivate the prison at Rancho and Aster roads since May. The 643-bed medium-security prison is shuttering its doors as part of California’s realignment plan, which responds to federal orders to reduce state prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for tens of thousands of low-level offenders to county governments. To help deal with the new influx of inmates under local supervision, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is encouraging counties to enter into their own contracts with more than a dozen former CCFs. The CCFs had generally housed inmates with sentences shorter than 18 months, parole violators and offenders with scheduled release dates — the same types of nonviolent, non-sexual or non-serious offenders now serving out sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. “We hope that counties contract with these facilities to save jobs and ease inmate housing concerns that many counties may have,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Toyama said. But San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials say they’re not planning to privatize jail beds. The math just doesn’t pencil out, according to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “The issue with taking advantage of private prisons or private jail facilities has come up over and over again throughout the years; however, it’s not something that the county is considering,” Bachman said. “It’s too costly and there’s just not the funding really even to consider something like that.” The California State Association of Counties has created a document outlining potential beds at the former CCFs, but counties statewide have been hesitant to exercise that option. The Geo Group had operated six of the nine privately run CCFs that lost their state contracts, according to CSAC. Five other CCFs were run by local governments. The facilities ranged from around 100 employees to more than 600, according to Toyama.

July 11, 2011 Business Wire
The GEO Group ("GEO") announced today that the State of California has decided to implement its Criminal Justice Realignment Plan (the "Realignment Plan"), which is expected to delegate tens of thousands of low level state offenders to local county jurisdictions in California effective October 1, 2011. As a result of the implementation of the Realignment Plan, the State of California has decided to discontinue contracts with Community Correctional Facilities which currently house low level state offenders across the state. This decision will impact three GEO facilities: the company-leased 305-bed Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility, the company-owned 643-bed Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, and the company-owned 625-bed Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility. GEO has received written notice from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation regarding the cancellation of GEO's agreements for the housing of low level state offenders at these three facilities effective as of September 30, 2011, November 30, 2011 and November 30, 2011, respectively. GEO is in the process of actively marketing these facilities to local county agencies in California. Given that most local county jurisdictions in California are presently operating at or above their correctional capacity, GEO is hopeful that it will be able to market these facilities to local county agencies for the housing of low level offenders who will be the responsibility of local county jurisdictions. If GEO is unable to secure alternative customers for these three facilities, GEO estimates that the combined annualized negative earnings per share impact of the cancellations would be approximately $0.10-0.13, including carrying costs while the facilities are idle. The combined annualized revenues for these three facilities were approximately $33-$35 million.

October 26, 2004 Business Wire
Fitch Ratings lowers the rating on McFarland, CA's $1.4 million certificates of participation (COPS), 2001 sewer system financing project, to 'B' from 'BBB-'. Fitch also places the 2001 COPs on Rating Watch Negative. Of additional concern is the December 2003 closing of one of three prisons operated by the GEO Group Inc. In 2001, the prisons accounted for over 40% of sewer system revenues. Subsequently, in August 2004, the city approved a change in the remaining prison's conditional use permit allowing an additional 150 inmates at each facility as requested by the California Department of Corrections. Because wastewater fees are assessed on a per inmate basis, the nine month period of reduced inmate capacity represents a significant revenue loss.

September 7, 2004 Californian
A three-year overtime wage and benefit court battle pitting employees against a private prison company is finally nearing an end. A settlement agreement is set to be finalized Sept. 27 between about 2,700 current and former employees and Wackenhut Corrections Corp., now The GEO Group Inc. The workers, both guards and support personnel, claimed the company did not pay overtime and made them work off the clock without pay. They also claimed they were not given proper rest and meal breaks.
The employees worked at six private prisons in California, four of which are in Kern County. The Kern prisons include the McFarland Community Correctional Facility, Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility, and Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility, all in McFarland, and the Taft Correctional Institution. The total amount of the settlement is about $10 million in cash and non-cash benefits.

Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, Bronte, Texas
October 12, 2007 KRIS TV
The delayed discovery of squalid conditions at a privately run Texas Youth Commission jail was "a human failure" and stronger oversight is needed to prevent similar incidents, a key state senator said Friday. "It was very simple that the monitors were not doing their job and there was a human failure," said Sen. John Whitmire, head of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "Who's monitoring the monitors?" Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, called a committee hearing about a week after a Coke County juvenile lockup in Bronte operated by The GEO Group, Inc., was closed because of filthy conditions. A Texas Youth Commission ombudsman discovered the conditions, even though the facility had passed previous inspections by TYC monitors. The TYC system was rocked earlier this year by allegations of rampant sexual and other physical abuse against juvenile inmates in the system. The star witness at Friday's hearing on adult and juvenile prison monitoring was Shirley Noble, who told how her son, 43-year-old Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne, endured months of horrific conditions then slit his own throat at a private Texas prison run by GEO Group. "It seemed there was no end to the degradation he and other prisoners were to endure with substandard facilities," Noble said. Her son died March 4 in a private prison in Spur. Noble questioned why Idaho sent its inmates to Texas and why the Florida-based GEO Group was allowed to keep prisoners in what she described as "degrading and subhuman conditions." "Please, please hold them accountable for all the injuries and misery they have caused," Noble said. A spokesman for GEO Group did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press to respond to comments made at the hearing. TYC Acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope, who took over the youth agency earlier this year, testified that she's putting more monitoring safeguards in place. That includes sending executive staff members out to view the lockups, something she said hadn't been done regularly in the past. "Because of my concerns of what I saw in Coke County, I have implemented a blitz of every facility, either the ones that we operate, that contract, district offices, anything that has TYC affiliated with it," she said, adding that each site will be visited by the end of October. Adan Munoz Jr., executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said he has four inspectors do annual inspections of the 267 facilities under his oversight. He defended his agency's practice of giving two- to three-week notices about inspection visits but said recently there have been more surprise inspections. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said privatizing prisons is an "easy way out." He said he worries about the state continuing to contract with companies that have a history of abuse. "It's a myth that the private sector does a better job than government" in running prisons, Hinojosa said. "They're there to make a profit and they'll cut corners, and they'll cut back on services and they'll many times look the other way when abuse is taking place." Because of Texas' size and high rate of locking up convicts, the state is in the national spotlight for its dealings with private prison firms, said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. "It puts a special burden on us," he said. "If it needs to be improved, improve it, because everybody looks to us." Noble was the panel's final witness. The room hushed as she told the senators her family's emotional tale. Her son, a convicted sex offender, was kept in solitary confinement for months with a wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels. She said he wrote long, detailed letters to family members in which he said the only way to escape the prison's harsh conditions was to join his late grandfather in the spirit world. Noble said she begged for psychological help for her son. She said he wasn't supposed to have been given a razor, and she still wonders how he got the one he used to end his life. "After he tried to unsuccessfully slash his wrists and ankles, he knelt in the shower and cut his own throat," she said. "Surely only a person in utter disillusionment and horrifying conditions would bring themselves to this end."

October 12, 2007 Dallas Morning News
Three monitors fired by the Texas Youth Commission last week for failing to report filthy and dangerous conditions at a privately run juvenile prison in West Texas had previously worked for the company they oversaw. Two of the quality assurance monitors were hired directly from caseworker positions with The GEO Group Inc. at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, according to their job applications. The monitoring unit's supervisor also briefly worked for GEO at the youth prison near Bronte four years before being hired by TYC, records show. A clerk who was fired had previous GEO employment as well. TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said agency executives were unaware of the terminated workers' ties to GEO before The Dallas Morning News filed an open-records request this week. Officials said last week that they were concerned about entanglements between TYC employees and the company they monitored. TYC's inspector general has launched a criminal investigation of operations at the Coke County prison, including the possibility of financial transactions between GEO and TYC employees. GEO's relationship with the fired TYC monitors is a likely topic at a hearing today of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in Austin. It is intended to examine GEO's operation of youth and adult prisons in Texas. State Sen. John Whitmire, the panel's chairman, was angered to learn from a reporter Thursday that TYC monitors had previously been employed by GEO. "I think it's outrageous," the Houston Democrat said. "It just confirms what many of us suspected – that there was too close a relationship between the TYC employees and GEO employees." He said the committee also would seek answers from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and county jail and juvenile probation officials about their own monitoring of private corrections companies. "Anyone that confines individuals in the state of Texas needs to make certain they know who their monitors are – and that they go behind their monitors and literally monitor their monitors," Mr. Whitmire said. Mr. Hurley said the prior employment with GEO raised questions about whether the monitors had been objective in their evaluations of the facility. "How do you monitor the monitors?" he said. "We need a very good answer to that." For years, quality assurance reports on the Coke County prison had been overwhelmingly positive. Twice, TYC named it contract facility of the year. "You have to worry about conflicts of interest," Mr. Hurley said Thursday. "I'm not saying there is a conflict of interest. But there is a perception." TYC Executive Director Dimitria Pope fired four monitors at the Coke County prison and a clerk last week after she and others toured the facility. It was in such deplorable condition, Ms. Pope said, that she ordered the removal of all 197 inmates. She also fired another employee at the Coke County facility who had not worked for GEO, and two contract care supervisors at TYC's district office in Fort Worth. The head of contract care at TYC's headquarters in Austin resigned. Ms. Pope canceled TYC's $8 million contract with Florida-based GEO, which had operated the Coke County facility since it opened in 1994. GEO initially tried to reinstate the contract but, after criticism, said it accepted the decision. The Coke County facility was the state's largest private youth prison. It was the only Texas juvenile facility operated by GEO, one of the nation's biggest private prison contractors. As a result of the problems discovered at Coke County, Ms. Pope ordered a wholesale review of the agency's contract care system. "Who the monitors are and where they come from will be one of the issues that we're going to look at," Mr. Hurley said. TYC employs more than 40 quality assurance specialists and supervisors, according to personnel records provided to The News. Some are stationed at the facilities they monitor, several of which are in remote rural areas. Mr. Hurley shied away from discussing what actions the agency might undertake if it learns that other monitors had previous employment with contractors they inspect. "What we need to do is make sure that first of all, every one of these contracts is being monitored and that it's being monitored correctly," he said. "If the remoteness is a problem, I think that monitoring these contracts accurately will show us that," he said. "We need to have a sort of evidence-based determination." The Coke County prison is in a one-stoplight town about 30 miles north of San Angelo. It was the town's second-largest employer after the school district. One-third of the school district's $6 million budget is tied to programs at the prison. Two of the fired TYC employees lived in Bronte. Valerie Jones, former supervisor of the monitoring unit, has two children in the Bronte schools. Patti Frazee, her clerk, is married to a member of the Bronte school board. Ms. Jones, who worked for GEO as a chemical-dependency counselor from October 1995 to July 1996, declined to comment Thursday. She was hired by TYC as a quality assurance monitor in spring 2000, records show. Ms. Frazee, reached at her home, said officials of the youth agency never raised any questions about her previous employment with GEO. "There were not very many jobs out here," she said. "Any time you could take a state job, it was a better job for everybody because it paid more money. That's the only reason. It was like a step up from GEO. That's the way everybody viewed it." Ms. Frazee was paid $17,950 per year working as bookkeeper for GEO. As a clerk for TYC, she earned $25,035. The two monitors hired directly from GEO, Brian Lutz and David Roberson, earned $26,800 and $24,500 per year, respectively. With TYC, Mr. Lutz was paid $33,945,while Mr. Roberson received $37,393, agency records show. Several attempts to locate Mr. Lutz for comment were unsuccessful. Mr. Roberson, reached at his home in San Angelo, declined to be interviewed. Lisa Williamson worked as a TYC quality assurance monitor at the Coke County facility from 1998 until 2004. She said she knew Mr. Roberson and Ms. Jones well. She described them as honest, hard-working people devoted to their jobs. "There is not anybody there who I wouldn't trust with my own children," said Ms. Williamson, who now works as a juvenile probation officer in Young County. Ms. Williamson said she had not worked for GEO. But she said she never saw any of her colleagues who had worked for the company ignore any problems. While she and the GEO warden, Brett Bement, frequently tried to tell each other how to do their jobs, Ms. Williamson said, she didn't feel pressured and didn't obey him. "He knew I wasn't a pushover, and he couldn't get by with it. He couldn't have done that with any of us," she said. GEO Group gave money to several state officials' campaigns -- State Rep. Jerry Madden held his annual "How Sweet It Is" dessert party in Plano on Thursday night to raise money for a future campaign. One of the sponsors at the $2,500 "cherries jubilee" level was to be The GEO Group Inc., a Florida-based corrections company. Until last week, GEO operated the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center near Bronte under contract with the Texas Youth Commission. In recent years, the company has donated to the campaigns of some legislators who oversee the youth agency. Two of them, Mr. Madden and Sen. John Whitmire, are co-chairmen of the special legislative committee established this year to oversee reforms of TYC in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal at the West Texas State School in Pyote. Mr. Madden, R-Plano, received a total of $2,500 from GEO's political action committee in 2005 and 2006, according to campaign finance records. Mr. Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, received $2,000 from the political action committee of Wackenhut Corrections Corp., as GEO was previously known, in 2003 and 2004. Other recipients of GEO or Wackenhut contributions are Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who received $2,500 in 2006, and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, who received $1,000 in 2005, state records show. In addition to Mr. Madden, the chairman of the House Corrections Committee, two other panel members received donations from GEO or Wackenhut. Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, received $250 in 2006. And Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso, received $500 from the Wackenhut Corrections PAC in 2004. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and another member of the Joint Committee on the Operation and Management of the Texas Youth Commission, received $250 in 2006. Mr. Madden's predecessor as head of the corrections committee, Ray Allen, received $3,500 in 2003 and 2004 from Wackenhut. He since has left public office and is a lobbyist for GEO. Mr. Madden acknowledged that lobbyists for GEO might attend his fundraiser at the Southfork Hotel on Thursday night. But he said he had told the lobbyists that he did not want a check. "Just right now, I think it would be a bad idea to specifically look for contributions from GEO," he said.

October 11, 2007 The Olympian
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a Texas prison this year has become a corrections activist. Shirley Noble travels to Austin, Texas Friday to urge lawmakers there to stop accepting out-of-state prisoners at their for-profit lockups. Texas is holding hearings over The GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company that lost its contract to oversee a juvenile prison because of dirty bed sheets, feces-smeared cells and insects in the food. GEO also ran the prison where Shirley Noble's son, Scot Noble Payne, slashed his throat March 4. The convicted sex offender had been shipped to Texas with a group of 450 Idaho inmates because of overcrowding at prisons at home. Shirley Noble contends sending prisoners out-of-state leaves them without family contact - and caused Idaho prison officials to neglect them.

October 6, 2007 Dallas Morning News
The Texas Youth Commission is investigating whether its employees had improper ties to GEO Group Inc., the company that ran a West Texas juvenile prison where inmates lived in dangerous and squalid conditions. Acting TYC Executive Director Dimitria Pope said Friday that agency investigators will be checking into the backgrounds of employees to "see if they are connected to GEO in any way." Among the areas of inquiry, she said, is whether anyone in TYC was working as a consultant for GEO. Investigators also will look for any other financial arrangements between TYC workers and GEO, which operated the now-closed Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte. Any TYC employee found to have ties to GEO will be fired, Ms. Pope said. "I'm saying let's go back to the time this facility just opened. Let's see if there are any interesting financial transactions," she said. "I think if you go back and look, there will be some interesting things to look at." On Friday afternoon, Ms. Pope toured the TYC prison in Mart, which took in the 197 inmates removed from the GEO facility on Tuesday. TYC canceled its $8 million contract with the company on Monday, citing "deplorable conditions." Ms. Pope, who visited the Coke County prison late last month after a surprise agency inspection, said she saw indications that the relationship between TYC's on-site monitors and GEO was not as separate as it should have been. For example, she said, GEO workers had keys to TYC's office in Bronte. When she entered the office, she said, no agency employee was there, but confidential inmate records remained in plain sight. "Kids' files were laying out on the table," she said. "There was stuff on the fax machine." Ms. Pope said she does not know if any TYC monitors formerly worked for GEO, but she is concerned about that as well. 'A disgrace' -- TYC has already fired seven employees whose jobs were to monitor the Coke County unit and GEO's contract compliance. TYC's on-site inspectors routinely filed glowing reports on the prison. "They were there," she said of the inspectors. "They [their reports] say absolutely nothing." At a news conference in Austin earlier in the day, Ms. Pope blasted GEO, with whom Texas has done business since 1994. She said it operated a fire trap and that inmates' medical needs were ignored, schooling was "almost nonexistent" and a pattern of "physical and psychological harm" was routinely tolerated. "GEO should be ashamed," she said. "The Coke County Juvenile Justice Center is a disgrace." A TYC audit of the facility described a breakdown on many levels, including safety, hygiene, medical treatment, education and maintenance. Asked if TYC auditors found anyone at the Coke unit who had been doing the job properly, Ms. Pope responded: "I'm saying, 'Hell, no, they weren't.' " "The kids had a stench because they weren't allowed to bathe," she said. "And their teeth? Horrible." During her visit to TYC's prison in Mart, near Waco, Ms. Pope spoke with about 25 inmates from the GEO-run unit. "I notice you have toothpaste in there," she said to one, as the inmates stood at parade rest outside their cells. "I got you here so you can be treated like a human being," Ms. Pope told one 15-year-old inmate. A TYC audit of the GEO facility, released Friday, said inmates did not have access to toothpaste or toothbrushes for days at a time. Filth and disrepair were common throughout the prison, the report said. Only one washer and one dryer were available to serve nearly 200 youth. TYC auditors who visited the prison got so much fecal matter on their shoes they had to wipe their feet on the grass outside, Ms. Pope said. Many pieces of fire safety equipment were either inoperable or missing, the report said. Some emergency exits were closed with locks and chains. "I personally was locked in one of the dorms because the doors didn't work properly," Ms. Pope said. The prison's warden said he was aware of many of the problems pointed out by auditors. "He indicated that corporate did not respond to many of his purchasing needs ...," the audit report said. Dispatching audit teams -- TYC paid GEO $632,000 a month to operate the prison, the report said. Last year, TYC spent nearly $17 million of its $249 million budget on private contractors, according to a Dallas Morning News investigation in July, which revealed problems with the agency's contract facilities. The agency said it was sending audit teams, composed of former members of the state's jail standards commission, to visit every TYC prison and halfway house. "No stone is going to go unturned," Ms. Pope said. "I don't want any more surprises." State Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said Friday that he would hold legislative hearings on GEO's contracts to run other correctional facilities throughout Texas. "We're preparing ourselves for a thorough review of GEO, and it could easily take us into other private contractors," he said. "But GEO is our focus now as a result of Coke County and their response." He criticized not only the conditions that GEO allowed to exist but also the company's response to the problem. "They tried to cover it. They tried to spin it. They had their lobbyists try to pressure legislators not to listen to TYC," Sen. Whitmire said. "So if that's their attitude, then I question their ability to carry out their contractual requirements in other state facilities." Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, said he had no information to suggest financial corruption in the GEO contract but added, "I think that we should let the [inspector general's] investigation go forward and see what they find." Criminal inquiry -- TYC Inspector General Bruce Toney said Wednesday that he had begun a criminal investigation of the GEO-run youth prison. He requested assistance from the state auditor's office and also advised the Texas Rangers and Texas attorney general's office of his investigation. TYC is "an agency that has had deep internal problems, and they just don't go away overnight," Mr. Madden said. "There should have been a lot of people who had the responsibility of finding out that those things had happened." Ms. Pope expressed anger at critics of TYC's cancellation of the GEO contract. "I will no longer sit here and take the unfair jabs of individuals who are attempting to advance their personal agenda over the welfare of youth," she said. She would not specify about whom she was talking. "I think it speaks for itself," she said. Some local officials in Coke County have said the prison does not deserve to be closed and have said TYC's actions will have a devastating economic impact on Bronte. "Anyone who's rallying behind GEO," Ms. Pope said, "should ... hold their heads in shame."

October 5, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
The Texas Youth Commission's chief blasted critics Friday who questioned her handling of problems at a juvenile center shuttered this week, but also admitted a "significant breakdown" in her own agency's oversight. "I will no longer sit back and take the unfair jabs from individuals who are attempting to advance their own particular agenda over the welfare of the youth," said Dimitria Pope, TYC's acting executive director. "Neither money nor power can come over my No. 1 priority, which is our youth." Pope, who made the comments at a news conference she called at TYC's Austin headquarters, refused to name the individual critics she called unfair or inaccurate. Her comments appeared directed, however, at two sources of criticism. One is the elected leadership of the small town of Bronte in West Texas, angered by the loss of 100 jobs when TYC shuttered the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center this week and transferred about 195 young inmates elsewhere. The other is state Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, who said he wonders why TYC only now is learning about alleged squalor and unfit conditions at the youth lockup run by Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. Citing those conditions, Pope fired seven agency "quality assurance" staffers and canceled the agency's $8 million contract with Geo, which specializes in private prisons. The action threw TYC in the spotlight again after a sex abuse scandal at the agency led to investigations and intense legislative scrutiny last spring. "I am very concerned as to how did this condition arise, how long did it take and why are we just now finding out about it?" Madden said Friday, applauding a criminal investigation under way by TYC's inspector general. "We asked the question at our last hearing, were the kids safer? The answer we got was yes. It appears to me some of them were not," Madden added. Pope complained during her news conference that she was "damned if I did and damned if I didn't" and asserted that the agency should get the respect it needs as it attempts to carry out the mission of keeping confined youths safe. "There was a significant breakdown. That will be totally restructured," she said of the lack of checks and balances for the agency's oversight team. TYC's acting director of quality assurance, Elizabeth Lee, resigned this week but the agency's spokesman Jim Hurley said he didn't know if it was connected to the problems at the Geo-run youth facility. "Geo should be ashamed and anyone who's rallying behind Geo should also hold their head in shame," Pope said. Geo officials, who had said they provided quality services, said Friday they'd make no further comments. Coke County Judge Roy Blair said that he'd been to the Geo-run youth facility several times, and the Commissioners Court had inspected it every quarter. "I have never noted any, what I would call severe, problems as far as mistreatment or health issues or any significant problems," he said. "The thing has always been relatively clean." Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, opened an investigation of adult private prison contracts with Geo.

October 5, 2007 Houston Chronicle
A Houston lawmaker is launching a broad investigation into a private prison contractor after the state closed one of its youth facilities this week, citing filth, poor safety and health violations. Democratic Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, cited the "terrible job" Geo Group Inc. did running the West Texas youth lockup and said Thursday he plans to review adult corrections contracts the state has with the company. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group, which runs eight adult lockups in Texas, was sued by the Texas Civil Rights Project in 2006 in connection with an alleged rape and suicide of a woman at the Val Verde County Jail. The suit alleged jail guards working for the company have allowed male and female inmates to have sex with each other. The suit was settled earlier this year with a nondisclosure agreement. Geo spokesman Pablo Paez did not return phone calls seeking comment, but earlier stated the company had provided quality services at the TYC facility. On Monday the Texas Youth Commission shuttered the doors of its Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, run by Geo, and moved nearly 200 young offenders to other TYC facilities. "When we saw what a terrible job they were doing at Coke County, TYC had the ability to shut it down and move their youth," Whitmire said. As for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he wondered, "When we find a failure to properly run a facility, what do they do?" Geo operates four prisons, two shorter term lockups and a halfway house for the adult prison system. Prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said the agency hasn't had any "significant ongoing operational issues." Whitmire said he found evidence that a 90-day lockup in Houston run by Geo was out of compliance in 139 of 395 areas in a recent inspection. Lyons said Whitmire is referring to a 2006 audit, and all problems cited have now been cleared up. Geo also supervises state prisoners in leased space in the Jefferson and Newton county jails. TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said the agency's inspector general has opened a criminal investigation into the conditions at the Coke County juvenile facility. Seven TYC employees have been fired, including several who were responsible for on-site monitoring of the Coke facility. This was the only contract Geo had with the Youth Commission. But the agency has contracts with several other providers for various programs throughout the state, including foster homes and a program to teach parenting skills to delinquents who are pregnant.

October 3, 2007 Dallas Morning News
Seven Texas Youth Commission employees were fired Wednesday as a state investigation widened at a privately run West Texas juvenile prison where inmates were found living in filth. TYC Inspector General Bruce Toney said Wednesday he has begun a criminal investigation of operations at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center near Bronte. Mr. Toney said his inquiry could focus on TYC employees and those of GEO Group Inc., which operates the prison. "We are going to follow all leads wherever they take us and as high as they may go both in TYC and the operation of that facility," Mr. Toney said. Citing "deplorable conditions," TYC this week canceled its contract with GEO to operate the state's largest private juvenile prison. All 197 male inmates were removed on Tuesday. Mr. Toney said he has requested assistance from the state auditor's office and met with the head of the Travis County district attorney's public integrity unit on Wednesday. He said he also advised the Texas Rangers and Texas attorney general's office of his investigation. He sent one of his investigators to the Coke County facility last week. "Our initial response was to go out there and basically take a preliminary look and see what we had out there. We will just look at everything and see what transpires," Mr. Toney said. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, threatened to hold a public hearing on GEO's operation of the TYC prison. "Certainly that's an option if this goes any further," said Mr. Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "If GEO thinks they've been treated unfairly, let's have a public hearing and look at all the photographs and videos [of the Coke County prison] and let the public decide." Mr. Whitmire said he was upset at efforts this week by GEO lobbyists to convince legislators that TYC had treated the company too harshly. "Now enters GEO with their paid lobbyists attempting to put a good face on this," Mr. Whitmire said. "I'm saying the corporation should back off. They've run a very poor facility that probably violates the youths' civil rights. ... Kids were stepping in their own feces. The sheets were such that a cat or dog wouldn't sleep on them." GEO spokesman Pablo Paez said he would not comment on any attempts by the company's lobbyists to sway legislators. Mr. Paez said his company was disappointed in TYC's decision to cancel the contract. "We believe we have provided quality services for the Texas Youth Commission for many years," he said. TYC officials have been unable to explain how the agency's own quality assurance monitors, stationed just outside the prison, not only failed to report substandard conditions but praised the operation. In the monitors' most recent review, in February, the prison was awarded an overall compliance score of 97.7 percent. In that review, monitors also thanked GEO staff for their positive work with TYC youth. "Those who were supposed to be our quality-assurance people out at Bronte will no longer be working for the Texas Youth Commission," agency spokesman Jim Hurley said. He cited an "abysmal failure on their part to not report the deterioration of that facility." Four of the TYC employees who were fired on Wednesday worked as quality assurance monitors at the Coke County facility. A fifth, who worked in TYC's district office in Fort Worth, was an author of the February report. The two other employees also were in contract care management, but Mr. Hurley said he would not disclose their specific job titles or where they worked. TYC identified none of the employees by name. Late last month, several TYC officials – including acting executive director Dimitria Pope – visited the prison and found poor conditions. A report by TYC ombudsman Will Harrell detailed numerous deficiencies. He found inmates who had been placed in solitary confinement for five weeks. They were allowed to leave their cells once a day, in shackles, to take a shower. Mr. Harrell also noted that some bedsheets were dirty and that inmates "complain regularly of discovering insects' in their food. "Children seemed almost desperate to lodge their complaints," Mr. Harrell wrote in his report. Many of his findings were confirmed in a report by Susan Moynahan, the TYC liaison for the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. Among her discoveries at the Coke unit: Inmates in one dorm did not have a restroom, so they were forced to defecate in plastic bags. Mr. Paez, the GEO spokesman, said he has read the ombudsman's findings. "I have seen the report," he said. "I really can't comment on it." State Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, said he will meet today with GEO representatives to discuss the Coke County prison. "I want to hear their side of it." TYC paid GEO $8 million a year to run the Coke County prison. GEO said it had pre-tax earnings of about $800,000 a year on the contract. Last year, TYC spent nearly $17 million of its $249 million budget doing business with private contractors, including GEO. TYC is putting together a plan to review each contract care program, Mr. Hurley said. "We are working right now on plans to have a physical presence at every contract care program that we are operating to review what is going on and to ensure the monitoring reports that we get are accurate," he said. In July, The Dallas Morning News found numerous problems with TYC's contractor-run facilities. The stories revealed that private contractors housing juvenile inmates in Texas repeatedly have lost contracts or closed operations in other states after investigators uncovered mismanagement, neglect and abuse. Two states closed GEO-operated units because of abuse allegations and inadequate care of inmates. TYC was placed in a state conservatorship this year after a sex abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up were exposed by The News and the Web site of The Texas Observer. Mr. Madden of Plano was one of the authors of legislation this year intended to reform TYC. He noted Wednesday that he had asked TYC officials at a hearing last month if inmates are safer now than they were before the reforms. Officials assured him they are. Now, Mr. Madden said, problems such as those in Coke County have caused him to question TYC's response. "I'm not sure the answer, 'They are safer,' is actually true," he said.

October 3, 2007 Dallas Morning-News
The Texas Youth Commission is investigating why juvenile inmates endured squalor and deprivation at a privately run West Texas prison that was repeatedly praised by TYC's own quality-assurance monitors. The agency began busing the 197 male inmates from the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center before dawn Tuesday. Officials also canceled an $8-million annual contract with operators of the state's largest private juvenile prison, citing "deplorable conditions." The problems found at the prison in Bronte, operated by the GEO Group Inc. of Florida, were described in a report by TYC Ombudsman Will Harrell. "There is a greater sense of fear and intimidation in this facility than perhaps any other I have been to," Mr. Harrell wrote. He also noted that: •Some young inmates were kept in "malodorous and dark" security cells for five weeks. They were allowed to leave, in shackles, only once a day for a shower. •There was an "over-reliance" on the use of pepper spray. •Inmates "complain regularly of discovering insects in their food." TYC announced Tuesday that its inspector general's office, as well as Department of Public Safety troopers, were investigating. TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said other agencies, including the state auditor's office and the attorney general's office, could join the investigation. Asked if TYC suspected financial wrongdoing, Mr. Hurley would say only, "We're concerned about every aspect of the way this facility was run and the contract was administered." The agency "cannot tolerate this kind of situation," he added. "Not only do there need to be financial sanctions, but there need to be other actions taken against people who operate this way." This is only the latest problem to beset TYC, which was placed in state conservatorship this year after a sex abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up were exposed by The Dallas Morning News and the Web site of The Texas Observer. In July, an investigation by The News detailed numerous problems with TYC's contract-run facilities, including GEO's Coke County prison. The investigation revealed that at least two other states had closed GEO-run facilities because of inadequate care of inmates and abuse allegations. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez said the company was disappointed by TYC's decision, which he said was unexpected. "We had not received any notices or any indication of any significant deficiencies at the facility prior to agency's decision to discontinue the contract," Mr. Paez said. Contractor of the year -- Among other matters at the Bronte facility near San Angelo, state investigators will explore whether inmates were prevented from filing grievances with TYC. "I don't think the phones worked all the time if they wanted to complain," Mr. Hurley said, and "kids weren't let out of their cells" to file complaints. TYC employs four full-time quality-assurance monitors at the Coke County prison. They work in a portable building just outside the facility's secure perimeter. Their jobs were to ensure that GEO was meeting the terms of its contract, the first priority being inmates' health and safety, Mr. Hurley said. "What were they doing? That's what we're asking," Mr. Hurley said of the monitors. "I do imagine that we will be seeing personnel actions taken as a result of this." According to TYC records, the agency's quality-assurance monitors awarded the Coke County facility mostly high scores on planned and unplanned inspections there over the last seven years. In 1999 and again in 2005, TYC named Coke County its "contract facility of the year." Mr. Hurley said monitors conducted their most recent comprehensive review of the facility in late February 2007. Records show few problems were recorded. Coke "achieved an overall compliance score of 97.7 percent with twenty-eight of twenty-nine critical measures passed," the report stated. "Thank you to the Coke County staff and administration for the positive work they do with TYC youth." Monitors did note that one dorm "had an offensive odor" due to a sewer backup. "A number of youth complained that their clothing was not getting clean and that it was returned to them still damp," the report stated. In addition, TYC monitors wrote that the schedule for inmates' showers had been interrupted because of emergencies requiring guards to maintain safety in the dorms. "Administrative staff was made aware of the issue and the need to correct," according to the report. The comprehensive review occurred five months after 19-year-old Robert Schulze, an inmate who had complained that he felt unsafe, hanged himself in his solitary cell. A TYC investigation found a number of missteps that contributed to the young man's suicide, and TYC put the facility on a corrective action plan as a result. 'Prevalence of fear' -- Mr. Harrell, the new TYC ombudsman, said he visited the Coke County facility on Sept. 21 as part of his tour of the agency's West Texas facilities. He found dirty mattresses lying on cell floors and a large infestation of spiders, beetles and crickets crawling around the facility, he said. Inmates told him their sheets and clothes had not been laundered in weeks or months. "Most of what I had seen had to be pre-existing for months if not years," he said in an interview. There was also a "real prevalence of fear" among the inmates, he said. "If I was to be placed in a TYC facility that would be my last pick for sure," he added. Of the schooling available to inmates in security cells, Mr. Harrell wrote in a report on his visit: " 'Education' consists of someone dropping a single sheet of paper through the door slot each day which usually contains a cross work [sic] puzzle, a word game or math problems." Three days after Mr. Harrell's visit, acting TYC Executive Director Dimitria Pope dispatched her new director of juvenile corrections to the Coke County facility. Billy Humphrey, a former adult prison warden, told his boss that the facility was "filthy" and that TYC needed to "take a much deeper look" because he had a "very uncomfortable feeling," Mr. Hurley said. On Sept. 26, a team of TYC officials made an unannounced visit to Coke. Ms. Pope arrived at the facility last weekend and returned on Monday to Austin, where she met with Alfonso Royal, the governor's liaison to TYC, and Brian Newby, the governor's chief of staff. She then ordered the GEO contract canceled and the youths moved to another TYC prison in Mart, near Waco. "She told us that this needs to happen," said Robert Black, the governor's spokesman. "And we told her if this needed to happen, she needed to do it." Inmates were moved to TYC's McLennan County facility on buses escorted by DPS troopers. TYC made room for the Coke County youth by moving dozens of Mart inmates to other agency facilities, said Scott Medlock, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project. At least two TYC inmates he represents in legal action against the agency were transferred to the Crockett State School in East Texas, he said. TYC transferred the youth without notifying parents, he said. "I've had panicked parents calling me all day, saying, 'I can't find my kid,' " said Mr. Medlock. Problems persist -- State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said Tuesday he has been concerned about GEO's performance for years, a point he raised at a legislative hearing in August. "I'm not surprised at what they [TYC officials] found," said Sen. Hinojosa, an author of the 2007 law aimed at reforming TYC. "There are still a lot of problems at TYC that we're trying to clean up." A GEO news release issued Tuesday noted that its TYC contract generated quarterly revenue of about $2 million and pre-tax quarterly earnings of about $200,000. Now, the company plans to market the facility to state and federal detention agencies around the country. In the meantime, it expects to lay off most of the 140 employees. City and school district officials in Bronte said Tuesday they had no advance notice of TYC's decision to close the Coke County facility. The mayor and school superintendent blamed the decision on politics. "It is straight from Gov. Perry's office. He wants this facility closed," Mayor Gerald Sandusky said. "He's looking for public image." "This facility does an outstanding job," Mr. Sandusky added. "It couldn't be better."

October 2, 2007 Dallas Morning News
Texas Youth Commission officials will pull the 197 TYC inmates out of a West Texas juvenile justice center today and cancel their contract with the company that runs it, citing deplorable conditions at the state's largest privately operated juvenile prison. "The decisive action ... is a clear indication of the positive changes under way at the Texas Youth Commission," Gov. Rick Perry said Monday. "I am deeply disappointed that conditions at the facility have deteriorated to this point, but am confident that today's actions will remedy the situation." The Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte, operated by the Florida-based GEO Group Inc. since 2003, has a history of abuse and neglect, including a 2006 suicide, allegations of sexual assault that were settled out of court, and the 2004 death of a youth whose medical conditions were ignored. As recently as this spring, the prison realized it had hired a registered sex offender as a guard. An investigation by The Dallas Morning News in July detailed problems at the facility. The coverage also documented problems at GEO facilities in other states. A representative from GEO could not be reached for comment on Monday. In the July article, spokesman Pablo Paez told The News that the company strives to provide high-quality service and always reviews serious incidents to determine "what corrective actions, if any, can be taken." After reports last month of unsanitary conditions at Coke County, acting TYC Executive Director Dimitria Pope visited the facility last weekend for a surprise audit. On Monday, she ordered that all youth be transferred to other TYC units immediately. "TYC's No. 1 priority is the safety and well being of those youths under our care," Ms. Pope said in a statement. "The unsafe conditions I witnessed at Coke County this weekend are unacceptable. We have zero tolerance for any form of abuse within the system, and those responsible parties will be held accountable." Despite the high-profile cases reported at the Coke County facility – and the fact that at least two other states have closed their GEO facilities over reports of abuse and neglect – GEO and the company's previous owner were allowed to renew their contract in Texas at least seven times. GEO has the highest rate of alleged abuse among all TYC contractors. This is hardly the first time GEO has run into trouble in state juvenile justice systems. The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2000, when it was known by a different name, alleging that youth inmates in a Louisiana facility suffered abuse and neglect. All youth were removed from the facility under a settlement. Five years later, Michigan closed its state prison run by GEO after budget problems and a lawsuit over poor inmate care. Until recently, TYC has continued to give GEO high marks, awarding the Coke County outpost its "contract facility of the year" award in 1999 and again in 2005. This despite a history of abuse and neglect at the facility, including: • A 1999 lawsuit filed by former female inmates alleging sexual abuse at the hands of Coke employees. The lawsuits, which involved girls being forced into performing sexual act and dancing naked, were settled out of court. • The death in 2004 of John Rodriguez, whose rashes, open sores and spiking fever were overlooked for months by medical staff. • The hiring – and eventual termination – of a registered sex offender to work as a prison guard. The TYC acknowledged the GEO facility does its own hiring, and wasn't held to the same standards as other non- contract prisons. • The 2006 suicide of Robert Shulze, a 19-year-old inmate who repeatedly threatened to harm himself and lost 23 pounds in two months. Nurses never put Mr. Shulze on suicide watch, and he hanged himself in his cell. Scott Browne, a Beaumont attorney representing Mr. Schulze's family, commended the TYC on Monday for its action. "I would hope that changes like this by TYC would help ensure that no one else would suffer the way Robert Schulze did," Mr. Brown said. "... Hopefully a move like this by TYC will get the attention of anyone who wants to be in the private corrections business."

July 29, 2007 The Dallas Morning News
Robert Schulze was scared. He threatened to harm himself unless he was moved to another youth prison location. He lost 23 pounds in two months. Ten days later, he hanged himself from the top bunk of his solitary cell. Texas Youth Commission investigators presented a grim report on the prison's failings to Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials in February. They could have discovered even more disturbing details had they looked beyond Texas' borders. A three-month Dallas Morning News investigation found that private contractors housing juvenile inmates in Texas repeatedly have lost contracts or shuttered operations in other states after investigators uncovered mismanagement, neglect and physical and sexual abuse. In Colorado, a suicide finally prompted state officials to close a private youth prison that investigators said was plagued by violence and sexual abuse. In Arkansas, former employees of a private juvenile facility said inmates were shackled and left naked on the ground in sleeping bags. And in Michigan, a private contractor was sued for allegedly allowing mentally ill inmates to languish in solitary confinement. Last year, TYC spent nearly $17 million of its $249 million budget to do business with these and other private contractors. The agency houses about 450 young inmates with 13 private operators. Legislative reforms passed in the wake of the TYC sex abuse scandal largely overlooked private contractors and focused instead on agency-run prisons. "They are a much under-examined problem in the TYC system," said Scott Medlock, a prisoners' rights attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which has filed a class-action lawsuit against TYC alleging widespread inmate abuse. The News focused its investigation on three private contractors with the largest number of TYC inmates and high numbers of complaints – GEO Group, Cornerstone Programs Corp. and Associated Marine Institutes. Those contractors have been dogged by problems in Texas strikingly similar to what led officials in other states to take action. Such problems include difficulties in attracting qualified employees, high turnover rates and inadequate care for inmates – sometimes with tragic consequences. States that hire contractors with poor performance records "obviously have a very low regard for our children," said Isabelle Zehnder, director of the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse, a child advocacy organization in Washington state. "They're letting money or circumstances stand above children." But Michele Deitch, an expert on prison privatization at the University of Texas at Austin, said research showed that privatization did not save money and that "private facilities tend to have many more problems in performance, such as higher levels of assaults, escapes, idleness." TYC officials said they were reviewing the agency's policies on contractors but could not comment about changes under consideration. However, just days after detailed questioning by The News, TYC canceled bid requests for new contract facilities. Bidders included contractors currently operating facilities in Texas that had a history of problems in other states. The vetting process -- TYC first turned to contractors in 1974 to relieve overcrowding. Contract care facilities vary from group homes to large prisons, and over the years contractors have come to provide specialized services not available at TYC prisons, such as care for pregnant inmates. TYC's executive director makes the final decision to hire a private contractor after a five-phase review process that includes checks on the contractor's ability to provide adequate medical care and educational and behavioral treatment. Companies with contracts terminated in the last year "for deficiencies in performance" anywhere in the country are ineligible to bid. And, under a new policy enacted in March as the TYC sex abuse scandal unfolded, the agency reserved the right to declare ineligible bidders with canceled contracts in the last three years. "We ask for contracts [canceled] within 36 months, because this provides us with additional information that might be important – [such as] funding, or lack of funding," said Mark Higdon, TYC's business manager for contract programs. "It might not be performance. It might be something else, and we can look at that also." While a contract cancellation would clearly be a red flag for TYC, there are many loopholes through which worrisome contractors can pass. Arkansas officials, for example, let an agreement with Associated Marine Institutes expire after an audit found the contractor had mismanaged its billing and failed to provide proper services to young inmates. Elsewhere, companies have negotiated deals allowing them to withdraw from their contracts, or simply shut down after states have removed youth from their facilities. Neither of these would constitute a terminated contract as defined by Texas. Critics say that TYC requires private contractors to provide less background information when bidding than it should. For example, TYC does not request major incident reports or disclosure of lawsuits against contractors, nor does it do any independent research. In Florida, by contrast, companies must list and explain any "correctional facility disturbances" – major incidents, such as escapes or deaths – in any of the company's prisons. Such disturbances may be the result of inadequate staffing, poor training or other factors and raise warnings about a company's practices. TYC should require contractors to provide all incident reports, said Ms. Deitch, a lawyer with 20 years' experience in criminal justice policy issues. "It is absolutely important that the contracting agency has this kind of background info," she said. "If problems occur, there can be liability concerns for the state agency, and the costs of dealing with the problems can far exceed any savings from going with a low-cost contractor." Elizabeth Lee, the new acting coordinator for TYC contract care, acknowledged the agency has no "established process for collecting information" on how its contractors performed in other states. The important thing to consider, she said, is what they're doing in Texas "and what we're doing to monitor the care of our kids." Correcting contractors -- TYC regularly reviews contract facilities. It checks program areas, such as staffing and security, at least once a year. It also uses statistical information, such as rates of confirmed mistreatment and the number of escapes, to evaluate operators. TYC quality assurance monitors also make at least two unannounced visits per year. If a facility has significant problems, it is put on a corrective action plan, which outlines improvements and deadlines for them. The Coke County youth prison, for example, was placed on a corrective action plan in February after Robert Schulze's suicide. The plan required Coke to improve staffing and procedures in solitary confinement. Records show that Coke was also placed on a corrective action plan in July 2006 for deficiencies in case management, which includes inmate monitoring and record keeping. Earlier this month, TYC monitors visited WINGS for Life in Marion, just outside San Antonio, which houses female inmates and their babies, to follow up on a corrective action plan necessitated by deficiencies in staff training and documentation. "If a facility fails any critical measure, we have to come back and check it," said Jim Humphrey, the TYC quality assurance supervisor for WINGS. TYC has the authority to fine contractors for problems, but it has never done so in 33 years of outsourcing, officials said. "If it comes to that, we would just stop the contract," said Paula Morelock, who recently retired after 17 years as TYC's contract care coordinator. But it rarely does that. The News could find only a few instances of TYC not renewing contracts because of poor performance. TYC is required to retain contractor records for only a few years, so a full review of the program was not possible. In 2001, TYC terminated its contract with FIRST Program of Texas in Longview after repeated problems. One young woman said that when she was at FIRST, it had chronic staff shortages. "A lot of stuff took place that shouldn't have," said Michelle, a 22-year-old who asked that only her first name be used. "There were lots of problems ... like staff having sex with the youth there and improper restraints and lack of supervision." In 2004, TYC removed its youth from the Hemphill County Juvenile Facility, then run by Correctional Services Corp., a former state contractor, because of "grave concerns for the safety of youth." The move followed a December 2003 complaint signed by about 30 inmates. Still, an agency review conducted shortly after the letter was sent gave the facility "above average" scores on all performance measures. The facility was later placed on a corrective action plan. A February 2004 update from TYC staff to Ms. Morelock said: "Although they have not completed all items, the team does believe that youth are safe and that the program is stable." But staffing shortages followed, and in June 2004, TYC removed its youth from the facility. "We feel like we do a lot of good monitoring and do our very best to ensure that the youth receive quality services," Ms. Morelock said. When contracts expire, TYC determines whether the facility met the terms of its agreement. The contractor completes a renewal packet, and then youth commission officials visit the facility to determine whether to extend the contract for another two years. More often than not, Ms. Morelock said, contracts are renewed. Critics say that TYC needs to change its policy and open the process to outside bidders each time a contract comes up for renewal. A question of oversight -- TYC already has come under fire for lax employment guidelines that allowed contractors to hire convicted felons or even sex offenders. A Texas state auditor report in March urged TYC to ban contractors from hiring employees with convictions and to require background checks of applicants. Even with background checks, some workers with criminal records have slipped through. A registered sex offender employed by the GEO-run Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was fired in March. Ms. Morelock said the facility told TYC that it ran a background check on the worker, but his criminal records did not turn up. GEO said the correctional officer's prior record was not uncovered because juvenile records in Texas are sealed. [See dallasnews.com for further GEO comment.] The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, which licenses county facilities, found the Garza County Regional Juvenile Center in Post out of compliance last year because it failed to do criminal background checks on employees before they were hired. In a unique arrangement, TYC contracts with the county, which in turn hired a private operator, Colorado-based Cornerstone Programs, to run the Garza facility. TYC relied on the county to vet the contractor's background, Ms. Morelock said. A Garza County official said he did not know what, if any, backgrounding of Cornerstone had been done. It's impossible to know whether other employees of private contract facilities have criminal records because, unlike workers at state-run facilities, their names are not public information. "The fact that [these] facilities are private simply adds one more layer of opaqueness to the process," said Ms. Deitch, the UT adjunct professor. A few of the TYC legislative reforms will carry over to private operators. Their guards' training hours must match that of TYC employees, their younger inmates must be separated from older ones, and contractors must now conduct fingerprint background checks on all employees and volunteers in contact with youth. "Some of the contractors were already doing that [fingerprinting], but just as a safeguard we're putting it in the contract that they all have to do it now," said the TYC's Ms. Lee. TYC officials say the most valuable part of the agency's monitoring is staff visits to facilities. "They're looking at grievances, they're talking to kids, they're talking to staff and they're reviewing incident reports," Ms. Lee said. In general, though, TYC relies heavily on its contractors to police themselves. Contractors are required to forward inmate abuse allegations, although agency monitors have raised concerns that not all make it to TYC. Contractors also must report serious incidents to local law enforcement, but TYC reviews found facilities that failed to do so. Critics of privatized juvenile care think more state oversight is necessary. "Child welfare and juvenile justice systems have both a legal and moral obligation to protect kids from harm, which means they have a responsibility to exercise due diligence when it comes to placing youths in certain types of facilities," said Dr. Ronald Davidson, a university psychologist frequently hired by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to review juvenile care. "Whether we look at this situation in terms of public policy or simple morality, the question we have to ask is whether our society ought to be in the business of funding gulags for children."

July 29, 2007 The Dallas Morning News
The Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, run by the GEO Group Inc., is Texas' largest private juvenile prison and has had the highest rate of alleged abuse among TYC's contractors over the last seven years. The Florida-based GEO has renewed, extended or renegotiated its contract with the Texas Youth Commission at least seven times since it first won the contract to run the Coke facility in June 1994. During that time, at least two other states have closed their GEO-run juvenile facilities because of inadequate care of inmates and abuse allegations. The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2000, when it was known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., alleging that juveniles at the company's Louisiana facility were subjected to excessive abuse and neglect. Wackenhut agreed to a settlement that provided for sweeping changes to Louisiana's juvenile justice system and required the company to move all juveniles from its facility. The former security chief pleaded guilty in 2001 to beating a 17-year-old handcuffed inmate with a mop handle. In October 2005, Michigan closed the state's private youth prison run by GEO after an advocacy group sued the prison over inadequate inmate care. Budget shortfalls also played into the prison's closure. Tom Masseau, director of government and media relations for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service Inc., said his watchdog group found juvenile inmates who needed special education but were not receiving it and inmates who were not receiving appropriate mental health care. The prison also managed problem juveniles by putting them in solitary confinement, he said. Mr. Masseau said his group tried to work with GEO and the state before filing a lawsuit, but the problems remained unsolved and inmates faced reprisals. "The youth would report back that they were retaliated against for meeting with us," Mr. Masseau said. "We said enough is enough." The group's lawsuit against the state is pending, but GEO was dropped as a defendant because it closed the facility and left the state. GEO sued the state for alleged wrongful termination of the lease agreement, which is also pending. TYC accolades -- In 1999, TYC named GEO's Coke County operation its "contract facility of the year." The same year, former female inmates filed several federal civil rights lawsuits alleging they were sexually abused by Coke employees. (TYC had moved all girls from the facility a year earlier.) The lawsuits – which eventually resulted in confidential settlements – were filed four years after TYC confirmed allegations that some staff members coerced girls into performing sexual acts or dancing naked, according to a court document and a report by Michele Deitch, a prison privatization expert at the University of Texas, and others. "Given GEO's track record generally and the general record of these for-profit private prison companies, I have serious concerns about them running any correctional institutions ... especially when such egregious wrongdoing was going on," Scott Medlock, an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said. The Coke County facility routinely hired unqualified workers, said Isela Gutierrez, juvenile justice initiative director at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Former Coke County guard John Christman, who now lives in New York, said he witnessed that problem firsthand. He worked there for nearly a year and said he initially loved it. But he eventually grew frustrated with the company's poor hiring standards and staff shortages. The company met its guard-to-inmate ratios by making employees work extra shifts, he said. "I was working five, six days a week, 12-hour days, overtime," Mr. Christman said. "It's hard to get people to go into that line of work." He quit his post but returned about 18 months later, in 2001, after he heard that working conditions had improved. Unfortunately, he said, not much had changed and he left shortly thereafter. TYC again named Coke County contract facility of the year in 2005. And, during the past seven years, TYC quality-assurance monitors have awarded it mostly good scores on planned and unplanned inspections there. But some recent problems were reported: During an unscheduled visit in April, a TYC monitor discovered that a staff member had falsified an accusation against an inmate. The young man was put in solitary confinement on April 16. Two days later – on the morning of the unannounced visit – his paperwork already noted that he'd committed an infraction that would extend his stay in solitary confinement. "This was alarming because it was only 9:30 a.m. and the incident had not occurred yet," the monitor reported. The TYC monitor notified the warden, who released the inmate from solitary and told the security director "that writing incident reports prior to the incident was not allowed," the report said. Suicide inquiry -- TYC's investigation into Robert Schulze's suicide offers a bleak picture of the facility. "Robert's cries for help – to be assigned to a dorm where he felt safe or to be transferred to Gainesville State School – were never adequately addressed," a February 2007 report noted. A guard promptly turned in Robert's note in which he threatened to harm himself unless his dorm assignment was changed. Robert then asked to go to solitary confinement because he felt unsafe, but he was not put on suicide watch. He stayed in solitary confinement for nine days, refusing to return to his dorm because of safety concerns. His case manager made only one documented visit with him during that period. He was not given prescribed medication during his time at Coke and lost 23 pounds in two months. No one checked his food intake. None of that was brought to the doctor's attention, and a medical review was never conducted, the TYC investigation revealed. The nursing staff also "failed to discover three original prescriptions for antidepressants and a mood stabilizer that had been prescribed by a consulting psychiatrist ... on July 28," TYC later reported. Eight days before Robert hanged himself on Sept. 28, 2006, "he filed a TYC complaint form stating that he makes self-referrals to ... [solitary confinement] to get away from harm and people who threaten him," TYC said in its report. It's not clear anyone saw the complaint before his death. "The form got lost in a stack of mail on the TYC staff member's desk," the investigative report said. TYC's investigation found that Coke County's solitary cell unit had only one staffer on the floor – in violation of the required two guards – at the time of the hanging. The one guard on duty failed to make contact with each inmate every 10 minutes, as required. For more than an hour, no one checked on the despondent inmate. After Robert's dinner tray arrived, it sat for 28 minutes before the guard took it to his cell and discovered him unresponsive. The guard was disciplined with training and five days of unpaid suspension. TYC put the facility on a corrective action plan, which required it to improve the deficiencies that contributed to Robert's death. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez said the company strives to provide high-quality service and conducts thorough reviews after any serious incident to determine "what corrective actions, if any, can be taken." An attorney for the family of the 19-year-old said they had no comment.

March 12, 2007 The Monitor
Two detainees of a Texas Youth Commission contract prison in West Texas are missing. The boys, ages 17 and 18, were both non-violent offenders. One is serving time in the high-security facility for burglary of a vehicle; the other for violating conditions of parole, said Jim Hurley, TYC spokesman. They are missing from the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte, which is run by GEO Inc. At about 3 a.m. Monday a vent fell from a ceiling dorm, prompting guards to conduct a bed count, Hurley said. They discovered four youth were missing, but two were later found, he said. Hurley said TYC would not release the names or description of the missing youth because they were not considered to be a danger to the public. It is possible the youth are still inside the facility because there is so far no indication the razor-wire fence that surrounds the Coke County center was breached, Hurley said. Monday’s discovery at the 200-bed facility is another in a long line of problems at the TYC. The agency that runs the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg was placed governor-appointed management in February among a sex scandal and wide reports of youth abuse.

March 10, 2007 KRIS TV
A convicted sex offender who was fired this week from his job at a West Texas youth prison said he told his employer of his background when he applied for the job. David Andrew Lewis, 23, was fired from the Texas Youth Commission's Coke County Juvenile Justice Center when state investigators discovered he was a convicted sex offender. State leaders dispatched law enforcement officials to all 22 commission facilities and its headquarters this week to investigate claims of sexual abuse of inmates by employees. Lewis was fired by the GEO Group, a Florida-based private company that runs the all-male facility in Bronte, about 30 miles northeast of San Angelo. Lewis said Thursday that he showed a sex offender registration card to his prospective employers when he was being interviewed for a job as a correctional officer in August 2006. "They said to wait for the background check to go through," Lewis said, adding that he also presented other paperwork related to his offense. Lewis was 15 when he was convicted in 1999 of indecency by exposure with a 5-year-old girl, according to a Texas Department of Public Safety Web site listing sex offenders. He is required to register annually as a sex offender. Pablo Paez, director of corporate relations for the GEO Group, said the company conducts background checks on new hires and re-runs the checks annually. The Texas Department of Public Safety checks off on the company's employees, he said. "In this particular case, we conducted a background check through DPS and received clearance from DPS," Paez said. The Texas Department of Public Safety, which does not make public the records of juvenile offenders, referred a call for comment to Gov. Rick Perry's office. Perry spokesman Ted Royer said the case highlights why the special master and new executive director "are going to completely rewrite the playbook" for how the agency operates. "Having sex offenders guard prisoners is totally unacceptable, and if an agency contract prohibits the hiring of registered sex offenders then that needs to be enforced," Royer told The Associated Press on Friday. "There needs to be a clear delineation of consequences if a contractor goes against those rules." State officials have said Lewis' case demonstrated that private prison operators don't always check their employees' juvenile records. Texas Youth Commission spokesman Tim Savoy said the agency's contracts with the private operators prohibit hiring registered sex offenders, but the agency doesn't "have any control over who they hire."

March 7, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
Law enforcement officers who earlier this week moved into the Texas Youth Commission facilities to protect inmates from sex predators on Wednesday discovered a registered sex offender working as a correctional officer in a halfway house for juveniles. The sex offender had been allowed to stay on the job despite an alert that had been sent months ago to TYC administrators in Austin. David Andrew Lewis, 23, was discovered by investigators sent to TYC's 22 facilities after reports of sex abuse stunned lawmakers. Lewis was employed at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, a juvenile halfway house 30 miles from San Angelo run by the Geo Group, a private prison company. TYC's acting executive director, Ed Owens, said a facility staff member had months ago warned agency officials in Austin of Lewis' sex offender status, but was rebuffed. The tipster “was told he was a company employee and that the company needed to deal with their employee,” Owens said, adding that the incident was yet another illustration of the systemic failures plaguing TYC. Owens said once he learned of Lewis' background Wednesday, he called the Geo Group and they suspended him. It was not clear if the Geo Group had learned months earlier of Lewis' sex offender status. No one in its Florida headquarters could immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening. Owens said that there was no evidence Lewis acted inappropriately with any juveniles. Lewis was 15 when he was forced to register for 13 sexual indecency acts against a 5-year-old girl. His case is posted on the Texas Department of Public Safety web site of registered sex offenders. With that history, it remained a mystery how Lewis could have been hired to work with juveniles in the first place. Criminal background checks are required for all TYC employees and those hired by private contractors to work with TYC juveniles.

July 27, 2001
Inmate awards were upheld by an appeals court in a case where young inmates said they were sexually abused by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation employees. But the inmates' attorney was sanctioned for disclosing the terms of the confidential agreement. (Corrections Professional)

May 17, 2001
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court's decision to levy a $15,000 fine and imposed a number of sanctions on attorneys representing nine girls held at the juvenile detention facility in this West Texas city. During mediation in 1999, the former detainees' attorneys reached a $1.5 million settlement agreement with Wackenhut Corrections Corp. The girls had alleged they were sexually, physically, and mentally abused by employees. (AP)

Colorado Department of Corrections
March 6, 2007 Greeley Tribune
Saying GEO Group Inc. can't be trusted, a Pueblo lawmaker asked state officials Monday to rescind a contract with the company to build a private prison in Ault. Plans for the prison, which would house 1,500 inmates and would be built east of the railroad tracks along U.S. 85, has stalled on two fronts. Ault leaders decided they would not approve the facility until the public voted on it, and GEO wants to change its contract to ensure payment for its beds. Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, a vocal critic of private prisons, said Monday that the proposed change and other issues regarding GEO's integrity should negate the Ault contract. “Anybody living in Ault should be concerned that a company that would bid this way on a contract might have a business in their town," she said. Philip Tidwell, spokesman for the town group Coalition Against Ault Prison, said residents hope no one else bids on the Ault prison if GEO's contract is rescinded. "We just do not want any private prison, whether it be GEO or Cornell or anyone else," he said. A spokesman for GEO did not return calls seeking comment. McFadyen said the company is attempting to do the same things in Ault that derailed plans for a GEO facility in Pueblo. In 2003, GEO won a contract for a 1,100-bed, pre-parole and parole revocation facility in Pueblo, and after almost four years of delays, the state pulled the contract last fall. The company never broke ground on the facility. "The state of Colorado was held hostage for four years waiting for those beds," McFadyen said. The delays included zoning issues in Pueblo and GEO's attempt to obtain guaranteed payments on 90 percent of its beds, regardless of whether the beds were occupied. That is something state leaders have opposed and which may even be impossible because of state laws, McFadyen said. Now, GEO is trying for guaranteed bed payments in Ault, she said. "You have to question the integrity of the 2006 bid," she said. "If past performance is an indicator, I suspect we will be in the same place we were in 2003 in Pueblo." McFadyen said Ari Zavaras, the new director of the Department of Corrections, told her he is opposed to bed guarantees. Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan told the Associated Press that Zavaras will review McFadyen's request and decide how to respond. The story of Ault's possible prison goes back to late 2005, when Nolin Renfrow, former director of prisons for the Department of Corrections, started working with GEO on a bid for a private prison. Renfrow is under investigation for using state sick leave to obtain the Ault contract on behalf of GEO. On Monday, Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government, a watchdog group, filed an open records request about the Ault bid. "We do not feel that the public's interest was put forth in the procurement of this contract," said Chantelle Taylor, spokeswoman for the watchdog group. A state audit found Renfrow's business activities "arguably present a conflict of interest and result in a breach of ... the public trust." That breach, coupled with GEO's attempt to change its Pueblo contract by adding the bed-payment guarantee, should have prevented the company from getting the Ault bid in the first place, McFadyen said. Tidwell agreed. "One thing the state should recognize is (GEO) did not operate fairly," he said. "They hired an insider knowing he worked for the state. In my mind, GEO has shown itself to be not a company that operates fairly in the state of Colorado.

March 5, 2007 Rocky Mountain News
Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, and two reform groups today formally requested the director of the Department of Corrections and the governor rescind Geo Group’s bid to build a private prison in Ault. The reasons cited included the company’s performance on a 2003 bid to build a private prison in Pueblo. McFadyen said GEO Group lost its contract to build the Pueblo facility because it delayed the start of construction, then tried to renegotiate its contract to get a guarantee that it would be paid for 90 percent occupancy, even if beds were not filled. "Basically, the state of Colorado was held hostage for four years. They didn’t even break ground," McFadyen said. In her letter to Ari Zavaras, executive director of DOC, she said, "It would appear that the state’s best interests were not served by allowing GEO group to bid any contract with the state because of its lack of performance on tis 2003 award." Officials with Geo Group could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. Alison Morgan, spokeswoman for the DOC, said Zavaras was aware of the letter being sent by McFadyen, but had not seen it Monday. "Since he was not with the department during the RFP (request for proposals) process, it is an issue that he is still studying and is being briefed on," said Morgan. "Once he has all the information, including McFadyen’s letter, he would welcome an opportunity to sit down and talk to her."

January 31, 2007 Rocky Mountain News
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is taking over the probe of a retired state prison official who stands to be paid $1 million for helping a private prison company win a state bid. Nolin Renfrow, former state prisons director, openly became a consultant to the Geo Group and helped it win a $14 million- per-year deal to house 1,500 inmates in a private prison proposed in Ault. A state audit said Renfrow began the work for Geo while still on the state payroll. It also said that he is to collect a $1 million fee if the prison is built. State employees are prohibited from providing paid assistance to anyone to win state contracts or economic benefits. State law also prohibits activities that constitute a conflict of interest. Ari Zavaras, who became prisons chief with the new administration several weeks ago, said he asked the CBI to take over the investigation to "overcome the perception that it won't be a thorough investigation." Renfrow said Tuesday, "I understand why he would do that, and I just hope it comes to quick resolution." The Department of Corrections had been investigating. Its report was to have been given to prosecutors if warranted. Zavaras said he is letting the CBI decide whether the probe will become a criminal investigation.

December 16, 2006 The Gazette
State prison officials have canceled a contract for a new private prison in Pueblo, a move that casts doubt on how much Colorado will be able to rely on private prisons while it copes with a crowding crisis. The GEO Group, which was awarded a contract in 2003 to build the Pueblo pre-release prison, has also been contracted to build and operate a prison in Ault, in northeastern Colorado. But the same issue that doomed the Pueblo project — the company’s insistence it be guaranteed nearly full occupancy — could derail the latter prison, because GEO is making a similar demand. “If GEO’s going to demand a bed guarantee, they need to leave the state,” said state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, a Pueblo Democrat and leading critic of private prisons. “It is not the job of the Colorado taxpayers to ensure profits for this corporation.” The Pueblo prison was delayed repeatedly: by zoning issues, by a legal challenge from a prison-reform group and by several revisions to the plan by GEO. But the final impasse began this summer, when the company asked for a 90 percent minimum occupancy guarantee for the prison, which wasn’t a condition of the original proposal and was opposed by Department of Corrections officials. Private prisons are paid a daily rate per inmate by the state, currently $52. Last month, the DOC denied a contract-extension request, and on Thursday informed the company that it was canceling the contract. “Ground has not broken, and GEO has given no indication when, or even if, it plans to commence construction,” DOC executive director Joe Ortiz wrote. “Our patience cannot be infinite.” The department is facing an acute crowding problem. Years of canceled prison-construction projects and steady growth in court caseloads have created a shortage of prison beds. The DOC this week began shipping 720 inmates out of state, a temporary solution until new beds become available. With only one state prison under construction, Colorado State Penitentiary II in Cañon City, the DOC this year awarded contracts to three companies to build prisons for 3,776 inmates. The GEO Group’s proposed 1,500-bed prison in Ault is a major part of the plan. Alison Morgan, head of private-prison monitoring for the DOC, said the department still expects GEO to follow through on its proposal in Ault. “We are treating the Pueblo facility and the Ault facility separately. We have from Day 1, and we will continue to do so,” Morgan said Friday. However, GEO is making the same demand for guaranteed occupancy for the Ault prison. Asked whether the DOC is still opposed to a guarantee, she said, “It is a policy decision to be addressed by the new administration (of Gov.-elect Bill Ritter) and the General Assembly.” The local community isn’t even sure it wants a prison. Ault’s town board last month passed an ordinance requiring voter approval for the prison. No election date has been set. McFadyen said she doesn’t believe GEO ever intended to complete the Pueblo prison, and she doubts the company’s ability and will to follow through in Ault. “We’ve been set back three years in our planning,” McFadyen said. “I think that kind of delay is unacceptable, and we’ll learn from this experience and not allow another contract to drag on for three years.” A call to a spokesman in the company’s Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters was not returned Friday afternoon. An audit requested by Mc-Fadyen regarding the bidding process for the Ault prison was released this week. It showed that a top DOC official set up a consulting business to help GEO win the bid while he was employed by the state. Because the DOC is based in Colorado Springs, the office of 4th Judicial District Attorney John Newsome will receive the results of the investigation and determine whether any law was broken. Morgan said the DOC will issue a new request for proposals for a pre-release prison.

December 16, 2006 ABC 7 News
The state has cut off negotiations and rescinded a contract with developers planning to build a private prison in Pueblo. Colorado Department of Corrections executive director Joe Ortiz sent a letter Friday to the GEO Group, ending six months of negotiations. The letter cites numerous delays and unresolved issues and says the department has run out of patience with the developers. The Florida-based GEO Group had been working for about four years to build the 1,000-bed prison near the Pueblo Memorial Airport industrial park. Construction never got under way. The prison would have been for pre-parole prisoners and prisoners who had seen their parole status revoked. GEO bought about 36 acres for the facility last year, but negotiations with the state broke down over the company's demand that the DOC guarantee 90 percent occupancy and grant a 30-year contract. GEO operates private detention centers in 15 states and one Canadian province as well as in South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom. The Pueblo facility is one of two the company was planning in Colorado. The company's Web site also indicates GEO in 2003 was awarded a contract to develop a 1,000-bed immigration detention facility in the Denver suburb of Aurora. A DOC spokeswoman says the department will put the Pueblo proposal back up for bid, with no promise the facility will still be built in Pueblo.

December 14, 2006 Pueblo Chieftain
A three-year effort to build a private prison facility at the Pueblo Memorial Airport Industrial Park appears to be dead after the Colorado Department of Corrections and the prison company reached an impasse over guaranteed occupancies. On Tuesday, reports said that the DOC was working with the attorney general's office to draft a letter to the GEO Group that essentially kills the company's plans to build a 1,000-bed pre-parole and parole revocation facility on 36 acres east of the city. GEO officials said Wednesday they had not received any letter from the DOC, but also didn't express much confidence a deal could be struck for the facility. "We have been in negotiations with the Department of Corrections, but we don't have any contract signed and at this time it does not appear there will be one," said Pablo Paez, director of communications for the Florida-based company. Paez confirmed reports from November that the company was asking for a minimum occupancy guarantee for the facility and also confirmed that the company was planning to go to the city of Pueblo for help to build the prison. ± PLEASE SEE PRISON, 2APRISON / continued from page 1A ± "We needed the guarantee to secure the lowest capital cost through tax-exempt bonds," Paez said Thursday. "We would get those through the local municipality." State Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, who has been a vocal critic of the private prison industry, and state Rep. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, wrote a letter to the city in May warning against using public funds to build the facility. "I think it's very positive that the city of Pueblo is not going to risk its credit rating on this project," McFadyen said Wednesday. Officials from the DOC were not available Wednesday to comment on whether the letter had to do with the occupancy guarantees, or the result of an audit suggesting former Director of Prisons Nolin Renfrow may have broken the law by helping GEO secure DOC approval to build a 1,500-bed facility in Weld County, prior to his retirement in January. Paez said GEO had no contact with Renfrow before March. Last month, DOC spokeswoman Kathy Church told The Pueblo Chieftain that talks between the company and the DOC over Pueblo's facility had stalled over the minimum occupancy guarantees and had reached a critical point. "They need to either understand our position and accept it or back out completely," Church said last month. Church told The Chieftain that the DOC couldn't make any guarantees without knowing how much money it had to spend. That money depends on what the joint budget committee decides. McFadyen wondered Wednesday why those guarantees weren't part of the original agreement when DOC solicited bids for the Pueblo project. "If the DOC negotiated additional terms with GEO, they would be the only private prison company to receive such treatment and that's wrong," McFadyen said Wednesday. "I think this goes to the point of how committed they were to coming to Pueblo in the first place." The plans to build the facility started in 2003 when GEO, then Wakenhut Corrections Company, proposed building the prison on the West Side. Those plans eventually shifted to the airport and the city approved a controversial agreement with GEO to build a 500- to 1,000-bed facility. A year ago, GEO bought the property at the airport from the city for $296,800. GEO's original plan was to build a 750-bed facility at the airport, but got Planning and Zoning Approval in May to expand the facility to 1,000 beds.

December 14, 2006 Denver Post
Results of an investigation into former Colorado prisons director Nolin Renfrow's conduct in office will be turned over to a district attorney early next year, the Department of Corrections' inspector general said Wednesday. Michael Rulo, who has been the agency's inspector general for seven years, said his office has been cooperating with state auditors on the probe. On Tuesday, the auditors announced that a "former senior- level official" of the Department of Corrections launched a prison-consulting business in August 2005, five months before he retired from the department Jan. 31, and helped a private company land a state prison contract. State Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, who requested the audit, identified the official as Renfrow. The auditors found that while still employed by DOC, Renfrow began working to assist prospective bidders in developing proposals to his department for a private prison. With his assistance, a company identified as the GEO Group was awarded the contract for a 1,500-bed private prison at Ault. Auditors noted that state employees are barred by law from outside employment that creates a conflict of interest, and from helping people to win a contract with their agency for a fee. Renfrow couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. Rulo said the results of his office's investigation will be turned over to El Paso County District Attorney John Newsome, probably in January. The Department of Corrections is based in that county. Rulo said a decision on whether to file charges will be a "collaborative process" with prosecutors. Kristen Holtzman, spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, said that Renfrow never contacted the attorney general's office to ask whether his consulting business while still a DOC employee constituted a conflict of interest.

December 12, 2006 Rocky Mountain News
The state Department of Corrections is seeking $500 million to build new prisons for more than 5,000 more inmates over the next five years. The request for new spending is being driven by a huge increase in prisoners and rising financial demands from private prisons. One, the Geo Group, is demanding a $1 billion revenue guarantee before going ahead with two prisons that it is under contract to build for Colorado in Pueblo and Ault. Prisons chief Gary Golder said he is waiting for the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Bill Ritter to decide whether the state should provide any such guarantee. Meanwhile, a former state prison official, Nolin Renfrow, is being investigated for working on behalf of Geo to win the second of those private prison contracts while still a state employee. Golder said the results of the administrative investigation may be referred to prosecutors for possible criminal charges. He wasn't sure what could be charged. He said it might be considered malfeasance. Renfrew stands to be paid $1 million by Geo for his work if its second prison in Ault is built. But meanwhile, the state is moving to yank Geo's first prison contract, for Pueblo, because Geo has still not broken ground.

December 13, 2006 Pueblo Chieftain
A former top official for the Colorado Department of Corrections may have broken the law when he helped a private prison company win a state contract earlier this year, an audit revealed Tuesday. Though the report conducted by the state auditor doesn't name him, the audit centered on Nolin Renfrow, former director of prisons for DOC. It even calls on the department's inspector general to further investigate the matter and, if warranted, refer it for possible prosecution. The audit, which was requested by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, showed that before Renfrow retired in January, he had been working with a Florida-based private prison company, GEO Group, to land a DOC contract to build a 1,500-bed prison in Weld County. That project is expected to cost an estimated $100 million, for which Renfrow was to get a 1 percent fee - or $1 million - for helping Weld County get the contract, the audit said. In 2003, GEO, which is based in Baca Raton, Fla., was awarded a contract to build a 500-bed, prerelease prison near Pueblo Memorial Airport, which still hasn't been built. Renfrow's replacement, Gary Golder, says the department currently is working with the Attorney General's Office on a letter to GEO that effectively would revoke the 2003 bid and end the Pueblo project. Though the audit did not find any evidence that Renfrow disclosed confidential information to GEO to help it win the Weld County bid, he may have violated state laws, personnel rules and department regulations regarding outside employment, the audit said. Neither Renfrow nor GEO officials were available for comment. The audit found that prior to Renfrow's retirement on Jan. 31, he filed articles of incorporation for a private prison consulting firm, Patriot Business Solutions, in August 2005. "Public records and interviews indicate that the former employee began actively working on behalf of his prison consulting business as of November 2005," the audit said. "Neither the department nor the former employee provided documentation showing that the employee requested or the department approved the former employee's outside employment." The contract was awarded to GEO in June, along with a separate contract to Corrections Corporation of America to expand two of its existing private prisons - in Bent and Kit Carson counties - by 720 beds. DOC time sheets also showed that Renfrow "used a combination of annual, sick and holiday leave" to remain on extended paid leave from November 2005 until his retirement date, the audit said. "Neither the department nor the former employee provided evidence that (Renfrow) received the express consent of his attending physician or appointing authority to engage in outside work activities," the audit said. "As a result, we question the former employee's use of about 240 hours of paid sick leave benefits valued at about $14,000." McFadyen began to question Renfrow's involvement immediately after GEO won the contract. The Pueblo West lawmaker, a longtime critic of private prisons, questioned why such a company would be awarded a new bid before it had made any progress on the Pueblo prison. McFadyen also questioned why the department was even considering a GEO request, which was made after winning the bid, to give it a written guarantee that the new beds would be filled, something the state has never provided to any of the five other existing private prisons in the state. "I am still questioning the Colorado Department of Corrections as to why GEO was allowed to bid another (project) when they have not performed on the original 2003 project," McFadyen said. "GEO Corporation is demanding that the state issue a mandatory guarantee of filling beds. It is not the responsibility of Colorado taxpayers to ensure the profits of this corporation. "There's no question that we're being held hostage by GEO Group when other (private prison) vendors probably would like to come in and bid those contracts," she added.

December 13, 2006 Rocky Mountain News
A retired state prison official stands to be paid $1 million - and possibly face criminal charges - for helping a private prison company win a state bid while he was still working for the state. A state audit released Tuesday cited a possible conflict of interest. The audit does not name the official, but the audit was aimed at Nolin Renfrow, former state prisons director. And the document describes work he openly undertook for the Geo Group. Renfrow helped Geo win a $14 million-per-year deal to house 1,500 inmates in a private prison it proposed building in Ault. Renfrow helped Geo write its bid and spoke with Ault officials on Geo's behalf, said officials and Renfrow last spring. On Tuesday, Renfrow did not return a call for comment. The audit said the official may have violated two state laws. One prohibits state employees from providing paid assistance to anyone to win state contracts or economic benefits. The other prohibits activities that constitute a conflict of interest with their duties as state employees. The audit cleared the official of using insider knowledge to help Geo win the bid. But it said that if the prison is built, Geo will pay the official a $1 million fee. The official started working as a consultant on the deal before he retired this year, the audit said. During his final three months on the job, the official used six weeks of sick leave, valued at $14,000, without any proof that he was sick. The Department of Corrections has launched an investigation as a result of the audit. If warranted, the department will refer its findings to local prosecutors, said Gary Golder, Renfrow's replacement as state director of prisons. Golder said the laws cited by the auditor do not carry specific penalties. He speculated that if charges are filed, they might be for malfeasance or official misconduct. When the audit began in June, Renfrow told a reporter he had run operations for existing prisons and that he had no role in writing the state's bid request that he later helped Geo win. He also said then that the state attorney general's office had ruled that his work on the deal was not a conflict of interest. However, the audit found no evidence that he requested or received the required state approval for his outside work.

August 23, 2006 Pueblo Chieftain
Two political groups are fighting over Rep. Buffie McFadyen, but it isn't for love nor money. In one corner is a political organization created by GOP Gov. Bill Owens and financed by several well-heeled Republicans called The Trailhead Group. In the other is a similarly well-financed Democratic group called Clear Peak Colorado, which was created for the sole purpose of countering anything the GOP group says. While Trailhead is accusing the two-term Democrat from Pueblo West of using her office to enrich herself, something it has been saying in a slew of recent radio ads in Canon City and Pueblo, the Democratic group says it is the other way around. That Trailhead wants to unseat McFadyen so its contributors can continue to receive lucrative private prison contracts. McFadyen, who has been highly outspoken in her opposition of private prisons, is running for her third term in office this fall against GOP challenger Jeff Shaw, a Pueblo attorney. "It's very clear that these prison building and management companies are using the Trailhead Group as a vehicle to attack Representative McFadyen for her opposition to private prison building initiatives," said Clear Peak director Tim Knaus. "These prison industry corporate donors to the Trailhead Group have millions of dollars riding on a GOP victory and they'll stop at nothing to protect their bottom line." Both groups are known as 527 organizations, so called because of the IRS tax code governing similar political advocacy groups.

July 31, 2006 The Gazette
Colorado prison officials, faced with unparalleled crowding, are poised to embark on the state’s largest private-prison expansion in years. By the time three companies build medium-security prisons for 3,776 inmates by the middle of 2008, one in three Colorado inmates will be housed in for profit facilities. Despite the state’s growing reliance on private prisons, Department of Corrections officials still have deep concerns about the projects, and numerous issues remain that could derail them — including two companies’ insistence their cells be filled before those in state-run prisons. “I don’t believe they’re cheaper in general,” said state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, a Pueblo Democrat and opponent of private prisons. “As long as you have stockholders wanting more bodies and cells, there’s no incentive for that company to reduce the number of people in prison.” “They (private-prison firms) kind of know they’ve got us over the barrel,” said Dave Schouweiler, purchasing manager for the DOC. “If we don’t use them, we’ve got to ship people out of state.” Corrections Corporation of America was awarded contracts for 720-bed expansions at its prisons in Las Animas and Burlington. At the Kit Carson Correctional Facility, the company’s original proposal called for employing just 59 guards, later revised to 64, for an expanded inmate population of 1,562, a ratio of 1 to 24. Similarly, at the Bent County Correctional Facility, the company proposed to have 61 guards — later increased to 66 — for an expanded population of 1,457, a ratio of 1 to 22. The officer-to-inmate ratio in the state prison system is 1 to 4.6, according to the DOC. It isn’t the first time staffing at a CCA prison in Colorado has been a concern. In 2004, a riot broke out at the company’s Crowley County Correctional Facility, and an audit put much of the blame on low staffing levels. CCA signed new contracts with the DOC, allowing officials to issue fines for staffing deficiencies. CCA was recently fined $103,743 for leaving 701 mandatory shifts vacant from Nov. 1 to Jan. 10 at the Kit Carson prison, Morgan said. The company was fined $23,000 for 157 unfilled shifts at the Crowley County prison and $2,651 for 18 vacancies at the Bent County prison. Private prisons pay less than state prisons, and critics say most have high turnover. Another point of contention: CCA and GEO demand to have first claim to every person sentenced to state prison. It’s a condition Schouweiler said DOC officials are not comfortable granting. But the fact the companies made it a condition of their proposals — at least so far — shows how the climate has changed since the 1990s. “To a large extent, we can’t dictate to them like we did in the ’90s,” he said. “They would like to see us in crisis when they open their doors.”

June 28, 2006 Denver Post
A Democratic state lawmaker raised safety and competitive concerns about two companies selected by the state Tuesday to build additional prison space to house more than 2,200 male prisoners. Rep. Buffie McFadyen of Pueblo West said The GEO Group Inc. has not built the 500-bed Pueblo facility it promised three years ago. She also questioned whether GEO had an unfair bidding advantage on the new 1,504-bed facility it was selected to build in Ault. The company hired Nolin Renfrow, the former state director of prisons, to help it bid on the project after Renfrow left the department, she said. Renfrow worked for corrections when the request for bids was made public. Neither Renfrow nor a representative of GEO could be reached Tuesday evening for comment. Katherine Sanguinetti, a spokeswoman for the department, said she didn't know the factors that went into selecting GEO. And, she said, "I personally know that the DOC staff that were rating those bids have had no contact with (Renfrow) to keep it objective." Earlier this month, McFadyen asked lawmakers to audit the bidding process. She also questioned why the Corrections Corporation of America was selected to expand the Bent County Correctional Facility near Las Animas by 720 beds. CCA owns and operates the Crowley County Correctional Facility where a riot broke out in 2004. McFadyen said she was concerned that the company has still not replaced the porcelain fixtures in its facilities after broken porcelain was used as a weapon during the riot.

June 28, 2006 Journal-Advocate
All bets are off for a private prison in Sterling that would have brought 400 to 500 jobs and a $23 million payroll. Late Tuesday the Colorado Department of Corrections purchasing office awarded a bid for proposals to provide private prison correctional services and accommodations for up to 2,250 additional male inmates to both the GEO Group, Inc. and the Corrections Corporation of America. Both awards are conditional and subject to contract negotiations. The GEO Group, Inc., which included a 2,250-bed facility-security adult male private prison in Sterling in its proposal to the state, will build a new 1,504 bed facility in Ault, a town about 12 miles from Greeley, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections purchasing office's Web site. CCA will expand the existing facilities of the Kit Carson Correctional Center near Burlington and the Bent County Correctional Facility near Las Animas by 720 beds each. The GEO Group, Inc. - the second-largest private prison facility company in the world, with prisons across the globe - was considering the Sterling area as the possible site for a medium-security adult male private prison with 2,250 beds, according to Logan County Economic Development Executive Director Brett Challenger. The company would have offered 400 to 500 jobs and a $23 million payroll. There would be no out-of-pocket expense to the city where the prison is constructed. The city would provide water and sewer, Challenger said. But Frank Smith, a member of the nonprofit anti-private-prison group Private Corrections Institute, said while many towns have looked to private prisons as economic development strategies, they do not have the same effect as state-run prisons. "There is an order of magnitude difference between public and dangerous and economically draining private prisons. I've found the latter paying as little as $6.45 an hour," Smith said. The Journal-Advocate attempted to contact the GEO Group for information by phone on June 2, June 15, June 22, twice on June 23 and June 27 but was unsuccessful. Attempts to contact GEO by e-mail June 21, June 22 and June 24 were also unsuccessful. Smith, a retired volunteer, worked in criminal justice for decades, including with ex-offender populations and program management within public prisons. He's visited a number of for-profit prison in various states and is considered to be the Midwest's leading authority on private prisons and perhaps one of the dozen top experts in the world. He said he's suspicious of the GEO Group's claim to offer $14.42 an hour or $30,000 annually. "The proposed prison payroll, I'd guess, is wildly inflated. That's one way the operators sell these boondoggles. The for-profits hire bottom-of-the-barrel staff, usually pay terrible wages. A New Mexico guard working for GEO was making $7.95 an hour," Smith said. "They pay as little as they can. These guys will do whatever they can to get in business. But what they say and what they do are very different. It's not a contract. Once they open the doors they can do anything they want," Smith said. Tom Nipp, mayor of New Castle, Ind., said the GEO-owned prison outside the New Castle area has been beneficial to his town. "The truth of the matter is at this point there are more jobs, I believe, than we had before. There are more inmates, which means there is more work for local people. We have not had any negative results," Nipp said. Nipp said city leaders were initially told the company pay scale and benefits would not be as high so the guards would not be as motivated and the city would not be as secure. But he said that's not been the case. "At this point we have seen nothing like this," Nipp said. Nipp said he's noticed only two differences between now and before GEO moved in: There are more employees in New Castle, more local jobs and the GEO has provided a partnership with the community. "To the city of New Castle at this point and time it has been a positive experience," Nipp said. According to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the number of state prisoners in Colorado has increased more than 500 percent since 1980. The group claims the state of Colorado has turned to private, for-profit prisons in an attempt to save money, hoping that privatization will provide money-saving efficiencies in prison construction and operation. The group claims data from Colorado and nationwide show the performance of private prisons has been troubled with poor inmate programs, security problems and fiscal woes. According to Cheryl Ahumada of the DOC's Office of Public Affairs, the bidder awarded the project may conduct public meetings in conjunction with municipal and county officials. "It is up to the company and jurisdiction. It is not a DOC function," Ahumada said in an e-mail. Jennifer Klein can be reached at 522-1990, Ext. 237 or by e-mail at jklein@journal-advocate.com John Mangalonzo can be reached at 522-1990, Ext. 235 or by e-mail at: jmangalonzo@journal-advocate.com

June 28, 2006 Journal-Advocate
All bets are off for a private prison in Sterling that would have brought 400 to 500 jobs and a $23 million payroll. Late Tuesday the Colorado Department of Corrections purchasing office awarded a bid for proposals to provide private prison correctional services and accommodations for up to 2,250 additional male inmates to both the GEO Group, Inc. and the Corrections Corporation of America. Both awards are conditional and subject to contract negotiations. The GEO Group, Inc., which included a 2,250-bed facility-security adult male private prison in Sterling in its proposal to the state, will build a new 1,504 bed facility in Ault, a town about 12 miles from Greeley, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections purchasing office's Web site. CCA will expand the existing facilities of the Kit Carson Correctional Center near Burlington and the Bent County Correctional Facility near Las Animas by 720 beds each. The GEO Group, Inc. - the second-largest private prison facility company in the world, with prisons across the globe - was considering the Sterling area as the possible site for a medium-security adult male private prison with 2,250 beds, according to Logan County Economic Development Executive Director Brett Challenger. The company would have offered 400 to 500 jobs and a $23 million payroll. There would be no out-of-pocket expense to the city where the prison is constructed. The city would provide water and sewer, Challenger said. But Frank Smith, a member of the nonprofit anti-private-prison group Private Corrections Institute, said while many towns have looked to private prisons as economic development strategies, they do not have the same effect as state-run prisons. "There is an order of magnitude difference between public and dangerous and economically draining private prisons. I've found the latter paying as little as $6.45 an hour," Smith said. The Journal-Advocate attempted to contact the GEO Group for information by phone on June 2, June 15, June 22, twice on June 23 and June 27 but was unsuccessful. Attempts to contact GEO by e-mail June 21, June 22 and June 24 were also unsuccessful. Smith, a retired volunteer, worked in criminal justice for decades, including with ex-offender populations and program management within public prisons. He's visited a number of for-profit prison in various states and is considered to be the Midwest's leading authority on private prisons and perhaps one of the dozen top experts in the world. He said he's suspicious of the GEO Group's claim to offer $14.42 an hour or $30,000 annually. "The proposed prison payroll, I'd guess, is wildly inflated. That's one way the operators sell these boondoggles. The for-profits hire bottom-of-the-barrel staff, usually pay terrible wages. A New Mexico guard working for GEO was making $7.95 an hour," Smith said. "They pay as little as they can. These guys will do whatever they can to get in business. But what they say and what they do are very different. It's not a contract. Once they open the doors they can do anything they want," Smith said. Tom Nipp, mayor of New Castle, Ind., said the GEO-owned prison outside the New Castle area has been beneficial to his town. "The truth of the matter is at this point there are more jobs, I believe, than we had before. There are more inmates, which means there is more work for local people. We have not had any negative results," Nipp said. Nipp said city leaders were initially told the company pay scale and benefits would not be as high so the guards would not be as motivated and the city would not be as secure. But he said that's not been the case. "At this point we have seen nothing like this," Nipp said. Nipp said he's noticed only two differences between now and before GEO moved in: There are more employees in New Castle, more local jobs and the GEO has provided a partnership with the community. "To the city of New Castle at this point and time it has been a positive experience," Nipp said. According to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the number of state prisoners in Colorado has increased more than 500 percent since 1980. The group claims the state of Colorado has turned to private, for-profit prisons in an attempt to save money, hoping that privatization will provide money-saving efficiencies in prison construction and operation. The group claims data from Colorado and nationwide show the performance of private prisons has been troubled with poor inmate programs, security problems and fiscal woes. According to Cheryl Ahumada of the DOC's Office of Public Affairs, the bidder awarded the project may conduct public meetings in conjunction with municipal and county officials. "It is up to the company and jurisdiction. It is not a DOC function," Ahumada said in an e-mail. Jennifer Klein can be reached at 522-1990, Ext. 237 or by e-mail at jklein@journal-advocate.com John Mangalonzo can be reached at 522-1990, Ext. 235 or by e-mail at: jmangalonzo@journal-advocate.com

June 28, 2006 Greeley Tribune
The state Department of Corrections on Tuesday made a decision that could alter the face of the small Weld County town of Ault. By granting Florida-based Geo Group Inc. the right to build a 1,500-bed medium security men's prison southeast of town in the next two years, the state paved the way for prisoners to outnumber residents. Negotiations between the town and Geo will begin next week on infrastructure costs and impact fees. If residents of Ault need development and economic vitality, the last place they should look at is a prison, warns a long-time private prison opponent. Frank Smith, 67, co-founder of the Private Corrections Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to monitoring private prisons, cites study after study and incident after incident pointing to the ills of private prisons. Several studies have been conducted to test markets where private prisons locate, and most conclude that prisons do not stimulate an economy any more than the regular cycles of growth that would come without the parade of orange jumpsuits. "They don't pay for themselves, they chase away safer and better industry," said Smith, who began fighting the private prison movement in Alaska in 2000 and now fights them nationwide from his home in Bluff City, Kan. "You foreclose your possibility of getting a really remunerative industry that would actually compensate people so they can make a living." While pointing out the numerous riots that have occurred in private prisons for years -- the problems that come with corporate, for-profit prison building -- Smith cites one insidious problem that has a domino effect on economic activity: Pay. Geo Group noted in discussions with Ault officials that prison employees would start at $25,000, about $3,000 less than Ault police officers. The pay is no accident, Smith said. "The biggest problems are that they cut corners and pay people so poorly they can't get trainable staff, and they wind up with a bunch of fast-food workers," Smith said. "They move to where they can pay the least." The private prison movement has sprawled across rural America in the past decade, according to Terry Besser and Margaret Hanson in a 2003 study entitled, "The Development of Last Resort: The Impact of New State Prisons on Small Town Economies." The pair studied 10 years of prisons in rural America, a time when 69 percent of the 274 new state prisons were opened in towns of 10,000 or less in population in 1990. In that time, they found the unemployment rate differed very little in small towns with prisons, versus their non-prison counterparts, but poverty levels in prison towns did decrease. "In all other economic indicators, however, the new prison towns fared worse than the non-prison towns," the study found. "The rate of increase in the number of new businesses, non-agricultural employment, average household wages, retail sales, median value of owner occupied housing and total number of housing units is substantially less in new prison vs. non-prison towns." The study showed that turnover rate in private prisons was three times higher than public prisons due to low wages and a lower level of employee training, creating employee safety concerns. The study also found that rural towns, lured by the potential development opportunities, will frequently give tax abatements and breaks, which are not commensurate with the supposed vitality a prison would bring to a community. In Ault, for example, a state contract for the men's prison could be a $28 million annual contract for Geo, which has promised just $250,000 a year to the town as an impact fee. Ault Police Chief Tracey McCoy, who sought the prison, said that's a number that will have to increase. Ault resident Ed Lesh worries about the reputation being a prison town could mean in the long run. "I don't think we've gleaned the good and bad about the facility," Lesh said. "There are some points I think should be considered. ... I don't think having the handle of being a prison town is a plus. If I were going to start a business, I don't know that I would go to Cañon City." Ault resident John Dudley believes growth will come as a result of a prison, but said the town would not see fit to make sure growth pays its own way, his chief concern when it comes to any growth that might increase town coffers in the short term. "It would be nice and wonderful if everyone could assure me it's going to be controlled growth," said Dudley, a local school board member who was on the town board when a prison in the area was proposed, then shot down in the mid 1980s. "It's not just going to soak the city, it will soak everyone in Colorado," Dudley continued. "It's going to end up where you're going to have impacts on highways and we'll have to find more money to pay for highways, and all the sudden, it will impact state patrol, and we'll have to find more people (to hire)." "I feel pity for our board because they have this tough decision to make," he said. "Do we give away things to get this, or do we just kiss more opportunity goodbye? It's a tough choice."

Cornell-Abraxas Howe, Howe Township, Pennsylvania
August 22, 2011 Erie Times-News
State police are searching for two boys who escaped this morning from a Forest County juvenile detention facility. The boys, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, were last seen running into the woods near the Cornell Abraxas Foundation in Howe Township around 4:30 a.m. They were described as black, wearing black shirts, light-colored pants and tennis shoes.

Cornell Oakland Center, Oakland, California
November 19, 2010 AP
A former correctional officer has pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a federal inmate at a privately run halfway house. Thirty-nine-year-old Basean George of San Leandro entered the plea Thursday to one count of sexual abuse of an inmate as part of a deal with prosecutors. George admitted to a month-long sexual relationship in 2008 with a female inmate under his watch at the Cornell Oakland Center. The center is a halfway house under contract with the government that houses federal inmates nearing the end of their sentences. George faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he's sentenced Feb. 2.

Curtin Detention Centre, Australia
June 2, 2005 The Australian
HE was locked up alongside convicted criminals in a maximum-security prison, but Iranian asylum-seeker Zal Shahbazi was happy to be there. "It was really much better than detention," he said. "I had a terrible time in prison, but in detention they put pressure on you mentally because you don't know when you will be free. As the Howard Government shows signs of softening on its hardline policy of mandatory detention for women and children, Mr Shahbazi recalls his blackest days in the now-defunct Curtin detention centre. In April 2002, he was locked in the mess hall with about 40 other detainees, including women and children. "Forty guards came and opened one of the doors, and they started beating us," Mr Shahbazi said. "Everyone -- even the women with kids. Everyone was yelling, we were terrified. They beat me with a baton, they beat my leg and my back." After complaining, Mr Shahbazi was arrested and sent to Broome Regional Prison, where he shared a cell and one toilet with up to eight maximum-security prisoners. His charge was damaging commonwealth property during the clash with Australasian Correctional Management guards. He was told he would be on remand for three weeks.

Dallas County Judicial Treatment Center, Milmer, Texas
January 7, 2011 Dallas Observer
Cornell Companies, the private operator of correctional facilities 'cross the country, has a motto: "People Changing People." A lawsuit filed this week in Dallas County District Court proposes an alteration: "People Filming People." At least, so suggest 36 former inmates of the Dallas County Judicial Treatment Center in Wilmer, a 300-bed facility to which men and women convicted of drug- and alcohol-related crimes in Dallas County are sent to get clean and sober rather than spend time behind bars. Says the suit, in January 2008 Cornell Companies employees began filming the inmates without their consent. Caught on film were their often intense drug treatment sessions, scenes from their daily routines and a talent show called, but of course, Cornell Idol. The suit says the inmates, who were already uncomfortable about the filming, were told the footage would be transferred to DVD and shown only to the Drug Court judges who send prisoners to the treatment center. But the complaint alleges it was "turned into a publicity and promotional film" -- shown to, among others, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and Attitudes & Attire -- and used as a fund-raising vehicle and "to obtain future contracts for supervision and operation of other treatment facilities in Texas and locations in other states." Other patients in the facility also saw the film, says the suit, and as a result: "The sharing of the film with the patient population caused considerable embarrassment for the women residents from taunts and teasing of the male patients." The suit is alleging that Cornell Companies violated both state and federal privacy statutes, including those related to keeping confidential records related to those undergoing drug and alcohol treatment. It also directs the court's intention to a 2002 doc prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice -- Practical Guide for Applying Federal Confidentiality Laws to Drug Court Operations -- which says that "the intent of Congress in creating these statutes was to encourage the rehabilitation of substance abusers who might otherwise be deterred from entering treatment by concern that their substance abuse would become public knowledge." The suit is asking for $50,000 per plaintiff. The attorney -- Charles Paternosto, who's up in Denison -- wants $100,000 for providing "exemplary work for his clients"; more, if it goes into appeal.

Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, Adelanto, California
November 26, 2011 The Daily Press
The state has canceled its contract with the privately operated Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, putting about 150 workers out of a job. Desert View's contract termination officially takes effect Wednesday, though prison employees told the Daily Press that The Geo Group Inc. has been preparing to deactivate the prison at Rancho and Aster roads since May. The 643-bed medium-security prison is shuttering its doors as part of California’s realignment plan, which responds to federal orders to reduce state prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for tens of thousands of low-level offenders to county governments. To help deal with the new influx of inmates under local supervision, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is encouraging counties to enter into their own contracts with more than a dozen former CCFs. The CCFs had generally housed inmates with sentences shorter than 18 months, parole violators and offenders with scheduled release dates — the same types of nonviolent, non-sexual or non-serious offenders now serving out sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. “We hope that counties contract with these facilities to save jobs and ease inmate housing concerns that many counties may have,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Toyama said. But San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials say they’re not planning to privatize jail beds. The math just doesn’t pencil out, according to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “The issue with taking advantage of private prisons or private jail facilities has come up over and over again throughout the years; however, it’s not something that the county is considering,” Bachman said. “It’s too costly and there’s just not the funding really even to consider something like that.” The California State Association of Counties has created a document outlining potential beds at the former CCFs, but counties statewide have been hesitant to exercise that option. The Geo Group had operated six of the nine privately run CCFs that lost their state contracts, according to CSAC. Five other CCFs were run by local governments. The facilities ranged from around 100 employees to more than 600, according to Toyama.

July 11, 2011 Business Wire
The GEO Group ("GEO") announced today that the State of California has decided to implement its Criminal Justice Realignment Plan (the "Realignment Plan"), which is expected to delegate tens of thousands of low level state offenders to local county jurisdictions in California effective October 1, 2011. As a result of the implementation of the Realignment Plan, the State of California has decided to discontinue contracts with Community Correctional Facilities which currently house low level state offenders across the state. This decision will impact three GEO facilities: the company-leased 305-bed Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility, the company-owned 643-bed Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, and the company-owned 625-bed Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility. GEO has received written notice from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation regarding the cancellation of GEO's agreements for the housing of low level state offenders at these three facilities effective as of September 30, 2011, November 30, 2011 and November 30, 2011, respectively. GEO is in the process of actively marketing these facilities to local county agencies in California. Given that most local county jurisdictions in California are presently operating at or above their correctional capacity, GEO is hopeful that it will be able to market these facilities to local county agencies for the housing of low level offenders who will be the responsibility of local county jurisdictions. If GEO is unable to secure alternative customers for these three facilities, GEO estimates that the combined annualized negative earnings per share impact of the cancellations would be approximately $0.10-0.13, including carrying costs while the facilities are idle. The combined annualized revenues for these three facilities were approximately $33-$35 million.

January 19, 2009 Daily Press
A private prison is on a “modified program” after it was placed on lockdown over the weekend following a riot that involved about 100 inmates, officials said on Tuesday. The riot took place around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Desert View Community Correctional Facility in the 10400 block of Rancho Road in Adelanto, prompting officials to place the medium-security facility on lockdown, according to Paul Verke, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “The facility is currently on modified program,” Verke said Tuesday. “It’s not fully back to normal operations, but it’s not on lockdown any more.” During the riot, some inmates were injured, according to authorities, although the number of those hurt was not released. Verke did confirm that none of the injuries were life-threatening. No staff members were hurt or required medical attention, he said. Officials are investigating the disturbance. In February, 22 of the facility’s inmates were sent to local hospitals during a riot.

February 24, 2008 Daily Press
A riot at the Desert Valley Corrections facility on Saturday in Adelanto sent 21 inmates to local hospitals and one critically injured inmate had to be airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, according to officials on Sunday. At about 4 p.m. on Saturday, a call went out to American Medical Response who in turn contacted the San Bernardino County Fire Department who responded to the call with assistance from the Victorville Fire Department, according to Otto Schramm spokesperson for the county fire department. “We had a multi-casualty response with three engine companies, about 10 ambulances, a battalion chief and the helicopter,” said Schramm who added that the approximate 20 fire personnel remained on the scene until about 10 p.m. when correctional officers secured the prison. AMR units then returned to the prison at approximately 11:40 p.m. to transport four more inmates with minor injuries to area hospitals, according to Craig Ledesma, AMR supervisor. “After evaluations by prison staff, it was determined four more inmates needed to be transported and required medical attention,” said Ledesma. No prison employees were injured in the incident, according to reports. The nature of the injuries and the identities of the inmates were not released. When rescue personnel arrived at the medium-security federal prison, the riot was still in progress, said Schramm. Personnel treated the injured parties in a safe and secure location within the prison, said Ledesma. “We all worked together as a team to make sure all of the patients were transported where they needed to go,” said Ledesma. It is still unclear what started the trouble. Officials from the privately-run prison had no comment on the situation.

February 24, 2008 LA Times
Nineteen people were injured Saturday in a riot at the Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility in Adelanto, authorities said. San Bernadino County Fire Department officials said one victim suffered serious injuries and needed to be airlifted to a hospital. The others suffered minor injuries and also were taken to area hospitals, said Tim Franke, a fire dispatch supervisor. Franke, who could not specify whether the injured were all inmates, said units arrived at the prison at 4 p.m. in response to a riot in progress. He said firefighters stayed at the facility for six hours as correctional officers secured the prison and identified the injured. Desert View officials could not be reached for comment. A 2006 annual report by Boca Raton, Fla.-based The GEO Group, which owned the facility at the time, described Desert View as a medium-security prison with 643 inmates.

November 7, 2005 CDCR Daily Report
The following event was reported as occurring 10/28/05, according to a CDCR "daily report" dated Friday, 10/29/05. Yesterday at 1218 hours, inmates in the A3 dorm at Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility (a private contracted CCF operated by the Geo Group, Inc.) got in a fight. Hispanic inmates rushed the black inmates believing they were the ones that informed the assistant facility director of the presence of weapons. The initial assessment was that 33 Hispanics and 15 Blacks were involved. The CDCR lieutenant used pepper spray to quell this incident. All inmates were removed from A3 dorm and isolated pending housing decisions. The dorm was placed on lock-down status. One inmate suffered a head injury caused by a blow from a lock in a sock. He was taken by ambulance to St. Mary's Hospital from treatment. He received three staples and his prognosis is good. The inmate was returned to custody this morning and taken to CSP Los Angeles County. One other black inmate sustained a laceration above his eye which required a butterfly suture. Other inmates sustained minor injuries consistent with fighting. No staff was injured. Preliminary information indicates that once the assistant facility director entered the A3 dorm, he went directly to a Hispanic inmate's locker, pulled out a weapon and left the dorm. Subsequently, seven more inmate weapons were found. Arrangements for transportation of the identified participants were made. The Transportation Unit confirmed that 13 blacks were transferred to California State Prison-Los Angeles County and 29 Hispanic inmates were transported early this morning to Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. Additional off-duty contract and uniformed custody CDCR staff have been called in. This staffing level will remain through the weekend. Inmates will not be allowed back into A3 dorm until it has been thoroughly searched. Tensions are still high at the facility and it will remain on lockdown until further notice.

November 14, 2004 Daily Press
A privately run, medium-security prison will get up to 200 additional inmates after the City Council voted to overturn a decision by the Planning Commission.
There are 550 inmates in eight separate dorms holding up to 71 prisoners each at the Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility on Rancho Road. After listening to their request, the City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to overturn an Oct. 5 planning commission decision to keep the jail from expanding. The increase would force the prison to convert many of its beds to bunk beds, Rauschl said, adding 18 of the double beds to each of the bays. The Planning Commission cited safety as its main concern when it denied the prison's request to expand. In October the planning commission heard the prison's request, but did not approve of the increase. "The Planning Commission expressed concerns that the facility was not physically suited for such an increase," according to the City Council agenda. "Adding inmates would increase the security risk to the community and to the surrounding residential areas. Other concerns were overcrowding, number of guards to inmate ratio, internal operations, and impacts to dining, recreation and bathroom facilities."

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

Dickens County Correctional Facility, Spur, Texas
Del Rio, Texas
GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections)

July 15, 2010 News Express
The GEO Group, a Florida firm that contracts with local governments to run jails, has agreed to pay $2.9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging indiscriminate strip searches of inmates at six facilities, including three in Texas. The Frio County Detention Center in Pearsall, the Dickens County Detention Center in Dickens and the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton and jails in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Illinois were named in the suit, which was litigated in federal court in Pennsylvania. The suit alleged GEO employed a uniform practice or policy of strip-searching all pre-trial detainees who entered certain GEO-operated jails, regardless of the crime or violation for which they were detained, and without making the legally required determination of whether reasonable suspicion existed to justify a strip search. Inmates incarcerated at the six jails between Jan. 30, 2006 and Jan. 30, 2008 qualify for a share in the settlement, but they must call 1-877-234-4512, or visit http://www.multistatestripsearchsettlement.com/index.html.

May 15, 2009 The Olympian
The Idaho Department of Correction and the mother of an inmate who killed himself in a private prison are suing each other after a settlement agreement over the son's death fell apart. Scot Noble Payne, who had been sent to a private Texas prison with hundreds of other inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Idaho prisons, slashed his own throat in 2007. Idaho officials who investigated the Dickens County Correctional Facility said the conditions were deplorable and that the physical environment of Noble's solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, and his father, Alberto Payne, filed a tort claim against the Idaho Department of Correction contending that the department was responsible for the wrongful death of their son. Correction Department officials and the parents went into mediation to see if they could reach a settlement, and in February both sides agreed that the parents should be awarded $100,000 and that the Idaho Department of Correction would not admit fault in Scot Noble Payne's death. But the next month, when the official document that would release the Idaho Department of Correction from liability in the case was delivered to the parents, they refused to sign. The problem, according to Noble's attorney, is that the Idaho Department of Correction added additional terms into the release document that hadn't been arbitrated in mediation. The mediation agreement lists Shirley Noble, Alberto Payne, the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Correction as parties in the agreement. But the release also lists the estate of Scot Noble Payne and all of the representatives and employees of the Idaho Department of Corrections and the state as parties. That could throw into jeopardy another lawsuit brought by the parents - in their role as representatives of Scot Noble Payne's estate - against several employees of the Idaho Department of Correction. After the parents refused to sign, the Idaho Department of Correction filed a lawsuit against them in Ada County's 4th District Court, asking a judge to force the parents to sign the release. The parents countersued, contending the state was breaching the contract they reached under the settlement agreement by trying to later add new terms. Idaho Department of Correction officials said they could not comment on pending litigation. The parents' attorney, Wm. Breck Seiniger, Jr., said the department made a mistake when it was negotiating and didn't realize it until it was too late - and now is trying to place the blame, and the loss, on the parents. "I think the lawsuit is just an attempt to intimidate the parents, frankly," Seiniger said. "If they thought the agreement meant something different, that is not our problem." The parents have also filed a lawsuit against Geo Group Inc., the private company that ran the Texas prison, in U.S. District Court in Texas. That lawsuit is still in the discovery stages, Seiniger said.

November 14, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
Families of two Idaho inmates who apparently killed themselves in lockups run by private prison company GEO Group Inc., pleaded Thursday with Texas state senators to bar out-of-state prisoners from the Lone Star State. The Idaho Department of Correction has housed more than 300 prisoners at GEO-run Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, but recently announced plans to move them to the private North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. The move follows allegations that GEO falsified reports and short-staffed the Texas facility where Idaho inmate Randall McCullough, 37, died. Families of Idaho inmates spoke Thursday at a Texas state Senate hearing in Austin, Texas. The hearing, which dealt with general oversight of the Texas prison system and did not result in specific action, was webcast live over the Internet. Among those testifying was lawyer Ronald Rodriguez, who represents McCullough's family as well as that of Idaho inmate Scott Noble Payne, 43, who killed himself last year at another GEO-run prison in Dickens, Texas. "Idaho prisoners need to be in Idaho where they have access to their court - Where they have access to their families," Rodriguez on Thursday told the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, spoke to Texas lawmakers last year and again on Thursday. "It seems that no lessons were learned," Noble said. "If changes had been placed - Randall would not have been so desperate to take his own life, as my son did." Texas Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, questioned why the "little" state of Idaho recently decided to pull its prisoners from Geo-run Bill Clayton. "Should we be following their lead?" he asked. But a Texas Department of Criminal Justice official told Whitmire that Texas inmates aren't held at Bill Clayton, and warned against painting private prisons in Texas with a broad brush. Inmate McCullough's sister, Laurie Williams, told Texas senators that they should do a review of all private prisons in their state - including GEO competitor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Idaho prisoners are to be taken to CCA-run North Fork in Oklahoma, where another Idaho inmate, David Drashner, was allegedly murdered in June. IDOC's decision to move prisoners from one privately run lockup to another out-of-state facility concerns Williams, as well as Drashner's wife, Pam Drashner, who have said they want Idaho to stop shipping away its inmates. Idaho doesn't have enough room for all its prisoners, and sending them out-of-state has been widely unpopular. Williams also wants to talk to Idaho lawmakers, she said. "We should be addressing the Idaho Senate," said Williams, after Thursday's hearing in Texas. "This is Idaho sending its inmates out of state whether it's Texas that takes them or Oklahoma and that's what we have to have stopped." GEO made $4.9 million in annual operating revenues off its contract with Idaho to manage prisoners at Bill Clayton. GEO officials said shareholders won't lose out from Idaho's withdrawal because of an expanding contract with the state of Indiana.

November 6, 2008 AP
The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma. Correction Director Brent Reinke notified GEO officials Thursday in a letter. Reinke said the company's chronic understaffing at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, put Idaho offenders' safety at risk. An Idaho Department of Correction audit found that guards routinely falsified reports to show they were checking on offenders regularly — even though they were sometimes away from their posts for hours at a time. "I hope you understand how seriously we're taking not only the report but the safety of our inmates," Reinke told The Associated Press on Thursday. "They have an ongoing staffing issue that doesn't appear to be able to be solved." The contract will end Jan. 5. Reinke said the department wanted to pull the inmates out immediately, but state attorneys found there wasn't enough cause to allow the state to break free of the contract without a 60-day warning period. In the meantime, Reinke said, Idaho correction officials have been sent to the Texas prison to help with staffing for the next two months. GEO will be responsible for transferring the inmates to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is run by Corrections Corp. of America. GEO will cover the cost of the move, Reinke said, but Idaho will have to pay $58 per day per inmate in Oklahoma, compared to $51 per day at Bill Clayton. Amber Martin, vice president for The GEO Group, of Florida, said she couldn't comment on the audit or on Idaho's decision to end the contract. She referred calls to the company spokesman, Pablo Paez, who could not immediately be reached by the AP. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The Bill Clayton audit describes the latest in a series of problems that Idaho has had with shipping inmates out of state. Overcrowding at home forced the state to move hundreds of inmates to a prison in Minnesota in 2005, but space constraints soon uprooted them again, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Conditions at Dickens were left largely unmonitored by Idaho, at least until inmate Scott Noble Payne committed suicide after complaining of the filthy conditions there. Idaho investigators looking into Payne's death detailed the poor conditions and a lack of inmate treatment programs, and the inmates were moved again. That's when the Idaho Department of Correction created the Virtual Prisons Program, designed to improve oversight of Idaho inmates housed in contract beds both in and out of state. The extent of the Bill Clayton facility understaffing was discovered after Idaho launched an investigation into the apparent suicide of inmate Randall McCullough in August. During that investigation, guards at the prison said they were often pulled away from their regular posts to handle other duties — including taking out the garbage, refueling vehicles or checking the perimeter fence — and that it was common practice to fill out the logs as if the required checks of inmates were being completed as scheduled, said Jim Loucks, chief investigator for the Idaho Department of Correction. For instance, Loucks said, correction officers were supposed to check on inmates in the administrative segregation unit every 30 minutes. But sometimes they were away from the unit for hours at a time, he said. The investigation into McCullough's death is not yet complete, department officials said. The audit also found several other problems at Bill Clayton. The auditor found that "the facility entrance is a very relaxed checkpoint," prompting concerns that cell phones, marijuana and other contraband could be smuggled past security. In addition, the prison averages a 30 percent vacancy rate in security staff jobs, according to the audit. Though it was still able to meet the one-staffer-for-every-48-prisoners ratio set out by Texas law, employees were regularly expected to work long hours of overtime and non-security staffers sometimes were used to provide security supervision, according to the audit. "Based on a review of payroll reports, there are significant concerns with security staff working excessive amounts of overtime for long periods of time," the auditors wrote. "This can lead to compromised facility security practices and increased safety issues." When the audit was done, there were 29 security staff vacancies, according to the report. That meant each security staff person who was eligible for overtime worked an average of 21 hours of overtime a week. That extra expense was borne by GEO, not by Idaho taxpayers, said Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray. The state's contract with GEO also required that at least half of the eligible inmates be given jobs with at least 50 hours of work a month. According to the facility's inmate payroll report, only 35 out of 371 offenders were without jobs. But closer inspection showed that the prison often had several inmates assigned to the same job. In one instance, nine inmates were assigned to clean showers in one unit of the prison — which only had nine shower stalls. So although each was responsible for cleaning just one shower stall, the nine inmates were all claiming 7- and 8-hour work days, five days a week. GEO is responsible for covering the cost of those wages, Ray said. "While the contract percentage requirement is met, the facility cannot demonstrate the actual hours claimed by offenders are spent in a meaningful, skill-learning job activity," the auditors wrote. Auditors also found that too few inmates were enrolled in high school diploma equivalency and work force readiness classes.

September 21, 2008 Times-News
Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again. In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state. The Department of Correction say they want to bring them all home, they simply have no place to put them. Drashner, who was convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007, and was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough, serving time for robbery, was found dead in his cell. IDOC officials say he left a note, though autopsy results are pending. His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all. "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams. Out of Idaho -- Idaho has so many prisoners scattered around the country that the IDOC last year developed the Virtual Prison Program, assigning 12 officers to monitor the distant prisons. In 2007 Idaho sent 429 inmates to Texas and Oklahoma. This year; more than 700 - and by one estimate it could soon hit 1,000. But officials say they don't know exactly how many inmates may hit the road in coming months. The number may actually fall due to an unexpected drop in total prisoner head-count, a turnabout attributed to a drop in sentencings, increased paroles and better success rates for probationers. The state will also have about 1,300 more beds in Idaho, thanks to additions at existing prisons. State officials say bringing inmates back is a priority. "If there was any way to not have inmates out-of-state it would be far, far better," said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, a former Twin Falls County commissioner, noting higher costs to the state and inconvenience to inmate families. Still, there's no end in sight for virtual prisons, which have few fans in state government. "I do think sending inmates out-of-state is counter-productive," said Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, a member of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. LeFavour favors treatment facilities over prisons. "We try to make it (sending inmates out-of-state) a last resort, but I don't think we're doing enough." Even lawmakers who favor buying more cells would like to avoid virtual lockups. "It's more productive to be in-state," said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, who said he would support a new Idaho prison modeled after the state-owned but privately run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). "We don't want to stay out-of-state unless we have to
��- It's undesirable." A decade of movement -- Idaho has shipped inmates elsewhere for more than a decade, though in some years they were all brought home when beds became available at four of Idaho's state prisons. The 1,500-bed ICC - a state-owned lockup built and run by CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) - also opened in 2000. But that wasn't enough: "It will be years before a substantial increase in prison capacity will allow IDOC to bring inmates back," the agency said in April. In 2005, former IDOC director Tom Beauclair warned lawmakers that "if we delay building the next prison, we'll have to remain out-of-state longer with more inmates," according to an IDOC press release. That year inmates were taken to a Minnesota prison operated by CCA, where Idaho paid $5 per inmate, per day more than it costs to keep inmates in its own prisons. "This move creates burdens for our state fiscally, and can harden our prison system, but it's what we must do," IDOC said at the time. "Our ability to stretch the system is over." Attempts to add to that system have largely failed. Earlier this year Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked lawmakers for $191 million in bond authority to buy a new 1,500-bed lockup. The Legislature rejected his request, but did approve those 1,300 new beds at existing facilities. Reinke said IDOC won't ask for a new prison when the next Legislative session convenes in January. With a slow economy and a drop in inmate numbers, it's not the time to push for a new prison, he said. Still, recent projections for IDOC show that without more prison beds here, 43 percent of all Idaho inmates could be sent out-of-state in 2017. "It's a lot of money to go out-of-state," Darrington said. Different cultures -- One of eight prisons in Idaho is run by a private company, as are those housing Idaho inmates in Texas and Oklahoma. The Bill Clayton Detention Center in Texas is operated by the Geo Group Inc., which is managing or developing 64 lockups in the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The North-Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is owned and operated by CCA, which also has the contract to run the Idaho Correction Center. CCA houses almost 75,000 inmates and detainees in 66 facilities under various state and federal contracts. Critics of private prisons say the operators boost profits by skimping on programs, staff, and services. Idaho authorities acknowledge the prisons make money, but consider them well-run. "Private prisons are just that - business run," Idaho Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades told the Times-News. "It doesn't mean out-of-sight, or out-of-mind." Yet even Reinke added that "I think there's a difference. Do we want there to be? No." The Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO) says on its Web site that its members "deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability." Falling short? Thomas Aragon, a convicted thief from Nampa, was shipped to three different Texas prisons in two years. He said prisons there did little to rehabilitate him, though he's up for parole next year. "I'm a five-time felon, all grand theft and possession of stolen property," said Aragon, by telephone from the ICC. "Apparently I have a problem and need to find out why I steal. The judge said I needed counseling and that I'd get it, and I have yet to get any." State officials said virtual prisons have a different culture, but are adapting to Idaho standards. "We're taking the footprint of Idaho and putting it into facilities out-of-state," Blades said. Aragon, 39, says more programs are available in Idaho compared to the Texas facilities where he was. Like Aragon, almost 70 percent of Idaho inmates sent to prison in 2006 and 2007 were recidivists - repeat IDOC offenders - according agency annual reports. GEO and CCA referred questions about recidivism to APCTO, which says only that its members reduce the rate of growth of public spending. Aragon said there weren't enough case-workers, teachers, programs, recreational activities and jobs in Texas. Comparisons between public and private prisons are made difficult because private companies didn't readily offer numbers for profits, recidivism, salaries and inmate-officer ratios. During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas - where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held - state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment: "No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates. "Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility ��- Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report. The prison has since made improvements, the state said. Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints have grown from the way they have been sent to the prisons. Inmates describe a horrific bus ride from Idaho to Oklahoma in April in complaints collected by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise. The inmates say they endured painful and injurious wrist and ankle shackling, dangerous driving, infrequent access to an unsanitary restroom and dehydration during the almost 30-hour trip. "We're still receiving a lot of complaints, some of them are based on retaliatory transfers," said ACLU lawyer Lea Cooper. IDOC officials acknowledge that they have also received complaints about access to restrooms during the long bus rides, but they maintain that most of the inmates want to go out-of-state. Many are sex offenders who prefer the anonymity associated with being out-of-state, they said. Unanswered questions -- Three deaths of Idaho interstate inmates in 18 months have left families concerned that even more prisoners will come home in ashes. "We're very disturbed about...the rate of Idaho prisoner deaths for out-of-state inmates," Cooper said. It was the razor-blade suicide of sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas that caught the attention of state officials. Noble's death prompted Idaho to pull all its inmates from the Geo prison. State officials found the facility was in terrible condition, but they continue to work with Geo, which houses 371 Idaho inmates in Littlefield, Texas, where McCullough apparently killed himself. Noble allegedly escaped before he was caught and killed himself. Inmate Aragon said he as there, and that Noble was hog-tied and groaned in pain while guards warned other inmates they would face the same if they tried to escape. Private prison operators don't have to tell governments everything about the deaths at facilities they run. The state isn't allowed access to Geo's mortality and morbidity reports under terms of a contract. Idaho sent additional inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America-run Oklahoma prison after Drashner's husband died in June. IDOC officials said an Idaho official was inspecting the facility when he was found. IDOC has offered few details about the death. "The murder happened in Oklahoma," said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray, adding it will be up to Oklahoma authorities to charge. Drashner said her husband had a pending civil case in Idaho and shouldn't have been shipped out-of-state. She says Idaho and Oklahoma authorities told her David was assaulted by another inmate after he verbally defended an officer at the Oklahoma prison. Officers realized something was wrong when he didn't stand up for a count, Drashner said. "He was healthy. He wouldn't have been killed over here," she said.

December 28, 2007 AP
Fifty-five Idaho inmates who were moved out of a troubled Texas prison on Thursday have been forced by a contract delay to make a temporary stop before going to their final destination, a lockup near the Mexican border. More than 500 Idaho prisoners are in Texas and Oklahoma due to overcrowding at home. The prisoners being moved are bound for the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, Texas, after more than a year at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, where one Idaho inmate killed himself in March. Because a Texas county official has yet to approve the contract to house Idaho prisoners at Val Verde, they have first been sent 100 miles away to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. There, they will sleep in groups of up to 10 men on makeshift cots in day rooms until resolution of the contract allows them to complete the final 250-mile leg of their journey to Val Verde sometime in early January. The inmates "were a bit dubious and questionable about that," said Randy Blades, the warden in Boise who oversees Idaho's out-of-state prisoners. That's one reason why his agency has sent two officers to make sure the move runs smoothly, Blades said. Both the Dickens and Val Verde prisons are run by private operator GEO Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Florida. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. GEO no longer has the contract to manage the Dickens facility after Tuesday. Because Idaho recently rejected an offer from the new company that will run Dickens, GEO on Thursday had to move the Idaho inmates to temporary quarters in Littlefield. Though Idaho officials thought details of the move to Val Verde had been resolved, Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he learned only last week that a Texas county judge wanted a lawyer to look at the contract one last time. "It was something we did not anticipate," Reinke said. "GEO is paying the transport costs." This is just the latest uprooting of Idaho inmates since they were first shipped out of state in 2005. Since then, they have bounced from prison to prison in Minnesota and Texas amid allegations of abusive treatment. There also has been the criminal conviction of at least one Texas guard for passing contraband to inmates; at least two escapes; and the death of Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender who slashed his throat last March in a solitary cell at Dickens County. Idaho officials who investigated concluded the GEO-run prison was filthy and the worst they had seen. As a result, about 70 Idaho inmates were moved from Dickens to Littlefield, where about 300 Idaho inmates were already housed, while the state continued talks with GEO over sending the remaining 55 to a new 659-bed addition at Val Verde. Despite the stopover, GEO has a hefty incentive to make sure the move to Val Verde goes smoothly, Reinke said. The company hopes to win contracts with Idaho to build a large new prison here to help accommodate the state's 7,400 inmates. "They're really monitoring this closely, and doing a good job at this point," Reinke said. "It's not a lot different than triple bunking."

December 6, 2007 Dallas Morning News
Seven former and current inmates have filed a lawsuit against a private prison company, alleging abuse by a registered sex offender who worked as a night-shift guard at a troubled West Texas lockup that is now closed. The young men allege they were mentally, physically and sexually abused in 2006 and early 2007 by a guard who was fired in March, after state officials learned he was on the public sex offender registry. He had worked for seven months at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, operated by Florida-based GEO Group Inc. The facility housed Texas Youth Commission inmates until the teens were removed in October because of squalor and mismanagement. One of the plaintiffs, who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Friday, alleges that guard David Andrew Lewis let several inmates into his cell. They sexually assaulted him with a broom handle while Mr. Lewis watched, according to Dallas lawyer Bob Crill. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez said the company had no comment about the lawsuit. Mr. Lewis, who isn't named as a defendant, couldn't be reached. TYC also declined to comment. Several plaintiffs remain in TYC custody, their lawyers said. Deon Olthoff, 18, of Granbury, said Wednesday that his abuse began in November 2006 when he moved to a new Coke County dorm with individual cells. Mr. Olthoff spent 14 months in the facility after his parole for burglary was revoked because of truancy. Mr. Lewis first leered and stood too close as he and other boys showered, Mr. Olthoff said. Later, the guard would barge into his cell at night as Mr. Olthoff slept or wrote letters. "He just came in and started choking me, and getting on top of me, and grabbing my hands and pulling them behind my back and stuff like that, and grabbing me in private areas," Mr. Olthoff said. Until his release in February, Mr. Olthoff said, he coped with Mr. Lewis' behavior by trying "not to think about it." Mr. Olthoff said he and two other inmates filed a joint grievance in late 2006 alleging that Mr. Lewis touched them inappropriately. GEO sent Mr. Olthoff's father a letter in February notifying him of the allegations of mistreatment. The letter said the Olthoffs would receive written notice about the outcome of an investigation. But no follow-up letter arrived, Deon and his attorneys said. Mr. Crill and Dallas lawyer Bady Sassin, who worked with a Corpus Christi law firm to file the suit in San Antonio, said they were investigating whether Mr. Olthoff's complaint led to Mr. Lewis' firing. A Texas Department of Public Safety sex offender Web site shows that Mr. Lewis, 24, was convicted in 1999 of indecency by exposure with a 5-year-old girl. After his firing, Mr. Lewis said he had shown his prospective employer his sex offender card when he applied but they told him to see if his background check went through, according to an Associated Press report. Mr. Paez previously has said that the company didn't know about Mr. Lewis' record because juvenile cases don't show up on background checks. "Even if you excuse the inexcusable – which is not knowing from the beginning that this guy was a registered sex offender – there were complaints that were filed that should have put them on notice long, long before he was terminated," Mr. Crill said. TYC grievance records obtained by The News show the agency recorded four mistreatment allegations against Mr. Lewis by inmates whose identities were withheld. He was cleared on three allegations, including an accusation of sexual abuse. In February, an allegation of unprofessional conduct was sustained against Mr. Lewis.

November 29, 2007 AP
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a Texas prison earlier this year has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the private-prison company that runs the lockup where he died. In her claim in U.S. District Court in western Texas, Shirley Noble says prison operator The GEO Group abused and neglected Scot Noble Payne before he slashed his throat on March 4th. Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender from Idaho, had been moved to Texas along with more than 400 Idaho inmates to relieve overcrowding at prisons in their home state. Idaho officials who investigated at the Dickens County Correctional Facility in Spur, Texas, said the physical environment of his solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide.

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.''

October 12, 2007 KRIS TV
The delayed discovery of squalid conditions at a privately run Texas Youth Commission jail was "a human failure" and stronger oversight is needed to prevent similar incidents, a key state senator said Friday. "It was very simple that the monitors were not doing their job and there was a human failure," said Sen. John Whitmire, head of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "Who's monitoring the monitors?" Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, called a committee hearing about a week after a Coke County juvenile lockup in Bronte operated by The GEO Group, Inc., was closed because of filthy conditions. A Texas Youth Commission ombudsman discovered the conditions, even though the facility had passed previous inspections by TYC monitors. The TYC system was rocked earlier this year by allegations of rampant sexual and other physical abuse against juvenile inmates in the system. The star witness at Friday's hearing on adult and juvenile prison monitoring was Shirley Noble, who told how her son, 43-year-old Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne, endured months of horrific conditions then slit his own throat at a private Texas prison run by GEO Group. "It seemed there was no end to the degradation he and other prisoners were to endure with substandard facilities," Noble said. Her son died March 4 in a private prison in Spur. Noble questioned why Idaho sent its inmates to Texas and why the Florida-based GEO Group was allowed to keep prisoners in what she described as "degrading and subhuman conditions." "Please, please hold them accountable for all the injuries and misery they have caused," Noble said. A spokesman for GEO Group did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press to respond to comments made at the hearing. TYC Acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope, who took over the youth agency earlier this year, testified that she's putting more monitoring safeguards in place. That includes sending executive staff members out to view the lockups, something she said hadn't been done regularly in the past. "Because of my concerns of what I saw in Coke County, I have implemented a blitz of every facility, either the ones that we operate, that contract, district offices, anything that has TYC affiliated with it," she said, adding that each site will be visited by the end of October. Adan Munoz Jr., executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said he has four inspectors do annual inspections of the 267 facilities under his oversight. He defended his agency's practice of giving two- to three-week notices about inspection visits but said recently there have been more surprise inspections. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said privatizing prisons is an "easy way out." He said he worries about the state continuing to contract with companies that have a history of abuse. "It's a myth that the private sector does a better job than government" in running prisons, Hinojosa said. "They're there to make a profit and they'll cut corners, and they'll cut back on services and they'll many times look the other way when abuse is taking place." Because of Texas' size and high rate of locking up convicts, the state is in the national spotlight for its dealings with private prison firms, said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. "It puts a special burden on us," he said. "If it needs to be improved, improve it, because everybody looks to us." Noble was the panel's final witness. The room hushed as she told the senators her family's emotional tale. Her son, a convicted sex offender, was kept in solitary confinement for months with a wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels. She said he wrote long, detailed letters to family members in which he said the only way to escape the prison's harsh conditions was to join his late grandfather in the spirit world. Noble said she begged for psychological help for her son. She said he wasn't supposed to have been given a razor, and she still wonders how he got the one he used to end his life. "After he tried to unsuccessfully slash his wrists and ankles, he knelt in the shower and cut his own throat," she said. "Surely only a person in utter disillusionment and horrifying conditions would bring themselves to this end."

October 11, 2007 The Olympian
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a Texas prison this year has become a corrections activist. Shirley Noble travels to Austin, Texas Friday to urge lawmakers there to stop accepting out-of-state prisoners at their for-profit lockups. Texas is holding hearings over The GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company that lost its contract to oversee a juvenile prison because of dirty bed sheets, feces-smeared cells and insects in the food. GEO also ran the prison where Shirley Noble's son, Scot Noble Payne, slashed his throat March 4. The convicted sex offender had been shipped to Texas with a group of 450 Idaho inmates because of overcrowding at prisons at home. Shirley Noble contends sending prisoners out-of-state leaves them without family contact - and caused Idaho prison officials to neglect them.

August 8, 2007 AP
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a dilapidated private Texas prison earlier this year has filed a $500,000 claim against Idaho, contending the state's Department of Correction is responsible for "inhumane treatment and illegal and unconstitutional conditions of confinement" that contributed to his death. Scot Noble Payne, 43, was in prison for aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious conduct when he slashed his throat March 4. He had been sent to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, with other inmates last year to relieve overcrowding in Idaho prisons, which have more than 7,000 prisoners but too few beds to house them all. Following Payne's death, Idaho prison health care director Donald Stockman investigated Dickens and concluded "the physical condition of the cell where the suicide occurred does not, in my opinion, comply with any standards related to inmate housing for either segregated housing or housing for inmates on suicide watch. The physical environment of the cell would have only enhanced the inmate's depression that could have been a major contributing factor in his suicide." "Just being in the filth and degradation of that cell was sufficient to drive somebody into suicide," Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday from her home near Los Angeles. The tort claim against Idaho was filed last week. Under state law, the maximum Noble could recover is $500,000. The state now has 90 days to respond to the claim; if it doesn't, Noble could file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Kit Coffin, the state's risk management program manager with the Department of Administration, said tort claims like this are reviewed and assigned to state adjudicators for consideration. She was uncertain if Noble's claim, originally filed with the secretary of state, had been sent to her office yet. In suicide notes he penned for relatives, Payne described a constantly wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels in the isolation cell at the prison where he was confined for three months following his escape and recapture in December 2006. He slit his throat in his cell just after midnight March 4. "Due to the inhumane conditions, Scot Noble Payne became depressed and suicidal. ... Unattended, (he) committed suicide as a result of being subjected to inhumane treatment and illegal and unconstitutional conditions of confinement," according to Noble's tort claim. Since Payne's death, 69 Idaho inmates have been moved from Dickens, which is run by Florida-based private prison operator The GEO Group, to another prison. By September, the remaining 56 Idaho inmates still at Dickens are set to be moved to another Texas prison because Idaho officials aren't satisfied with improvements at Dickens. Noble's lawyer in Boise, Breck Seiniger, said Idaho had the responsibility to ensure conditions at Dickens were adequate, regardless of whether prisoners were located in Idaho or 1,500 miles away. Brent Reinke, director of the Idaho Department of Correction since January, has conceded his agency didn't do enough to monitor conditions at Dickens between August 2006, when Idaho prisoners were sent there, and Payne's suicide in March. During that period, Idaho sent prison staff to Texas just once. They have a responsibility to provide reasonable conditions of confinement," said Seiniger. "They can't escape that responsibility simply by passing these prisoners off to somebody else." Reinke's office said it would review the claim, but declined to immediately comment. Payne's family has also discussed a federal lawsuit against The GEO Group, though no lawsuit has yet been filed. Phone calls to GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez in Boca Raton, Fla., weren't immediately returned.

July 26, 2007 The Olympian
Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke next Thursday will visit a private Texas prison where he intends to shift 56 inmates in September, after problems including abuse by guards, deplorable conditions and a suicide emerged at previous facilities in that state. Reinke, who concedes lax oversight by Idaho contributed to problems, and three other Idaho officials will review the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, run by Florida-based private prison firm The GEO Group. The prison area where Idaho inmates are due to be housed at Val Verde is part of a new 659-bed addition, Reinke said. Still, he wants to make sure the facility located near the Mexican border meets Idaho standards so the recurring problems at the two previous GEO-run prisons aren't repeated. "On contracts in general, we're going to be stepping that up," Reinke told The Associated Press this week. "We want to take a firsthand look." About 450 Idaho inmates were first moved beyond state borders in 2005 to relieve overcrowding at prisons here, where there are more than 7,000 inmates - but not enough room to house them all. They were incarcerated at the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas, until August 2006, when they were moved following allegations of abuse by guards to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. But Reinke, who took over in January, acknowledges his agency didn't do enough to scrutinize conditions at Dickens before Idaho inmates were shipped there. And from August 2006 to March 2007, Idaho prison officials only visited the Dickens County facility one time. The March 4 suicide by Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender, and a subsequent investigation illuminated conditions that one Idaho prison official described as "beyond repair." One concern: There have been problems at Val Verde, too. Inmate LeTisha Tapia killed herself there in 2004 after alleging she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a guard. And a black guard accused his captain of keeping a hangman's noose in his office and a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk. Val Verde County has been forced to hire a full-time prison monitor to keep a watch on prison operations as part of a settlement with Tapia's family. Some family members of Idaho inmates now at Dickens told the AP they're pleased Reinke is scrutinizing Val Verde personally. Still, they said they're frustrated their relatives are being moved again - especially since many problems at Dickens have been remedied since Payne's suicide in March. "Things are OK now," said the wife of a sex offender who asked not to be identified by name. "They don't want to move." Reinke has pledged to improve oversight of conditions at Texas prisons through what he's calling a "virtual prison" that his agency adopted earlier this week. It's modeled after a similar system in Washington state, he said.

July 11, 2007 AP
As overcrowding in Idaho prisons intensifies, so have lobbying efforts and campaign donations by private prison companies aiming to win new contracts - both to house more inmates beyond state borders and to build a proposed 2,200-bed for-profit lockup. The GEO Group, a Florida-based prison operator in 15 states, entered Idaho politics in 2005, when it hired its first lobbyist, according to a review of lobbying and campaign finance records by The Associated Press. A year later, it divvied up $8,000 among three campaigns: Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter got $5,000, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch got $2,500, and former state Rep. Debbie Field, who lost her House race last November, received $500. Field also served as Otter's campaign manager and was later appointed by the new governor as Idaho's drug czar. Since 2006, GEO has won contracts worth $8 million annually to house more than 400 Idaho inmates in Texas, including at two prisons where problems became so severe that Idaho demanded inmates be relocated. Corrections Corp. of America, a Tennessee company whose 95,000-inmate private prison system includes 1,500 prisoners at a prison south of Boise, gave nearly $32,000 for the 2006 election to 29 Republican candidates, including $10,000 to Otter, and $5,000 to the state Republican Party. CCA and GEO each hired two lobbyists for the 2007 Idaho Legislature. Just one Democrat, Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, received money from CCA - $300. The GOP dominates Idaho politics, with 51 of 70 seats in the House and 28 of 35 seats in the Senate. Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman, said his company makes political contributions to candidates that support "public-private partnerships." "That's what we're in the business of, and that's reflective of our participation in the political process," Owen said, adding his company has run private prisons for nearly 25 years, including in Idaho, in a professional manner where standards can exceed a state's own. "It has been a positive working relationship between the Idaho Department of Correction and CCA." GEO spokesman Pablo Paez didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Overcrowding in U.S. prisons, plus a federal push to incarcerate more terrorists and illegal aliens, has benefited private prisons that now oversee 140,000 inmates. Companies like GEO and CCA spent $3.3 million between 2000 and 2004 on election campaigns in 44 states to ensure they profit from this private prison boom, according to a 2006 study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, in Helena, Mont. Private prisons have become a hot topic here, because of the problems at GEO's Texas prisons where Idaho inmates are locked up to ease overcrowding at home. Abuse by guards at the Newton County Correctional Center in eastern Texas prompted Idaho officials to demand inmates be relocated in 2006 to the Dickens County Correctional Center. Now, Idaho officials have called Dickens "filthy" and "beyond repair," prompting a move to another GEO Texas prison. "The way the contractor makes the most money is by providing the least amount of service," said Robert Perkinson, a University of Hawaii professor who is writing a book on Texas prisons, including privately run facilities. "It's an inherently problematic area of government to privatize." Still, Idaho, with about 7,000 inmates, now has 256 more inmates in-state than it has capacity for - even with about 430 already in Texas. Efforts to develop sentencing alternatives to ease an expected 7 percent annual increase in inmate numbers through 2010 will take time, so Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said alternatives are limited to moving inmates elsewhere. Robin Sandy, Idaho Board of Correction chairwoman, said she met with CCA officials in Idaho in June. They discussed a new contract with the state to house 240 Idaho inmates in company prisons in Oklahoma - a contract worth about $5 million annually - as well as prospects of the company winning a share of the new 2,200-bed prison proposal that Reinke plans to introduce in September to lawmakers. "It was a courtesy visit," Sandy said. Otter said he's also been in discussions with private prison companies eager to do more business with the state. Otter is a former J.R. Simplot executive who has said he wants to run Idaho more like the private sector. "There's been a lot of that activity," Otter told the AP. "During the legislative session, there were several organizations that came in."

July 10, 2007 The Olympian
More Idaho inmates are slated to move to a private Texas lockup in the latest effort by state prison officials to relieve overcrowding at facilities here. In the move approved by state officials including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Tuesday, 40 inmates now in Idaho will go to the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, at a cost of $51 per inmate per day. In addition, 125 inmates now at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, will also be shifted, with 56 going to Val Verde, located near the Mexican border, and the remaining 69 going to another prison in Littlefield, Texas, where there are already 304 Idaho inmates. The shift to Val Verde and Littlefield comes after problems emerged at Dickens, including a March 4 suicide, reports of "filthy" and "dire living conditions" and a guard convicted of providing contraband to inmates. Still, both Dickens and Val Verde prisons are run by the same private company - Florida-based prison operator The GEO Group - and prison advocates say Val Verde also has a reputation as a "scandal-ridden prison." One Texas inmate killed herself at Val Verde in 2004 after alleged sexual humiliation by a guard, while a guard supervisor was accused of keeping a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood, resulting in accusations of racism. "We'll do a site visit in the immediate future" to Val Verde, said Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke, who has pledged to improve monitoring of Idaho inmates by instituting a new program that includes more-frequent visits to out-of-state facilities. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said his company is working with Idaho to meet its prison needs. In 2005, a black guard alleged his captain at Val Verde kept a hangman's noose in his office and a Polaroid photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk. That case was settled in 2006. The settlement with GEO isn't public, but details of the guard's complaint were confirmed by a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission probe reviewed by the AP. The guard's attorney said Tuesday that the atmosphere at Val Verde was "hostile and racist." "I would have serious concerns about the way inmates will be treated," the lawyer, Mark Anthony Sanchez, said from San Antonio. "If a jail treats its employees that way, how is it going to treat inmates?" And in 2006, a female inmate's family sued The GEO Group in the wake of her suicide at Val Verde. Before her death, LeTisha Tapia said she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a GEO guard after reporting to the warden that guards let inmates have sex. The lawsuit was settled this year. Details of that settlement also aren't public, according to U.S. District Court records in western Texas. But Val Verde County, where the prison is located, has been forced to hire a full-time prison monitor to keep a watch on operations at the prison, as part of its own settlement with Tapia's family. "The county feels that the jail monitor is necessary," said Ann Markowski Smith, the county attorney, in an interview with the AP. She added that concerns remain about the GEO-run prison, including whether inmates are properly receiving medication meant to treat mental health conditions. Bob Libal, of Grass Roots Leadership, a group that campaigns against for-profit prisons like GEO, is more critical. "Val Verde is the GEO-group prison we always point to as a scandal-ridden private prison," said Libal. "We hear very bad things from there, whether it be in the lawsuits, or grumblings about the facility being poorly operated." GEO's Paez declined to comment on the settlement with Tapia's family, or the guard who sued the company over racism allegations at Val Verde. Idaho's contract with GEO is worth some $8 million annually. Idaho, which began sending inmates beyond its borders in 2005, predicts inmate numbers will grow between 6 percent and 7 percent annually through 2010, with the population reaching more than 8,800 inmates by then. The state says it must ship inmates out of state to relieve overcrowding. While Reinke said he'll soon introduce a plan to build a new 2,200-bed private prison in Idaho, that won't be done until 2010, at the earliest. As a result, Idaho likely will continue to send more inmates out of state until then. For instance, it aims to send an additional 240 prisoners by November to prisons in Oklahoma operated by another company, Corrections Corp. of America. While Otter acknowledged he's reluctant to work with GEO due to problems at its facilities, he added, "I have a great deal of confidence in Mr. Reinke's ability to clean up the situation."

July 8, 2007 Magic Valley Times-News
The state's top prison official aims to soon send more inmates to a Texas lockup run by a private company, even though Idaho prisoners at two of that outfit's other facilities have had to be moved twice because of abuse by guards, a suicide, filthy conditions and lack of treatment. Brent Reinke, Idaho Department of Correction director, on Tuesday will ask the state Board of Examiners, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, to let him move more prisoners now in Idaho to an undisclosed Texas facility run by The GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company. Reinke's request also includes relocating prisoners from GEO's Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. Conditions at Dickens, left largely unmonitored by Idaho between last August and March, had deteriorated so badly that when Idaho's prison health director finally investigated earlier this spring, he said it was "the worst correctional facilities I have ever visited." Reinke concedes his agency failed to properly monitor conditions at Dickens, but said moving inmates to another GEO prison won't necessarily mean problems will recur because not all the its facilities are run so poorly. For instance, another GEO-run facility where 304 Idaho inmates are housed, the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, is an excellent prison that shows problems aren't endemic, he said. "We just need to make sure we hold them to the contract," Reinke told the AP Friday. "We've got to do a better job monitoring the facilities." It wasn't immediately clear how many inmates currently in Idaho would be affected by Tuesday's request. Otter couldn't be reached for comment Sunday. Rising numbers of inmates in Idaho, whose prisons now house more than 7,000, make this latest out-of-state shipment unavoidable, Reinke said. Idaho predicts prison growth between 6 percent and 7 percent through 2010, with the population reaching more than 8,800 inmates by then. Idaho now pays GEO $51 a day to house about 430 inmates, or more than $7 million annually. At the time of Idaho's initial out-of-state shipments in 2005, inmates went first to Minnesota. But space constraints soon uprooted them again in 2006, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to Dickens, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Problems continued at Dickens, including an inmate suicide in March. A guard was fired, then convicted in state court, for passing contraband to inmates. And the Dickens warden was ousted after a probe in which Idaho prison health director Don Stockman called the facility "beyond repair or correction," according to a March 15 report obtained by the AP. GEO, based in Boca Raton, Fla., has said it's aiming for improvements. "GEO strives to provide quality correctional and detention management services in a safe and secure environment consistent with contractual requirements and applicable standards," said spokesman Pablo Paez, in a recent e-mail. Still, some prison experts criticize shipping inmates out-of-state because they move prisoners far from families and raise questions about conditions at for-profit operations. "The receiving facility is agreeing to this arrangement as a way to make money, and so there is always a risk that conditions and safety will be compromised as a way to cut corners and save money," said Michele Deitch, a University of Texas professor. Reinke said Idaho prisons are full, so he has little choice. A prison consultant concluded recently that Idaho will need room for 5,560 more inmates over the next decade. The cost: $1 billion dollars. Earlier this year, Idaho made a call for 1,100 more out-of-state prison beds; Correction Corporation of America, another private prison company, offered just 240 beds. Idaho is now negotiating a contract with CCA, to shift 120 inmates in July, and the remaining 120 in November. The state is also planning construction: It's set to build a $15 million, 300-bed addition at a prison south of Boise by December 2008. A separate, 400-bed drug treatment prison near Boise is in the works. And in September, Reinke said he'll unveil a proposal to Idaho lawmakers for a new 2,200-bed private prison _ larger than the 1,500-bed facility he'd previously considered. "We're at 100 percent right now, as far as capacity," said Reinke. "We're kind of between a rock and a hard place."

July 6, 2007 AP
After months alone in his cell, Scot Noble Payne finished 20 pages of letters, describing to loved ones the decrepit conditions of the prison where he was serving time for molesting a child. Then Payne used a razor blade to slice two 3-inch gashes in his throat. Guards found his body in the cell's shower, with the water still running. "Try to comfort my mum too and try to get her to see that I am truly happy again," he wrote his uncle. "I tell you, it sure beats having water on the floor 24/7, a smelly pillow case, sheets with blood stains on them and a stinky towel that hasn't been changed since they caught me." Payne's suicide on March 4 came seven months after he was sent to the squalid privately run Texas prison by Idaho authorities trying to ease inmate overcrowding in their own state. His death exposed what had been Idaho's standard practice for dealing with inmates sent to out-of-state prisons: Out of sight, out of mind. It also raised questions about a company hired to operate prisons in 15 states, despite reports of abusive guards and terrible sanitation. Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector. More than 140,000 U.S. prison beds are in private hands, and inmates' rights groups allege many such penitentiaries tolerate deplorable conditions and skimp on services to increase profits. "They cut corners because the bottom line is making money," said Caylor Rolling, prison program director at Partnership for Safety and Justice in Portland, Ore., a group that promotes prison alternatives. Payne, 43, was placed in solitary confinement because he escaped from the prison in December by scaling a fence and eluding capture for a week. He was among Idaho inmates sent to the prison in Spur, Texas, run by a Florida-based company called the GEO Group. The business operates more than 50 prisons across the United States as well as in Australia and South Africa. Soon after Payne's suicide, the Idaho Department of Correction's health care director inspected the prison and declared it the worst facility he had ever seen. Don Stockman called Payne's cell unacceptable and the rest of the Dickens County Correctional Center "beyond repair." "The physical environment ... would have only enhanced the inmate's depression that could have been a major contributing factor in his suicide," he wrote in a report on Payne's death. Stockman said the warden at Dickens ruled "based on verbal and physical intimidation" and that guards showed no concern for the living conditions. After Idaho's complaints, GEO reassigned warden Ron Alford, who told the AP he was later fired. He insisted GEO did not provide enough money to make necessary improvements. "They denied me everything. To buy a pencil with GEO, it took three signatures. They're cheap," Alford said in an interview. He disputes Stockman's findings on his treatment of Idaho inmates. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez declined to comment on Alford's performance and would say only that the company had been working to address Idaho officials' concerns. But on Thursday, the state announced plans to move 125 inmates from Dickens to other facilities, citing the poor living conditions. The private prison business has been booming as the federal government seeks space to house more criminals and illegal immigrants. "Sometimes it may be a better situation for the inmates, and sometimes it's not," said prison consultant Douglas Lansing, a former warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J. "Monitoring is a vital component. You can't just move them out of town and forget them." That appears to be largely what happened with Idaho's inmates. The prisoners were sent to Dickens in August from another GEO-run Texas prison after complaints about abuse by guards. But in the following seven months, Idaho sent an inspector to Texas only once. That inspection found major problems, including virtually no substance-abuse treatment, and a complete lack of Idaho-sanctioned anger-management classes and pre-release programs. There's no evidence the inspector's recommendations were followed. And no one from Idaho visited the prison again until after Payne's suicide. Most of the time, the Idaho prison employee responsible for monitoring the GEO contract used only the telephone and e-mail to handle grievances, which also included complaints about inadequate church services, poor food and limited recreation time. Each time, Alford insisted everything was under control, according to correspondence reviewed by the AP. The new director of the Idaho prison system concedes his department did not adequately review the inmates' treatment when he took office in January. "If I had to do it over again, I would have," Director Brent Reinke said. Former Director Vaughn Killeen said he couldn't afford more aggressive monitoring during his term that ended in December. "We weren't happy about the things that were going on down there," Killeen said. "We didn't have that level of budget to accommodate full-time monitors." Some other states are more vigilant. Washington state, for instance, has 1,000 inmates in Arizona and Minnesota and places full-time inspectors at the prisons. A superintendent visits every six weeks. Problems with GEO prisons are not limited to Dickens. Elsewhere in Texas, a female inmate's family sued GEO in 2006 after she committed suicide at the Val Verde County Jail near the Mexican border. LeTisha Tapia alleged she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a GEO guard after reporting to the warden that guards allowed male and female inmates to have sex. In March, an investigation into sex abuse allegations at another GEO-run Texas prison led to the firing of a guard who was a convicted sex offender. And at GEO prisons in Illinois and Indiana, hundreds of inmates rioted this past spring. The complaints have not hurt the company's balance sheet. It reported profits of $30 million in 2006, four times the amount reported in 2005. Inmates at Dickens say conditions have improved since Payne's suicide. Hot and cold water problems have been fixed, and cleanliness was judged "adequate," according to a May 31 report by a new Idaho contract monitor. But prisoners still complain about sewage from adjacent cells, poor medical and dental care, and a lack of educational programs. Inmates like Robert Coulter, who was convicted of robbery, say authorities should have acted sooner. "They basically put us down here and just dumped us," he said.

July 5, 2007 AP
State prison officials say 125 Idaho inmates in a private Texas prison are due to make their fourth move since 2005, following a suicide in March, problems with a guard passing contraband to inmates and the former warden's ouster. The inmates, who were moved out of state two years ago due to overcrowding in Idaho lockups, are now at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, where they've been since Aug. 7, 2006. Concerns over conditions at Dickens, an aging county jail run as a prison by Florida-based The GEO Group, prompted this latest move, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said Thursday. "The problems we've had in Texas reflect the challenge of managing out of state. We believe Idaho inmates are best managed at home in Idaho," Reinke said. He plans in September to introduce a proposal to build a new 1,500-bed private prison in Idaho to create more space for the state's 7,000 inmates. Reinke hopes to move 69 of the Dickens prisoners soon to another GEO-run prison, the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, where similar problems haven't occurred. About 304 Idaho inmates are already there, but that facility is making space for more. The remaining 56 at Dickens could go to another GEO facility elsewhere. Reinke didn't specify where that prison is located. He said the date of the move will be withheld until it's complete. The inmates in Texas were originally moved from Idaho in 2005, going first to Minnesota. Space limitations there forced them to be relocated in 2006 to a GEO-run prison in Newton, Texas, where problems emerged immediately, including beatings by guards. That prompted Idaho to request the move to Dickens and Bill Clayton last August. But problems continued at Dickens, Idaho Correction Department officials said. Sex offender Scot Noble Payne escaped in December, remaining on the run for a week before he was recaptured. Payne then killed himself March 4. Idaho sent prison inspectors to Texas after Payne's death, and concerns that emerged over conditions at Dickens prompted complaints about warden Ron Alford, who was relieved of his post and sent to another GEO facility. And more recently, a Dickens prison guard was convicted in May in a Texas state court of providing contraband to an Idaho prisoner. That guard was fired last December. GEO installed new management at the facility after Idaho's complaints in March, but Reinke said moving the inmates is still a priority. "IDOC remains concerned about Dickens' operation and has been working hard over the past four months to find alternatives," the state agency said in a statement. In an e-mail statement to The Associated Press, GEO said it's working to rectify problems at Dickens. "GEO strives to provide quality correctional and detention management services in a safe and secure environment consistent with contractual requirements and applicable standards," spokesman Pablo Paez said.

June 6, 2007 AP
Under terms of his contraband sentence, a Texas prison guard who provided illegal materials to Idaho inmates will only go to prison if he violates conditions of his release. Those conditions include staying out of “honky tonks” and “beer joints,” according to court documents. John Ratliffe, a former guard at the Dickens County Correctional Center where hundreds of Idaho inmates are housed, is also implicated in providing assistance to an inmate’s escape. But Ratliffe has denied knowing Payne planned to escape. Footprints matched to Payne, who later committed suicide, were found near Ratliffe’s home. Dickens County prosecutors couldn’t be reached for comment on whether Ratliffe faces additional charges related to the escape. Attempts to reach Ratliffe were unsuccessful. His telephone number in Paducah isn’t listed. The 43-year-old Payne was among inmates shipped to Dickens and another nearby facility in Littlefield, Texas, in August 2006 due to problems they experienced at another Texas facility, the Newton County Correctional Center. Those included incidents in which the inmates were punched and doused with pepper spray by guards. Both prisons are operated by The GEO Group of Florida. GEO officials said they took quick action upon learning in December about Ratliffe’s contraband operation. It included setting up a post office box where at least some prisoners’ families sent items or money to be transferred to inmates, according to documents. “When we have incidents of this kind, we conduct a full investigation, and if disciplinary action is required, we take that action properly, and that’s what we did in this case,” said Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman. Ratliffe was placed on unpaid leave, then fired, Paez said. Records show a chaotic scene in Paducah before Payne was finally cornered by search dogs in a nearby riverbed. Ratliffe allegedly threatened to commit suicide shortly after searchers found Payne’s footprints near his backyard fence, prompting Texas Rangers to transfer Ratliffe to the local courthouse “where a mental health warrant was signed by the judge,” according to the GEO report. Idaho officials said they learned of Ratliffe’s activities after Payne’s capture. “We found out about it on Dec. 11 in a conversation between Warden Ron Alford and our contract compliance person Sharon Lamm,” said Jeff Ray, a spokesman for Idaho prisons. Alford was transferred in March to another GEO prison, after complaints from Idaho about conditions at Dickens.

June 6, 2007 AP
A private prison guard in Texas who company officials say helped an Idaho inmate escape by providing an envelope stuffed with money has been convicted in a separate case of providing contraband to another Idaho prisoner. John Ratliffe, a former guard at the Dickens County Correctional Center where hundreds of Idaho inmates are housed due to overcrowding at home, was sentenced last month to five years probation, 120 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine for giving cigarettes to Idaho inmate Patterson Franklin, according to court records obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Ratliffe pleaded guilty. The problems surfaced starting Dec. 3 when sex offender Scot Noble Payne escaped through a prison kitchen door and scaled a fence. Afterward, Ratliffe acknowledged to his bosses at the prison run by Florida-based The GEO Group that he used Franklin as an intermediary to provide illegal items, including tobacco, underwear, sex tapes, music — and at least $200 Payne had with him when he was caught Dec. 10, according to an eight-page report compiled by GEO officials following the escape. Payne committed suicide March 4 after weeks in an isolation cell. He had been isolated as punishment for his escape. Officials say guard can avoid prison sentence.

May 1, 2007 Spokesman Review
The warden of a private Texas prison housing Idaho inmates has been "relieved of his duties" after complaints from Idaho. The Dickens County Correctional Center, which houses 125 Idaho inmates, made the change after an Idaho corrections team visited the large, older county jail near Lubbock, Texas, in March and reported "deficiencies." Idaho Corrections Director Brent Reinke said problems included an absence of required educational and treatment programs, inadequate out-of-cell time, inappropriate lighting, and problems with food, clothing and cleanliness. Also, an inmate from Ada County who escaped in December and recaptured committed suicide at the facility in early March. "The feedback I got from the team was that what they were concerned with was the Texas style of justice," Reinke said. "Texas justice is different than Idaho justice. It just is. And we want our inmates handled according to Idaho justice. "Ninety-eight percent of those folks are coming back to our communities. … Our mission is to keep Idaho safe. … We don't want to make the matter worse, so that they come back more violent or more angry." The state Board of Correction voted unanimously Monday to explore private prison options in Idaho as an alternative to sending inmates out of state in the future. Dickens is one of two Texas lockups operated by GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corp., to which Idaho inmates were moved after problems at another GEO facility in Newton County, Texas, last year. The Newton County lockup saw two escapes, a demonstration in which 85 Idaho inmates refused to return to their cells for hours in protest over conditions, and the discipline of three prison employees after jailers roughed up and pepper-sprayed six Idaho inmates. Idaho has 431 inmates housed out of state due to overcrowding in its prison system – 125 at Dickens, 304 at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, and two elsewhere. Reinke said GEO Group has been responsive to the complaints, and the new acting warden has made improvements. Complaints have dropped off since that change was made last month. But members of the state Board of Correction were concerned on Monday. "They're not meeting the terms of the contract," said board Chairwoman Robin Sandy. "Maybe I'm just used to enforcing a contract a little more aggressively." Sharon Lamm, deputy administrator of management services for Idaho Corrections, told the board conditions were much improved at a follow-up visit in April. Idaho pays $51 per inmate per day in Texas. The average cost in Idaho is $48 per day. Idaho is seeking proposals for additional out-of-state prison beds for overflow inmates. The deadline for proposals is today. Reinke said the most recent estimates show Idaho will need 5,200 more beds in the next 10 years. But Sandy said placing inmates out of state could become prohibitively expensive because California is poised to send 8,000 of its inmates out of state. "We all know what that's going to do to the price of beds," she said. She proposed that Idaho look into contracting for private prison space in state, which would require a change in state law. Idaho has one privately operated prison, but the facility is owned by the state. "It's something we need to discuss," Sandy told the board. "I've spoken to the governor's office about it. They seem to like the idea." Board member Jay Nielsen said, "I don't think we're going to get $60 million out of the Legislature to build one, so our back's to the wall – if we're going to have a new prison, it's going to have to be a private one." The board voted unanimously to seek more information on that option. Jack Van Valkenburgh, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said, "I'm less concerned with whether it's a public or private entity than with whether conditions are adequate and constitutional, and whether there are adequate programs to return inmates to society in a productive manner." The Idaho inmate who committed suicide at the Texas lockup, Scot Noble Payne, 43, was found in a shower at 1 a.m. with fatal razor wounds. He was serving seven to 20 years for lewd and lascivious conduct. Matt EchoHawk, staff attorney for the Idaho ACLU, said his group received complaints from about one in five Idaho inmates at the Dickens facility after Payne's escape in December. Many said they were stuck in their cells without opportunities for rehabilitation. "The prison officials would say it was due to weather or security, something like that, but it wasn't happening, they wouldn't be out of their cells," EchoHawk said.

March 5, 2007 Idaho Statesman
An Idaho inmate housed in a Texas prison was found dead from apparently self-inflicted wounds early Sunday morning, an Idaho Department of Correction spokeswoman said. Guards in the Dickens County Correctional Center found Scot Noble Payne, 43, slumped in a shower, bleeding and unresponsive about midnight Mountain Time, Teresa Jones said. The fatal wounds were inflicted with a razor, she said. He was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. after unsuccessful attempts to revive him. Payne was serving time on an Ada County charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under 16, Jones said. He was isolated from other inmates at the time of his death because of a December escape, she said. Payne apparently scaled a fence Dec. 3. He was captured on Dec. 10 after eluding the Texas Rangers, helicopters from the Texas Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement agents and private prison workers. Payne was one of about 100 Idaho inmates housed at the correctional center near Spur, Texas. Idaho inmates have been in the facility since July 2005. Payne transferred there in August. He was sentenced to 20 years, with seven mandatory, in December 2002.

December 11, 2006 AP
An Idaho inmate who escaped a private West Texas prison was captured after a week on the run when authorities caught up to him at a ranch. Authorities arrested Scot Noble Payne, 43, on Sunday at a ranch near the small town of Paducah, said Daniel Hawthorne, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in Childress. Payne escaped Dec. 3 from the Dickens County Correctional Center. The facility, which is run by Florida-based Geo Group Inc., is located in Spur, about 60 miles east of Lubbock. Prison officials said Payne, who was serving time for aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious conduct, scaled the facility's fence. He fled when temperatures were in the mid-20s, apparently without any extra clothing. For a week, the fugitive eluded searches by the Texas Rangers, helicopters from the Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement agents and private prison workers. Hawthorne said several reports of sightings focused searchers on the Paducah area, which is 50 miles northeast of the detention center. Authorities closed down sections of highways and continued scanning the area by helicopter, he said. Dogs eventually tracked Payne to the ranch. Payne is one of more than 460 Idaho inmates who have been shipped to Texas or other states since last year due to overcrowding in Idaho prisons. Idaho inmates at private prisons in Texas have been the subject of controversy, with a previous breakout in June and allegations of abuse that preceded the firing of some Geo Group staff and the transfer of inmates to other prisons — including Dickens County.

December 5, 2006 AP
Texas authorities continue to search for an Idaho inmate who escaped from a privately-run prison in subfreezing temperatures. Scot Noble Payne escaped from the Dickens County Correctional Center at about 7:30 p.m. last night. Idaho authorities say Payne left a shirt in the fence he's believed to have scaled. Teresa Jones, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Correction, says "Payne had no extra clothing when he escaped and temperatures are near freezing." The search for Payne included helicopters, dogs and road blocks.

December 4, 2006 AP
West Texas authorities were searching in subfreezing temperatures late Sunday for an Idaho man who escaped from a privately operated prison in Spur. Scott Noble Payne, 43, escaped from the Dickens County Correctional Center at about 7:30 p.m. CST, said Janie Walker, a dispatcher with the Dickens County Sheriff's Office. State and local authorities from surrounding counties joined the two-man Dickens County Sheriff's Office in the search for Payne, Walker said. The search involved helicopters, dogs and road blocks. Jail staff members believe Payne scaled the facility's fence, the Idaho Department of Corrections said in a news release. Authorities believe he did not have extra clothing. Temperatures in the region had dropped to the mid-20s degrees by 11:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Payne was serving time for Idaho charges of aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious conduct, according to the Idaho Corrections Department. He was one of about 100 Idaho inmates being held at the Spur facility, which is located about 60 miles east of Lubbock. The prison, which is operated by Florida-based The Geo Group, Inc., is designed for minimum- to maximum-security levels, according to the Geo Group's Web site. It has a capacity of 489 adult males.

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

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

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

Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility, Eagle Mountain, California
November 26, 2011 The Daily Press
The state has canceled its contract with the privately operated Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility, putting about 150 workers out of a job. Desert View's contract termination officially takes effect Wednesday, though prison employees told the Daily Press that The Geo Group Inc. has been preparing to deactivate the prison at Rancho and Aster roads since May. The 643-bed medium-security prison is shuttering its doors as part of California’s realignment plan, which responds to federal orders to reduce state prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for tens of thousands of low-level offenders to county governments. To help deal with the new influx of inmates under local supervision, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is encouraging counties to enter into their own contracts with more than a dozen former CCFs. The CCFs had generally housed inmates with sentences shorter than 18 months, parole violators and offenders with scheduled release dates — the same types of nonviolent, non-sexual or non-serious offenders now serving out sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. “We hope that counties contract with these facilities to save jobs and ease inmate housing concerns that many counties may have,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Toyama said. But San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials say they’re not planning to privatize jail beds. The math just doesn’t pencil out, according to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “The issue with taking advantage of private prisons or private jail facilities has come up over and over again throughout the years; however, it’s not something that the county is considering,” Bachman said. “It’s too costly and there’s just not the funding really even to consider something like that.” The California State Association of Counties has created a document outlining potential beds at the former CCFs, but counties statewide have been hesitant to exercise that option. The Geo Group had operated six of the nine privately run CCFs that lost their state contracts, according to CSAC. Five other CCFs were run by local governments. The facilities ranged from around 100 employees to more than 600, according to Toyama.

East Mississippi Correctional Facility, Lauderdale County, Mississippi
October 22, 2012 San francisco Chronicle
MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — Three guards at the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility are charged with embezzlement after authorities say the men lied about their work hours. Lauderdale County sheriff's deputies arrested 22-year-old Markiezth Tillman, 27-year-old William David Smith and 24-year-old Derrick Brown on Thursday. Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun says Monday that the men found a way to manipulate an electronic time-keeping system to show they were working when they weren't. He says Management & Training Corp., the Utah company that recently took over management of the prison, discovered the violations and called law enforcement. Calhoun says the violations had been happening for less than a month. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for MTC, says the men are on leave while the investigation continues. The prison is in Lost Gap, west of Meridian.

June 12, 2012 WTOK
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration says it has cited The GEO Group Inc. with six safety and health violations, totaling $104,000 in fines, at East Mississippi Correctional Facility. A report released by OSHA Tuesday says the GEO Group exposed prison employees to workplace violence and failed to take measures to reduce the risk. It says while prisons are obviously dangerous workplaces, the employer is still required to take every reasonable precaution to protect corrections officers and other staff against safety hazards. OSHA's findings were based on a December 2011 inspection stemming from a complaint about the facility. The report goes on to say the GEO Group also failed to provide adequate staffing, to fix malfunctioning cell door locks, or to provide proper safety training. OSHA says these were all willful violations, meaning there was intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements. The GEO Group has 15 business days to respond to these charges. Newscenter 11 has reached out to GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez for a comment, but we have yet to receive a response.

June 7, 2012 WTOK
MTC will officially take over operation at East Mississippi Correctional Facility on July 9th. The company got its start working with young people outside the corrections system. The Vice President of Corrections at MTC explained the company's history via a video news release. "We started 30 years ago by providing training for young adults to succeed in life," says Odie Washington, "we've taken that and applied it to our corrections division. "All you are going to see is a change in the name over the door," that's the opinion of Frank Smith, a private prison watchdog, "it's not going to be a change in operations." Smith works as a consultant for Private Corrections Working Group. "The problem is there is such turnover that there is no mentoring process so everybody is just kind of new on the job, and they don't know what to do when the problems arise." MTC officials say they plan on providing EMCF with all the resources it needs to operate effectively. "We'll provide each facility the resources necessary for them to operate safely and effectively," says Washington, and we look forward to applying these high standards to our new Mississippi facilities as well." Only time will tell whether MTC will have a successful run in the Magnolia State.

June 7, 2012 AP
A Utah-based private prison operator will take over management of three Mississippi correctional institutions beginning in July. Management & Training Corporation of Centreville, Utah, has signed 10-year operating contracts for the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community beginning July 2; Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove on July 9; and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs on Aug. 13. Financial details of the contracts were not made public. The announcement came Thursday by the company and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The Corrections Department and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., in April agreed to end GEO's management contract at the three prisons. At the time Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told the AP that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. "The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking forward to a great partnership with MTC," Epps said in a statement Thursday. "There is a need for different types of prisons, including state and regional as well as private facilities in Mississippi. MTC will be held to the same high standards as set by MDOC and I feel extremely confident that MTC will do a great job." "We look forward to the opportunity to work in Mississippi," said MTC senior vice president of corrections Odie Washington in the statement. "We have partnered with state and federal governments in operating correctional facilities for the past 25 years, and have a strong record of providing safe, secure and well-run facilities."

May 20, 2012 WLBT
A celebration in Smith Park commemorated changes at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The Friends and Family Members of Youth Incarcerated at Walnut Grove held a rally Sunday morning. Parents of children at the facility thanked department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps for ending the private prison contract with the GEO Group. They said their children were mistreated under the company's management from being denied medical treatment to education. "I would like to urge the commissioner to continue to do the right thing by our children and to not allow another private, for profit company to take over Walnut Grove," said Walnut Grove parent Kimberly Carson. "The GEO Group is making money off of these young men. They don't seem willing to spend any of that money to make sure they have been properly rehabilitated," said Walnut Grove parent Marietta Larry. GEO managed Walnut Grove and the East Mississippi and Marshall County Correctional facilities until last month.

April 20, 2012 AP
The Mississippi Department of Corrections says GEO Group Inc., one of the country's largest private prison operators, will no longer manage three facilities in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company said it was backing out of a contract to manage the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community by July 19. Company officials told The Associated Press on Friday that it had nothing else to say. Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told the AP on Friday that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. Epps said he would expect GEO Group to end its ties to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs by July 20. "We feel this may be a golden opportunity to provide a better price for the taxpayers of the state and at the same time maybe do a better job in the operation of the facilities," Epps said. "That's what I would like to see." Epps said there was some concern at MDOC about incidents at all three prisons. The Walnut Grove facility is presently under a federal court order to remove juvenile inmates amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse. That court order came in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against Walnut Grove in 2010. GEO Group has repeatedly declined to comment on the lawsuit. Epps has said his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County by Oct. 1. He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at that prison now, so there is no need for a new building. Walnut Grove also houses adults. They would remain there under a settlement that ended a 2010 lawsuit. Epps said Friday that local authority boards deal with management contracts at EMCF and Walnut Grove with MDOC help. He said MDOC works directly with vendors at Marshall County. "There are a lot of these management companies out there. We're reaching out to those private operators to see what the best proposal is we might get," he said. In its announcement, GEO chairman/CEO George C. Zoley said EMCF was "financially underperforming." GEO Group vice president Pablo E. Paez said Friday the company would have no other comment.

March 28, 2012 Vicksburg Post
When Vicksburg native Stuart Brooks was killed Feb. 21 in his prison cell at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a family member's old fear was proved prophetic. "Stuart is very much in need of psychological help," Brooks' aunt wrote in 1995, before he was sentenced for the sexual battery of her 9-year-old son. "I know that with his mentality, he would not survive in a prison, someone would probably kill him. I don't think he'll ever be able to function in a normal society." Brooks was 18 when he was convicted in Warren County Circuit Court of assaulting his young cousin. Writing to then-Judge Frank Vollor as part of Vollor's pre-sentencing investigation, Brooks' aunt was torn — angry about what happened to her son but concerned for her nephew. "He's going to need help for the rest of his life and should be locked up that long," she wrote. Instead, Brooks was released after serving 15 years of a 30-year sentence, was re-arrested and sent back to prison for failing to register as a sex offender. About halfway through that three-year sentence, he was strangled, an autopsy showed, at the Lost Gap facility. His cellmate has been charged in his death. With Brooks' death, all those close to the 1995 case are gone.

November 2, 2011 WTOK
The company that owns a local prison says it will not talk about any of the problems going on there right now. An inmate at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility died there over the weekend, apparently by suicide. A guard was recently stabbed by an inmate. It's the latest in a string of violent acts at the prison. After two days of attempts to contact the GEO Group for a comment on the problems, we got a response Wednesday. Geo Group officials say as a matter of policy, they will not speak to the media.

October 31, 2011 WTOK
An inmate at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility took his own life, according to authorities. The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, which investigates incidents there, said 27-year-old Bobby Wilkerson hung himself in his cell using bed sheets. They say he left a note in a Bible beside his bed. The death is the latest in a string of incidents at the prison. A guard was recently stabbed with a shank. And local officials are looking for some changes. Since 1999, Sheriff Billy Sollie says his department has responded to as many as 60 calls for help at EMCF, located on Highway 80 at Lost Gap. Sollie says the inmate population has doubled since the facility opened. "You know, with the Mississippi Department of Corrections shutting down some of their violent units that were traditionally held in the northern part of the state, many of those inmates are transferred here to the Lauderdale County area," said Sollie. Sollie attributes that to the the increased level of violence reported at EMCF. But Sollie says he has no control over the situation. "It's not our responsibility to run that facility. It's our responsibility to investigate crimes that are reported to us," Sollie said. But having to investigate so many incidents at EMCF is hindering efforts to conduct its regular duties, according to the sheriff. "We would certainly like to talk with the state of Mississippi about them employing a full-time investigator that would investigate the major crimes, your felony crimes that occur on that facility," said Sollie. "And free up my investigators to work for the citizens of Lauderdale County." Over the last couple of days, Newscenter 11 has received numerous phone calls from relatives of inmates at EMCF, who claim that inmates aren't being treated properly. We contacted both the warden and deputy warden for this story. Neither opted to comment. East Mississippi Correctional Facility is owned by the Geo Group. It's one of 116 facilities the company operates world-wide. It opened back in 1999, and has about 1500 beds.

June 27, 2011 Clarion Ledger
The family of a man found hanging in a cell on Feb. 19 at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County plans to sue the state over his death, based on the results of a second autopsy. The Mississippi Medical Examiner's office said Sammy Robinson's death was consistent with suicide. But a second autopsy performed at the family's request by Dr. Matthias Okoye of the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Science said Robinson had blunt force trauma to the upper and lower extremities as well as sharp force trauma to the right upper and lower extremities, according to Warren Martin Jr., an attorney for family members. An intent-to-sue letter has been issued to the state Department of Corrections and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., which operates the prison. In the notice, Martin said Okoye noted several abrasions and contusions all over Robinson's body. MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps said Monday he can't discuss Robinson's case because of the pending legal action.

April 1, 2006 Meridian Star
A former guard at East Mississippi Correctional Facility at Lost Gap received a three-year suspended sentence this week in Lauderdale County Circuit Court for helping two prisoners escape last year. Tomeka Lashae Brown, 26, of Porterville pleaded guilty Monday to aiding the escape of a felon. Prisoners Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, escaped Oct. 17 after apparently using a saw blade to cut their way out of the facility. They were captured about 24 hours later at a hotel in Northport, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. Malone was serving a life sentence for a capital murder in Hinds County. Roy was serving a life sentence for a murder in Jackson County. In her petition to plead guilty, Brown admitted driving the two men to Tuscaloosa and paying for their motel room. Brown was indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury in November; Lost Gap prison officials announced she had been fired in December. Circuit Judge Lester Williamson Jr. handed down the sentence, which could have been as severe as 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Roy and Malone were each indicted on a charge of escape, which could add five years to their life sentences. A third inmate, 24-year-old Kenneth Johnson, was indicted on a charge of aiding the escape of a felon; he is serving a 71/2-year sentence for a burglary in Lawrence County. None of these cases has been resolved. The Geo Group Inc., a Florida-based company, operates East Mississippi Correctional Facility, which can house as many as 1,000 inmates, under a contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The prison specializes in housing prisoners with psychiatric problems.

March 31, 2006 WREG
A former Texas prison official has taken over as warden of the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County. Yesterday was the first day on the job for 51-year-old Dale Caskey, who recently retired after 30 years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Caskey replaced interim warden Darryl Anderson. Caskey's last assignment in Texas was as warden of the Hughes Unit, a maximum-security facility in Gatesville, Texas. The East Mississippi Correctional Facility, located in the Lost Gap community, houses inmates with mental disorders. It's owned by The Geo Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

December 16, 2005 Clarion Ledger
Two guards have been terminated and a supervisor resigned in the wake of the October escape of two inmates serving life sentences for murder at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian. "The message is that if you don't follow policy and procedures, you will be terminated," Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said. Epps said guard Tomeka Brown was fired for providing transportation from the Mississippi/Alabama line to Tuscaloosa for escaped inmates Gregory Malone and Christopher Roy. Epps said Brown apparently had a personal relationship with Malone. Brown, who was indicted last month, is charged with accessory before the fact to escape for aiding an abetting the inmates. She is out on a $100,000 bond. Epps said guard Lakeisha Gowdy was fired after an investigation determined she had not physically counted inmates to ensure they were actually in the cells. Sgt. Cheryl Thornton resigned before being terminated, Epps said. In Thornton's case, daily physical counts of inmates weren't being performed as required, Epps said. The two inmates used a saw blade to cut their way out of the facility.

November 25, 2005 WREG
Lauderdale County authorities say there appears to be no foul play in death of an East Mississippi Correctional Facility inmate. The body of 32-year-old Reginald Williams, of Meridian, was found hanging in his cell yesterday. The sheriff's department is investigating the death and waiting for autopsy results from the Mississippi Mortuary in Pearl.

November 19, 2005 Meridian Star
It's the mid-1990s. The number of inmates in Mississippi's penal system is increasing, and state officials need to build more prisons - or contract with private companies to build more prisons. Meanwhile, Lauderdale County and Meridian officials are looking for ways to improve the local economy and create jobs. It seemed like a good match. The state needed a place to build a prison and Lauderdale had a readily available workforce and land that needed no rezoning. When city and county officials began putting together a proposal, they hoped the new prison would provide an influx of jobs that would only increase over time. They also hoped it would help Naval Air Station Meridian. New U.S. Navy regulations prohibited student pilots from performing maintenance tasks at the base. It was hoped that non-violent prisoners could do some of the work - saving the base $300,000 to $500,000. The Wackenhut Corp., now The Geo Group Inc., won the contract to build and operate East Mississippi Correctional Facility in southwest Lauderdale County's Lost Gap community. The facility accepted its first prisoners in April 1999. Measuring outcomes: District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith said the initial estimate was that the facility would create up to 350 jobs. It currently employs 220 people in positions ranging from security officers to medical staff to administrators. The partnership between the Navy base and the prison never happened, according to Susan Junkins, public affairs officer at NAS Meridian. "To the best of my knowledge I have seen no impact that it has made to my business," said David Hamilton, owner of the Best Western in Meridian. Ray Joyner, manager of the Howard Johnson motel in Meridian, concurred: "I can't tell any difference in business. It certainly doesn't seem any different, but I wouldn't call it a major tourist attraction or industry, either." Wayne Gasson, chief of labor market information with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said given the relatively small number of jobs available, it is hard to gauge the prison's economic impact. "If a facility like this one opened or closed, it would be significant to the people that worked there - but as far as it impacting an entire area, it probably isn't going to have much of an impact," Gasson said. The East Mississippi Correctional Facility at Lost Gap employs 220 people. Interim Warden Darryl Anderson reports that the annual turnover rate at the facility is 65 percent. Here's a look at positions available and their hourly pay range. Security posts $7-$10.95 Clerical staff $7-$10 Food service $7-$15.35 Program staff $11.06-$18.45 Maintenance staff $9-$17 Medical staff $7.35-$20.95

October 29, 2005 Meridian Star
Residents of the Lost Gap community were uneasy in April 1999, when the first prisoners began arriving at East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a private prison that brought inmates with mental disorders to their quiet area of southeast Lauderdale County. Since then, there have been bumps in the road - violence inside the prison, deaths, indictments of inmates and, most recently, escapes. When two convicted murderers escaped from the EMCF this month, it sparked a wide mix of emotions among residents of Lost Gap. In addition to the escapes, EMCF has been the site of at least five incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence since 2002. Three of these incidents led to inmates' deaths. Also, in February 2002, inmates created a two-hour disturbance when they refused to return to their cells. Correctional officers were forced to use chemical agents to subdue them, and 29 inmates were transferred to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman as a result. Current District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith, who was also on the board at the time of the contract's approval, estimated the facility would create 350 jobs. Lost Gap resident Robert Maxey doesn't share Florey's optimistic view. "Sure, it provides a few jobs, but you can find jobs in lots of other places. I really don't see the benefit in having it here," Maxey said. Community residents tried to derail the project, but to no avail. When Maxey's wife, Barbara, was given a tour of the facility in 1998, she was told that escapes would be impossible. Her skepticism at that remark was confirmed on Monday, Oct. 17, however, when convicted killers Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, with the apparent assistance of a prison guard and a fellow inmate, escaped through sawed window bars. "My granddaughter was scared to death," Mrs. Maxey said. "If they hadn't captured the two men, she likely would have never gone outside again.

October 30, 2005 AP
With two murderers escaping in the past month, residents here have begun carrying weapons and apprehensions have grown about the East Mississippi Correctional Facility. The private prison, opened in April 1999, houses prisoners with mental disorders in southeast Lauderdale County. On Oct. 17, convicted killers Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, escaped from the facility, allegedly with the assistance of a prison guard and a fellow inmate. The men escaped through sawed window bars. They were caught about 24 hours later. That was the second escape this year - Earl Blue escaped from the facility on April 8. He was caught hours later, but residents are not satisfied with the level of safety. The prison has had patterns of violence within its walls leading to both deaths and indictments of inmates. The facility has had five incidents of inmate violence since 2002 - three of which resulted in inmate deaths. Many residents have opposed the presence of the EMCF since it was proposed in the mid-1990s. "It's made a lot of people more apprehensive," said John Griffin, 67, a retired Marine and former Lost Gap fire chief. "My mother-in-law lived here when they first brought the prison here, and she was scared to death. And now you've got more people walking around carrying a gun because of the place. I don't go out of this house without carrying a gun."

October 23, 2005 Clarion Ledger
A second prison employee is being eyed in an investigation of two convicted murderers' escape from the East Mississippi Correctional Facility last week. A prison guard has been charged, but Chris Epps, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Saturday "there's been some conversation about another employee." "We won't know until the investigation is concluded. I would hope within a couple weeks we should have everything wrapped up," he said. On Friday, inmate Kenneth Nelson Johnson Jr., 23, who is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence for a burglary conviction in Lawrence County, was charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. He is the fourth person charged in relation to the escape. Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, both serving life sentences for murder, fled Monday from the prison on Old U.S. 80 West at the Lost Gap community. They were captured about 24 hours later at a hotel in Northport, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. Prison guard Tomeka Brown, 25, of Porterville, was arrested and charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. She posted $100,000 bond from the Lauderdale County jail Thursday. Epps has said Malone and Roy did not share a cell. He said he believes someone helped the escaped convicts by sawing window bars, allowing them to get to the prison's roof and escape after cutting a set of camera wires. Neither he nor Calhoun knows how wide a net the investigators will have to cast, Epps said. Despite the conversations about a possible second employee, no employees other than Brown have been arrested or disciplined, Epps said. Lauderdale County and Epps' office are coordinating the investigation.

October 22, 2005 Meridian Star
An East Mississippi Correctional Facility inmate was charged Friday with helping two fellow prisoners escape earlier this week. Kenneth Nelson Johnson Jr., 23, who is serving a 71/2-year sentence for a burglary conviction in Lawrence County, was charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. He is the fourth person to be charged in connection with the Monday escape. Lauderdale County Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun said he expects others to be charged as the investigation continues. Porterville resident Tomeka Brown, 25, a correctional officer at the private prison for inmates with mental problems, was arrested at the same hotel later Tuesday and charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. She posted $100,000 bond and was released from the Lauderdale County jail Thursday. Officials with the Department of Corrections, which contracts with EMCF parent company The GEO Group Inc. to house state prisoners, could not be reached for comment Friday. State Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told reporters earlier this week that Malone and Roy did not share a cell. Epps said he believes someone helped the escapees by sawing window bars, allowing them to get to the prison's roof and escape after cutting a set of camera wires.

October 19, 2005 Meridian Star
Two inmates who were captured after escaping from the East Mississippi Correctional Facility on Monday have been transferred to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, who were serving life sentences at the Lost Gap prison, were captured by deputy U.S. marshals early Tuesday morning at an Econo Lodge in Northport, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. The two were discovered missing shortly after 12:50 a.m. Monday at the privately operated prison for inmates with mental health problems. Prison employee Tomeka Brown, who investigators believe played a key role in the inmates' escape, is currently in custody at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility. Brown, 25, of Porterville and a correctional officer at EMCF, has been charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. She was behind held on $100,000 bond Wednesday. Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps has said that other employees of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, including interim Warden Darryl Anderson, could face disciplinary action. However, MDOC officials wouldn't be more specific Wednesday.

October 19, 2005 Clarion Ledger
Two convicted murderers and a Mississippi corrections officer accused of assisting in their escape from a Meridian prison were arrested in Alabama, Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said Tuesday. Investigators believe Tomeka Lashae Brown helped Gregory Malone and Christopher Roy rent a room at the Econo Lodge Hotel at 1930 McFarland Blvd., in Northport, Ala., Sollie said. The inmates were discovered missing from the East Mississippi Correctional Facility early Monday morning. Brown, 25, of DeKalb is charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. All three are being held without bond at the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Malone, 26, and Roy, 24, will face charges of felony escape, Mississippi officials said. Sollie would not give any other details on Brown's alleged role in the inmates' escape from the prison, which houses inmates with mental health problems. Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Tuesday some employees - including interim Warden Darryl Anderson - may be fired upon completion of an investigation. Epps said he had "grave" concerns about hourly inmate counts, and window and bar checks. He said he believes someone helped Malone and Roy, who were not housed together, by sawing window bars, allowing them to get to the prison's roof and escape after cutting a set of camera wires. "You have to check those bars every 24 hours with a rubber hammer. The way they were able to saw out of that prison, it didn't happen overnight," he said. Epps said security cameras show the inmates leaving around 1 a.m.

August 12, 2005 Sun Herald
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie says three men have been charged with murder in the stabbing death of an inmate at East Mississippi Correctional Facility are charged in the murder of fellow inmate Stanley Johnson. Sollie said Friday that John Pickens, 35; John Sparkman, 30; and Kelvin Cage, 36, each face a charge of murder in the stabbing death of Johnson on Sunday. Sollie said all three are inmates at the privately run prison. Sollie said the killing apparently dates back to a disagreement between Pickens and Johnson, when the two were incarcerated in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. "All indications are this was a planned assault on the victim," the sheriff said.

August 10, 2005 Clarion Ledger
Lauderdale County authorities said Tuesday they hope to make an arrest today in the stabbing death of 43-year-old Stanley Johnson inside the East Mississippi Correctional Facility. "We are anticipating an arrest in the next 24 to 48 hours," Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said. Johnson was serving a life sentence for a 1985 rape conviction in Sunflower County. Warden Larry Greer said Johnson was attacked about 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the privately run prison and died several hours later in a local hospital. Sollie and Greer said several prisoners have been questioned in the stabbing. No weapon has been found, and officials won't go into specifics about their investigation. This is the second time in three years an inmate has been killed in the prison. In 2002, 58-year-old Lonnie Grisham was found bludgeoned to death in his cell. Information on whether Grisham's killer was prosecuted wasn't available Tuesday. The prison is run by the GEO Group Inc., a Florida-based company formerly known as Wackenhut. The GEO Group runs private prisons in 14 states, as well as in South Africa and Australia. In Mississippi, the company also runs the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs, which was the site of the beating death of an inmate by another prisoner in 2001.

August 9, 2005 WAPT
An investigation continues into the stabbing death of an inmate at the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County. The inmate, 42-year-old Stanley Johnson, was serving a life sentence for a rape conviction in Sunflower County. Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler reported that Johnson died Sunday at a Meridian hospital from stab wounds in the chest and both thighs. An autopsy has been ordered. East Mississippi Correctional Facility is located off U.S. Highway 80 in the Lost Gap community. It's privately owned by GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp.

August 8, 2005 Sun Herald
An inmate at the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County has died of stab wounds, says county Coroner Clayton Cobler. Wackenhut operates the facility, a 750-bed prison that opened in April 1999 off U.S. 80 near the Lost Gap community. Cobler said 42-year-old inmate Stanley Johnson was stabbed three times in an incident Sunday. He said Johnson died at a Meridian hospital. Cobler said an investigation is underway. Prison officials have declined to comment.

April 11, 2005 Greenwood Commonwealth
A state inmate serving a 40-year sentence for armed robbery in Leflore County was apprehended without incident Sunday afternoon by the Forest Police Department, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Earl Blue, 27, who escaped from East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian on Friday, will be taken to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. East Mississippi Correctional Facility is a privately run correctional facility operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation of Palm Beach, Fla.

February 26, 2003
Prison emergency personnel used chemical agents to get 29 prisoners to return to their cells at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility Tuesday evening, officials said. Nobody was seriously injured in the disturbance, which lasted for two hours. (AP)

August 21, 2002
Authorities believe an inmate who died at the East Mississippi correctional Facility at Lost Gap was attacked by another prisoner. Lauderdale county chief deputy Mike Mitchell on Tuesday identified the dead inmate at Lonnie Grisham, 58, of Tippah County. (AP)

El Monte Center, El Monte, California
February 1, 2012 San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Despite backlash from residents, the City Council tonight gave a halfway house operator the green light to allow 15 more federal pre-release inmates to move into the Ramona Boulevard facility, under pre-negotiated conditions. The decision followed a public hearing that was held over the course of two meetings, in which community members argued that the addition would negatively affect the city's image. The expansion request was denied by both the Planning Commission and City Council in 2010. The City Council's denial spurred former operator Cornell Companies, which has since been acquired by GEO Group, to launch a lawsuit against the city. If councilmembers didn't approve the request, GEO Group planned to proceed with litigation.

January 5, 2012 Whittier Daily News
Operators of a halfway house will come before the City Council again to ask it reconsider a proposal that would allow 15 more pre-release inmates to move into its facility at 11750 Ramona Blvd. Last year, council members backed the Planning Commission's 3-2 decision to reject the request, which would have increased the number of residents at the facility from 61 to 76. The move prompted the operator, Cornell Companies, to file a lawsuit. If council members don't reconsider their position after a public hearing Tuesday, the litigation will proceed, according to Isabel Birrueta, an attorney representing El Monte. "It will go up to the Superior Court again, and the Superior Court will decide whether to request that the city review it again or it will decide that Cornell's writ of mandate has no merit," she said. Those who oppose the expansion have voiced concerns that the addition of more pre- release inmates from federal correctional facilities could hurt property values and negatively affect El Monte's image. Councilman B. Bart Patel originally voted against the proposal while he served on the city's Planning Commission. "I think the community is concerned because whether it was one bed, two beds or 15 beds, the community feels where does it stop?" he said. The home helps both male and female inmates transition from prison life back into society. If approved, the proposal wouldn't increase the square- footage of the building, but it would allow 15 more residents. Representatives from the company, which has since been acquired by the GEO Group, have said they needed to take in more residents in order to respond to requests by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. According to the Megan's Law website, there are no sex offenders residing at the home.

Elizabeth Detention Center, Elizabeth, New Jersey
November 13, 2007 AP
A federal jury on Tuesday awarded a political asylum $100,001 after finding that her rights were violated while in custody at a detention center operated for U.S. immigration authorities by a private contractor, the immigrant's lawyer said. The jury said the operator, then known as Esmor Corp., and some former executives, should pay $100,000 to Somali immigrant Hawa Jama for negligent hiring and training, and $1 for violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "Clearly, she would have been happier if she got more money, but she feels vindicated," said the lawyer, Penny M. Venetis. The jury found no violation of international human rights standards. The verdict came on the second day of deliberations, but a decade after Jama and eight other immigrants sued the company that ran the detention center in Elizabeth and what was then known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Venetis said the eight others had already settled for undisclosed sums, and the only remaining defendants were the corporate successor to Esmor and former Esmor employees. Esmor is now part of the Geo Group Inc. Messages seeking comment from its lawyer and a company spokesman were not immediately returned. At trial, Jama testified that she endured beatings, insults, rotting food and unsanitary conditions during her 11-month detention at the privately run jail in Elizabeth in 1994-95. The INS closed the center following a riot in June 1995, when about 100 immigrants broke windows, destroyed furniture and overpowered guards, claiming they were being held under inhumane conditions. The INS fired Esmor, then of Melville, N.Y., after finding that poorly trained guards abused the detainees physically and mentally, gave them spoiled food and deprived them of sleep. The detention center reopened in January 1997 after renovations were completed by its new operator, Corrections Corp. of America, of Nashville, Tenn. Jama, now in her late 30s, got married several years ago and now lives with her husband and three children in Columbus, Ohio, Venetis said. Jama had fled tribal warfare in Somalia that claimed her father and brother, and became a U.S. citizen last year, said Venetis, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark and co-director of its constitutional litigation clinic. "She really is still very haunted by what happened at Esmor," Venetis said. "She has flashbacks." Venetis claimed "corporate greed" created miserable conditions at the Esmor detention center. Guards routinely beat and cursed detainees, with Jama being called "an African monkey," Venetis said. "She was denied sanitary napkins, so she just bled all over herself once a month," Venetis said. Charges were dismissed three years ago against the INS and its officials, with U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise saying the government cannot be sued. He also dismissed some charges against the company's guards, finding that individual actions did not rise to the level of international human rights abuses. But he refused to dismiss all charges against Esmor and its officials. Some 1,600 former Esmor detainees got a $2.5 million settlement from Esmor in 2005, with most getting less than $1,000 each after legal fees. That group did not include Jama and the other eight who sued. Geo, a publicly traded company based in Boca Raton, Fla., reported 2006 profit of $30 million, or $1.68 per share, compared with $7 million, or 47 cents per share a year earlier. It had revenue of $860.9 million in 2006, compared with $612.9 million in 2005.

Evergreens Nursing Home, High Point, North Carolina
March 21, 2012 Jamestown News
GEO Care, which planned to put a forensic mental hospital in the site of the former Evergreens Nursing Home at Five Points in High Point, has been denied a license by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The company proposed to accept patients from the Dorothea Dix State Hospital in Raleigh and Central Regional and Psychiatric Hospital in Butner, both state-run facilities, which are being closed. City of High Point officials were informed of the ruling on March 14. In a statement, Pablo E. Paez, GEO group vice president, said that the company will not be opening a hospital in High Point after all. “We can confirm that our proposed project in High Point will not be moving forward,” Paez's statement read. “We are disappointed Š and are very appreciative of the support we received from a number of community organizations and leaders.” Sources report that DHHS needed more information from GEO Care before awarding the license. Since it was a county-run facility, the former Evergreens did not pay taxes. The hospital would have brought the city an estimated $200,000 in annual property taxes for the 22-acre, $3.1 million property. The company planned to bring 185 jobs to the hospital after a renovation of approximately $20 million, which would include local labor for the work. The hospital could have been the impetus for economic redevelopment for the area. The total annual economic impact would have been $40 million, according to a company spokesman. Although “For Sale” signs for the site, still owned by Guilford County, remained up during the state application period, the sale was contingent on the DHHS decision. The High Point Planning and Zoning Commission originally approved a rezoning attempt that would have blocked the hospital from coming to the area. Those sentiments were echoed by both Mayor Becky Smothers and the High Point City Council. But after Planning and Zoning overturned their original decision on Dec. 13, 2011 and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners filed a protest petition on Dec. 14 opposing the rezoning, City Council had to re-think their options. Reversing their earlier inclination and following the lead of the P&Z, the council denied the zoning change at a Dec. 16 public hearing, opening the door for the Florida-based GEO Care to locate in High Point. Although the vote was split 4-4, with Smothers breaking the tie favoring rezoning, two-thirds of the council members, or seven votes, were needed to approve the rezoning request for it to pass. Recent reports in the media indicated several lawsuits had been filed against the company relating to conditions in its hospitals/prisons in other states.

March 19, 2012 The Business Journal
Florida-based GEO Care confirmed Monday that it is not moving forward with a proposal to develop a behavioral health facility in High Point. "We appreciate the support we received from several community leaders and organizations in High Point and are disappointed that the project will not be moving forward," Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations for GEO Group said in a statement. Last week, officials from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said they were still in conversations with GEO Care about converting the former Evergreens site at Greensboro Road near U.S. 311/Interstate 74 into a 90-bed mental health hospital, despite canceling its "request for proposals" evaluation process. GEO Care was the only company to submit a proposal to the state and the facility would have housed patients currently kept at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, which is scheduled to close. GEO Care's proposal had faced opposition from some members of the High Point City Council, who were concerned that a mental health facility was not the best use for the property. A move in December to rezone the property to prevent its use as a mental health facility was unsuccessful.

Fillyaw Correctional Facility, Newton County, Texas
December 21, 2007 KFDM
KFDM News has learned a man cut his throat on razor wire while trying to escape Friday from the Fillyaw Correctional Center in Newton County. Sheriff Joe Walker tells KFDM News 40 year old Larry Waylon Metcalf is being treated inside the correctional center for his injuries. Walker says guards called the Newton County Sheriff's Office and asked for help with an escape. Metcalf climbed over serpentine wire, got over the fence and was able to get outside the compound, but Walker says within minutes his officers and guards caught Metcalf. He says Metcalf was "cut everywhere," including his throat, and is receiving medical treatment in the private prison.

Florence West Correctional Facility, Florence, Arizona
October 4, 2010 Arizona Republic
A federal agency filed a lawsuit last week alleging a private company that operates prisons in Florence sexually harassed and retaliated against female employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit against GEO Group Inc. alleged the company and some male managers supervising correctional officers fostered a "sexual and sex-based hostile work environment" at two Florence prisons that allowed harassment and retaliation against female employees. GEO Group, which operates Arizona State Prison-Florence and Central Arizona Correctional Facility in Florence, declined to comment on the EEOC lawsuit. The EEOC alleges GEO Group was aware but failed to take measures to prevent the harassment. The EEOC case stems from a harassment complaint that a female employee filed in June 2009 with the Arizona Civil Rights Division and the EEOC. The lawsuit alleged the prison operator retaliated against her after she filed her complaint. The EEOC said the male employees engaged in verbal and physical harassment of female employees. A male manager grabbed and pinched a female employee, and a female employee was forced on a desk and kissed and touched by a male employee, the lawsuit says. The federal agency reportedly attempted to reach a voluntary settlement with the GEO Group before filing the lawsuit. The Arizona Attorney General's Office previously filed suit and investigated complaints against the prison operator. The EEOC is authorized under federal law to collect compensatory and punitive damages, which are not available under Arizona law. It was the fourth discrimination lawsuit announced last week by the EEOC against Arizona employers. The federal agency also filed lawsuits against a Peoria car dealership, a Bullhead City Mexican eatery and a Phoenix restaurant. Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix office, said the agency filed a batch of lawsuits last week due to work-flow issues. Agency attorneys focused on new cases after they finished other duties such as trials and filing motions in existing cases.

December 10, 2008 Casa Grande Valley News
A man who escaped from a Florence prison in 2006 has been sentenced to four additional years in prison. Christopher Richard Breiland, 39, was sentenced Nov. 3 by Pinal County Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Bradley Soos to the minimum term with credit for 605 days served. Restitution is to be determined. The term is to be served concurrently with four sentences in Maricopa County, according to a plea agreement that noted Breiland would get a total of at least 15 years in prison. Breiland, 36, was discovered missing from the privately operated Florence West prison on May 4, 2006 after prison-issued orange pants and blood were found on the perimeter fence. Blankets and clothing was used in his bunk to make it look like he was sleeping while he climbed a recreational gate and squeezed through a barbed wire fence as other inmates watched through a window to see if he made it. Authorities found Breiland after he slammed the car he was driving into three other vehicles May 13, 2006 during a pursuit in Phoenix, injuring himself and four others. No serious injuries were reported. Breiland was serving sentences for theft, misconduct involving a weapon and forgery, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections. He was due to be released Dec. 30, 2006. Florence West is a private prison owned by GEO Group Inc. and by operated Correctional Services Corporation. As provided by state law, all costs associated with Breiland's apprehension will be charged to GEO Group.

May 18, 2006 AP
Authorities found an escaped convict after he slammed his car into three other vehicles late Saturday afternoon in Phoenix. Christopher Breiland's capture was a joint effort by the Arizona Department of Corrections and the Phoenix and Scottsdale Police Departments. Breiland, 36, was discovered missing from the privately-operated Florence West prison on May 4 after prison-issued orange pants and blood were found on the perimeter fence. On Saturday, Breiland fled police as they tried to pull him over. Police stopped the chase after Breiland began driving recklessly. But Breiland still ran into three vehicles, injuring himself and four others. All were examined at a hospital and were expected to be OK. Breiland was serving sentences for theft, misconduct involving a weapon and forgery, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections. He was due to be released Dec. 30, but now faces new charges. Florence West is a private prison owned by the GEO Group Inc. and by operated Correctional Services Corporation. As provided by state law, all costs associated with Breiland's apprehension will be charged to GEO Group.

May 14, 2006 KPHO
Authorities have found an inmate who escaped from a private prison in Florence May 4th. Thirty-six-year-old Christopher Breiland went missing from Florence West after prison-issued orange pants and blood were found on the perimeter fence. Breiland has been in prison since 1997, when he was sentenced to six and a half years for theft, misconduct involving a weapon and forgery. He was due to be released next December 30th. Breiland was apprehended by Phoenix Police Department at 5:05 p-m today. His capture was a joint effort between the Arizona Department of Corrections and the Phoenix and Scottsdale Police Departments.

May 5, 2006 Arizona Daily Star
A state prisoner escaped Thursday from a private prison in Florence, officials said. Christopher Breiland, 36, escaped from the Florence West facility sometime before 8 a.m., when the staff noticed prison-issued orange pants and blood on a fence, authorities said. The prison was locked down and a count was taken, confirming that someone escaped. Search teams and tracking dogs were deployed, and Arizona Department of Corrections investigators were at the Florence facility, but Breiland had not been found by 7 p.m. Thursday. Breiland was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison in 1997 after convictions on three felony counts: theft, weapons misconduct and forgery. He was due for release on Dec. 30. He was also convicted of a separate theft count, which netted him a nine-year sentence that was to begin in 1998, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections Web site. This was not the first time Breiland had escaped, according to the DOC Web site. He also fled last Dec. 24. He is white, 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds, and has brown eyes and brown hair. He has a cross tattooed on his left shoulder.

May 4, 2006 The Arizona Republic
Schools were locked down for hours Thursday as law enforcement and prison officials searched south of town for an inmate who escaped from a private prison. As of late Thursday afternoon, he had still not been found. Christopher Breiland, 36, was discovered missing from Florence West, owned by Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group Inc., at about 8 a.m., according to the Arizona Department of Corrections. Orange prison pants and blood were found on a perimeter fence. Florence Police, Pinal County sheriff's deputies, corrections officers, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and K-9 units are looking for Breiland. He's described as 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. He has a cross tattooed on his left shoulder. Breiland had been considered a low-security inmate because he was in for a non-violent offense and was set to be released in December, said Pablo Paez, a Geo Group spokesman. Breiland was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in 1997 for felony convictions for theft, misconduct involving a weapon and forgery, according to the Corrections Department. "(But) when someone escapes from prison, you have to proceed with caution," Paez said. Florence High School was locked down from 9:14 a.m. until 1:15 p.m., said Lt. Walt Hunter, with the Florence Police Department. Florence Elementary School and the town's Head Start program were also locked down.

Florida Civil Commitment Center, Arcadia, Florida
May 3, 2011 Herald Tribune
The state has moved to revoke the license of a mental health counselor at an Arcadia facility for sexually violent predators, almost a year after she was accused of having sex 17 times with an inmate. Leanne Paynter, 42, resigned from her job as a group therapy leader at the Florida Civil Commitment Center in May 2010 after her employer learned of her relationship with a resident in his 40s who had been convicted of sexual battery. In April, the Department of Health petitioned the board that oversees mental health counselors to discipline Paynter. According to the petition, Paynter admitted she began making personal phone calls to the inmate in September 2009, gave him a silver necklace and asked him to be tested for HIV; then met with him in her office for sex 17 times. Security cameras recorded the pair on four of these occasions. Paynter's former employer, the GEO Group Inc., has managed the 720-bed facility since July 2006. It replaced another contractor when the center's high turnover rate was attributed to female employees leaving their jobs after engaging in sex with the offenders.

May 26, 2010 Highlands Today
A Sebring woman tendered her resignation at a DeSoto County treatment facility for sexually violent predators after being arrested last week on a charge of sexual misconduct with a resident. Leanne Paynter, 42, of 4426 Mercado Drive, Sebring, is accused of engaging in sexual activity with a resident at the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC), according to the arrest report. The FCCC is a 660-bed secure treatment facility for sexual predators and treats individuals who have been detained or civilly committed under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, according to information from The GEO Group Web site. It contracts with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Investigators reportedly watched a May 7 security video where the resident is allegedly seen going into a cubicle directly across from Paynter's and then disappearing on the floor behind a divider wall. Both Paynter and the man remained on the floor for several hours, the report stated. The tape showed her leave the office at approximately 9:17 p.m. There were allegedly three previous dates where security video showed Paynter and the man engaging in the same type of behavior. The warrant for Paynter's arrest was obtained on May 19, the same day she went to the FCCC to tender her resignation, according to the report. She declined to make any statements about the allegations.

February 12, 2008 Sun-Herald
Deputies arrested Florida Civil Commitment Center resident George Wilson Williams, 44, on charges related to aiding and abetting the recent of escape of 59-year-old fellow center resident Bruce Young. Williams is charged with escape while in lawful custody, principle in the first degree. No bond is set. The center houses and treats some of Florida's worst sexual predators -- who are involuntarily civilly committed by the state for an indeterminate length of time in the remote, high-security facility. DeSoto County Sheriff's Office reports say Young told interrogators it was Williams who taught him about the construction of the center's fence and how to bypass its alarm systems. The center has more than a dozen buildings spread out on its campus, which lies near the DeSoto Correctional Institution on State Road 70. A level-four security fence surrounds the center with double razor-wire fences. Reports reveal Williams took part in maintenance work at the facility and was familiar with how the center's outer fences were installed. Williams reportedly knew the fence's electronic surveillance beam stopped near a "sally-port" at the south side at the facility, which is where Young breached the fence. Later, Young said he chose that weak point based on Williams' information. Williams denied giving any information to Young, and reports say he accused Young of lying. Deputies told Williams he had nothing to gain by lying, to which Williams said, "do what you have to do, and try and arrest me if you want. The GEO Group, a private company specializing in sex offender treatment, is contracted to administer the center for the Florida Department of Children and Families. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said an internal investigation into Young's escape is still under way. "Given the security nature of the investigation, we may not be able to publicly disclose findings," Paez said. "We will be taking the necessary corrective actions in tandem with (the department). We are confident the facility has taken the necessary steps, and will continue to take steps as necessary, to insure to safety and security of the facility."

February 10, 2008 WINK
Escaped sexual predator Bruce Young has been captured by the Arcadia Police Department. It is a story you saw first on WINK. The DeSoto County Sheriff's Office tells WINK News, Young was captured just two blocks away from their Sheriff's Headquarters. Arcadia Police tell WINK News Young was spot running across a street. A patrolman questioned Young and asked for his name. Young gave a fake name to the patrolman. The patrolman was able to realize that it was in fact Young. Young was then taken into custody without any incident. After being take into custody, Young requested a drink of water. Young escaped from the Arcadia-based Florida Civil Commitment Center. The center is run by private firm, GEO Group Incorporated. Residents at the Florida Civil Commitment Center have served their time in state prisons for the their crimes, but are considered to be too dangerous to be released into the public.

February 9, 2008 St Petersburg Times
A man convicted of raping sedated patients at a Citrus County hospital escaped from a detention center early Friday. Bruce Alan Young, 59, disappeared about 1:30 a.m. from the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, southeast of Sarasota. Law enforcement from the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Corrections used dogs to search for Young all day but had not found him late Friday. He is considered dangerous. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the company that has run the center since 2006, would not specify how Young escaped, saying the cause was under investigation. This was the first escape since the company took over the operation of the facility, which has 680 beds and houses 635 residents, Paez said. DeSoto County Sheriff Vernon Keen told the Charlotte Sun that a breach was found in the security fence, but deputies couldn't find a track leading away from it. The center, which has held notorious criminals such as "Hyde Park Rapist" Bobby Joe Helms, confines and treats sexual offenders who have served their sentences but are considered too dangerous to go free. The facility opened after the Legislature passed the Jimmy Ryce Act, named for a 9-year-old Miami-Dade County boy who was killed by a child molester, in 1998. It is the only facility of its kind in the state. When the facility was run by a different contractor, Liberty Behavioral Health Corp., state investigators reported a chaotic environment in which inmates brewed alcohol, fought and bought drugs from corrupt staff members. In 2004, eight inmates sued the state, saying they did not receive the mental health treatment that would help them get released. But the new contractor, GEO Group Inc., has been doing a good job, Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Erin Geraghty said.

April 14, 2007 Sun Herald
One state agency's requirement that a contractor running Florida's treatment center for sexually violent predators must employ at least 30 certified prison guards has been blocked by another state agency. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which certifies law enforcement officers, has refused to certify any employees to work at the Florida Civil Commitment Center in DeSoto County, even though the employees have completed the courses and passed a test required for certification, state officials confirmed this week. That creates a problem for GEO Care, the contractor that runs the center for the state Department of Children and Families. Under the terms of its DCF contract, GEO is required to employ state- certified correctional officers to provide security within the center's compound, located in a former state prison 10 miles east of Arcadia. But the FDLE refused to certify GEO's correctional officer trainees because their jobs at the civil center were not "sworn positions," said Kristen Peruzluha, spokeswoman for the FDLE. The state only certifies officers who are to be employed in law enforcement positions -- and deactivates the certification for those who, for any reason, fail to maintain such employment, Peruzluha said. "The issue is simply that certified officers must be employed or must volunteer in some capacity in a position that is designated as a law enforcement position," said Al Zimmerman, spokesman for the DCF. "GEO is exploring options to meet the requirement." For a number of FCCC residents, however, the contract problem illustrates a conflict over whether the center functions as a treatment center or prison, according to Tom Panno, a resident of the FCCC. The center was established by the Florida Legislature's 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act. The act calls for sexually violent predators to be detained after they complete their prison sentences in a secured institution for treatment and control. "The fundamental issue here is the same," Panno said. "What are we? Are we a mental health facility? Are we correctional?" The Supreme Court, in a 1995 Kansas decision, ruled that sexual offenders could be committed to an institution after serving their prison terms, provided the purpose of the commitment was for treatment, not punishment. Panno argues the FCCC exceeds that legal boundary because treatment is limited and security is maximal. Only about 150 of the center's 545 residents participate in treatment. "This is more secure than any prison I've been in my life," added Panno, who served in prison from 1986 to 2005 on convictions for kidnapping and committing a lewd act upon a child. Panno said he spent time in the facility before it was converted from a state prison into the treatment center. The center is equipped with more fences and barbed wire, and the movement of residents is more restricted now, he said. "Our movement is restricted to almost nothing without escort," he said. "Now we are treated like terrorists at Guantanamo." The DCF required GEO to employ certified correctional officers when the company was hired to take over the operation of the FCCC in July 2006. "A certified correctional officer has been through the correctional officer academy and has extensive training that is beneficial for security posts at FCCC," said Al Zimmerman, spokesman for the DCF. Certified correctional officers have also been employed at the center in the past. The center's former operator, Liberty Health Care, hired a private security firm to provide 124 correctional officers from February 2005 to June 2006. The officers were hired after the state Department of Corrections intervened to quell a sit-in protest and other disruptive activities within the facility. In June 2006, GEO hired the DOC under a contract to provide security officers. That lasted until last month, when the company planned to have its own employees certified for the security role. Attempts to contact GEO officials at both the FCCC and GEO headquarters in Boca Raton for comment were unsuccessful Thursday. GEO Care is a subsidiary of GEO Group, which provides 48,000 beds in 58 institutions, including prisons, immigration detention facilities and mental institutions in the U.S., Australia, South Africa and Canada. GEO Care is paid about $20 million per year to operate the FCCC and build a $60 million, 660-bed facility, to be constructed near Arcadia in 2008. The company also operates the South Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center in Miami and the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center in Martin County.

March 5, 2007 Herald Tribune
Inside a privately run treatment center here for pedophiles and rapists who have completed their prison sentences, where they are supposed to reflect on their crimes and learn to control their sexual urges, bikini posters were pinned to walls. Two men took their shirts off, rubbed each other’s backs and held hands, while others disappeared together into dormitory rooms. Some of the sex offenders appeared to be drunk from homemade “buck” liquor secretly brewed and sold here. And some of the center’s employees, who openly ignored the breaking of rules (“As long as they are happy, we let them go,” one explained), reported that a high turnover rate among staff members was mostly because of female employees leaving their jobs after having had sex with the offenders. These and other observations were included in a memorandum composed in 2004 by six employees on loan here from Pennsylvania. They had been dispatched by the Liberty Behavioral Health Corporation, which ran the facility, the Florida Civil Commitment Center, and a facility in Pennsylvania. Nineteen states have laws that allow them to confine or restrict sex criminals beyond prison in a trend that is expanding around the country, with legislators in New York last week announcing agreement on a new civil commitment law there. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of such laws in part because they are meant to furnish treatment where possible. Most of the states run their own centers to hold and treat such predators, generally with meager results, but at a time when private solutions are popular for prisons, toll roads and other state functions, a few have teamed with private industry. Yet as the story of the center here in Arcadia reveals, even a $19 million partnership between the state and a company that describes itself as “a national leader in the field of specialized sex offender treatment and management” failed to meet a central purpose: treating sex offenders so they would be well enough to return to society. “It was like walking into a war zone,” Jared Lamantia, one of the visiting workers who signed the memorandum, recalled in an interview. “The residents in that place ran the whole facility.” The memorandum is among thousands of pages of public and private documents about the Florida center reviewed by The New York Times, providing a rare window into the lives of civilly committed sexual predators and the people who guard and treat them. While programs like Florida’s are popular because they keep sex offenders locked away past their prison terms, they cost far more than prison — in the case of Florida, on average twice as much — with no measurable benefit beyond confinement. For more than seven years, Liberty was in charge of almost every facet of the Florida center, where more than 500 men are held beyond their criminal sentences in a crowded former prison surrounded by cow pastures. That ended last June in a cloud of claims and counterclaims, investigations and legislative hearings. By the end, after the state did not renew Liberty’s contract, the Florida Department of Children and Families was virtually at war with the company, with each side pinning blame on the other — the state accused of failing to properly finance the center, the company accused of failing to manage it. “The place is a cesspool of despair and depression and drug abuse — of people being lost,” said Don Sweeney, a mental health counselor in St. Petersburg who treats some former residents of the center, reflecting on Liberty’s tenure there. Many outside experts, even some of the center’s critics, said the state’s insufficient financing of the center made Florida as much to blame as Liberty for the many failings, many of which are common in other states. Florida spends less than $42,000 a year per resident, one of the lowest rates in the country. “There was no money to support that facility and to do what had to be done,” Dr. Robert Bellino, a psychiatrist who worked at the center here, said of the company. “It’s a political football. They were always turning the screws on Liberty — ‘Cut this, cut that, don’t spend this, don’t spend that.’ ” Ambitious Private Contractors: As legislators across the nation have answered public outrage about heinous sex crimes with civil commitment laws, a bevy of companies and well-paid specialists have cropped up like constellations around the expanding demand. Liberty Behavioral Health and Liberty Healthcare Corporation, affiliates with common ownership, have emerged as the most ambitious private contractors in the commitment center arena. As recently as last year, the affiliates had accumulated contracts worth up to $26 million a year in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida, which was the biggest both in terms of compensation and responsibility. Growing out of a company that provided emergency room employees to hospitals starting in the mid 1970s, Liberty Healthcare Corporation was founded in 1986 as a provider of mental health, developmental disability and primary care services. In its earliest days, it had no experience treating sex offenders and, its officials said, there was never a particular moment when company officials said to one another, “Let’s go into the sex offender business.” Yet as Shan Jumper, Liberty’s clinical director in Illinois, tells it, after “analyzing market trends and seeing what areas they could jump into,” Liberty executives apparently recognized the potential. By 1998, the company, which is privately held and based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., won its first contract to provide services inside a civil commitment center, in Illinois. Rick Robinson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Liberty Healthcare, described the move as a natural outgrowth of its work, which included creating an adolescent sex offender unit in an Arkansas hospital in 1995. The states that have hired private companies reason that outside experts have more background in the complex realm of detaining and treating sex offenders than most public workers, and in several states where Liberty holds contracts, officials say they have been impressed with the company’s expertise. But at the Florida center, even beyond a string of embarrassing failures — an escape, the death of an offender after a fight with another over a bag of chips, a sit-in that the state ultimately quashed with hundreds of law enforcement officers — the treatment record was poor. In Liberty’s tenure, only one of the hundreds of men here progressed far enough in therapy to earn a recommendation from company clinicians that he be released. At various points, many residents were not attending the group therapy specifically addressing sex offending; in May 2005, 35 percent of the center’s 484 residents fell into that category. In written responses to questions from The New York Times, as well as court depositions, legislative testimony, e-mail messages, letters and memorandums, Liberty defended its treatment record, blamed Florida as insufficiently financing its commitment program and, for years, failing to define exactly what it expected of Liberty. Early Praise and Promise: Liberty’s early tenure in Florida won praise from independent evaluators who said the treatment program showed promise. Over the first four years the state asked for few changes, and on matters such as the treatment of mentally ill residents, had a “just do the best you can” attitude, as Susan Keenan Nayda, vice president of operations for behavioral health programs at Liberty, said in a court deposition. But problems began to surface publicly in June 2000 in dramatic fashion when a resident escaped in a helicopter that an accomplice had landed inside the center’s perimeter. The helicopter crashed after departing with the escapee, who was caught 26 hours later in a canal with the pilot, 2 handguns and 28 rounds of ammunition. The pilot, a longtime friend, had visited the escapee 10 times in the five months before the escape. The bizarre incident raised worrisome questions and the first hints of a conflict over the center’s combined goals of security and treatment. Too few Liberty staff members were in the yard when the escape occurred, a report by state officials found, and the center’s director had ordered razor wire removed from a security fence because, he said, the wire was damaging volleyballs from a nearby court the residents used. The report also complained about the state’s role, questioning why corrections officers, who were in charge of security on the perimeter, were unarmed. Commitment centers across the country have wavered between following the legal mandate to run a therapeutic program, as laid out by the courts, and the politically acceptable alternative of a more prisonlike one. In Florida, the conflict emerged again and again. The state’s emphasis swung, at various points, toward and away from a “correctional” approach, company officials suggested. At one point, Ms. Nayda told a Florida State Senate committee that even she was not entirely sure what the center was trying to be. “There’s a little bit of confusion,” Ms. Nayda said. “What is this place? Is it a prison? Is it a mental health center? A residential treatment facility where people are clients? What is it? We ask that question sometimes too. We really don’t have a lot of guidance around what it is the state wants the facility to be, and we would encourage the state to look at that.” By the end of 2000, the state moved its civil commitment center from Martin County on the state’s East Coast to its current home here in Arcadia, a 14-acre compound with eight dormitories and other buildings. From there, the population rose swiftly, even as staff levels mostly stayed put. Liberty repeatedly sought more money from the state for the center’s operations, for special treatment of its large severely mentally ill population and for creation of a supervised release program. Asked to respond to Liberty’s complaints about financing, Rod Hall, director of the mental health program office for the state Department of Children and Families, said, “The funding provided to operate the facility was the amount negotiated and agreed upon by Liberty prior to its signing of the contracts.” Liberty’s monthly reports began suggesting that the company was feeling the crunch. The reports noted frequent troubling incidents: residents having sex, assaulting staff members and each another, hiding knives in their rooms. Liberty also said it faced an unusual challenge in Florida, where hundreds of the center’s residents are not formally committed, but awaiting trials for commitment. These “detainees,” the company said, often reject treatment to focus on their legal battles. Some critics, meanwhile, began questioning the treatment. Ted Shaw, a forensic psychologist who evaluates civilly committed sex offenders, complained that Liberty held men back in treatment as punishment for minor infractions. Liberty officials deny the allegations, but Michael Canty, a child molester who was detained at the center but was never formally committed, concurred with Dr. Shaw, saying Liberty staff members would “harass, taunt — try to get you in trouble so you would get kicked out of treatment.” Rising Tensions, and Violence: By the time the six workers from Liberty’s facility in Pennsylvania arrived here in 2004, tensions inside the center and with the state authorities were reaching a peak. In April of that year, a mentally ill man jumped off the center’s roof and was injured after staff members rushed at him to get him down. In June, a resident stabbed another 12 times and the staff had residents mop up the blood, destroying evidence before outside law enforcement officials arrived, an internal report showed. “It was basically a free-for-all prison, out of control,” said Josh Stiles, another of the visiting workers from Pennsylvania. Liberty officials said they investigated and immediately took “appropriate actions” regarding all that their Pennsylvania employees reported. But they also said the atmosphere in the center at the time was “probably very conducive for allegations that were either unfounded or exaggerated,” and noted that a second group from the Pennsylvania facility, including its director, returned to Florida several weeks later and reported no similar problems. Nonetheless, Lynda Sommers, a consultant hired by the state to monitor the facility over a number of years, also found it in disarray in the period after the second Pennsylvania group. Ms. Sommers reported suspected sexual relationships between staff members and offenders, staff members who slept on the job, crumbling facilities, and vague policies on punishing troublemakers and treating the mentally ill. Liberty’s own internal investigator, Kenneth Dudding, was also deeply critical of hiring decisions for low-level staff members, whose salaries started at a base rate of $12.89 an hour. “You could have worked at Wal-Mart last week, they put you in front of a computer to read policy for a few hours, then they send you to a dorm and let you go,” said Mr. Dudding, who left after clashing with Liberty’s management. As for female security workers, Mr. Dudding said they were easily manipulated by the sex offenders. “It’s like putting candy in front of a baby,” he said. Mr. Dudding said he ultimately called a state whistle-blower’s hot line. The inspector general of the Department of Children and Families investigated and issued stinging reports, saying that the facility’s safety director had tried to cover up wrongdoing by tampering with evidence, that an employee was suspected of selling marijuana, and that alcohol was being made and sold there. Liberty officials said the safety director was fired for “failure to properly function in her role” before they received the inspector general’s critique, and they said they fired the worker suspected of drug sales — on whom no contraband was found — for an unrelated reason. Then a group of residents, angry when the fire marshal demanded that they not have so many personal items, moved into a yard. For months, the staff could not persuade them to go back to their rooms, creating a scene one law enforcement officer called “Woodstock gone amok.” Liberty said it first asked for help from the Department of Corrections and was turned down, only to ultimately get a response the company called “excessive.” In February 2005, several hundred corrections and law enforcement officers in riot gear arrived and restored order. That spring, Liberty’s requests to the state grew more insistent. The company asked for $31.1 million for the next fiscal year; it received $18.7 million, the same as the year before. By April, having described an “alarming” set of “chronic and serious” issues at the facility, the state was preparing to end its relationship with Liberty. New Company Takes Over: In the end, the struggle between security and treatment may help explain Liberty’s doomed tenure at the Florida center. “I had imagined that we would be trying to do research or publish or be innovative or at least use state-of-the-art equipment,” said Dean Cauley, a former therapist at the center. “When I arrived, the equipment wasn’t being used, tests were outdated and treatment was very much secondary to maintaining security.” Liberty officials said that treating patients had always been their company’s reason for being. Most of the company leaders, including Dr. Herbert T. Caskey, the founder, were originally clinicians, not business people. If states wanted simply to lock up, not treat, the worst sexual predators, Kenneth Carabello, Liberty’s director of regional operations for California and the western United States, said, “We’d let somebody else do this.” Despite the center’s history, Don Ryce, the father of Jimmy Ryce, the 9-year-old boy whose 1995 rape and murder spurred the Florida Legislature to adopt a civil commitment law in his name three years later, said the law’s “overall intention” had been accomplished. “There are a lot of people who are confined who otherwise I guarantee you would be out there reoffending,” Mr. Ryce said, though he added, “I’m not going to pretend there aren’t serious problems that need to be addressed.” As Liberty departed, Florida picked another private company, the GEO Group Inc., to run the center here. The GEO Group, once known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, has more than 23 years of experience running prisons. Of 63 centers GEO operates worldwide, 58 are correctional and detention facilities. Last fall, under GEO’s watch, a new glimpse of turmoil began emerging. Early one morning, a resident said he was attacked by another in his bunk. His screaming, kicking and banging on his door went unanswered for almost 15 minutes before staff members responded, other residents said. GEO officials said workers from the company and the Department of Corrections “responded promptly” to what GEO described as a “resident upon resident” fight, an assessment echoed in a DeSoto County sheriff’s report. But some 100 residents signed a letter calling for an end to the practice of housing two residents in a single room. The center “is supposed to be a mental health facility, not a prison,” the residents wrote. “We are to be treated as patients, not state convicts.”

November 2, 2006 Sun-Herald
At about 3 a.m. Saturday, many of the 190 residents incarcerated two to a cell in "D-Dorm" at the Florida Civil Commitment Center awoke to the sounds of "screaming and banging," as one man began assaulting another in his bunk, according to written and verbal reports from residents. The assault raged on for almost 15 minutes, prompting complaints from the residents that the FCCC is overcrowded and understaffed. More than 100 of the D-Dorm residents signed a letter Monday expressing their concerns. The letter was sent to Dr. Teion L. Wells Harrison, director of the sexually violent predator program for the Florida Department of Children and Families. The letter calls for an end to "double-celling," the practice of placing two residents in a single cell. The residents also request that GEO Group, the contractor hired by the DCF to operate the facility, provide more security staffers so they can be "on the floor at all times roving from quad to quad." "Disturbingly, the victim cried out for emergency assistance for almost 15 minutes; screaming, kicking and banging his cell door, without staff response," stated the letter. The DCF is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the state's 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act, which calls for sexual offenders with mental disorders to be committed to an institution for control and treatment after they serve their prison terms. The DCF in July replaced the former contractor, Liberty, with GEO Group. The Oct. 28 assault was the third in two days at the center, according to the letter. The other assaults included two back-to-back fights between residents in Quad 2 of F-Dorm on Oct. 26. That section of the dorm houses those with severe mental illnesses or "special needs," according to the letter. In the most recent assault, a DeSoto County Sheriff's deputy was dispatched the day after the incident to respond to a report of simple battery.

July 13, 2006 Sun-Herald
The Florida Civil Commitment Center near Arcadia underwent a changing of the guard this week -- without changing many of the guards. A new contractor, the GEO Group of Boca Raton, has taken over the operation of the facility from the former contractor, Liberty of Philadelphia. But GEO has hired 182 of Liberty's former employees, under a 90-day probation agreement in which the employees have to prove themselves, said Timothy Budz, GEO facility administrator. "We did that in three days," Budz said Wednesday. "The transition has progressed very well." Established by the Legislature's 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act, the center houses some 545 violence sex offenders. It is located 10 miles east of Arcadia in a former state prison.

June 8, 2006 Sun-Herald
The troubled Florida Civil Commitment Center will soon be under new management. The Florida Department of Children and Families Tuesday issued a notice of its intent to award a contract to the GEO Group Inc. and its subsidiary, GEO Care, to run the 545-bed institution for sexually violent predators, located 10 miles east of Arcadia. GEO would replace Liberty Behavioral Health, which has operated the facility for the past six years. Liberty's contract expires June 30. The proposed deal calls for GEO to take over the facility in January. "We are looking forward to working with the state and the community in bringing high-quality management services to this community," said Pablo Paez, GEO spokesman.

June 2, 2006 Sun-Herald
When its contract expires June 30, the contractor operating a state treatment center for sexually violent predators near Arcadia will be shown the door. The Florida Department of Children and Families, which manages the Florida Civil Commitment Center, will not retain Liberty Behavioral Health to run the facility until a new contractor can be hired, said Tim Bottcher, spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families. The process to award a new contract and build a new facility could take six months or more. To run the facility in the interim, the state will assign perhaps dozens of Department of Corrections officers from prisons in surrounding counties to provide security. And a temporary employee service will provide other workers, Bottcher indicated. Technically, Liberty is still in the running for the new contract. But the DCF's inspector general in a past investigation cited numerous incidents of violent assaults, drug abuse, alcohol bootlegging and inappropriate behavior involving both residents and staffers. "I don't think it's any secret we haven't been happy with Liberty's performance as far as the current contract is concerned," Bottcher said. The change in center management has Liberty's local employees worried about both their jobs and the treatment of the residents, said John Brosnihan, a security supervisor for Liberty. Liberty was the only bidder at the time the center was started. A competing firm had declined to bid because of the facility proposed for the center -- in a defunct state prison, an officer of the firm, Geo Group, said in a past interview. In 2005, the Legislature passed a bill that authorized the DCF to hire a contractor to both build and operate a new 600-bed center. The DCF's bidding process was derailed, however, after Liberty challenged the bid specifications for alleged bid-rigging. That litigation was recently resolved and now the bidding selection process will get under way, Bottcher said. Liberty and the Geo Group have submitted bids. Bottcher said a site for the new facility has not been identified, but it will likely be located within the Arcadia area. Prison Health Services will be hired to provide health care and clinical treatment until the contract is awarded. The DCF is still "in talks" with a temporary employment service to fill other roles in the interim, Bottcher said.

Florida Correctional Privatization Commission, Tallahassee, Florida
June 26, 2007 Tallahassee Democrat
Investigators said Monday there was no criminal wrongdoing in $12.7 million worth of ''questionable or excessive costs'' paid to two companies that run privatized prisons. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement report said members of the old Correctional Privatization Commission, along with top staff aides, may have had some meal tabs picked up by officials of The GEO Group Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America. But it said the inspector general of the Department of Management Services did not allege that the now-defunct commission went easy on the two companies in exchange for any favors. Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association, said the FDLE report ''is not surprising.'' He said the PBA, an avid critic of privatization, thinks contract administration has been lax but not criminal. Gov. Charlie Crist ordered the FDLE investigation Jan. 31, four weeks after he took office. When DMS took over contract administration for five privatized prisons in 2004, when the Correctional Privatization Commission was abolished, Inspector General Steve Rumph did an investigation that indicated the commission had failed to enforce some contract provisions. His report in mid-2005 said the state paid $4.4 million for vacant staff positions and waived staffing patterns that resulted in $290,000 in added costs to the state. It also said GEO was paid $3.4 million in excessive ''competitive area differential'' payments for staff in high-cost regions and that CCA was overpaid for maintenance and repair at Gadsden Correctional Facility. Amounts and justification for several items were disputed by the companies. DMS did not claim that all of the $12.7 million was overpaid, but that the figure represented costs which ''could have been avoided'' with proper contract supervision by the defunct commission. DMS last year demanded repayment of $357,520 from GEO and settled for $290,952, but the state is still negotiating a $3.6 million overpayment dispute with CCA.

May 3, 2007 St Petersburg Times
Three months after Gov. Charlie Crist ordered an investigation of some $4.5-million in overpayments to two companies that operate private prisons for the state, those same companies will be the only ones permitted to bid on expanding and building another facility. The state's budget calls for 384 new beds to be housed in a medium security private prison, estimated to cost between $15-million and $20-million, and has limited the bidding for those beds to the two companies that currently contract with the state. Those companies are GEO Group of Boca Raton and Corrections Corp. of America of Nashville. Two state audits have indicated the state had paid GEO Group and CCA more than $4.5-million for vacant jobs and other questionable expenses. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now investigating. Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, a member of the Senate committee that funds jails and prisons, and who first called for the investigation into GEO and CCA, said that a tight budget year meant that the state had to change the way it thought about providing more beds. "It would be nice to have options for new vendors that may not be in the process, because that provides for better competition, " Crist said. "But toward the end of the budgeting process, when money was very tight, we decided to go ahead and just award new beds to existing sites because it's cheaper." Sen. Crist said he's confident that Gov. Charlie Crist and Corrections Secretary Jim McDonough will keep a close eye on the projects. "We have a new governor and he has an interest in this subject area, " Crist said. The budget is an up or down vote on the entire $72-billion document. Gov. Charlie Crist does have the ability to veto certain line items, but to veto the language limiting the bids would mean vetoing an $84-million pot of money for all private prison operations. Both Gov. Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink have criticized the handling of contracts with GEO and CCA. The Department of Management Services, which inherited the contracts from the now defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, recently reached a $402, 501 settlement with GEO but is still negotiating with CCA. Heather Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said the investigation is ongoing. "They've got issues with these vendors and concerns with some of the things done in the past, and yet they're giving them more beds, " said Ken Kopczynski, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents public corrections officers. CCA marketing director Steve Owen said that the investigation concentrates on events before 2005 and that CCA has since shown the state an ability to meet its needs. "We do think we have a good record for bringing beds online quickly, " Owen said. The budget also says that private prison contractors, including those under investigation, can compete to build three additional "work camp" prisons, each with 432 beds - a total of 1, 296 beds. These facilities would each cost about $9-million to build, according to Department of Corrections estimates. The work camps are a new idea that Secretary McDonough recently pitched to help reduce recidivism. The work camps are for those sentenced to fewer than 12 months in prison who would spend much of their time digging ditches and doing other types of manual labor. Some would also get drug treatment. While the work camps will be competitively bid, several in the prison industry acknowledged that existing private prisons will have a competitive advantage in winning such contracts. That's because they can offer to put them next to existing jails or prisons facilities, which, again, is cheaper than building them from the ground up. McDonough, who was at the state Capitol on Wednesday, said he is concerned about the GEO and CCA contracts, but he plans to keep an eye on these prisons and the money to build them, no matter who is running them. "I'm always keeping an eye on the inmates, because I see them as my inmates, by law, " McDonough said.

January 31, 2007 AP
Gov. Charlie Crist ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Wednesday to conduct a preliminary investigation into more than $4.5 million in alleged overpayments to two companies that operate private prisons for the state. The contracts with GEO Group of Boca Raton and Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America were signed by the now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission. Crist sent a letter to FDLE Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey directing him to "conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether any criminal violations have occurred." The Department of Management Services, which inherited the contracts, recently reached a $402,501 settlement with GEO but is still negotiating with CCA. Management Services Secretary Linda South, in a statement Friday, blamed the excessive payments on concessions the commission had included in the contracts. The commission was abolished by the Legislature in 2004. Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Wednesday that she asked her staff what went wrong and received the same answer. "The contract was so poorly written and so poorly conceived that we were only able to verify $400,000 in overpayments even though we know there were huge abuses through the auditing procedures," Sink said. "We had virtually no legal standing to go back and get back from the taxpayers the dollars that we deserved." Audits concluded the state paid for vacant jobs and other questionable expenses. Telephone messages left at the offices of the two companies after hours Wednesday were not immediately returned. GEO runs the Moore Haven and Southbay correctional facilities and has a contract to run a new one at Graceville. CCA operates correctional facilities in Lake City, Panama City and Quincy. State Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who is not related to the governor, last week urged FDLE to investigate the relationship between the commission and contractors.

January 27, 2007 Tallahassee Democrat
The first definition of "oversight" involves supervision, as in the oversight of a contract by a state agency; the second involves a careless mistake or omission, as in, "Sorry for my oversight. I'll straighten it out right away." The problem with a settlement between the state and a private prison contractor that was one of two firms that were overpaid $4.5 million is that it's not at all clear which kind of oversight was in play. But if it's the first, the Department of Management Services' agreement with a Boca Raton company called GEO Group was highly questionable and very possibly a lousy deal for Florida taxpayers. DMS' agreement with the company calls for the collection by the state of $402,501 to settle previous claims. That comes to about 10 cents on your dollar that the state decided was a sensible arrangement - although the state is still negotiating with a second contractor, Corrections Corporation of America, which also received overpayments. It's no wonder that Sen. Victor Crist, R-Temple Terrace, was taken aback this week, saying the settlement "almost seems criminal." He asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate. That's a reasonable request. If there's more here than meets the eye, taxpayers would love to know. If the rest of the story smells just as fishy, taxpayers should know that, too. There's little question that politics and past mismanagement are helping to cloud the picture. The original contract was handled by the now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, an agency created to oversee prisons in the state that are run by private companies. That board was legislated out of existence in 2004 and the commission's oversight responsibilities transferred to DMS. Given the performance of the Correctional Privatization Commission, that was a smart move. But the news about the DMS agreement with GEO now raises real questions about that agency's ability to effectively manage contracts with private prison companies. "It was not an honest mistake," Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association who's been tracking private prison contracts for more than 10 years, said of GEO. "I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that if a bank teller gives you $100 more than you are legally liable to receive, you need to give the money back." The politically influential PBA, which represents state corrections officers, has been the most consistent opponent of prison privatization. It maintained for years that the defunct commission had inappropriately cozy ties to the industry it was supposed to regulate - a charge that Mr. Crist, the Senate justice appropriations chairman, echoed last week. Mr. Kopczynski said he asked FDLE to investigate last year, but without success. But an investitgation is still appropriate - before any more bad deals are cut on taxpayers' behalf.

January 26, 2007 St Petersburg Times
Alarmed by millions of dollars in overpayments the state made to a private prison contractor, a state senator called for a criminal investigation Thursday. The payments have been known since 2005, but a settlement was reported this week in which the contractor will pay a fraction of what it received. Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, said he read a story about the settlement, and "it just didn't rest well with me." Crist asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look at the contract between GEO Group of Boca Raton and the state Correctional Privatization Commission, which was disbanded in 2004 amid allegations of mismanagement and cronyism. A spokeswoman for the FDLE declined to say whether the agency would investigate. A 2005 state audit revealed that over an eight-year period GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, another private contractor, were overpaid $4.5-million. The Correctional Privatization Commission also gave GEO $5-million in cost-of-living salary adjustments that, auditors said, were not fully passed on to employees. At the Quincy facility, Corrections Corp., of Nashville, got $2.9-million more for facility maintenance than it spent. This month, GEO agreed to pay $402,501 under a deal reached with the Department of Management Services, which took over oversight of the contracts. Crist called the payback "unacceptable," but said his main focus was on what seems a too cozy relationship between the former Correctional Privatization Commission and the contractors. A GEO spokesman did not return a call Thursday. Corrections Corp. has not reached a deal with the state.

January 25, 2007 Tallahassee Democrat
The head of a Senate budget committee today called for a criminal investigation of overpayments to two companies running private prisons for the state. Sen. Victor Crist, R-Temple Terrace, said he is not satisfied with a $402,501 settlement negotiated by the Department of Management Services this month with GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based company that runs prisons for the state in South Bay and Moore Haven. The state is still negotiating reimbursement of overpayments with Corrections Corp. of America, the Nashville company that runs prisons at Quincy, Lake City and Panama City. "This almost seems criminal," Crist told his Senate Justice Appropriations Committee. He said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement should investigate how the overpayments occurred. After DMS assumed oversight from the old Correctional Privatization Commission, the department's inspector general did an audit that questioned some $13 million in payments to the two private prison operators. The audit said the companies were overpaid $4.5 million for unfilled positions. Crist said he was not blaming DMS because the overpayments occurred under the defunct commission, but that "we'd like an extra set of eyes to take a closer look at" the settlement with GEO and past payments to both companies. "If it was an honest mistake and $4.5 million was overpaid, they ought to write a check and clear it up," he said after the meeting of his committee. "They (CCA and GEO) took more than $4 million for positions that didn't exist and it just sticks in my craw that we would be getting $400,000 for it." The settlement includes $111,000 for partial reimbursement of legal fees incurred by the state in court challenges to the property-tax exemption of the state-owned, privately operated prisons. Those fees were unrelated to the overpayment. Roz Ingram, director of specialized services for DMS, said almost $5 million in overpayments occurred under "competitive area differential" provisions carried forward from the old contracts between the CPC and the companies. She said the differentials were killed by DMS when renegotiating contracts. "We used this a as a tool to go in and try to revamp the system and we've put a lot of different things in place," Ingram said of the audit. Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association, cheered Crist's action. The PBA, which represents correctional officers in state prisons, has been a vocal critic of privatization. "God bless 'em. It's about time," said Kopczynski.

January 24, 2007 Tallahassee Democrat
The state has reached a $402,000 agreement with one of the two companies that run private prisons in Florida. Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South said Tuesday night she was satisfied with the settlement with The GEO Group Inc., which operates prisons in South Bay and Moore Haven. GEO also has a contract for the Graceville prison opening in September. South said DMS is negotiating terms with Corrections Corporation of America, the company that runs three other privatized prisons. She declined to discuss those talks. After the Correctional Privatization Commission was abolished and oversight of the five private prisons was shifted to DMS in 2004, the DMS inspector general did an audit that cited numerous discrepancies. The GEO Group settlement involved $357,520.94 in overpayments. Under the agreement, signed by previous DMS Secretary Tom Lewis, GEO agreed to pay $290,952.43. The company separately agreed to pay $111,549.27 of the state's legal fees in a court fight over disputed property-tax bills for the prison facilities. The agreement said DMS has paid $446,197.08 defending the sovereign immunity of the state-owned prisons. Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said the state "let them off easy." The PBA, which represents correctional officers in state-run institutions, has been highly critical of privatization. South said "this is good news for DMS" and that the audits ended "some really critical lack of internal controls" under the defunct Correctional Privatization Commission. She added, "The $400,000 is a lot higher than zero."

January 24, 2007 St Petersburg Times
A private prison contractor that was one of two companies the state overpaid by nearly $13-million has agreed to pay back a small amount. The GEO Group of Boca Raton will pay $402,501 under a deal settled this month by the state Department of Management Services. The company also will cover half of the legal fees to defend local governments' challenges to its tax-exempt status. A state audit in 2005 found that over an eight-year period, Florida overpaid GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville, $4.5-million for unfilled jobs. The now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, which was supposed to oversee the private prisons, also authorized $5-million in cost-of-living salary adjustments at GEO's South Bay Correctional facility. At a facility in Quincy, Corrections Corporation got $2.9-million more for facility maintenance than it spent. The state is still working on a settlement with Corrections Corporation. A GEO spokesman was not working Tuesday and a woman who answered the phone said no one else was available. DMS Secretary Linda H. South, asked about the large disparity in what GEO Group was overpaid and what it will pay back, said if the agency had not done its "due diligence there would be no money to recover."

May 1, 2006 AP
Two private companies are being sued for several million dollars for overbilling and filing false bills at some of the state's prisons they operate under provisions of the Florida False Claims Act. Attorney Gregg Goldfarb of Miami is seeking $5 million in recovery in addition to triple damages and civil penalties from the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America and the publicly traded Boca Raton-based GEO Group on behalf of plaintiff Ken Kopczynski. GEO representative Pablo Paez said he had yet read the lawsuit and could not comment on it. Telephone messages left with representatives of the Corrections Corporation of America were not immediately returned. The plaintiffs could receive up to 30 percent of any award under provisions of the state's false claims provisions. The suit, originally filed in August, was unsealed Friday by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Thomas E. Bateman III. The state earlier declined to intervene in the suit by Kopczynski, a private citizen, who filed it pursuant to the statute that allows citizens who believe the state has been falsely billed to help recover the money. "It's common that when we do decline, we do monitor the case and leave it open for the possibility of intervening in the future," said Bob Sparks, spokesman in the attorney general's office, said Monday. "We're presented with several opportunities with cases like this, but we can't physically intervene in all of them." An audit last year by the Department of Management Services said the defunct Correctional Privatization Commission allowed the two for-profit companies to overbill the state by nearly $13 million for what the audit described as "questionable and excessive" costs. The Legislature voted two years ago to abolish the commission and let DMS oversee the private contracts.

April 21, 2006 Tallahassee Democrat
With a prosecutor calling him a bigger crook than some inmates in the privatized prisons he used to oversee, Alan Duffee got nearly three years in federal prison Thursday and was ordered to repay more than $224,000 he admitted siphoning out of state funds. Duffee, who became a lobbyist after the Correctional Privatization Commission was abolished last year, apologized and offered U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle no excuses for repeatedly dipping into a prison maintenance and repair fund. Hinkle imposed the maximum prison term provided by federal sentencing guidelines - 33 months - but agreed to recommend that Duffee be sent to a Pensacola-area prison when he reports to custody on June 20. "The only thing I can do is apologize to this court, to the state of Florida, my family and friends. I own up 100 percent for my actions," said Duffee, who grew up in the Marianna area. "My Sunday school teacher used to say, 'When you're wrong, just say you're wrong.' That's what I want to do and I'm ready to accept any punishment that this court decides to impose on me." Duffee struck a plea deal in February, admitting to three of the six counts in a federal indictment that charged him with making himself sole signatory on a secret bank account in Tallahassee and moving $224,972.92 in checks and wire transfers from a Jacksonville account of the CPC. The commission was abolished by the Legislature and supervision of the state's five corporate-run prisons was moved to the Department of Management Services last year. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Inspector Alexandra Gaskins, who analyzed bank statements and other records in the case, said Duffee spent some $22,805.48 on house and car expenses; $5,477.28 on furnishings; $11,789.63 on clothes and personal effects and $16,105.29 on recreation and other personal expenses. The government said assets worth $42,672.38 have either been recovered or are in the process of forfeiture and transfer to the state. In addition to three years of probation after prison, Hinkle ordered Duffee to make full restitution but did not impose any criminal fines. The court assessed $300 in fees - $100 for each count of mail fraud, wire fraud and engaging in illegal financial transactions. "This is the guy in charge of privatized prisons and he's stealing more money than I'd expect 90 percent of the people in those privatized prisons stole. It boggles the imagination," said federal prosecutor Tom Kirwin. "One thing the court should take into account is the deterrent effect of a sentence. Here we have a public official, hired to do a job, and he turns around and steals the public's money." Tallahassee attorney Ben Phipps told the judge "restitution and probation is more appropriate," adding that "I'd be specially concerned about putting a professional prison administrator in the prison system." Hinkle sentencing guidelines called for 27 to 33 months for an offender like Duffee. He said he went to the top end because Duffee used his official position and "this offense was committed over a significant period of time with a number of actions. It was not done on the spur of the moment" or under great stress. Defense attorney Stephen Dobson futilely pleaded for probation. "At some point, he has to turn over a new leaf," he said. "I think Alan Duffee has turned over a new leaf." Sue Herring, a former finance director of the commission, praised Hinkle after the hour-long sentencing hearing. "I was fired in January of 2003 and the embezzlement started in May," she said. "I'm glad he went with the high end of the guidelines. I think this was well deserved."

February 14, 2006 St Petersburg Times
A former Florida prison official has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $225,000 in state money nearly three years after he used the cash to help buy houses for him and his girlfriend. Alan Brown Duffee, the former executive director of a defunct board that oversaw Florida's private prison contracts, admitted Thursday in Tallahassee to one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Duffee, 40, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is to be sentenced in April. Neither Duffee nor his attorney, Stephen Dobson, could be reached Monday. A plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee shows Duffee admitted that he moved money in 2003 from a bank account for the Florida Correctional Privatization Commission to another bank account to which only he had access. About $124,000 from the first two transfers - $50,000 on May 6 and $100,000 on May 29 - helped with the closing costs on homes for him and for his girlfriend, court documents show. It's unclear what became of another $74,972 he transferred in September and October of 2003. The money came from the commission's building maintenance reimbursement fund. At the time of Duffee's indictment in September, federal officials seized his home, car and bank accounts. Duffee strove as recently as a year ago to play among Tallahassee's top lobbyist ranks. Shortly after leaving the commission in 2004, he purchased a multicity lobbying firm, the Windsor Group, and had a contract to buy Clyde's and Costello's, a bar one block from the state Capitol that has long been a favorite of political insiders. Duffee eventually defaulted on both deals. Duffee served three years as executive director of the privatization commission. The governor-appointed panel oversaw the state's five privately run prisons until May 2004, when the Legislature voted to abolish the commission amid complaints from vendors about favoritism and a St. Petersburg Times report that Duffee had hired a former state prison official as a consultant in violation of state law. --Joni James can be reached at 850 224-7263 or jjames@sptimes.com

February 11, 2006 Tallahassee Democrat
The former director of Florida's defunct prison-privatization board has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, his attorney said Friday. Alan B. Duffee, who became a lobbyist after the Legislature abolished the Correctional Privatization Commission, negotiated a plea to have half of the six counts against him dismissed. He faces sentencing April 20 on the other three - mail fraud, wire fraud and engaging in illegal financial transactions. "Mr. Duffee accepts responsibility for what he did and regrets if he harmed anyone in the process," attorney Stephen Dobson said. "He has begun to make restitution, and the government has recovered more than $25,000." Duffee was indicted last September after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and federal authorities. The case involved a major-maintenance fund the state required GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America to maintain for repair or replacement of equipment costing more than $5,000 at the prisons. The indictment said Duffee set up a bank account at People's First Bank of Tallahassee in the Correctional Privatization Commission's name, without knowledge of the commissioners, and made himself sole signatory on it. Investigators alleged that Duffee moved $224,972.92 in checks and wire transfers from a Jacksonville bank, where the maintenance-and-repair fund was held, to the Tallahassee account he controlled. The plea agreement said Duffee could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each of the fraud counts and 10 years on the illegal-transactions charge, but Dobson said federal sentencing guidelines call for a far less-severe penalty. The government agreed not to recommend a sentence to Chief Judge Robert Hinkle in April. Duffee left the privatization commission in 2004 after the Legislature voted to abolish the panel and turn administration of Florida's privately run prisons over to the Department of Management Services. He declined comment on his plea Friday.

December 8, 2005 News Herald
A police union wants to know whether state officials and a private company gave themselves financial wiggle room in their plan to build and operate a prison in Graceville. The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents cops and corrections officers statewide, is challenging a state estimate that GEO Group Inc. - accused earlier this week of Sunshine Law violations - will save taxpayers $10 million on the 1,500-bed facility. Ken Kopczynski, a PBA lobbyist, has asked for financial plans and information about the "cost savings summary," a one-page worksheet prepared by state officials that shows GEO Group's total estimate at about $74 million. The summary indicates that GEO Group would pay $45.32 per day, per inmate over the three-year contract for a total of $74,438,100. In contrast, the state would pay a $51.41 per diem at a total cost of $84,440,925. The difference is about 12 percent. According to state law, private facilities must operate at 7 percent less than what the state would pay. PBA's beef, Kopczynski said, is that the long-term cost of the facility is hidden in construction bonds. The question, he said, boils down to this: How much less could the state build and operate the prison for? Kopczynski said the state does not usually build prisons with bond financing, and that if legislators paid cash for the project it would likely save "tons of money." "(GEO Group) hasn't gotten the financing so we don't know what the interest rate is going to be," Kopczynski said Wednesday. "So how can you make a comparison? They give you this simplistic little one-sheet flier with the figures on it, but that doesn't make sense. How can you determine what the true cost is going to be without looking at the financial plan." GEO Group beat out another private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, and was awarded the contract in September. The Florida Department of Management Services, which this year began overseeing the state's private prisons, on Wednesday defended the contract and GEO Group, saying that the bonds will be tax exempt because the underlying financial obligation belongs to the state. DMS spokeswoman Colleen Englert also said that GEO Group is assuming all construction risks related to the project, which quickly will provide much-needed bed space that saves the state money. The prison will employ 287 workers, Englert said, providing a boost to the Jackson County economy when it opens in mid-2007. "They bid a price for the construction and operation," Englert said, "and they are contractually obligated to meet that price." GEO Group and CCA operate facilities around the country, and each was named in a report earlier this year that said the now-defunct government agency that oversaw the private prisons routinely put the vendor's interest ahead of the taxpayer. The state evaluation said the Correctional Privatization Commission, which was disbanded when DMS began overseeing private prisons, allowed the companies to overbill the state by about $13 million. The report also said that the commission allowed the companies to bill for vacant positions, avoid minimal requirements for nurses and teachers, and used inmate welfare funds to be used for chaplain and library services. The report indicated that Florida was the only state where privately operated prisons are not administered by the department of corrections. When asked if DMS took the audit into account when it awarded GEO Group the Graceville contract, Englert said the evaluation was a management review - not a review of the companies. "Based on the documentation reviewed," Englert later wrote in an e-mail, "we did not find an indication of any improper conduct by GEO." Said Kopczynski: "They're in a race to the bottom. They say, 'We're going to do this on the cheap,' but you get what you pay for. Privates can't do it better and they definitely are not going to do it cheaper. They've created a race to the bottom." Last week, a watchdog group sued GEO Group in a Palm Beach County court, alleging that the company violated the Sunshine Law and had refused to turn over records. On Wednesday, a GEO Group spokesman said the company was going to work with Prison Legal News, the organization that requested public documents related to contracts, lawsuits and settlements. "We were in the process of responding to their request and we were surprised by the lawsuit," said GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez. "Our general counsel's office has received the lawsuit and will be working with the plaintiffs to satisfy their request."

September 8, 2005 Tallahassee Democrat
The former manager of the defunct agency that oversaw Florida's five private prisons has been indicted on fraud and money-laundering charges involving nearly $225,000 in state funds. Prominent lobbyist Alan Duffee declined comment on the six-count indictment announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell. Duffee said he could not discuss the situation before meeting with his attorney, Stephen Dobson. Dobson said Wednesday night he would have to study the six-count indictment before commenting. Duffee, president of The Windsor Group lobbying firm, was executive director of the Correctional Privatization Commission from May of 2002 until June of last year, when the Legislature voted to abolish the five-member panel and put the Department of Management Services in charge of administering its contracts. In a blistering audit unrelated to Duffee, the DMS inspector general last month issued a report saying the state had overpaid two prison-management companies, GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, by nearly $13 million - including salaries of guards that didn't exist. The indictment alleged that Duffee set up a bank account at People's First Bank of Tallahassee in the Correctional Privatization Commission's name - without knowledge of the five commissioners - and made himself the sole signatory on the account. It said he directed the Wachovia Bank in Jacksonville to move $224,972.92 in checks and wire transfers from the repair-and-maintenance fund to the People's First account.

September 8, 2005 St Petersburg Times
A federal grand jury has charged the former chief of Florida's private prison oversight board with stealing nearly $225,000 from state coffers for personal use. The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, charges Alan Brown Duffee, 39, with three counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. If convicted, the former state employee could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Now the head of a Tallahassee lobbying firm, Duffee could not be reached for comment. He had not been arrested as of Wednesday evening. The eight-page federal indictment alleges that three times in 2003, Duffee redirected money from the Florida Correctional Privatization Commission's building maintenance reimbursement fund to a new commission account at a separate bank. Only Duffee had access to the new account, according to the indictment, which states that he had no authority to open it. There was a $100,000 transfer in May 2003; $20,000 in September 2003; and nearly $55,000 in October 2003. Duffee "then converted the . . . funds to his personal use . . . wholly unrelated to the business of the CPC," the indictment alleges. As part of the indictment, the grand jury authorized seizure of Duffee's home in northeast Tallahassee, which Leon County records show he purchased for $113,500 in 2003; a 2003 Ford Focus and up to $224,972.92 in cash - the amount Duffee is accused of stealing. In July, an audit by the Department of Management Services, which now oversees the prison contracts, found the commission had overpaid $13-million over eight years.

July 28, 2005 St. Petersburg Times
I would be right curious to know how many crooks are doing time in Florida's prisons for cases that involve almost $13-million of somebody else's money  Such statistics are not kept. But I am bettin' there aren't too many $13-million cases sitting in the joint. Dope heads, stickup artists, burglars, a dime a dozen, sure. Guys who jacked a convenience store. On the other hand, the two private companies that run five of Florida's prisons were wrongfully paid an extra $13-million of taxpayer money to which they were not entitled, according to a new audit.  Compared to your typical convenience-store job, this is a much bigger haul: The state paid $4.5-million in salaries for vacant positions.  The state paid for $2.85-million worth of maintenance that wasn't done.  The state paid salary adjustments that didn't get to employees. No, wait, that one gets better. The state also paid $1.57-million in extra overhead to cover the "burden" of accepting such payments!  Now, I keep using the words "the state," which is true, since this was done in your and my name by the Legislature.  But the specific outfit was a five-member state board called the Correctional Privatization Commission. This board was created in 1993. It comes across in the audit looking like a bunch of clowns.  Gooood audit. It is strong, clear, specific. Nice print job, too. Much credit goes to the Inspector General's Office in the state Department of Management Services, which works for the governor. I am glad to know Jeb has those folks.  On the other hand, it is easy to fire the cannon now, because after all, we are dancing on a dead man's grave. The Legislature has since abolished the privatization board, and reassigned its duties.  None of the old guys stuck around to take the blame. The new state folks handling private prisons are smart enough not to kick this skunk. They began their reply to each of the audit's 15 recommendations with the same words:  "We concur."  Although it would be nice if Corrections Corp. of America and the GEO Group gave back part or all of these overpayments, it is not their job to be the state's accountants. Contract enforcement is a give-and-take art, not a science; it takes two to do the dance.  So assuming a lack of fraudulent intent on the companies' part (for I am a sweet and generous fellow), let us also cheerfully assume they turned in the bills and cashed the checks to which they believed in good faith they were entitled. If they didn't, well then, cue Attorney General Charlie Crist and a grand jury.  Otherwise the principal fault is the state's. The audit describes a culture within the privatization commission that was skewed toward the interest of the companies, not the taxpayers. The audit says the commission "consistently made questionable contract concessions to the vendors."  Let's go even further. The fault, once again, lies with the state's philosophy. Our Legislature time and again over the past decade chose to rush public business into private hands, and declined to attach enough strings to the money.  The Legislature's attitude toward even the most basic cash controls has been, in essence: "If it is a Republican idea involving privatization, then we don't need no stinking auditors." But in the private prison game, where a few big vendors ply politicians with campaign cash and lobbyists, the need was all the greater.  Finally, this year, the Legislature voted for belated protections concerning all kinds of privatization - only to have them vetoed by the governor. Bush has led the charge for privatization, although he happens not to like private prisons.  I grew up under Democratic governments with Democratic scandals that often involved some bogus program that benefited their buddies. The one thing I expect from my Republican friends is for them to do better with my money, not just to take their turn at bat.  A footnote: Privatization rolls on. This past spring, the Legislature voted to add new beds at three of the five privately run prisons, requiring a two-year contract extension. Meanwhile, the state is in negotiations to build a sixth.

July 27, 2005 Tallahassee Democrat
On Florida's fiscal radar, the $12.7 million that a state audit found was overpaid to two private prison companies is barely a blip. Against Florida's $64.7 billion budget, 0.02 percent seems like chump change.  But if you take that approach, you're the chump. Those 12,700,000 dollars could have helped pay for such services as community health care, universal prekindergarten or environmental protection.  Instead, a Department of Management Services internal review says the money went for guards who didn't exist, and enabled Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group to misuse funds that are obligated to the welfare of inmates (chaplain and library services, for example), and to avoid minimal training requirements for several groups of prison employees. They even helped pay expenses of the agency policing their contracts.  To paraphrase an old television commercial, it's not nice to fool Florida's taxpayers.  Who's to blame?  While it is important to note that neither company has had a chance to formally respond to the audit, it is just as important to insist that they be held accountable. That should include full repayment of any overbillings, plus penalties.  State Attorney Willie Meggs should certainly file charges, if it is determined that any crimes were committed.  It would be shortsighted, however, to hold those companies solely responsible. State government is also to blame for this scandal.  In the 1990s - before Jeb Bush won his first term as governor - lawmakers and Gov. Lawton Chiles' administration agreed that privately run companies could operate correctional facilities cheaper than the state. Five Florida prisons are privately run, and a sixth is planned.  Private prisons were already up and running when Mr. Bush took office in 1999, but his enthusiastic support for privatization was like an injection of adrenaline directly into the heart of government.  Still, privatization per se is not the problem. In certain cases, it makes sense.  Rather, the problems are, one, the assumption that a privatized service almost always will be cheaper and better; and, two, the failure to adequately monitor the public's money in the hands of private vendors.  Let the buyer beware  To be sure, the example revealed by the DMS review may be a worst-case scenario. The companies in question are politically well-connected, fueling suspicions that whom you know is more important than what you know and how you perform.  Moreover, even some who aren't philosophically opposed to privatization have qualms about privatized prisons. Those skeptics - count us among them - view the incarceration of criminals as a fundamentally public operation in which the bottom line should be the public interest, not shareholders' profits.  In fairness, Mr. Bush and lawmakers last year finally figured out that there was a real problem. The 2004 Legislature abolished the commission created to oversee private prisons, which itself had a long record of problems.  But while the DMS audit is specific to the prison contracts, it also shines a light on the broader challenges. Private firms exist primarily to make money, and state government shouldn't simply outsource services without making sure that taxpayers are getting what they're paying for.  Mr. Bush this year vetoed legislative attempts to exert more oversight, saying he would keep working on the problem. If the DMS audit serves up additional ammunition for tighter oversight, it will have provided an even greater service than it intended.

July 27, 2005 St. Petersburg Times
A harsh new state audit discloses that Florida overpaid nearly $13-million to two private prison vendors in the past eight years.  Among the findings were that the state paid for unfilled jobs and a vendor received money for facility maintenance that was never spent.  Nonetheless, the two companies that run the state's five private prisons remain on the job.  The disclosures come a year after state lawmakers disbanded a controversial citizen board that had overseen the state's private prisons.  The audit paints a mutually beneficial relationship between the defunct Correctional Privatization Commission and the two vendors that have run the private prisons for a decade: Corrections Corp. of American of Nashville and The GEO Group of Boca Raton.  "The CPC failed to adequately safeguard the state's interest. . . . The CPC consistently made questionable contract concessions to vendors," according to the audit, released Tuesday by the inspector general of the Department of Management Services.  Among the audit's findings, based on records dating from 1997:  The state paid vendors $4.5-million for jobs that were vacant, in part because it failed to require vendors to report the vacancies.  The commission authorized $5-million in cost-of-living salary adjustments at GEO's South Bay Correctional facility. Auditors say the money wasn't fully passed on to employees as required.  At Gadsden Correctional facility in Quincy, Corrections Corp. received $2.9-million more for facility maintenance than it spent.  The commission, without clear legislative authority, staved off any impact from $263,489 in budget cuts in November 2001 by requiring vendors to return the same amount of money from a recent hike in their compensation.  DMS Secretary Tom Lewis said his general counsel is investigating whether the state can recoup any of the overpaid money. "I was surprised we would have a commission that would be that lax in their oversight role," said Lewis. His predecessor, Bill Simon, ordered the audit last fall after assuming responsibility for the prison contracts. "To the Legislature's credit, they realized that and did away with them," Lewis said.  Attempts to reach former members of the commission, disbanded by the Legislature last year, were unsuccessful Tuesday.  Spokesmen for both companies declined to comment specifically on the audit, saying staff were still reviewing it.  "There may be details and fine print in the audit that we take issue with, but the intent of the audit, we certainly embrace," said Steve Owen, spokesman for Corrections Corp., paid about $43-million annually by the state to run three north Florida prisons.  GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said, "We will work with our client and respond to any questions it may raise." GEO collects about $36-million annually to operate two south Florida facilities.  Democrats and private prison critics seized on the findings as evidence of privatization gone awry. "We would hope this would prompt some kind of action," said Ken Kopczynski, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents public prison guards. "We should be talking criminal charges."  But dramatic ramifications to the findings appeared unlikely. Lawmakers have been reluctant to tamper with the system despite recurring questions about whether the state's private prisons meet the 7 percent cost savings required in law.  This spring, lawmakers voted to build additional beds at three of the facilities with the current vendors, requiring a two-year extension on those contracts. Expanding private prisons is cheaper in the short term than building public ones because vendors shoulder the financing, supporters say.  DMS also renewed the contracts on the two other prison facilities for a year. Lewis said there wasn't time, after he became secretary in March, to launch a full rebidding process for those two contracts. He said he is committed to rebidding those contracts before they expire in June 2006.  Corrections Corp. and GEO have been successful since at least 2002 in thwarting efforts to rebid their contracts. That year, the Correctional Privatization Commission, whose members were appointed by the governor, launched a plan to rebid the contracts.  But its efforts became mired in controversy after the commission's director illegally hired a former Department of Corrections secretary as a consultant. Lawmakers voted to disband the group and give oversight to DMS. Gov. Jeb Bush concurred.  DMS is in negotiations to build a sixth private prison at Graceville with 220 beds. It appears either GEO and Corrections Corp. will win that contract, as well. GEO announced two weeks ago it planned to buy a third possible competitor in the bid process.

July 27, 2005 St. Petersburg Times
For more than a decade, the Florida Legislature has fronted for the private prison industry with a credulous faith that it was saving money. For seven years, Gov. Jeb Bush had played along despite his well-founded belief that corrections is too serious a responsibility to be farmed out. Just this spring, the Legislature passed and he signed a budget providing for more than 1,000 new privatized beds.  But Florida now knows where too much of the money went, thanks to a devastating audit of Florida's defunct oversight agency, the Correctional Privatization Commission. The audit, conducted by the inspector general for the Department of Management Services, found that the commission approved or tolerated nearly $13-million in excess payments to two private prison companies. Worse, the commission was so indifferent to its primary duty that the state still cannot answer "the basic question of whether private prisons are operating at less cost than public prisons, as required by law."  More than 10 years after the Legislature decided that private prisons should and would cost some 7 percent less than state-run facilities, no one can say whether it's true.  The commission was worse than a toothless watchdog. It was a lapdog for the private companies. "Our review," remarked Inspector General Steve Rumph, "showed numerous instances where vendors' interests were considered over the state's interests." Among other things, the commission obligingly paid for vacant staff positions and grossly mishandled regional wage differentials. It also inflated payments to cover money the companies kicked back to the commission for its own operating costs, which for complicated reasons could have hurt the state employees who now administer the contracts.  Common sense dictates that the Department of Corrections, which houses most of the state's prisoners, should oversee those contracts until they either prove their worth or are terminated - in either case, as soon as possible. But some well-lobbied legislators still hold a grudge against the prison system for resisting privatization at the outset, which is why Management Services got a job it didn't want. That was analogous to telling the Education Department to build roads, but at least someone is finally asking the right questions.  A sixth contract, approved a year ago, remains to be awarded. It's down to two bidders, the same two companies tarred by Rumph's audit, because one of them just bought the only other competitor. The governor needs to put a stop to this.

April 25, 2004
It was a straightforward business proposition.  Two companies had been paid hundreds of millions of dollars to run state prisons for six years, and it was time to find out whether taxpayers could get a better deal, a state board decided in 2002.  But the decision would prove to be the undoing of the Correctional Privatization Commission, an obscure body created by the Legislature to safeguard tax dollars spent on privately run prisons.   Two years later, the commission's executive director stands accused of bad management, poor judgment and impropriety.  The two private companies that run five state prisons still have their contracts, worth a total of $90-million annually, even though audits have found the contracts aren't as efficient as state law requires.  And the Legislature is poised to eliminate the commission.  (St. Petersburg Times)

Florida Department of Management Services, Tallahassee, Florida
After South Bay incident, Florida corrections department takes watch over private prisons: August 3, 2011, by Dara Kam,  Palm Beach Post. Kam's continuing exposure of mismanagement at South Bay.

May 3, 2007 St Petersburg Times
Three months after Gov. Charlie Crist ordered an investigation of some $4.5-million in overpayments to two companies that operate private prisons for the state, those same companies will be the only ones permitted to bid on expanding and building another facility. The state's budget calls for 384 new beds to be housed in a medium security private prison, estimated to cost between $15-million and $20-million, and has limited the bidding for those beds to the two companies that currently contract with the state. Those companies are GEO Group of Boca Raton and Corrections Corp. of America of Nashville. Two state audits have indicated the state had paid GEO Group and CCA more than $4.5-million for vacant jobs and other questionable expenses. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now investigating. Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, a member of the Senate committee that funds jails and prisons, and who first called for the investigation into GEO and CCA, said that a tight budget year meant that the state had to change the way it thought about providing more beds. "It would be nice to have options for new vendors that may not be in the process, because that provides for better competition, " Crist said. "But toward the end of the budgeting process, when money was very tight, we decided to go ahead and just award new beds to existing sites because it's cheaper." Sen. Crist said he's confident that Gov. Charlie Crist and Corrections Secretary Jim McDonough will keep a close eye on the projects. "We have a new governor and he has an interest in this subject area, " Crist said. The budget is an up or down vote on the entire $72-billion document. Gov. Charlie Crist does have the ability to veto certain line items, but to veto the language limiting the bids would mean vetoing an $84-million pot of money for all private prison operations. Both Gov. Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink have criticized the handling of contracts with GEO and CCA. The Department of Management Services, which inherited the contracts from the now defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, recently reached a $402, 501 settlement with GEO but is still negotiating with CCA. Heather Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said the investigation is ongoing. "They've got issues with these vendors and concerns with some of the things done in the past, and yet they're giving them more beds, " said Ken Kopczynski, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents public corrections officers. CCA marketing director Steve Owen said that the investigation concentrates on events before 2005 and that CCA has since shown the state an ability to meet its needs. "We do think we have a good record for bringing beds online quickly, " Owen said. The budget also says that private prison contractors, including those under investigation, can compete to build three additional "work camp" prisons, each with 432 beds - a total of 1, 296 beds. These facilities would each cost about $9-million to build, according to Department of Corrections estimates. The work camps are a new idea that Secretary McDonough recently pitched to help reduce recidivism. The work camps are for those sentenced to fewer than 12 months in prison who would spend much of their time digging ditches and doing other types of manual labor. Some would also get drug treatment. While the work camps will be competitively bid, several in the prison industry acknowledged that existing private prisons will have a competitive advantage in winning such contracts. That's because they can offer to put them next to existing jails or prisons facilities, which, again, is cheaper than building them from the ground up. McDonough, who was at the state Capitol on Wednesday, said he is concerned about the GEO and CCA contracts, but he plans to keep an eye on these prisons and the money to build them, no matter who is running them. "I'm always keeping an eye on the inmates, because I see them as my inmates, by law, " McDonough said.

January 31, 2007 AP
Gov. Charlie Crist ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Wednesday to conduct a preliminary investigation into more than $4.5 million in alleged overpayments to two companies that operate private prisons for the state. The contracts with GEO Group of Boca Raton and Nashville,Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America were signed by the now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission. Crist sent a letter to FDLE Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey directing him to "conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether any criminal violations have occurred." The Department of Management Services, which inherited the contracts, recently reached a $402,501 settlement with GEO but is still negotiating with CCA. Management Services Secretary Linda South, in a statement Friday, blamed the excessive payments on concessions the commission had included in the contracts. The commission was abolished by the Legislature in 2004. Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Wednesday that she asked her staff what went wrong and received the same answer. "The contract was so poorly written and so poorly conceived that we were only able to verify $400,000 in overpayments even though we know there were huge abuses through the auditing procedures," Sink said. "We had virtually no legal standing to go back and get back from the taxpayers the dollars that we deserved." Audits concluded the state paid for vacant jobs and other questionable expenses. Telephone messages left at the offices of the two companies after hours Wednesday were not immediately returned. GEO runs the Moore Haven and Southbay correctional facilities and has a contract to run a new one at Graceville. CCA operates correctional facilities in Lake City, Panama City and Quincy. State Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who is not related to the governor, last week urged FDLE to investigate the relationship between the commission and contractors.

January 27, 2007 Tallahassee Democrat
The first definition of "oversight" involves supervision, as in the oversight of a contract by a state agency; the second involves a careless mistake or omission, as in, "Sorry for my oversight. I'll straighten it out right away." The problem with a settlement between the state and a private prison contractor that was one of two firms that were overpaid $4.5 million is that it's not at all clear which kind of oversight was in play. But if it's the first, the Department of Management Services' agreement with a Boca Raton company called GEO Group was highly questionable and very possibly a lousy deal for Florida taxpayers. DMS' agreement with the company calls for the collection by the state of $402,501 to settle previous claims. That comes to about 10 cents on your dollar that the state decided was a sensible arrangement - although the state is still negotiating with a second contractor, Corrections Corporation of America, which also received overpayments. It's no wonder that Sen. Victor Crist, R-Temple Terrace, was taken aback this week, saying the settlement "almost seems criminal." He asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate. That's a reasonable request. If there's more here than meets the eye, taxpayers would love to know. If the rest of the story smells just as fishy, taxpayers should know that, too. There's little question that politics and past mismanagement are helping to cloud the picture. The original contract was handled by the now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, an agency created to oversee prisons in the state that are run by private companies. That board was legislated out of existence in 2004 and the commission's oversight responsibilities transferred to DMS. Given the performance of the Correctional Privatization Commission, that was a smart move. But the news about the DMS agreement with GEO now raises real questions about that agency's ability to effectively manage contracts with private prison companies. "It was not an honest mistake," Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association who's been tracking private prison contracts for more than 10 years, said of GEO. "I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that if a bank teller gives you $100 more than you are legally liable to receive, you need to give the money back." The politically influential PBA, which represents state corrections officers, has been the most consistent opponent of prison privatization. It maintained for years that the defunct commission had inappropriately cozy ties to the industry it was supposed to regulate - a charge that Mr. Crist, the Senate justice appropriations chairman, echoed last week. Mr. Kopczynski said he asked FDLE to investigate last year, but without success. But an investitgation is still appropriate - before any more bad deals are cut on taxpayers' behalf.

January 24, 2007 Tallahassee Democrat
The state has reached a $402,000 agreement with one of the two companies that run private prisons in Florida. Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South said Tuesday night she was satisfied with the settlement with The GEO Group Inc., which operates prisons in South Bay and Moore Haven. GEO also has a contract for the Graceville prison opening in September. South said DMS is negotiating terms with Corrections Corporation of America, the company that runs three other privatized prisons. She declined to discuss those talks. After the Correctional Privatization Commission was abolished and oversight of the five private prisons was shifted to DMS in 2004, the DMS inspector general did an audit that cited numerous discrepancies. The GEO Group settlement involved $357,520.94 in overpayments. Under the agreement, signed by previous DMS Secretary Tom Lewis, GEO agreed to pay $290,952.43. The company separately agreed to pay $111,549.27 of the state's legal fees in a court fight over disputed property-tax bills for the prison facilities. The agreement said DMS has paid $446,197.08 defending the sovereign immunity of the state-owned prisons. Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said the state "let them off easy." The PBA, which represents correctional officers in state-run institutions, has been highly critical of privatization. South said "this is good news for DMS" and that the audits ended "some really critical lack of internal controls" under the defunct Correctional Privatization Commission. She added, "The $400,000 is a lot higher than zero."

January 24, 2007 St Petersburg Times
A private prison contractor that was one of two companies the state overpaid by nearly $13-million has agreed to pay back a small amount. The GEO Group of Boca Raton will pay $402,501 under a deal settled this month by the state Department of Management Services. The company also will cover half of the legal fees to defend local governments' challenges to its tax-exempt status. A state audit in 2005 found that over an eight-year period, Florida overpaid GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville, $4.5-million for unfilled jobs. The now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, which was supposed to oversee the private prisons, also authorized $5-million in cost-of-living salary adjustments at GEO's South Bay Correctional facility. At a facility in Quincy, Corrections Corporation got $2.9-million more for facility maintenance than it spent. The state is still working on a settlement with Corrections Corporation. A GEO spokesman was not working Tuesday and a woman who answered the phone said no one else was available. DMS Secretary Linda H. South, asked about the large disparity in what GEO Group was overpaid and what it will pay back, said if the agency had not done its "due diligence there would be no money to recover."

October 1, 2005 Tallahassee Democrat
The head of the agency overseeing private prisons said Friday a new institution near Graceville will save taxpayers at least $10 million, despite a challenge by the union representing state correctional officers. Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, called the projected cost savings "lies, damned lies and statistics." But the Department of Management Services said it was the PBA, not state planners, performing a bit of sleight-of-hand with numbers on the $74 million privatization project. DMS this week announced its intention to award the contract to GEO Group, which beat out Corrections Corp. of America for the Graceville institution. The prison, employing 287 workers, is expected to open by mid-2007. Kopczynski said the long-term cost of the prison will be much higher because of interest rates on construction bonds. He said Gov. Jeb Bush, a political ally of the PBA, does not favor bond financing and that if the Legislature paid cash for the prison, the Department of Corrections could get it up and running for much less. Kopczynski wrote to Terry Rocco, chief of the Correctional Privatization Bureau in DMS, asking how the $10 million savings was calculated. He also asked for GEO's financing plan. "That's how you determine what the true cost is going to be," Kopczynski told the Tallahassee Democrat. "This is where you get into lies, damned lies and statistics." Kopczynski said even if there is a savings on construction and start-up costs, the private prisons historically have cut corners on education, health services and security staffing levels. He said "they'll pay $3,000 less and not offer benefits" comparable to what state correctional officers receive in the Department of Corrections. Administration of private-prison contracting was moved to DMS last year when the Legislature abolished the old Correctional Privatization Commission. The department did not want the job, but, under intense lobbying by industry representatives, lawmakers decided not to give the authority to the Department of Corrections, which runs the state's 54 prisons. DMS Inspector General Steve Rumph issued a scathing report on private-prison operations in July, saying GEO and Corrections Corp. of America overbilled the state nearly $13 million under the Correctional Privatization Commission. The report said the defunct commission put profits for the companies ahead of the public interests - paying the companies for guards who didn't exist and letting the companies cut corners on nursing, education and training services. The report said Florida is the only state with private prisons that does not regulate them through its Department of Corrections. It recommended transferring the authority to that department. PBA has contended for many years that the corporate prisons dodge the 7-percent economy requirement by "cost shifting" of major expenses to the state. Legislators this year called for an independent study to verify the comparative level of savings, or cost, of prison privatization.

Florida Legislature, Tallahassee, Florida
Prison privatization under fire Plan faces challenges from all sides: Bill Cotterell Oct. 2, 2011 Tallahassee Democrat. Cotterell ties Donna Arduin to privatization plan

Palm Beach Post, Nov 19, 2013 PCWG

The data came in under the door: Paula Dockery had been looking for numbers on the cost of running prisons, with no luck. Suddenly, there they were, in a manila envelope slid anonymously under the Republican senator’s office door. The Senate was weeks away from voting on the largest prison privatization in U.S. history, a $1.4 billion deal that would put almost all South Florida prisons, work camps, work release centers and annexes into private hands. Dockery, an opponent, had been tipped off that her written requests for prison information were being forwarded to her own party’s leadership, which was making an all-out push for privatizing. Better to avoid putting her requests in writing, a state prisons official warned her. The cloak-and-dagger approach should come as no surprise: For more than a decade, Florida’s private prison deals have been fueled by hard-ball politics, lavish campaign contributions and back-room maneuvering intended to blunt critics and keep contracts coming, a Palm Beach Post investigation found. Sweetheart deals promising taxpayers millions in savings have been based on dubious calculations and contrived formulas. Dangerously low numbers of corrections officers — including local guards with criminal backgrounds — and a national track record of human rights violations continue to dog the state’s three prison operators. That hasn’t stopped Tallahassee from paying private prison operators almost a half-billion dollars in the last three years. Politics always has been part of the equation. Signing private prison financing into law in 1993, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles publicly grumbled that the law was written by the industry. GEO and Corrections Corporation of America in particular have spent millions on lobbying and politicians, stepping up the pace in 2010, just before lawmakers quietly slipped the massive privatization bill into the state budget. Influential friends: “It was not just lobbying,” said former state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, a South Florida Democrat of the high-profile privatization push the next year. In an interview before her death in March, Bullard, a crucial swing vote, said, “It had gotten to a point where there were indirect threats, subtle things happening that you would not expect.” Some things weren’t so subtle. Money for projects long championed by Bullard disappeared, she said. No one, Bullard said, directly threatened her bills. But there were comments made in hallways, she said. Lawmakers and others began escorting Bullard to the Senate floor for a vote on prison privatization, to shield the ailing lawmaker from nonstop arm-twisting. GEO alone had nine lobbying firms on its payroll. And those lobbyists had friends in high places. South Florida lobbyist Bill Rubin was a longtime friend of Gov. Rick Scott. A GEO subsidiary hired his firm to lobby the executive branch as Scott’s campaign gathered steam. The same GEO subsidiary hired high-powered lobbyist Jim Eaton in late 2011, a few months after Eaton’s longtime friend, Steve MacNamara, was appointed the governor’s chief of staff. From Jeb to Arnold: Behind the scenes, Donna Arduin, a diminutive financial consultant with powerhouse credentials, played a key role in the push to privatize. Since at least 2007, Arduin’s firm was a paid consultant to Florida lawmakers. She advised Rick Scott’s campaign, is credited as the architect of Scott’s “7-7-7” job creation plan and headed planning for his first budget. Partners with Arthur Laffer, known as the father of supply-side economics, Arduin had been state budget adviser to Jeb Bush before Arnold Schwarzenegger hired her away to be the director of California’s Department of Finance. And she had her own ties to GEO. Within weeks of leaving her California job, Arduin was appointed to the board of a GEO Group real estate spinoff specializing in prison properties. Although the spinoff was not owned by GEO, 72 percent of its business came from the prison company. Arduin’s appointment raised eyebrows because California unexpectedly decided to reopen two shuttered prisons, including one owned by GEO. Both prison operators got no-bid contracts. Both prisons were more expensive than all but one comparable state prison. Arduin denied any involvement in private prison decisions, though, and a state review agreed there was no conflict of interest. Arduin was not bashful about using her California connections to benefit the spinoff, according to a 2006 profile of the economist in Duke University’s magazine. During the interview, the reporter wrote, Arduin saw that the publicly traded company’s stock was dropping. He watched Arduin call California’s director of state prisons and asked if the director was interested in immediately announcing that the state would lease prisons from the spinoff, a move likely to boost the stock price. There was another connection to GEO. In 2005, Arduin purchased a $720,000 Broward County home with David Ericks, a well-connected lobbyist whose firm was representing GEO by 2007. After first consulting for House Speaker Marco Rubio, Arduin’s firm was hired as budget consultant to the Senate president’s office. It was at about that time, said former Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, that Arduin floated an audacious idea: Why not privatize huge swaths of Florida’s state-run prisons? Through the back door: It would be difficult to overstate the scope of the 2011 plan that followed: No other state had offered up so many prisons to for-profit businesses. And much of the billion-dollar deal circumvented normal channels. Alexander disputes criticism that the proposal never got a full airing. And then-Senate President Mike Haridopolos insisted the bill was vetted in the sunshine. However, the plan was not crafted by the Department of Corrections and did not go through the usual bill and committee process. Instead, it was slipped into the fine print of a massive budget bill. “It had the look, the smell, the feel of it all being done under the radar,” said Michael Hallet, a criminology professor with the University of North Florida. “It was a rush to judgment.” To Hallett and others, the sheer logistics of such a massive transfer appeared unworkable. “Anyone who told the legislators and governor this could be achieved with no problems basically doesn’t know what they are talking about,” said David Bachman, former deputy secretary of Corrections. “Obviously, lobbyists and hired guns will say whatever, but the governor and others were not getting good advice.” Ousted by governor: Caught in the crossfire was Ed Buss. Buss came to Tallahassee in 2011 accompanied by political fanfare: Hired to lead DOC, the highly regarded Indiana corrections chief was hailed by Scott as an innovative cost-cutter. He arrived Feb. 14. On Feb. 15, he was given bullet points on privatization and told to present them to legislators. In sworn testimony, Buss said he was unaware a massive privatization push was on the horizon. He had no role in putting together a required plan that would prove taxpayers saved with privatization. He signed off on it as a done deal drafted by the governor’s aides and legislative staff. By then, the governor’s office ensured the corrections agency would be somewhat muzzled: Scott’s press secretary had instructed corrections officials to not discuss any issues in speeches or public appearances without first getting clearance from the governor’s office. Six months after arriving, Buss was ousted. In an abrupt about-face, Scott said the two had the Tallahassee version of irreconcilable differences. Buss has said under oath that he wasn’t pushed out because he differed with the governor over private prisons. But he raised hackles among privatization backers: Buss told the Tallahassee Democrat’s editorial board he supported a police union lawsuit seeking to halt the plan. MacNamara, Scott’s iron-fisted chief of staff, reportedly was unhappy with Buss’ lack of public enthusiasm over the issue. And no one backing privatization was happy when Buss’ deputy emailed the governor’s budget office, saying the transition to private prisons would cost $25 million. The email was sent in May. Buss was out in August. His deputy resigned in October. Halted by court: The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represented state prison corrections officers, had sued by then, arguing the Legislature didn’t have the authority to essentially change public policy with a budget add-on. Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford came down on the side of the PBA. The mass privatization, she wrote, could not legally be carried out using “the hidden recesses” of a budget bill. The issue wouldn’t die. The state kept right on accepting bids. It took a second court ruling before the bidding finally stopped. Then, last year, two bills essentially adopting the same plan popped up in the Senate’s rules committee. The committees whose members had experience on prison issues — criminal justice, for instance — never got a chance to vote on them, said New Port Richey Republican Mike Fasano, then-chairman of the Senate’s criminal justice appropriations subcommittee. And a new element had been inserted into one of the bills. No one would have to prove private prisons were cheaper to operate before a contract was signed. “The bill would have stripped all requirements that government needed to do due diligence,” said Judith Greene, a nationally recognized expert on criminal justice policy and director of Justice Strategies Inc., a New York research and advocacy group. “People who were serious about fiscal responsibility couldn’t wrap their votes around something so absurd.” There was an even more basic issue, said Fasano. The state had thousands of empty public prison beds on its hands. “We mothballed prisons because the prison population has not grown as fast as we expected,” Fasano said. “So why were we getting more prisoners to private prisons when there is more than enough room in our own?” The push was coming from Haridopolos’ office and the governor’s mansion — especially MacNamara, lawmakers said. The campaign wasn’t gentle. When a skeptical Fasano blasted the proposed legislation, Haridopolos stripped him of his committee chairmanship. “It is shameful how this all went down,” Fasano said. “It embarrassed the Senate like never before.” Bill analysis edited: Meanwhile, committee staff analysis of the bills, which lawmakers rely on to make decisions, left out information. For instance, staffers cited two state audit memos showing private prisons were cheaper to run. What the analysis didn’t say was that those same memos sharply criticized certain private prison operations, and questioned how savings were calculated. The 2009 memo criticized “high rates of prison security violations” at privately run South Bay and Lake City prisons. On average, the report noted, the two had more than double the number of security violations than the state’s public prisons. The following year, a new memo examining privately run Bay, Moore Haven, Graceville and Gadsden prisons pointed out that the DOC had found repeated security violations. One prison operator was fined $95,000 for failing to conduct background checks on employees. Just as important, both memos cautioned that the state method of calculating savings was at best controversial and in some cases, distorted. For example, the costs to run privately operated Gadsden were compared to the costs of running state-operated Lowell prison. But Lowell offers specialized and pricey health care services. Gadsden doesn’t. The result, wrote auditors, is that the private prison’s reported savings were “artificially high” when compared to the public prison. None of that made it into the committee staff reports. And while a 2010 Texas study praising private prison savings was emphasized, no mention was made of an Arizona study released that same year. The review made national headlines after it found few, if any savings from privatization. Similarly, a 2-year-old Florida think tank paper which found no clear proof Florida was saving money on its private prison deals was ignored. “I looked at the data,” said Alexander of state auditors’ concerns. But, said the budget chief, “I took it with a grain of salt because it was difficult to sort out what the true apples-to-apples comparisons were on the issue.” Bottom line costs: Dockery started her own search for numbers. What she got surreptitiously under her door told her there were problems with the way the state calculated savings from private prisons. Absent elaborate formulas used by the state to calculate savings, four of the state’s private prisons actually were more expensive than similar public prisons in 2009-‘10; a fifth prison saved only a few pennies per inmate. Alexander saw the figures, too. He wasn’t impressed. “I did not put a lot of stock in those numbers,” he said. “I think there were games played by unions and private prison supporters when it came to numbers and data.” But, said Jack Miles, Dockery “was asking all the right questions.” Miles headed the Department of Management Services, the agency overseeing state contracts with private prisons. Plucked from the business world by Scott, Miles favors privatization of certain government functions if savings can be proven. However, he expressed frustration that there was no sure way to ensure taxpayers were getting the most bang for their buck. As state auditors had pointed out, the formula for calculating savings generated dubious results. Miles recalls frequently talking with and emailing MacNamara on privatization. But no records of emails between Miles and McNamara about prisons exist, state officials say. In fact, according to the governor’s office, there are no records of any emails from MacNamara to anyone about private prisons, though privatization was a critical issue and MacNamara was the governor’s point person on issues. There’s a reason, MacNamara said. “I’m 60 years old and type with two fingers. Most of my work is done over the phone and at face-to-face meetings. It’s easier for me and more practical.” MacNamara says he “may” have had discussions about prison privatization with his friend, GEO lobbyist Jim Eaton. But Fasano believes he had a much more direct involvement. “There is no question he was the puppet master.” Privatization fails: Pressure built to pass the 2012 privatization plan. And it seemed unthinkable that the GOP-dominated Senate leadership would fail to keep its troops in line long enough to pass the legislation. Republicans, though, were poised to defect. In fact, three Republicans were leading the charge against privatization: Fasano, Dockery and Jack Latvala, the longtime Clearwater senator. Former Citrus County Sheriff Charlie Dean was among the GOP senators willing to bolt. Partly it was because Dean was not convinced it would save money. But Dean, who favors privatization in some areas, also was hesitant to turn over prison keys to a profit-making business. “Prisons should not be designed to make money off inmates,” he said. By the time privatization came up for a vote, Sen. Ronda Storms told The Post, tension had turned toxic. “It’s so hostile right now.” Twice, Haridopolos pulled the bill because there weren’t enough votes on the Senate floor to pass it. One vote was then rescheduled to occur when a senator planning to vote “no” was expected to be absent. Just before the vote, Niceville Republican Don Gaetz, now Senate president, warned lawmakers who voted no that they could come up empty-handed if they needed a budget item from Alexander, the Senate’s budget chief. “The burden lies heavy on those who vote no,” he chided. The absent senator came back. Bullard, with her escort to her seat, voted with the majority. So did nine Republicans. The bill failed by a single vote.

August 12, 2012 Orlando Sentinel
Thanks in part to gambling interests, the state's two largest utilities and its most iconic theme park, Florida Republicans bested Democrats in the dash for cash by more than 4-to-1 heading into Tuesday's high-stakes and big-dollar primaries. But the GOP also spent more than it raised – including pumping millions into divisive GOP legislative primaries and $1 million to help prop up the image of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won't appear on a ballot again until 2014. The latest reports filed Friday evening showed the Republican Party of Florida raised $9 million from April through Aug. 9 from a plethora of wealthy donors and corporations interested in getting regulations weakened or tax breaks passed – or to maintain their favorable treatment in Tallahassee. The party spent $11 million on ads, polling, consultants, and staff salaries. Meanwhile, the Florida Democratic Party collected just $2.17 million and spent $1.4 million. Both sides collected from corporate givers like Walt Disney Co., Progress Energy, Florida Power & Light, and AT&T – though the Democrats' checks were far smaller. The GOP's biggest checks came from Progress ($560,000), Las Vegas Sands casino chairman Sheldon Adelson ($250,000), the Seminole Tribe of Florida ($250,000), and the Florida Chamber and Disney ($225,000 each). Orlando Magic owner Richard DeVos chipped in $100,000. Progress Energy, Florida's second-largest utility, recently merged with North Carolina-based Duke Energy in a deal that is being scrutinized by regulators, and annually pursues a range of regulatory aims in the state Capitol. The company also gave $55,000 to Democrats. All told, the company has given $1.5 million to the parties, candidates and committees for this year's elections. The state largest utility, Florida Power & Light, has given $1.6 million so far, including $250,000 to the governor's Let's Get to Work ad-buying fund. The new reports bump Disney's total giving this election season to $1.9 million, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in free rooms and convention space afforded to both parties. Blue Cross and Blue Shield – looking to capture Medicaid dollars under a legislative plan to put the programs 3 million participants into HMOs -- remains the biggest single corporate giver, with